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March 8, 2016 – George Martin (the Fifth Beatle) A trained musician, George Martin worked in the BBC’s classical department before moving to EMI and its subsidiary, Parlophone, producing jazz and classical as well as comedy records for Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Peter Ustinov. He was the genius producer behind a wave of hit British acts in the 1960s, including Gerry and the Pacemakers and Cilla Black, but it was his work with four other Liverpudlians that understandably overshadowed them all.

The Beatles auditioned for Martin on 6 June 1962, in studio three at the Abbey Road studios. Ron Richards and his engineer Norman Smith recorded four songs, which Martin (who was not present during the recording) listened to at the end of the session. The verdict was not promising, however, as Richards complained about Pete Best’s drumming, and Martin thought their original songs were simply not good enough. Martin asked the individual Beatles if there was anything they personally did not like, to which George Harrison replied, “Well, there’s your tie, for a start.” That was the turning point, according to Smith, as John Lennon and Paul McCartney joined in with jokes and comic wordplay, that made Martin think that he should sign them to a contract for their wit alone.

The Beatles’ second recording session with Martin was on 4 September 1962, when they recorded “How Do You Do It”, heavily modified by The Beatles which Martin thought was a sure-fire hit, even though Lennon and McCartney did not want to release it, not being one of their own compositions or style.[31] Martin was correct: Gerry & the Pacemakers’ version, which Martin produced, spent three weeks at No. 1 in April 1963, before being displaced by “From Me to You”. On 11 September 1962, the Beatles re-recorded “Love Me Do” with session player Andy White playing drums. Ringo Starr was asked to play tambourine and maracas, and although he complied, he was definitely “not pleased”. Due to an EMI library error, a 4 September version with Starr playing drums was issued on the British single release; afterwards, the tape was destroyed, and the 11 September recording with Andy White on drums was used for all subsequent releases. Martin would later praise Starr’s drumming, calling him “probably … the finest rock drummer in the world today”.[33] As “Love Me Do” peaked at number 17 in the British charts, on 26 November 1962 Martin recorded “Please Please Me”, which he did only after Lennon and McCartney had almost begged him to record another of their original songs. Martin’s crucial contribution to the song was to tell them to speed up what was initially a slow ballad. After the recording Martin looked over the mixing desk and said, “Gentlemen, you have just made your first number one record”. Martin directed Epstein to find a good publisher, as Ardmore & Beechwood had done nothing to promote “Love Me Do”, informing Epstein of three publishers who, in Martin’s opinion, would be fair and honest, which led them to Dick James.

Martin’s more formal musical expertise helped fill the gaps between the Beatles’ unrefined talent, and the sound which distinguished them from other groups, which would eventually make them successful. Most of the Beatles’ orchestral arrangements and instrumentation (as well as frequent keyboard parts on the early records) were written or performed by Martin, in collaboration with the less musically experienced band. It was Martin’s idea to score a string quartet accompaniment for “Yesterday”, against McCartney’s initial reluctance. Martin played the song in the style of Bach to show McCartney the voicings that were available. Another example is the song “Penny Lane”, which featured a piccolo trumpet solo that was requested by McCartney after hearing the instrument on a BBC broadcast. McCartney hummed the melody he wanted, and Martin notated it for David Mason, the classically trained trumpeter.

His work as an arranger was used for many Beatles recordings. For “Eleanor Rigby” he scored and conducted a strings-only accompaniment inspired by Bernard Herrmann. On a Canadian speaking tour in 2007, Martin said his “Eleanor Rigby” score was influenced by Herrmann’s score for the Alfred Hitchcock thriller, Psycho. For “Strawberry Fields Forever”, he and recording engineer Geoff Emerick turned two very different takes into a single master through careful use of vari-speed and editing. For “I Am the Walrus”, he provided a quirky and original arrangement for brass, violins, cellos, and the Mike Sammes Singers vocal ensemble. On “In My Life”, he played a speeded-up baroque piano solo. He worked with McCartney to implement the orchestral ‘climax’ in “A Day in the Life”, and he and McCartney shared conducting duties the day it was recorded.

Martin contributed integral parts to other songs, including the piano in “Lovely Rita”, the harpsichord in “Fixing a Hole”, the old steam organ and tape loop arrangement that create the Pablo Fanque circus atmosphere that Lennon requested on “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” (both Martin and Lennon played steam organ parts for this song), and the orchestration in “Good Night”. The first song that Martin did not arrange was “She’s Leaving Home”, as he had a prior engagement to produce a Cilla Black session, so McCartney contacted arranger Mike Leander to do it. Martin was reportedly hurt by this, but still produced the recording and conducted the orchestra himself. Martin was in demand as an independent arranger and producer by the time of The White Album, so the Beatles were left to produce various tracks by themselves.

Martin composed and arranged the score for the Beatles’ film Yellow Submarine and the James Bond film Live and Let Die, for which Paul McCartney wrote and sang the title song.[55] He helped arrange Paul and Linda McCartney’s American Number 1 single “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”.

Paul McCartney once commended Martin by saying: “George Martin was quite experimental for who he was, a grown-up.”

Film and composing work
Beginning in the late 1950s, Martin began to supplement his producer income by publishing music and having his artists record it. He used the pseudonyms Lezlo Anales and John Chisholm, before settling on Graham Fisher as his primary pseudonym.

Martin composed, arranged, and produced film scores since the early 1960s, including the instrumental scores of the films A Hard Day’s Night (1964, for which he won an Academy Award Nomination), Ferry Cross the Mersey (1965), Yellow Submarine (1968), and Live and Let Die (1973). Other notable movie scores include Crooks Anonymous (1962), The Family Way (1966), Pulp (1972, starring Michael Caine and Mickey Rooney), the Peter Sellers film The Optimists of Nine Elms (1973), and the John Schlesinger directed Honky Tonk Freeway (1981).

Martin oversaw post-production on The Beatles Anthology (which was originally entitled The Long and Winding Road) in 1994 and 1995, working again with Geoff Emerick. Martin decided to use an old 8-track analogue deck – which EMI learned an engineer still had – to mix the songs for the project, instead of a modern digital deck. He explained this by saying that the old deck created a completely different sound, which a new deck could not accurately reproduce. He also said he found the whole project a strange experience (and McCartney agreed), as they had to listen to themselves chatting in the studio, 25–30 years previously.

Martin stepped down when it came to producing the two new singles reuniting McCartney, Harrison, and Starr, who wanted to overdub two old Lennon demos. Martin had suffered a hearing loss, so he left the work to writer/producer Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra.
Martin’s contribution to the Beatles’ work received regular critical acclaim, and led to him being described as the “Fifth Beatle” (in 2016, Paul McCartney wrote that “If anyone earned the title of the fifth Beatle it was George”. However, he distanced himself from this claim, stating that assistant and roadie Neil Aspinall would be more deserving of that title.

In the immediate aftermath of the Beatles’ break-up, a time when he made many angry utterances, John Lennon trivialized Martin’s importance to the Beatles’ music. In his 1970 interview with Jann Wenner, Lennon said, “Dick James is another one of those people, who think they made us. They didn’t. I’d like to hear Dick James’ music and I’d like to hear George Martin’s music, please, just play me some.”

In a 1971 letter to Paul McCartney, Lennon wrote, “When people ask me questions about ‘What did George Martin really do for you?,’ I have only one answer, ‘What does he do now?’ I noticed you had no answer for that! It’s not a putdown, it’s the truth.” Lennon wrote that Martin took too much credit for the Beatles’ music. Commenting specifically on “Revolution 9”, Lennon said with ironic authority, “For Martin to state that he was ‘painting a sound picture’ is pure hallucination. Ask any of the other people involved. The final editing Yoko and I did alone.”

Lennon later retracted many of the comments he made in that era, attributing them to his anger. He subsequently spoke with great affection and fondness for Martin. In 1971 he said: “George Martin made us what we were in the studio. He helped us develop a language to talk to other musicians.”

Martin produced recordings for many other artists, including contemporaries of the Beatles, such as Matt Monro, Cilla Black, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas, The Fourmost, David and Jonathan, and The Action, as well as The King’s Singers, the band America, guitarists Jeff Beck, John McLaughlin and John Williams, sixties duo Edwards Hand, Gary Brooker, Neil Sedaka, Ultravox, country singer Kenny Rogers, UFO, Cheap Trick, Elton John, Little River Band, Celine Dion and Yoshiki Hayashi of X Japan.

Martin  produced 13 albums and 22 singles for the group between 1962 to 1970. His influence on The Beatles’ output is undeniable: he added strings to songs, encouraged the band to experiment with electronic sounds and harnessed recording techniques from his comedy days to play with backwards vocals and instrumentation.

Martin was among a small group – Phil Spector and Quincy Jones included – who revolutionized what a record producer could do, and an evidently inspirational figure for later generations.

George Martin died on 8 March, 2016 at the age of 90.

Among the many tributes left on Twitter, producer Mark Ronson wrote: “We will never stop living in the world you helped create.” 

According to Alan Parsons, he had “great ears” and “rightfully earned the title of “Fifth Beatle”. Julian Lennon called Martin “The Fifth Beatle, without question”.

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Derek WatkinsMarch 22, 2013 – Derek Watkins (Session musician) was born in Reading, Berkshire, England on March 2nd 1945. His horn is heard on the Beatles’ classics ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Penny Lane’, and Dizzy Gillespie called him “Mr Lead”.

The Watkins’ family was certainly a musical family, Derek’s great-grandfather William Watkins was a brass player in Wales with the Salvation Army band, whilst Derek’s grandfather George taught brass at Reading University, and became a founder member and conductor of the Spring Gardens Brass Band in Reading, England, until succeeded by Derek’s father, Ted.
Derek was initially taught to play the cornet by his father at the age of 4, and went on to play that instrument in the brass band, winning several musical awards. He also played with his father’s dance band until he turned a professional trumpet player at the age of 17.

Derek rose through the ranks of dance bands to become one of the most sought-after session players in the business. He recorded and worked with a wide range of artists, including Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Tom Jones, Count Basie, John Dankworth, Stan Tracey, the Ted Heath Orchestra, Benny Goodman, Henry Mancini, Maynard Ferguson, Kiri te Kanawa, the London Symphony Orchestra, Oasis, Robbie Williams, James Last, Leonard Bernstein, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, The Beatles, Elton John, Natalie Cole, Eric Clapton, and Kylie Minogue amongst many others.

Derek became acquainted with Dr Richard Smith – Doctor of Acoustics, at Boosey & Hawkes, where Derek had an association with them with regard to the manufacture of their instruments.

Following this period, Richard and Derek went on to set up their own manufacturing company, Smith-Watkins Instruments, where they initially manufactured and supplied both trumpets and cornets to the specific requirement and need of each individual.

Their association has lasted many years and has resulted in many of the top flight players both in the studio world and also in the Brass Band and Military world using the Smith-Watkins instruments.
Watkins has also played key roles in many film scores, including James Bond, Mission Impossible, The Mummy, Basic Instinct, Indiana Jones, Gladiator, Johnny English, Superman 1 & 2, Bridget Jones Diary and Chicago, where his trumpet solo opens the movie.

In later years Watkins branched out into composition, in collaboration with Colin Sheen and Jamie Talbot, and their work can be heard in the incidental music for the ITV Drama series Midsomer Murders and library music for KPM Music.
Derek was a Visiting Professor for trumpet to the Royal Academy of Music, and presented master class clinics at music colleges around Europe.

He died on March 22, 2013 after a two year battle with cancer.

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billy-prestonJune 6, 2006 – William EverettBilly” Preston (Beatles keyboards) was born on September 2, 1946 in Houston, Texas but raised mostly in Los Angeles, California.

When he was three, the family moved to Los Angeles, where Preston began playing piano while sitting on his mother Robbie’s lap. Noted as a child prodigy, Preston was entirely self-taught and never had a music lesson. By the age of ten, Preston was playing organ onstage backing several gospel singers such as Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland and Andraé Crouch. At age eleven, Preston appeared on Nat King Cole’s national TV show singing the Fats Domino hit, “Blueberry Hill” with Cole. Also at eleven, he appeared in the W.C. Handy biopic starring Nat King Cole: St. Louis Blues (1958), playing W.C. Handy at a younger age.

In 1962, Preston joined Little Richard’s band as an organist, and it was while performing in Hamburg that Preston met the Beatles. In 1963, he played the organ on Sam Cooke’s Night Beat album and released his own debut album, 16 Yr Old Soul, for Cooke’s SAR Records label. In 1965, he released the album The Most Exciting Organ Ever and performed on the rock and roll show Shindig! In 1967, he joined Ray Charles’ band. Following this exposure, several musicians began asking Preston to contribute to their sessions.

In addition to his successful, Grammy-winning career as a solo artist, Billy collaborated with some of the greatest names in the music industry, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Nat King Cole, Little Richard, Eric Burdon, Ray Charles, George Harrison, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, Johnny Cash, King Curtis, Sammy Davis Jr., Sly Stone, Aretha Franklin, the Jackson 5, Quincy Jones, Mick Jagger, Richie Sambora, Red Hot Chili Peppers and many others.

He played the Fender Rhodes electric piano and the Hammond organ on the Beatles’ Get Back sessions in 1969.

During the 1960s, Preston’s prowess with the piano was well known as he was one of the top session musicians of his day. He was adept at such wide-ranging music as gospel, R & B, soul, funk and rock, and backed such stellar acts as Little Richard, Sam Cooke and even the Beatles.

Having first met the Fab Four while touring with Little Richard’s band in the early ‘60s, Preston would hook up with them years later when they were working on their 1970 release “Let It Be.” The album was to be a revisiting of the band’s raw, live-in-the-studio sound as opposed to recent efforts, like the elaborate orchestration of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” or the surreal psychedelia of “Magical Mystery Tour.”

By 1969 when the Beatles went into the studio to record “Let It Be,” disagreements and rising tensions among the members were pushing them to the brink of breaking up. Guitarist George Harrison brought in Preston not only to play on the album but to help relieve some of the turmoil surrounding the band.

Preston played electric piano and Hammond organ on several of the tracks, but his distinctive, energetic work on the up-tempo “Get Back” helps make it one of the album’s brightest spots. Reaching number one around the world, the single even notched the young African-American musician a co-credit since it was billed as “The Beatles with Billy Preston,” making it the revered band’s only single that credited another artist.

John Lennon felt the American keyboardist was such a good fit that at one point during the sessions he proposed making him a full-fledged member of the band. This idea was quickly shot down by Paul McCartney, stating that things were difficult enough to agree upon with only four members. The group did, however, bring Preston along to perform with them at their famous rooftop concert above the Apple Studio headquarters while they were filming the making of the album. That impromptu concert on Jan. 30, 1969, turned out to be the final public performance of arguably the greatest band ever — and Preston was a part of it.

In 1971, Preston left Apple and signed with Herb Alpert’s A&M Records. The previous year, he contributed to another hit single when Stephen Stills asked to use Preston’s phrase “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with”, a song on Stills’ self-titled debut solo album.

billy-prestonFollowing the release of ‘I Wrote a Simple Song’ on A&M, Preston’s solo career peaked at this time, beginning with 1972’s “Outa-Space”, an instrumental track that further popularized the sound of the clavinet in funk music. The song reached number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and topped Billboard’s R&B chart, before going on to win the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. “Outa-Space” sold over 1 million copies in America, and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA in June 1972.

Over the next two years, Preston followed up with the US chart-topping singles “Will It Go Round in Circles” and “Nothing From Nothing”, and the number 4 hit “Space Race”. Each of the three singles sold in excess of 1 million copies. American Bandstand host and executive producer Dick Clark enjoyed “Space Race” so much that he used the instrumental for the mid-show break for virtually the remainder of its run.

Preston played keyboards (including piano, organ, clavinet and various synthesizers) for the Rolling Stones, sometimes alongside pianists Nicky Hopkins and Ian Stewart, on their albums Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main St, Goats Head Soup, It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll and Black and Blue.

As the band’s primary touring keyboardist from 1973 to 1977, he also performed as a support act with his own band (including Mick Taylor on guitar) on their 1973 European Tour. A Munich performance was documented in the live album Live European Tour 1973.

In 1974, along with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, he composed one of Joe Cocker’s biggest hits, “You Are So Beautiful”.

On October 11, 1975, he was the first musical guest on Saturday Night Live’s series premiere episode (along with Janis Ian). Preston’s 1973 song “Do You Love Me” was the basis for the Rolling Stones’ track “Melody”, released on Black and Blue in 1976.[citation needed] Although two of his songs (“Nothing from Nothing” and “Outa-Space”) were included in the band’s 1976 live sets, the Stones and Preston parted company in 1977, mainly due to a disagreement over money. He continued to play on solo records by Stones members and made appearances on the band’s 1981 Tattoo You and 1997 Bridges to Babylon albums.

Preston’s solo career began to decline after 1976. After five years with A&M, he signed with Motown Records. In 1980, he duetted with Syreeta Wright on the ballad “With You I’m Born Again”, which reached number 4 on the charts in the US.

In 1978, he appeared as Sgt. Pepper in Robert Stigwood’s film Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was based on the Beatles’ album of the same name, and sang “Get Back” as the penultimate song.

In 1980, he duetted with Syreeta Wright on the ballad “With You I’m Born Again”, which reached number 4 on the charts in the US. Failing thereafter to match its success, Preston left Motown in 1984 and focused for a while on session work. He served as musical director for Nightlife, a late-night talk show hosted by David Brenner that lasted one season from 1986 – 1987. After this his life was spiraling into addiction for a handful of years.

In 1991, Preston was arrested and convicted for insurance fraud after setting fire to his own house in Los Angeles, and he was treated for alcohol and cocaine addictions. In the same year, he was also arrested for sexually assaulting a 16-year-old Mexican boy, after picking him up at a gathering point for day laborers. After submitting to a drug test, he tested positive for cocaine. That year, he entered no-contest pleas to the cocaine and sexual assault charges. He was sentenced to nine months at a drug rehabilitation center and three months of house arrest.

Preston overcame his problems in the early 1990s, toured with Eric Clapton, recorded with Gary Walker, one of the vocalists in his Los Angeles-based band, and worked with a wide range of other artists. He also toured with Ringo Starr and appeared on the 1990 live album Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band. He was invited to become a member of The Band in 1991, after the death of piano player Stan Szelest. He performed on tour with the group, but the sentencing from his cocaine and sexual assault charges ended the collaboration.

In an interview for a 2010 BBC4 radio documentary on his life and career, Preston’s manager Joyce Moore revealed that after she began handling his affairs, Preston opened up to her about the lifelong trauma he had suffered as the result of being sexually abused as a boy. Preston told Moore that at about the age of nine, after he and his mother moved to Los Angeles from Houston to perform in a touring production of Amos ‘n’ Andy, he was repeatedly abused by the touring company’s pianist. When Preston told his mother about the abuse, she did not believe him, and failed to protect him. The abuse subsequently went on for the entire summer, and Preston stated that he was also later abused by a local pastor.[citation needed]

Another traumatic incident, which reportedly affected Preston deeply, occurred in the early 1970s, while he was engaged to actress/model Kathy Silva. At this time Preston had become close friends with musician Sly Stone, and made many contributions to Stone’s recordings of the period (including the landmark album There’s a Riot Goin’ On). According to Moore, Preston was devastated when he came home one day to find Stone in bed with Silva (who later famously married Stone on stage at Madison Square Garden). According to Moore, Silva’s affair with Stone was the trigger that led Preston to stop having relationships with women – it was after this incident that he began abusing cocaine and having sex with men, and Moore has stated that she saw his drug abuse as his a way of coping with the internal conflicts he felt about his sexual urges.

Preston overcame his problems in the early 1990s, toured with Eric Clapton, recorded with Gary Walker, one of the vocalists in his Los Angeles-based band, and worked with a wide range of other artists. In 1997, Billy Preston recorded the album You and I, in Italy, with Italian band Novecento. The album was produced by Vaughn De Spenza and Novecento members Lino and Pino Nicolosi.

In 1998, Preston played organ during the choir numbers on the UPN comedy show Good News. The same year he sang and played synthesizer in the film Blues Brothers 2000, as part of the super group, The Louisiana Gator Boys.

While touring and fighting his own health problems, Preston received the news that on November 29, 2001, George Harrison had died (having long suffered from throat cancer). Preston, among many of Harrison’s longtime friends, performed in the 2002 Concert for George at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Preston’s performance of “My Sweet Lord” received critical acclaim. Additionally, Preston sang “Isn’t It a Pity”, provided backing vocals on most of the other songs, and played the Hammond organ for the show. Ringo Starr called him one of the greatest Hammond players of all time (in the theatrical version of the concert).

In 2002, Preston appeared on the Johnny Cash album American IV: The Man Comes Around, playing piano on “Personal Jesus” and “Tear-Stained Letter”.

In 2004, Preston toured with the Funk Brothers and Steve Winwood in Europe, and then with his friend Eric Clapton in Europe and North America. After he finished touring with Clapton, Preston went to France, where he was featured in one episode of the Legends Rock TV Show. His performance included a duet with Sam Moore singing “You Are So Beautiful”; this was Preston’s last filmed concert.

In 2004, Preston performed as a jazz organist on Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company, an album of duets, on the song “Here We Go Again” with Charles and Norah Jones.

In March 2005, Preston appeared on the American Idol fourth season finale. Playing piano, he performed “With You I’m Born Again” with Vonzell Solomon (who finished the contest in third place). The same year, he recorded “Go Where No One’s Gone Before”, the main title song for the anime series L/R: Licensed by Royalty.

Preston played clavinet on the song “Warlocks” for the Red Hot Chili Peppers album Stadium Arcadium (2006). Although very ill by this point, he jumped out of his bed after hearing a tape of the song given to him by the band, recorded his part, and went back to bed.

Preston’s final recorded contributions were the gospel-tinged organ on the Neil Diamond album 12 Songs (2005), and his keyboard work on The Road to Escondido (2006) by Eric Clapton and JJ Cale.

In late 2005, Preston made his last public performance, in Los Angeles, to support the re-release of the 1972 movie The Concert for Bangladesh. Preston played a three song set of “Give Me Love”, “My Sweet Lord”, and “Isn’t It a Pity”, with Dhani Harrison and Ringo Starr joining on guitar and drums respectively for the last song.

He made his last public appearance in late 2005 at the Los Angeles press junket for the re-release of the Concert for Bangladesh movie. He was in good spirits and talked to many in the press. Afterwards he played a three song set of “Give Me Love”, “My Sweet Lord” and “Isn’t It a Pity”, featuring Dhani Harrison on guitar and Ringo Starr on drums for the final song only.

Although he received a kidney transplant in 2002, his health continued to deteriorate.  He was 59 when he died on June 6, 2006 of complications of malignant hypertension that resulted in kidney failure and other complications. He had been in a coma since November 21, 2005.

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Kevin MacMichaelDecember 31, 2002 – Kevin Scott MacMichael  was born on November 7, 1951 in New Brunswick, Canada. Coming from a musical background, his father played drums and his mother was a teacher, Kevin picked up the guitar while in school and began his life-long passion for playing this instrument and the Beatles. He must’ve been quite inspired, as he apparently then learned how to play over 200 Beatles songs on guitar! (212 to be exact).

He began his career playing in local bands on the East Coast of Canada in the late 1970’s, notably Chalice and in 1978 the band Spice. Spice featured another guitarist Floyd King, who Kevin would continue to collaborate with over the years. They released a few singles that are very difficult to find now, including “Prisoner of Love” and “Beautiful You”.

Not much is known about the early 1980’s, except that Kevin began working with a band called Fast Forward based in Halifax. The membership consisted of Kevin, Paul Eisan (bass), Floyd King (guitar), Floyd’s brother Alan King (keys) and Peter Large (drums). (The Halifax-based Fast Forward band should not be confused with a similar named band featuring Ian Lloyd and Canadian Bruce Fairbairn, who went on to become a famous rock record producer in his own right). During a tour of Canada with Fast Forward, Kevin met Nick Van Eede who was singing with another band called The Drivers. Nick was from England, but had been living and working with the Drivers in Canada for the past two years.The Drivers were under contract with Dallcorte Records. He was suitably impressed with Kevin’s guitar playing and at the end of that tour suggested that they should get together and form a new band. Fast Forward toured  act from England, The Drivers, in Canada.

Dallcorte Records’ had signed The Drivers but upon release of the The Drivers’ radio hit “Tears On My Anarak”, Leonard Rosenberg’s GreyMac Development Corporation, who was an investor in Dallcorte, had its assets frozen and was forced into bankruptcy after the Ontario Government halted a controversial condominium sale.

This left The Drivers stranded in Canada and their career in limbo. The band’s guitarist, Nick Van Eede, hooked up with Kevin MacMichael to write some songs. They then demoed the tracks with Terry Brown, who had produced The Drivers’ debut album, in Toronto and Van Eede soon convinced MacMichael to move to England and start up a new band.

In 1985 that band became The Cutting Crew — also featuring Colin Farley (bass) and Martin Beedle (drums) — who were signed to Virgin Records in September 1985 upon the strength of Eede and MacMichael’s songwriting. They worked up new songs and eventually recorded the first album, Broadcast, in studios in England and New York. The first single “(I Just) Died In Your Arms” was released and it went straight to the top of the charts. ‘Broadcast’ managed to spawn Virgin Records’ first two US hit singles: “(I Just Died) In Your Arms Tonight” and “I’ve Been In Love Before” plus a third charting single in “One For The Mocking Bird”. They subsequently received a Grammy nomination in 1987. The plan had worked and Kevin’s family was able to move to England to be with him.

This was Kevin’s most visible period, as the band put out three full albums and toured the world to promote them. The Cutting Crew hit #1 on Billboard and were big favorites on MTV in the late 1980’s. Kevin appeared with guitar in hand and was always seen in his trademark leather jacket (which some claim he never took off). He co-wrote some of the band’s biggest songs and the musical result of working with Nick Eede was nothing short of astonishing. Their partnership was very magical and produced some amazing songs that still resonate today. Anyone listening to Kevin’s distinct guitar work on the title track to “Broadcast” alone, must be impressed. Unfortunately this career highlight came to an end all too soon when Virgin Records was purchased by EMI in the early 1990’s. Cutting Crew’s amazing 3rd album “Compus Mentus” had just been recorded, and the new label not only didn’t promote it, but sadly dropped the band from the roster altogether. Corporate casualty!!!

After Cutting Crew’s untimely end, Kevin landed what was probably the hottest guitar-playing job available in 1993. He went to work with Robert Plant, the famous lead singer of Led Zeppelin. Plant had been a solo artist since 1980, and was looking for a new guitarist he could really identify with. Plant’s producer, Chris Hughes, recommended Kevin as a friend of his who had played guitar for the Cutting Crew. Interviews from the time described Kevin’s audition, with Plant being simply ‘blown away’ by his ability.

Together they recorded the fantastic “Fate Of Nations” album which is full of Kevin’s trademark guitar sound, notably on the song “Calling To You” where Kevin was also seen in the video. The result has been described by the Robert Plant Homepage as “probably Robert’s best piece of work.” Noted British music magazine “Q” gave the album four stars and called it one of the 50 best albums of 1993. Rolling Stone magazine also gave it four stars and described the “chimingly inventive guitar” of Kevin as being a key part of the devastating song “I Believe”.

“Fate of Nations” went on to sell over half a million copies and received a Grammy nomination, thanks no doubt in part to Kevin’s stellar guitar playing. The album’s single “Calling to You”, on which he played guitar, also resulted in a Grammy nomination. Besides co-writing three songs on the album, Kevin was named as the musical director for the touring band and in 1993 he toured with Plant throughout Europe to promote the album. It had been a whirlwind in the past few years and while on holiday in Greece during a tour break at the end of summer, Kevin decided it was time to come home. He returned to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia in Canada after leaving nine years earlier.

Having toured the world with two big bands, Kevin took a remarkbly simple approach and began producing the work of local artists. He joined his brother Reg who had started his own studio, “Soundpro Studios” and appeared at local events such as the East Coast Music Awards. Kevin continued to quietly work behind the scenes, playing, arranging and producing records for both established and up-and-coming artists and collaborated with a number of Canadian East Coast musicians including Chris Colepaugh & The Cosmic Crew, The Rankin Family and Sons of Maxwell.

During the time Kevin worked with Robert Plant, fellow guitarist and producer Phil Johnstone began working on a side-project called the Chernobyl Poppies. The album was recorded at the same time as Fate of Nations, and features Kevin on guitars and vocals. It was eventually released in the fall of 1996 and is still available online today.

As the 90’s came to a close, Kevin was busy playing guitar and singing in a unique touring Beatles tribute show, featuring ex-Beatle Pete Best. Demonstrating his vast knowledge of guitar classics, Kevin also appeared with his pal Floyd King and Best on drums. The show toured the East coast to rave reviews and delight from fans.

In early 2002, Kevin announced that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Support from family, friends and fans poured in from around the world and a fund was established to cover his medical costs. On March 28, 2002, a benefit concert was held for Kevin in Halifax. This amazing event, organized by some of his closest friends, showcased Kevin’s life and talent. The fact that well over 1,000 people attended was testament to Kevin’s popularity and his lasting impact upon Halifax and the East Coast music scene.

Throughout the remainder of the year, Kevin’s condition slowly worsened. The support of his family and friends however was unwavering. Kevin passed away quietly in the early morning of New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2002… at age 51.