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DikMik 11/2017

November 16, 2017 – DikMik (Hawkwind) was born Michael Davies in 1943 in Richmond, England.

In 1969, DikMik Davies and friend Nik Turner signed on as roadies for the group that Dave Brock, a childhood friend of theirs, had formed with guitarist Mick Slattery, bassist John Harrison and drummer Terry Ollis.

It was the time of early psychedelics and electronic music and DikMik’s interest in the burgeoning genre of electronic music had led to him being offered a slot in the psychedelic space rock band Hawkwind, before even their first gig of .

Gatecrashing a local talent night at the All Saints Hall, Notting Hill, they were so disorganised as to not even have a name, opting for “Group X” at the last minute, nor any songs, choosing to play an extended 20-minute jam on The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High.” BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel was in the audience and was impressed enough to tell event organizer, Douglas Smith, to keep an eye on them. Continue reading DikMik 11/2017

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Winston Samuels 8/2017

Winston Samuels of Desmond Dekker and the AcesAugust 24, 2017 – Jamaican Ska Authentic Winston Samuels (McInnis), a living legend in Jamaican Music, was born in Kingston, Jamaica to proud parents Winston D. McInnis and Mavis Davis-McInnis in 1944.  From the time he was born he loved to sing.  As a matter of fact his mother, Mavis would have Sunday family discussions followed by songs of worship.  There was such harmony in the household that it drew other tenants who loved to listen to him. Continue reading Winston Samuels 8/2017

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Melvyn Deacon Jones 7/2017

melvyn deacon jones bluesJuly 6, 2017 – Melvyn “Deacon” Jones was born December 12, 1943 in Richmond Indiana. By the time he was a teenager, Deacon was proficient on trumpet and performed with his brother Harold in the high school band. Harold Jones later became a famed jazz drummer.

After graduating in 1962, Jones was a founding member of Baby Huey and the Babysitters with Johnny Ross and James Ramey. After paying a few dues in the Gary area, Deacon and the band set up shop in Chicago where they played five nights a week for five years, according to USA Today. During that time, Jones managed to further his musical education at the prestigious American Conservatory of Music. Continue reading Melvyn Deacon Jones 7/2017

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Larry Coryell 2/2017

Larry Coryell, godfather of fusionFebruary 19, 2017 – Larry Coryell was born Lorenz Albert Van DeLinder III on April 2, 1943 in Galveston, Texas. His biological father was a musician of German descent “who chased a lot of women”, but Larry never knew him as he was raised by his mother and stepfather Gene Coryell. His interest in music started when his mother encouraged him to learn the piano at age 4. At age 14 he became more interested in guitar and studied the works of Tal Farlow, Barney Kessel, and Johnny Smith. When he was 16 he ran off to join a rock band. The self-labeled “black sheep of the family,” he also “knocked up” his girlfriend. “It was traumatic to me.” Her parents sent the girl away, and she married someone else after giving birth to a daughter. (“I’ve never seen the kid,”) To cope with his emotions, Coryell plunged into practice sessions, copying a Wes Montgomery record until he knew every difficult lick by heart. He still regards that bit of discipline as a “minor catalyst” in his career. Bands he joined in those early days were the Jailers, the Rumblers, the Royals, and the Flames. He also played with the Checkers from nearby Yakima, Washington. He then moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington in an attempt to become a journalist. While there he played in a number of popular Northwest bands, including the Dynamics, while living in Seattle. But in 1965 the changing culture of the sixties in the US made him move to the mecca of folk rock and jazz guitar, New York City, where he first attended Mannes School of Music to study classical guitar. Continue reading Larry Coryell 2/2017

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Clyde Stubblefield 2/2017

clyde stubblefield, drummer for james brownFebruary 18, 2017 – Clyde Stubblefield (drummer for James Brown) was born on April 18, 1943 and grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Rhythm was in his soul. He was a natural who took his sense of rhythms from the streets, the neighborhoods, the factories and the railroad tracks. He later said that if he could hear a rhythm in his head, he could play it.

Stubblefield was already playing drums professionally in his teenage years when he moved to Macon, Georgia to play with Otis Redding, who hailed from there. In Macon, he performed with soul acts and was introduced to James Brown by a local club owner. Soon, in 1965, he was invited to become a permanent member of Brown’s band.

Over the next six years the band had two drummers, Stubblefield and John “Jabo” Starks who had joined the band two weeks earlier. Starks’ style was influenced by the church music he grew up with in Mobile, Alabama. The two drummers had no formal training. According to Stubblefield, “We just played what we wanted to play (…) We just put down what we felt it should be.Continue reading Clyde Stubblefield 2/2017

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Richie Ingui 1/2017

the soul survivorsJanuary 13, 2017 – Richie Ingui (The Soul Survivors) was born the November 15, 1947 in Manhattan, New York.  

The predecessor group was formed in New York City in 1965 by Richie and his brother Charlie Ingui, along with Kenny Jeremiah. They first played together under the name The Dedications.  (Jeremiah released several singles under this name in 1962 and 1964). They adopted the name Soul Survivors in 1965 and signed to Philadelphia label Crimson Records, who put them in touch with Gamble & Huff. “Expressway to Your Heart” was a #1 hit regionally in Philadelphia and New York in the fall of 1967, and the tune reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 nationally. “Expressway to Your Heart” spent 15 weeks in the charts and sold over one million copies. Continue reading Richie Ingui 1/2017

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Johnny Dick 1/2017

drummer for Billy ThorpeJanuary 6, 2017 – Johnny Dick. (played with numerous Australian rock bands). Johnny Dick was actually born in June 1943 in Wales in the town of Llanfairfechan, but as stated repeatedly, before he grew old enough to be able to pronounce the town’s name, his parents moved to New Zealand.  

Drumming since the age of 12 Johnny Dick has played with the cream of Aussie music. In New Zealand Johnny met Max Merritt. He first came to Australia as a member of Max Merritt’s band. Billy Thorpe saw Johnny performing with Merritt and offered him a gig in The Aztecs, which he took and played drums with Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs for almost 2 years. Continue reading Johnny Dick 1/2017

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Billy Joe Royal 10/2015

Billy Joe RoyalOctober 3, 2015 – Singer Billy Joe Royal, best known for his pop hit “Down in the Boondocks” and a string of country singles in the 1980s,was born April 3, 1942 in Valdosta, Georgia.
As a young man he performed on the radio program “Georgia Jubilee,” which is where he met artists like Jerry Reed and Joe South. It was fellow Georgian Joe South who penned Mr. Royal’s 1965 breakout single, “Down in the Boondocks,” which peaked at No. 9. Royal would also find success with his follow-up single: another South-penned song, called “I Knew You When.”

Continue reading Billy Joe Royal 10/2015

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Sam Andrew III 2/2015

Sam-AndrewFebruary 12, 2015 – Sam Andrew III was born in Taft, California on December 18, 1941, but having a military father he moved a great deal as a child. His early musical influences were Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Little Richard and by the time he was seventeen living in Okinawa, he already had his own band, called the “Cool Notes”, and his own weekly TV show, an Okinawan version of American Bandstand.  He also listened to a great deal of Delta blues. His brother Leland Andrew frequently stated his brother was the “Benny Goodman of Japan”.

He attended the University of San Francisco, and became involved with the San Francisco folk music scene of the early 1960s. However it was not until he returned from over a year in Paris and almost a year in Germany, that he met Peter Albin at 1090 Page Street. After playing together at Albin’s home, Sam suggested they form a band. They found guitarist James Gurley and drummer Chuck Jones, and Big Brother and the Holding Company was formed ready for their first gig, at the Trips Festival in January 1966. Soon after painter and jazz drummer David Getz, replaced Jones. As Big Brother and the Holding Company began to gel, Andrew brought many songs into the band. Continue reading Sam Andrew III 2/2015

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Bobby Rogers 3/2013

bobby rogersMarch 3, 2013 – Bobby Rogers (The Miracles) was born on February 19, 1940, on the same day and in the same hospital as his future singing partner Smokey Robinson. While not in the original version of the Miracles that formed in 1955 (then known as the Five Chimes), he joined a year later when another member dropped out.

The group auditioned for Brunswick Records, including label songwriter Barry Gordy, but were rejected. Gordy however soon followed up with them and, in 1958, recorded their first single, Got a Job. The record, released on End, didn’t chart but, at Robinson’s urging, Gordy decided to start his own label, Tamla Records. The Miracles first few singles for Tamla were licensed out to other labels and failed to score. It was in 1960 when the group released Shop Around/Who’s Lovin’ You, that their career took off. The song topped the R&B singles chart for eight weeks and made it to number 2 on the Hot 100.

Two years later, they scored again with You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me (1962/#1 R&B/#8 Pop) that started a long string of hits that would span into the early-70’s, including Mickey’s Monkey, Ooo Baby Baby, The Tracks of My Tears, Going to a Go-Go, I Second That Emotion, Baby Baby Don’t Cry and their only number 1 pop hit, Tears of a Clown.

At the same time, each of the members of the Miracles were also writing songs that were recorded by other members of the Motown roster, including The Way You Do the Things You Do which Rogers and Robinson wrote and was a the first hit for the Temptations.

In 1972, Smokey Robinson left the group and was replaced by Billy Griffin as the lead singer. For many groups, the loss of their most visible member would mean the end, but not the Miracles, who struck out with their new line-up and recasting their sound to the 70’s. In 1974, they hit the R&B top ten with Do It Baby (#4 R&B/#13 Pop) and, a year later, topped the pop charts with Love Machine (Part 1) (1975/#1 Pop/ #5 R&B).

When the group disbanded in the late 1970s, Rogers started an interior design business. But even after their hitmaking days, the Miracles continued to tour and occasionally record with Rogers and Ronnie White as the consistent members. The original lineup reconvened for the Motown 25 television special and, in 1993, a 35th anniversary compilation album once again reignited interest in the group.

In late 2006, Bobby re-united with original Miracles members Smokey Robinson and Pete Moore for the group’s first-ever extended interview on the Motown DVD release, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles: The Definitive Performances.

Rogers continued to perform throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe with members Dave Finley, Tee Turner, and Mark Scott in the current incarnation of The Miracles, which made him, as of 2009, the longest-serving original Miracles member. On March 20, 2009, Bobby was in Hollywood to be honored along with the other surviving original members of the Miracles (Smokey Robinson, Claudette Robinson and Pete Moore) as they received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Also on hand were Gloria White, the wife of original Miracles member Ronnie White who is deceased (White is responsible for discovering Motown artist Stevie Wonder), and Bill Griffin was in attendance. He replaced Smokey Robinson when he left the group in the early 1970s.

Rogers’ cousin, Claudette Rogers, was also a member of the Miracles, and later married Smokey Robinson. Bobby Rogers stayed with the group, through every lineup, from 1956 through 2011 when he was forced to leave because of poor health and the Miracles disbanded for good.

Bobby Rogers died on March 3, 2013, at the age of 73, due to complications of diabetes. Nine days later, on March 12, 2013 on their website, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame paid tribute to Bobby with the article, “Remembering Bobby Rogers of The Miracles”.

His final honor had come with the Rock Hall induction in 2012 with fellow member Claudette Rogers-Robinson

Over his 56 years with the Miracles, Bobby has been on all their hit singles including their 1960 single “Shop Around”, which was Motown’s first number one hit on the R&B singles chart, and was also Motown’s first million selling hit single. Other hit singles include “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me”, “My Girl Has Gone”, “I Second That Emotion”, “Mickey’s Monkey”, “Going to a Go-Go”, “Ooo Baby Baby”, “Tracks of My Tears”, “Baby Baby Don’t Cry”, and “Tears of a Clown”. Referred to as Motown’s “soul supergroup”, the Miracles recorded 26 Top 40 hits and 6 top 20 singles.

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Scott McKenzie 8/2012

August 18, 2012 – Scott McKenzie was born Philip Wallach Blondheim III in Jacksonville, Florida on January 10, 1939.

His family moved to Asheville, North Carolina, when he was six months old and he grew up in North Carolina and Virginia, where he became friends with the son of one of his mother’s friends, John Phillips. In the mid-1950s, he sang briefly with Tim Rose in a high school group called The Singing Strings, and later with Phillips, Mike Boran, and Bill Cleary when they formed a doo wop band, The Abstracts.

In New York, The Abstracts became The Smoothies and recorded two singles with Decca Records, produced by Milt Gabler. During his time with The Smoothies, Blondheim decided to change his name for business reasons:

“We were working at one of the last great night clubs, The Elmwood Casino in Windsor, Ontario. We were part of a variety show … three acts, dancing girls, and the entire cast took part in elaborate, choreographed stage productions … As you might imagine, after-show parties were common.
“At one of these parties I complained that nobody could understand my real name…and pointed out that this was a definite liability in a profession that benefited from instant name recognition. Everyone started trying to come up with a new name for me. It was comedian Jackie Curtis who said he thought I looked like a Scottie dog. Phillips came up with Laura’s middle name after Jackie’s suggestion. I didn’t like being called “Scottie” so everybody agreed my new name could be Scott McKenzie.”

In 1961 Phillips and McKenzie met Dick Weissman and formed the folk group, The Journeymen, at the height of the folk music craze. They recorded three albums and seven singles for Capitol Records. After The Beatles became popular in 1964, The Journeymen disbanded. McKenzie and Weissman became solo performers, while Phillips formed the group The Mamas & the Papas with Denny Doherty, Cass Elliot and Michelle Phillips and moved to California.

McKenzie originally declined an opportunity to join the group, saying in a 1977 interview, “I was trying to see if I could do something by myself. And I didn’t think I could take that much pressure”. Two years later, he left New York and signed with Lou Adler’s Ode Records.

San Francisco was written with McKenzie in mind. Phillips orchestrated the session, playing the acoustic guitar himself and bringing in bassist Joe Osborn and drummer Hal Blaine, who had played on most of the Mamas and the Papas recordings, plus Gary L. Coleman on bells and chimes, to give the song a happy, springtime feel.
San Francisco, as its parenthetical subtitle suggested, implored listeners to make their way west, flowers strategically placed:”For those who come to San Francisco Summertime will be a love-in there. In the streets of San Francisco Gentle people with flowers in their hair

It was released on 13 May 1967 in the United States and was an instant hit, reaching number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 2 in the Canadian RPM Magazine charts. It was also a number 1 in the UK and several other countries, selling over seven million copies globally.
Perhaps too ironically, the song was written and recorded by people from Los Angeles.

The song is credited with having added to the mass of youths arriving in the city for what became known as the Summer of Love. Whether San Francisco was equipped to handle such an invasion and its attendant problems was a bone of contention at the time. Many residents, including hippies who’d already been enjoying the city’s freedoms, resented the newcomers as well. Some of the local bands openly scoffed at the song, calling it nave and hokey, not to mention intrusive on their scene.

You know who really hated San Francisco, Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair?
The city officials of San Francisco!
It was apparent by the early months of 1967 that their city was going to be receiving an influx of young people once school let out and the weather warmed up some higher-ups were predicting that thousands of them might besiege the city, jobless, homeless, many of them taking drugs and congregating on the streets without a care in the world.
The migration had already begun in 1965-66, the city’s population swelling with seekers of love and life (many of them runaways escaping boring lives in boring midwest places), drawn to the vibrant, freewheeling culture and physical beauty of the city. In particular they were swarming to the Haight-Ashbury district, adjacent to Golden Gate Park. They’d spend their days lying about in that park and their evenings at one of the city’s newly sprouted rock music ballrooms, where they’d listen and dance to new bands with odd names like Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead.
For the youth, San Francisco was a mecca, a place one could go to be around similarly inclined outcasts from around the country. Living was cheap and no one minded sleeping on the floor of a crash pad in one of the Haight’s trippy Victorian houses with a dozen new friends, toking on joints (or maybe popping a tab of Owsley acid) and passing bottles of cheap wine while the record player blasted out newly released albums like the Beatles’  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow and the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Are You Experienced. In January 1967 they held a Human Be-In to celebrate the very existence of their community.

Nonetheless, San Francisco (Wear Flowers in Your Hair) and its message of communality and gentle vibes struck a chord with a growing segment of the nation (and abroad) for which the phrase flower power was a new rallying cry against the Vietnam War. Many came to San Francisco to have a look, including both George Harrison and Paul McCartney and some even came to stay, like Janis. Most hung out for a little while and then moved on, either back home or, perhaps, to rural communes or other communities built around like-minded folks. Millions who never got near the Golden Gate Bridge simply liked the easy-flowing song enough to make it a quick success.

McKenzie followed the song with “Like An Old Time Movie”, also written and produced by Phillips, which was a minor hit (number 27 in Canada). His first album, The Voice of Scott McKenzie, was followed with an album called Stained Glass Morning. McKenzie also penned the song “Hey! What About Me” that launched the career of Canadian singer Anne Murray in 1968.

Scott ‘dropped out’ in the late 60’s. In 1970 he moved to Joshua Tree, a California desert town near Palm Springs. In 1973 he went to Virginia Beach, VA, where he lived for 10 years.
In 1986, original Papa’s Denny Doherty and John Phillips, with Mackenzie Phillips (John Phillips’ daughter) and Spanky McFarlane (ex Spanky and Our Gang) as female vocalists took a new version of the group onto the nostalgia circuit. Later, when Denny left the group, Scott joined John Phillips as the second Papa. However, when John left due to ill health, Denny returned and Scott took the role vacated by John Phillips.

In 1988 Scott co-wrote the Beach Boys hit Kokomo with John Phillips, Beach Boy Mike Love and the late Terry Melcher, long time producer of the Beach Boys.
Scott spent much of the 1990’s touring with the Mamas and Papas. Eventually, with no original members left, the group disbanded in 1998.

In the 21st Century Scott still performed on occasion. He performed in Germany and in 2003 performed on a PBS Folk special. During March 2005, PBS broadcast a concert called “My Generation — the 60’s Experience.” In the show Scott sings San Francisco and at the end of the program ‘unannounced’ a song called We’ve Been Asking Questions, one of the last songs written by John Phillips before his death in 2001.
In 2009 Scott recorded the Denny Doherty song Gone To Sea Again.

In retirement Scott lived in LA and became a big fan of Facebook where he had many friends in his “Asylum”. Scott was in and out of hospital since 2010 after falling ill with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disease affecting the nervous system. It is thought he may have had a heart attack in early August, 2012. Staff did not want him to leave the hospital, but he wanted to be at home and passed away on 18th August 2012. He was 73.

 

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Eddie King 3/2012

eddie-kingMarch 14, 2012 – Eddie King (Blues Guitarist) was born Edward Lewis Davis Milton on April 21st 1938 in Lineville, near Talladega, Alabama. His parents were both musical: his father played the guitar, and his mother was a gospel singer. After his mother died in 1950 he moved to Kentucky with some of his brothers and sisters, and then on to Chicago in 1954 with an uncle. His earliest musical influences were his parents. His dad played guitar and his mom sang. “My dad played country blues just like John Lee Hooker.

For a blues musician to change his surname to King to get attention may seem a bit on the ludicrous side, kind of like an actor or actress changing his or her name to Barrymore. But this is just what guitarist Eddie Milton did when he transformed himself into Eddie King, becoming in the process the least well-known of the blues guitar King dynasty; despite his tireless efforts as a sideman with many blues greats, as well as a career as a bandleader during the later part of his life. He was born Edward Lewis Davis Milton in Alabama, eventually gravitating toward the busy blues scene of Chicago’s South and West Side in the late ’50s and ’60s. His earliest musical influences were his parents, including a father who apparently played country blues guitar in the John Lee Hooker style. His mother was also a blues and gospel singer.

As a youngster, he was too young to get into blues clubs, but learned guitar by smushing his face up against the windows, watching the guitarists in action, memorizing the patterns and runs he saw on the fret board, then finally sprinting home to see if he could remember any of it. Milton’s musical peers were players from the second generation of Windy City bluesmen who came up on the sounds of artists such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Little Walter. Some of these associates, such as Luther Allison, Magic Sam, Junior Wells, and Freddie King, became fairly big on the international blues scene; while others, such as the wonderful Eddie C. Campbell or Milton, became better known as typical examples of high quality blues artists that were basically laboring in obscurity.

A fairly short fellow, he learned to get around the taller and sometimes somewhat better guitar competition by learning to be a showman. “Little Eddie” was actually his first stage name, obviously leading to confusion with the rhythm & blues artist Little Milton. When he began picking in a style heavily influenced by B.B. King, Little Eddie King became first a nickname only used by friends, but evolved into a stage name as well. Another diminutive bluesman, Little Mac Simmons, gave him his first big break, although the reason for the hiring might have had more to do with not wanting to have any taller sidemen on-stage than his musical ability. Eddie King’s first recordings were with bassist and songwriter Willie Dixon, leading to a second guitar position on several Sonny Boy Williamson II sides in 1960.

The next major period in his career was as lead guitarist with Koko Taylor. He was with this fiery blues singer for more than two decades. In 1969, he and bassist Bob Stroger formed Eddie King & the Kingsmen, a group that worked together off and on for the next 15 years, at first overlapping with the Taylor stint. From the early ’80s onward, he had been based out of Peoria, IL.

Besides his exciting guitar work, King is also known as a superior soul shouter, again in a style modeled after the singing of B.B. King. He presented a mixed bag from blues history, ranging from modern urban blues to the type of country blues he grew up with. He also ventured into the Southern soul genre, and would mix up the material of a given gig based on what the audience is responding best to. Young players such as bassist Jamie Jenkins, drummer Kevin Gray, and Doug Daniels doubling on sax and keyboards were regular members of his combos. As a bandleader, King demonstrated that he may have been a late bloomer as a songwriter, but that in blues it is never too late to come up with good material.”

The Swamp Bees was the name of his own group since the ’90s, and this outfit has swarmed onto stages at blues venues nationally and internationally and his output incorporated Chicago blues, country blues, blues shouter, and soul.

Shy, but with a lots of soulful feeling and no wasted notes, he played a variety of styles from the urban blues of Albert King, to the some county blues, to southern soul, to a more sophisticated B.B. King style and pulled it all together with an approach that quickly earned your respect. He also liked to mix up his songs for the crowd, playing blues, soul and R&B depending on how he was reading the audience at the moment.

Into his 60s, he still was playing with the energy of a young man. His first solo record finally came out when others his age were busy concentrating on collecting their senior citizen’s benefits. The album, The Blues Has Got Me (1987), was issued by the Netherlands-based record label Black Magic and later re-released by Double Trouble. It featured one of his sisters, Mae Bee May, on vocals.

In 1997, King recorded the well-received but obscure Another Cow’s Dead album on a small label co-owned by a belly dancer. This album won a W.C. Handy Award for best comeback album of the year. It was arranged by Lou Marini. His songwriting credits include “Kitty Kat”, described by one music journalist as “hilarious”.

King died in Peoria, Illinois on March 14, 2012, at the age of 73. In October 2012, the Killer Blues Headstone Project, a nonprofit organization, placed a headstone on King’s unmarked grave at the Lutheran Cemetery in Peoria.

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Etta James 1/2012

etta jamesJanuary 20, 2012 – Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins on January 25th 1938 in Los Angeles, California, but due to her 14 year old mother Dorothy Hawkins, being often absent, Etta lived with a series of caregivers, most notably ‘Sarge’ and ‘Mama’ Lu. Her father was long gone, and young James Etta never knew for sure who he was, although she recalled her mother telling her that he was the celebrated pool player Rudolf Wanderone, better known as Minnesota Fats.

She sang at the church from the age of 5 and at home was beaten and forced by Sarge to sing in the early hours at drunken poker games. She began singing at the St. Paul Baptist Church in Los Angeles at 5 and turned to secular music as a teenager, forming a vocal group with two friends. In 1950 after Mama Lu died, Etta’s real mother took her to the Fillmore, in San Francisco.

Within a couple of years, Etta inspired by doo-wop, formed a girl group, called the Creolettes. Johnny Otis took the group under his wing, helping them sign to Modern Records and changing their name to the Peaches and gave Etta her stage name, reversing Jamesetta into Etta James. Continue reading Etta James 1/2012

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Byron Lee 11/2008

thNovember 5, 2008 – Byron Lee was born on June 27, 1935. He was a Jamaican musician and record producer, best known for his work as leader of Byron Lee and the Dragonaires.
They turned professional in 1956 and went on to become one of Jamaica’s leading ska bands, continuing since and taking in other genres such as calypso, Soca, and Mas.

Byron Lee and the Dragonaires was one of the best known Jamaican bands. Lee played a crucial pioneering role in bringing Jamaican music to the world. Formed in 1956 and playing a big band-ska sound their big break came in the first James Bond film Dr. No, where they appeared as the band in the scene at Pussfeller’s club and played a number of tunes on the soundtrack. They also caused a stir at the New York World’s Fair in 1964.

Continue reading Byron Lee 11/2008

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Ronnie Drew 8/2008

ronnie drew of the dublinersAugust 16, 2008 – Ronnie Drew (The Dubliners) was born Joseph Ronald Drews on September 16, 1934 in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin, Ireland.
Ironically, and although he was so intimately associated with being “a Dubliner”, he would somewhat tongue-in-cheek say that “I was born and grew up in Dún Laoghaire, and no true Dubliner would accept that at all!”

Despite his aversion to education, he was considered the most intelligent in his class by schoolfriend and future Irish film censor, Sheamus Smith.

“Ronnie Drew in his fine suit of blue
And a voice like gravel that would cut you in two
We thought he was Dublin through and through
But he blew in from Dún Laoghaire”

Continue reading Ronnie Drew 8/2008

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Ron Miller 7/2007

July 23, 2007 – Ron Miller was born Ronald Norman Gould on October 5, 1932 in Chicago, Illinois. He served in the U.S. Marines and then sold washing machines, before he was discovered by Motown founder Berry Gordy while playing in a bar. Gordy invited him to write songs for his new company, Motown, and Miller responded by writing the lyrics to “For Once in My Life”, to music by Orlando Murden. The lyrics were written the night his daughter Angel was born, and was first recorded at Motown by Barbara McNair before being covered in a more upbeat style by Stevie Wonder.

Continue reading Ron Miller 7/2007

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James Brown 12/2006

James BrownDecember 25, 2006 – James Brown Jr. Nearly stillborn, then revived by an aunt in a country shack in the piney woods outside Barnwell, South Carolina, on May 3, 1933, Brown became somebody who was determined to be Somebody. James Brown rose from extreme poverty to become the ‘The Godfather of Soul‘.

His parents were 16-year-old Susie (1917–2003) and 22-year-old Joseph “Joe” Gardner Brown (1911–1993), extremely poor, living in a small wooden shack.

They later relocated to Augusta, Georgia, when Brown was four or five. Brown’s family first settled at one of his aunts’ brothels and later moved into a house shared with another aunt. Brown’s mother later left the family after a contentious marriage and moved to New York. Brown spent long stretches of time on his own, hanging out in the streets and hustling to get by. Still he managed to stay in school until sixth grade. Continue reading James Brown 12/2006

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Ray Charles 6/2004

Ray Charles 500June 10, 2004 – Ray Charles Robinson was born September 23, 1930 and became an American singer-songwriter, musician and composer sometimes referred to as “The Genius”.

Ray Charles, a Grammy-winning bluesman/crooner who blended gospel and blues in such crowd-pleasers as “What’d I Say” and heartfelt ballads like “Georgia on My Mind” died from liver failure on Thursday, June 10, 2004 at age 73.

Charles died at his Beverly Hills home surrounded by family and friends, said spokesman Jerry Digney.

Charles last public appearance was alongside Clint Eastwood on April 30, when the city of Los Angeles designated the singer’s studios, built 40 years ago in central Los Angeles, as a historic landmark. Continue reading Ray Charles 6/2004

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Nick Massi 12/2000

Nick MassiDecember 24, 2000 – Nick Massi was born Nicholas Macioci in Newark, New Jersey on September 19, 1927. Bass singer and bass guitarist for the Four Seasons, he had been playing with several bands before joining The Four Lovers in 1958.

After the group evolved into the Four Seasons in 1961, he handled bass vocals and vocal arrangements throughout the band’s glory days, which resulted in international hits such as “Sherry,” “Dawn (Go Away),” and “Rag Doll”. During his tenure, the group made the Billboard Top 40 chart 17 times and toured throughout the United States and overseas, melding doo- wop vocals with a contemporary beat. He remained with the group until 1965, when he grew tired of touring and the first antics that landed some of the band members briefly in jail. He continued his career in music however as he worked as an arranger, vocal coach, and engineer in numerous New Jersey studios, with bands such as the Baby Toys, the Carmels, and the Victorians.

It was Massi’s pop savvy that allowed the Four Seasons to be one of the few American bands, along with the Beach Boys, to weather the British invasion, as they continued to release successful singles after the arrival of The Beatles such as “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man” and “Rag Doll,” which friends said was his favorite.

Continue reading Nick Massi 12/2000

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Jimmy Rogers 12/1997

Jimmy RogersDecember 19, 1997Jimmy Rogers was born James A. Lane on June 3, 1924 in Ruleville, Mississippi on June 3, 1924 and was raised in Atlanta and Memphis. Even though this blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player was best known for his work as a member of Muddy Waters’ band of the 1950s, he build quite a reputation as a solo act.

He learned the harmonica alongside his childhood friend Snooky Pryor, and as a teenager took up the guitar and played professionally in East St. Louis, Illinois. He then relocated to Chicago and by 1946 had recorded his first record as a harmonica player.

In 1947, Rogers, Muddy Waters and Little Walter began playing together as Muddy Waters’ first band in Chicago (sometimes referred to as “The Headcutters” or “The Headhunters” due to their practice of stealing jobs from other local bands), while the band members each recorded and released music credited to each of them as solo artists. The first Muddy Waters band defined the sound of the nascent “Chicago Blues” style (more specifically “South Side” Chicago Blues). Rogers made several more sides of his own with small labels in Chicago, but none were released at the time. He began to enjoy success as a solo artist with Chess Records in 1950, scoring a hit with “That’s All Right”, but he stayed with Muddy Waters until 1954. In the mid-1950s he had several successful releases on the Chess label, most featuring either Little Walter Jacobs or Big Walter Horton on harmonica, most notably “Walking By Myself”, but as the 1950s drew to a close and interest in the blues waned, he gradually withdrew from the music industry.

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 that burned down in the 1968 Chicago riots that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He gradually began performing in public again, and in 1971 when fashions made him a reasonable draw in Europe, Rogers began occasionally touring and recording, including a 1977 reunion session with his old bandleader Muddy Waters. By 1982, Rogers was again a full-time solo artist. His final album was an all-star collaboration with rockers Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills and others paying their respects as guest participants.  In 1995 Rogers was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

He died from colon cancer on December 19, 1997 at the age of 73 in Chicago Illinois.