October 18, 2017 – Phil Miller (In Cahoots) was born on January 22, 1949 in Barnet, Hertfordshire, to Mavis (nee Dale), a librarian, and David Miller, a wartime lieutenant colonel in the Royal Marines and later head of commodities at the Stock Exchange. He was educated at Blackfriars boarding school, in Laxton, Northamptonshire, from where he occasionally truanted at night, hitch-hiking to London clubs to hear his musical heroes play, and returning unmissed in time for early-morning mass.
A self-taught guitarist, he formed his first band, Delivery, at 17, and played regularly upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s in London, backing visiting blues legends.
In 1971 he became a vital figure on the “Canterbury scene” when Robert Wyatt, who had just left Soft Machine, recruited Phil to join his new band, Matching Mole. The “scene”, noted for the frequent absence of the electric guitar as a lead instrument, boasted Phil as its undisputed exponent. Continue reading Phil Miller 10/2017
September 23, 2017 – Charles Bradley was born on November 5, 1948 in Gainesville, Florida Bradley was raised by his maternal grandmother in Gainesville, Florida until the age of eight when his mother, who had abandoned him at eight months of age, took him to live with her in Brooklyn, New York.
In 1962, his sister took him to the Apollo Theater to see James Brown perform. Bradley was so inspired by the performance that he began to practice mimicking Brown’s style of singing and stage mannerisms at home. Continue reading Charles Bradley 9/2017
January 28, 2017 – Geoff Nicholls was born on 28 February 1948, in Birmingham, England. He started out as a guitarist in his early teens, and his idols included Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and Django Reinhardt. He also became proficient on the piano and organ, but never entirely forsook the guitar, and he became a serious admirer of Jimi Hendrix’s playing from 1966 onward.
Geoff Nicholls played lead guitar in several Birmingham bands such as Colin Storm & the Whirlwinds, The Boll Weevils, The Seed, starting in his teens. In 1968, Nicholls was recruited into the short-lived second lineup of the psychedelic pop band the World of Oz, succeeding David Kubinec on keyboards, as well as adding a second guitar to their sound on some songs. Following their split in the spring of 1969, he joined Johnny Neal & the Starliners, a cabaret-type act that was enjoying a good run of success in live performances, and even had a single out (“Put Your Hand in the Hand”) at the time on Parlophone. The group was busy enough, and made numerous television appearances, even winning a competition on the showcase Opportunity Knocks, but their brand of soft pop/rock wasn’t what Geoff had in mind for his career, nor the music he wanted to be playing. Continue reading Geoff Nicholls 1/2017
September 24, 2016 – Buckwheat Zydeco was born Stanley Dural Jr. born in Lafayette, Louisiana on November 14, 1947. He acquired his nickname as a youth, because, with his braided hair, he looked like the character Buckwheat from Our Gang/The Little Rascals movies. His father, a farmer, was an accomplished amateur traditional Creole accordion player, but young Dural preferred listening to and playing rhythm and blues.
Dural became proficient at the organ, and by the late 1950s he was backing Joe Tex, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and many others.
December 27, 2015 – Stevie Wright (The Easybeats) was born Stephen Carlton Wright on December 20, 1947 in Leeds, England. When he was 9, his family moved to Melbourne, Australia and four years later to Sydney where they lived in Villawood near the Villawood Migrant Hostel. He was lead vocalist for local band, The Outlaws, and by 1964 had formed Chris Langdon & the Langdells, which initially played The Shadows-styled surf music, but converted to beat music under the influence of The Beatles.
Feb 22, 2015 – Chris Rainbow (Camel) was born Christopher James Harley in Glasgow, Scotland on November 18, 1946.
He started out in a band called Hopestreet, in 1972-3. Following this he adopted the stage name “Rainbow” to avoid confusion with Steve Harley and recorded as Christopher Rainbow, then Chris Rainbow and released three solo albums: Home of the Brave in 1975, Looking Over My Shoulder in 1977 and White Trails in 1979 which produced hits including “Give Me What I Cry For” and “Solid State Brain”.
February 16, 2015 – Lesley Sue Gore was born Lesley Sue Goldstein on May 2, 1946 in Brooklyn, New York City into a middle-class Jewish family, the daughter of Leo and Ronny Gore.
Her father was the owner of Peter Pan, a children’s swimwear and underwear manufacturer and later became a leading brand licensing agent in the apparel industry. She was raised in Tenafly, New Jersey, a little distance from the George Washington Bridge and was a junior at the Dwight School for Girls in nearby Englewood when “It’s My Party” became a number one hit. The song was eventually nominated for a Grammy Award for rock and roll recording. It sold over one million copies and was certified as a gold record.
January 25, 2015 –Demis Roussos (Aphrodite’s Child) was born as Artemios Ventouris Roussos in Alexandria, Egypt, on June 15, 1946. His family was greek and his father George was a classical guitarist and engineer, while his mother Olga was a singer. As a child, he studied music and joined the Greek Byzantine Church choir. When his parents lost their possessions during the Suez Crisis, they decided to move to Greece.
As a teenager Demis sang in several local groups, including The Idols, where he met Vangelis. In 1967 he formed rock band Aphrodite’s Child with his friends Vangelis and Loukas Sideras, initially as a singer, but later he also played bass guitar. The band set off for London to break into the international music scene but were turned back at Dover due to visa problems. They retreated to Paris where they decided to stay, signing a record deal there with Philips Records.
April 29, 2014 – Paul Goddard (ARS) was born on June 3rd 1945.
The southern rock band the Atlanta Rhythm Section was formed in 1971 by musicians who were former members of the Candymen and the Classics IV, which had become the session band for the newly opened Studio One in Doraville, Georgia, near Atlanta in 1970.
After playing on other artists’ recordings, they decided to become a true band in their own right. The original lineup consisted of vocalist Rodney Justo, guitarist Barry Bailey, bassist Paul Goddard, keyboardist Dean Daughtry, and drummer Robert Nix.
April 14, 2013 – George Jackson was born on March 12th 1945 in Indianola, Mississippi and moved with his family to Greenville at the age of five. He sang southern soul from the 1960s into the 1980s. As a writer, he provided scores of songs for Goldwax and Fame in the 1960s and Hi and Sounds Of Memphis in the 1970s. As a singer, he had a versatile tenor that was influenced by Sam Cooke, and released many records over the years, for a host of different labels, but his recordings never made him a star.
His songwriter relationship with Malaco Records, however saw him pen material for dozens of artists, such as “One Bad Apple” for the Osmonds, “Old Time Rock & Roll” for Bob Seeger and “The Only Way Is Up”, which became a UK No.1 for Yazz and Coldcut, having been written originally for Otis Clay.
Jackson recorded dozens of singles in the 1960s but made his mark as a writer, beginning with FAME Studios. He later was a songwriter for Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. When Malaco bought Muscle Shoals Sound, they hired Jackson to write songs.
March 22, 2013 – Derek Watkins (Session musician) was born in Reading, Berkshire, England on March 2nd 1945. His horn is heard on the Beatles’ classics ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Penny Lane’, and Dizzy Gillespie called him “Mr Lead”.
The Watkins’ family was certainly a musical family, Derek’s great-grandfather, William Watkins was a brass player in Wales with the Salvation Army band, whilst Derek’s grandfather George taught brass at Reading University, and became a founder member and conductor of the Spring Gardens Brass Band in Reading, England, until succeeded by Derek’s father, Ted.
Derek was initially taught to play the cornet by his father at the age of 4, and went on to play that instrument in the brass band, winning several musical awards. He also played with his father’s dance band until he turned a professional trumpet player at the age of 17.
March 6, 2013 – Alvin Lee,(Ten Years After) born Graham Anthony Barnes on Dec. 19, 1944, was a truly inspired blues rock guitarist-vocalist, whose performance with Ten Years After during Woodstock 1969, catapulted him into superstardom. The song “I’m Going Home” became legendary and his speed earned him the title “The Fastest Guitarist in the West”. A lifelong search for freedom resulted in more than 20 albums of superb blues rock. Ten Years After would ultimately tour the US twenty-eight times in seven years – more than any other UK band.
He was born in Nottingham and attended the Margaret Glen-Bott School in Wollaton. He began playing guitar at the age of 13 and in 1960, Lee along with Leo Lyons formed the core of the band Ten Years After. Influenced by his parents’ collection of jazz and blues records, it was the advent of rock and roll that sparked his interest.
He began to play professionally in 1962, in a band named the Jaybirds, they began that year to perform in the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany. After a couple of name changes by 1966 they had finally decided on the name Ten Years After.
February 18, 2013- Kevin Ayers (Soft Machine) was born August 16, 1944 in Herne Bay, Kent, the son of journalist, poet and BBC producer Rowan Ayers, who later originated the BBC2 rock music program The Old Grey Whistle Test.
After his parents divorced and his mother married a civil servant, Ayers spent most of his childhood in Malaysia, where, he would later admit, he discovered a fondness for the slow and easy life.
At age 12, he returned to Britain and settled in Canterbury. There, he became a fledgling musician and founder of the “Canterbury sound”, an often whimsical English take on American psychedelia that merged jazz, folk, pop and nascent progressive rock. As psychedelic rock songwriter, guitarist and bassist, he was quickly drafted into the Wilde Flowers, a band that featured Robert Wyatt and Hugh Hopper.
November 20, 2012 – Michael Dunford (Renaissance) was born in 1944 in Surrey, England.
The reclusive and soft-spoken composer, a mainstay in the world of progressive rock, was born, raised and educated in Surrey. His first job was selling clothing in a local shop followed by a stint as an airside driver at Heathrow Airport which enabled him to form a “skiffle” group which lead to his first rock band called Nashville Teens in the early 1960s. Nashville Teens reached #6 on U.K. singles charts with their version of Tobacco Road. On leaving them, he formed several other bands including The Pentad and The Plebes. One night he went to see the original band Renaissance perform locally and ended up joining them in the early 1970s. The original band members were Jim McCarty, Louis Cennamo, John Hawken, Keith Relf and Jane Relf.
Dunford entered the band during a period of transition. Though he wrote (and played guitar on) ‘Mr. Pine’ from 1971’s largely ignored ‘Illusion,’ his influence wasn’t truly felt until Renaissance’s third album, 1972’s ‘Prologue.’ This was the beginning of the band’s classic ’70s period, cementing their trademark brand of epic, symphonic prog. Dunford wrote two tracks on his own and co-wrote two others, though he didn’t actually contribute to the recording. Nonetheless, his writing gave the band focus: The elegant title-track (written by Dunford) is one of Renaissance’s most powerful instrumentals, featuring Haslam’s towering voice, John Tout’s jazzy, Latin-tinged piano, and Jon Camp’s furious bassline.
From that point forward, Dunford (along with writing partner, lyricist Betty Thatcher) was the band’s guiding creative force. He co-wrote all but one track on the band’s 1973 breakthrough, the orchestra-backed ‘Ashes Are Burning,’ making his studio debut and showcasing his signature acoustic guitar playing: subtle, misty, and slightly majestic.
And with each subsequent release, both Dunford and Renaissance grew more powerful. Their masterpiece was delivered in 1975 with ‘Scheherazade and Other Stories,’ their most cinematic and densely layered work, concluding with the 25-minute epic ‘Song of Scheherazade’ (which was also captured–in an arguably more thrilling context — on the 1976 live double-album ‘Live at Carnegie Hall’).
Though Renaissance were a British band, most of their success during this peak period came in the United States: ‘Scheherazade’ landed at No. 48 on the Billboard Album Charts, and their 1977 follow-up, ‘Novella,’ reached the same spot. The band’s biggest success, however, came in their home country with 1978’s ‘A Song for All Seasons,’ which peaked at No. 35 in the UK, thanks in large part to the success of that album’s hit single, ‘Northern Lights,’ which was built on Dunford’s shimmering strums and John Tout’s newly utilized synthesizers.
But these were also dark times. Punk and disco were diminishing the prog-rock’s relevance, leaving bands like Renaissance with a choice: either adapt or face extinction. As a result, Renaissance–under Camp’s guiding presence–went through a radical makeover in the 1980s. They released two albums, 1981’s ‘Camera Camera’ and 1983’s ‘Time-Line,’ both of which sought to blend the band’s artful rock with a more streamlined, synth-heavy approach leaning toward new-wave. After both albums tanked, the band’s remaining core trio (Dunford, Haslam, and Camp) dissolved into their own factions, with Dunford and Haslam seeking to continue the Renaissance name separately. Without each other, the magic wasn’t there.
But Dunford managed to reunite with Haslam, the magical voice behind his band’s best music, for 2001’s ‘Tuscany’ (also featuring Tout on keyboards, along with original drummer, Terence Sullivan), an album that recaptured some of the original Renaissance spirit.
Sadly, both Dunford and his old band are rarely mentioned in the same breath as their prog peers like Genesis, Yes, and King Crimson. Part of the reason is exposure: Even during their mid-to-late ’70s prime, Renaissance were never chart-toppers or stadium sell-outs (though they did manage one UK top-ten single, 1978’s ‘Northern Lights’). And they were never as technically flashy or boldly experimental as those bands: Throughout the group’s quietly excellent lifespan, the Renaissance catalogue is middle-of-the-road, but in a good way — consistently built on Annie Haslam’s soaring, operative, five-octave vocals, Jon Camp’s propulsive and melodic basslines, and Dunford’s tasteful guitar playing and arrangements. They were never prog’s trailblazers or sonic innovators — but they were certainly one of the most consistently great, album-to-album.
Dunford, the guitarist and chief composer behind Renaissance’s sweeping, symphonic progressive rock, passed away on November 20, 2012 after suffering an Instantaneous Cerebral Hemmorage at his Surrey, England home. He is survived not only by his wife, two sons, and sister — but also by some of the most hauntingly beautiful progressive rock albums ever recorded.
Before his death, Dunford was as musically active as he’d been in a decade: He’d just finished the first leg of a well-received tour (with Haslam and a new Renaissance line-up), with a newly recorded follow-up album, ‘Grandine il Vento,’ scheduled for a 2013 release. Ironically, what began as an incredibly exciting year for Renaissance turned into its final chapter. And considering the circumstances, ‘Vento’ should be the band’s swan song.
Though Dunford’s never been one of prog-rock’s most visible icons, he’s a crucial player in the genre’s rich history. He should be remembered that way.
May 30, 2012 – Peter Palus “Pete” Cosey was born on October 9th 1943 in Chicago. He was the only child of a musical family. His father and mother wrote for Louis Jordan and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and his father played for Sidney Bechet and Josephine Baker.
In the early years of the 1960s Pete became a key session musician at Chess Records, appearing on recordings by Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, the Rotary Connection, and Etta James, and he worked with the great Phil Cohran in the Artistic Heritage Ensemble.
Pete was also an early member of The Pharaohs and a group with drummer Maurice White and bassist Louis Satterfield that eventually evolved into Earth, Wind & Fire.
March 8, 2012 – Buddy “Bugs” Henderson was born on October 20th 1943 in Palm Springs, California, but grew up in Tyler, Texas. At age 16 he formed a band called the Sensores and later joined Mouse and the Traps. Living in Dallas-Fort Worth during the early 1970s, he became lead guitarist for the blues/rock band Nitzinger before one-hit pop wonder Bruce Channel recruited him into a band.
He established his own band the Shuffle Kings, and spent his entire working life as musician performing from Fort Worth clubs and all over the world, forging and establishing a large cult following. He released 18 albums, while his guitarplaying style impressed musicians such as Eric Clapton, Freddie King, Johnny Winter, Johnny Hyland and Ted Nugent.
August 26, 2009 – Eleanor Louise “Ellie” Greenwich (October 23, 1940 – August 26, 2009) was born in Brooklyn New York into an immigrant family with an amateur music tradition. At age ten she was quite proficient on the accordion which she later replaced for piano when she started writing music and performing. In the sixties she was the driving force of a music partnership that brought rock and roll to the foreground with classic pop songs such as “Chapel of Love,” “River Deep, Mountain High”, “Doo Wah diddy” and “Be My Baby”.
January 31, 2009 – Dewey Martin , (Buffalo Springfield) born Walter Milton Dwayne Midkiff in Chesterville, Ontario, Canada on September 30, 1940 was best known for his work with the notoriously volatile country rock band, Buffalo Springfield.
Dewey started playing drums when he was 13 years old and joined a high school band The Jive Rockets, but was soon playing with more professional rockabilly bands, including Bernie Early & The Early Birds. After his army discharge, he moved to Nashville in 1961 where he became an in-demand session drummer, playing and recording with the likes of Carl Perkins, Charlie Rich, Patsy Cline, Everly Brothers, Faron Young and Roy Orbison among others.
January 19, 2008 –John Coburn Stewartwas born September 5th 1939in San Diego, California, Stewart was the son of horse trainer John S. Stewart and spent his childhood and adolescence in southern California, living mostly in the cities of Pasadena and Claremont.
He graduated in 1957 from High School, which at the time was a coeducational school. He demonstrated an early talent for music, learning the guitar and banjo. He composed his first song, “Shrunken Head Boogie,” when he was ten years old. In an interview in Michael Oberman’s Music makers column (The Washington, DC Star Newspaper) on Oct. 30, 1971, Stewart said, “I bought a ukelele when I was in Pasadena. I would listen to Sons of the Pioneers records. Tex Ritter really turned me on to music. ‘I Love My Rooster’ was Top Ten as far as I was concerned.”
July 31, 2005 – Les Braid (the Swinging Blue Jeans)was born on September 15, 1937 in Liverpool, England. Braid was an accomplished pianist by the time he left his Formby secondary school and began an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker. In 1958, he joined a skiffle group on bass, and then gravitated to the Bluegenes, who initially mixed skiffle and traditional jazz. The Bluegenes had big ambitions; they wore uniform jeans and blazers, had cards designed by teenage cartoonist Bill Tidy, and even bought a van to get to gigs.
The group’s origins go back to 1957, when singer/guitarist Ray Ennis decided to form a band. The result was a skiffle sextet called “the Bluegenes” — the latter a misspelling of “blue jeans” that remained unchanged for a couple of years. Surprisingly, Ennis had already played rock & roll, but — in a manner the opposite of many other young musicians of the time — he regarded skiffle as an advancement; equally surprisingly, given their later work, the Bluegenes were heavily jazz influenced, and stayed away from trying to cover songs associated with Elvis Presley and other American rock & rollers, preferring instead to try and emulate the horn and sax parts that they heard on their guitars.
August 2, 2001 – Ron Townson (The Fifth Dimension) was born on January 20, 1933 in St. Louis Missouri.
He started singing at the age of 6 and was a featured soloist on various choirs throughout his years in school, touring with Wings Over Jordan for 8 years while still in school. He was also their choir director for two years. His grandmother had initially inspired him to sing and his parents arranged for him to have private singing and acting lessons. During high school, he appeared for three seasons in productions of Bloomer Girl, Annie Get Your Gun and Show Boat; he also won third place in the Missouri State trials for the Metropolitan Opera.
Later he entered Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, after which he went to L.A. touring with Dorothy Dandridge for 2 years, then took part in the Samuel Goldwyn motion picture production of Porgy & Bess and then later toured with Nat King Cole, as well as organizing and conducting his own 35 voice a cappella choir in LA.
In 1966, Ron, Billy Davis Jr, Lamonte McLemore, Marilyn McCoo and Florence LaRue formed The Versatiles, but soon changed their name to “The 5th Dimension”. Continue reading Ron Townson 8/2001
April 30, 1983 – Muddy Waters was born McKinley Morganfield on April 4th 1913 in Rolling Fork, Mississippi. He taught himself harmonica as a child. He later took up guitar, eagerly absorbing the classic delta blues styles of Robert Johnson and Son House and went on to become known as “the Father of Chicago blues”.
Waters grew up on Stovall Plantation, near Clarksdale, Mississippi, and by age seventeen was playing the guitar at parties, emulating local blues artists Son House and Robert Johnson. His grandmother, Della Grant, raised him after his mother died shortly following his birth. Grant gave the boy the nickname “Muddy” at an early age, because he loved to play in the muddy water of nearby Deer Creek. He later changed it to “Muddy Water” and finally “Muddy Waters”. Continue reading Muddy Waters 4/1983