November 29, 2017 – Robert Bilbo Walker Jr. was born on February 19, 1937, on the Borden Plantation in Clarksdale, in the heart of the Mississippi Delta.
Walker was named after his father, Robert “Bilbo” Walker Sr., who was also nicknamed “Bilbo” — that’s how Walker Jr. acquired the nickname, which he hates. As he explains in the liner notes to Promised Land, people in his Clarksdale home would distinguish between his father and him by referring to them as Big Bilbo and Little Junior Bilbo. Later, after he began making a name for himself in Delta juke joints, Walker was called Chuck Berry Jr. Walker was a completely self-taught musician who played piano, guitar, and drums. He got his musical education thanks to his father, who would have “Little Junior Bilbo” playing piano behind a curtain at country juke joints around his native Clarksdale. Continue reading Robert Bilbo Walker 11/2017
May 11, 2017 – Corki Casey O’Dell was born Vivian J. Ray Casey on May 13, 1936 in Phoenix, Arizona where she grew up as teenage guitarists with the likes of Lee Hazlewood, Sanford Clark and Duane Eddy.
In 1956, she joined then-husband, guitarist Al Casey, playing rhythm guitar on Sanford Clark’s country, pop and R&B hit “The Fool,” which would later be recorded by Elvis Presley, among others. The tune was penned by songwriter-producer Lee Hazelwood, who would use O’Dell on several of the sessions he produced. Continue reading Corki Casey O’Dell 5/2017
Dec 21, 2014 – Udo Jürgens wasborn Udo Jürgen Bockelmann on September 30, 1934 in Klagenfurt, Austria. Udo grew up in the family castle Ottmanach in Kärnten with his brothers John (1931) and Manfred (1943). In 1939 he gets a harp (harmonica) as a present and he teaches himself to play national anthems on it. In 1942 he moves up the ladder with an accordeon and six years later he gets his formal music education at the conservatory of Klagenfurt in piano, singing and compositions.
In the 1950 he won a composer contest organized by Austria’s public broadcasting channel ORF with the song “Je t’aime” and he gets his music education on the road with the Udo Bolan band and several other reincarnations. The 50s is a long learning curve and his first record deal comes apart in a big flop and in 1956 he changes his artist name into Udo Jürgens.
March 13, 2014 – Reggie Tielman (Tielman Brothers) was born on May 20, 1933. Tielman was born in Makassar, Celebes, Dutch East Indies. Both his father, a KNIL captain named Herman Tielman, and his mother, Flora Laurentine Hess, were Indo-European. Aside from Reggie, the couple had 5 children: Reggie, Phonton, Loulou (Lawrence), and Jane (Janette Loraine). When the Japanese invaded the Indonesian Islands, the elder Tielman was imprisoned; Reggie and his siblings were taken care of by his mother. Together with his siblings Ponthon (4 August 1934 – 29 April 2000), Andy (30 May 1936 – 10 November 2011), Loulou (30 october 1938 – 4 August 1994) Jane Tielman (17 August 1940 – 25 juni 1993) they formed the Tielman brothers in 1945 in Surabaya, Indonesia.
After the Japanese surrendered in 1945, the family was reunited. A few years later, Reggie and his siblings were performing jazz standards at private functions using the musical training their father had given them. They were performing throughout nascent Indonesia, which had proclaimed its independence from the Netherlands after the Japanese surrender. The siblings’ repertoire included both American and traditional Indonesian music.
December 4, 2011 – Hubert Sumlin was born on November 16, 1931 near Greenwood, Mississippi, and grew up across the river in Hughes, Arkansas, where he took up the guitar as a child; by his teens he was playing for local functions, sometimes with the harmonica player James Cotton. The first time Sumlin saw Howlin’ Wolf in action, as he told Living Blues magazine in 1989, he was too young to get into the club, so he climbed on to some Coca-Cola boxes to peer through a window; the boxes shifted and Sumlin fell into the room, landing on Wolf’s head. After the gig, Wolf drove him home and asked his mother not to punish him. “I followed him ever since,” Sumlin said.
At the time Wolf was working with the guitarists Willie Johnson and Pat Hare, but Sumlin was occasionally permitted to sit in. Then, in 1953, Howlin’ Wolfleft the south for Chicago, where he would develop his music on the bustling club scene and in the studios of Chess Records. In spring 1954, he sent for Sumlin to join him, and soon afterwards the 23-year-old guitarist was heard on records such as Evil and Forty-Four, and a couple of years later the sublime Smokestack Lightning, though for a while he played second to more experienced guitarists like Johnson and Jody Williams.
June 3, 2009 – Koko Taylor was born Cora Walton on September 28, 1928 on a farm near Memphis, Tennessee. Her daddy was a sharecropper. She lived with her parents and five brothers and sisters in a “shotgun shack” with neither electricity nor running water. Although never professional singers, her parents used to sing enthusiastically while working the cotton fields, and she began to sing gospel in church. She also soaked up the blues played on local radio, which she and her siblings would surreptitiously perform with improvised home-made instruments, despite their father’s opposition.
By the time she was 11, both her parents had died and she too was forced to work in the cotton fields. But growing up, she and her five brothers and sisters had amused themselves by singing the blues, accompanying themselves on homemade instruments. (Their father did not discourage them, although he would have rather they sang gospel music.) Continue reading Koko Taylor 6/2009
July 3, 2007 – Boots Randolph was born Homer Louis Randolph III was born on June 3, 1927 in Paducah, Kentucky, where he grew up in the rural community of Cadiz.
When Boots Randolph was “tootin’ his horn”, he did more than just play the saxophone. More than just pop out music notes. And that’s why his saxophone sounded like it could sing…could talk…could almost speak to deaf ears! His ability was awesome. His versatile style still has no equal. He brought audiences to their feet ever since the early sixties, when his signature song– “Yakety Sax” — first hit the airwaves. It took off like gangbusters and turned the young musician into a celebrity, probably before some of his friends in the hills of Kentucky could even spell it!
April 13, 2005 – Johnnie Johnson (Johnny B Goode) was born July 8th 1924 in Fairmont, West Virginia. He began playing the piano in 1928. While serving in the US Marine Corps during WW II, he was a member of Bobby Troup’s all serviceman jazz orchestra, The Barracudas. After his return, he moved to Detroit and then Chicago, where he sat in with many notable artists, including Muddy Waters and Little Walter.
He moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 1952 and put together a jazz and blues group, The Sir John Trio. with the drummer Ebby Hardy and the saxophonist Alvin Bennett. The three had a regular engagement at the Cosmopolitan Club, in East St. Louis. On New Year’s Eve 1952, Bennett had a stroke and could not perform. Johnson, searching for a last-minute replacement, called a young man named Chuck Berry, the only musician Johnson knew who, because of his inexperience, would likely not be playing on New Year’s Eve. Although then a limited guitarist, Berry added vocals and showmanship to the group. When Bennett was not able to play after his stroke, Johnson hired Berry as a permanent member of the trio.
July 30, 2003 – Samuel Cornelius “Sam” Phillips was born on January 5, 1923 in Florence, Alabama and a graduate of Coffee High School. As a youngster he was intensely exposed to blues and became interested in music by African workers on his father’s cotton farm.
He became an important record producer, label owner, and talent scout throughout the 40s and 50s, and played an important role in the emergence of rock and roll as the major form of popular music in the 1950s.
He is most notably attributed with the discoveries of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash and is associated with several other noteworthy rhythm and blues and rock and roll stars of the period.
Sam was also founder of Sun Records, the studio that was vital to launching the careers of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Rufus Thomas and numerous other significant artists. As well as owning the Sun Studio Café in Memphis, he and his family founded Big River Broadcasting Corporation which owned and operated several radio stations in the Florence, Alabama, area, including WQLT-FM, WSBM, and WXFL.