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Judith Durham – 8/2022

Judith Durham, born Judith Mavis Cock in Melbourne, Australia (3 July 1943 – 5 August 2022) would for most rock and roll aficionados not belong on a tribute website for rock heroes. But when I learned of her passing last week, I realized that many of her early songs with the Seekers played an important part in my early rock and roll involvement – from learning to play guitar to appreciation for soft melodic rock during the early years of my teenage awareness. Also, Judith had a voice that mastered and actually stood out in almost every category of 60’s modern music. She could sweet voice you into folksy romance, belt it out in jazz rock, make you inconspicuously suffer the blues or lead the pack in a pop song. She could even sing the classics.

Early in life Judith believed her future would be as a pianist. She went on to gain her Associate In Music, Australia (A.Mus.A.) in classical piano as a student of world-renowned concert pianist Professor Ronald Farren-Price at the Melbourne University Conservatorium, with her first professional engagement in the arts playing piano for a ballet school.

Still in her teens, although excelling on piano, little Judy Cock dreamed of fame singing opera or musical comedy and in 1961, aged 18, she was ready to begin classical vocal training.  One night, just for fun, she ‘sat in’ with a trad jazz band at a local dance called “Memphis”, and found instant success performing blues, gospels, and jazz standards of the 1920s and 1930s, also developing as a serious ragtime pianist. She began using her mother’s maiden name, and at 19 she made her first record, an EP for W&G “Judy Durham” with Frank Traynor’s Jazz Preachers.

Meanwhile, by day since leaving school, Judy’s first job was as Secretary to the Pathologist at the Royal Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital, but on taking a new secretarial job at J Walter Thompson Advertising, on her first day she met account executive Athol Guy.  Athol played acoustic bass and also sang bass in a trio called The Seekers and invited her that very night to come and join him and the two guitarists Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley, to sing acoustic four-part harmony folk and gospel at a Melbourne coffee lounge “Treble Clef”.  Still singing regularly with various jazz bands nearly every other night, she then became a regular every Monday with The Seekers.  Adopting her birth name Judith, she recorded an album with The Seekers for W&G, appeared on local TV, then set sail for London in 1964 on “SS Fairsky” for a 10-week stay, singing for their supper on board.

On the advice of Australian entertainer Horrie Dargie, the group sent the album and TV footage ahead to a big theatrical agency, The Grade Organisation, and on their arrival in ‘swinging London’, agent Eddie Jarrett booked them extensively in clubs, TV, and variety theatre.  He asked Tom Springfield (Dusty’s brother) to write and produce a single, resulting in the surprise chart-topper “I’ll Never Find Another You” which made The Seekers the first Australian group ever to hit No.1 internationally, made Judith Australia’s very first international pop princess and pin-up girl, and unexpectedly cemented her in the group as a full-time Seeker.

The next few years brought The Seekers worldwide adulation, with tours, more albums, and a succession of huge and lasting hits including “A World Of Our Own”, “The Carnival Is Over” and “Morningtown Ride”, which rivalled all the top groups like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones for the No.1 spot.  The Seekers’ biggest international seller was “Georgy Girl”, originally written (music by Tom Springfield, words by Jim Dale) and recorded as the title song for the movie starring Lynn Redgrave, James Mason, Charlotte Rampling and Alan Bates.  The song was nominated for an Academy Award® and the single made history when the group became the first Australians ever to reach the No.1 spot in the USA.

In 1967, The Seekers set an official all-time record when more than 200,000 people (nearly one tenth of the city’s entire population at that time!) flocked to their performance at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne.  Their TV special ‘The Seekers Down Under’ scored the biggest TV audience ever (with a 67 rating), and early in 1968 they were all awarded the nation’s top honour as “Australians Of The Year 1967”.

But 24 year old Judith wanted to spread her wings, and without any notion of the lasting universal grief to be suffered by shocked Seekers fans worldwide, she plucked up courage to give ‘the boys’ six months’ notice.  She was to leave the group in July 1968 to return to Australia … possibly to pursue a career as a solo singer in opera or musical theater … and she hoped to find ‘Mr. Right’.

The surprise for Judith was to receive offers as a solo artist, so she asked a London-based freelance musician, Ron Edgeworth, to be her musical director, pianist and arranger and a couple of years later her Mr. Right.  In big demand as a London-based freelance musician, Ron had worked with all the big names, and had earlier toured and recorded with the legendary Alexis Korner’s All Stars.

From there on Judith started her solo career, with an occasional Seekers reunion over the years, and also focused on composing and writing music. Her one-woman shows stunned audiences and critics with her unique gift for singing in all styles – from folk to country, jazz to pop, blues to gospel, original songs, ragtime piano and even classical.

An indelible mark was made with Judith’s transition into her now classic mid-70s trad jazz recordings with bands she formed with Ron in San Francisco and London.  “The Hottest Band In Town Collection” is now available though Universal.  They also released a legendary album of their piano and voice performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1978 (“The Hot Jazz Duo”).

Through the 80s Judith Durham and Ron Edgeworth based themselves on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, and for the first time Judith concentrated totally on writing and performing her own compositions, even completing a full scale musical “Gotta Be Rainbows” with book written by eminent playwright Ian Austin.  Having experienced her very first songwriting success in 1967 with co-writer David Reilly on The Seekers classic “Colours Of My Life”, by the 80s Judith had developed through the decades as a remarkably talented and prolific composer of both lyrics and music, writing more than 300 works.

After the untimely passing of her husband in 1994,  51 year old Judith, went back into recording albums and touring. In 1996 Judith again toured the UK as a solo artist with the release of “Mona Lisas” (later repackaged as “Always There” in Australia), her Abbey Road album of legendary 60s and 70s covers produced by the late Gus Dudgeon.

To welcome in the new millennium with delighted Seekers fans around the world, she embarked on The Seekers ‘Carnival Of Hits Tour 2000’, and in 2001 Judith celebrated her own remarkable life-long musical journey in her “40th Anniversary” Australian concert tour.

In the same year, as an unexpected treat for loyal Seekers fans, Judith recorded with ‘the boys’ the album “Morningtown Ride To Christmas”, and late in 2002 a double album “Night Of Nights … Live!” was released after The Seekers’ Australian tour, in conjunction with The Seekers’ Australia Post Souvenir Stamp Sheet commemorating 40 years of musical magic from Australia’s first-ever international pop icons.

2003 was one of Judith’s busiest and most artistically satisfying years ever. In March she toured Australia with ‘the boys’ on The Seekers` `Never Say Never Again! Tour` which was received joyfully by fans all over the country – and with barely a month to get ready, she flew to the UK for her massive solo tour. Highlight after highlight followed, leading up to the Magic Date of December 3, 2013, the 50th Birthday of the Seekers.

Judith was thrilled to embark on a whole year of celebration – marking half a century of Seekers music. Judith found herself back in the studio with the group recording and filming two standout tracks for ‘The Golden Jubilee Album: 50 Tracks For 50 Years’.  “Silver Threads and Golden Needles” and the visual feast of “In My Life” were destined to be standout moments in ‘The Golden Jubilee Tour’, when The Seekers hit the road in May/June 2013.

Following the media frenzy of their 50th Birthday Party in Melbourne came yet another accolade for The Seekers – the presentation of a 24-carat gold ‘stamp’ by Australia Post as part of their ‘Legends of Australian Music’ series – and the official handover of the portrait of the group to the National Portrait Gallery, painted by Helen Edwards, “The Seekers Reunite 50 Years On”.

The group announced and then sold-out a ‘Golden Jubilee Tour’ of Australia, which was abruptly halted when Judith suffered a brain hemorrhage after the first of four sold-out nights in Melbourne.  Six months of hospitalisation and rehabilitation followed – during which time Judith’s commemorative ‘Platinum Album’ was released to mark her 70th birthday – before she was given the green light for the Australian tour to resume. Another sold-out tour of New Zealand followed, before The Seekers toured the United Kingdom, performing 18 sold-out show culminating in two packed houses at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Just prior to the return to Australia, The Seekers were advised that they had individually been awarded the Order of Australia (AO) – one of the highest honours that can be bestowed on Australian citizens.  Judith would add yet another honour to her tally by being named Victorian of the Year 2015 the following year.

Also, in 2015, Georgy Girl: The Seekers Musical opened to packed house in Melbourne, before moving on to successful seasons in Sydney and Perth.  Among the production’s many musical numbers were Judith’s “Mama’s Got the Blues” and “I Remember”, and “Colours of my Life”, which she co-wrote with David Reilly.

Judith undertook a solo ‘farewell’ tour of New Zealand, playing 18 sold-out concerts as her Colours of my Life compilation CD soared to No. 2 on the charts there.

And in 2018, Ambition Entertainment packaged The Seekers’ three record-breaking 60s TV spectacular into one magnificent collector’s edition set, The Seekers: The Legendary Television Specials.  Proving again that the music of The Seekers is timeless and much loved, the DVD set reached No. 1 on the ARIA chart!

Another highlight of 2018 is the release of Judith’s first solo studio album in six years.  Timed to mark Judith’s 75th birthday, So Much More is a collection of beautiful songs that Judith Durham has composed with some immensely talented writers and musicians from around the world – all lovingly crafted, and superbly sung.

These never-before-released tracks tell of hope and courage, pain and loss, all-consuming devotion, uplifting spirituality, friendship, and a profound love of Australia and its indigenous heritage.

Durham was born with asthma and at age four she caught measles, which left her with a life-long chronic lung disease, bronchiectasis. Durham died from bronchiectasis on 5 August 2022, at age 79. She definitely avoided the “Rock and Roll lifestyle” during her life, without smoking, little to no alcohol, a vegetarian since 1968 and a vegan in later life.

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Lord Luther McDaniels 12/2017

December 30, 2017 – Lord Luther McDaniels, lead singer of vocal group the 4 Deuces, was born in Panola County, Texas in 1938. He never knew his father, who was killed in an accident soon after Luther was born. Mostly raised by his grandmother, he joined the Mitchell Brothers gospel group when he was about 11 or 12. While Luther had no musical training, he still traveled with the group all over East Texas, appearing in many gospel group “battles.” Around the end of World War 2, his mother remarried and moved to Salinas, California, about a hundred miles south of San Francisco (his new stepfather was stationed at Fort Ord in Monterey, only a few miles away). Luther went to California, decided he didn’t like it, went back to Texas, decided California wasn’t that bad, and returned to California to stay, settling in the fertile Salinas Valley south of the Bay Area, a region often referred to as America’s Salad Bowl. Continue reading Lord Luther McDaniels 12/2017

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Warren “Pete” Moore 11/2017

smokey robinson and the miraclesNovember 19, 2017 – Warren “Pete” Moore (the Miracles) was born on November 19, 1939 in Detroit, Michigan. A childhood friend of Miracles lead singer Smokey Robinson, the two met at a musical event given by the Detroit Public School system, where Moore spotted Robinson singing as part of the show. The two became friends and formed a singing group, which eventually became the Miracles. Besides his work in the Miracles, Moore helped Miracles member Smokey Robinson write several hit songs, including The Temptations’ “It’s Growing” and “Since I Lost My Baby”, and two of Marvin Gaye’s biggest hits, the Top 10 million sellers, “Ain’t That Peculiar” and “I’ll Be Doggone”. Continue reading Warren “Pete” Moore 11/2017

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Bruce Langhorne 4/2017

mr. tambourine man, Bruce LanghorneApril 14, 2017 – Bruce Langhorne was born on May 14, 1938 in Tallahassee, Florida.

At age 4 he moved with his mother to Spanish Harlem, New York. When he was a 12-year old violin prodigy living in Harlem in the fifties, he accidentally blew several of his finger tips off with a cherry bomb that he held onto for too long. In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, Bruce looked up at his distraught mom and said, “At least I don’t have to play violin anymore.” In a gang fight, he got involved in a stabbing and left the country for Mexico for 2 years. By age 17 he started to pick the guitar. Continue reading Bruce Langhorne 4/2017

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Piano C Red 6/2013

Piano C RedJune 3, 2013 – Piano C Red was born Cecil Fain in Montevallo, Ala. in 1933.

His mother sang spirituals and his father made moonshine, both endeavors playing a role in his musical career. He told the Chicago Tribune’s Mary Schmich in 2006 that he traded pints of his father’s moonshine for piano lessons from the local boogie-woogie player, Fat Lily.

By age 16 he was playing in Atlanta, Georgia as James Wheeler and later took his stage name from his instrument, the red piano, and the trademark red outfits he wore onstage.

Relocating to Chicago when he was 19 he performed with the likes of Muddy Waters, B.B King, Fats Domino and Buddy Guy, before becoming a cab driver to make the money necessary to pay the bills.

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Georges Moustaki 5/2013

georges-moustakiMay 23, 2013 – Georges Moustaki was born on May 3, 1934 in Alexandria, Egypt as Giuseppe “Yussef” Mustacchi. His parents, Sarah and Nessim Mustacchi, were Francophile, Greek Jews from the island of Corfu, Greece. They moved to Egypt, where their young child first learned French. They owned the Cité du Livre – one of the finest book shops in the Middle East – in the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria where many ethnic communities lived together.

At home, everyone spoke Italian because the aunt categorically refused to speak Greek. In the street, the children spoke Arabic.

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Phil Ramone 3/2013

phil ramoneMarch 30, 2013 – Philip “Phil” Ramone was born January 5th 1934 in South Africa but grew up in Brooklyn, New York. As a child in South Africa, he was a musical prodigy, beginning to play the violin at age three and performing for Princess Elizabeth at age ten. In the late 1940s he trained as a classical violinist at the Juilliard School, and opened his own recording studio before he was 20. He became a naturalized citizen of the USA on December 14th 1953.

A very talented recording engineer, record producer, violinist and composer, he co-founded A & R Recording, Inc. a recording studio with business partner Jack Arnold in 1958.

His early work in producing and engineering was with jazz artists, working on John Coltrane records and acting as engineer for the landmark Getz/Gilberto album in 1964, for which he won his first Grammy. He transitioned during the 1960s to working with folk-rock, pop-rock, and R&B acts such as Peter, Paul and Mary, James Taylor, Aretha Franklin and Bob Dylan, first primarily as an engineer, and later as a producer. Continue reading Phil Ramone 3/2013

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Jewel Akens 3/2013

Jewel AkensMarch 1, 2013 – Jewel Akens was born September 12, 1933 in Houston, Texas, the seventh of nine children in a working-class family. He became interested in music early in life, singing for the church choir as a child. In 1950, Akens moved with his family from Texas to Los Angeles, where he graduated from Fremont High School. There, he met his future wife, Eddie Mae, whom he married in 1952.

Akens began his career in the late 1950s, working with Eddie Daniels and guitar legend Eddie Cochran, and later recorded singles with the Four Dots doo-wop group.

In 1965, he was singing with an ensemble called the Turnarounds when record producer Herb Newman brought them “The Birds and the Bees,” written by his teenage son. The rest of the group disliked the tune, but Akens decided to record it solo. It became an instant hit, rising to the No. 3 spot on the Billboard pop chart in 1965.

“Let me tell you ’bout the birds and the bees, and the flowers and the trees,” went the catchy tune, which was later covered by Dean Martin and others.

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Tony Sheridan 2/2013

tony sheridanFeb 16, 2013 – Tony Sheridan was born Anthony Esmond Sheridan McGinnity  was born May 21, 1940 in Norwich, England. To the rest of the world he was best known as the only non-Beatle to appear as lead singer on a Beatles recording which charted as a single, even though the record was labelled as being with “The Beat Brothers”. In Europe he was at times a superstar.

In his early life, Sheridan was influenced by his parents’ interest in classical music, and by age seven, he had learned to play the violin. He eventually came to play guitar, and in 1956, formed his first band. He showed enough talent that he soon found himself playing in London’s “Two I’s” club for some six months straight. In 1958, aged 18, he began appearing on Oh Boy, made by the ITV contractor ABC, playing electric guitar on such early rock classics as “Blue Suede Shoes”, “Glad All Over”, “Mighty Mighty Man” and “Oh Boy!”. He was soon employed backing a number of singers, reportedly including Gene Vincent and Conway Twitty while they were in England. In 1958 Johnny Foster sought to recruit Sheridan as a guitar player in Cliff Richard’s backing band (soon renamed the Shadows), but after failing to find him at the 2i’s Coffee Bar opted for another guitarist who was there, Hank Marvin.

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Bo Diddley 6/2008

bo-diddleyJune 2, 2008 – Bo Diddley was born Ellas Otha Bates, later becoming Ellas McDaniel on December 30, 1928 in McComb, Mississippi. He was adopted and raised by his mother’s cousin, Gussie McDaniel, whose surname he assumed. In 1934, the McDaniel family moved to the South Side of Chicago, where he dropped the Otha and became Ellas McDaniel.

As he grew into a teenager he became an active member of his local Ebenezer Baptist Church, studying the trombone and the violin, becoming proficient enough for the musical director to invite him to join the orchestra playing violin, in which he performed until the age of 18. Around that age he became more interested in the pulsating, rhythmic music he heard at a local Pentecostal church and took up the guitar. Continue reading Bo Diddley 6/2008

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Karlheinz Stockhausen 12/2007

Karlheinz StockhausenDecember 5, 2007 – Karlheinz Stockhausen was born on August 22, 1928 near Cologne in Germany. I have hesitated celebrating him in this Ode to Rock and Roll, because strictly spoken he is a composer of music. In the end I felt in favor of inclusion because so many rock performers have admitted to be influenced by the man’s incredible body of work created in electronic music. Pink Floyd, Zappa, the Who, Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Bjørk, Kraftwerk, the Beatles, all reflect his influence on their own avant-garde experiments as well as the general fame and notoriety he had achieved by that time.

As a composer he is widely acknowledged by critics as one of the most important composers of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Critics have called him “one of the great visionaries of 20th-century music”. He is known for his ground-breaking work in electronic music, aleatory in serial composition, and musical.

Continue reading Karlheinz Stockhausen 12/2007