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Chris Whitley 11/2005

Chris WhitleyNovember 20, 2005 – Christopher Becker Whitley was born August 31, 1960, in Houston, Texas to a restless, artistic couple: His mother was a sculptress and painter; his father worked as an art director in a series of advertising jobs. As a family, they traveled through the Southwest, with many of the images the young boy absorbed finding their way later into songs. He once described his parents’ music taste as formed “by race radio in the South.” The real deal — Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf — seeped into their son’s soul, eventually leading to Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix.

Chris’s parents divorced when he was 11 years old, and he moved with his mother to a small cabin in Vermont. It was there that he learned to play guitar. Hearing Johnny Winter’s “Dallas” was the seed for what would develop as Chris’s keening instrumental style.

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Randy California 1/1997

Randy California 1979January 2, 1997 – Randy Craig Wolfe aka Randy California was born on 20 February, 1951.

Jimi Hendrix gave him the name Randy California, to distinguish him from Randy Texas, who also played in Jimi’s backing band the Blue Flames, during his 1966 New York stint. His real name was Randy Craig Wolfe and he was lead guitarist and one of the founders of the Psychedelic Rock Band “Spirit” who gained worldwide recognition for songs like “Fresh Garabage”, “Mechanical World” and ‘Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus’ which introduced us to Mr. Skin.

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Fred “Sonic” Smith 11/1994

fredsonicsmithNovember 4, 1994 – Fred “Sonic” Smith was born on September 13, 1949 in West Virginia, but raised in Detroit.

As a teenager, he lived for music with speed, energy with a rebellious attitude and formed a rock group Smith’s Vibratones, before joining up with his old school pal, Wayne Kramer to form MC5, short for Motor City Five. This influential band released 3 albums before their break up in 1972, Kick Out the Jams in 1969, Back in the USA in 1970, and High Time in 1971. After the band broke up Fred went on to form Sonic’s Rendezvous Band, which released one single, “City Slang”.

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Freddie Mercury 11/1991

freddie-mercury-4November 24, 1991 – Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara on September 5th 1946 on the island of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa.  He spent time in a boarding school in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, where he studied piano and it was not long before this charismatic young man joined his first band, the Hectics. He was of Indian Parsi descent and his early childhood was in India, which gave him the title “Britain’s first Asian rock star.

After moving to London with his family in the 1960s, Mercury attended the Ealing College of Art where he befriended a number of musicians including future bandmates, drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May. Following graduation, he joined a series of bands and sold second-hand clothes in the Kensington Market in London, as well as had a job at Heathrow Airport. In April 1970, he joined with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor who had previously been in a band called SmileIn 1969, Mercury joined up with a group called Ibex as their lead singer. He played with a few other bands before joining forces with Taylor and May in the early 70s. They met up with bassist John Deacon in 1971, and the quartet—who Mercury dubbed Queen—played their first gig together in June of that year. Continue reading Freddie Mercury 11/1991

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Nat King Cole 2/1965

Nat King ColeFebruary 15, 1965 – Nat King Cole was born Nathaniel Adams Coles on March 17, 1919 in Montgomery, Alabama.  Cole had three brothers: Eddie, Ike, and Freddy and a half-sister, Joyce Coles. Each of Cole’s brothers would later pursue careers in music as well. When Cole was four years old, he and his family moved to Chicago, Illinois, where his father, Edward Coles, became a Baptist minister. Cole learned to play the organ from his mother, Perlina Coles, the church organist. His first performance was of “Yes! We Have No Bananas” at age four. He began formal lessons at 12, eventually learning not only jazz and gospel music, but also Western classical music, performing, as he said, “from Johann Sebastian Bach to Sergei Rachmaninoff”. Continue reading Nat King Cole 2/1965

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Elmore James 5/1963

elmore-jamesMay 24, 1963 – Elmore James was born Elmore Brooks on January 27, 1918 in the old Richland community in Holmes County, Mississippi, the illegitimate son of 15-year-old Leola Brooks, a field hand. His father was probably Joe Willie “Frost” James, who moved in with Leola, and Elmore took his surname. He began making music at the age of 12, using a simple one-string instrument (diddley bow, or jitterbug) strung on a shack wall. As a teen he performed at dances under the names Cleanhead and Joe Willie James, before playing with the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson, and the legendary Robert Johnson.

James was strongly influenced by Robert Johnson, Kokomo Arnold and Tampa Red. He recorded several of Tampa Red’s songs. He also inherited from Tampa Red’s band two musicians who joined his own backing band, the Broomdusters, “Little” Johnny Jones (piano) and Odie Payne (drums). Continue reading Elmore James 5/1963