Kim Simmonds (Savoy Brown) was born Kim Maiden Simmonds on Dec. 5, 1947 in Caerphilly, Wales, to Henry Simmonds, an electrician, and Phyllis (Davies) Simmonds, a homemaker. As a child, he was drawn to the early rock ’n’ roll albums owned by his older brother, Harry, who later worked for Bill Haley’s British fan club. “My brother took me to see all the rock ’n’ roll movies,I grew up with all that: Little Richard, Bill Haley and, of course, Elvis.” By age 10 he had moved with his family to London, where his brother took him to jazz record stores that also sold blues albums. The singer and pianist Memphis Slim — one of the sophisticated blues guys that could keep one foot in the jazz world and one foot in the blues world became a favorite. Simmonds bought his first guitar at 13 and began imitating the blues licks on the records he loved. So intent was he on a music career that he never completed high school.
A chance meeting at a record shop in 1965 with the harmonica player John O’Leary led to the formation of what was initially called the Savoy Brown Blues Band. (The first word in the name echoed the name of an important American jazz and R&B label) The group’s initial lineup featured six players, two of them Black — the singer Brice Portius and the drummer Leo Manning — making them one of the few multiracial bands on the British rock scene of the 1960s. Continue reading Kim Simmonds – 12/2022
Wilko Johnson (Dr. Feelgood) was born John Andrew Wilkinson on 12 July 1947 in Canvey Island, Essex, UK. One of his earliest memories was of the 1953 floods, which hit low-lying Canvey badly and caused many deaths. His father, a gas-fitter, was “a stupid and uneducated and violent person”, according to his son, and died when Wilko was a teenager. Canvey became a romantic place in Johnson’s mind, with its lonely views of the Thames estuary overshadowed by the towers and blazing fires of the nearby Shell Haven oil refinery. Johnson and his contemporaries dubbed the area the Thames Delta, in homage to the Mississippi Delta, which spawned the blues musicians they admired. He first began playing the guitar after watching the Shadows on television, then later was inspired by Mick Green, guitarist with Johnny Kidd & the Pirates. Green’s knack for mixing up lead and rhythm guitar parts had a clear influence on Johnson’s technique. Wilko instinctively began to play left-handed, but forced himself to switch to right-handed. When he found that playing right-handed meant he could not hold a plectrum, he perfected a way of flicking his fingernails across the strings, which helped him to play the speedy, slashing rhythms that became his stock-in-trade. Continue reading Wilko Johnson – 11/2022
Tony Joe White – October 24, 2018 was born on July 23, 1943, in Oak Grove, Louisiana as the youngest of seven children who grew up on a cotton farm. He first began performing music at school dances, and after graduating from high school he performed in night clubs in Texas and Louisiana.
As a singer-songwriter and guitarist, he became best known for his 1969 hit “Polk Salad Annie” and for “Rainy Night in Georgia”, which he wrote but was first made popular by Brook Benton in 1970. He also wrote “Steamy Windows” and “Undercover Agent for the Blues”, both hits for Tina Turner in 1989; those two songs came by way of Turner’s producer at the time, Mark Knopfler, who was a friend of White. “Polk Salad Annie” was also recorded by Elvis Presley and Tom Jones.
In 1967, White signed with Monument Records, which operated from a recording studio in the Nashville suburb of Hendersonville, Tennessee, and produced a variety of sounds, including rock and roll, country and western, and rhythm and blues. Billy Swan was his producer.
Over the next three years, White released four singles with no commercial success in the U.S., although “Soul Francisco” was a hit in France. “Polk Salad Annie” had been released for nine months and written off as a failure by his record label, when it finally entered the U.S. charts in July 1969. It climbed to the Top Ten by early August, and eventually reached No. 8, becoming White’s biggest hit.
White’s first album, 1969’s Black and White, was recorded with Muscle Shoals/Nashville musicians David Briggs, Norbert Putnam, and Jerry Carrigan, and featured “Willie and Laura Mae Jones” and “Polk Salad Annie”, along with a cover of Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman”. “Willie and Laura Mae Jones” was covered by Dusty Springfield and released as a single, later added to reissues of her 1969 album Dusty in Memphis.
Three more singles quickly followed, all minor hits, and White toured with Steppenwolf, Anne Murray, Sly & the Family Stone, Creedence Clearwater Revival and other major rock acts of the 1970s, playing in France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden and England.
In 1973, White appeared in the film Catch My Soul, a rock-opera adaption of Shakespeare’s Othello. White played and sang four and composed seven songs for the musical.
In late September 1973, White was recruited by record producer Huey Meaux to sit in on the legendary Memphis sessions that became Jerry Lee Lewis’s landmark Southern Roots album.By all accounts, these sessions were a three-day, around-the-clock party, which not only reunited the original MGs (Steve Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn and Al Jackson, Jr. of Booker T. and the MGs fame) for the first time in three years, but also featured Carl Perkins, Mark Lindsay (of Paul Revere & the Raiders), and Wayne Jackson plus The Memphis Horns.
From 1976 to 1983, White released three more albums, each on a different label. Trying to combine his own swamp-rock sound with the popular disco music at the time, the results were not met with success and White gave up his career as a singer and concentrated on writing songs. During this time frame, he collaborated with American expat Joe Dassin on his only English-language album, Home Made Ice Cream, and its French-language counterpart Blue Country.
In 1989, White produced one non-single track on Tina Turner’s Foreign Affair album, the rest of the album was produced by Dan Hartman. Playing a variety of instruments on the album, he also wrote four songs, including the title song and the hit single “Steamy Windows”. As a result of this he became managed by Roger Davies, who was Turner’s manager at the time, and he obtained a new contract with Polydor.
The resulting album, 1991’s Closer to the Truth, was a commercial successand put White back in the spotlight. He released two more albums for Polydor; The Path of a Decent Groove and Lake Placid Blues which was co-produced by Roger Davies.
In the 1990s, White toured Germany and France with Joe Cocker and Eric Clapton, and in 1992 he played the Montreux Festival.
In 1996, Tina Turner released the song “On Silent Wings” written by White.
In 2000, Hip-O Records released One Hot July in the U.S., giving White his first new major-label domestic release in 17 years. The critically acclaimed The Beginningappeared on Swamp Records in 2001, followed by Heroines, featuring several duets with female vocalists including Jessi Colter, Shelby Lynne, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, and Michelle White, on Sanctuary in 2004, and a live Austin City Limits concert, Live from Austin, TX, on New West Records in 2006. In 2004, White was the featured guest artist in an episode of the Legends Rock TV Show and Concert Series, produced by Megabien Entertainment.
In 2007, White released another live recording, Take Home the Swamp, as well as the compilation Introduction to Tony Joe White. Elkie Brooks recorded one of White’s songs, “Out of The Rain”, on her 2005 Electric Lady album. On July 14, 2006, in Magny-Cours, France, White performed as a warm-up act for Roger Waters’ The Dark Side of the Moon concert. White’s album, entitled Uncovered, was released in September 2006 and featured collaborations with Mark Knopfler, Michael McDonald, Eric Clapton, and J.J. Cale.
The song “Elements and Things” from the 1969 album …Continued features prominently during the horse-racing scenes in the 2012 HBO television series “Luck”.
In 2013, White signed to Yep Roc Records and released Hoodoo.Mother Jones called the album “Steamy, Irresistible” and No Depression noted Tony Joe White is “the real king of the swamp.” He also made his Live…with Jools Holland debut in London, playing songs from Hoodoo.
On October 15, 2014, White appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman alongside the Foo Fighters to perform “Polk Salad Annie”. Pointing to White, Letterman told his TV audience, “Holy cow! … If I was this guy, you could all kiss my ass. And I mean that.”
In May 2016, Tony Joe White released Rain Crow on Yep Roc Records. The lead track “Hoochie Woman” was co-written with his wife, Leann. The track “Conjure Child” is a follow up to an earlier song, “Conjure Woman.
The album Bad Mouthin’ was released in September 2018 again on Yep Roc Records. The album contains six self-penned songs and five blues standards written by, amongst others, Charley Patton and John Lee Hooker. On the album White also performs a cover of the Elvis Presley song “Heartbreak Hotel”. White plays acoustic and electric guitar on the album which was produced by his son Jody White and has a signature Tony Joe White laid back sound.
White died of a heart attack on October 24, 2018, at the age of 75
January 23, 2017 – Marvell Thomas was born in Memphis Tennessee on August 22, 1941. The Thomas family is rooted in music and especially Memphis Soul. Legendary rock and roll pioneer Rufus (Walking the Dog) was his dad. His sisters Carla and Vaneese were much noted, especially Carla (the Queen of Memphis Soul) reached superstardom.
The eldest child of Rufus and Lorene Thomas, Marvell was born in 1941 and grew up in the shadow of Beale Street, where his father performed. “You could call it a second home,” Thomas said in 2011. “It was just three blocks from our house. I was a little kid, 5 years old, running up and down Beale Street all the time, much to my parents’ chagrin when they found out. Of course, I was there a lot legitimately too, when my father was hosting the talent show every Thursday night at the Palace Theatre.”Continue reading Marvell Thomas 1/2017
November 12, 2016 – Leon Russell was born Claude Russell Bridges in Lawton, Okla., on April 2, 1941. An injury to his upper vertebrae at birth caused a slight paralysis on his right side that would shape his music, since a delayed reaction time forced him to think ahead about what his right hand would play.
He started classical piano lessons when he was 4 years old, played baritone horn in his high school marching band and also learned trumpet. At 14 he started gigging in Oklahoma; since it was a dry state at the time, he could play clubs without being old enough to drink. Soon after he graduated from high school, Jerry Lee Lewis hired him and his band to back him on tour for two months.
January 15, 2015 – Kim Fowley was born into an acting family in Los Angeles on July 21st 1939 and attended the University High School at the same time as singers Jan Berry and Dean Torrence, Nancy Sinatra, Bruce Johnston, as well as actors Ryan O’Neal, James Brolin and Sandra Dee. In 1957, he was diagnosed suffering with polio but, and after realize from treatment became manager and publicist for a local band The Sleepwalkers which included Bruce Johnston, drummer Sandy Nelson and, occasionally, Phil Spector. In his early days he worked in various capacities for both Alan Freed and Berry Gordy. His first record as producer was “Charge” by The Renegades.
He also worked on occasion as a recording artist in the 1960s, with Gary S. Paxton, he recorded the novelty song “Alley Oop”, which reached No. 1 on the charts in 1960 and he was credited to the non-existent group The Hollywood Argyles.
June 19, 2014 – Gerald “Gerry” Goffin was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 11, 1939 and grew up in Queens. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve after graduating from Brooklyn Technical High School. After spending a year at the U.S. Naval Academy, he resigned from the Navy to study chemistry at Queens College.
While attending Queens College in 1958 he met Carol Klein, who had started writing songs under the name Carole King. They began collaborating on songwriting, with Carol writing the music and Gerry the lyrics, and…. began a relationship. Goffin had written the lyrics for a musical but needed someone to write the music. King didn’t like musicals; she liked rock ‘n’ roll. King was driven; Goffin went along. When King became pregnant, they married in August 1959, he was 20 and she was 17.
February 21, 2013 – Magic Slim was born Morris Holt on August 7, 1937 in Torrance near Grenada, Mississippi. The son of sharecroppers, he followed blues greats such as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf to Chicago, claiming and developing his own place in the Chicago blues scene.
He gave up the piano and turned to guitar after losing his right pinky finger in a cotton gin accident at age 13. In 1955 he moved to Chicago with his friend and mentor Magic Sam. The elder, Magic Sam/Samuel Maghett let Morris play bass in his band, and gave him his nickname Magic Slim.
However, he soon returned to Mississippi to work and got his younger brother Nick interested in playing bass.
By 1965 he was back in Chicago and in 1970 brother Nick joined him in his group, the Teardrops. Slim’s recording career began in 1966, with the song “Scufflin'”, followed by a number of singles leading into the mid 1970s.
August 2, 2009 – Billy Lee Riley was born on October 5, 1933 in Pocahontas, Arkansas, and taught to play guitar by black farm workers.
After a four year stint he first recorded in Memphis, Tennessee in 1955 before joining Sam Phillips at Sun Studios. His first hit was “Flyin’ Saucers Rock and Roll” / “I Want You Baby” in early 1957 after which he recorded “Red Hot” /”Pearly Lee” released in September 1957 both backed by Jerry Lee Lewis on piano.
June 14, 2009 – Bob Bogle (The Ventures) was born on Jan 16, 1934 near Wagoner, Oklahoma. After leaving school at 15 he worked as a bricklayer in California.
In 1958, while working on different construction sites he met up with fellow mason worker Don Wilson in Seattle, the two formed a band called The Versatones. The duo played small clubs, beer bars, and private parties throughout the Pacific Northwest. They recruited bassist Nokie Edwards, Skip Moore on drums and changed their name to the Ventures.
March 2, 2003 – Hank Ballard was born John Henry Kendricks in Detroit, Michigan on November 18, 1927, but, along with his brother, Dove Ballard, grew up and attended school in Bessemer, Alabama after the death of their father.He lived with his paternal aunt and her husband, and began singing in church. His major vocal inspiration during his formative years was the “Singing Cowboy”, Gene Autry, and in particular, his signature song, “Back in the Saddle Again”. During the 1960s, Ballard’s cousin, Florence Ballard, was a member of the Detroit girl group The Supremes.
Ballard returned to Detroit in his teens and later worked on the assembly line for Ford Motor Company. In 1951, he formed a doo-wop group and was discovered by the legendary band leader Johnny Otis, and was signed to sing with a group called The Royals. The group changed its name to The Midnighters to avoid confusion with The “5” Royales.