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Whitney Houston 2/2012

Whitney HoustonFebruary 11, 2012 – Whitney Houston was born in Newark, New Jersey on August 9, 1963. Much has been publicized about her childhood and music influences including prominent gospel and soul singers in her family, such as her mother Cissy Houston, cousins Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick and her godmother Aretha Franklin. She began singing with New Jersey church’s junior gospel choir at age 11. She spent some of her early teenage years touring nightclubs with her mother Ciss, and she would occasionally get on stage and perform with Cissy. In 1977, aged 14, she became a backup singer on the Michael Zager Band’s single “Life’s a Party”.

Personal Note: I moved to the US in 1980 and was living in Bloomfield, New Jersey, while my then girlfriend and later 2nd wife was working for TV 47, which aired from the downtown Newark Theatre building, where I first heard Whitney Houston in February 1981. She was a mezzo-soprano with incredible voice flexibility, later commonly referred to as “The Voice” in reference to her exceptional vocal talent.

Few pop singers have been gifted with a voice as glorious as Whitney Houston’s, and even fewer have treated their talent with the frustrating indifference she did toward the end of her life. She sold more records and received more awards than almost any other female pop star of the 20th century, but spent most of her last years mired in a drug addiction that sapped her will to sing and left her in a shambolic state. Continue reading Whitney Houston 2/2012

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Ean Evans 5/2009

ean-evansMay 6, 2009 – Ean Evans Outlaws/Lynyrd Skynyrd) was born on September 16, 1960 in Atlanta, Georgia. He started in music at the age of five, playing trumpet and having an orchestral background until his teen years. Picking up the guitar at 15, he was soon playing the southeastern rock circuit with various cover groups.

A few years later he switched to bass so as to bring fellow guitarist into the band. In the 1980s he played bass for a rock band called “…Five Miles High”, along with Mike Reynolds (drummer), Reuban Lace (guitarist), Carl Brown (keyboardist), Del Stockstill (guitar). Five Miles High played venues from Georgia to Kentucky and all over the south east. Five Miles High was rated in the top 10 rock bands of the 1980s in a Mississippi radio station contest.

Around 1983 FMH disbanded, and Ean returned to his native Atlanta, Georgia. There he welcomed his newborn daughter and worked on plans to form a new group with close friend keyboardist, Joey Huffman. This project quickly became the band, “Babe Blu” (with former FMH members Carl Brown, Reuban Lace, and adding JT Williams on drums). Babe Blu immediately become a top draw in Atlanta, and on the southeastern club and college circuit. However, in 1987, Ean left Babe Blu permanently to be home with his young family, and to work on his own original compositions.

He studied the styles and techniques of John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Geddy Lee (Rush) and Leon Wilkeson (Lynyrd Skynyrd) giving him an aggressive approach to the bass guitar.

In 1988, he was picked up by his then personal manager, J.J. French. (Twisted Sister), Evans formed his first original band “Cupid’s Arrow”. They became quite popular in the Atlanta area. After composing and recording over 50 songs, Ean became a full-time studio musician.

It was during this time he was called to join the Outlaws by leader Hughie Thomasson, who showed him worldwide touring experience. The Outlaws stopped touring when Hughie was called to join Lynyrd Skynyrd in the mid 90s.

In 1997, Evans and ex-Halloween guitarist (1982–1988, 1997–2000) Rick Craig formed “Noon”, which blends metal with southern rock. They released 1 album in 2002 and many other unreleased recordings exist and are subject to release.

Following the death of Lynyrd Skynyrd bassist Leon Wilkeson, the call came for Ean to continue on for his fallen friend. He joined the line up of Lynyrd Skynyrd on August 11, 2001, in Las Vegas, Nevada, beginning his own chapter with the band which lasted until his lung cancer diagnosis in 2008.

Evans performed with Skynyrd one last time from a chair on April 19, 2009, at the Mississippi Kid Festival, organized in support of him.

He died 17 days later at age 48 on May 6, 2009.

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John McGeoch 3/2004

John McGeochMarch 4, 2004 – John McGeoch (Siouxsie and the Banshees) was born August 25th 1955 in Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland

He acquired his first guitar when he was 12 and first learned to play guitar playing British blues songs, including the repertoire of Hendrix and Clapton. In 1970 he played in a local band called The Slugband. In 1971 he moved to London with his family, and in 1975 he began to attend Manchester Polytechnic, where he studied art.

McGeoch had a degree in fine art and an ongoing interest in photography, painting and drawing. He provided some of the cover art for his future band The Armoury Show, years later.

He also played with a number of bands of the post-punk era, including Magazine; Visage and Public Image Ltd.

After joining Siouxsie and the Banshees in 1980, McGeoch entered a period of both creative and commercial success.

Continue reading John McGeoch 3/2004

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Randy VanWarmer 1/2004

randy vanwarmerJanuary 12, 2004 – Randy VanWarmer was born Randall Van Wormer, the third of four boys, in Indian Hills, Colorado on March 30th 1955. His parents were very active in the community church, so Randy was practically born singing standards from the old Baptist hymnbook.

His father, Roger VanWormer, was killed in a car accident when Randy was 12. At 15, three years after the death of his father he moved with his mother to Looe, a small fishing village on the Southwest coast of Cornwall, England. It was here, during England’s long winter days that Randy began writing songs and playing the folk clubs around Cornwall.

While still a teenager, a girlfriend from the United States came to visit England, and spent several months with him. She then returned home and this experience with the girl ultimately became the inspiration for his one hit song.

VanWarmer has said however that the song “Just When I Needed You Most” is really about the weather. “It’s not hard to write a really sad song in the winter in Cornwall,he was quoted saying. Allegedly, he worked, for a while, in the Fish & Chip Shop close to the Three Pilchards pub on Quay Street in Polperro, Cornwall.

Continue reading Randy VanWarmer 1/2004

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Wendy Williams 4/1998

wendy-o-williamsApril 6, 1998 – Wendy Williams was born on May 28, 1949 in Webster, New York. She studied clarinet at the Community Music School program of the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music and later was a clarinetist in her high school’s concert band. At the age of six, she appeared tap-dancing on the Howdy Doody show as a member of the “Peanut Gallery”.

She had her first run-in with the law at the age of 15, when she was arrested for sun bathing nude. Williams attended R. L. Thomas High School in Webster at least partway through the tenth grade, but left school before graduating. Her schoolmates and teachers recalled Williams as a “shy and pretty girl, an average student who played in the junior high band, paid attention to her hair and clothes, and who spoke so softly you had to lean toward her to hear her.

Continue reading Wendy Williams 4/1998

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Z.Z.
Hill
4/1984

zz hillApril 27, 1984 – Z. Z. Hill was born Arzell Hill in Naples, Texas on September 30th 1935.

He began his singing career in the late 1950s as part of a gospel group called The Spiritual Five. In 1964, he moved to California and recorded “You Were Wrong” on his brother’s M.H. record label. In 1971, he recorded the hits “Faithful & True” and “Chokin’ Kind” in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. One of ZZ’s biggest selling hits came while signed to Columbia, “Love Is So Good When You’re Stealing It,” which spent 18 weeks on the Billboard R&B chart in the summer of 1977. His 1982 album, ‘Down Home’, stayed on the Billboard soul album chart for nearly two years. The track “Down Home Blues” has been called the best-known blues song of the 1980s. This track plus his songs “Taxi”, “Someone Else Is Steppin’ In”, and “Open House” have become R&B/Southern soul standards.

Hill managed to resuscitate both his own semi-flagging career and the entire genre at large when he signed on at Jackson, MS-based Malaco Records in 1980 and began growling his way through some of the most uncompromising blues to be unleashed on black radio stations in many a moon. His impressive 1982 Malaco album Down Home Blues remained on Billboard’s soul album charts for nearly two years, an extraordinary run for such a blatantly bluesy LP. His songs “Down Home Blues” and “Somebody Else Is Steppin’ In” have graduated into the ranks of legitimate blues standards (and few of those have come along over the last couple of decades). Arzell Hill started out singing gospel with a quintet called the Spiritual Five, but the output of B.B. King, Bobby Bland, and especially Sam Cooke made a more indelible mark on his approach. He began gigging around Dallas, fashioning his distinctive initials after those of B.B. King. When his older brother Matt Hill (a budding record producer with his own label, M.H.) invited Z.Z. to go west to Southern California, the young singer did.

His debut single on M.H., the gutsy shuffle “You Were Wrong” (recorded in an L.A. garage studio), showed up on the pop chart for a week in 1964. With such a relatively successful showing his first time out, Hill’s fine subsequent singles for the Bihari Brothers’ Kent logo should have been even bigger. But “I Need Someone (To Love Me),” “Happiness Is All I Need,” and a raft of other deserving Kent 45s (many produced and arranged by Maxwell Davis) went nowhere commercially for the singer. Excellent singles for Atlantic, Mankind, and Hill (another imprint operated by brother Matt, who served as Z.Z.’s producer for much of his career) preceded a 1972 hookup with United Artists that resulted in three albums and six R&B chart singles over the next couple of years. From there, Z.Z. moved on to Columbia, where his 1977 single “Love Is So Good When You’re Stealing It” became his biggest-selling hit of all. But Hill’s vocal grit was never more effective than on his blues-soaked Malaco output.

From 1980 until 1984, when he died suddenly of a heart attack, Z.Z. bravely led a personal back-to-the-blues campaign that doubtless helped to fuel the subsequent contemporary blues boom. It’s a shame he couldn’t stick around to see it blossom.

While touring in February 1984, Hill was involved in a car accident. Although he continued to perform, he died two months later on April 28, 1984 at the age of 48, from a heart attack arising from a blood clot formed after the accident. He was 48.