November 5, 2017 – Robert Knight, born Robert Peebles on April 24, 1945 grew up in Franklin Tennessee, just south of Nashville’s Music scene. Knight made his professional vocal debut with the Paramounts, a quintet consisting of school friends. Signed to Dot Records in 1960, they recorded “Free Me” in 1961, a US R&B hit single that was somewhat noteworthy as it outsold a rival version by Johnny Preston. Continue reading Robert Knight 11/2017
Goldy McJohn 8/2017
August 1, 2017 – Goldy McJohn (Steppenwolf) was born John Raymond Goadsby in Toronto, Canada on May 2, 1945. He was raised by middle class parents in Toronto, Canada. They put him into piano lessons at a young age and with this foundation he became a pioneer in the use of the electronic organ in rock and roll.
“I was classically trained,” said Goldy. He also stated that no one else in rock and roll was doing was he was at the time. “I played on a Lowrey,” he said. And this is part of what he said gave songs such as “Born to be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride” their unique sound.
“I was up at 4 a.m. daily to practice from the age of seven until…I got stupid,” Goldy said.
While school in general was not his thing, (he was suspended from high school for three months,) he always did exceptionally well in music.
“I got 100 in music, which brought my average up to maybe 14,” Goldy said. His parents could not afford private school that could have catered more to the needs of a student like him. Continue reading Goldy McJohn 8/2017
Michael Johnson 7/2017
July 25, 2017 – Michael Johnson was born on August 8, 1944 in the small town of Alamosa, Colorado and grew up in Denver. He started playing the guitar at 13. In 1963, he began attending Colorado State University to study music but his college career was truncated when he won an international talent contest two years later. First prize included a deal with Epic Records. Epic released the song “Hills”, written and sung by Johnson, as a single. Johnson began extensive touring of clubs and colleges, finding a receptive audience everywhere he went.
Wishing to hone his instrumental skills, he set off for Barcelona, Spain in 1966, to the Liceu Conservatory, studying with the eminent classical guitarists, Graciano Tarragó and Renata Tarragó. Upon his return to the States in late 1967, he joined Randy Sparks in a group called the New Society and did a tour of the Orient. Continue reading Michael Johnson 7/2017
Cuba Gooding Sr. 4/2017
April 20, 2017 – Cuba Gooding Sr. (The Main Ingredient) was born in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City on April 27, 1944. While having moved to Cuba, his Barbados born father had promised his first wife on her deathbed that he would call his first son Cuba after the country they both adored. Gooding Sr. grew up eight blocks away from the Apollo Theater and nineteen blocks away from Carnegie Hall.
After his father, a New York cab driver who spoke 7 languages died when he was 11, the criminal grip of the city and the Harlem neighborhood took a hold of Gooding Sr. for awhile and as a result he spent a couple of years in jail, just before he joined Main Ingredient as a backing singer at first. Continue reading Cuba Gooding Sr. 4/2017
Alan Henderson 4/2017
April 9, 2017 – Alan Henderson (bass for Them) was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on November 26, 1944. He caught the music bug during his teenage years and set his sights on becoming a professional musician.
In 1962, he was recruited into the Gamblers, a Belfast-based band founded by guitarist Billy Harrison. With Ronnie Millings as their drummer and pianist Eric Wrixon coming aboard a little later, the group specialized in hard American-style rock & roll and R&B, with a repertory that included both Elvis Presley and Little Willie John. It was sometime after Wrixon joined that he and Harrison crossed paths with songwriter/singer/sax-player Van Morrison, and not long after that – depending on whose story carries more logic – either Morrison joined the Gamblers or they agreed to become his backing band. Continue reading Alan Henderson 4/2017
Deke Leonard 1/2017
January 31, 2017 – Deke Leonard (Man) was born Roger Leonard on 18 December 1944 in Llanelli, South Wales in the UK, the son of Winston, a dog breeder, and his wife, Ella. He attended Llanelli boys’ grammar school, where he formed his first band, Lucifer and the Corncrackers, with his cousin Meic Rees (vocals), Geoff Griffiths (drums) and Clive “Wes” Reynolds (bass), in 1962, taking his stage name from “Deke” Rivers, the character played by Elvis Presley in his 1957 movie Loving You. Leonard left school to work as a management trainee for a building contractor, where he quickly left to avoid getting fired. He decided to become a full-time musician or as he later confessed: “”serving a life sentence in the music business”.
The Corncrackers ran their own club, the “L” Club, featuring themselves and booking other Welsh musicians such as such as Tommy Scott (Tom Jones) and the Senators. He went on to play with other Welsh bands, the Jets, Smokeless Zone and the Dream., whilst also playing support to acts such as Johnny Kidd & The Pirates and The Hollies at a rival venue. When Rees left they continued as a trio; Keith Hodge then replaced Griffiths, but when Reynolds left to join the South Wales band The Jets, The Corncrackers broke up. Continue reading Deke Leonard 1/2017
Henry McCullough 6/2016
June 14, 2016 – Henry Campbell Liken McCullough (Wings) was born in Northern Ireland on 21 July 1943. He first came to prominence as a guitar player of talent in the early 1960s as the teenage lead guitarist with The Skyrockets showband from Enniskillen. In 1964, with three other members of The Skyrockets, he left and formed a new showband fronted by South African born vocalist Gene Chetty, which they named Gene and The Gents.
In 1967 McCullough moved to Belfast where he joined Chris Stewart (bass), Ernie Graham (vocals) and Dave Lutton (drums) to form the psychedelic band The People. Later that year the band moved to London and were signed by Chas Chandler’s management team, who changed the group’s name to Éire Apparent. Under Chandler’s guidance after a single release they toured with groups such as Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, The Move and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, as well as Eric Burdon and the Animals. Continue reading Henry McCullough 6/2016
Cilla Black 8/2015
August 1, 2015 – Cilla Black was born Priscilla Marie Veronica White in Liverpool on May 27, 1943, just a couple of months after Beatle George Harrison was born in the same city.
Although she was an aspiring entertainer, in the early 60’s Cilla was working as a typist, a waitress, and as a hat check girl at the Cavern in Liverpool, the same venue where the Beatles were performing and beginning to draw attention at that time. She performed at times with some local Liverpool bands including Rory Storm and the Hurricanes and The Big Three, and received encouragement from her friends in the Beatles. An article in the local music newspaper Mersey Beat mis-identifed her as Cilla Black, and Cilla liked the name and decided to keep it as a stage name. She was signed to a recording contract by Brian Epstein, then went to the Parlophone label, where her records were produced by George Martin. Her first single was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and titled Love Of The Loved. It made it to number 35 on the UK chart.
Popsy Dixon 1/2015
January 9, 2015 – Willie Popsy Dixon was born Willie Leonard Dixon in Virginia Beach, Virginia on July 26, 1942.
He was reared by an aunt and uncle. When he was 3, they moved to Brooklyn, N.Y. He grew up in a Pentecostal church, which did much to influence his music, and he attended a Pentecostal boarding school in Tennessee.
“He started playing the drums in church when he was 4 years old,” said his daughter, Desiree Berry of Brooklyn. “My grandfather and a deacon in the church showed him how, and he picked up fast.”
Bob Allison 11/2013
November 24, 2013 – Bob Allison was born Bernard Colin Day on February 2nd 1941 in the UK. He became a pop singer and one half of the duo The Allisons, who were marketed as being brothers, using the surname of Allison. Both Bob and John were born in Wiltshire and started harmonizing very early on in life.
The Allisons represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Festival in 1961 with the song “Are You Sure?”. They came second with 24 points and the song spent 16 weeks in the top 40 (six weeks at No. 2 and a further three weeks in the top 4), and became a solid million copy seller.
Richie Havens 4/2013
April 22, 2013 – Richard Pierce Havens (January 21, 1941 – April 22, 2013), known as Richie Havens, was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. His music encompassed elements of folk, soul, and rhythm and blues. He is best known for his intense and rhythmic guitar style (often in open tunings), soulful covers of pop and folk songs, and his opening performance at the 1969 Woodstock. Richie Havens sang every song he knew when he was called in to open legendary Woodstock Festival in August 1969.
The Brooklyn born 6’6″ tall singer came out of a mixture of folk, blues, gospel and soul that he fine tuned during the sixties in New York’s Greenwich Village. A local celebrity he was originally scheduled as the fifth performer for the festival, but long artist travel delays forced him to play for 3 hours on end. Previously only regionally known, he came upon the world stage when he ran out of tunes and improvised his performance of ‘Freedom’ based on and incorporated into the spiritual ‘Sometimes I feel like a motherless child‘, made famous by Nina Simone.
Rick Huxley 2/2013
February 11, 2013 – Rick Huxley (Dave Clark Five) was born on August 5th 1940 in Dartford, Kent, England. He joined the Dave Clark Five in 1958 and played on all of the band’s hits including “Glad All Over” and “Bits and Pieces”.
For a time in the mid-’60s, in the middle of the British Invasion, Rick Huxley was one of the two or three best-known bass players in all of rock & roll, his name recognition lagging only a little behind that of Paul McCartney, and probably much wider than that of the Rolling Stones’ Bill Wyman, the Hollies’ Eric Haydock, the Who’s John Entwistle, or the Kinks’ Peter Quaife. As part of the Dave Clark Five, and its longest-serving member after Clark, Huxley was also a veteran musician with six years under his belt before the group broke internationally.
Joe South 9/2012
September 5, 2012 – Joe South, aka Joseph Alfred Souter was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist born in Atlanta, Georgia on February 28, 1940. He started his pop career in July 1958 writing the novelty hit “The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor”. In 1959, he wrote 2 songs which were recorded by Gene Vincent: “I Might Have Known” and “Gone Gone Gone”. He began his recording career with the National Recording Corporation, where he was staff guitarist along with other NRC artists Ray Stevens and Jerry Reed.
He was also a prominent sideman, playing guitar on the likes of Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools”, Tommy Roe’s “Sheila”, and Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde album.
His 1969 “Games People Play”, a hit on both sides of the Atlantic was accompanied by a lush string sound, organ, and brass, the production won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Song and the Grammy Award for Song of the Year.
His compositions have been recorded by many artists, including Billy Joe Royal’s songs “Down in the Boondocks”, “I Knew You When”, “Yo-Yo”, later a hit for the Osmonds, and “Hush” later a hit for Deep Purple and Kula Shaker. Joe’s most commercially successful composition was Lynn Anderson’s 1971 monster hit “(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden”, which was a hit in 16 countries and translated into many languages. Anderson won a Grammy Award for her vocals, and Joe won a Grammy Award for writing the song.
Joe was inducted into Georgia Music Hall of Fame. On September 5, 2012 he died from heart failure.
Mary Travers 9/2009
September 16, 2009 – Mary Travers was born in Louisville, Kentucky on November 9th 1936, but at the age of 2, her family moved to Greenwich Village in New York City, where she attended the Little Red School House, she left school in the eleventh grade to pursue her singing career.
But while still in high school, she joined The Song Swappers, a group who sang backup for Pete Seeger when he recorded the album Talking Union, in 1955. The Song Swappers recorded a total of four albums in 1955, all with with Peter Seeger. Mary was also cast in the Broadway-theatre show, The Next President.
Levi Stubbs 10/2008
October 19, 2008 – Levi Stubbs was born Levi Stubbles on June 6th 1936. He became lead vocalist with The Four Tops and began his professional singing career with friends Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton to form the Four Aims in 1954. Two years later, the group changed their name to the Four Tops.
The Four Tops were among a number of groups, including The Miracles, The Marvelettes, Martha and the Vandellas, The Temptations, and The Supremes, who established the Motown Sound around the world during the 1960s. They were notable for having Stubbs, a baritone, as their lead singer, whereas most male/mixed vocal groups of the time were fronted by a tenor.
Sneaky Pete Kleinow 1/2007
January 6, 2007 – Sneaky Pete Kleinow was born on August 20th 1934 in South Bend, Indiana. He became intrigued by the steel guitar, particularly the Hawaiian stylings of Jerry Byrd, and he took up the instrument when he was 17. He worked repairing roads, but he would play in club bands at night. One band decided that everyone should have nicknames and, for Kleinow, “Sneaky” stuck.
In 1960, he moved to Los Angeles and wrote jingles, and worked as a special effects artist and stop motion animator for movies and television, including the Gumby and Davey and Goliath series. He did special effects for the film The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962) and the cult TV show The Outer Limits.
His first date as a session musician was on the Ventures‘ “Blue Star” in 1965. He played in clubs around Los Angeles and sat in with Bakersfield Sound-oriented combos and early country-rock aggregations playing the pedal steel guitar. This is where he became acquainted with Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons of The Byrds, helping the group to replicate their newly country-oriented sound onstage with banjoist Doug Dillard and, early in 1968, Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons told him of their plans to relaunch the rock band the Byrds in a country music setting.
Lou Rawls 1/2006
January 6, 2006 – Louis Allen “Lou” Rawls was born on December 1st 1933 in Chicago, Illinois. He was raised by his grandmother in the Ida B. Wells projects on the city’s South Side and began singing in the Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church choir at the age of seven. He later sang with local groups through which he met future music stars Sam Cooke and Curtis Mayfield. Even though it is sometimes falsely reported as though Lou was a high school classmate of Sam Cooke – Cooke was nearly three years older than Rawls, they sang together in the Teenage Kings of Harmony, a ’50s gospel group.
After graduating from Chicago’s Dunbar Vocational High School, he sang briefly with Cooke in the Teenage Kings of Harmony, a local gospel group, and then with the Holy Wonders. In 1951, Rawls replaced Cooke in the Highway QC’s after Cooke departed to join The Soul Stirrers in Los Angeles. Rawls was soon recruited by the Chosen Gospel Singers and moved to Los Angeles, where he subsequently joined the Pilgrim Travelers.
Jimmie Rogers 12/1997
December 19, 1997 – Jimmie Rogers was born Jay Arthur Lane in Ruleville, Mississippi on June 3, 1924. Raised in Atlanta, St.Louis and Memphis, he adopted his stepfather’s surname Rogers. He learned to play the harmonica with his childhood friend Snooky Pryor and as a teenager he took up the guitar.
Big Bill Broonzy, Joe Willie Wilkins, and Robert Lockwood all influenced him, the latter two when he passed through Helena.
He started playing professionally in his late teens with Robert Lockwood Jr. in East St. Louis, Illinois .
Rogers then moved to Chicago in the mid-1940s. By 1946, he had recorded as a harmonica player and singer for the Harlem record label, run by J. Mayo Williams. Rogers’s name however did not appear on the record, which was mislabeled as the work of Memphis Slim and His Houserockers.
In that same year he began playing professionally, gigging with Sonny Boy Williamson, Sunnyland Slim, and Broonzy.
Rogers was playing harp with guitarist Blue Smitty when Muddy Waters joined them. When Smitty split, Little Walter was welcomed into the configuration and Rogers switched over to second guitar and as a direct consequence the entire post-war Chicago blues genre felt the stylistic earthquake that instantly followed.
Rogers made his recorded debut as a leader in 1947 for the tiny Ora-Nelle logo, but then saw his efforts for Regal and Apollo go unissued. Those labels’ monumental errors in judgment were the gain of Leonard Chess, who recognized the comparatively smooth-voiced Rogers’ potential as a blues star in his own right. (He first played with Muddy Waters on an Aristocrat 78 in 1949 and remained his indispensable rhythm guitarist on wax into 1955.)
With Walter and bassist Big Crawford laying down support, Rogers’ debut Chess single in 1950, “That’s All Right,” has earned standard status after countless covers, but his version still reigns supreme.
Rogers’ artistic quality was remarkably high while at Chess. “The World Is in a Tangle,” “Money, Marbles and Chalk,” “Back Door Friend,” “Left Me with a Broken Heart,” “Act Like You Love Me,” and the 1954 rockers “Sloppy Drunk” and “Chicago Bound” are essential early-’50s Chicago blues.
In 1955, Rogers left Muddy Waters to venture out as a bandleader, cutting another gem, “You’re the One,” for Chess. He made his only appearance on Billboard’s R&B charts in early 1957 with the driving “Walking by Myself,” which boasted a stunning harp solo from Big Walter Horton (a last-second stand-in for no-show Good Rockin’ Charles). The tune itself was an adaptation of a T-Bone Walker tune, “Why Not,” that Rogers had played rhythm guitar on when Walker cut it for Atlantic.
By 1957, blues was losing favor at Chess, the label reaping the rewards of rock and roll via Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. Rogers’ platters slowed to a trickle, though his 1959 Chess farewell, “Rock This House,” ranked with his most exciting outings (Reggie Boyd’s light-fingered guitar wasn’t the least of its charms).
In the early 1960s Rogers briefly worked as a member of Howling Wolf’s band, before quitting the music business altogether for almost a decade. He worked as a taxicab driver and owned a clothing store, which burned down in the 1968 Chicago riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Rogers gradually began performing in public again, and in 1971, when fashions made him somewhat popular in Europe, he began occasionally touring and recording, including a 1977 session with Waters. By 1982, Rogers was again a full-time solo artist. He continued touring and recording albums until his death.
He returned to the studio in 1972 for Leon Russell’s Shelter logo, cutting his first LP, Gold-Tailed Bird (with help from the Aces and Freddie King). There were a few more fine albums – notably Ludella, a 1990 set for Antone’s – but Rogers never fattened his discography as much as some of his contemporaries did.
He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1995.
Rogers died on December 19, 1997 from colon cancer. At the time of his death, he was working on an all-star project featuring contributions from Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards; upon its completion, the disc was issued posthumously in early 1999 under the title Blues, Blues, Blues.
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