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
November 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
April 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
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.
May 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.
March 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
March 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.
Feb 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.
June 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
December 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.