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Alan Myers 6/2013

alan-myersJune 24, 2013 – Alan Myers (Devo) was born in 1955 in Akron, Ohio, USA. He joined the band Devo in 1976, replacing Jim Mothersbaugh. His distinctive style ultimately made him one of the most influential drummers of his generation and his angular playing proved so precise on Devo’s most beloved classics, his beats were frequently mistaken for a drum machine.

He was also an actor, known for Human Highway (1982), We’re All Devo (1983) and Urgh! A Music War (1981). Myers was the third and most prominent drummer of the band when he joined in 1976 to replace Jim Mothersbaugh.

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Greg
Ham
4/2012

greg-hamApril 19, 2012 – Greg Ham (Men at Work) was born September 27, 1953 in Melbourne where he attended Camberwell Grammar School.

A virtuoso multi-instrumentalist, he played saxophone, flute, keyboards, percussion, harmonica and guitar as well as vocals and is best known for playing multiple instruments as a key member in the 1980s band Men at Work.  They are the only Australian artists to have a simultaneous No.1 album and No.1 single in the United States with Business as Usual and “Down Under” respectively. They achieved the same distinction of a simultaneous No.1 album and No.1 single in the UK.

They also won the 1983 Grammy Award for Best New Artist; that same year, Canada awarded them a Juno Award for “International LP of the Year”. As an actor, Greg was a regular cast member on While You’re Down There. Later in life, he taught guitar at Carlton North Primary School in Melbourne.

Even though the circumstances of Greg’s death were initially circumspect, the autopsy confirmed a massive heart attack killed him at the age of 58, some days prior to the day he was found on April 19, 2012.

By some accounts, Ham’s personal demons of drug and alcohol dependency began as far back as Men at Work’s glory year: 1983. It was in that pivotal year that the band was touring nonstop as well as worldwide. The stress by all accounts was horrific, and fights between band mates were all too commonplace.

In regard to the band’s in-fighting, Hay told me in 1997, “The band broke into two sectors: me and Greg on one end and (John) Rees and (Jerry) Speiser on the other, with Ronny (Strykert) struggling to stay in a neutral corner.” One can only imagine what the lack of sleep, breakneck tour schedule and in-fighting must have done to a delicate, sensitive man like Greg Ham.

With his posh, two-story former home studio sold to help ease his financial woes, Ham purchased a rather dismal, smallish home (complete with a multitude of telephone poles and wires encircling it) just a few miles away from his former home. There he sat, in the heart of the business section of downtown Carlton North, Victoria, Australia, alone. Greg Ham found himself-despite his fame and high esteem among Australia’s music community-on very shaky ground.

On April 19, 2012, Greg Ham’s friends became alarmed when Ham’s telephone answering machine went unheeded for days on end. A subsequent inquiry among Ham’s neighbors revealed that no one had seen him for days. Ham’s long-time friend and pharmacist David Nolte went to the house in the afternoon, where he discovered Ham’s body in the front room of Ham’s home. An autopsy revealed that Ham had been dead for days.

Mr. Nolte, who runs a Rathdowne Street pharmacy, had known Ham for 30 years. He told the Australian press that he went to check on Ham after a friend was unable to contact him for some days. By the time that Nolte arrived at Ham’s home, it was already too late; Greg Ham was dead. His lifeless body was found in a sitting position against the wall in the home’s front room. He had suffered a fatal heart attack.

Said Nolte, ”Greg’s friend told me they tried to ring him over a number of days and … it kept going to voicemail and the cats obviously hadn’t been fed.”

In the aftermath of Ham’s sudden demise, an unnamed friend of Ham’s stepped forward with the alarming claim that Ham’s abuse issues were far more serious than what had been previously reported. This “mystery man” alleged that Ham had been heavily using heroin, and that Ham’s abuse of alcohol had intensified after the Kookaburra case. Observed the friend, sadly shaking his head, ”The whole case had undone him.”

Immediately following the death of Greg Ham, furious fans began a barrage of hate mail and threatening phone calls to Larrikin Music Publishing Company and Norman Lurie retired not long after.

Greg Ham’s family and friends held a private funeral for Ham at the Fitzroy Town Hall in Melbourne, on May 2, 2012. Gregory Norman Ham was finally laid to rest at The Melbourne General Cemetery in Carlton, Victoria, Australia: Roman Catholic area of plots, Compartment O, Section 3, Row 1 Grave 55.

Said Colin Hay, fondly recalling his band mate (and beloved friend of 40 years) “He was the funniest person I knew. We shared countless, unbelievably memorable times together, from stumbling through Richmond after playing the Cricketers Arms, to helicoptering into New York City to appear on ‘Saturday Night Live’, or flying through dust storms in Arizona, above the Grand Canyon. We played in a band and conquered the world together. I love him very much. He’s here forever. He was a beautiful man!”

I heartily agree, Colin.

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JoJo Billingsley 6/2010

jojo-billingsleyJune 24, 2010 – JoJo Billingsley was born Deborah Jo Billingsley on May 28, 1952 in Memphis Tennessee and raised in Tennessean country communities. She started singing at age three; took dance lessons (tap and jazz) from the time she was three to about age 14. She also was church soloist by the time I was 10 or 12 and deeply involved in the music program at school; choral group, girl’s vocal ensemble, as a soloist coloratura soprano. She received a scholarship to attend the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) but had a difficult time because she never had music theory. When she was 16 she was invited to attend Juliard School but her dad would not let her because it was in New York City.

After her dad passed in 1971 she took up singing as a profession and first joined Oil Can Harry with whom she toured the US and Europe in 1973/74, and then joined Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Honkettes”.

A friend of mine named Bob O’Neal was doing the lights for Skynyrd and Fleetwood Mac; he turned my name into them and Kevin Elson (the sound producer) invited me to come to Nashville to a concert. It was there I met Ronnie Van Zant for the first time and he hired me on the spot. When I entered the room backstage where he was sitting with his bare feet propped up on a table, he took one look at me, tipped his hat back, smiled and said, “she’ll do just fine!” and hired me without ever hearing me sing. Good thing I knew how!

The next 3 years were magic with numerous tours around the world until on October 20, 1977 the airplane crash killed several members of the band and road crew, but Billingsley was the only band member not on the flight.

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Willy DeVille 8/2009

romantic punk rocker Willy DevilleAugust 6, 2009 – Willy DeVille was born William Paul Borsey Jr. on  August 25th 1950 in Stamford, Connecticut. The son of a carpenter, he grew up in the working-class Belltown district of Stamford.

DeVille said about Stamford, “It was post-industrial. Everybody worked in factories, you know. Not me. I wouldn’t have that. People from Stamford don’t get too far. That’s a place where you die.” DeVille said about his youthful musical tastes, “I still remember listening to groups like the Drifters. It was like magic, there was drama, and it would hypnotise me.

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Tim Krekel 6/2009

tim-krekelJune 24, 2009 – Tim Krekel (Jimmy Buffett) was born on October 10, 1950 in Louisville, Kentucky. He became interested in music early and his first lessons were on the drums. He began taking guitar lessons at age 10 or 11, when it dawned on him that “the guitar player was up front getting all the attention, like Rick Nelson”. He was singing and playing his guitar for audiences by the time he was 12, gigging in Lebanon, Kentucky, at places like The Golden Horseshoe and Club 68. He began to write his own songs in high school, although he was reluctant to share them with anyone for a few years.

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David Williams 3/2009

david williamsMarch, 6, 2009 – David Williams (Session-guitarist) was born November 21st 1950 in Newport News, Virginia. He started his professional career with the Dells at age 18.

After he finished his time in the Army he hooked up with the Temptations for live gigs and eventually settled in Los Angeles where became one of the most in-demand session guitarists recording with Michael Jackson, The Jacksons, The Pointer Sisters, Peter Allen, Aretha Franklin, The Four Tops, Madonna, Julio Iglesias, George Benson, The Manhattan Transfer, Michael McDonald, Melissa Manchester, The Temptations, Stevie Nicks, Rod Stewart, Dionne Warwick, Shalamar, Go West, Genesis, Boz Scaggs, Karen Carpenter, Mariah Carey, Julian Lennon, Bryan Ferry, Paul McCartney, Johnny Mathis, Del Shannon, Chaka Khan, Kenny Loggins, Steve Perry, Lionel Richie, Jessica Simpson, Diana Ross, The Crusaders, Andraé Crouch, Eddie Murphy, Herbie Hancock, Peter Cetera, Whitney Houston, Monkey Business and more.

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Danny Federici 4/2008

DannyApril 17, 2008 – Danny Federici was born January 23, 1950 grew up in the same neighborhood and became life long friend and over 40 years the keyboardist with Bruce Springsteen in bands Child, Steel Mill and The E Street Band.

Danny started to play accordion when he was seven years old, and was soon playing at parties, clubs and on radio. He attended Hunterdon Central High School in New Jersey, when he, along with Vini Lopez started the band, Child at the end of the ’60s, with Bruce Springsteen their chosen singer, a friendship and working friendship that lasted throughout his life.

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April Lawton 11/2006

April LawtonNovember 23, 2006 – April Lawton (Ramatan) was born on July 30th 1948 on Long Island New York. As guitar virtuoso, singer, and composer she came to notice in the early 70s as the lead guitarist of the criminally underrated rock band  Ramatam, which also included former Iron Butterfly guitarist Mike Pinera and the former Jimi Hendrix drummer Mitch Mitchell. With Jimi just dead, she was hailed as the female Jimi Hendrix by many, and her style was a mix of Jeff Beck, Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Alan Holdsworth. When Pinera and Mitchell left after the self titled debut album, she stayed with Ramatam for “In April Came the Dawning of the Red Suns”, in my opinion one of the most incredibly versatile instrumental albums ever recorded. Continue reading April Lawton 11/2006

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Rod Price 3/2005

Rod PriceMarch 22, 2005 – Rod Price (Foghat) was born November 22, 1947. At the age of 21, Price joined the British blues band Black Cat Bones, replacing legendary Free alumni Paul Kossoff, which recorded one album, Barbed Wire Sandwich. The album was released at the end of 1969, when British blues was being supplanted by rock, and though artistically successful it was a commercial failure.

The band dissolved, and Price joined Foghat when the group was first formed in London in 1971. He played on the band’s first ten albums, released from 1972 through to 1980. His signature slide playing ability helped propel the band to being one of the most successful rock groups in the United States during the 1970s. His slide playing was featured distinctly on Foghat songs “Drivin’ Wheel”, “Stone Blue”, and the group’s biggest hit, “Slow Ride“, which was a top 20 hit in 1976. Price’s final performance with Foghat before he left for the first time was at the Philadelphia Spectrum on 16 November 1980. He was replaced by guitarist Erik Cartwright.

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Bruce Palmer 10/2004

Bruce PalmerOctober 1, 2004Bruce Palmer (Buffalo Springfield bassist) was born in Nova Scotia on September 9, 1946. He was raised in Toronto, Canada, where he began playing music at age 10. He played in the Mynah Birds with a young Rick James, who passed away just a few months earlier, which would eventually also include fellow Canadian Neil Young. Mynah Birds auditioned for Motown Records but split when James left the band.

He went on to co-found Buffalo Springfield in April 1966 in Toronto with Young, Stephen Stills, Dewey Martin and Richie Furay. Over just 19 months in 1967 and ’68, the group established itself as a folk/country/rock pioneer, producing the transcendent political anthem “For What It’s Worth”.

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Syreeta Wright 7/2004

July 6, 2004 – Syreeta Wright  was born on August 3, 1946.

Wright was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1946, and started singing at age four. Her father died while serving in the Korean War and Wright and her two sisters, Yvonne and Kim, were raised by their mother Essie and their grandmother. The Wrights moved back and forth from Detroit to South Carolina before finally settling in Detroit just as Wright entered high school.

Money problems kept Wright from pursuing a career in ballet so she focused her attention on a music career joining several singing groups before landing a job as a receptionist for Motown in 1965. Within a year, she became a secretary for Mickey Stevenson, just as Martha Reeves had done before her.

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Paul Atkinson 4/2004

paul_atkinsonApril 1, 2004 – Paul Atkinson (The Zombies) was born March 19, 1946 in Cuffley, Hertfordshire, and educated at St Albans School. At St Albans, Atkinson met Rod Argent and Hugh Grundy and the three formed a band initially called the Mustangs.

Colin Blunstone and Paul Arnold joined the new band in early 1961, but Arnold left in 1963 and was replaced by Chris White. After the group won a local contest, they recorded a demo as their prize. Argent’s song “She’s Not There” got them a deal with Decca and was a hit in the UK, the European continent and the  US.

The group continued to record successfully through the early 1960s, but disbanded in December of 1967, shortly after finishing their final album “Odyssey & Oracle,” reportedly over management disagreements. The album including megahits “Tell Her No” and “Time of the Season”.

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Cornelius Bumpus 2/2004

Cornelius BumpusFebruary 3, 2004 – Cornelius Bumpus was born on May 7, 1945 in Santa Cruz, California. Bumpus began his career at the age of ten, playing alto saxophone in his school band in Santa Cruz, California. He put his love of music down to his parents’ record collection – it included early Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Fats Domino and James Brown. By the time Bumpus was 12, he was already landing gigs, playing at Portuguese dances in central California.

In 1966, he spent six months performing with the Bobby Freeman band, then embarked on a series of ventures as he honed his talent. In 1977, he joined Moby Grape, writing one tune for their Live Grape album. He also recorded two solo albums and toured with his own band.

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Barry White 7/2003

barry-whiteJuly 4, 2003 – Barry White was born as Barry Eugene Carter in Galveston, Texas on September 12, 1944, and grew up in South Central Los Angeles. White was the older of two children. His brother Darryl was 13 months younger than Barry. He grew up listening to his mother’s classical music collection and first took to the piano, emulating what he heard on the records.

White has often been credited with playing piano, at age eleven, on Jesse Belvin’s 1956 hit single, “Goodnight My Love.” However, in a 1995 interview with Larry Katz of the Boston Herald, White denied writing or arranging the song. He believed the story was an exaggeration by journalists. Continue reading Barry White 7/2003

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George Harrison 11/2001

George HarrisonNovember 29, 2001 – George Harrison was born on February 25, 1943 in Liverpool England. Harrison was not born into wealth and by his own admission, Harrison was not much of a student, and what little interest he did have in his studies washed away with his discovery of the electric guitar and American rock and roll. As Harrison would later describe it, he had an “epiphany” of sorts at the age 12 or 13 while riding a bike around his neighborhood and getting his first whiff of Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel,” which was playing from a nearby house. By the age of 14, Harrison, whose early rock heroes included Carl Perkins, Little Richard and Buddy Holly, had purchased his first guitar and taught himself a few chords. Continue reading George Harrison 11/2001

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Doris Coley 2/2000

Doris ColeyFebruary 4, 2000 – Doris Coley (The Shirelles) was born August 2nd 1941 in Goldsboro, North Carolina, but spend her formative and teenage years in Passaic New Jersey, where Doris became a founding member and occasional lead singer of the Shirelles in 1958. The four teenagers, Beverly Lee of Passaic and Shirley Alston Reeves (born Shirley Owens) of Hillside and Addie “Mickie” Harris did not graduate with their class of 1958, but they earned diplomas later.

Instead they went on to release a string of hits including “Baby It’s You” , “Mama Said”, “Foolish Little Girl”, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, “Soldier Boy” and “Sha La La”. Doris sang lead on “Dedicated to the One I Love”, “Welcome Home Baby”, “Blue Holiday” and a number of ‘b’ sides and album cuts.

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