November 24, 2017 – Mitch Margo (The Tokens) was born on May 25, 1947 in New York City. He began singing a cappella at age 9 alongside his brother Phil.
Young Margo learned to play piano in those early days, but over the years established himself as a multi-instrumentalist, also playing guitar, bass, drums and percussion.
Margo was a student at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn when he and his brother joined the Linc-Tones, also featuring Neal Sedaka, Hank Mendress and original member Tokens founder Jay Siegel, who soon renamed themselves the Tokens and recorded “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” while Mitch was just 14 years old. Continue reading Mitch Margo 11/2017
November 9, 2017 – Hans Vermeulen (Sandy Coast) was born on September 18, 1947 in Voorburg, the Hague in the Netherlands. He grew up in what was to become the birthplace of Nederpop, which produced bands like Golden earring (Radar Love) and Shocking Blue (Venus), Q 65, Rob Hoeke and many others.
He scored hits like I See Your Face Again , Capital Punishment and my favorite True Love That’s a Wonder with his first group Sandy Coast which he had formed in 1961.
When the first run of late sixties rock and roll ran dry, Sandy Coast disbanded in the early seventies, and did not reform until 1981, with a big comeback hit. In 1975 Vermeulen founded Rainbow Train, a open door clearing house formation for musicians, in which he sang with his then-wife Dianne Marchal . In those years he made impact as a much in demand EMI producer for popular Dutch singers like Margriet Eshuijs (Lucifer) and Anita Meyer. For Meyer he wrote in 1976 the number 1 hit The Alternative Way, on which he also sang and for Eshuijs he produced the still today hugely popular “House for Sale” hit.Continue reading Hans Vermeulen – 11/2017
October 23, 2017 – George Young (with his bandmate and songwriting partner Harry Vanda-right in the picture) – Easybeats was born on November 6, 1946 in Glasgow Schotland. The lower middle class Young family were all musicians, but when the worst winter on record in Schotland arrived in post Christmas into January 1963, the family split as a result of 15 family members taking the opportunity to emigrate to Australia, including almost 16 year old George. Continue reading George Young 10/2017
October 18, 2017 – Eamonn Campbell was born on November 29, 1946 in Drogheda in County Louth, but later moved to Walkinstown, a suburb of Dublin. He heard Elvis’ That’s All Right for the first time when he was 10; got his first guitar when he was 11 and taught himself how to play it in the next several year.
He had his first gig at 14 and never really looked back, even though there were early plans to take up accounting. In 1964, he graduated high school with the intention of becoming an accountant. “But his accountant’s brain told him he’d make much more money out of gigging.” So instead he would go on to play for bands such as The Viceroys, The Checkmates and The Delta Boys. He also played locally with the The Bee Vee Five and the Country Gents before joining Dermot O’Brien and the Clubmen and he first met The Dubliners when both acts toured England together in 1967. Over the years that followed he got into production and often sat in with the Dubliners, which had formed in 1962. Continue reading Eamonn Campbell 10/2017
July 12, 2017 – Ray Phiri (Paul Simon) was born March 23, 1947 near Nelspruit in the then Eastern Transvaal, now Mpumalanga Province, in South Africa to a Malawian immigrant worker and South African guitarist nicknamed “Just Now” Phiri. His stepfather, who was from Malawi, played guitar but gave it up after losing three fingers in an accident. Mr. Phiri took that guitar and largely taught himself to play. He moved to Johannesburg in 1967 to work as a musician.
May 1, 2018 – Bruce Hampton (born Gustav Valentine Berglund III was born on April 30, 1947 in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Hampton first popped onto the music scene in 1967s, fronting the avant garde, Delta blues-influenced Hampton Grease Band in Atlanta Georgia. The band became a staple on the infamous Peachtree Street Strip, which rivaled Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco as a hippie hub. The Grease Band soon became known for its over-the-top performances. A good portion of this came from Hampton himself, who liberally broke rules with boundary-pushing sensibilities years before punk rock and Andy Kaufman. Continue reading Col. Bruce Hampton 5/2017
April 15, 2017 – Allan Holdsworth was born on August 6, 1946 in Bradford, Yorkshire, England. Holdsworth was originally taught music by his father, who was a pianist. First a saxophone player, he gravitated to the guitar at the age of 17 and caught on quickly. Entirely self-taught, his protean, virtuosic style became a source of amazement even to his more famous peers. He began working professionally as a musician in his early 20s, inspired by the likes of Django Reinhardt, Jimmy Raney, Charlie Christian, Joe Pass and John Coltrane. Continue reading Allan Holdsworth 4/2017
2015 – Lemmy Kilmister was born Ian Fraser Kilmister on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1945 in the Burslem area of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. When Lemmy was three months old, his father, an ex-Royal Air Force chaplain, separated from his mother. His mother and grandmother moved to Newcastle-under-Lyme, then to Madeley. When Lemmy was 10, his mother married former footballer George Willis, who already had two older children from a previous marriage, Patricia and Tony, with whom Lemmy did not get along.
The family moved to a farm in Benllech on Anglesey, with Lemmy later commenting on his time there, that “funnily enough, being the only English kid among 700 Welsh ones didn’t make for the happiest time, but it was interesting from an anthropological point of view.”
May 1, 2015 – John Tout was reportedly born in Hackney South London in September of 1944.
He got a piano on his 8th birthday and studied music for the next 8 years. He was mostly into classical Russian composers. By age 18 he joined his first band, got entangled with the Rupert’s People line up and replaced John Hawken on the keys for Renaissance between 1970 and 1980 and again from 1999 to 2002. When he joined the band, in 1970, Renaissance had undergone a complete overhaul from its beginnings as a project founded by Yardbirds members Keith Relf and Jim McCarty, and by the end of 1970, no original members remained.
March 4, 2015 – Jim McCann, Irish guitarist and singer, was born in Dublin on October 26th 1944. He dropped out of University College Dublin where he was studying medicine, when he became interested in folk music during a 1964 summer in Birmingham, UK. He began to perform in folk clubs in the area, and, upon his return to Dublin, he joined a group called the Ludlow Trio in 1965. They had an Irish No.1 hit 1966, with “The Sea Around Us”, but the band broke up the following year.
Jim began a solo career, releasing an album, McCann and making several appearances on several folk programs for Telefis Éireann.
Jan 20, 2015 – Edgar Froese (Tangerine Dream) was born in Tilsit, East Prussia, on D-Day 6 June 1944 during the Second World War. Members of his family, including his father, had been killed by the Nazis and his mother and surviving family settled in West Berlin after the war.
He took piano lessons from the age of 12, and started playing guitar at 15. After showing an early aptitude for art, Froese enrolled at the Academy of the Arts in West Berlin to study painting and sculpture. In 1965, he formed a band called The Ones, who played psychedelic rock, and some rock and R&B standards.
While playing in Spain, The Ones were invited to perform at Salvador Dalí’s villa in Cadaqués. Froese’s encounter with Dalí was highly influential, inspiring him to pursue more experimental directions with his music. The Ones disbanded in 1967, having released only one single (“Lady Greengrass” / “Love of Mine”).
January 13, 2015 –Dozy Ward-Davieswas born November 27th 1944 in Enford, Wiltshire, England. In the late 1950s, all of 15 years old, he lead a semi professional local rock band called the Beatnicks, before he becoming the founding member of the band, Dave Dee and the Bostons in 1961. They changed their name to Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, when they gained a recording contract with Fontana Records.
They first entered the UK charts in December 1965 with You Make it Move. A string of hits followed including Hold Tight!, Bend It! and Save Me and a UK number one single with the whip-cracking Legend of Xanadu, in 1968.
December 22, 2014 – John Robert Joe Cocker was born in Sheffield, England on May 20, 1944.
When a Joe Cocker song came on the airwaves, you instantly knew it was Joe Cocker. He was known for his rasping voice, after he rose to fame with his cover of the Beatles song With a Little Help from My Friends, which went to No 1 in 1968. Cocker was “without a doubt the greatest rock/soul voice ever to come out of Britain – and remained the same man throughout his life. Hugely talented, a true star, but a kind and humble man who loved to perform. Anyone who ever saw him live will never forget him.”
December 3, 2014 – Bobby Keys was the epitome of the rock & roll sax-playing man. Robert Henry Keys was born at Lubbock army airfield in Hurlwood, Texas on December 18th 1943. In 1946 his parents moved to New Mexico for a job, while young Bobby stayed with his grandfather in Texas. He took up the saxophone in High School after being injured while playing baseball and it was the only instrument left unclaimed in the school band. His amazing talent did the rest.
Soon after he met Jerry Allison, a local drummer who was working with Buddy Holly in near by Lubbock. Bobby convinced his grandfather to sign his guardianship to the drummer and he joined Jerry’s band, the Crickets and he was then playing behind Buddy Holly, Buddy Knox and other local rockers. By the age of 15, he was touring with pop singer Bobby Vee on Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars, alongside such artists as Little Eva and Major Lance. It was while he was playing with Vee when he first met the Rolling Stones at the San Antonio state fair in Texas.
July 16, 2014 – Legendary blues musician Johnny Winter died in his hotel room in Zurich, Switzerland, on July 16th, 2014 at age 70. There are plenty of reasons why that’s notable — Winter was one of the first blues rock guitar virtuosos, releasing a string of popular and fiery albums in the late Sixties and early Seventies, becoming an arena-level concert draw in the process — but it’s the barest facts that remain the most inspiring.
Johnny Dawson Winter, who was born on February 23rd, 1944 in little Beaumont, Texas, afflicted with albinism and 20/400 eyesight in one eye and 20/600 in the other, made an iconic life for himself by playing the blues.
June 27, 2014 – Robert Dwayne Bobby Womack was born on March 4, 1944 into the songwriting and performing Womack family in Cleveland, Ohio’s Fairfax neighborhood.
Since the early 1960s, when he started his career as the lead singer of his family musical group The Valentinos and as Sam Cooke’s backing guitarist, Womack’s career spanned more than 60 years, during which he played in the styles of R&B, soul, rock and roll, doo-wop, gospel, and country.
March 15, 2014 – Cees Veerman (the Cats) was born on October 6th 1943 in the Dutch town of Volendam, near Amsterdam. He initially played in the bands Electric Johnny & The Skyriders, Sputniks, Mystic Four and The Blue Cats, prior to becoming one of the founders of The Cats.
From the late 60s to the mid 70s, The Cats of which Cees was frontman and main song writer too, the band saw a large number of successes, including ‘Sure He’s a Cat’ and ‘Lea’ (1968), ‘Why’ (1969), ‘Marian’ (1970), ‘Where Have I Been Wrong’ (1970) and ‘Be My Day’ (1974). Their best-selling single was ‘One Way Wind’ from 1972, which reached No.3 in the Top 40.
The Cats are considered the founders of the Palingsound (Eel Sound), a category that is used to indicate a classic, typical Dutch style in pop music coming from the fishing village Volendam, famous for its wooden shoes.
January 2, 2014 – John “Jay” Traynor was born on March 30th 1943 in Brooklyn New York. He was a lead vocalist of the Mystics, singing falsetto on “The White Cliffs of Dover” and lead on “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and “Blue Star”.
The foundation of what would become Jay and the Americans was laid in 1959, when two teenagers named Kenny Vance and Sandy Deane formed a doo-wop style group called “The Harbourlites“. After a couple of failed recordings, Sandy began looking for a stronger lead singer. As fate would have it, John “Jay” Traynor, a stand-in singer with a group called “The Mystics” was looking for another band and since the two groups shared Jim Gribble as manager, the three got together, adding a fourth member, Howie Kane.
February 27, 2013 – Richard Street (The Temptations) was born on October 5, 1942 in Detroit, Michigan.
Born and raised in Motown, he was the first member of the Temptations to actually be a native of the city which served as Motown’s namesake and hometown; all of the previous members were born and at least partially raised in the southern United States. He was a member of The Temptations from 1971 to 1993.
Street was the lead singer of an early Temptations predecessor, Otis Williams & the Distants, and took the spotlight on their local hit “Come On”. The Distants also included future Temptations Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, and Elbridge “Al” Bryant, who left The Distants and their record deal with Johnnie Mae Matthews’ Northern Records to form The Elgins (later The Temptations) with Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams. After their departure, Matthews had Street briefly lead a new Distants group in the early 1960s.
During the mid-1960s, Street performed with a Motown act called The Monitors, who had a hit in 1965 titled “Say You” which the Temptations included on one of their albums, and a minor hit with 1966’s “Greetings (This is Uncle Sam)”.
December 21, 2012 – Douglas Lee Dorman was born in St. Louis on September 15, 1942 and moved to San Diego, CA in the mid 1960s.He began playing bass guitar in his teens, he became best known as a member of the psychedelic rock band Iron Butterfly in the second part of the 1960s.
The band formed in 1966 in San Diego, California and signed its first record contract with Atco, a division of Atlantic Records, in 1967, according to the band’s Web site and in early 1968, their debut album Heavy was released. They were represented by the William Morris Agency who booked all their live concerts. The original members were Doug Ingle (vocals, organ), Jack Pinney (drums), Greg Willis (bass), and Danny Weis (guitar). They were soon joined by tambourine player and vocalist Darryl DeLoach. DeLoach’s parents’ garage on Luna Avenue served as the site for their almost nightly rehearsals.
Jerry Penrod and Bruce Morse replaced Willis and Pinney after the band relocated to Los Angeles in 1966 and Ron Bushy then came aboard when Morse left due to a critical family tragedy. All but Ingle and Bushy left the band after recording their first album in late 1967; the remaining musicians, faced with the possibility of the record not being released, quickly found replacements in bassist Lee Dorman and guitarist Erik Brann (also known as “Erik Braunn” and “Erik Braun”) RIP 2003, and resumed touring and then recording the monster album In-a-Gadda-da-Vida.
In terms of sound, the group took inspiration from a variety of sources outside of the rock arena, such as the bongo playing of Preston Epps and the rhythm and blues music of Booker T and the MGs. Around this time, the band notably ran into Led Zeppelin lead guitarist Jimmy Page, who later stated that he used the group as partial inspiration for the name “Led Zeppelin”. In 1969, Led Zeppelin opened for Iron Butterfly at Fillmore East in New York, a fact Dorman was fond of noting.
A commonly related story says that In-a-Gadda-da-Vida was originally “In the Garden of Eden”, but at one point in the course of rehearsing and recording, singer Doug Ingle got drunk and slurred the words, creating the phonetic mondegreen that stuck as the title. However, the liner notes on ‘the best of’ CD compilation state that drummer Ron Bushy was listening to the track through headphones, and could not clearly distinguish what Ingle said when he asked him for the song’s title. An alternative explanation given in the liner notes of the 1995 re-release of the In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida album, is that Ingle was drunk, high, or both, when he first told Bushy the title, and Bushy wrote it down. Bushy then showed Ingle what he had written, and the slurred title stuck.
“In-a-Gadda-da-Vida,” stayed on the national sales charts for two years and became a Top 40 radio hit and the album over time sold more than 30 million copies. The track has been featured in a number of films and television shows, including an episode of “The Simpsons.”
Dorman was an intricate part of the success of that song as he played bass in a style as if it was an equal instrument with the others which many considered an early example of moving from psychedelic rock to heavy metal.
When keyboardist Ingle left the band, due to the grueling tour schedules, Dorman founded another band, called Captain Beyond, in the 1970s. Captain Beyond was a rock group formed in Los Angeles in 1972 by ex-members of other prominent groups. Singer Rod Evans had been with Deep Purple; drummer Bobby Caldwell had worked with Johnny Winter; and guitarist Larry Rheinhart and Lee Dorman came from Iron Butterfly after they broke up. This lineup made their self-titled debut album for the Southern rock label Capricorn in 1972, after which Caldwell was replaced by Marty Rodriguez for their second album, Sufficiently Breathless(1973). Captain Beyond became inactive following the departure of Evans, but was reorganized in 1976. Caldwell returned, and drummer Willy Daffern was added as vocalist for Captain Beyond’s third album, Dawn Explosion (1977), recorded for Warner Bros. Dawn Explosion was Captain Beyond’s final effort.
From 1978 on Dorman continued touring with Iron Butterfly, during the many personnel changes, until he got too sick to do so in the early fall of 2012.
The last keyboard/singer of the band, German born Martin Gerschwitz, who had known Lee Dorman for seven years since he joined the band in 2005, said Mr. Dorman did not have any immediate surviving relatives at the time of his death. He had suffered from heart problems for some time, a fact that ended his performing career in 2012.
Dorman was reportedly on a heart transplant list when he was found dead in his car, reportedly on his was to a doctor’s appointment, outside his home in Laguna Niguel, California, on December 21, 2012. He was 70 years old.
June 5, 2012 – Dennis St. John (Neil Diamond’s drummer and musical director) was born on November 9, 1941 in Beatrice, Nebraska, to Jeanne and Colonel Ralph St. John.
In 1947 my mother and I were amongst the first American military dependant families to live in Germany. The German prisoners of war at my father’s depot had a great Dixieland band. Every Friday I got to sit and listen to this band in the warehouse, before they had to report back to the stockade. It was my first experience with live music and has stayed with me ever since. When we returned from Germany in 1950, we moved to Chicago, and that’s where I heard my first Fender electric bass, which helped nudge me closer to music. After a couple more moves, and high-school bands in Olympia, Washington and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I graduated in 1959. I immediately put on my Princeton t-shirt, and took my fake ID to the world famous Somers Point, New Jersey traffic circle, home of Bayshores, Tony Mart’s, and Steele’s Bar. I’d spend day after day, night after night listening to the legendary Jimmy Cavallo & the House Rockers. That’s when I decided I’d like to be a drummer.
He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
A gifted percussionist, he began his career in music after forming a band in college (St.John and the Cardinals) part of which became the root for the Atlanta Rhythm Section. After college he relocated to Los Angeles, where he went on to play on over fifty gold and platinum albums with top artists of the sixties and seventies.
His name may not be instantly recognizable, but during the height of his career in the sixties and seventies, Dennis toured and recorded with several top artists, drumming on sixteen top-10 records and over fifty Gold and Platinum albums. If you’ve ever heard the Bellamy Brothers’ “Let Your Love Flow” or “Spooky” or “Spiders & Snakes” or Linda Ronstadt’s “Desperado” or Neil Diamond’s “Forever In Blue Jeans” or “America”, then you’ve heard just a small sampling of the hundreds of recordings featuring his playing.
Dennis crossed paths with an impressive number of artists such as James Brown, Kenny Rogers, Barbra Streisand, Roy Orbison, Ronnie Milsap, Sammy Davis Jr., Liberace, Little Richard, Rufus Thomas, Tommy Roe, The Standells, Otis Redding, and Paul Revere and the Raiders. But he’s best known as Neil Diamond’s drummer and musical director from 1971-81. Several herniated discs forced him to quit active touring in the early 1980s and he formed a talent development company, guiding many future performers to stardom in the years after.
He described the most memorable event of his career as the 10 days of recording Hot August Night in 1972 (at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles) saying “it was by far the most energetic, creative, and satisfying gig I’ve ever played.”
Dennis died from complications of esophageal cancer on June 5, 2012 at the age of 70.
Taking to Twitter to pay his respects, Neil Diamond wrote, “Lost my old friend Dennis St. John. His drumming graces my recordings from Hot August Night to The Jazz Singer – I’ll miss him big time.”
Entry on his obituary: “I knew Dennis. He used to come to the bar I worked at for many years when he came to visit his mother. My husband always referred to him as the guy with the pony tail. He was a true gentleman and always took time to talk to me even though I was just a bartender there. I often introduced him to people, but they always seemed to fail to understand what impact he had in the music business. I have not worked for around 4 years and was so sad to hear that he had lost his battle with cancer. He always took such good care of his mother and felt bad if he didn’t feel she was being taken care of correctly. Everyone was so happy to see him when he visited. There just aren’t enough words to do this man justice.”
March 4, 2010 – Candido Lolly Vegas (Redbone) was born Lolly Vasquez in Coalinga, California on October 2, 1939. He grew up in Fresno. He and his brother Pat, a singer and bassist, were session musicians who performed together as Pat and Lolly Vegas in the 1960s at Sunset Strip clubs and on the TV variety show “Shindig!”
Patrick and Lolly Vasquez – Vegas were a mixture of Yaqui, Shoshone and Mexican heritage. but began by performing and recording surf music as the Vegas Brothers, “because their agent told them that the world was not yet ready to embrace a duo of Mexican musicians playing surfing music”. First as the Vegas Brothers (Pat and Lolly Vegas), then later as the Crazy Cajun Cakewalk Band, they performed throughout the 1960s.
They formed the Native American band Redbone in 1969, Redbone being a Cajun word for ‘half-breed’. The band, with members of Latino and native American origin, released its self-titled debut album the following year. The band first gained notice with “Maggie” in 1970 and broke international barriers with “The Witch Queen of New Orleans” in 1971.
August 4, 2005 – Little Milton was bornJames Milton Campbell on September 7, 1934, in the small Delta town of Inverness, Mississippi, and grew up in Greenville. (He would later legally drop the “James” after learning of a half-brother with the same name.)
His father Big Milton, a farmer, was a local blues musician, and Milton also grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry radio program. At age 12, he began playing the guitar and saved up money from odd jobs to buy his own instrument from a mail-order catalog.
By 15, he was performing for pay in local clubs and bars, influenced chiefly by T-Bone Walker but also by proto-rock & roll jump blues shouters.
April 21, 2003 – Nina Simone was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon on February 21, 1933 in South Carolina. The sixth child of a preacher mom, she wanted to become a concert pianist. She began playing piano at age three.
Her concert debut, a classical recital, was given when she was 12. Simone later said that during this performance, her parents, who had taken seats in the front row, were forced to move to the back of the hall to make way for white people. She said that she refused to play until her parents were moved back to the front, and that the incident strongly contributed to her later involvement in the civil rights movement. Continue reading Nina Simone 4/2003
February 12, 2000 – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (I Put a Spell on You) was born July 18th 1929 in Cleveland Ohio. Hawkins studied classical piano as a child and learned guitar in his twenties. His initial goal was to become an opera singer (Hawkins has cited Paul Robeson as his musical idol in interviews), but when his initial ambitions failed he began his career as a conventional blues singer and pianist. Hawkins was also an avid and formidable boxer. In 1949, he was the middleweight boxing champion of Alaska. In 1951, he joined guitarist Tiny Grimes’s band, and was subsequently featured on some of Grimes’s recordings. When Hawkins became a solo performer, he often performed in a stylish wardrobe of leopard skins, red leather and wild hats.
As a singer, songwriter and actor he was famed chiefly for his powerful, operatic vocal delivery, and wildly theatrical performances of songs such as “I Put a Spell on You”. He sometimes used macabre props onstage, making him an early pioneer of shock rock.