December 5, 2017 – Johnny Halliday was born Jean-Philippe Léo Smet on June 15, 1943 in Paris. His father was Belgian and his mother French. took his stage name from A cousin-in-law from Oklahoma, USA who performed as Lee Halliday called Smet “Johnny” and became a father figure, introducing him to American music. And the name Johnny Halliday was born. Continue reading Johnny Halliday 12/2017
May 21, 2017 – Curtis Womack (The Valentinos) was born on October 22, 1942 in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S.A. He was second oldest of the five Womack Brothers (Friendly, Curtis, Bobby, Harry, Cecil), and started singing together with his siblings at their father’s church in Cleveland. In 1954, they formally were named Curtis Womack and the Womack brothers with Curtis and, occasionally, Bobby singing lead. Continue reading Curtis Womack 5/2017
April 6, 2017 – David Peel, born David Michael Rosario on August 3, 1942 in New York City. After his fulfilling his national duty in the US military, he became a New York City-based street musician and social activist, who first recorded in the late 1960s with Harold Black, Billy Joe White, George Cori and Larry Adam performing as David Peel and The Lower East Side Band. His raw, acoustic “street rock” with lyrics about marijuana and “bad cops” appealed mostly to hippies and the disenfranchised.
Brooklyn-born Peel had been performing in the blossoming counter-culture that awakened in the early 1960s, since forsaking a potential job on Wall Street in favor of becoming a hippie in the mid-60s, soaking up the vibes in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury before taking his stoner street activist ethos to Washington Square Park. (At this point it should be pointed out that, apart from the more dullard factions, punk was essentially propagated by hippies with shorter hair). Continue reading David Peel 4/2017
January 24, 2017 – Björn Ake Thelin (The Spotnicks) was born on June 27, 1942 in the little village of Stöde about 25 miles west from the Swedish town of Sundsvall. He grew up in Frölunda, but lived with his family in northwestern Skåne for many years.
February 4, 2016 – Maurice White (Earth, Wind & Fire) was born December 19, 1941 in Memphis, Tennessee, the eldest of nine siblings. He grew up in South Memphis, where he lived with his grandmother in the Foote Homes Projects and was a childhood friend of Booker T Jones, with whom he formed a “cookin’ little band” while attending Booker T. Washington High School. He made frequent trips to Chicago to visit his mother, Edna, and stepfather, Verdine Adams, who was a doctor and occasional saxophonist. In his teenage years, he moved to Chicago and studied at the Chicago Conservatory of Music, and played drums in local nightclubs.
In 1965s she was living in San Francisco and gaining recognition as an accomplished jazz/folk singer, when vocalist Marty Balin heard her sing at a popular folk club, the Drinking Gourd and asked her to join a folk-rock group he was forming.
The band, soon christened Jefferson Airplane, signed with RCA Victor Records and released its first album, “Jefferson Airplane Takes Off,” in 1966.
Soon after joining the Airplane, she married one of the Merry Pranksters, Jerry Anderson, a marriage that lasted from 1965 to 1974. She sang on the first Jefferson Airplane album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, most notably on the song “Chauffeur Blues”. Just as Jefferson Airplane was ascending, Anderson gave birth to her first child. Realizing that life on the road with a newborn was unfeasible, Anderson opted to part ways with Jefferson Airplane in 1966. Anderson remained with the group while they searched for a replacement, eventually choosing the Great Society singer Grace Slick, who brought that band’s “Someone to Love” (retitled “Somebody to Love”) and her “White Rabbit” to Jefferson Airplane.
January 28, 2016 – Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane founding guitarist) was born on March 17, 1941, in San Francisco, California. Kantner had a half-brother and a half-sister by his father’s first marriage, both much older than he. His father was of German descent, and his mother was of French and German ancestry. His mother died when he was eight years old, and Kantner remembered that he was not allowed to attend her funeral. His father sent him to the circus instead. After his mother’s death, his father, who was a traveling salesman, sent young Kantner to Catholic military boarding school. At age eight or nine, in the school’s library, he read his first science fiction book, finding an escape by immersing himself in science fiction and music from then on. As a teenager he went into total revolt against all forms of authority, and he decided to become a protest folk singer in the manner of his musical hero, Pete Seeger. He attended Saint Mary’s College High School, Santa Clara University and San Jose State College, completing a total of three years of college before he dropped out to enter the music scene.
June 29, 2015 – Bruce Rowland (Joe Cocker/Fairport Convention) was born at Park Royal, Middlesex on May 22 1941 and spent some of his early professional life as a drum teacher. According to Dave Pegg, the bass guitarist and singer in Fairport Convention, Rowland taught the young Phil Collins how to play the drums.
In 1968, Rowland played on the Wynder K Frog album Out of the Frying Pan and the following year he joined the Grease Band, Joe Cocker’s backing group. It was with Cocker that he was able to reveal his talent for rock drumming.
April 14, 2015 – Percy Sledge was born in Leighton, Alabama on November 25th 1940. While growing up he would sing in church on Sundays. As a teenager he worked on several farms in the fields before taking a job as an orderly at Colbert County Hospital in Sheffield, Alabama.
Through the mid 1960s, he toured the Southeast with the Esquires Combo on weekends, while working at the hospital during the week. A former patient introduced him to record producer Quin Ivy, who signed Percy to a recording contract.
Sledge’s soulful voice was perfect for the series of soul ballads produced by Ivy and Marlin Greene, which rock critic Dave Marsh called “emotional classics for romantics of all ages”.
February 7, 2015- Joe B Mauldin (Buddy Holly and the Crickets) was born on July 8th 1940 as Joseph Benson Mauldin, Jr. in Lubbock, Texas. Mauldin began studying stand-up bass in 1954 after borrowing one from his school.
He started his musical journey playing in a local band called The Four Teens with a young Terry Noland in 1955, before joining Buddy Holly’s Crickets in ’57. Their first hit record was “That’ll Be the Day”, released in 1957. The single became No.1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in Billboard magazine, which was followed by hits such as “Peggy Sue”, “Not Fade Away”and “Rave On” .
January 10, 2015 – Tim Drummond was born on April 20, 1940 in Canton Illinois. Journeyman bassist Tim Drummond, who performed with Neil Young, Crosby, Stills and Nash and Bob Dylan among many more rock legends, passed away January 10th, 2015 the St. Louis County, Missouri coroner’s office confirmed to Rolling Stone. No cause of death was given but investigators revealed there was no trauma.
In his early years Drummond performed and recorded with country and R&B stars in the 1960s in South Carolina, Illinois and, later in the decade, Cincinnati, Ohio. He played rockabilly with Conway Twitty, funk with James Brown and vintage R&B with Hank Ballard before moving to Nashville where he played on sessions with Joe Simon, Fenton Robinson, Jimmy Buffett and Charlie Daniels, among others.
January 3, 2014 – Phil Everly was born on January 19th 1939 in Chicago, Illinois, into a musical family. His father, Ike who was also a musician had a show on KMA and KFNF in Shenandoah, Iowa, in the 1940s, with his wife Margaret and their two young sons, Don and Phil.
Singing on the show gave the brothers their first exposure to the music industry. The family sang together and lived and traveled in the area singing as the Everly Family. The Everly Brothers grew up from ages 5 and 7, through early high school, in Shenandoah before moving to Knoxville, Tennessee, where the brothers attended Knox West High School, continuing their musical development. The boys caught the attention of Chet Atkins who became an early champion.
May 20, 2013 – Ray Manzarek Jr. was the architect of The Doors’ intoxicating sound. His evocative keyboard playing fused rock, jazz, blues, classical and an array of other styles into something utterly, dazzlingly new, and his restless artistic explorations continued unabated for the rest of his life.
He was born on February 12, 1939 to Polish immigrants Helena and Raymond Manczarek and grew up on the South Side of Chicago, and was introduced to the piano at the tender age of seven.
July 16, 2012 – Bob Babbitt (Funk Brothers) was born Robert Kreinar on November 26, 1937 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He grew up in the Mt. Washington and Beltzhoover neighborhoods and graduated from South Hills High School. His parents had immigrated to America from Hungary and his dad found work as bricklayer. Bob earliest music influences were his parent’s gypsy music and classical music. Both of his parents sang in gypsy bands and their gypsy music was constantly heard on the family radio and record player.
Bob learned the upright bass in elementary school and played in his elementary school orchestra. He took private classical bass lessons for two years from a female bass player who was the main bass player at the Pennsylvania College for Woman. Bob then studied for three years with the principle bassist for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Anthony Bianco. During his three high school years from 1953 to 1955 Bob played classical upright bass in the Pittsburgh Symphony Jr. which featured the top Pittsburgh area high school musicians. Bob sites his early influences as Pittsburgh bassist Ray Brown and Charles Mingus.
Bob was frequently asked to sit in with Hungarian gypsy groups at Hungarians clubs that he went to with his family. His first paying job as musician was with a gypsy band.
As a teen Bob turned to rhythm-and-blues playing influenced by Bill Doggett’s “Honky Tonk” and Red Prysock’s “Hand Clappin'”. He spent a lot of time playing along to listening to R&B songs played on Pittsburgh radio by Porky Chedwick and Mary Dee and others. At age 15 Bob began performing in Pittsburgh area nightclubs. He began by sitting in with a group led by a black sax player in a club and began working weekends with them. He switched from upright bass to a louder and easier to transport electric bass guitar at age 17. He bought a ’60 Jazz Bass and used the 1-2-4 classical fingering system until he learned to use his 3rd finger.
Bob’s father died when he was a high school senior. His family moved from Mount Washington to the Glen Hazel projects. The University of Pittsburgh offered him a music scholarship but he turned it down. Instead he took a job to help support his mother. But it was hard to find a good paying job without a skill and he did not want to work in the steel mills. His uncle in Michigan urged him to move, saying he could earn much more money in Detroit. Bob hopped a Greyhound bus to Motown in late 1957 or early 1958.
Detroit had a lively club scene, a growing recording business, and an up and coming new R&B sound. Bob worked construction during the day and played the clubs at night. In Detroit Bob picked up the nick name Bobo that morphed into Babo, Bobbitt, and finally into “Babbitt”. People he met for the first time thought it was his real name. With all of his musicians friends calling him “Babbittt”, he took it as his stage name.
He heard a band called the Royaltones rehearsing in a Detroit club one day and introduced himself. He brought in his upright bass to play with them. They hired Bob to record with them on 24 songs released between 1961 and 1964. Led by the saxophone of George Katsakis the Royaltones played instrumental rock n roll. Eight of the Royaltones’ songs hit the Billboard charts including their 1961 top ten hit “Flamingo Express.” Bob became a member of the Royaltones in 1962. Singer Del Shannon hired the Royaltones as his band and toured and recorded with them through 1964. Bob played on Del Shannon’s 1962 hit “Little Town Flirt.” After the Royaltones broke up in 1964 Babbitt became a studio musician.
As his reputation in Detroit grew Babbitt found steady work in 1966 as a session bass player at Golden World Studio, United Sound, Terashirma, and every other consequential studio in the Detroit area except Motown. He worked seven to eight recording sessions every week. During this time he recorded the signature bass line on the Capitols hit single “Cool Jerk”. He also played on the classic R&B tunes “I Just Wanna Testify” by the Parliaments and “Love Makes the World Go Round” by Dion Jackson. Babbitt played on his first Motown recording in 1967. After touring with Steve Wonder, Wonder brought Babbitt to Motown to record with him on ‘We Can Work It Out’ and the classic ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ .
At Golden World Studio Bobbit worked with several of Motown’s moonlighting session players including keyboardists Joe Hunter and Johnny Griffith, guitarist Eddie Willis, drummer Benny Benjamin, and Rock Hall of Fame bassist James Jamerson († August 2, 1983)). As Motown’s popularity grew more musicians were needed to work recording sessions. When bassist James Jamerson became unreliable due to alcoholism Babbitt was brought in as a replacement. As he proved himself, Babbitt was accepted into the inner circle of the Funk Brothers. Babbitt worked steadily at Motown from 1967 through 1972 and was under contract to Motown from 1970 to1972.
The contract prevented him from becoming a member of Jeff Beck’s band. Prevented from working for other studios and bands Babbitt tried to supplement his income working as a professional wrestler for six months. In 1972 Babbitt recorded with Marvin Gaye on one of Motown’s biggest selling records the classic “What’s Goin’ On.” In interviews Babbitt said they the arranger Dave Van dePitte let him write his own base lines on the songs “‘Mercy Mercy Me’ and ‘Inner City Blues’.
Motown’s Detroit Hitsville Studio closed in 1972 when Barry Gordon moved Motown to Los Angeles. The Funk Brothers learned they were out of work when they read a note on the locked doors of the studio. In 1973 Babbit went in the opposite direction and ended up in New York where he began working with producer Arif Mardin. In this new city he worked on recordings for Frank Sinatra, Barry Manilow, Gloria Gaynor, Robert Palmer, and Alice Cooper. Babbitt and former Motown drummer Andrew Smith became one of the hottest rhythm sections in New York. They were sought out to record with Stephanie Mills, Jim Croce, and Bonnie Raitt to Engelbert Humperdink and Frank Sinatra.
Philadelphia International Records also sought the services of Bobbitt and Andrew Smith. Working with producer Thorn Bell they recorded the Spinners classics “Then Came You,” “Games People Play,” and “Rubber Band Man.” By the late 1970’s Bob Babbitt was working constantly with many artists in many different styles. He recorded 3 complete albums in three weeks working with the Spinners in L.A., Alice Cooper in Toronto and Frank Sinatra in New York. Babbitt became a jazz player in the early ’80s touring and recording with flutist Herbie Mann and fellow Pittsburgher saxophonist Stanley Turrentine.
When studio work in New York slowed down Bob moved in June of 1986 to the next hot recording center Nashville. Music City became his home for the next 26 years. During this period Babbitt worked recording sessions with Shania Twain, Carlene Carter, Tracy Nelson, Vanessa Williams, Elton John, Robert Palmer, Lee Atwater, Jimmy McGriff, Bobby Rydell and others. In between recording dates he toured with Brenda Lee, Robert Palmer, Joan Baez and others.
Bob and the Funk Brother came to national attention in 2002 with the release of the film “Standing In The Shadows”. The film showed that the Funk Brothers and Bob Babbitt were the heart and soul of the Motown sound. The film was based on Allan Slutsky’s Funk Brothers book. The film highlighted that the Funk Brothers “played on more number-one hits than The Beatles, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys Combined”.
The brothers toured the country with special guest Joan Osborne on lead vocals. They performed at the 2004 Grammy Awards where they received the Lifetime Achievement Award. With recognition of the contributions of the Funk Brothers Bob received more offers for recording sessions and gigs. Phil Collins flew him to London to record the “Going Back” album in 2010.
Babbitt was honored in Pittsburgh on July 23, 2008 where he received a Lifetime Achievement award from Duquense University. The City of Pittsburgh declared July 23 Bob Babbitt Day and the mayor presented Bob with the official proclamation. To celebrate the occasion he performed in concert with B.E. Taylor, Jeff Jimerson, Hermie Granati, guitarist Jimmy Bruno and other Pittsburgh musicians. Babbitt was honored again on October 31, 2009 when he performed in concert at the August Wilson Center’s “A Pittsburgh Tribute to Motown Records’ 50th Anniversary.” With his classical and gypsy music roots that he learned in Pittsburgh along with his great talent and creativity, he made music history.
In early 2011 Babbitt was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. He passed away in Nashville at age 74 on July 16, 2012.
One of the most versatile and most recorded bassists in music history
Bob Babbitt was one of the greatest and most recorded bass players in the history of popular music. Over 100 million copies of records that feature Bob’s bass have been sold. He performed on over 200 top 40 hits earning 25 gold records and several platinum awards. Babbitt laid down a melodic rhythmic groove that gave soul to hundreds of all time classic pop records. Bob was a versatile bassist whose work ranged from R&B, rock, jazz, pop, country, and folk. In the R&B genre Babbitt recorded and performed with The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Lou Rawls, Gladys Knight, Diane Ross, Ashford & Simpson, The Spinners, Phyllis Hyman, Mary Wells, the O’Jays, Sister Sledge, and Major Harris. He rocked with Jimi Hendrix, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Phil Collins, Robert Palmer, Alice Cooper, Peter Frampton, Joe Cocker, Nils Lofgren, Steven Bishop, the Euclid Beach Band, and Yoko Ono. In Jazz and blues Babbitt worked with Dextor Gordon, Herbie Mann, Stanley Turrentine, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Taj Mahal, John Mayall, and Bonnie Raitt. Bob performed on the country and folk recordings of Shania Twain, Carlene Carter, Louise Mandrell,Tracy Nelson, Joan Baez, and Tom Rush. Babbitt was at the top of the pops working with Frank Sinatra, Dionne Warrick , Engelbert Humperdinc, Laura Nyro, Brenda Lee, Frankie Vallie, Del Shannon, Jim Croce, and Barry Manilow.
In Detroit during the 1960s Bob Babbitt played on dozens of hits recorded in the Motown and Golden World Studios as a member of the legendary Funk Brothers studio band. His signature sound is heard on the Capitols’ “Cool Jerk,” Smokey Robinson’s “The Tears of a Clown” and Stevie Wonder’s “Signed Sealed Delivered I’m Yours”, Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train To Georgia”, Diana Ross’ “Touch Me In The Morning”, and War” by Edwin Starr. Babbitt is featured on Motown biggest selling album Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On” album. As part of the Philadelphia soul scene in the 1970s Babbitt played on the Spinners hits “Then Came You” and “Rubberband Man”. Working in New York he was heard on Gloria Gaynor’s “Never Can Say Goodbye”. Robert Palmer’s “Every Kind Of People”, and Barry Manilow’s “Ready To Take A Chance”.
Bob Babbitt was well known for decades among musicians but was little known to popular music fans. The Funk Brothers were often un-credited on Motown recordings. The Funk Brothers were bassist James Jamerson and Bob Babbitt, guitarists Robert White and Joe Messina, keyboardists Joe Hunter and Earl Van Dyke, and drummers Benny Benjamin, Richard Allen and Uriel Jones. Bob Babbitt and his fellow Funk Brothers gained national recognition for their outstanding contribution in the Grammy winning film about the Funk Brothers, “Standing in the Shadows of Motown”. Bob Babbitt toured with the surviving members of Funk Brothers and Joanne Osborne.
Among Bass players Bob’ 90 second solo on the Denis Coffey single “Scopio” is a standard. It is a difficult solo that bassists strive to learn to prove their mastery of the bass.
Bob Babbitt and the Funk Brothers were inducted into the Nashville-based Musicians Hall of Fame in 2007. The Music City Walk of Fame honored Bob Babbitt with a star in June of 2012. He is the only session instrumentalist to be honored by the Walk of Fame. Bob Babbitt as a member of the Funk Brothers was was given a Grammy lifetime achievement award in 2004.
“Bob was a teddy bear of a guy and he was an extraordinary musician — a player’s player.” – former Motown engineer Ed Wolfrum
“It’s probably safe to say that every minute of every day, 365 days a year, Bob Babbitt’s bass is pumping out of some radio station somewhere.” Rick Suchow – Bass Guitar Magazine (Jan, 2010)
“Bob Babbitt changed the world with four strings and a groove,” -bass player Dave Pomeroy, president of the Nashville Musicians Association, inducting Babbitt into the Walk of Fame
With 25 Gold and Platinum records under his belt he is famous for his work as a member of Motown Records’ studio band, the Funk Brothers, from 1967-72, as well as his tenure as part of MFSB for Philadelphia International Records afterwards.
Also in 1968-1970, with Mike Campbell, Ray Monette and Andrew Smith he formed the band Scorpion. His most notable bass performances include “War”, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours”, “The Tears of a Clown”, “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)”, “Inner City Blues””Band Of Gold” (by Freda Payne), “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)”, “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)”
March 8, 2012 – Jimmy Ellis (The Trammps) was born on November 15th 1937.
The history of the Trammps grew from the 1960s group the Volcanos, who later became the Moods. With a number of line-up changes by the early 1970s, the band membership included gospel-influenced lead singer Jimmy Ellis, drummer and bass singer Earl Young, with brothers Stanley and Harold ‘Doc’ Wade. Members of the Philadelphia recording band MFSB played with the group on records and on tour in the 70s with singer Robert Upchurch joining later. The group was produced by the Philadelphia team of Ronnie Baker, Norman Harris and Young, all MFSB mainstays who played on the recording sessions and contributed songs.
Already in his thirties success came as the lead singer with the Philadelphia disco band, The Trammps. The band’s first major success was with their 1972 cover version of “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart”. The first disco track they released was “Love Epidemic” in 1973. They are best known for their Grammy winning song, “Disco Inferno”, immortalized in the film Saturday Night Fever, released in 1976 becoming a UK pop hit and US R&B hit, then re-released in 1978 becoming a US pop hit.
Other major hits included “Hold Back the Night”-75 and “That’s Where the Happy People Go”-76. In late 1977, they released “The Night the Lights Went Out” to commemorate the electrical blackout in New York on July 13th 1977 .
Music journalist Ron Wynn noted “the Trammps’ prowess can’t be measured by chart popularity; Ellis’ booming, joyous vocals brilliantly championed the celebratory fervor and atmosphere that made disco both loved and hated among music fans.”
He died from Alzheimer complications on March 8, 2012 at age 74.
March 24, 2009 – Uriel Jones (the Funk Brothers) was born on June 13th 1934 in Detroit. He began playing music in high school. But his first instrument was the trombone and wanted to box also. But when he went to band classes his lip was swollen and he couldn’t play the trombone, so he had to switch to the drums.
Drawn from the ranks of Detroit jazz players by Berry Gordy Jr., the founder of Motown, the Funk Brothers were the label’s regular studio backup band from 1959 to 1972, when Motown moved to Los Angeles and left most of them behind. Jones joined the Funk Brothers around 1963 after touring with Marvin Gaye and he moved up the line as recordings increased and principal drummer Benny Benjamin’s drug addicted health deteriorated fast. Around 1963 Jones and another player, Richard Allen, known as Pistol, started gradually taken over drumming his duties and Benjamin died of a stroke in 1969.
January 5, 2009 – Bluzman Taylor was born Sam Willis Taylor Jr. on October 25th 1934 in Crichton, a suburb of Mobile, Alabama. Taylor began singing gospel at the age of three. His Long Island connection began in 1957, during his service in the Air Force.
Widely known as a jump blues songwriter and performer, he wrote songs that have been recorded by everyone from Elvis Presley and Son Seals to DMX and EPMD . Jump blues is an up-tempo blues usually played by small groups and featuring saxophone or brass instruments.
August 2, 2008 – Erik Darling (the Weavers) was born on September 25, 1933 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Darling actually spent his childhood in Canandaigua, NY, and by the time he was in his early twenties, he was a regular fixture in New York City’s Washington Square folk scene. A superb banjo player and perhaps an even better 12-string guitarist, and possessing a clear, warm, and expressive tenor singing voice, Darling was an expert at bringing out the best in the musicians around him. The Folksay Trio, recording an album in 1951 that included Darling’s arrangement of “Tom Dooley” became a huge hit.
December 18, 2001 – Gilbert Bécaud was born François Silly in Toulon France on October 24, 1927 and became one of France’s most beloved and successful singer, composer and actor. He learned to play the piano at a young age, and then went to the Conservatoire in Nice.
In 1942, not even 16 years old, he left school to join the French Resistance during WorldWar II.
He began songwriting in 1948, after meeting Maurice Vidalin, who inspired him to write his early compositions. He began writing for Marie Bizet; Bécaud, Bizet and Vidalin became a successful trio, and their partnership lasted until 1950. Continue reading Gilbert Bécaud 12/2001