December 8, 2017 – Vincent Nguini (Guitarist For Paul Simon) was born in Obala, Cameroon, West Africa in July 1952. Music and the understanding of it was the driving force behind his life’s ambitions from very early on.
He traveled around Africa in the early and mid-1970s, learning many regional guitar styles, before relocating to Paris in 1978. In Paris, long a recording center for music from French-speaking Africa, he studied music and did studio work with many African musicians. He joined the band of the Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango, who had an international hit in 1972 with “Soul Makossa,” and soon became its musical director. Continue reading Vincent Nguini 12/2017
November 30, 2017 – Zé Pedro (Xutos & Pontapés) was born José Amaro dos Santos Reis on September 14, 1956 in Lisbon Portugal.
Times were difficult as Portugal suffered under a right wing dictatorship and personal freedom was of no consequence. Dictator Salazar is firmly in power and crushes anything that does not fit his agenda without mercy: including the arrival of rock and roll. Using his heavy handed censorship and ubiquitous secret police to quell any type of opposition, life in Portugal was a far cry from today’s laid back holiday atmosphere.
November 21, 2017 – Wayne Cochran (The CC Riders) was born Talvin Wayne Cochran near Macon, Georgia, and grew up in roughly the same environs his idol James Brown and friend Otis Redding had, be it on the other side of the tracks.
After getting his start with various rock’n’roll outfits, in 1959 Cochran cut his first disc and the next five years would witness a succession of releases, most of which only made regional noise at best. One item however, would ultimately become Cochran’s greatest success, though in someone else’s hands. His lightly morbid but undeniably catchy original ‘Last Kiss’ hit the top of the charts in the summer of 1964 in a faithful treatment by Texans J. Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers. This classic “death disc” has since been covered by many, not least Pearl Jam, so at least the healthy royalties from whose versions, would come as an unforeseen blessing for Cochran in later years.
November 12, 2017 – Chad Hanks (American Head Charge) was born in 1971 in Los Angeles, California.
With vocalist friend Cameron Heacock he formed American Head Charge in 1997 after they met in 1995 in rehab in Minneapolis and emerged as major players from the late ’90s nu-metal boom. The success of their 1999 indie debut, Trepanation, caught the ear of mega-producer Rick Rubin (Metallica, Beastie Boys, Chili Peppers), who signed the band to his American Recordings label and got the group out to his allegedly haunted Los Angeles mansion to record 2001’s “The War of Art.” Metal magazines Kerang and Rough Edge each gave the album four-star reviews (out of five), and VH1 picked it as one of the “12 Most Underrated Albums of Nü Metal.” Continue reading Chad Hanks 11/2017
November 9, 2017 – Fred Cole was born August 28, 1948 in Tacoma, Washington and he moved with his mother to Las Vegas where he attended high school. Here he began his recording career in 1964, with his band, the Lords, at the Teenbeat Club, releasing a single titled “Ain’t Got No Self-Respect. “His next single, from 1965, was a promo-only called “Poverty Shack” b/w “Rover,” with a band named Deep Soul Cole.
In 1966 Cole’s band The Weeds gained notice in garage rock circles, and their only single, a 60s punk track called It’s Your Time (b/w Little Girl, Teenbeat Club Records), has become a collectors’ favorite. The A-side appeared on one of the Nuggets anthologies. The band was promised an opening slot on a Yardbirds bill at the Fillmore in San Francisco, but on their arrival found that the venue hadn’t heard of them. Continue reading Fred Cole 11/2017
November 7, 2017 – Pentti “Whitey” Glan was born on July 8, 1946 in Finland , just after World War II had come to an end and tensions with Russia were high. The family moved to Toronto Canada soon after.
Whitey Glan’s first serious band was the Canadian soul band The Rogues (later called Mandala) which he formed with keyboardist Josef Chirowski and bassist Don Elliot; they had worked together in other teenage bands like Whitey & The Roulettes. Mandala had their first hit single with “Opportunity” with original singer George Oliver, recorded at Chess Records.
In 1966 Glan played several shows with Mandala in Ontario and recorded the first two demo songs of his career (“I Can’t Hold Out No Longer” and “I’ll Make It Up To You”). Roy Kenner had replaced George Oliver. When they played their first shows in the USA they performed at the Whiskey A Go Go. They recorded their only album Soul Crusade in 1968 which produced a hit single (“Loveitis”) but they disbanded in 1969 after several line-up changes and poor album sales. Continue reading Whitey Glan 11/2017
October 22, 2017 – Scott Putesky (Marilyn Manson) aka Daisy Berkowitz was born on April 28, 1968 in Los Angeles, California.
After his high school years Putesky moved to Ft.Lauderdale and enrolled in a Graphic Design College. Putesky and Brian Warner (Marilyn Manson) met at a Fort Lauderdale club called The Reunion Room and later at a local after-party in December 1989. The two started creating the concept of Marilyn Manson & The Spooky Kids poking fun at American media hypocrisy and its obsessions with serial killers and beautiful women. (Marilyn Monroe vs Charles Manson and Daisy Duke vs David Berkowitz)
Putesky, who had at this point developed his own poetry but not yet worked lyrics into his music, began to meet up with Warner and brainstorm character and show/event ideas, after Warner asked for help starting a band as a creative outlet for his poetry writing. Continue reading Scott Putesky 10/2017
October 18, 2017 – Phil Miller (In Cahoots) was born on January 22, 1949 in Barnet, Hertfordshire, to Mavis (nee Dale), a librarian, and David Miller, a wartime lieutenant colonel in the Royal Marines and later head of commodities at the Stock Exchange. He was educated at Blackfriars boarding school, in Laxton, Northamptonshire, from where he occasionally truanted at night, hitch-hiking to London clubs to hear his musical heroes play, and returning unmissed in time for early-morning mass.
A self-taught guitarist, he formed his first band, Delivery, at 17, and played regularly upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s in London, backing visiting blues legends.
In 1971 he became a vital figure on the “Canterbury scene” when Robert Wyatt, who had just left Soft Machine, recruited Phil to join his new band, Matching Mole. The “scene”, noted for the frequent absence of the electric guitar as a lead instrument, boasted Phil as its undisputed exponent. Continue reading Phil Miller 10/2017
October 17, 2017 – Gord Downie was born February 6, 1964 in Amherstview, Ontario, and raised in Kingston, Ontario, along with his two brothers Mike and Patrick. He was the son of Lorna (Neal) and Edgar Charles Downie, a traveling salesman. In Kingston, he befriended the musicians who would become The Tragically Hip, while attending the downtown Kingston high school Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute.
Downie formed the Tragically Hip with Rob Baker, Johnny Fay, Davis Manning, and Gord Sinclair in 1983. Saxophone player Davis Manning left the band and guitarist Paul Langlois joined in 1986. Originally, the band started off playing cover songs in bars and quickly became famous once MCA Records president Bruce Dickinson saw them performing at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto and offered them a record deal. Continue reading Gord Downie 10/2017
October 4, 2017 – Alvin DeGuzman (The Icarus Line) was born in Manila in the Philippines on December 3, 1978.
When he was 4 years old the family moved to the US.He attended Holy Family School in South Pasadena and graduated from Loyola High School in Los Angeles in 1997. He also attended Cal Poly Pomona.
Alvin was a talented musician and passionate artist. While in High School he became a founding member of the indie punk rock band The Icarus Line, where he played the guitar both left and right handed, and also played bass and keys. The Icarus Line was the successor to high school friend Joe Cardamone’s first musical effort named “Kanker Sores”. Continue reading Alvin DeGuzman 10/2017
October 2, 2017 – Skip Haynes was born Eugene Heitlinger in Franklin Park Illinois in 1946. He graduated East Leyden High School in 1963. When it comes to rock music being the sound track to our boomer generation, there are certain songs that stand out and stay a perennial anthem such as Scott McKenzie’s San Francisco (Wear some flowers in your hair), Steve Goodman’s City of New Orleans and the song Skip Haynes wrote and performed about Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive.
Haynes was born Eugene Heitlinger, but a club manager told him early in his career there wasn’t enough room on the marquee for that. Since his grandfather called him Skippy, he decided to take the name Skip Haynes. Continue reading Skip Haynes 10/2017
September 18, 2017 – Mark Selby was born in September 2, 1961. Born and raised in Enid, Oklahoma, Selby spent his youth harvesting wheat and playing in bands throughout the Midwest before moving to Hays, Kansas to attend Fort Hays University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music.
He was musically gifted in three ways: as a songwriter, a singer with a soulful voice and a guitarist with some impressive chops. His future as a blues rock singer-songwriter, guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and producer started in Germany, where he signed as a solo artist to ZYX Records. Continue reading Mark Selby 9/2017
September 13, 2017 – GrantHart (Hüsker Dü) was born in St. Paul, MN on March 18, 1961 and at the age of 10, he inherited his older brother’s drum set and records, after he was killed by a drunk driver. Hart described his family as a “typical American dysfunctional family. Not very abusive, though. Nothing really to complain about.” He soon began playing in a number of makeshift bands throughout high school. Continue reading Grant Hart 9/2017
September 12, 2017 – Jessi Zazu (Those Darlins) was born Jessi Zazu Wariner in Nashville Tennessee in 1989.
When Jessi Zazu was just a little girl, her mother Kathy says, she would wrap her fingers around the neck of a guitar and strain to play. She would not give up. Though she was the tiniest creature in her remarkable family of drawers, painters, players and all-around makers, Jessi knew she was destined to make a sound that was bigger than all of them. F*** the laws of physics. She was going to play that guitar like ringing a bell. The indie rock band that she fronted from 2006 to 2016 called Those Darlins, was hugely popular for its unique style that mixed genres like garage rock and punk with bluegrass and country. Continue reading Jessi Zazu 9/2017
September 5, 2017 – Rick Stevens (Tower of Power) was born Donald Stevenson on February 23, 1941 in Port Arthur, Texas, but didn’t stay there long, as a few years later his parents moved to Reno, Nevada. Rick first sang in public at the tender age of four, when his family set him up on a chair in front of the congregation at their church.
While growing up Rick was greatly influenced by his uncle, singer Ivory Joe Hunter, who was his mother’s younger brother. There was always a great deal of excitement when Uncle Ivory Joe came to visit on breaks from touring around the country with his band. Rick decided early on that he wanted to be a singer, just like his uncle. Ivory Joe was a not only a ground-breaking performer in what at the time was referred to by the record labels as “race music”, he was also a prolific songwriter with hundreds of songs to his credit.
Elvis Presley invited Ivory Joe to Graceland in 1957, and they spent the day singing together, including Ivory Joe’s hit “I Almost Lost My Mind”, among other songs. Hunter commented, “He is very spiritually minded … he showed me every courtesy, and I think he’s one of the greatest”. Elvis recorded five songs written by Ivory Joe: “My Wish Came True” (Top 20), “I Will be True”, “It’s Still Here”, “I Need You So”, and “Ain’t That Loving You Baby” (Top 20).
Like many musically talented teenagers in the late 1950’s Rick was interested in doo-wop, and he joined a singing group called the “Magnificent Marcels”. In the early 1960’s Rick performed in nightclubs around Reno, where he was known as “Mr. Twister”.
Having moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-60’s Rick continued his singing career, fronting various bands that played in local nightclubs. Rick’s bands included “Rick and the Ravens”, and “The Rick Stevens Four” (or Five, depending on how many people were in the band).
Rick joined “Four of a Kind” in 1966, initially in San Francisco, later moving with the band to Seattle. After a short time, Rick moved back to the Bay Area and joined a band called “Stuff”, in which one of the other members was Willie James Fulton (guitar and vocals). Rick and Willie James left “Stuff” and joined Tower of Power at about the same time as drummer David Garibaldi in 1969 and later replaced Rufus Miller as lead vocalist after Rick sang the diamond hit, “Sparkling in the Sand” on Tower of Power’s first album, EAST BAY GREASE. (The only song on that album that made any impact). The next Tower of Power album to hit the charts was BUMP CITY in 1972, and that record features Rick’s signature song, “You’re Still a Young Man”. The album also includes other hits such as “Down to the Night Club” and “You Got to Funkafize”.
Although he is not credited on the third album, the self-titled record, TOWER OF POWER, Rick initially sang all the lead vocals. He also contributed background vocals, which were retained on the record when it was released. The album features several hits such as, “What is Hip”, “Soul Vaccination”, and “Get Your Feet Back on the Ground”, and of course, “So Very Hard to Go”. Rick’s increasing drug dependency lead to Lenny Williams taking over lead vocals, as Rick left the band in 1973 to pursue other avenues of his musical career. After leaving Tower of Power, Rick joined a Bay Area band called “Brass Horizon”, a popular band with a big horn section.
The Stanford Daily – February 25, 1975
Former Tower Singer Heads Brass Horizon By JOAN E. HINMAN
SAN FRANCISCO – Quick – name Tower of Power’s two biggest hits. Maybe you said “So Very Hard To Go”, the single off Tower’s third album. But if you’re a deranged purist, you named “Sparkling In The Sand”, from East Bay Grease, and “You’re Still A Young Man”, the monster hit off Bump City in 1971.
It was “You’re Still A Young Man” that established Tower as national stars, removing them from the realm of San Francisco funk forever. The song’s amazing success can be explained in two words — Rick Stevens. Stevens emerged as Tower’s lead singer after the success of “Sparkling In The Sand”, the only song on the band’s first album on which he sang lead…
… the excellent set performed by Stevens and his new band, Brass Horizon, Saturday at Yellow Brick Road marks the return of one of the finest vocalists ever to hit the City. The new band, Brass Horizon, is every bit as tight and biting as the famed Tower brass…
…Stevens proved that his voice can still get down and growl on dance tunes, as well as sweep up to carry the pure melody of “You’re Still A Young Man”. … the fine Rick Stevens stage presence that on past occasions made Winterland feel as homey as a living room was evident Saturday. Smiling and jiving with the “mamas” on the dance floor, Stevens was clearly back in the atmosphere he likes best—putting out get-down, good time music.
Then in 1976 it gets quiet around Rick Stevens for the next 36 years as he is sentenced to life in prison for a triple homicide in a drug deal gone wrong. Addicted to drugs he had shot and killed 3 men in a botched deal.
In 2012 Stevens was released on parole. He then formed Rick Stevens & Love Power, which regularly played in Northern California. He also occasionally sat in with Tower of Power, including an appearance at a January 2017 benefit concert for former band members that were hit by a train in Oakland’s Jack London Square.
Rick Stevens passed away on September 5, 2017 after a short battle with liver cancer.
“Rick Stevens went to heaven today to be with the Lord whom he loved with all his heart. Rick was an extremely soulful singer and entertainer who had an engaging personality and a strong faith which he shared with all he came in contact with,” Tower of Power founder Emilio Castillo wrote on the band’s Facebook page.“We loved him and we’ll miss him. I have faith that I’ll see him in heaven someday and together we’ll worship and glorify God together for eternity. Rick is there right now enjoying it!!!”
July 9, 2017 – Erik Cartwright (FOGHAT) was born on July 10, 1950 in New York City and grew up in Minisink Hills, Pennsylvania. A 1968 graduate of East Stroudsburg High School, he became one of the area’s prominent rock guitarists, alongside his friend G.E. Smith. Erik’s first gig as a professional musician was with the band Dooley in Allentown, PA.
In 1970-1971 he studied at the famous Berklee School of music before His early guitar work is featured on singer Dan Hartman’s It Hurts to Be in Love (1981). His first album as a co-leader was the self-titled debut of Tears (1979), with Nils Lofgren on piano. Right after he had just recorded the Tears album the invitation to join Foghat, and replace original lead guitarist Rod Price, came. Continue reading Erik Cartwright 7/2017
July 6, 2017 – Melvyn “Deacon” Jones was born December 12, 1943 in Richmond Indiana. By the time he was a teenager, Deacon was proficient on trumpet and performed with his brother Harold in the high school band. Harold Jones later became a famed jazz drummer.
After graduating in 1962, Jones was a founding member of Baby Huey and the Babysitters with Johnny Ross and James Ramey. After paying a few dues in the Gary area, Deacon and the band set up shop in Chicago where they played five nights a week for five years, according to USA Today. During that time, Jones managed to further his musical education at the prestigious American Conservatory of Music.Continue reading Melvyn Deacon Jones 7/2017
June 27, 2017 – Dave Rosser (Afghan Whigs) was born David Clark Rosser in St.Louis, Missouri on August 3, 1966. Raised in Gadsden, Alabama is where he first learned to play guitar and started what became a lifelong passion. After high school, David attended college and eventually moved to Memphis, where he worked in the family business for a short time. His calling as a career musician was apparent, and it led him to Auburn, Alabama, then finally to New Orleans in 1992.
He adopted New Orleans as his beloved city, and here his career took shape. He spent many years with the band Metal Rose, played throughout the French Quarter, and did studio work with many area musicians.Continue reading Dave Rosser 6/2017
June 17, 2017 – Sonny Knight was born in 1948 in Mississippi and around 1955 moved to Minnesota with his grandmother. He grew up in the Rondo suburb of St.Paul where he was exposed to the urban music of the era such as bepop, soul and r&b.
At age 17 in 1965 he recorded his first (and only) 45rpm single as Little Sonny Knight & The Cymbols, titled “Tears On My Pillow” B/W “Rain Dance”. Shortly thereafter, music took a back seat to a three-year stint in the army. A few more years in the Bay Area followed, before he returned to Minnesota in the mid-1970s and joined the now-cult favorite funk group Haze. By the early ‘80s, Haze had broken up and Sonny walked away from music for a full time job as a truck driver.
It was not until after retiring from long-haul trucking that Sonny Knight came back to music. The following interview perfectly describes this talented soul musician’s rebirth in his sixties; sadly cut way too short by cancer.
The Twin Cities music community was dealt a hard blow this weekend with the passing of Sonny Knight, an endlessly charismatic and powerful soul singer whose history on local stages dates all the way back to the early 1960s. From cutting his first 45 as Little Sonny Knight back in 1965 to recording his final album with the Lakers this past fall, Sonny’s experiences span almost the entire time that soul music has been captured on tape in the state of Minnesota.
One of the things that’s managed to comfort me since learning about Sonny’s passing has been remembering back to all of the times I was able to speak with him about his memories and hear his stories. I’ve gotten a chance to interview Sonny several times over the past four years, here in the Current’s studios and also while researching my book about the Twin Cities funk and soul scene and the roots of the Minneapolis Sound. Today, I’d like to share a deep-diving, career-spanning interview that I conducted with Sonny in the spring of 2015 as part of my book research; though small portions will appear in the text of the book, the majority of it has been sitting unpublished in my notes until now.
When I asked Sonny to do the interview, he suggested that we meet at the entrance to the Milwaukee Avenue Historic District in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, so we could walk through the rows of carefully preserved houses and contemplate the ways our society chooses to preserve some histories and forget others. Sonny was deeply thoughtful like that — and kind, too. He would greet me with a hug every time I saw him, and kept making sure I was getting what I needed for this interview and every other one we did together.
As we sat on a park bench and looked down the row of old railroad houses, Sonny walked me through his life story, touching on many of the different musical projects he’s been involved with over the years and sharing the lessons he’s learned along the way. Sometimes while telling a story, he couldn’t help but break out into song. At times I had to pinch myself that such a sweet soul man was quietly serenading me there on that bench as we watched the birds fly overhead and squirrels run past.
The interview is a long one — we ended up talking for nearly two hours — but I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving anything out. I hope you’ll find it as enlightening as I did.
Andrea Swensson: I was curious, first of all, how you ended up in Minnesota. You moved here with your grandmother?
Sonny Knight: Yeah. It was back in the ‘50s. I would say it must have been about ’55 that I moved from Mississippi up to here, and that was with my grandmother. It was a good thing. I enjoyed leaving Mississippi. It gives you more room to grow up here.
What were some of the differences you noticed right away when you got here?
One of the things, being a kid, was you come from down south, you come from red clay. The dirt is red. And then you come up here, it’s black dirt and big old black ants and stuff like that. The day-to-day living, the neighborhoods, it was everybody in the neighborhood; it’s not just one color of people in the neighborhood.
What area of St. Paul did you live in?
Pretty much over I would say like the Selby-Dale area, between University and Selby, in that area there.
When I have heard stories about Rondo I get the sense that everybody knew everybody, like it was kind of a small town within a city. Did you get to know your neighbors well?
The only part of Rondo that I knew back in that day would consist of between Western and Dale Street, more or less. That was like what I knew of the black town of Rondo, and Rondo would be like 94, kinda like down right there on 94. [There were] a lot of juke joints and different things, and business was going along over there on Rondo. I went to school at McKinley grade school, which was near Mackubin and Concordia — which used to be Mackubin and Rondo, back in the day.
When you started getting interested in music, did you go out to any of the clubs around there?
Nah, I didn’t do too much clubbing or anything like that. When I started singing with these cats, I just got into some of the halls that they would rent — these were the only things that I could basically get into. I remember playing some gigs at the University of Minnesota for some sorority house deals back in the day, but not really into the clubs. I could go into The Western Lounge, which was on Western and St. Anthony over there, and they had the best Coney Island – oh my god. You could get maybe seven of them for a dollar. At that point in time I did manage to see – what was his name – a blues guy. Jimmy Reed. I did get to see him up there in the Western Lounge. But I really couldn’t get into the other places. I was too young.
If you didn’t have access to see much live music, what made you wanna do it? What was your inspiration?
Television. You look at Elvis Presley up on television doing what he does, and I guess if music is in you, that’s gonna be what you wanna do. And then gospel – going to church with my grandmother, you see these gospel cats playing guitars and you know you can see the spirit is moving somebody, and they’re just jammin’ and they’re doin’ what they’re doin’. So yeah, there was something in music that way. Then I’d listen to the phonograph. My aunt had gospel records. She had old Sam Cooke records, Otis Redding. So that kind of got music in me, and then the doo-wop days – you’re hanging out the guys and you’re [starts singing “there goes my baby”], like sitting here in the park or something like that, and cats get together and they start singing. So it was those things, too, that got me going. Cats like Herman Jones [of the Exciters], he used to live kinda across the street kitty corner from me down on Central and Arundel back in the day.
Did you know him well?
Yeah, I knew him back in the days. People started putting bands together at that point in time that I had joined The Bluejays, and then I started noticing the other bands that were out and about playing and doing different things. Then I graduated from that into other bands — Soul Sensation, which ended up turning into Haze.
I noticed that on the 45 you recorded back in the ‘60s, it said “Sonny Knight and the Cymbals.” Is that different from The Bluejays?
The Cymbals was these other three guys that came along and did just the background singing on that song that I had, so they put “Sonny Knight and the Cymbals.” But the band was The Bluejays. That’s who I was with, and these guys, The Cymbals, they came in, they laid down the tracks, but we never did go out and perform together.
How did you meet your Bluejays bandmates?
It was back in the day where you could get these little reel-to-reel recorders for about $20, so my aunt got me one and I was messin’ around with it at home, and I got to singing on it. And then a friend of mine that I went to school with came by my house, and I was playing it for him and he heard it and said, “That sounds cool, man. That you singin’?” “Yeah, that’s me.” “You can sing!” Blah blah blah, and next thing you know, “Hey, man, you oughtta come and check out my brother’s band.” So we checked it out and they had me audition for the band, and then next thing you know I got the job. But I was auditioning against another cat that was kind of a rough dude in the neighborhood, and I’m like is this cat gonna beat my butt because I beat him out or what? But, no, it worked out real cool. I ended up with them guys and we started playing little things here and there, and that gave me a little more experience into playing, understanding singing, getting out a little bit more into the music world.
What years were you active in that group?
I’m gonna say ’64 maybe, because I joined the military in ’66. I had just turned 18 then. So I’m gonna say about ’64.
And then you made the record in ’65?
Yeah. Then everybody went military-bound, more or less, and done their thing, and that was the end of the band. Then I got out of the military and I ended up with Haze and started doing things with him.
What year did you come back?
Got back in ’69.
So you were gone about three years. What would you say changed about the music scene in that time?
What changed? It went from doo-wop to more like Sly and The Family Stone — [starts singing “Dance to the Music”] — Woodstock, Joan Baez, all this other stuff started happening then, kind of a changing of things. Everybody was revolutionaries and right on, peace and flower power.
I know there was a lot going on with the venues in the late ‘60s too — black music venues trying to move into downtown and then getting shut down.
I don’t like to say things about people and things, but I guess it’s what it is. Mostly white cats got the good gigs at different clubs and things like that. Our case, there was like basement parties you start off playing at — whatever things you could get into, which we called like a chitlin circuit, where it was mostly black people playing.
The chitlin circuit — how would you describe that?
Lower class places where black folks go, not really paying a lot of monies for anything. It’s like what’s left of the hog. This is what you get. It’s not the big ham or the bacon or anything like that. It’s the chitlins of that, so the lower class, in the bowels of everything. Those were the kind of places that we were playing. And then to get a crossover of things going on, at that point in time the Commodores, Earth, Wind and Fire and different things like that was coming on. That was more of a crossover of music, and a lot of people of all colors were into those kinds of music, and then boom, up popped disco and stuff like that. I think I’m moving a little too fast here.
I definitely want to talk about Haze before we get to disco. So you came back in about ’69. Did you jump right back into music?
Yeah, I got back and Haze was doing a thing underneath the name of Soul Sensation, at that point in time. And I ended up rehearsing and playing a little bit with them, not really doing a whole lot, but just dibbling and dabbling into the music game, and that’s when I left and moved to the Bay area. I got out in ’69, so messed around here until like the later part of ’70, ’71, then I moved to the Bay.
How long were you there?
And it was a totally different band when you came back.
Yeah, they had released an album, and they had this song “I Do Love My Lady,” which had hit the charts and was doing pretty doggone good. So their singer, when I got back from California, was no longer with them – Chita – I ended up taking his place. They accepted me back into it, and I just dived right into it, and it was just amazing watching them write collectively, and just kinda come together, put things together. The camaraderie of the brothers, and how everybody kinda got along, and the magic that it had, it was growing. It was just amazing, and I was really proud to be a part of it. They had more of a crossover than a lot of the other predominantly black bands that was out happening. They played more white clubs and different things — Purple Barn way out in Burnsville, and other places around.
Why did they appeal to more of a mixed audience, do you think?
I would say because all they did was a lot of original music; because maybe they had their album out and their song was on the Billboard charts. The album probably had a lot to do with it. I don’t know, because the cats ended up with The Jackson Five at the auditorium at St. Paul and all kind of stuff like that, so they had that magic. They had that fire that was goin’ on.
Was there radio here in town that would play Haze?
KUXL would play Haze. When we left to go to the East Coast, I believe it was KMOJ at that point in time, and they would be playing some of the stuff that Haze had goin’ on.
What kind of venues do you remember playing with Haze?
One of the main ones I remember that we used to have a lot of fun at was the Jockey Lounge. Jockey Lounge was down on West 7th Street just before you get ready to cross that bridge to go towards the airport, in that little shopping mall to your right, right there. And it would be packed each and every time we would play there. And they would bring in some other acts from Michigan, guys that was really hot, playin’ some good stuff. I enjoyed playing there with them, and when we went out to the East Coast we played D.C., Philadelphia and some other venues around the Philadelphia area, and did some recording in Philly. And there was the memorable days of going to California together on an old school bus, and getting out there and things not being quite what it was supposed to be —and actually were starving, trying to make ends meet. I think out of that we ended up getting a job in Lake Tahoe at Harris’s Casino. We went through a lot together – different things – traveling about here and there and stuff like that.
Was it common at that time for bands to go to California to try to connect with the bigger music industry?
Yeah. That was why I went out there, because I was listening to Tower of Power, Sly and the Family Stone, stuff like that. And it seems like California is the place you oughta be. So I loaded up and moved to Oakland. I played with a band out there called Herbie Mem’s East Bay Band. Through Herbie I got to meet a lot of good people. I met Freddie Hubbard, Pharaoh Sanders, Larry Graham — when Larry was putting together Graham Central Station. It started out as Hot Chocolate. Sometimes in the parks and places that we would play, his band would come there and play too. That was his wife’s band, and he was managing the band. Through our drummer, I got to meet Larry and got to know him a little bit out there, and then when he took the bass player that he had in the band out and put himself there and started calling it Graham Central Station, next thing I know the San Francisco papers started writing about Graham Central Station, Larry Graham, and it took off. I go, I must be in the right place.
In the ‘60s and ‘70s, that’s when a lot of the freeways were going in here. What impact did you see? I’m curious if there were any music venues closed, or any impact on the music community from the highways going in?
Yeah. It pretty much took out the Rondo scene — what old Rondo was. Sometimes that’s the sad part about up here. They tear down everything that has anything. They took out a lot of good businesses, and people kind of scattered. They’re still scattering way out to suburbia and somewhere now instead of the inner city, and then that part of the inner city — a lot of people started moving from suburbia back into the city and reclaiming those parts of Rondo, like on Selby and Dale. They used to have the Old Louisiana Restaurant there. They still got one there, but it’s nothing like what the old one used to be. The mom and pop variety stores, drug stores and different things like that, are all gone to the new modern convenience of one drugstore to serve them all or what have you. Ace Hardware now instead of mom and pop’s hardware. So a lot of things are missing and gone. People scatter.
One thing I’m really interested in, zooming out into the big picture, is musicians who influence each other over time. I’m wondering if you have any memories of either people that came up before you that you learned from in the community, or if there were young kids coming out to your shows that then started their own bands, who were learning from what you guys were doing in Haze.
I don’t know too much about people learning from us and me, but there was some cats that influenced me — like the Amazers, which was a local group with Napoleon Crayton singing the lead. That guy’s voice was phenomenal. At that point in time, what am I, 14, 15 years old? Listening to this cat singing this song, which was almost like a gospel song, “It’s You For Me,” it just makes you wanna cry it felt so good.
Other cats — like I got to meet and know Willie Weeks. Willie Weeks played with the Mystics, then he went on to play with Donnie Hathaway, Three Dog Night and all these people, and Wynonna Judd. I remember Willie back in the day; big influence. I remember Al Jarreau coming through here. I think Al Jarreau was living over in Milwaukee or something at that point in time, and I remember he came through here. Rockie Robbins, who also played with the Mystics back in the day — he also did a recording, and then the next thing you know he was on the Johnny Carson Show. So I’m like wow, look at these cats. And then Prince jumps out and starts doing his thing. This was pretty much during the time that I was with Haze, that he was evolving. And then The Time coming up and doing their thing – Alexander O’Neal and everybody getting in. And then I kinda started wondering what happened to me. Where did things go? So many cats that did so many good things as far as what was happening musically around, and it was a pretty cool thing.
Were you friends with these younger bands, Prince and The Time?
We’re friends by association in music. I never really talked a lot to Prince or anything like that. I just remember one time that we were playing at The Thunderbird Motel, which used to be out on 494, and his band was over on one side of the room of the hotel there, and our band, Haze, was on the other thing playing in another room somewhere. So that’s what I knew of him.
When would you say things wrapped up with Haze?
Whenever that thing came out in City Pages, about Haze being rediscovered and this lady found the record in the dumpster. That was pretty much the end of it right there. The rebirth of it, trying to bring it back — Google trying to come in and work with us, and cats couldn’t get it together. As time went by, they’d either grown bitter or just grew apart, I guess. That was the last time, because the conga player, Michael Lopez, came back up. He was living in Florida, so they flew him back in for this reunion deal with everybody being back together here, and he came up and we did this one little thing over at 7th Street Entry for Google. We recorded that, and then Michael went back down to Florida, and we was looking to see if things would come back together, but it just didn’t. And Michael died of pancreatic cancer. So that was that. Chita died of course a long time ago. What was that, maybe four or five years ago? Four years ago?
I think that was 2010.
Somewhere back there. So that was pretty much the end of Haze right there. We ended this thing. I’m going, like, wow man, we got a chance to come back and do it, and it was good to see everybody. I’m not a very religious person, and these cats were like whatever the lord wants us to do, blah blah blah — wait to see what He wants us to do. I’m like, man, that ain’t working for me. If the lord is gonna give you something, he sends you something down here and you said no I don’t want that, I’m waiting for this — then next thing you know there ain’t nothin’ else comin’ by for you to wait for. I was saying we need to jump on board, start letting people know we’re here and start putting some kind of show together. Let’s start doing it. And then there’s one group of guys over here saying let’s do this, and the other group of guys saying no we’re gonna do it like this. Now they’re split; and that’s what happened. I’m gonna move on. So I just went on and looking other places, and I ran into a couple of bands — people that wanted to do something and wanted to add me into it for their agenda. I was very unhappy going down that road. I guess that’s another story.
What do you mean by that? What was going on?
I’ve always believed if I’m gonna be a part of the band I’m gonna be a good soldier because I know military like that. So if I’m in the band I’m in the band, all the way, to be the best that we can be, to make the band shine and do what we do. Being in other people’s bands, I had to realize that this is their band. This is not yours. This is theirs, so they wanna do it that way, nothin’ you can do but do it that way or quit and go home. So I learned how to stick and stay. And then I learned how to try and shine whenever it was spotlight time; you get to sing the lead on this song. OK, sing your song, boom. And I tried to put everything I had into it so people could say there’s something about that guy there. I don’t know. It got to be frustrating at times dealing with people that had their own agendas. I was living like that until The Lakers came along.
I wanted to ask you about joining into the reunited Valdons – had you seen them back in the ‘70s?
Yeah, I knew of them back in the day when I was with Haze. That difference right there with them cats was they was playing a lot of cover stuff and pretty much doing things to more of a black audience instead of a crossover. They’d come out more suited up, whereas Haze would come out with stuff that we made up in our heads and had a seamstress put together, with polyester and gigantic bellbottoms; we were like Earth, Wind and Fire, whereas these cats would come out looking like The Temptations or The Stylistics or somebody of that era. Monroe Wright came to me at one point maybe 20-some years ago – he had came back from California and said he wanted to put together this group doing some Mills Brothers and Ink Spots stuff, and they called it The Bachelors. So himself, me and Maurice Young, we started doing that. I guess they used to do that way out there in California, so coming back here, we started doing that again, and for 20-some years we did that and played different venues, and that’s how I ended up getting this little spot to sing with the Valdons on that Twin Cities Funk and Soul thing. That’s how that came about.
Tell me about meeting Eric Foss. How did he come into your life?
Twin Cities Funk and Soul. Like I said, I was playing with Monroe as The Bachelors, and Eric had approached them because they had had a record out with Napoleon Crayton, and Napoleon was part of the Valdons as well. So they wanted me to fill in because Big Bill, who normally would’ve been doing that, was not able to do it. He was sick. So I said yeah, I’ll do that. I went and sat in with them, and they flew Cliff [Curtis] in, who was one of the Cymbals on my first 45. Flew him in from California because he was a Valdon back in the day, and we went down to The Current and did that little thing at MPR. And that’s how I met Eric, at that point then, when they started putting that show together at the Cedar Cultural Center. Prophets of Peace, their singer wasn’t able to do anything either, so Tony Scott asked me if I would sing one or two of their songs. I said yeah, I’d be glad to. So I ended up kinda like all over the place – I’m a Valdon, I’m a Prophet of the Peace.
So through that, and playing a couple of times at First Avenue as that Twin Cities Funk and Soul, Eric said we’re gonna put a band together behind you – you – like “That guy!” Plus, me bugging him all the time when I came home from the gym — because [Secret Stash] was right in between the gym and my house, so [I’d] stop by. I said, man, where’s this thing going? What are you, a new company or what? What’s going on with that? Can I get in on the ground level here, too? Things started growing. He and I started working on some songs, and it turned out to be The Lakers and doing what we’re doing now.
Then [the Valdons] made decisions to go and do other things. I’m going nah, I’m not gonna do that, no. For me, I didn’t want somebody else running my life like that. I wanted to have some kind of control. With Eric, it was like, it’s cool. I didn’t look at them like young cats or younger than me or anything. I just looked at them as another human being, and we’re all trying to make something work here. And I admired their energy as far as making that Twin Cities Funk and Soul thing work. I’ve been learning from them cats ever since. Pretty special guys.
What do you think it is about right now, that all of this attention has been turned back to this kind of vintage soul sound? Even when you listen to pop music now, people are trying to channel that sound.
I don’t know. Music to me is weird. Stuff has been there and been around forever, and then somebody comes along and picks it up and now all of a sudden it’s like, this is cool stuff! Some people forget about it, but it’s still there till someone comes and picks it up, brushes it off, and says, what if I put another little twist like this? It’s still the same old thing, but with a new twist.
That’s interesting to me, I guess because I didn’t experience it first hand as it was happening, but you can really see how the music evolves and people are learning from the people that came before them, adding their own thing to it.
That’s the thing, too. That’s life itself, I guess; you get mesmerized with living life from day to day. And next thing you know – I didn’t know that person never saw that, and I lived that first hand. Wow. Where did the time go? What happened? I thought these people knew all about this. Well, yeah, through reading books and things of learning that way, but yeah, I got to see that first hand. Damn, I’m ancient. I start picking on myself.
You’re not ancient. I think you’re about the same age as my dad.
Wow. We’re ancient.
You’re both looking really good.
That’s a good thing – blessed that way, and that’s why I try to go to the gym. I don’t know – mom and dad gave me some good genes to put on or something, and everything worked out pretty good, but I can say it’s amazing that you see so much stuff and you don’t really realize that some people ain’t even saw that or know about that.
I want to hear about the First Avenue release show for I’m Still Here, because I get the sense that that might be one of the biggest crowds that you’ve ever performed for. What were you thinking when you came out on stage and saw all those people so excited about your album coming out?
I didn’t think that they were that excited about my album or anything else like that. I wasn’t even thinking about my album. I was just scared to death.
When I came out on stage, I had no idea how many people was really out there. Because when I first came in there wasn’t a whole big crowd of people, and as they started filling in I still didn’t see it until it was time for me to come out. When it was my turn to come up on stage, I was like OK. I just lost it and went into acting, into form – what I gotta do. How do I make you move? You must be here to move, groove, do something. That’s where my focus goes. How do you make it work? How do you get people liking it? And once the motion started movin’, then it got kinda easy. I got into it and it was do or die. Just do whatever you can do. This is your show. This is your song. Don’t worry about it. Just go. And it turned out I guess to be pretty good. I was just up there having some fun.
I think it’s so cool, not only that you’re performing this music that has such a rich history, but the show is just nonstop and the energy is nonstop; you don’t see many people onstage like that. It’s like, wow.
That is wow, because I know sometimes up there the show will be moving so fast, and then it’s jumping around, the dancing, it’s like, I better pace myself here because it’s right out of one song into another song, and I’m trying to catch my breath. But it just tells me that if I’m kinda choking a little bit I need to get back in, get the cardio all pumped up a little bit more to keep the drive going, because that’s what people want. They want that energy. They wanna see that. They want that drive. You wanna get them to move. You don’t want people to just go get a beer or something and walk away. You want them to stay there. You want them to be a part of your show, have them jump up and down, because we can see from the stage and see people going like this [moves hand up and down].
That must be really cool to watch.
Yeah. The first time I did it was over at the Little Lake Festival, and I said, “I’m gonna call off a number when the band’s gonna hit, and when the band hits it I wanna see you guys jump and get your cardio in. Can you get it?” “Yeah!” “You got it?” “Yeah!” So now and then we’ll go and get people jumping up and down. They kinda like that. We played down in St. Peter last Saturday and we had them jumping down there. The love that the people’s been showing wherever we go has just been amazing. I guess maybe we must be doing something right, which is a blessing to get something like that going.
This whole thing is a blessing for me – being where I’m at, age-wise, each and every day that I get is a blessing. Today, to do the interview with you is another blessing – to wake up and continue down that path that we’re trying to go. I appreciate it. I appreciate waking up, life – appreciate this neighborhood being the way that it is. It’s just so much now that I feel there is to live for, versus what I went through coming up to get to this point. Did I think I would get here? Maybe yes and maybe no. It didn’t really matter. You just get beat down with so much.
It’s kinda like that guy in North Korea before he escaped. He was born in prison and he thought the guards were the high-power great people because they were guards, and they had all this freedom. He knew nothing about the outside until he escaped and got away. It’s kinda like I feel. Certain people had more power and could play in different places. I never knew anything like what I’m knowing now, that freedom of wow, there we are playing. You’re Sonny Knight. You get to come in. Your name is out there in front of the band and that’s you. You get to sit here. This is your green room. This is what’s for you. Never had that and never thought I would get that. I thought that was for the other big people. This is cool. How did this happen? I keep asking myself how did that happen. Must be doing something right. What is it? I don’t know.
It sounds like you do know, though, because you’ve seen bands that didn’t make the right choices and you have a very realistic way of looking at things.
Yeah, and again, I think it just comes back around to being humble and patient and putting in work. You think well I’m this, I’m that, I’m Sonny Knight, I’m supposed to get this – don’t mean nothin’. I’m just another person that’s still trying to make it in this world, and what I got is what I got. And I stay true to what I got because life is too precious. There’s so much energy – people walking, squirrels moving, birds flying – that’s all energy. And to be here and to sit here and enjoy that for this moment in this time now – you can’t ask for more. Tomorrow might bring you some better things, but tomorrow ain’t even here. Right now I got right now. I got this interview right now. It feels good just to be in the moment, and I try to stay in the moment.
The other good thing I think happened for me is I took money out of the equation. Where’s my money? I need to get paid for this and if I’m not getting paid for this then I can’t do this is I’m not gonna get paid. I believe enough in it to keep working this. It’ll come. Whatever’s gonna be. Que sera sera. Hey, let’s make a song of that. So when I took money out of the equation everything got really kinda cool. I mellowed out and I know that the longer I live the more I’ll understand life.
Some people are happy just going and visiting and being with their family, cutting the grass and doing that. Don’t want no more. Other people want the moon and the stars, and then they try to go after the moon and stars and then somehow get unhappy it ain’t comin’ as fast as they thought it should. I think some people fall by the wayside with that. I know I did – expecting and pursuing and thinking things should be this way or that way and it wasn’t. So I’m just grateful. I’m just hoping I have the energy to continue doing what I’m doing now for at least another 20 years. My son came to Lake Harriet bandshell and caught the show over there and he was like wow, you really inspired me – motivated me to wanna go out and become a musician. That’s really cool.
I’m just keeping it real. I’m a human being. I’m not a superstar. I’m not nobody. Prince is a human being. All these cats are. Ain’t nobody no more than you or I, but yet they’re in a position to be held like the Queen is the Queen. I don’t know. You wanna leave this world in a good way, and we all going to leave this world. You wanna get things right. And that’s kinda like how I try to live – just doing things right. I’m still here trying to make it work.
I love that song – “I’m Still Here.”
It’s a good song. It’s a real good song and I don’t know where it was coming from when we started doing it, but the fact that I’m still here to be able to sing my song and do it – that’s what matters. To be able to see my grandkids grow up – that’s what matters. My first grandchild – I have two grandkids – when my first one was born I looked at her and I thought how pure and how innocent everything is for her right now. There’s nothing she’s done that anybody can say or touch – she’s pure.
So to still be here, I guess it means like what are you gonna do with your life? Who are you? Now that you’re still here, we’re all still here, that energy is still here, drawing and just knowing what you can do – making positive things is what I’m hoping, that we can end up making people feel and do good. That’s why – hey, let’s jump.
Sadly Sonny Knight passed away on June 17, 2017 from the devastations of cancer. He was 69.
May 21, 2017 – Jimmy LaFave was born July 12, 1955 in Willis Point, Texas where he was also raised. Music was his destiny from very early on, but he started his journey on drums.
Some years later he moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma and played in the school band but at age 15 LaFave switched to guitar and began writing and singing his own songs in a band called The Night Tribe.
After graduating from high school LaFave played music at night while working during the day. He had a job as the manager of a music club called Up Your Alley and during this period recorded the albums Down Under in 1979 and Broken Line in 1981. Continue reading Jimmy LaFave 5/2017
9 May 2017 – Robert Miles was born Roberto Concina on 3 November 1969 in Fleurier Switzerland to an Italian military family stationed there. He did not return to Italian soil until the age of ten, settling in the town of Fagagna. Raised primarily on the classic American soul sound of the 1970s, Miles began studying piano as a teen, and at 13 began DJ’ing local house parties. By the late ’80s he was regularly spinning hardcore trance sets at Venice area clubs under the name Robert Milani, eventually adopting the name Miles as symbolic of the musical journey awaiting him. In time, he assembled a basic studio system comprising a sampler, mixer, keyboard, and 32-track digital board, accepting production work with the Italian label Metromaxx. In 1990, he used his savings to establish his own recording studio and a pirate radio station. Continue reading Robert Miles 5/2017
May 3, 2017 – Casey Jones (Albert Collins/Johnny Winter) was born July 26, 1939 in Nitta Yuma, Mississippi and raised in Greenville. As a kid he played with the Coleman High School band, but claimed he learned more about drumming from Little Milton’s drummer Lonnie Haynes, than from the band director
In 1956 at age 17, his sister Atlean and her husband Otis Luke enticed him with the promise of a drum kit and entry into the musician’s union, if he would move to Chicago to live with them. True to his word, they went to Frank’s Drum Shop on Wabash Ave and from there on Casey Jones played drums in Otis’s band. His first gig with Otis Luke & the Rhythm Bombers in 1956 made him $5.Continue reading Casey Jones 5/2017
April 11, 2017 – Toby Smith (Jamiroquai) was born Toby Grafftey-Smith on October 29, 1970.
Growing up he received classical training on piano and early on developed a keen interest in the “nerdy” side of music. At age 14 he started recording his own tunes on a Tascam and produced his first record at 17, then signed his track “Kleptomaniacs” to London Records. At about the same time his sister took him clubbing in London and he developed an interest in house (dance) music. Continue reading Toby Smith 4/2017
February 5, 2017 – David Axelrod was born on April 17, 1931 in Los Angeles, California. His father was active in radical labour union politics who died when he was 13 and he was raised in tumultuous LA’s South Central Crenshaw neighborhood, where Axelrod’s future musical direction was influenced by the multicultural environment of the mostly black neighborhood.
At the time Axelrod’s parents moved into the area, it was changing from a working-class white district south of downtown Los Angeles into an area of predominantly African American stores, businesses, and homes. Even today, Crenshaw remains one of the most notable African-American communities in Los Angeles, with a cultural scene that includes museums devoted to black history and an active political life strengthened by some of the city’s most ardent black activists. During Axelrod’s youth, the Crenshaw district included the main thoroughfare of African-American cultural life in Los Angeles: Central Avenue–a street filled with music clubs, barber shops, beauty parlors, and other institutions of the African-American community. The fact that Axelrod was white did not prevent him from absorbing many of these influences.
January 31, 2017 – John Wetton (ASIA) was born on June 12, 1949 in Willington, Derbyshire, and grew up in the coastal city of Bournemouth, Dorset, England.
He first cut his musical teeth on church music at his family’s piano where he often played the bass parts to help his brother rehearse tunes for services….an experience that led to John’s love of the relationship between top line and bass melodies. It stayed a major feature of his music throughout his career. In his teens, John focused those melodies on the bass guitar and honed his skills by playing and singing with local bands. He also discovered a knack for songwriting with an early bandmate, Richard Palmer-James; a relationship that would continue to flourish through five decades.Continue reading John Wetton 1/2017
January 22, 2017 – Peter Overend Watts was born in the Yardley neighborhood of Birmingham, England on 13 May, 1947.
Watts began playing the guitar at the age of 13 and by 1965, he had switched to bass guitar and became a professional musician. Watts attended Ross Grammar School in 1963 and met his lifelong friend Dale Griffin aka Buffin and they played in local bands together such as The Anchors, Wild Dogs Hellhounds and The Silence when they met a rival band The Buddies who had Mick Ralphs and Stan Tippins as members and they collectively formed The Doc Thomas Group. Changes to that line-up occurred in 1968 and keyboard player Verden Allen joined and they changed their name to The Shakedown Sound.
In 1969 they all moved to London and came to the attention of record producer Guy Stevens who auditioned Ian Hunter and appointed him as their lead singer instead of Tippins and Mott The Hoople was formed. Watts was instrumental in getting David Bowie to write a song for the band and initially was offered the song “Suffragette City” which he turned down before David wrote especially for the band their now anthem “All The Young Dudes”. Mott The Hoople quickly built up a fearsome reputation as a dynamic live attraction playing gloriously ragged rock’n’roll and much of the group’s raw energy emanated from the bands propulsive engine room: the thunderous rhythm section of Overend and Dale. Visually the band also stood out and it was hard not to notice Watts in his thigh high platform boots, silver hair with a custom made bass guitar in the shape of a swallow!Continue reading Peter Overend Watts 1/2017
January 21, 2017 – Maggie Roche was born on October 26, 1951 in Park Ridge, New Jersey. Together with her sister Terre, she dropped out of Park Ridge High School to tour as a duo in the late sixties. Maggie wrote most of the songs, with Terre contributing to a few. The sisters got a big real break when Paul Simon brought them in as backup singers on his 1973 #2 album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon. In return they got his support and an appearance by the Oakridge Boys, when they recorded their only album as a duo in 1975 titled Seductive Reasoning.
A year later their youngest sister Suzzy completed the Irish singer/songwriting trio The Roches. Maggie was their main songwriter in the beginning as they became increasingly known for their unusual harmonies, quirky lyrics and comedic stage presence. Continue reading Maggie Roche 1/2017
January 18, 2017 – Mike Kellie – (Spooky Tooth, the Only Ones) was born on March 24, 1947 in Birmingham, England into a family with no musical background or inclination.. As a child, he showed an early interest in rhythm, practicing on a coal shuttle with hearth brushes to simulate a snare drum. In his teen years, he joined St. Michaels Youth Club band as a drummer. He later played at “The Track” at Tudor Grange Sports Centre in Solihull. On the basis of this work, he was invited by Brian “Monk” Ffinch to play with Wayne and the Beachcombers in Birmingham, which started his career as a professional musician.
In 1966, Kellie played in Birmingham in a band called the Locomotive with Chris Wood of Traffic, and later with the V.I.P.’s (later Art) in Carlisle.
Steve Winwood was ready to leave The Spencer Davis Group and I was in a band in Birmingham called The Locomotive with Chris Wood on tenor sax & flute. Chris, Steve & Jim Capaldi were forming Traffic at that time, around the latter part of 1966. The other band that Chris Blackwell, who managed the Spencer Davis Group, had was the VIP’s from Carlisle. They were a great rhythm and blues band and had come down to make it in London having conquered the North. Their drummer, Walter Johnson, missed his family and went back to Carlisle. Hence, in the office one day Steve suggested someone call me. I had a day job in a wood yard in Olton. I got a phone call from friend Paul Medcalf who said …“Steve wants to know if you’re interested in joining this band…” So I was off, next day, straight from New Street Station, with my drums, to Paddington. Met by VIP’s road manager, the legendary Albert Heaton I was driven to 155, Oxford Street where I met Mike Harrison and Greg Ridley. I met the rest of the band later that evening. The next day I was in Paris playing at Olympia with the VIP’s without any rehearsal!! We were bottom of the bill, Chris Blackwell had done this deal for the band to open a star studded variety fundraiser in aid of UNICEF. It was held at Paris Olympia & was televised worldwide, similar to the way ‘All You Need Is Love’ was done. The VIP’s had a single out in France on Fontana and we were over to promote it, a Joe Tex song called ‘I Wanna Be Free’. So I had no real rehearsal, just the journey over in the van. We did the TV show after I had phoned my mother from a Post Office in Paris earlier that day and said ‘Mum, look in the Radio Times, I think we’re on a TV thing tonight.’ The record became a big hit in France following that show.
Manager Chris Blackwell found a singer and organist from the New York Tymes band named Gary Wright, added him to the line-up of Art and launched the band Spooky Tooth with Kellie, Greg Ridley, Jimmy Henshaw, Keith Emerson, Luther Grosvenor and vocalist extraordinaire Mike Harrison.*
With Blackwell being more focused on his fledgling Island Records, and in spite of the band’s wide acceptance in America and the European mainland, Spooky Toothe declined quickly in the early 70s and Kellie joined French Elvis Johnny Hallyday‘s band for a summer tour of France in 1974, before forming The Only Ones in 1976 with Peter Perrett, Alan Mair and John Perry.
The Only Ones, possibly best known for the single “Another Girl, Another Planet”, recorded three albums for CBS, although over time, their catalogue has contained many compilations and other releases, which now outnumber their studio albums.
In February 1978, Johnny Thunders moved to London with his family, and began playing with a loose revue dubbed the Living Dead. Kellie became part of this floating line-up (that also included Perrett along with various Sex Pistols including Steve Jones and Paul Cook) and recorded Thunders’ So Alone album together with his signature song “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory”.
Following the Only Ones’ farewell in 1981 at London’s Lyceum, Kellie moved to the countryside north of Toronto, Canada, where he spent four years away from performing. He used this time to learn the piano and write songs.
Returning to Britain in 1985, Kellie spent several years hill farming in North Wales and Scotland where he became a shepherd. In 1999 Kellie reunited with Mike Harrison, Luther Grosvenor and Greg Ridley under the Spooky Tooth moniker. Together they released the Cross Purpose album.
In 2004, Kellie reunited with Mike Harrison and Gary Wright to play dates in Germany as another new incarnation of Spooky Tooth. The band later released the DVD Nomad Poets with live performances from Worpswede and Hamburg, Germany.
In 2007, the Only Ones reformed, touring the UK, Europe and Japan as well as performing on BBC TV’s Later… with Jools Holland.
In 2010, with the Only Ones undergoing another sabbatical, Kellie began recording his own collection of music which become his first solo album. Entitled Music from The Hidden, the album was produced by Kellie who also played drums, organ, bass and acoustic guitars, percussion and sang lead vocals. There are also contributions from Gordon Jackson (acoustic guitar), Finley Barker and Tony Kelsey (guitars), Steve Winwood (organ, mandolin and bass), Bill Hunt, Levi French and Tony Ariss (pianos), Rob Harrison (bass), Steve Gibbons (backing vocals) and Greg Platt Lake (guitar and vocals). The album was released in 2014.
Kellie was prominent among the musicians featured on the six-CD Jess Roden Anthology, presented by Hidden Masters. He contributed to the 2011 sessions for the Distractions re-union album, The End of the Pier, which was released on Occultation Records in 2012.
In a career that spanned more than 50 years, Kellie was besides a member of the rock bands the V.I.P.s, Spooky Tooth and the Only Ones, also a prolific session musician and worked with the Who on the film soundtrack of Tommy, Joe Cocker, Traffic, George Harrison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Peter Frampton, the Bee Gees’s Maurice Gibb, Gary Wright, Johnny Thunders, Luther Grosvenor, Neil Innes, Steve Gibbons, Chris Jagger, Nanette Workman, Sean Tyla, Jim Capaldi, Pat Travers and Andy Fraser.
Mike Kellie died on 18 January 2017 following a short illness at the age of 69.
January 6, 2017 – Sylvester Potts (the Contours) was born on January 22, 1938 in Detroit and attended North Eastern High, the same school where Martha Reeves, Mary Wilson, and Bobby Rogers were educated at.
His love of music and the excitement he got from performing, made him once say he wanted to die on stage. In the fall of 1960, a Detroit group called The Contours (consisting of Joe Billingslea, Billy Gordon, Billy Hoggs, Leroy Fair and Hubert Johnson) auditioned for Berry Gordy’s Motown Records. Gordy turned the act down, prompting the group to pay a visit to the home of group member Hubert Johnson’s cousin, R&B star and Gordy associate Jackie Wilson. Wilson in turn got The Contours a second audition with Gordy, at which they sang the same songs they had at the first audition, the same way they claim, but this time were signed to a seven-year contract.Continue reading Sylvester Potts 1/2017
November 7, 2016 – Leonard Norman Cohen was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on September 21, 1934 and raised in the English-speaking Westmount area. His father, who had a clothing store passed away when Leonard was 9.
In high school he was involved with the student council and studied music and poetry. He became especially interested in the poetry of Federico García Lorca, after whom he named his daughter (Lorca) with artist/photographer Suzanne Elrod.
Even though poetry and writing were his first interests, he learned to play the guitar as a teenager and formed a country–folk group called The Buckskin Boys. Although he initially played a regular acoustic guitar, he soon switched to playing a classical guitar after meeting a young Spanish flamenco guitar player who taught him “a few chords and some flamenco.” Continue reading Leonard Cohen 11/2016
2016 – David Bowie was born David Robert Jones on January 8, 1947 in South London, England. Bowie developed an early interest in music although his attempts to succeed as a pop star during much of the 1960s were frustrated. Bowie’s first hit song, “Space Oddity”, reached the top five of the UK Singles Chart after its release in July 1969.
After a three-year period of experimentation, he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era with the flamboyant, androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust, spearheaded by the hit single “Starman” and the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Bowie’s impact at that time, as described by biographer David Buckley, “challenged the core belief of the rock music of its day” and “created perhaps the biggest cult in popular culture”. The relatively short-lived Ziggy persona proved to be one facet of a career marked by reinvention, musical innovation and visual presentation. Continue reading David Bowie 1/2016
2015 – “Lemmy” Ian Fraser Kilmister was born on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1945 in the Burslem area of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. When Lemmy was three months old, his father, an ex-Royal Air Force chaplain, separated from his mother. His mother and grandmother moved to Newcastle-under-Lyme, then to Madeley. When Lemmy was 10, his mother married former footballer George Willis, who already had two older children from a previous marriage, Patricia and Tony, with whom Lemmy did not get along.
The family moved to a farm in Benllech on Anglesey, with Lemmy later commenting on his time there, that “funnily enough, being the only English kid among 700 Welsh ones didn’t make for the happiest time, but it was interesting from an anthropological point of view.” He attended Sir Thomas Jones’ School in Amlwich, where he was nicknamed Lemmy. It was later suggested by some that the name originated from the phrase “lemmy [lend me] a quid till Friday” because of his alleged habit of borrowing money from people to play slot machines, although Lemmy himself claimed that he didn’t know the origin of the name. He soon started to show an interest in rock and roll music, girls and horses.
By the time he left school his family had moved to Conwy, still in northern Wales. There he worked at menial jobs including one in the local Hotpoint electric appliance factory, while also playing guitar for local bands, such as the Sundowners, and spending time at a horse-riding school.
Lemmy saw the Beatles perform at the Cavern Club when he was 16, and then learned to play along on guitar to their first album Please Please Me. He also admired the sarcastic attitude of the group, particularly that of John Lennon.
At the age of 17 he met a holidaying girl called Cathy. He followed her to Stockport, where she eventually had his son Sean, who was put up for adoption. In the 2010 documentary film Lemmy, Lemmy mentions having a son whose mother has only recently “found him” and “hadn’t got the heart to tell him who his father was”, indicating the boy – perhaps Sean – was given up for adoption.
He spread his wings with a band called The Rockin’ Vickers, who released three singles and rocked the Manchester music scene while dressed in clerical gear. Lemmy moved to London in search of fame and fortune, where he had a stint as a roadie with Jimi Hendrix and the Nice and briefly played in progressive rock band Opal Butterfly.
In 1972 he was recruited as bassist for the space-rock band Hawkwind, despite having played only rhythm guitar before. He sang lead on their hit “Silver Machine“. “It sounded like Captain Kirk reading Blowing in the Wind,” Lemmy later recalled. “They tried everybody singing it except me. Then, as a last shot they said, ‘Try Lemmy.’ And I did it in one take or two.”
Lemmy’s tenure with Hawkwind ended abruptly when he was busted for drug possession on a tour of Canada in 1975.
He later claimed that his dismissal was due to ‘pharmaceutical differences’, his preference for amphetamines being in stark contrast to the rest of Hawkwind’s love of more hallucinogenic substances. After his departure from Hawkwind he founded Motörhead as lead singer, bassist, songwriter and frontman. Despite the falling-out, Lemmy had fond memories of his time with the band. “In Hawkwind I became a good bass player,” he told Classic Rock magazine in 2012. “It was where I learned I was good at something.”
Lemmy decided to form his own band, “so that no-one can fire me again“, and adopted the name Bastard, until it was gently pointed out that he would be unlikely to get a gig on Top of the Pops. Instead he changed it to Motorhead, US slang for someone who takes speed and also the title of the last song he had penned for Hawkwind.
From early on he was clear about exactly which musical direction the band would take.
“Very basic music – loud, fast, city, raucous, arrogant, paranoid, speed-freak rock n roll. It will be so loud that if we move in next door to you, your lawn will die”.
The beginnings of the band were not auspicious. Lemmy claimed they were so badly off they had to steal equipment and they practiced in a disused furniture warehouse. They recorded some tracks for the United Artists label but the company thought they were so bad they refused to release them.
In the first of what would be a series of personnel changes, Lemmy fired drummer Lucas Fox and replaced him with Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor. He later replaced guitarist Larry Wallis with “Fast” Eddie Clarke, completing what many fans consider to be the definitive Motorhead line up.
By 1977 the band were so disillusioned they agreed to split and put on a farewell show at The Marquee in London.
It became a turning point when a record producer at the gig offered them enough studio time to record a single.
Instead the band laid down 13 tracks that formed their first album, entitled Motorhead, which reached No 43 in the UK charts. It’s probably the only rock album with the word “parallelogram” in the lyrics.
Lemmy’s guttural vocals appealed to the fans and the punk influences in their blistering music tapped into the fast-changing music scene in the UK. Indeed Motorhead collaborated with punk outfit The Damned on a few occasions.
It marked the start of the band’s most successful period, which peaked with the release of their fourth album, Ace of Spades, in 1980. The thunderous title track became the band’s definitive anthem and appearances on Top of the Pops helped it stay in the UK charts for 12 weeks. During the following three decades the band released no fewer than 17 further albums.
Lemmy stuck with the music formula of fast, driving rock that he’d adopted at the band’s inception.
Despite a horde of imitators he also rejected any notion that Motorhead were a metal band, insisting that what they played was pure rock and roll.
Lemmy never made any secret of his drug and alcohol intake, which, while prodigious over the years, never seemed to sap his appetite for recording and playing. In 2005 he was invited to address the Welsh assembly on the perils of drug-taking, and took the opportunity to call for the legalization of heroin to remove the drug dealer from society.
In the same year Motorhead picked up a Grammy for their cover of Metallica’s Whiplash. “It’s about bloody time,” was Lemmy’s response. “Nobody deserves it more, although I’m too modest to say it.”
Aside from his musical skills, Lemmy was well known for his hard living lifestyle and regular consumption of alcohol and amphetamines. Lemmy was also noted for his collection of Nazi memorabilia and use of Nazi symbolism, although he stated that he did not support Nazi ideals.
One of the band’s last performances was a storming set at Glastonbury.
On a 1988 tour of Finland, Lemmy was asked by one journalist why he had kept going for so long.
“We’re still here,” he replied, “because we should have died a long time ago but we didn’t.”
Lemmy died from cancer on December 28, 2015 at the age of 70.
June 29, 2015 – Bruce Rowland (Joe Cocker/Fairport Convention) was born at Park Royal, Middlesex on May 22 1941 and spent some of his early professional life as a drum teacher. According to Dave Pegg, the bass guitarist and singer in Fairport Convention, Rowland taught the young Phil Collins how to play the drums.
In 1968, Rowland played on the Wynder K Frog album Out of the Frying Pan and the following year he joined the Grease Band, Joe Cocker’s backing group. It was with Cocker that he was able to reveal his talent for rock drumming.
The following year Roland played drums on the singer’s memorably bluesy peformance of With a Little Help from my Friends at Woodstock. This powerful and gravelly interpretation of the Beatles hit was much complemented by Rowland’s thumping drum beat and rousing crescendo.
The song, along with Jimi Hendrix’s electric guitar interpretation of The Star Spangled Banner, became the highlight of that year’s Woodstock and Rowland subsequently played on Cocker’s UK Top 10 hit single Delta Lady (1969) and on his eponymous second album (1972).
In 1970, the Grease Band decided to part company with Cocker just before their American Tour. Rowland went on to play on their albums The Grease Band (1971) and Amazing Grease (1975). During this period he also worked as a session musician for Shawn Phillips, Jackie Lomax, Gallagher and Lyle and several others and played drums on the original recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. He later said that he regretted accepting a fixed fee as opposed to royalties for his work on the album.
After a spell with Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance – which included playing on Lane’s solo debut album, Anymore for Anymore – Rowland went on to drum for Lane and Ronnie Wood on their soundtrack album Mahoney’s Last Stand, released in 1976.
In 1972 he joined Fairport Convention during a particularly turbulent period in the band’s history. The rock folk group had been founded in 1967 and has since performed and recorded with countless different line-ups. During Rowland’s first spell with them, they employed three different drummers in one year. Rowland can be heard playing on the 1972 Manor Album, which has never been officially released but is widely bootlegged among Fairport Convention fans.
In 1975 he joined the group for good after their drummer Dave Mattacks left during the recording of the album Rising for the Moon. He continued to appear with Fairport Convention for much of the late 1970s and worked on several albums with the band.
Such was Rowland’s versatility that he seemed to adapt to the electric folk style of Fairport Convention with ease; his percussion skills ranged from sensitive tapping of soft mallet drum sticks on live performances of the folk lament Flowers of the Forest, to keeping a steady beat to back the fevered fiddling of Dave Swarbrick and Roger Burridge when they played Dirty Linen.
In 1976, during a live performance of this popular track, Swarbrick, the band’s singer-songwriter and fiddle player, introduced the song with the words: “This is an instrumental and it’s dedicated to our drummer’s underwear.”
Bruce Rowland left Fairport Convention and moved to Denmark in 1979. He subsequently returned to Britain and settled in Brixham Devon where he had a paint business and later sold it to retire and concentrate on creating a retirement home for himself and wife Barbara.
He was 74 years old when he died of cancer on June 29, 2015.
June 9, 2015 – James Last was born Hans Last on April 17, 1929 in Bremen Germany, the third son for Louis and Martha Last, and christened Hans. His father, a post-office worker, was a keen amateur musician, competent on both drums and bandoneon. He learned to play piano as child, and bass as a teenager. He joined Hans-Gunther Oesterreich’s Radio Bremen Dance Orchestra in 1946, when he was 17 years old.
The brothers Last, Robert, Werner and young Hans, enjoyed their game of street football and so father Louis was pleased when all three expressed more than just an passing interest in music.
By the age of nine, young Hans could play “Hanschen Klein”, a German folk song in the piano, but his first music teacher, a lady, claimed at the age of ten he was totally unmusical. A year or so later with tutor number two, a gentleman, things started to happen. At the age of fourteen Hans was off to military school in Frankfurt where he studied brass, piano and tuba.
Hans’ parents were pleased with the appointment. It was hoped that he would emerge from the school as classically trained conductor. After passing his first exam, the school was bombed and the students were evacuated to Buckenburg, just outside Hanover, to continue their training.
Later, Buckenburg was also lost in the war. Hans claims that if he had stayed at Buckenburg, he would have been a conductor of serious music by the time he was twenty three.
After the war, Hans-Gunter Oesterreich, who organised entertainment for the American clubs, signed Hans Last for his first professional engagements. Later, Oesterreich secured a major post with Radio Bremen, and soon, the Last brothers were all working together.
In 1948, they joined forces with Karl-Heinz Becker, and became known as the Last-Becker Ensemble.
Hans was sold on jazz, Woody Herman and Stephan Grapelli being among his favorites. In 1959 Hans Last was voted Germany’s Top Jazz Bassist, a title held until 1953. In 1955 the Last-Becker Ensemble was on the verge of breaking up. At this stage Hansi considered forming his own band, but lack of funds halted this project. Instead they joined the North German Radio Dance Orchestra in Hamburg.
Soon Hans was arranging music for the NDR, he stayed with the NDR until 1964 when he signed a contract for Polydor. He became a much sought after arranger and was soon scoring hits for Caterina Valente, Freddy Quinn, Helmut Zacharias in Hamburg, he even flew to Nashville to record Brenda Lee singing in German.
It was in 1955 that Hans married the attractive Waltraud Wiese from Bremen and by 1958, the Last household had become four, with the birth of a son Ronald and a daughter Caterina.
Soon a couple of albums hit the market. Hans Last and his Orchestra had arrived, but suddenly the next release on the Polydor label featured James Last and his Orchestra. Somebody somewhere within the record company felt that James had more international appeal than Hans.
Now James Last wanted to unleash upon the Germans his new party sound. His idea was to record the top hits of the day, and them hold a party in the studio to build up the atmosphere. In 1965 the Non Stop Dancing sound of James Last was launched.
In 1967, with seven or eight of his early albums making the German charts, and the launch of the Non Stop Dancing series, Polydor produced a budget price sampler album “This is James Last” and suddenly the Last sound was launched worldwide.
In the United Kingdom, this sampler sold for twelve shillings and sixpence. “This is James Last” entered the British album charts on April 15th, 1967, it stayed for forty-eight weeks and reached the number six position. In the U.K. sales topped 400,000. James Last had arrived.
James Last albums were selling by the thousands in Germany, Holland, Belgium, and here in the United Kingdom. Album after album reached the national charts. Whilst on a crest of the wave in Europe, it is reported that in Canada in 1967, five percent of the total record sales were by James Last. By 1969, the success in the record sales was phenomenal, but the Last band was a studio band, and yet to appear live. During 1969 Hans Last was persuaded to take the James Last Orchestra on tour. A four week tour of Germany had been lined up.
Many artists throughout the music business are great on disc, and terrible on stage, and vice-versa. Hansi wanted to recreate on stage the stereo sound which had been so succesful in the studio.
First the services of Peter Klemt were secured, he had succesfully mastered and mixed the early recordings. Peter immediately went out and purchased two mixers, one for the Hanover strings, whom Hansi had hired for the tour, and one for the brass section. The rhythm quartet was in front flanked by the English choir. By the end of the tour, Last was well and truly established. Soon plans were in hand to take the Orchestra to Canada for Expo 69 in Montreal.
1969 was a big year for the James Last Orchestra. In Cannes they received the International Midem Prize, the music industry’s Oscar. In Germany they were voted the number one Orchestra. The Germans gave Hansi the title of “Arranger of the Year”.
In 1970 the Last Orchestra were on the road in Germany again, a tour which had to be lengthened because of the demand for tickets. They toured Denmark and the gold discs were arriving thick and fast.
Now Hansi wanted to conquer the British. The entourage finally arrived in October, 1971. The New Victoria Theatre in London, housed the first concert. Whilst records came at the rate of around six a year, 1972, must have been the most productive year on the road. Another tour of Germany was followed by visits to Russia, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. 10,000 fans attended a James Last Voodoo Party in the Hamburg woods.
Last returned to Britain in 1973. The tour included three sell out concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall. By the time the 1973, UK tour was under way, twenty seven Last albums have entered the British album charts. After Britain, another tour of Canada and in December 1973, Hansi received his 100th Gold Record. During 1973, we saw the composition of a leissure centre Hansi built for the band at Fintel on Lumberg Heath. Here the band coudl relax and take a few days break, the complex had half a dozen or so bedrooms, kitchen, lounge, sports equipment. All the members in the band were given a key, and the centre was frequently used by many Last musicians to get away and relax after weeks on the road and in the recording studio.
By the mid-seventies Hansi and the James Last Orchestra were established as a top recording artist and sell out concerts attraction around the world. Hansi, was also scoring as a composer. Most Last albums have included a Last composition. In March 1969 Andy Williams entered the U.S. charts with Hansi’s composition “Happy Heart”, it stayed for 22 weeks and reached number seven. Here in May, it reached number nineteen, appearing in the charts for nine weeks. Elvis Presley recorded Hansi’s composition called “No Words”, words were added and “No Words” became “Fool”. “Fool” reached number 23 in the U.K. charts in August 1973 and stayed for seven weeks.
Without any chart success, probably the most famous Last composition is “Games That Lovers Play”. Over 100 recordings available worldwide including versions by Freddy Quinn, Connie Francis and Eddie Fisher.
Although Andy Williams scored with “Happy Heart” the number has been recorded by Petula Clark, Roger Williams, The Gunter Kaftan Choir, The Anita Kerr Singers, Norrie Paramor and his Orchestra and Peggy March.
Television has played a major part in the James Last success story. In 1968 ZDF Television launched a new music spectacular entitled Star Parade. The James Last Orchestra were residents for the 50 shows produced. The biggest names in music all guested on the show; Abba, Barry Manilow, Cliff Richard, Boney M, Roger Whitaker. Many television specials had been produced here in the United Kingdom. In 1971 on their first British tour the BBC took Hansi and the Orchestra along to the Dorchester Hotel, to record a fifty minute special before an invited audience. Dance Night at the Royal Albert Hall was captured by the Beeb, and in 1976 was recorded a the Shepherd Bush studios.
By 1978, the James Last Orchestra, had achieved virtually what they set out to do. Hansi had noticed that at concerts in Great Britain, the audience would get up and dance when he played his non stop dancing titles. The German audiences loved him too, and so later that year Hansi persuaded ZDF Television to come to London, to record a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. The show was put together over two nights, each of those two nights some 5000 fans attended and had a ball.
The British fans were on their feet long before the interval, dancing and prancing around the Royal Albert Hall arena to their favourite James Last polkas. The second half was a riot, the fans had invaded the stage, they danced, they sang, and when Hansi asked them to sit on the floor, they sat on the floor and listened to “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”.
Whilst seated, they sang “Cockless and Mussels”, “Daisy, Daisy”, and “Abide With Me”. Back on their feet James Last struck up the band and introduced his version of “Dancing Party”, and what a Dancing Party it was, all taking place at a James Last concert and being captured on film.
The show entitled “Live in London” became available on a single album in Germany, a double album in Great Britain. In Germany on television, ZDF presented a ninety minute special, whilst here the BBC gave us two thirty minute shows. On top of that a year or so later, Polydor released the official video, which they sold by the case load. In fact, sales were so good that several dealers listed this video in their top sellers chart.
On April 23rd, 1978 Hansi received the highest award that can be won in Germany. He was awarded the “Bundesverdienstkreuz” by the President of West Germany, for his services to his country.
April 1979, Hansi celebrated his fiftieth birthday in London and the fans presented him with a special birthday cake. In fact, seven cakes shaped into letters and numbers spelling out H-A-N-S-I-5-0. Two days earlier, Hansi’s most successful recording released in Great Britain’s “Last The Whole Night Long” entered the British charts. It reached number two and stayed in the charts for forty five weeks.
The demand for live concerts was as high as ever. Late October 1979, the entourage left Hamburg for a month long tour of Japan. For this special occcasion, Hansi recorded a new album specially for the Japanese market entitled “Paintings”. Last was succesful now almost throughout the whole world. Although Hansi has a home in Florida, success in the U.S. has been limited to one album making eighty in the Billboard Top 100.
In April 1980, “The Seduction” hit the Billboard singles charts. It received air play across the United States, achieved position twenty eight and stayed for six weeks. A month later it made the British charts for four weeks reaching position number forty-eight.
In June 1980, the ZDF Television series “Star Parade” came to a close after 50 minute shows. In September 1980, ZDF launched the “Show Express”, another ninety minute production featuring James Last, but his came to a halt after ten shows.
James Last worldwide album sales cannot be counted – only estimated. However, in Germany, the trade paper Musicmart claimed Last has sold 1,800,000 in Germany in 1979, and an American publication called “They Have Sold A Million” claim estimated worldwide sales in excess of 40 billion. Throughout the sixties and seventies, the Last sound was dominant, hearing a track on the radio, the fans would reply “that is James Last”.
In the eighties, Hansi experimented with some new sounds. His album “Biscaya” strongly featured bandoneon and synthesizer, “Bluebird” featured pan flute and synthesizer, “Deutsche Vita” was mainly electronic. Many fans welcomed the new sounds, sound were disappointed that the Old James Last sound was missing. However, tracks from these albums, became firm favourites and concert show pieces.
Last continued to record around six albums per year. He did not spend so much time on the road, but in the early years of the new millennium he consistently toured the United Kingdom, Belgium and Holland.
In 1987, Last took the Orchestra to East Berlin for four sell out concerts, the East Berliners had a ball. From those four sell out concerts, Polydor released an album “Live in Berlin”, followed by a video. In 1990, James Last joined forces with Richard Clayderman to produce a new album, “Golden Hearts”.
By his own admission Last played as hard as he worked and his memoirs, My Autobiography (2007), revealed a man whose workaholic lifestyle and enthusiastic partying (including struggles with alcohol and serial womanising) blinded him to the demands of his family for many years. He always enjoyed a close relationship with his orchestra, however, many members of which had been with him from the beginning to the end of his career.
When his first wife Waltraud, whom he had married in 1955, died in 1997 he moderated the more excessive aspects of his behaviour, eventually marrying his second wife Christine, with whom he divided his time between homes in Hamburg and Florida. She survives him, with two children of his first marriage.
Songs composed by Last which achieved success in the US include “Happy Heart” and “Music From Across The Way”, both recorded by Andy Williams, “Games That Lovers Play”, recorded by Eddie Fisher, and “Fool”, recorded by Elvis Presley. By the time of his farewell tour in the spring of 2015, Last was reported to have sold well over 200 million albums.
James undertook his final tour months before his death at age 86, upon discovering in September 2014 that a life threatening illness had worsened. His final UK performance was his 90th at London’s Royal Albert Hall, more than any other performer except Eric Clapton.
He died 86 years old on June 9, 2015.
Writing in The Independent, Spencer Leigh suggested once that Last’s Non-Stop Dancing albums “paved the way for disco and dance mixes”. Asked if he minded being labelled the “King of Corn”, Last had replied “No, because it is true”.
May 6, 2015 – Lester Errol Brown was born on December 11, 1943 in Kingston, Jamaica, but moved with his family, to the UK when he was twelve years old. In the late 60s, Errol and his friend Tony Wilson formed a band which was first called ‘Hot Chocolate Band’ but this was soon shortened to Hot Chocolate by Mickie Most.
Hot Chocolate started their recording career making a reggae version of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance”, but Errol was told he needed permission. He was contacted by Apple Records, discovered that Lennon liked his version, and the group was subsequently signed to Apple Records. The link was short-lived as The Beatles were starting to break up, and the Apple connection soon ended. But it was in the disco era of the mid-1970s when Hot Chocolate became a big success. A combination of high production standards, the growing confidence of the main songwriting team of Errol and Tony Wilson and tight harmonies enabled them to secure further big hits such as “You Sexy Thing” and “Every 1’s a Winner”, which were also U.S. hits, peaking at No.3 in 1976 and No.6 in 1979, respectively. After Tony’s departure for a solo career, Errol took over songwriting duties on his own.
In 1977, after 15 hits, they finally reached Number One with “So You Win Again”. The band became the only group, and one of just three acts, that had a hit in every year of the 1970s in the UK charts, the others being Elvis Presley and Diana Ross. The band eventually had at least one hit, every year, between 1970 and 1984. Critically, they were often lambasted or simply ignored, and apart from compilations their albums such as Cicero Park sold modestly.
The band continued well into the 1980s, and clocked up another big hit record: “It Started With a Kiss”, in 1982, which reached Number 5 in the UK. In all, the group charted 25 UK Top 40 hit singles. Their single “You Sexy Thing” became the only track that made British Top Ten status in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
In 1981, he performed at the wedding reception following the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, at Buckingham Palace and when Hot Chocolate disbanded in 1986, Errol began to concerntrate more on his solo career.
Two of his singles “Personal Touch” and “Body Rockin'”made the UK Singles Chart. Errol was highly honored in 2003, when Queen Elizabeth II named him a Member of the Order of the British Empire for “services to popular music for the United Kingdom”. Then honored again the following year in 2004, he received an Ivor Novello Award for outstanding contributions to British music.
He died of liver cancer at his home in the Bahamas on May 6, 2015 at the age of 71.
May 5, 2015 – Craig Gruber was born on June 15, 1951. In the early 1970s he started his bass career with a band called Elf, which released three albums before the key members joined ex-Deep Purple lead guitarist Ritchie Blackmore in his newly formed band Rainbow in mid-1975.
Gruber played on Rainbow’s first album, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. Soon after the album was released, Blackmore fired everyone except vocalist Dio. Gruber was then in the early recording sessions on Black Sabbath‘s Heaven and Hell album, co-writing “Die Young,” until Geezer Butler heard Dio, and returned to the band.
In 1980 he formed Bible Black with former Elf and Rainbow drummer Gary Driscoll. The band produced two albums before Driscoll’s unsolved murder in 1987. Gruber played live with Gary Moore on his supporting tour for his album Victims of the Future, and featured on Moore’s 1984 live album We Want Moore.
Early in 2010 Gruber formed “ED3N”- a metal band in the classic rock genre. The band featured vocalist Jeff Fenholt and guitarist David Shankle, of DSG and formerly Manowar.
On April 18, 2013 it was announced that Gruber had joined the band Raven Lord which was headed up by Csaba Zvekan. Gruber was to replace Jamie Mallender for the bassist’s position. However, Gruber departed the band shortly thereafter and was replaced by Lucio Manca. On November 7, 2013, Gruber announced via Facebook that he became part of a newly formed band founded by Csaba Zvekan called Zvekan.
Near the end of his life, Gruber had been building a line of high-end “soloing” basses, which can be seen at Infinite Metal Werkz. Gruber had also been working on an Elf reunion, even though such a prospect seemed unlikely given the deaths of Driscoll and frontman Ronnie James Dio; both of whom had been members of the band from foundation until dissolution.
He died from prostate cancer on May 5, 2015 at his Florida home.
April 28, 2015 – Jack Ely was born on September 11, 1943 in Portland, Oregon near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. Both of his parents were music majors at the University of Oregon, and his father, Ken Ely, was a singer. His father died when he was four years old and his mother subsequently remarried.
Ely began playing piano while still a young child, and was performing recitals all over the Portland area before his seventh birthday. When he was eleven, a piano teacher provided what he termed “jazz improvisation lessons.” The teacher would show Ely a section of a classical composition, and the boy would have to make up 15 similar pieces. He would be required to share each in class and then make up one on the spot.
On January 28, 1956, Ely watched Elvis Presley on television for the first time, and he decided that he wanted to play guitar. At his first guitar lesson, he was required to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, an experience that Ely found so demeaning that he quit after that lesson and began picking out his favorite guitar riffs by ear. Ely played guitar and sang for the Young Oregonians, a traveling vaudeville show for entertainers under the age of 18. “We didn’t get paid in money, we got paid in experience,” Ely recalled.
In 1962, while playing a gig at the Pypo Club in Seaside, Oregon, the band noticed Rockin’ Robin Roberts’s version of “Louie Louie” being played on the jukebox for hours on end. The entire club would get up and dance. Ely convinced the Kingsmen to learn the song, which they played at dances to a great crowd response. Unknown to him, he changed the beat from 1-2-3-4, 1–2, 1-2-3-4, 1–2 to 1-2-3, 1–2, 1-2-3, 1–2 because he based it on the intro only. Ken Chase, host of radio station KISN, formed his own club to capitalize on these dance crazes. Dubbed “The Chase”, the Kingsmen became the club’s house band and Ken Chase became the band’s manager. Ely was begging Chase to let the band record their own version of “Louie Louie”, and on April 5, 1963, Chase booked the band an hour-long session at the local Northwestern Inc. studio for the following day. The band had just played a 90-minute “Louie Louie” marathon.
Despite the band’s annoyance at having so little time to prepare, the Kingsmen walked into the recording studio on April 6 at 10:00 am. In order to sound like a live performance, the group’s equipment was arranged such that Ely was forced to lean back and sing into a boom microphone suspended high above the floor. “It was more yelling than singing,” Ely said, “’cause I was trying to be heard over all the instruments.” In addition, he was wearing braces at the time of the performance, further compounding his infamously slurred words. Ely sang the beginning of the third verse a few bars too early, but realized his mistake and waited for the rest of the band to catch up. In what was thought to be a warm-up, the song was recorded in its first and only take. The Kingsmen were not proud of the version, but their manager liked the rawness of their cover. The B-side was “Haunted Castle”, composed by Ely and Don Gallucci, the new keyboardist. However, credit was given to Lynn Easton on both the Jerden and Wand labels. The entire session cost $50, and the band split the difference.
Before the record became a hit Jack was forced out of the group and began playing with his new band, the Courtmen. Ely began touring with his new group, and in 1966, they released “Louie Louie ’66” and “Ride Ride Baby” after which he was called up into the army.
On August 16, during a band practice, Easton told Ely that he wanted to abandon the drums and become the frontman and singer. Ely would have to become the drummer, and since The Kingsmen was registered in Easton’s name only, he technically led the band. Ely was not happy with this turn of events, and he and Nordby left the band at once. At the time, the song had sold roughly 600 copies and it was thought that the Kingsmen would disband. When he found out “Louie Louie” was climbing up the Billboard charts, Ely attempted to rejoin the group, but was blocked by Easton who was intent on adding replacements. Undeterred, Ely went on to form his own “Kingsmen” group and also recorded “Love That Louie” in 1964 for RCA Records as Jack E. Lee and the Squires. A legal battle ensued, resulting in Ely ceasing to call his group the Kingsmen and Wand Records being required to credit Ely as lead vocalist on all future “Louie Louie” pressings. Ely received $6000 in royalties, and Easton had to stop lip-synching the song in live performances.
In August of that year, during a band practice, Easton told Ely that he wanted to abandon the drums and become the frontman and singer. Ely would have to become the drummer, and since The Kingsmen was registered in Easton’s name only, he technically led the band. Ely was not happy with this turn of events, and he and Nordby left the band at once. At the time, the song had sold roughly 600 copies and it was thought that the Kingsmen would disband. When he found out “Louie Louie” was climbing up the Billboard charts, Ely attempted to rejoin the group, but was blocked by Easton who was intent on adding replacements. Undeterred, Ely went on to form his own “Kingsmen” group and also recorded “Love That Louie” in 1964 for RCA Records as Jack E. Lee and the Squires. A legal battle ensued, resulting in Ely ceasing to call his group the Kingsmen and Wand Records being required to credit Ely as lead vocalist on all future “Louie Louie” pressings. Ely received $6000 in royalties, and Easton had to stop lip-synching the song in live performances.
Ely began touring with his renamed group, the Courtmen. In 1966, they released “Louie Louie ’66” and “Ride Ride Baby” with Bang Records; neither charted. With the Vietnam War on the horizon, Ely was conscripted into the army, and found his career had waned upon his return to the United States in 1968. Ely spiraled down into drug and alcohol addiction, but then spoke out against it with the Rockers Against Drugs.
In later years, Ely lived at his farm in Terrebonne, Oregon, where he trained horses. He was a strong supporter of the Performance Rights Act, which would give royalties to recording artists and record labels. Since Ely was not the original author, he never received any money from the radio play of “Louie Louie.” In an interview, he said, “It’s not just about me. There are a lot of one-hit wonders out there just like me who deserve compensation when their recorded performances are played and stations get ad revenue from it.”
In 2012, Ely released a Christian rock album, Love Is All Around You Now.
Ely died at his Oregon residence on April 28, 2015 at the age of 71, having long suffered from an unknown illness. “Because of his religious beliefs, we’re not even sure what it was that killed him,” his son Sean Ely said. He was a Christian Scientist and Sean Ely believed his father suffered from skin cancer.
April 14, 2015 – Percy Tyron Sledge was born in Leighton, Alabama on November 25th 1940. While growing up he would sing in church on Sundays. As a teenager he worked on several farms in the fields before taking a job as an orderly at Colbert County Hospital in Sheffield, Alabama.
Through the mid 1960s, he toured the Southeast with the Esquires Combo on weekends, while working at the hospital during the week. A former patient introduced him to record producer Quin Ivy, who signed Percy to a recording contract.
Sledge’s soulful voice was perfect for the series of soul ballads produced by Ivy and Marlin Greene, which rock critic Dave Marsh called “emotional classics for romantics of all ages”.
‘When a Man Loves a Woman’ was his first song recorded under the contract, and was released in April 1966. It reached No. 1 in the US and went on to become an international hit, charting twice in the UK, reaching No. 4 in 1966 and, on reissue, peaked at No. 2 in 1987. The song was also the first gold record released by Atlantic Records. According to Sledge, the inspiration for the song came when his girlfriend left him for a modelling career after he was laid off from a construction job in late 1965, and, because bassist Calvin Lewis and organist Andrew Wright helped him with the song, he gave all the songwriting credits to them.
It was followed by a string of hits including “Warm and Tender Love”, “It Tears Me Up”, “Take Time to Know Her”, “Love Me Tender”, “Cover Me”, “I’ll Be Your Everything” and “Sunshine”.
Percy became an international concert favorite throughout the world, especially in the Netherlands, Germany, and on the African continent; he averaged 100 concerts a year in South Africa.
Sledge’s career enjoyed a renaissance in the 1980s when “When a Man Loves a Woman” re-entered the UK Singles Chart, peaking at No. 2 behind the reissued Ben E. King classic “Stand by Me”, after being used in a Levi’s commercial.
In the early 1990s, Michael Bolton brought “When a Man Loves a Woman” back into the limelight again on his hit album Time, Love, & Tenderness. On the week of November 17 to November 23, 1991, Bolton’s version also hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, exactly 25 and 1/2 years to the week after Percy’s did in 1966.
In 1994, Saul Davis and Barry Goldberg produced Sledge’s album, Blue Night, for Philippe Le Bras’ Sky Ranch label and Virgin Records. It featured Bobby Womack, Steve Cropper, and Mick Taylor among others. Blue Night received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album, Vocal or Instrumental, and in 1996 it won the W.C. Handy Award for best soul or blues album.
In 2004, Davis and Goldberg also produced the Shining Through the Rain album, which preceded his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Songs on the CD were written by Mikael Rickfors, Steve Earle, the Bee Gees, Carla Olson, Denny Freeman, Allan Clarke and Jackie Lomax. The same year Percy recorded a live album with his band Sunset Drive entitled Percy Sledge and Sunset Drive – Live in Virginia on WRM Records produced by Warren Rodgers.
In December 2010, Rhino Handmade issued a four-CD retrospective, The Atlantic Recordings, which covers all of the issued Atlantic masters, as well as many of the tracks unissued in the United States (although some were simply the mono versions of songs originally issued in stereo; Disc 1 comprises Sledge’s first two LPs which were not recorded on stereo equipment).
In 2011 he toured with UK singing star, Sir Cliff Richard during his Soulicious tour, performing “I’m Your Puppet”. Sadly his 2014 tour was cancelled because of ill health. Sledge died of liver cancer at his home in Baton Rouge on April 14, 2015 at the age of 74.
He was honored with the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 1989 and honored with the Blues Music Award in 1996 for best Soul/Blues album of the year with his record Blue Night. Already a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and the Carolina Beach Music Hall Of Fame, in 2005, Percy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in May of 2007, he was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame in his home city of Baton Rouge.
April 1, 2015 – Dave Ball was born on March 30th 1950 in Birmingham, England. He was the youngest of three sons from a musical Birmingham family. “We were born show-offs and broke into a routine at the slightest excuse,” he said of his adolescence strumming a guitar alongside Pete and Denny. All three brothers played in various groups in Germany before teaming up with the drummer Cozy Powell to back Ace Kefford, formerly of The Move, and then forming Big Bertha in 1969.
Replacing Robin Trower in Procol Harum in 1970, he can be heard on the group’s live album, Procol Harum Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, but left late during the recordings for their 1973 album Grand Hotel, in Sept 1972. “I was getting bored,” he said in an interview. “There were only so many ideas I could put into that style.” Continue reading Dave Ball 4/2015
March 16, 2015 – Bruce Hull Crump, Jr. (Molly Hatchett) was born on July 17th 1957 in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1976 he became a member of southern rock band Molly Hatchet, appearing on their most successful albums: 1978’s ‘Molly Hatchet’, 1979’s double-platinum ‘Flirtin’ With Disaster’, 1980’s ‘Beatin’ The Odds’ and 1981’s ‘Take No Prisoners’, and playing on hit singles such as “Flirtin’ With Disaster”, “The Rambler”, “Power Play” and “Satisfied Man”.
Crump was a member of Molly Hatchet from 1976, through the turn of the ’90s – save for a brief absence around 1983. He got into the band, Crump once said, almost by accident as a kid in the Jacksonville, Fla., area.
“I was a senior in high school,” Crump told in an interview in 2013. “Somebody told me about Molly Hatchet, so I snuck out one night to see them. And then through some mutual friends I heard that their drummer was leaving, so I contacted one of the members to see if that was true, and he said, ‘Yeah, we pretty much don’t have a band.’”
Something clicked. By 1978, Molly Hatchet was on tour promoting a platinum self-titled debut. The follow up, 1979’s Flirtin’ with Disaster, became a Top 20 smash, selling more than three million copies on the strength of its beloved title track. Beatin’ the Odds, released in 1980, also went platinum, but then 1981’s Take No Prisoners barely cracked the Top 40, and Molly Hatchet’s hitmaking days were over. They remained a huge concert draw, however.
With his departure Crump relocated to Canada and joined Streetheart, appearing on their 1983 live album ‘Live After Dark’. However he quickly returned to Molly Hatchet to be playing on 1984’s ‘The Deed Is Done’, 1985’s ‘Double Trouble Live’ and 1989’s ‘Lightning Strikes Twice’ before exiting for another time.
Molly Hatchet lost original frontman Danny Joe Brown in 2005 and founding guitarist Duane Roland passed a year later, but the band still continues today under the leadership of guitarist Dave Hlubek, the last remaining original member. Crump memorably joined the later edition of Molly Hatchet, during a 2004 performance at Richmond, Va.
When not involved in band activities, he had a home business providing drum lessons, “Drum Lessons by Bruce”. He was also a licensed real-estate agent and briefly a web site designer.
Crump later started a new band, called Red Star Crush. At the time of his death from cancer on March 16, 2015, Bruce played in the Jacksonville, Florida-based band White Rhino and the newly reformed China Sky. He was 57.
March 4, 2015 – Jim McCann, Irish guitarist and singer, was born in Dublin on October 26th 1944. He dropped out of University College Dublin where he was studying medicine, when he became interested in folk music during a 1964 summer in Birmingham, UK. He began to perform in folk clubs in the area, and, upon his return to Dublin, he joined a group called the Ludlow Trio in 1965. They had an Irish No.1 hit 1966, with “The Sea Around Us”, but the band broke up the following year.
Jim began a solo career, releasing an album, McCann and making several appearances on several folk programs for Telefis Éireann.
Amongst other pursuits, he spent the next few years involving himself in theatrical productions (starting with Maureen Potter’s “Gaels of Laughter” in 1968), and he toured throughout Ireland and Britain. He released a second album, McCanned, made a television special called Reflections of Jim McCann, and then hosted a series called The McCann Man. It was on The McCann Man that he met fellow folk artist, Luke Kelly of The Dubliners. During this appearance, Kelly did his only televised performance of the Phil Coulter song “Scorn Not His Simplicity”, a song that he chose to perform sparingly out of respect to the subject matter (Coulter’s intellectually disabled son).
McCann subsequently performed alongside Kelly in the original cast of Jesus Christ Superstar in 1973, in the role of Peter. In April 1974 Kelly asked McCann to join The Dubliners temporarily, to replace Ciarán Bourke during a period of illness. However, he became a permanent member soon afterwards, when Ronnie Drew left the group to pursue a solo career. McCann remained with The Dubliners until the end of 1979, during which he toured incessantly, as well as recorded several albums with the group.
Jim released 7 solo albums including From Tara to Here which went gold.
He rejoined the Dubliners in 2002 for their 40th anniversary album, but during the subsequent tour was diagnosed with throat cancer. Although treatment for the illness was successful, the damage to his voice left him unable to sing. However, he still collaborated with the Dubliners by taking the photographs for them, appearing as a compere in their concerts, and sometimes playing the guitar. During the Dubliners’ last concert in December 2012, he performed with them as a guitarist.
McCann’s death from throat cancer was announced by his family on 5 March 2015. He was 70.
March 11, 2015 – Jimmy Greenspoon aka Maestro was born on February 7, 1948 in Los Angeles and raised in Beverly Hills. He was taught the piano at aged 7 by his mother, the silent screen star, Mary O’Brien. While a senior at school he formed a surf group The New Dimensions, in 1963, before attending the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music to studiy piano. Jimmy worked on the Sunset Strip in the 1960s with the groups Sound of the Seventh Son and The East Side Kids. His bands held residence at The Trip, Stratford on Sunset later The House Of Blues, Brave New World, Bidos Litos, Ciros, and The Whiskey.
In late 1966, he moved to Denver, Colorado, with the members of The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band and formed the group Superband. In 1968, he moved back to Los Angeles, where he met Danny Hutton, and subsequently formed Three Dog Night with whom he performed for the next 46 years, until he was too ill to tour in 2014.
The band earned 12 gold albums and recorded 21 consecutive Billboard Top 40 hits, seven of which went gold. Their first gold record was “One”, and they had three US No.1 songs, “Mama Told Me Not to Come”, “Joy to the World” and “Black and White”.
As well as with Three Dog Night, over his long career Jimmy has performed and recorded with the likes of Linda Ronstadt, America, The Beach Boys, Beck, Bogert & Appice, Nils Lofgren, Lowell George, Donovan, Eric Clapton, Buddy Miles, Stephen Stills, Jeff Beck, Chris Hillman, Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, James Burton, Hal Blaine, Leon Russell, The Wrecking Crew, Osibisa, Shaun Cassidy, Cheech & Chong, Redbone, and Jimi Hendrix.
He also served as an Entertainment and Media Consultant with the Murry-Wood Foundation and composed original music for the movies Fragment, produced by Lloyd Levin, United 93, Hellboy, Watchmen, Field of Dreams, Predator, and Die Hard. He collaborated with composer Neil Argo and in 2000 and received a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars.
Jimmy Greenspoon died March 11, 2015 at the age of 67 while fighting metastatic melanoma at his home in North Potomac, Maryland.
February 16, 2015 – Lesley Sue Gore was born Lesley Sue Goldstein on May 2, 1946 in Brooklyn, New York City into a middle-class Jewish family, the daughter of Leo and Ronny Gore.
Her father was the owner of Peter Pan, a children’s swimwear and underwear manufacturer and later became a leading brand licensing agent in the apparel industry. She was raised in Tenafly, New Jersey, a little distance from the George Washington Bridge and was a junior at the Dwight School for Girls in nearby Englewood when “It’s My Party” became a number one hit. The song was eventually nominated for a Grammy Award for rock and roll recording. It sold over one million copies and was certified as a gold record.
“It’s My Party” was followed by many other hits for Gore, including the sequel, “Judy’s Turn to Cry” (US No. 5); “She’s a Fool” (US No. 5); the protofeminist million-selling “You Don’t Own Me”, which held at No. 2 for three weeks behind The Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand”; “That’s the Way Boys Are” (US No. 12); “Maybe I Know” (US No. 14/UK No. 20); “Look of Love” (US No. 27); and the Grammy-nominated “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” (US No. 13), from the 1965 movie, Ski Party. In 1965 she appeared in the beach party film, The Girls on the Beach in which she performed three songs: “Leave Me Alone”, “It’s Gotta Be You”, and “I Don’t Want to Be a Loser”.
Gore was given first shot at recording “A Groovy Kind of Love” by songwriters Carole Bayer and Toni Wine, with a melody from a sonatina by Muzio Clementi, but Shelby Singleton, a producer for Mercury subsidiary Smash Records, refused to let Gore record a song with the word “groovy” in its lyrics. The Mindbenders went on to record it, and it reached No. 2 on the Billboard charts.
Gore recorded composer Marvin Hamlisch’s first hit composition, “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows”, on May 21, 1963 while “It’s My Party” was climbing the charts. Her record producer from 1963 to 1965 was Quincy Jones. Jones’ dentist was Marvin Hamlisch‘s uncle, and Hamlisch asked his uncle to convey several songs to Jones. “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” was released on the LP Lesley Gore Sings of Mixed-Up Hearts but did not surface as a single until June 1965. Hamlisch composed three other Gore associated songs: “California Nights”, “That’s the Way the Ball Bounces” and “One by One”.
Gore was one of the featured performers in the T.A.M.I. Show concert film, which was recorded and released in 1964 by American International Pictures, and placed in the National Film Registry in 2006. Gore had one of the longest sets in the film, performing six songs including “It’s My Party”, “You Don’t Own Me”, and “Judy’s Turn to Cry”.
Gore performed on two consecutive episodes of the Batman television series (January 19 and 25, 1967), in which she guest-starred as Pussycat, one of Catwoman’s minions. In the January 19 episode “That Darn Catwoman”, she lip-synched to the Bob Crewe-produced “California Nights”, and in the January 25 episode “Scat! Darn Catwoman” she lip-synched to “Maybe Now”. “California Nights”, which Gore recorded for her 1967 album of the same name, returned her to the upper reaches of the Hot 100. The single peaked at number 16 in March 1967 (14 weeks on the chart). It was her first top 40 hit since “My Town, My Guy and Me” in late 1965 and her first top 20 since “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows”.
Gore also performed the single “We Know We’re in Love” ten months earlier on the final episode of The Donna Reed Show, which aired on March 19, 1966.
After high school, while continuing to make appearances as a singer, Gore attended Sarah Lawrence College, studying British and American English literature. At college, folk music was popularly lauded as ‘chic’ whereas pop music was often derided as ‘uncool. “Had I been tall with blonde hair, had I been Mary Travers, I would have gotten along fine.” She graduated in 1968.
Gore composed songs for the soundtrack of the 1980 film Fame, for which she received an Academy Award nomination for “Out Here on My Own”, written with her brother Michael. Michael won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the theme song of the same film. Gore played concerts and appeared on television throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Gore co-wrote a song, “My Secret Love”, for the 1996 film Grace of My Heart. The film includes a subplot about a young singer named Kelly Porter, who is based in part on Gore and is played by Bridget Fonda. The character, who is a closeted lesbian, performs “My Secret Love” in the film.
In 2005 Gore recorded Ever Since (her first album of new material since Love Me By Name in 1976), with producer/songwriter Blake Morgan, with the label Engine Company Records. The album received favorable reviews from The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Billboard Magazine and other national press. The album also included a revised version of “You Don’t Own Me”, about which the New York Daily News wrote: “In Lesley Gore’s new version of ‘You Don’t Own Me’—cut more than 40 years after its initial recording—she lends a pop classic new life.” Gore commented: “Without the loud backing track, I could wring more meaning from the lyric”. And: “It’s a song that takes on new meaning every time you sing it.
She was 68 years old when she died on 16 February 2015 from lung cancer.
February 7, 2015- Joe B Mauldin was born on July 8th 1940 as Joseph Benson Mauldin, Jr. in Lubbock, Texas. Mauldin began studying stand-up bass in 1954 after borrowing one from his school.
He started his musical journey playing in a local band called The Four Teens with a young Terry Noland in 1955, before joining Buddy Holly’s Crickets in ’57. Their first hit record was “That’ll Be the Day”, released in 1957. The single became No.1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in Billboard magazine, which was followed by hits such as “Peggy Sue”, “Not Fade Away”and “Rave On” .
They helped set the template for subsequent rock bands such as the Beatles, with their guitar-bass-drums arrangements and tendency to write their own material. Joe was a double-bassist and together with drummer J.I. Allison he pioneered rock and roll as they became one of the most influential rhythm sections in the business that shaped early rock and roll.
After Buddy’s death in 1959, he played on and off for over 54 years as an original Cricket with J.I. Allison, Sonny Curtis, Glen D. Hardin and with Niki Sullivan on occasion, and he remained a vital member of the band until his death. But in 1964, he enlisted in the Army, after which he moved to Los Angeles where he became a recording engineer at Gold Star Studios, the Los Angeles studio that became the hit factory for Phil Spector, Brian Wilson and other major 1960s rock performers, before re-joining the Crickets in the early-mid ’70s.
In 1978, the award-winning film, The Buddy Holly Story, starring Gary Busey as Buddy Holly, presented an engaging but somewhat inaccurate depiction of the band’s early years. Allison and Joe’s names were altered as Jesse Charles and Ray Bob Simmons, while Niki Sullivan, Sonny Curtis, Bob Montgomery, Don Guess & Larry Welborn were written out of the film altogether which made them vote their portrayal as negative.
Through the 80’s, 70’s and 2000s, Joe along with The Crickets continued to tour the world many times to sold out venues. More recently The Crickets released “The Crickets and Their Buddies” in 2004, which features several classics from all parts of their career featuring guest appearances by several prominent artists including Eric Clapton, Rodney Crowell, Waylon Jennings, Nanci Griffith, John Prine, Graham Nash, Bobby Vee, Tonio K. and more.
Joe was inducted into the West Texas Walk of Fame in Lubbock and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee as an original Cricket. In 2012, he was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Crickets by a special committee, aimed at correcting the mistake of not including the Crickets with Buddy Holly when he was first inducted in 1986. Sadly Joe was too ill to attend.
He died from cancer on 7 February 2015 at the age of 74.
“The best way I can explain Joe B. is that he was really a gentle soul and a gentle man. He never caused anybody any trouble and he was a great bass player,” Jerry Allison said. “He knew exactly what to play, and when Buddy and Joe B. and I were playing together Joe B. didn’t play too much. He played just right. … He was right on beat. It was just good.”
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. In 1965, he wrote and produced a song about the psychedelic experience, “The Trip”, and later appeared on Frank Zappa’s first album ‘Freak Out!’. In the 60’he also worked with P.J. Proby, an early incarnation of Slade known as the N’Betweens, Gene Vincent, he appeared on hypephone on Frank Zappa’s first album Freak Out! and wrote the lyrics for the song “Portobello Road” recorded by Cat Stevens.
The 70s saw Kim produce three recordings, “At the Hop”, “Louie Louie” and “She’s So Fine” by Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids, for the film American Graffiti. He also co-wrote songs for KISS, Helen Reddy, Alice Cooper, Leon Russell and Kris Kristofferson. He also made recordings with Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers. The 80s find Kim talent hunting in Australia and New Zealand and he worked with The Innocents, Candy, Steel Breeze, The Runaways and Shanghai. He was the one behind the rise of all-girl rockbands in the late 1970s. Kim is also featured in Mayor of the Sunset Strip, a 2003 documentary about the disc jockey Rodney Bingenheimer.
He became an experimental filmmaker after the DVD release of Mayor of the Sunset Strip. His written and directed works include: Black Room Doom, Dollboy: The Movie, Satan of Silverlake, The Golden Road to Nowhere, Frankenstein Goes Surfing, Trailer Park’s On Fire and Jukebox California.
He also played three dozen gigs between June 2007 and February 2009 as the act Crazy White Man, a duo featuring him on vocals and Richard Rogers on guitar. In 2012, Kim won the Special Jury Prize at the 13th Melbourne Underground Film Festival for his two feature projects – Golden Road to Nowhere and Black Room Doom, and in 2014 he also made an appearance in Beyoncé’s music video “Haunted”. Fowler has often been described as “one of the most colorful characters in the annals of rock & roll.
He died on January 15, 2015 at the age of 75 after a long battle with bladder cancer.
January 13, 2015 –Trevor ‘Dozy’ Ward-Davieswas born November 27th 1944 in Enford, Wiltshire, England. In the late 1950s, all of 15 years old, he lead a semi professional local rock band called the Beatnicks, before he becoming the founding member of the band, Dave Dee and the Bostons in 1961. They changed their name to Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, when they gained a recording contract with Fontana Records.
They first entered the UK charts in December 1965 with You Make it Move. A string of hits followed including Hold Tight!, Bend It! and Save Me and a UK number one single with the whip-cracking Legend of Xanadu, in 1968.
Two of their albums charted – their eponymous debut, in 1966, followed a year later by If Music Be the Food of Love… Then Prepare for Indigestion.
Between 1965 and 1969, the group spent more weeks in the UK Singles Chart (141) than the Beatles (139) and made a few tours to Australia and New Zealand. They scored a No.1 hit in the UK in 1968 with “The Legend of Xanadu”. Their other Top 10 UK hits included “Bend It!”, “Hideaway”, “Hold Tight!”, “Save Me”, “Touch Me, Touch Me”, “Okay!”, “Zabadak!” and “Last Night in Soho”.
The band carried on performing after Dave Dee left in the 1970s, (he died in 2009) under the acronym DBMT. Dozy was bass player of the band for 54 years until his death. It all started off with Dozy before it ever got to Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich,” said Ian Amey (Tich).
In 2008, 40 years after Xanadu reached the top of the charts, the band was honored with a blue plaque at Salisbury city hall. He sadly died from cancer on 13 January 2015 at the age of 70.
January 10, 2015 – Timothy Lee “Tim” Drummond was born on April 20, 1940 in Canton Illinois. Journeyman bassist Tim Drummond, who performed with Neil Young, Crosby, Stills and Nash and Bob Dylan among many more rock legends, passed away January 10th, 2015 the St. Louis County, Missouri coroner’s office confirmed to Rolling Stone. No cause of death was given but investigators revealed there was no trauma.
In his early years Drummond performed and recorded with country and R&B stars in the 1960s in South Carolina, Illinois and, later in the decade, Cincinnati, Ohio. He played rockabilly with Conway Twitty, funk with James Brown and vintage R&B with Hank Ballard before moving to Nashville where he played on sessions with Joe Simon, Fenton Robinson, Jimmy Buffett and Charlie Daniels, among others.
When Neil Young traveled to Nashville to work on his brilliant Harvest album, Drummond visited the studio and became a member of the Stray Gators with the drummer Kenny Buttery and pedal steel guitarist Ben Keith. Drummond would continue to record and tour with Young on albums and concerts that did not involve his primary backing band Crazy Horse. He also toured with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young as well as record and tour with CSN and the duo of Crosby and Nash. He contributed to every studio LP the singer-songwriter released from 1974’s On the Beach to 1980’s Hawks & Doves. Drummond was also a member of Young’s short-lived backup bands the Shocking Pinks, the Stray Gators and the International Harvesters. After reuniting with the Harvest crew for 1992’s Harvest Moon, Drummond’s two-decade-long tenure with Young ended with the rocker’s 1993 MTV Unplugged performance.
Moving to California led to Drummond becoming one of the most in-demand session bassists, often paired with drummer Jim Keltner (Tim and Jim in the engine room). Together they were the rhythm section on CSNY’s 1974 tour, during which time Drummond met Dylan. He would later join his band during during Dylan’s Christian gospel phase, co-writing “Saved.” Drummond also appears on multiple albums by J.J. Cale, Ry Cooder and Graham Nash, and played on hit records by Don Henley, Bette Midler, Paula Abdul and Jewel.
Drummond co-wrote songs with many of the artists he worked with, including: “Saved” (Bob Dylan), “Who’s Talking” (J.J. Cale), “Saddle Up The Palomino” (Neil Young), and “Down In Hollywood” (Ry Cooder). He is credited as the sole writer of “I Want to Lay Down Beside You” on the 1972 album Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth.
Drummond’s credits run deep and diverse and include the Beach Boys’ 16 Big Ones, Don Henley’s Building the Perfect Beast, a trio of Ry Cooder albums and Jewel’s Pieces of You. The bassist performed alongside legends Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker and Taj Mahal on Jack Nitzsche’s score for the 1990 film The Hot Spot and collaborated with the likes of James Brown, Lonnie Mack, Rick Danko, J.J. Cale and John Mayall through the years.
“I can’t praise Dylan enough. He’s not only a dear friend, but he was just great,” Drummond told Rolling Stone about touring Slow Train Coming. “At that time I was semi-bandleader, and I kept telling the band, ‘Watch Dylan’s right heel when he’s stomping. Don’t tap your toe, watch your heel. That’s where the beat is.’ And that’s exactly right. It’s the heel that counts. If you tap your toe, you’d be off.”
Drummond also joined Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young on the road during the band’s infamous 1974 “doom tour” and performed on CSN’s 1977 single “Just a Song Before I Go.” “He played us all the songs from Blood on the Tracks on acoustic guitar,” he said. “We were on twin beds, across from each other. Oh God, I can’t tell you how great it was. At one point Stephen Stills said something to him about the songs not being good. I was so goddamn embarrassed. He was probably coked out. Dylan, being the arrogant man that he was said, ‘Well, Stephen, play me one of your songs.’ That was the end of it. Stephen couldn’t even find one string from another at that point.”
He also recalled what the tour was like onstage. “The guitar duels between Stephen and Neil got really loud,” Drummond said. “I’d just wander between the amplifiers and do my thing so I could hear myself. I was lucky I made it through that tour without ruining my ears.”
Drummond died Jan. 10, 2015 in St. Louis County, Missouri. He was 74. His death comes just three months after Rick Rosas, who played bass alongside Neil Young for nearly 25 years and was known as “Rick the Bass Player,” and passed away at the age of 65 following a battle with cancer.
January 9, 2015 – Willie “Popsy” Dixon was born Willie Leonard Dixon in Virginia Beach, Virginia on July 26, 1942.
He was reared by an aunt and uncle. When he was 3, they moved to Brooklyn, N.Y. He grew up in a Pentecostal church, which did much to influence his music, and he attended a Pentecostal boarding school in Tennessee.
“He started playing the drums in church when he was 4 years old,” said his daughter, Desiree Berry of Brooklyn. “My grandfather and a deacon in the church showed him how, and he picked up fast.”
He got his first drumkit when he was seven. He once said: “My mom and dad took me to the store and told me to get anything I liked. There was this tiny red drum set, with a tiny little kick drum and snare…little cymbals. Now, that’s what I wanted! By the next morning, the thing was in the trash can. I beat it all to death. But, I tell you what…I knew how to play after that. I just knew. I had the rhythm down pat and had timing too. Just that fast. I been playing ever since.”
In his young years he worked as a porter at Bergdorf Goodman’s women lingerie department, while gigging at night. His father had a moving business and he got him some trucks of his own and everything. Popsy however told his dad “Dad, this is just not my callin’.” By then, I was playing around pretty good, so dad said, “Son, I understand.“
He met brothers Sherman and Wendell Holmes at a New York gig in 1967. Dixon sat in with the brothers and sang two songs. “After that second song,” recalls Wendell, “Popsy was a brother.” They played the bar circuit until 1979 when they officially formed The Holmes Brothers. With The Holmes Brothers, he recorded with the likes of Van Morrison, Peter Gabriel, Odetta, Phoebe Snow, Willie Nelson, Freddie Roulette, Rosanne Cash, Levon Helm and Joan Osborne, toured the world including performing for President Bill Clinton and released 12 albums.
He was the so-called “spirit brother” of The Holmes Brothers trio, and he could croon in a soaring multi-octave falsetto that The Chicago Tribune once hailed as “otherworldly.” His upper reach was the sparkplug of doo-wop numbers and the exclamation point of gospel songs.
Dixon was celebrated for his soaring, soulful multi-octave vocals and his driving, in-the-pocket drumming. They played in a variety of Top 40 bar bands until 1979, when the three officially joined forces and formed The Holmes Brothers, which The New York Times described as “deeply soulful, uplifting and timeless.” They toured the world, releasing 12 albums starting with 1990’s In The Spirit on Rounder. Their most recent release was 2014’s Brotherhood on Alligator.
The Chicago Tribune described Dixon’s voice as “otherworldly…a gift to the world of music.” Living Blues said, “Popsy’s voice is a wonder…spontaneous and raw.”
They performed in every state in the union and in 35 countries all over the world. When he was 60 he was asked: Is touring starting to wear you out?
His answer: “I’m 60 years old and I’m having a good time. When people tell me they can’t do such and such because of their age, I say…yea…you just keep on feelin’ that way, cause I’m moving right past you. You limit yourself by how you think. If you think you can’t do it, then you can’t. I don’t limit myself that way. I just keep on keepin’ on and feelin good. Even when I ain’t playing, I’m out fishin’. But let me tell you, once we played in West Africa and they kept asking us if we were politicians. We said “Hell, no…we’re musicians. We just came here to play.” Playing is what makes me feel good and I’m not gonna stop until life stops.”
Life stopped for this remarkable performer on January 9, 2015, 4 days after he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Bladder Cancer. In December 2014 he was hospitalized with pneumonia shortly after a performance. Doctors discovered that he had stage-four bladder cancer on Jan. 5, he went into hospice care in Richmond, where he transitioned at age 72 just four days later.
Their most recent release was 2014’s “Brotherhood”. They won the Blues Music Award from the Memphis-based Blues Foundation for Band of the Year in 2005 and for the Soul Blues Album of the Year in 2008.
In September 2014, The Holmes Brothers were honored with a National Endowment For The Arts National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor the United States bestows upon its folk and traditional artists.
December 22, 2014 – John Robert Joe Cocker was born in Sheffield, England in 1944.
When a Joe Cocker song came on the airwaves, you instantly knew it was Joe Cocker. He was known for his rasping voice, after he rose to fame with his cover of the Beatles song With a Little Help from My Friends, which went to No 1 in 1968. Cocker was “without a doubt the greatest rock/soul voice ever to come out of Britain – and remained the same man throughout his life. Hugely talented, a true star, but a kind and humble man who loved to perform. Anyone who ever saw him live will never forget him.”
Born John Robert Cocker in 1944, he was raised in Sheffield, the youngest son of a civil servant. His first foray into music was under the stage name Vance Arnold with his band Vance Arnold and the Avengers, mainly covering Chuck Berry and Ray Charles in Sheffield pubs, but the band landed their big break in 1963. They supported the Rolling Stones at Sheffield City Hall and Joe cut his first single, a cover of the Beatles’ “I’ll Cry Instead”, with Jim Sullivan and Jimmy Page on guitars. He soon developed an interest in blues music of John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins and teamed up with Chris Stainton to form the Grease Band. He then moved to London with Chris Stainton, where a new Grease Band were given a residency at the Marquee Club in London. He formed the new band with Chris Stainton and keyboardist Tommy Eyre. After minor success in the United States with the single “Marjorine”, Joe and his Grease band was propelled to pop stardom when his version of “With A Little Help From My Friends” reached No.1 in 1968. The recording features Jimmy Page on lead guitar, drumming by B. J. Wilson, backing vocals by Sue and Sunny, and Tommy Eyre on organ. Their touring line-up now featured Henry McCullough on lead guitar and they embarked on their first tour of the United States in spring 1969, which included several large festivals, including the Newport Rock Festival, the Denver Pop Festival and the Woodstock Festival they performed several songs, including “Delta Lady”, “Something’s Comin’ On”, “Let’s Go Get Stoned”, “I Shall Be Released”, and “With a Little Help from My Friends”. Joe is also well known for his epic ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’ Tour of 1970, which featured over 40 musicians which included Chris Stainton, Bobby Keys, Rita Coolidge, Leon Russell, and Chuck Blackwell. They toured 48 cities across the US, and resulted in a third gold album by the same name and a concert film. Joe carried on touring the world throughout the 70s though to the 2000s, producing hits such as “The Letter”, You Are So Beautiful”, “Woman To Woman”. In 1978 Joe moved to in Santa Barbara, California. In 1983 he won his first Grammy with ‘Up Where We Belong’, a duet with Jennifer Warnes, the theme from the 1982 film ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’. On June 3rd 2002, Joe performed “With A Little Help From My Friends” accompanied by Phil Collins on drums and guitarist Brian May at the Party at the Palace concert in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, an event in commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II. He went onto receive an OBE in 2011 for his great contribution to music and a career in which he recorded more than 40 albums.
Paul McCartney led the tributes to the musician who had covered so many of the Beatles’ tracks in his long career, and said he was for ever grateful to Cocker for turning With a Little Help from My Friends into a soul anthem.
“It’s really sad to hear about Joe’s passing,” he said. “He was a lovely northern lad who I loved a lot and, like many people, I loved his singing. I knew him through the years as a good mate and I was so sad to hear that he had been ill and really sad to hear today that he had passed away. He was a great guy, a lovely guy who brought so much to the world and we’ll all miss him.”
The sentiment was echoed by the Beatles’ drummer, Ringo Starr, who wrote: “Goodbye and God bless to Joe Cocker from one of his friends peace and love. R.”
In a testament to Cocker’s widespread influence, other musicians from singer Ronan Keating to American rapper Lupe Fiasco and British rock band the Darkness also took to social media to pay their respects. Singer Bryan Adams said: “RIP my good friend, you were one of the best rock singers EVER.”
Road to Stardom
Cocker’s performance of With a Little Help from My Friends at the 1969 Woodstock festival in New York is still considered by many as one of the great moments in rock performance history and was later described by him as “like an eclipse”.
He released his second album, Joe Cocker!, in the same year, featuring covers of songs originally performed by artists such as Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Paul McCartney and George Harrison, impressed with his talent, allowed him to cover two Beatles tracks on the album.
In 1970, he embarked on a mammoth tour of America under the guise of his new band, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, which included pianist Leonard Russell and singer Rita Coolidge. In line with the rock-n-roll scenes of the era performing alongside musicians such as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and releasing several successful cover songs, including his take on the Box Tops’ The Letter, which became his first US top 10 hit, Cocker began to struggle with alcohol and drug abuse, and returned to Sheffield in 1971.
Speaking years later about his experiences on tour, Cocker said: “There was no rehab back in those days. Drugs were readily available, and I dived in head first … It took me years to get straight. When I first became successful, I was a beer-drinker from Sheffield. Then I was thrown into the world of American rock.”
After almost a decade of releasing several albums that mostly received only a tepid response, Cocker married Pam, his second wife, in 1978, whom he credited with helping him escape the downward spiral. Cocker staged a successful comeback in the 1980s that saw his 1983 duet with Jennifer Warnes, Up Where We Belong, earn him a Grammy and an Academy award for best original song as the theme to the film An Officer and A Gentleman. Cocker was then nominated for a Brit award for best British male in 1993, and in 2007 he received an OBE for his contribution to music.
He continued to record albums until 2012, when his final album, Fire It Up, was released, reaching number 17 in the UK charts. He played a 20-date tour across Europe last year. His last concert was in Hammersmith in June of 2014.
Sony Music said in a statement: “John Robert Cocker, known to family, friends, his community and fans around the world as Joe Cocker, passed away on 22 December 2014 after a hard-fought battle with small-cell lung cancer … His international success as a blues/rock singer began in 1964 and continues till this day.”
Singer-songwriter and musician Peter Frampton said: “So sad to hear of Joe Cocker’s passing. You Are So Beautiful is both Joe and Nicky Hopkins piano at their very best. Gonna play it now RIP.”
Singer-songwriter Frank Turner tweeted: “Wow. Sad to hear of Joe Cocker’s passing. Incredible singer.” Irish pop star Ronan Keating wrote: “So sad to hear of Joe Cocker passing. What a brilliant and unique voice. Peace.” British comedian Ricky Gervais also paid tribute, saying: “RIP the mighty Joe Cocker.”
Sheffield Soul rocker Joe Cocker, whose career spanned almost 5 decades, died after a three year battle with small cell lung cancer on December 22, 2014.
November 6, 2014 – Rick “Rick the Bass Player” Rosas was born in West Los Angeles, Ca. on September 10th 1949. He came up through the ranks of remarkable players as a studio musician and went on to be one of the most sought after session musicians.
In the early 1980s he met Joe Walsh through drummer Joe Vitale and later played on Walsh’s 1985 album, The Confessor. Rosas also joined Walsh for a short-lived stint in Australia as a member of the Creatures from America, that also featured Waddy Wachtel on guitar and Richard Harvey on drums. He also toured with Dan Fogelberg in 1985. In December 1986, the Walsh band joined Albert Collins and Etta James for the a Jazzvisions taping called “Jump the Blues Away.”
While playing in Walsh’s touring band, he met Neil Young at the Farm Aid III benefit. Young was impressed with the bass player’s musical skill as well as his soft-spoken, laid back manner, and invited him to join his new horn-driven big band, the Bluenotes.
After that he played with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Rivers, Ron Wood, Etta James, and the short-lived reunion of the Buffalo Springfield, among many others.
Since 2000, he had been the bassist for the Waddy Wachtel Band and performed bass with The Flash in Jonathan Demme’s movie Ricki and The Flash. The movie’s band was composed of guitarist Rick Springfield, drummer Joe Vitale and keyboardist Bernie Worrell, backing up Meryl Streep, as “Ricki,” on vocals and guitar. While touring with Pegi Young & the Survivors, he got the call from Neil Young to fill in for Crazy Horse bassist Billy Talbot, who had suffered a mild stroke a few weeks before their 2014 European Tour, making Rick the only bassist to have played with Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Crazy Horse. He died shortly after wrapping up the movie fighting lung cancer on Nov 6, 2014 at age 65. (There’s a special tribute to him in the credits at the end of the movie.)
October 4, 2014 – Paul Revere was born Paul Revere Dick on January 7, 1938 in Harvard, Nebraska, and grew up in Boise, Idaho.
In his early 20s, he owned several burger restaurants in Caldwell, but in 1958 at the age of 20, he also had formed a group called The Downbeats; it was an instrumental band before he recruited singer Mark Lindsay, then changed the name to Paul Revere & The Raiders in 1960.
As their frontman, keyboardist, he became “The madman of rock and roll” for over 56 years.
They got their brake in 1963 with a cover of “Louie, Louie”, after which, they scored 4 Top Ten singles in the 60s with “Kicks,” “Hungry,” “Good Thing” and “Him or Me, What’s It Gonna Be”. Their biggest hit came in 1971 with “Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)”.
Paul became known as “the madman of rock and roll” for his revolutionary war-style, colonial attire with his tri-cornered hats and his infectious, energenic onstage persona with the band. The band appeared regularly on national U.S. television, most notably on Dick Clark’s Where the Action Is, Happening ’68, It’s Happening and The Ed Sullivan Show.
Paul continued to lead and tour with various line-ups of The Raiders throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s until 2014 when sadly he got too ill to perform. Over his 56 years leading The Raiders, he released 14 studio albums, 15 compilation albums, 2 live albums and released 39 singles with the band.
He died at his home in Garden Valley, Idaho at the age of 76 after bravely fighting cancer.
July 11, 2014 – Tommy Ramone (The Ramones)was born Erdélyi Tamás on January 29, 1949 in Budapest, Hungary. The drummer was the last of the original band member of the Ramones. He was born to Jewish parents who survived the Holocaust by being hidden by neighbours, although many of his relatives were victims of the Nazis.
The family left Hungary during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. In 1957, he emigrated with his family to the United States. Initially settling in the South Bronx, the family moved up to the middle-class suburb of Forest Hills in Queens, New York. Forest Hills was the place where Tamás grew up. He changed his name to Thomas Erdelyi. While in high school, he and guitarist Johnny Cummings, who later became Johnny Ramone, performed together in a garage band called the Tangerine Puppets.
In 1970, Tommy was an assistant engineer for the production of the Jimi Hendrix album Band of Gypsys. Then in 1974, hugely influenced by 60s groups and the New York Dolls, Tommy, along with Johnny Cummings, Jeffrey Hyman and Douglas Colvin formed a new band and bassist Douglas, inspired by Paul McCartney’s use of the pseudonym Paul Ramon, called himself Dee Dee Ramone and convinced the other members to take on the name Ramone and came up with the idea of calling the band the Ramones.
When the Ramones first came together, with Johnny Ramone on guitar, Dee Dee Ramone on bass and Joey Ramone on drums, Erdelyi was supposed to be the manager, but was drafted as the band’s drummer when Joey became the lead singer, after realizing that he couldn’t keep up with the Ramones’ increasingly fast tempos. “Tommy Ramone, who was managing us, finally had to sit down behind the drums, because nobody else wanted to,” Dee Dee later recalled.
He remained as drummer from 1974 to 1978, playing on and co-producing their first three albums, Ramones, Leave Home, and Rocket to Russia, as well as the live album It’s Alive. His final show as a Ramones drummer was at Johnny Blitz benefit event at CBGB’s in New York, USA on May 4, 1978.
In a 2007 interview with the BBC, Ramone said the band had been heavily influenced by 1970s hard-rock band the New York Dolls, by singer-songwriter Lou Reed and by pop-art figure Andy Warhol. He said, “The scene that developed at CBGB wasn’t for a teenage or garage band; there was an intellectual element and that’s the way it was for The Ramones.”
Tommy Ramone was replaced on drums in 1978 by Marky Ramone, but handled band management and co-production for their fourth album, Road to Ruin; he later returned as producer for the eighth album, 1984’s Too Tough to Die.
Tommy Ramone wrote “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” and the majority of “Blitzkrieg Bop” while bassist Dee Dee suggested the title. He and Ed Stasium played all the guitar solos on the albums he produced, as Johnny Ramone largely preferred playing rhythm guitar. In the 1980s he produced the Replacements album Tim, as well as Redd Kross’s Neurotica.
On October 8, 2004, he played as a Ramone once again, when he joined C.J. Ramone, Daniel Rey, and Clem Burke (also known as Elvis Ramone) in the “Ramones Beat Down on Cancer” concert. In October 2007 in an interview to promote It’s Alive 1974-1996 a 2-DVD set of the band’s best televised live performances he paid tribute to his deceased bandmates:
They gave everything they could in every show. They weren’t the type to phone it in, if you see what I mean.
Ramone and Claudia Tienan (formerly of underground band the Simplistics) performed as a bluegrass-based folk duo called Uncle Monk. Ramone stated: “There are a lot of similarities between punk and old-time music. Both are home-brewed music as opposed to schooled, and both have an earthy energy. And anybody can pick up an instrument and start playing.” He joined songwriter Chris Castle, Garth Hudson, Larry Campbell and the Womack Family Band in July 2011 at Levon Helm Studios for Castle’s album Last Bird Home.
Tommy died on July 11, 2014, while fighting bile duct cancer. He was 62.
Tommy left the band in 1977, after their third and greatest album, Rocket to Russia, to concentrate on a career as a record producer. In the intervening years, he has come up with some stimulating theories about how the band’s reputation has blossomed: “Even from the very beginning, the type of fans the Ramones generated were the kind of people who wound up running industry, who became professors and scientists. Our staunchest fans were always a little bit more on the outside, the type of people who didn’t fit in with society. And once these people start running things, I think they started to inform the general public – ‘Hey, by the way, the Ramones started it all.’ That’s when the general population started becoming aware of how special the Ramones were.”
May 11, 2014 – Ed Gagliardi was born February 13th 1952 in Brooklyn, New York.
In 1976 Gagliardi became bass player for the half-British, half-American original lineup of Foreigner that also included founder Mick Jones, Gramm, Al Greenwood, Ian McDonald and Dennis Elliott. Originally named Trigger, the band was signed to Atlantic Records at the urging of A&R executive John Kalodner leading to the release of their debut album, Foreigner, in March of 1977. That album established them as a major force with top twenty hits Feels Like the First Time (1977 / #4), Cold as Ice (1977 / #6) and Long, Long Way From Home (1977 / #20).
The band went into a whirlwind year that saw them building their audience from small venues to playing in front of 200,000 at California Jam. Their second album, Double Vision, was released in June 1978 and continued their assault on Top 40 radio with Hot Blooded (1978 / #3), Double Vision (1978 / #2) and Blue Morning, Blue Day (1979 / #15).
In 1979 Gagliardi parted ways with Mick Jones and Foreigner prior to the recording of their third album, Head Games, over creative differences and was replaced by Rick Wills. Ed went on to form the group Spys with his former Foreigner bandmate Al Greenwood. The band recorded two albums, Spys and Behind Enemy Lines.
He played his Rickenbacker bass guitar left-handed even though he was a naturally right-handed. He claimed he did that because of his devotion to Paul McCartney as bass playing inspiration.
He died on May 11, 2014 at age 62 after an 8 year battle with cancer.
April 29, 2014 – Paul Goddard (ARS) was born on June 3rd 1945.
The southern rock band the Atlanta Rhythm Section was formed in 1971 by musicians who were former members of the Candymen and the Classics IV, which had become the session band for the newly opened Studio One in Doraville, Georgia, near Atlanta in 1970.
After playing on other artists’ recordings, they decided to become a true band in their own right. The original lineup consisted of vocalist Rodney Justo, guitarist Barry Bailey, bassist Paul Goddard, keyboardist Dean Daughtry, and drummer Robert Nix.
Guitarist James B. Cobb, Jr. joined the band in early 1972. Justo left the band after the first album and was replaced by Ronnie Hammond. Buddy Buie, the band’s manager and producer,is listed first on almost all of their songwriting credits.
Noted Christian Music artist and Southern rocker Mylon LeFevre appeared on “Jesus Hearted People”, from the band’s album Third Annual Pipe Dream. Before they became founding members of Atlanta Rhythm Section, members of LeFevre’s backup band included Barry Bailey, Paul Goddard and Dean Daughtry.
Goddard performed on ARS hits such as “So Into You”, “Imaginary Lover”, “I’m Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight”, “Do It or Die” and the remake of the Classics IV’s “Spooky”.
Rolling Stone magazine voted his work on “Another Man’s Woman,” from the 1979 live album Are You Ready!, as one of the top five bass solos of all time.
April 11, 2014 – James Ridout “Jesse” Winchester was born in Bossier City Louisiana on May 17th 1944. He had 10 years of piano lessons, played organ in church and picked up guitar after hearing rockabilly, blues and gospel on Memphis radio.
During the height of the Vietnam War he moved to Canada in 1967, where he began his career as a solo artist. After he became a Canadian citizen in 1973, he gained amnesty in the U.S. in 1977 but did not resettle there until 2002.
Winchester was born at Barksdale Army Air Field, near Bossier City, Louisiana, and raised in northern Mississippi and in Memphis, Tennessee, where he graduated from Christian Brothers High School in 1962 as a merit finalist, a National Honor Society member and the salutatorian of his class. He graduated from Williams College, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1966. Upon receiving his draft notice the following year, Winchester moved to Montreal, Canada, to avoid military service. “I was so offended by someone’s coming up to me and presuming to tell me who I should kill and what my life was worth,” he told Rolling Stone magazine in 1977. “I didn’t see going to a war I didn’t believe was just, or dying for it,“ he said in an interview with No Depression magazine.
Winchester began playing guitar in bands while still in high school. He played in Germany during college study abroad and after graduation. Upon arriving in Quebec in 1967, he joined a local band, Les Astronautes. He also began writing songs, which he performed as a solo artist at the Montreal Folk Workshop and at coffeehouses throughout eastern Canada, adding impetus to a revival in folk music that was taking place across Canada. After a friend introduced him to Robbie Robertson of the Band, Mr. Winchester was signed by the Band’s manager, Albert Grossman. His debut album was produced by Robbie Robertson and received admiring reviews.
Sales were modest, partly because Mr. Winchester could not tour the United States to promote it. But “Yankee Lady” was a hit in Canada for Winchester, and later in the United States for Brewer & Shipley, and “Biloxi” became a staple of Jimmy Buffett’s repertoire.
His highest charting recordings were of his own tunes, “Yankee Lady” in 1970 and “Say What” in 1981. Probably best known as a songwriter, with his works being recorded by many notable artists, including Patti Page, Elvis Costello, Jimmy Buffett, Joan Baez, Anne Murray, Reba McEntire, The Everly Brothers and Emmylou Harris. His song “I’m gonna Miss You Girl” performed by Michael Martin Murphey from 1987 is probably best known. Many of these recordings have had success on various rock, folk and country charts.
“The Brand New Tennessee Waltz,” which Winchester said was the first song he wrote, was recorded by, among others, Joan Baez, the Everly Brothers, Anne Murray and Patti Page, who had a huge hit in 1950 with “The Tennessee Waltz.”
His songs were rooted in country, soul and gospel, and they strove to stay plain-spoken and succinct, whether he was singing wryly about everyday life or musing on philosophy and faith. In 1989 he told Musician magazine, “You can always find a way to say things in fewer words.”
In 2002, he moved back to the United States, settling in Virginia. That year, his song “Step by Step”, from the album Let the Rough Side Drag, was used as background music for the montage that ended the first season of the television program The Wire. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in 2007. Winchester continued to record and perform throughout the United States and Canada, releasing his tenth studio album, Love Filling Station, in 2009.
In 2011, Winchester was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus and underwent treatment for the next couple of months. He was later given a clean bill of health from his doctor and resumed touring, but in April 2014, it was revealed that Winchester was “gravely ill” and receiving hospice care at his home, in Charlottesville, Virginia. He died there on the morning of April 11, 2014, aged 69, from bladder cancer.
Winchester’s final CD, A Reasonable Amount of Trouble, was released in September 2014, with liner notes by his friend Jimmy Buffett. Rolling Stone called it “a gentle collection of playful songs about love, memory and gratitude that amounts to one of the most moving, triumphant albums of Winchester’s 45 year career.
March 18, 2014 – Joe Lala (Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young) was born on November 3rd 1947 in in Ybor City and raised in Florida’s Tampa area.
He started out playing the drums in several Florida bands, before forming the band Blues Image. He also occasionally sang lead vocals, most notably on the song “Leaving My Troubles Behind”. As a drummer and percussionist, he worked with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Manassas, The Bee Gees, Whitney Houston, Joe Walsh, Andy Gibb and many others. He played the trademark congas that drove the Bee Gees’ 1976 US chart-topper You Should Be Dancing, subsequently included on the multi-million selling Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Lala provided the wide selection of percussive effects on Barbra Streisand’s 1980 worldwide No. 1 album Guilty, and contributed to Whitney Houston’s eponymous 1985 debut album. Throughout his career, Lala accumulated 32 gold records and 28 platinum records. He played on the movie soundtracks of Saturday Night Fever, Staying Alive, D.C. Cab, Streets of Fire, All the Right Moves, Breathless, Defiance, The Lonely Guy and Airplane!. A severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome ended Lala’s career as a percussionist. It kept him from performing full time, but he continued to record with Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, the acoustic band Firefall, Dan Fogelberg, Dolly Parton, Rod Stewart, the Eagles, the Bee Gees, the Byrds, Eric Clapton, Chicago, John Mellencamp, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, the Allman Brothers Band, and many others.
He made the most of his Italian-American background and his mastery of Spanish, Cuban and Puerto Rican accents with TV roles in Miami Vice, General Hospital, Melrose Place, Seinfeld, Hunter, and Who’s the Boss?, and starred in a summer replacement show named Knight & Daye. He portrayed another native of Ybor City, Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, in Ali: An American Hero, and co-starred with Andy Garcia in For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story. His films included Active Stealth, Sugar Hill, On Deadly Ground, Deep Sleep, Havana (with Robert Redford), Out for Justice, Marked for Death, Eyewitness to Murder, and Born in East L.A., plus many more.
Lala also guest-starred on several animated shows; Batman: The Animated Series, Pinky and the Brain, Quack Pack, The Angry Beavers, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Johnny Bravo, Ozzy & Drix, Superman: The Animated Series, The Woody Woodpecker Show (the 1999 version), and many more.
He dubbed Kun Lan of the video game Killer7.
He had ultimately walked away from the entertainment business in the mid-2000s in order to care for his mother who had dementia. Lala coached young actors at the Italian Club in his native Ybor City. Joe Lala died suddenly from complications of lung cancer on March 18, 2014, at the age of 66
The Tampa Tribune notes that Lala, a native of the area, rose to prominence as a member of the band Blues Image, whose 1970 single ‘Ride Captain Ride‘ was a No. 4 national hit. Following the band’s split, he embarked on a career as a session player, compiling an impressive list of credits.
Renowned bassist Leland Sklar shared his grief over Lala’s passing on Facebook, where he posted a note calling himself “beyond brokenhearted” and credited Lala with “always [bringing] great feel to everything he touched.” Added Sklar, “From his parrot sitting on his shoulder pooping down his back (you had to be there) to the sauces he made (what a cook) he was the man. Could get you up and out of your chair with a cow bell. ‘Could use more cowbell’ was not a phrase you used on Joey. He always had plenty. I will miss you and you will always be in my heart and my groove. You set the bar high. RIP dear friend…”
Lala also enjoyed a busy life as an actor, scoring roles in a long list of shows that included ‘Seinfeld,’ ‘Miami Vice,’ and ‘Melrose Place,’ as well as doing voice work for animated series. He focused on that side of his career after problems with carpal tunnel forced him to abandon the drums in the ’80s, ultimately walking away from the entertainment business entirely in 2004 in order to care for his mother.
Lala’s death closes a particularly turbulent chapter in his life, during which he received his cancer diagnosis and said goodbye to his mother, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 98. But he remained positive in spite of it all, quipping in a 2013 interview, “It’s about attitude. Attitude is the most important thing. If you accept that big ‘C’ diagnosis as a death sentence, you are dead in the water. And like I say, I have too many people I would like to make mad yet.”
“He is undoubtedly one of the all-time great musicians in the history of this city,” Tampa DJ Tedd Webb told the Tribune. “Take a look at his discography and all the people he played with. To play with so many legends, you have to be a legend.”
February 2, 2014 – Bunny Rugs aka Bunny Scott was born William Clarke on February 2nd 1948 in Mandeville, Jamaica and raised in Kingston. In the mid 60s he joined Charlie Hackett and the Souvenirs, the resident band at the Kitty Club on Maxfield Avenue, before leading the early lineup of Inner Circle in 1969. From 1971 he did a stint in New York where he was a member of the dance band Hugh Hendricks and the Buccaneers and the Bluegrass Experience.
He returned to Jamaica in 1974 and recorded with Lee “Scratch” Perry, initially as a backing singer, then with Leslie Kong’s nephew Ricky Grant as the duo Bunny & Ricky. They released singles such as “Freedom Fighter” and “Bushweed Corntrash”.
He joined Third World in 1976. The group was signed to Island Records and had hits in U.K. and U.S. charts including “Now That We Found Love,” “Always Around” and “Reggae Ambassador.”
The next year, the band released “96 Degrees in the Shade,” one of its most popular albums. The group was signed to Island Records and had hits on British and U.S. charts, including “Now That We Found Love,” “Always Around” and “Reggae Ambassador.” He performed on all of Third World’s records except the group’s debut.
Stevie Wonder, who performed on stage with the band at Jamaica’s Reggae Sunsplash festival in 1981, co-wrote and produced Third World’s 1982 song “Try Jah Love.”
Clarke and Third World were known for seamlessly fusing reggae with soul and pop music, something they were occasionally criticized for by reggae purists. In a 1992 interview with Billboard magazine, he described the band’s identity this way: “Strictly a reggae band, no. Definitely a reggae band, yes.”
Drummer Willie Stewart, who kept the beat in Third World until 1997, said Monday that the fun-loving Clarke “loved his art but always had a joke.”
In a government statement noting Clarke’s death, Culture Minister Lisa Hanna said: “Bunny Rugs’ voice was distinct. He had a charisma and stage presence that was spellbinding with a smile that was vibrant.”
He had been released from an Orlando Florida cancer treatment center a week earlier when he passed away at his home on February 2, 2014 at age 65.
January 18, 2014 – Dennis Hardy “Fergie” Frederiksen was born May 15th, 1951, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
He started his musical career at the age of 13 and he played clubs and pubs at the age of 15 with a group called the Common People. In 1975, while attending college at Central Michigan, he was asked by his friend Tommy Shaw to replace him as the lead vocalist for the band MSFunk, as Shaw was leaving to join Styx. The band went on to tour with Styx and Heart, where Dennis began performing his trademark back-flips during live shows to fire up crowds. Frederiksen was with MSFunk for a year before disbanding in 1976. While living in Chicago, he helped form a local progressive rock band called Trillion with keyboardist Patrick Leonard. Trillion’s debut album was released in 1978 and was produced by Gary Lyons (producer of Foreigner’s debut album); all but one of its nine tracks were co-written by Frederiksen. The band went on to tour with Styx and Heart, where Frederiksen began performing his trademark back-flips during live shows to fire up crowds, a gimmick he would continue with later bands. Frederiksen would leave the group after one album, and was replaced by Thom Griffin.
After leaving Trillion, Frederiksen started focusing mainly on session work; primarily movie soundtracks. In 1979, he signed with Casablanca Records, where he performed under the alias of David London. (Frederiksen wanted to separate his rock image from the disco image Casablanca was known for.) He sang two tracks (“Samantha” and “Sound Of The City”) on the soundtrack to Can’t Stop The Music (which reached number 47 on the Billboard 200), as well as a more AOR-style solo album in 1981, with his friend Mark Christian as the lead guitarist. This would turn out to be one of the last albums released by Casablanca Records, as the fall of disco in the early 1980s forced the label to fold, eventually becoming part of Mercury Records. He would drop the stage name soon after, officially going by his childhood nickname “Fergie”.
While at Casablanca, he met Greg Giuffria, of the recently defunct glam-rock band Angel (one of the few rock acts signed by the record label). The two started working in his studio in late 1981 in hopes of a possible new Angel LP under a new line-up. It was in these Angel recordings where Frederiksen met bassist Ricky Phillips.
The two became long-time friends and have collaborated on many projects. This line-up never completed an official album, as Giuffria started focusing heavily on the formation of his group Giuffria in 1982, but did record three songs during band sessions: “Whips”, “Troubleshooter”, and “Should Have Known Better”. These tracks were later released on the Angel Rarities collection, and were eventually covered by White Sister.
After Kansas singer Steve Walsh originally left the band, auditions were held in early 1982. Frederiksen was one of several candidates who tried out, but John Elefante eventually took over the lead vocal spot. However, Kansas manager Budd Carr spotted Fergie during auditions and began working with him soon after, which ultimately would prove instrumental for Frederiksen’s career. It was around this time that long-time friends Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan from Survivor invited Frederiksen to their studio during the recording of their third album, while lead singer Dave Bickler was experiencing vocal cord strain. Ultimately, Bickler was able to finish the album, and Frederiksen assisted with background vocals. The band’s third album Eye of the Tiger was released in May 1982, with Frederiksen credited simply as “Fergie”. It jumped to number 2 on the Billboard charts, and eventually went 2x Platinum on the strength of its #1 title track. Frederiksen provided harmonies on five tracks, including the album’s second single, “American Heartbeat”, which charted in the top 20.
In late summer of 1982, Frederiksen and Asia session-guitarist Jim Odom were both recruited by manager Budd Carr, to replace lead singer/guitarist Jeff Pollard of LeRoux, who had recently left the band to start his own Christian ministry. Fergie became LeRoux’s new front-man soon after. So Fired Up, the band’s fifth album, was released in February 1983. It included the hit song “Carrie’s Gone”, which Frederiksen wrote shortly after breaking up with then girlfriend Carrie Hamilton (Carol Burnett’s daughter). The band was dropped from RCA Records, but are still together and touring, and were recently inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, Frederiksen reunited with Ricky Phillips to start a brand new band called Abandon Shame, featuring Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain, and his wife Tane. The quartet worked on 5 songs in 1984, with Fergie only singing on one of the tracks. The Kevin Elson-produced “You Can’t Do That”, “Burnin’ in the Third Degree”, and “Photoplay” appeared in the soundtrack to The Terminator, and were credited to Tahnee Cain and Trianglz. While “Kicks” and “Over Night Sensation” would eventually appear in the 1985 film Armed Response, with Tane and Fergie singing the leads respectively.
Phillips, who was friends with Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro, gave him a Frederiksen demo. Toto, who had fired lead singer Bobby Kimball in the midst of recording their fifth album Isolation, invited Frederiksen to come audition for his spot. After edging out Eric Martin, he got the job, and the band finished recording Isolation, which was released in October 1984. It included the hit song “Stranger in Town” and went Gold. The music video for “Stranger in Town”, which featured Fergie as the murder victim, was nominated at the 1985 MTV Video Music Awards for Best Direction. After touring with Toto through 1985, Frederiksen was fired from the band during the initial recording sessions for Fahrenheit, mainly due to his difficulties with performing in the studio. He has repeatedly cited his brief tenure with Toto as the highlight of his career.
In June 2010, he announced he had inoperable cancer. Medical treatments made it difficult for him to do recording sessions, however, his friend Alex Ligertwood pushed him to continue and he released two more solo albums: Happiness is the Road and Any Given Moment.
He died on Jan. 18, 2014 after a nearly four-year-long battle with cancer.
January 2, 2014 – John “Jay” Traynor was born on March 30th 1943 in Brooklyn New York. He was a lead vocalist of the Mystics, singing falsetto on “The White Cliffs of Dover” and lead on “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and “Blue Star”.
The foundation of what would become Jay and the Americans was laid in 1959, when two teenagers named Kenny Vance and Sandy Deane formed a doo-wop style group called “The Harbourlites“. After a couple of failed recordings, Sandy began looking for a stronger lead singer. As fate would have it, John “Jay” Traynor, a stand-in singer with a group called “The Mystics” was looking for another band and since the two groups shared Jim Gribble as manager, the three got together, adding a fourth member, Howie Kane.
The four were teamed up with songwriters Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber, who had a great track record with The Drifters, The Coasters, and Ben E. King. United Artists had just finished the movie version of West Side Story and offered the boys heavy promotion if they recorded a song from the soundtrack called “Tonight”. Under the name “Jay and the Americans”, Tonight sold 50,000 copies, but was far overshadowed by an instrumental version by Ferrante and Teicher.
He sang lead on their first hit, “She Cried,” which reached #5 in 1962 and was followed up by the LP, She Cried. In 1964 he went solo when additional hits failed to materialize. releasing “I Rise, I Fall” followed by “Up & Over”, which became a big hit with the UK “Northern Soul” underground dance clubs and also worked at an upstate New York TV station, and behind-the-scenes in the music industry.
After Traynor left Jay and the Americans, he was replaced by David Black, who adopted the name Jay Black. The group went on to score mega hits like “Come a Little Bit Closer,” “Cara Mia” and “This Magic Moment.”
In the late 1960s he worked for Woodstock Ventures, the company that put on the “Woodstock” festival, during which time he picked up behind the scenes working with such 1970s acts as Mountain, West, Bruce & Laing, The Who, Ten Years After, Yes, and gospel singer Mylon LeFevre.
In 1977, Traynor moved to Albany, New York, near his roots in Greenville and worked at WNYT-TV as a studio camera operator. He then performed with cover bands (George and “Friends”), jazz trios, and finally as the singer with the Joey Thomas Big Band, where his love for Frank Sinatra’s music began. The Big Band put out a few CDs with Traynor, including Live On WAMC & The Sinatra Show.
In 2006, Traynor received a call from Jay Siegel, and he toured with Jay Siegel’s Tokens, best known for their hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” for the remainder of his life. He also sang sing with the Joey Thomas Big Band and recorded a few CDs including Live On WAMC & The Sinatra Show.
Jay died after a two year fight with liver cancer on Jan 2, 2014 at the age of 70.
“He was a pro…he was very versatile in his vocal style, from rock and roll to Frank Sinatra,” Siegel told ABC News Radio. “His demeanor and his look were a perfect fit for my group…he just did a great job onstage and more than that, he did a great job offstage. He was a true gentleman, a very humble guy and I considered him like my brother. He was a great talent and a good friend.”
November 24, 2013 – Bob Allison was born Bernard Colin Day on February 2nd 1941 in the UK. He became a pop singer and one half of the duo The Allisons, who were marketed as being brothers, using the surname of Allison. Both Bob and John were born in Wiltshire and started harmonizing very early on in life.
The Allisons represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Festival in 1961 with the song “Are You Sure?”. They came second with 24 points and the song spent 16 weeks in the top 40 (six weeks at No. 2 and a further three weeks in the top 4), and became a solid million copy seller.
What was even more remarkable was that this British duo were so close in sound with the Everly Brothers, that many people after the Eurovision Song Festival were convinced that the Allison Brothers were actually the Everly Brothers. It was the first UK Eurovision entrant to become a Top Ten hit and was the best chart showing for a UK entrant until Eurovision entry Puppet on a String by Sandie Shaw reached number one in 1967.
In a poll of Radio 2 listeners in 2013, it was voted 13th best UK Eurovision song of all time. Speaking to the BBC in 2009, Andrew Lloyd Webber listed it as his favorite ever. “I was a kid in school at the time, and I remember thinking what a shame it was that Britain didn’t win it that year,” he said. “It is a very, very good song.”
Despite a couple of minor follow-up hits, the duo disbanded in 1963.
Through the 70s & 80s Bob and John teamed up for short tours to keep ‘The Allisons’ name alive. But by the 1990s, they regularly reunited to perform on the oldies circuit.
Bob Allison died after a long illness on November 24, 2013 at age 72.
October 10, 2013 – Jan Kuehnemund (Vixen) was born on November 18th 1961 in St.Paul Minnesota. She was the original founding member of the all-female American hard rock band Vixen in 1973.
In 1981 she moved the entire band to California to get better exposure. Hailed as “the female Bon Jovi”, the band achieved commercial success during the late 1980s and early 1990s as part of the Los Angeles, California glam metal scene and Kuehnemund was called “the best female guitarist around” back in the day.
She toured with the Scorpions, Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss and Bon Jovi, as did an appearance in the era’s definitive documentary, Penelope Spheeris’ “The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years.”
June 24, 2013 – Alan Myers (Devo) was born in 1955 in Akron, Ohio, USA. He joined the band Devo in 1976, replacing Jim Mothersbaugh. His distinctive style ultimately made him one of the most influential drummers of his generation and his angular playing proved so precise on Devo’s most beloved classics, his beats were frequently mistaken for a drum machine.
He was also an actor, known for Human Highway (1982), We’re All Devo (1983) and Urgh! A Music War (1981). He was married to Christine. He left between 1986 and 1987 after their 6th album Shout.
Myers was the third and most prominent drummer of the band Devo when he joined in 1976 to replace Jim Mothersbaugh.
Myers was the band’s drummer from 1976 to 1985 during Devo’s heyday. The group was formed in Akron, Ohio, in the early 1970s by Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale, and introduced themselves to the world in 1977 by making a frenetic version of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.”
Casale told The Associated Press on Wednesday that without Myers, Devo never would have reached the heights it did, calling him the best drummer he has ever played with.
“We were mostly in basements and garages writing songs. It was Alan that brought everything to life,” Casale said. “That was the catalyst where everything clicked.”
He called Myers “the human metronome.”
“People watching him thought we were using a drum machine,” Casale said. “Nobody had ever drummed like that.”
Casale described meeting and playing with Myers for the first time in 1976. After their first session ended, Casale — who had been facing away from Myers — turned around to see the drummer standing on one leg with his eyes closed, practicing the meditative Chinese martial art of Tai Chi.
“I thought, ‘Man, this guy really is Devo. He fits right in,'” Casale said, adding that Tai Chi was one of the drummer’s greatest passions. “Some bands would be doing drugs and drinking. Alan would find quiet places backstage and do a full session of Tai Chi.”
Devo is short for devolution, the idea that man was devolving into its monkey state.
He left between 1986 and 1987 after the recording of the album ‘Shout’. According to the book “We Are Devo,” Myers cited a lack of creative fulfillment as his reason for leaving the group, something he had felt since Devo’s move to Los Angeles in the late ’70s. He was replaced by David Kendrick of Sparks. Among all of Devo’s drummers, he is the one most associated with the band and probably the most popular among Devo fans.
After he left Devo he recorded a demo with Babooshka, a band that was his girlfriend Greta Ionita’s brainchild, using live drums as well as electronic percussion similar to his last two albums with Devo. As of 2005, Myers remained active in the Los Angeles music scene. He had also played drums with the Asian-themed pop band, Jean Paul Yamamoto.
Since its founding, also in 2005, Myers’s band, Skyline Electric, played monthly shows in art galleries and clubs in Los Angeles. The line up at the time of Myers death included his wife, Christine (Sugiyama) Myers, and an assortment of other experimental musicians.
In 2010, Myers began playing in the experimental live ensemble of Swahili Blonde with his daughter, Laena Geronimo (Myers-Ionita).
He died from cancer on June 24, 2013 in Los Angeles, California, USA.
Myers’ former bandmate Gerald Casale praised the drummer on Twitter as news of his death spread. The Devo founder called Myers “the most incredible drummer I had the privilege to play with for 10 years. Losing him was like losing an arm.”
In subsequent tweets, Casale wrote, “I begged him not to quit Devo. He could not tolerate being replaced by the Fairlight and autocratic machine music. I agreed . . . Alan, you were the best – a human metronome and then some.”
Drummer Josh Freese, who played in Devo from 1996-2012, has cited Myers as one of his major influences. “An underrated/brilliant drummer,” Freese tweeted. “Such an honor playing his parts w/Devo. Godspeed Human Metronome.”
June 22, 2013 – Gary Pickford-Hopkins was born in 1948 in Abergarwed near Neath Wales. He went to the local school Alderman Davies Church in Wales Primary School and was a member of the Church Choir.
Gary’s first job was as an apprentice painter at BSC.
First he sang in the Vern Davies Band and as a 16 year old, he was a member of a local band called Smokestacks, made up of people from Neath and Port Talbot. After a couple of years, the band broke up and Gary who was the lead vocalist joined the popular band The Eyes of Blue.
The band played at clubs and halls throughout South Wales and they went on to win the Melody Maker Battle of the Bands in 1966, which the prize was a recording contract.
Their first release was Supermarket Full Of Cans, and although it never took the Country by storm, it was widely acclaimed and the band went on to develop a ‘cult’ following from the albums they released, never hitting mainstream success.
In 1971, Gary moved to Wild Turkey which was formed by Glenn Cornick, previously of Jethro Tull. The group released two full length LPs (Battle Hymn (1971) and Turkey (1972) when the call came from Rick Wakeman who needed two singers for his “Journey To The Centre Of The Earth” live extravaganza, and that’s how Pickford-Hopkins started to play high-voiced angel to Ashley Holt’s low-toned devil. The album sold over 14 million copies worldwide. By now, Gary had a huge following for those who loved the husky voice that was associated with soul and blues.
This vocal combination proved so magical that Gary stayed on for the Caped Crusader’s next album, “Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table”, and then moved on away from stardom to play locally.
In 2003 he returned to a dimmed spotlight with a solo record, “GPH”, and was also involved in the “Journey” 30th anniversary celebration – only to back out again. His pinnacle of commercial success however was with Wakeman’s live album Journey to the Center of the Earth. The album went to the top of the British charts and number 3 in the U.S, followed by ‘The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table’
Gary recorded a number of solo projects during the rest of his career along with returning for a reunion stint with Wild Turkey that produced the albums Stealer of Years (1996) and You and Me in the Jungle (2006) along with a live album.
One of the finest singers of his generation, Gary Pickford-Hopkins never gained the recognition he deserved and he sadly died of jaw cancer on June 22, 2013 at the age of 65.
It’s been a rotten year for losing friends and Gary was one of the nicest guys you could ever wish to meet. We had so much fun both in the studio and on the road and he and Ashley made a great partnership in the mid-seventies. I first saw Gary when he was singing for Wild Turkey and ear-marked him then to work alongside Ashley on Journey and he went on to sing on King Arthur as well. From that time we have now lost David Measham (conductor) , David Hemmings (narrator) and now Gary. Also we have lost Martin Shields from the late seventies English Rock Ensemble.
I wish Gary all the peace that there is to offer him after his long battle with cancer and my heart goes out to his family and friends as indeed it does from all involved with the ERE. His name will appear as a dedication alongside the two Davids when the official release of the full length studio version of Journey is released later this year.
May 21, 2013 – Trevor Bolder (Uriah Heep) was born on 9 June 1950 in Kingston upon Hull, East Yorkshire, England. His father was a trumpet player and other members of his family were also musicians. He played cornet in the school band and was active in his local R&B scene in the mid 1960s. Inspired by The Beatles, in 1964 he formed his first band with his brother and took up the bass guitar.
In his teens he took the direction followed by many other young males of his generation and switched to the guitar, at which time he formed The Chicago Star Blues Band with his brother. Stints in other Hull-based bands like Jelly Roll and Flesh came later, with Bolder eventually trading in his guitar for an electric bass; meanwhile, food was kept on the table through a series of day jobs that ranged from hairdresser to piano tuner. He first came to local prominence in The Rats, which also featured fellow Hull musician Mick Ronson on lead guitar. In 1970 he received an invitation from Ronson to come to London and join Ronno — a outfit that had been active earlier in the year as The Hype, and which had served as a backing band for vocalist David Bowie. Ronno only managed one single (1971’s Fourth Hour of My Sleep) before poor response prompted Vertigo, the band’s label, to abandon them; not long afterwards, however, Bowie enlisted most of the line-up which would soon be known as the Spiders from Mars (Ronson, Bolder, and drummer Woody Woodmansey) for his fourth album Hunky Dory (1971). Bolder subsequently appeared in D. A. Pennebaker’s 1973 documentary and concert movie Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
He is name-checked as “Weird” (Bowie’s stage nickname for Bolder) in the song “Ziggy Stardust” in the lyrics “Ziggy played guitar, jamming good with Weird and Gilly, And The Spiders from Mars”. Bolder “never looked comfortable as a glam-rock mannequin, tottering behind Ziggy Stardust in platform boots and a rainbow-hued outfit of latex and glitter”.
Bolder’s bass (and occasional trumpet) work appeared on the studio albums Hunky Dory (1971), The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972), Aladdin Sane (1973), and Pin Ups (1973), the Spiders’ swan song with their leader.
When Bowie announced his departure from Live Shows, he then went on to play on Ronson’s 1974 album Slaughter on 10th Avenue which made the British Top Ten.
The bassist continued his affiliation with Ronson for the next year or so, touring as part of his band and performing on the solo album Play Don’t Worry (1975). Bolder then joined forces once again with Woodmansey in a short-lived (and ill-advised) attempt to resurrect the Spiders From Mars name, their 1976 eponymous release being met mostly with indifference from both critics and fans. A more rewarding situation was right around the corner, however, and later in the year Bolder was enlisted to replace bassist John Wetton in Uriah Heep — a band that would remain his primary musical home for most of the years to come.
Bolder’s first recorded participation with Heep materialized as the 1977 album Firefly, and he maintained a strong instrumental and songwriting presence on the subsequent releases Innocent Victim (1977), Fallen Angel (1978) and Conquest (1980); but by 1980 the internal situation in the band had become unmanageable, prompting him (somewhat unwillingly) to make the decision to move on. Work with Heep keyboardist Ken Hensley on his solo album Free Spirit kept him busy for the early part of 1981, after which he once again was chosen to fill a gap created by a departing John Wetton — this time in the art rock outfit Wishbone Ash. This new situation lasted two years, involving a constant schedule of touring and a contribution to the 1982 release Twin Barrels Burning. Then in early 1983 an opportunity to re-join Uriah Heep presented itself, and Bolder was quick to accept; he remained active in their ranks ever since, with a dozen further Heep albums added to his credits.
In 1994 a second resurrection of his partnership with Woody Woodmansey as the Spiders From Mars was undertaken for a Hammersmith Apollo memorial concert for guitarist Mick Ronson, who had succumbed to cancer the previous year. The pair were joined for a set of early 70’s Bowie material — incongruously enough — by Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott and Phil Collen; the four bonded over the material and, after an appearance by the two Spiders at a second Ronson memorial staged in Hull in 1997, eventually formalized their collaboration under the name Cybernauts. A Cybernauts tour of the UK was arranged that same year, with the unit resuming activity in 2001 for a tour of Japan.
In 2012 and early 2013, Bolder worked with Stevie ZeSuicide (Steve Roberts of the band U.K. Subs) as producer on singles “Wild Trash” (co-writer with ZeSuicide), “Lady Rocker” and a cover of “Ziggy Stardust”. Bolder also played on these tracks.
He died in May 2013 at Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham from pancreatic cancer. He had undergone surgery for pancreatic cancer earlier that year. He was almost 62.
My playing style did not really come from McCartney although the Beatles were my motivation to go into music. My style came through the blues mainly, through listening to the blues players. I started out from listening to a lot of the old blues players from ’30s and ’40s, listening to a lot of Sonny Boy Williamson, a lot of early blues stuff, copying it. We didn’t have a lot of blues albums in England when we were fourteen and learnt to play, but we liked it [the blues] so much that it was all we ever played. In Hull, we would go out just on Saturday with what money we had from mid-day working or whatever, and we used to buy every blues album we could find. We found all these great songs by all those people.
Then, along came a chap called Jack Bruce – I saw him play with Graham Bond and Ginger Baker, in Hull, before they formed CREAM, and then I saw him play with CREAM, and that was just unbelievable. I wanted to play like Jack Bruce, and I practiced to all his records continuously. He was unique, there was anything like it before him. Before that, the bass players were just standing back playing along with the drums and leaving it for the guitar players and singers, but when he came along, he turned the bass up. For me, it was stunning to watch him play, and he was a great singer as well – it was brilliant, the way he sang, much more than Clapton. I mean, Eric Clapton was no one at the time, with John Mayall and THE YARDBIRDS, and to me, the whole crux of the band [CREAM] was Jack Bruce. Also there was John McVie from FLEETWOOD MAC, who was with John Mayall at the time, a lot of his stuff I liked and I copied a lot of his style. A little bit of McCartney and John Entwistle, but mainly Jack Bruce, he was the big influence – for the feel, he had great feel, amazing! Jack Bruce also played cello, which is a melodic instrument – I played trumpet and I adapted the trumpet stuff to the bass as well, playing melodic parts. And I never wanted to just be a bass player plonking away, I always wanted to have the edge to the sound and be able to play with a melodic feel. It took many years for another great bass player to come along, which was [Jaco] Pastorius, who also played in that style but with a jazz feel. My style’s developed, and that’s the way I play: I play a lot of notes… too many notes sometimes. (Laughs.) I actually found that if I was restricted in a way I play – if somebody said, “You don’t play like that, play like this!” – I don’t think I could do it. It would be difficult for me, because a bass player isn’t just somebody who just sits back there and plonks away, it’s somebody who adds a lot to the music. And if you can add more to the music, it’s exciting, really exciting. If they took that away from me and said to play like a regular bass player, I think I’d be a terrible bass player.
May 20, 2013 – Raymond Daniel Manczarek Jr. was the architect of The Doors’ intoxicating sound. His evocative keyboard playing fused rock, jazz, blues, classical and an array of other styles into something utterly, dazzlingly new, and his restless artistic explorations continued unabated for the rest of his life.
He was born on February 12, 1939 to Polish immigrants Helena and Raymond Manczarek and grew up on the South Side of Chicago, and was introduced to the piano at the tender age of seven.Growing up, he took private piano lessons from Bruno Michelotti and others although he originally wanted to play basketball, but only power forward or center. When he was sixteen his coach insisted either he play guard or not at all and he quit the team. Manzarek said later if it was not for that ultimatum, he might never have been with The Doors.
Though he would later be electrified by the sensual strut of boogie-woogie, the raw power of the blues and the transgressive energy of rock ‘n’ roll, Manzarek credits the “little red book”, written by John Thompson, that his first piano teacher gave him with ideas and motifs he would draw on throughout his career.
While at St. Rita high-school he began playing in a band with his brothers, Rick and Jim, earning pocket money at dances and talent shows. He continued this sideline as an economics student at DePaul University; upon graduating he moved west in the fall of 1961 to attend law school at UCLA. Unable to acclimate to the curriculum, he transferred to the Department of Motion Pictures, Television and Radio as a graduate student before dropping out altogether after breaking up with a girlfriend. Although he attempted to enlist in the Army Signal Corps as a camera operator on a drunken lark during a visit to New York City, he was instead assigned to the Army Security Agency as an intelligence analyst in Okinawa and then Laos. While in the Army, Manzarek played in various musical ensembles and first smoked and grew cannabis. However, because he wanted to eventually visit Poland, he refused to sign the requisite security clearance and was discharged as a private first class after several months of undesignated duty. According to Britt Leach, a fellow Army Security Agency enlistee, Manzarek “had collected an entire duffel bag” of cannabis specimens during his service in Laos; this may have been used to fund his subsequent graduate education.
In 1962, he re-enrolled in UCLA’s 3 year graduate film program, where he received a M.F.A. in cinematography in 1965. During this period, he not only met future wife Dorothy Fujikawa, but also undergraduate film student Jim Morrison. At the time, Manzarek was in a band called Rick and the the Ravens with his brothers Rick and Jim.
Forty days after finishing film school in 1965, thinking they had gone their separate ways, Manzarek and Morrison met by chance on Venice Beach in California. Morrison said he had written some songs, and Manzarek expressed an interest in hearing them, whereupon Morrison sang rough versions of “Moonlight Drive,” “My Eyes Have Seen You” and “Summer’s Almost Gone.” Manzarek liked the songs and co-founded the Doors with Morrison at that moment. The singer’s poetry wturned out to be a perfect fit for the classically trained keyboardist’s musical ideas.
When Robby Krieger and John Densmore came onboard as guitarist and drummer, The Doors were complete.
Manzarek met guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore at a Transcendental Meditation lecture. Densmore said, “There wouldn’t be any Doors without Maharishi.
Though several bassists auditioned for the group, none could match the bass lines provided by Manzarek’s left hand on the keyboards.
In January 1966, the Doors became the house band at the London Fog on the Sunset Strip. According to Manzarek, “Nobody ever came in the place…an occasional sailor or two on leave, a few drunks. All in all it was a very depressing experience, but it gave us time to really get the music together.” The same day the Doors were fired from the London Fog, they were hired to be the house band of the Whisky a Go Go.
The Doors’ first recording contract was with Columbia Records. After a few months of inactivity, they learned they were on Columbia’s drop list. At that point, they asked to be released from their contract. After a few months of live gigs, Jac Holzman “rediscovered” the Doors and signed them to Elektra Records. And from there their Shooting Star into one of the most defining band’s in Rock and Roll History was established until Jim Morrison passed away under dubious circumstances in Paris in July of 1971.
Signed to Elektra, The Doors released six studio albums, a live album and a compilation before Morrison’s untimely demise in 1971.
Devastated the remaining band members attempted two albums without Morrison, featuring Manzarek on vocals as Manzarek occasionally sang for the Doors, including the live recording “Close To You” and on the B-side of “Love Her Madly,” “You Need Meat (Don’t Go No Further).” He sang on the last two Doors albums, recorded after Morrison’s death, Other Voices and Full Circle. Additionally, he provided one of several guitar parts on the song “Been Down So Long” but fan support was low and the band slowly fell apart.
In 1973, he released his first solo album, The Golden Scarab, and began to tour again. 1974’s The Whole Thing Started with Rock and Roll Now It’s Out of Control came next, but Manzarek was itching to work with a band again and eventually started Ray Manzarek’s Nite City, which invited comparisons to Mott the Hoople and Aerosmith. The quintet released its self-titled debut in 1977 and the follow-up “Golden Days Diamond Nights” the following year, but they failed to capitalize on the success of the original Doors and fell apart again. The sixties were gone forever.
The surviving Doors reunited to create a musical backdrop for Morrison’s recorded poetry on the 1978 release “An American Prayer.”
It was soon after that that the punk movement became a driving force in Los Angeles, and the band X contacted Manzarek about working with them in a production capacity. The end result was Los Angeles, one of the all-time most important punk albums, which remains one of the high-water marks of the punk movement.
Reinvigorated, he began work on Carmina Burana, a high-concept solo album about opera and minstrels that was released in 1983. Unfortunately, the effort was viewed as too pretentious and he quietly faded away for almost ten years.
When Oliver Stone’s film biography The Doors was released in 1991, Manzarek came out of semi-retirement to voice his displeasure in how the band was portrayed by the controversial filmmaker. In 1993, he released an album of Michael McClure’s beat poetry over his keyboard playing, Love Lion, to a warm reception. The duo toured the country with the act, while Manzarek worked on his autobiography and a Doors tribute album. Both eventually came out, and he continually voiced his desire to make a musical based on the career of his former band. At the turn of the century, he released an album with British musician/actor Darryl Read and saw his son score a major-label record deal with his band A.I.
Other collaborators have included acclaimed modern-classical and film composer Philip Glass; poet Michael McClure; glam-punk icon Iggy Pop; the British band Echo and the Bunnymen; U.K. poet-musician Darryl Read; writer Scott Richardson, with whom he recorded the innovative spoken-word-and-blues series “Tornado Souvenirs;” guitarist Roy Rogers, who joined him for the 2008 collection “Ballads Before the Rain” (featuring instrumental takes on a couple of Doors songs, among other material); and pop parodist Weird Al, for whose 2009 Doors homage “Craigslist” Manzarek did a spot-on salute to his own work.
The keyboardist’s memoir “Light My Fire: My Life With the Doors” was published in 1998; he subsequently published two novels, 2001′s “The Poet in Exile” (riffing on the urban legend that Morrison faked his own death) and the ghostly 2006 Civil War tale “Snake Moon.” He also flexed his cinematic chops as the writer-director (and score composer) of the 2000 thriller “Love Her Madly.”
In 2002, Ray rejoined forces with Robby Krieger and they toured together for over ten years, playing classic Doors material to sold-out crowds composed of longtime fans and newcomers alike.
Although he subsequently made some challenging and interesting music, including the soundtrack to the film Love Her Madly in 2006, his huge influence over the world of rock will forever associate him with the Doors, and luckily Manzarek seemed completely comfortable with that legacy.
He died on May 20, 2013 in Rosenheim, Germany after a brief battle with bile duct cancer; Ray Manzarek was 74 years old.
There was no keyboard player on the planet more appropriate to support Jim Morrison’s words.”
Greg Harris, President and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, said in reaction to Manzarek’s death that “The world of rock ‘n’ roll lost one of its greats with the passing of Ray Manzarek.” Harris also said that “he was instrumental in shaping one of the most influential, controversial and revolutionary groups of the ’60s. Such memorable tracks as ‘Light My Fire’, ‘People are Strange’ and ‘Hello, I Love You’ – to name but a few – owe much to Manzarek’s innovative playing.” At 9:31 on May 21, 2013 The Whisky a Go Go and other clubs where the Doors played, dimmed their lights in his memory.
April 21, 2013 – Christine Joy “Chrissy” Amphlett was born on October 25, 1959. She grew up in Geelong, Australia as a singer and dancer and left home as a teenager to travel around England, France and Spain where she was imprisoned for three months for singing on the streets.
In 1976, Amphlett played the role of Linda Lips in the R-rated musical Let My People Come. In 1980 back in Australia, Amphlett met Mark McEntee at a concert at the Sydney Opera House in 1980 and they formed Divinyls with Jeremy Paul (Air Supply).
After several years performing in Sydney, they recorded several songs for the film Monkey Grip, in which Amphlett also acted. Amphlett made her film debut in Monkey Grip (1982) in a supporting role as the temperamental lead singer of a rock band. Monkey Grip’s author, Helen Garner, claimed that the film’s director preferred Amphlett in the role of Jane Clifton as “Clifton was neither good looking enough or a good enough singer to play herself.”
In 1988, she starred opposite Russell Crowe in the first Australian production of Willy Russell’s stage musical Blood Brothers. Amphlett played Judy Garland in the original touring production of The Boy from Oz, with Todd McKenney playing the role of Peter Allen. When the highly successful show transferred to Broadway in the year 2000, Garland was played by American performer Isabel Keating and Allen by Hugh Jackman. On its return to Australia as an arena spectacular, Amphlett resumed playing the role.
Divinyls consisted of an ever-changing line-up formed around Amphlett and McEntee, whose relationship was always volatile. Nevertheless, the band released six studio albums, with four of them reaching the Top 10 in Australia, and one, reaching No.15 in the US. Their biggest-selling single, “I Touch Myself” in 1991, achieved No.1 in Australia, No.4 in the US and No.10 in the UK.
Divinyls did not release another album for six years, breaking up around the time of Underworld’s release in Australia.
Then Amphlett lived in New York City with her husband, concentrating on a solo career and writing her autobiography, Pleasure and Pain: My Life.
Amphlett and McEntee barely spoke after the band broke up, but resumed contact when they were inducted in the 2006 ARIA Hall of Fame and eventually announced a new tour and album. They recorded and released a single, “Don’t Wanna Do This”, and toured Australia, but the proposed reunion album was never made.
Sadly Chrissy died fighting breast cancer and multiple sclerosis on April 21, 2013. She was 53.
April 14, 2013 – George Jackson was born on March 12th 1945 in Indianola, Mississippi and moved with his family to Greenville at the age of five. He sang southern soul from the 1960s into the 1980s. As a writer, he provided scores of songs for Goldwax and Fame in the 1960s and Hi and Sounds Of Memphis in the 1970s. As a singer, he had a versatile tenor that was influenced by Sam Cooke, and released many records over the years, for a host of different labels, but his recordings never made him a star.
His songwriter relationship with Malaco Records, however saw him pen material for dozens of artists, such as “One Bad Apple” for the Osmonds, “Old Time Rock & Roll” for Bob Seeger and “The Only Way Is Up”, which became a UK No.1 for Yazz and Coldcut, having been written originally for Otis Clay.
Jackson recorded dozens of singles in the 1960s but made his mark as a writer, beginning with FAME Studios. He later was a songwriter for Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. When Malaco bought Muscle Shoals Sound, it hired Jackson to write songs.
Jackson had been writing songs by the time he was in his teens. It was Ike Turner who brought him to the New Orleans RNB pioneer Cosimo Matassa’s studio in 1963, where he recorded his first song. “George had hooks coming out of his ears,” said Wolf Stephenson, Malaco’s vice president and chief engineer. “They weren’t all hits, but I never heard him write a bad song. He never really got the recognition that’s normally due a writer of his stature.”
The Osmonds recorded Jackson’s “One Bad Apple” in 1970, taking it to No 1 in the US. Jackson and Thomas Jones III wrote “Old Time Rock and Roll“, which Bob Seger recorded in 1978. Stephenson said “Old Time Rock and Roll” is truly Jackson’s song, and he has the tapes to prove it, despite Seger’s claims that he altered it. “Bob had pretty much finished his recording at Muscle Shoals and he asked them if they had any other songs he could listen to for the future,” Stephenson recalled.
Besides Seeger, the Osmonds and Ike and Tina Turner, Jackson’s songs were also recorded by James Brown, Wilson Pickett and Clarence Carter. Later he wrote “Down Home Blues” for ZZ Hill, a song which was a keystone for Malaco. The Mississippi label is a storehouse of soul, rhythm and blues and gospel music.
“He had a way of seeing things about life and saying them in a way that a lot of other people could relate to,” said Thomas Couch, Malaco’s chairman.
April 11, 2013 – Don Blackman was born on September 1st 1953 in Jamaica, Queens, New York.
A childhood neighbor was Charles McPherson, and while still a teenager (15) he played in McPherson’s ensemble with Sam Jones and Louis Hayes. At the beginning of the 1970s, he played electric piano with Parliament/Funkadelic, Earth, Wind and Fire, and Roy Ayers, before becoming a member of Lenny White’s group Twennynine, for whom he penned songs such as “Peanut Butter” and “Morning Sunrise”, key pieces in Jamaica Queens’ ’70s’ jazz-funk explosion.
He released his self-titled debut solo album in 1982 on Arista Records, including the songs “Holding You, Loving You”, “Heart’s Desire” and “Since You’ve Been Away So Long” that became minor hits in Europe.
He wrote the composition “Lie to Kick It”, which appeared on Tupac Shakur’s album R U Still Down? (Remember Me), “Dear Summer”, which appeared on Memphis Bleek’s album “534” featuring artist Jay-Z, and “Holding You, Loving You”, which appeared on Master P.’s album I Got The Hook Up. He sang and co-composed “Funky toons” for Skalp on his album “From my head to your feet”.
On television, he scored and wrote music for commercials, TV shows, and movies, appearing on Fox Network’s New York Undercover, producing and writing the theme song for Nickelodeon’s show “Gullah Gullah Island”, as well as producing songs for the MTV Network movie Joe’s Apartment.
He released his self-titled debut solo album in 1982 which including his songs “Holding You, Loving You”, “Heart’s Desire” and “Since You’ve Been Away So Long” that became hits in Europe.
As a session musician, he appearing on albums by Kurtis Blow, Bernard Wright, Najee, David Sanborn, Lenny White, Roy Ayers, Sting, World Saxophone Quartet, Janet Jackson’s “That’s the Way Love Goes” and Wayman Tisdale. He wrote the composition “Live to Kick It”, which appeared on Tupac Shakur’s album R U Still Down? (Remember Me); “Dear Summer” on Memphis Bleek’s album “534” featuring artist Jay-Z, and “Holding You, Loving You” on Master P.’s album “I Got The Hook Up”.
Don died while fighting cancer at age 59 on April 11, 2013.
January 11, 2013 – John Wilkinson was born on July 3rd 1945 in Springfield, Missouri.
John was drawn to music very early. At the age of 10, he famously sneaked into Elvis Presley’s dressing room before a show at the Shrine Mosque in Springfield, telling Elvis, “you can’t play guitar worth a damn.” Elvis was amused and impressed with this kid and predicted they would meet again. They did. After playing in a high school band with his classmates called, “The Coachmen,” John went on to make a name for himself as a folk and country singer and guitar player.
He traveled around the country playing with such groups as , The Goodtime Singers, Greenwood County Singers, and The New Christy Minstrels.
John and Elvis met again in 1968, when the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll saw John on a TV show in Los Angeles and called to invite John to join his band. John played over 1,200 shows as Elvis’ rhythm guitar player, right up until The King’s death in 1977.
After that he played less music, and made a living in retail and airline services management. He married his wife, Terry, in 1983. A serious stroke in 1989 left him unable to play the guitar. Nevertheless, for several years after that, he traveled the U.S. and Europe, appearing with the old TCB band and others, singing and paying tribute to Elvis. He was proud of the fact that he never turned down a request for an autograph.
Everyone in the TCB band was family. “Besides my own father, he was probably the most kind and compassionate and considerate and generous man I’ve ever met in my life,” Wilkinson said of Presley, still wearing the gold TCB emblem the King put around his neck in 1969.
Even after suffering a stroke in 1989 that left him unable to play the guitar, Wilkinson continued singing with fellow musicians, including the old TCB Band (the acronym stood for Taking Care of Business), and also made a living in retail and airline services management.
Despite his amazing musicianship -“He was honestly one of the best acoustic guitar players I’d ever heard,”- admitted one of his band mates, he enjoyed the incredible places he got to visit, and his entertaining stories of meeting famous people, the most remarkable thing about John was his kindness.
It didn’t matter if he was meeting adoring fans, joking with Chuck Berry about keeping his B-string in tune, or if he was talking to a neighbor about her dog, people were people to him. Folks were folks. John would look you square in the eye and accept you, just as you were. There was nothing phony about him. Ellison recalled, adding that Wilkinson kept in touch with many of the performers from the folk music era in the late 1960s and early ’70s.
John died fighting a long battle with cancer on Jan 11, 2013 at age 67.
January 27, 2013 – Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner was born on March 14th 1943 in Hamilton, Ohio, about 20 miles (32 km) north of Cincinnati, the oldest of 14 children. He ran away from home as a young teenager and played the harmonica on street corners for change.
He joined the The Ohio Untouchables when they regrouped in 1964, which with Leroy’s rip-it-up guitar work and taste for something funky went on to become The Ohio Players, with Leroy as their front man, lead singer and guitarist.
Their first big hit single “Funky Worm”, reached No.1 on the Billboard R&B chart and made the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1973. Other hits include “Who’d She Coo?” and their double No.1 hit songs “Love Rollercoaster” and “Fire” in January 1976.
The Ohio Players had seven Top 40 hits in the 1970s and helped define a funk movement that included Parliament Funkadelic and Kool & the Gang. The band’s success stemmed substantially from Bonner’s playfully commanding lead vocals and gusto.
Humble yet charismatic, soft spoken and of few words, the weight of his thoughts, lyrics, and music has influenced countless other artists, songs, and trends. The band’s lineup changed over the years, but its instrumentation and sound remained basically the same: a solid, driving groove provided by guitar, keyboards, bass and drums, punctuated by staccato blasts from a horn section. Vocals were a secondary consideration. “We were players,” Bonner told The Dayton Daily News in an interview in 2003. “We weren’t trying to be lead singers.” The core members of the band did not originally sing, he explained, but “we got so tired of having singers leave us that we decided we’d just do the singing ourselves.”
“I used to play with my back to the audience in the old days,” he added. “I didn’t want to see them because they were distracting. Then the first time I turned around and opened my mouth, we had a hit record with Skin Tight. That’s amazing to me.”
After their break up Sugarfoot, assisted by Roger Troutman and his Zapp brethren, went solo in 1985 with Sugar Kiss – the same year Zapp released The New Zapp IV U (featuring “Computer Love”), while Shirley Murdock was on the verge of scoring with the Troutman-produced “As We Lay.”
From 1973 to 1976 the Ohio Players had seven singles in the Billboard Top 40. Both “Fire” and “Love Rollercoaster” reached No. 1. Although the band’s heyday was four decades ago, its sound has been kept alive by others. “Love Rollercoaster” gained new fans through a 1996 cover version by Red Hot Chili Peppers. “Funky Worm” has been sampled by many hip-hop artists.
With a career spanning 56 years, he had remained active in recent years with a spinoff band called Sugarfoot’s Ohio Players. Bonner passed barely short of his 70th birthday, fighting cancer on January 27, 2013.
6 December 2012 – Huw Lloyd-Langton was born Richard Hugh Lloyd-Langton on 6 February 1951 in Harlesden, North London.
He started playing guitar at school, self styled and talented. In the course of those formative years in rock and roll he learned to read and write music and after high school graduation he moved to Germany where he got his first professional gig with a rather popular touring band called WINSTON G, which alternated gigs between Holland and Germany. He toured with them continuously for 6 months. The bass player was Pete Becket who later played with Player and Little Feat.
Back in England in 1969 he joined Hawkwind on their debut album in 1970. He remained with them for next 2 1/2 years recording their first 2 LP’s, which sell regularly to this day. He left them after an illness in late 1971, and although he occasionally joined them he did not return full time until 1979 when their LP ‘LIVE 79’ went straight into the top 10 UK charts.
The rest of the Seventies showed him in a variety of gigs. A 2-year acoustic stint in vegetarian London restaurant PASTURES. John Butler DIESEL PARK WEST’S singer joined him for 6 months and Eddy Klima, RATTLES singer for another year. He taught guitar at a comprehensive school in Streatham for a year and did numerous sessions, one included writing the music for a cartoon, narrated by Viv Stanshall of the BONZO DOG DOO DA BAND and 6 months with LEO SAYER touring the UK & Europe.
Several band situations including working with John Lingwood MANFRED MANN’S long standing Drummer; AMON DIN with Dave Anderson AMON DUL’S bass player; GALLERY with Rob Rawlinson on Bass from Ian Hunters OVERNIGHT ANGELS; MAGILL with Pete Scott from SAVOY BROWN and he toured Yugoslavia with ALEKZANDER JOHN (known as Alekzander Mezek) who was one of their top rock performers. Another excellent band was the Trinidadian Band BATTI MAMSELLE, whose music had a strong Latin American influence with lead singer LONDON BEAT’S Jimmy Chambers. They appeared in briefly in the film ‘Alfie Darling’ starring Alan price. The Director wanted an all black band but they refused to perform without Huw.
From 1974 to 1978 he joined WIDOMAKER touring the USA and recording 2 LPs, which charted there. Lineup included Steve Ellis- LOVE AFFAIR, Aerial Bender- MOTT THE HOOPLE, Bob Daisley-RAINBOW, Paul Nicholls LINDISFARNE and ‘John Butler ‘, again)!
In 1979 he rejoined HAWKWIND where he remained for the next 10 years. Their LP ‘LIVE 79 went straight in the top 10 UK charts. Everything Hawkwind did between 1979 and 1985 was either in the pop, heavy metal or independent charts. In 1982 Huw formed LLOYD LANGTON GROUP (LLG) to gig between HAWKWIND quiet periods. LLG has 2 singles and 2 LPs in Heavy Metal charts during 80s. During this period he had his own column in GUITARIST magazine for 6 months titled ‘Langton’s Lead Lines’.
Between 1989 and the end of the 90s Huw joined the PRETTY THINGS on one European tour. Toured Italy in ’93 with DR BROWN who had 2 independent hits there. Toured the UK several times with LLG. In the spring of ’95 he toured Sweden with Ray Majors, MOTT THE HOOPLES last guitarist.
September 2000 Huw rejoined Hawkwind for ‘Hawkestra Re-Union’ gig at Brixton Academy. This sell-out show featured 21 past members, including Lemmy. However, the main nucleus on stage throughout was Dave Brock, Alan Davey, Richard chadwick and Huw Lloyd-Langton.
Huw officially rejoined Hawkwind in 2001. They played their first major Tour in the UK since 1977 playing 18-dates nation-wide in November 2001. They kicked-off at London’s Royal Festival Hall on 10th October. Huw contracted ‘Legionnaires Disease’ on this tour and was hospitalized. This left him extremely fragile. Hawkwind toured UK again December 2002 but Huw was unable to complete the last two dates as he suffered ill health on and off over next few years with a variety of broken bones (mainly arms and wrists).
He continued to make guest appearances with Hawkwind and played solo support slots on tour.
In August 2009, Huw played an acoustic set at Hawkwind’s 40th anniversary concert at Porchester Hall, in London.
One of the world’s longest-running bands, Hawkwind have undergone countless changes of personnel and musical styles over the years. Former members and collaborators include Motorhead’s Lemmy, science fiction writer Michael Moorcock, and ex-Cream drummer Ginger Baker.
Huw’s health had been generally poor for a decade and he was quite frail, with several broken bones and minor injuries (rarely letting fans down though – he once played a gig with a broken arm, reworking his solos on the fly so that he could play them in one area of the guitar neck).
After being diagnosed with cancer in 2010 he died at his home on 6 December 2012, aged 61. His final recording with Hawkwind was a re-recording of Master of the Universe for the compilation album Spacehawks.
December 6, 2012 – Edward Claude “Cass” Cassidy was born Harvey, Illinois, a rural area outside Chicago, on May 4, 1923. His family moved to Bakersfield, California in 1931. Cassidy began his career as a professional musician in 1937. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and after his discharge held many jobs before becoming a full-time musician again. At one time in the late 1940s, Cassidy played 282 consecutive one-nighters in 17 states. He worked in show bands, Dixieland, country and western bands, and on film soundtracks, as well as having a brief stint with the San Francisco Opera.
Way back when rock ’n’ roll was countercultural — before the members of the Rolling Stones were anywhere close to 50 years old, much less celebrating their 50th anniversary together — the genre tended to emphasize rather than bridge generational divides.
So when the experimental group Spirit formed in the late 1960s, it was different not just for the way it fused jazz and rock, or the way it mixed psychedelia with a particularly tight backbeat. It was also different because its drummer was the 44-year-old stepfather of its 16-year-old guitarist, Randy California.
By the time Spirit formed in 1967, Mr. Cassidy had already had a notable and diverse musical career. He had played with jazz musicians including Dexter Gordon, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan and Cannonball Adderly and had formed a folk-blues group with Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder called the Rising Sons.
While Cassidy was performing with other adults, his young stepson, Randy Wolfe, was becoming a fine musician himself. He impressed Jimi Hendrix when they met in a music store in Manhattan, and it was Hendrix who gave Randy the nickname he went by for the rest of his life, Randy California to distinguish him from bass player Randy Texas (Palmer). Hendrix wanted tot take the kid to London, but that was thwarted by Cassidy and soon enough, stepfather and stepson were playing and touring together.
Spirit released more than a dozen albums from 1968 to 1996, but it was the first work that was the most influential and critically praised. Its biggest hit and only Top 40 single, “I Got a Line on You,” was released in 1968; the band was also celebrated for its adventurous 1970 album, “Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus.” That record included the song “Mr. Skin,” which was the nickname Mr. Cassidy’s fellow band members had given him in honor of his shaved head.
Bob Irwin, the president and owner of Sundazed Records, which has reissued many Spirit albums and also released previously unissued tracks, said the band’s early recording sessions were “kind of like a jazz history lesson” in which Mr. Cassidy nurtured his much younger colleagues.
“Ed always encouraged them to color outside the box, to take chances onstage, to play to the best of and beyond their abilities,” Mr. Irwin said.
Early reviews were usually complimentary, but critics were less positive several years later, after the band’s lineup changed. (Mr. Cassidy and Randy California remained its only constant members.) The critic Robert Palmer, writing in The New York Times in 1976, singled out Mr. Cassidy from what he said was an otherwise unimpressive performance.
“Mr. Cassidy’s drumming is still exceptional — his obligatory long solo at the end of the set was the subtlest, most musical part of the evening,” Mr. Palmer wrote.
Cassidy succumbed to cancer on Dec. 6, 2012 at age 89.
August 16, 2012 – Louis ‘Lou’ Martin was born on August 12, 1949 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
With very musically inclined parents, Martin started learning the piano at the age of six, and joined his first professional band, Killing Floor, in April or May 1968. In 1969 Martin and Stuart McDonald were recruited by 17-year-old Darryl Read who formed a band for Emperor Rosko’s brother (Jeff Pasternak) called Crayon Angels, which Read put together and played drums, while Rosko acted as manager.
Martin later left Killing Floor to play alongside blues guitar virtuoso Rory Gallagher, and is featured on several of Gallagher’s albums, including Blueprint, Tattoo, Irish Tour ’74, Against the Grain, Calling Card, Defender and Fresh Evidence. He also played rhythm guitar on one track, “Race the Breeze” from Blueprint.
After leaving Gallagher’s band, Martin and drummer Rod de’Ath formed Ramrod, after which Martin played with Downliners Sect and Screaming Lord Sutch, and also toured with Chuck Berry and Albert Collins.
Martin played in the Nickey Barclay band in London in the 1980s, alongside Barclay (ex-Fanny) on keyboards, with John Conroy (ex-Sam Mitchell Band) and Dave Ball on lead guitar (ex-Procol Harum). The band played across London on the blues rock circuit during the 1980s at venues such as The White Lion, Putney; The Star and Garter on Lower Richmond Road; The Golden Lion, Fulham and the Cartoon, Croydon.
Killing Floor released an album in 2004 named Zero Tolerance, on which Martin participated.
Lou died after a long period of illness including a battle with cancer and a number of strokes on August 16, 2012.
The following interview with Lou Martin was done by Markus Gygax, publisher of Deuce Quarterly for the issue 46 Feb. 1989 and gives a revealing picture of the life of a sideman in Rock and Roll.
Intro: Apart from Gerry MacAvoy, Lou Martin seems to be the most famous and most popular musician who has ever played in Rory’s band as you can gather from the more or less frequent polls in DEUCE; the letters that I get, as well as what the not-so-great-fans say about Rory’s music. Besides, Lou is the only one – what great news- who, after their split -up, joined the band once more to record an album (see Defender).
On the 20th of May, 1988, the Mick Clarke Band played Chur; it was also their first live performance with Lou Martin. It is true that Lou and Mick both played with the Killing Floor, the Ramrod and on the first two solo albums by Clarke. But they had never played live because they were just about to change the man on the keyboards.
In October 1988, the Mick Clarke band played a rather long Swiss and Austrian tour, which I have organized for them. On this tour, Lou Martin played as support, his only equipment was the piano and his vocals.
While being in Chur for four days with the band, Lou Martin talked about lots and lots of things. Lou was apparently enjoying the tour very much, probably because it was his first solo tour and therefore a special event. Unfortunately, we did not record any of the conversations we had during these days. Therefore I sent a written interview to Lou shortly after the concert, which he gave me back on my visit in London at the end of July 1988.
In my opinion, it is a most interesting interview a of a man who lives mainly for the music (he is also fond of flowers, dogs and cats). He has seen a lot in his life, he has got a quick eye for any kind of music, and it is always interesting to listen to what he tells you. It seems that giving interviews is an everyday routine for Lou, but you will see that he is not used to it at all. So now let’s hear what he has to say. Here is his very first interview for DEUCE;
MG- Lou, let’s start from the beginning. Where and when were you born? LM- In Belfast, Northern Ireland on the 12th of August, 1949.
MG- As far as the music is concerned, were you influenced by your parents? Did you play any music at home? LM- Yes, a lot. My father sang mainly operatic music, and my mother played the piano. We listened to the music all day, mainly classical music.
MG- When did you start to play the piano? LM- At the age of six
MG- Who were the first people you played with? LM- The first time I formed a band was at school. It was just for fun. Nothing serious. We played rock’n’roll, Shadows songs, rhythm & blues by Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, a few songs by the Animals, and almost everything which was in at that time.
MG- Did you do any kind of job before you started to be a professional? LM- I intended to train for something, namely music teacher. But I think I was too infatuated with my own music.
MG- How many years have you worked as professional? LM- This year, exactly 20 years
MG- When did you join Killing Floor? LM- In April or May 1968. I saw their advertisement in MELODY MAKER and answered it.
MG- How come you didn’t play on the second Killing Floor album, Out of Uranus, but you name is mentioned on the cover just the same? LM- At that time, I was not permanently in the band, so I played on only one song namely called Call for the Politicians. The producer wanted the keyboard sound far in the background; but he still wanted me to play somewhere.
MG- Who are your musical favourites? LM- I am interested in many styles. I often listen to classical music, Beethoven, Brahms, Rachromicoff, often jazz, folk, Bob Dylan is one of my favourites, early rock, and of course, the blues.
MG- Who are your favourites on piano? LM- Jerry Lee Lewis, Memphis Slim, Otis Spann, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Pete Johnson, Fats Waller, Dave Brubeck, Horace Silver, Ray Charles, Ramsey Lewis James etc.
MG- Do you write some of your songs? LM- No, I just improvise known melodies and mix them somehow.
MG- Would you like to record an album? LM- Sure, an album with a healthy mixture of my favourite styles and good musicians would be nice.
MG- Can you give me a list of your favourite LP’s? LM- Oh, I could give you 200 titles. I will try it anyway, but I just cannot give you a sequence. There are Elvis Presley ( Vol.1 & 2, The Early Years), Carl Perkins, Little Richard (number 1 and 2), Jerry Lee Lewis (practically everything), Howlin’ Wolf (everything), Muddy Waters (everything), Bob Dylan (almost everything), Rolling Stones (almost everything), Chieftains (no.5), Dubliners (Revolution-album), John Fogerty (Rockin’ All over the World), John Mayall, etc.
MG- Now let’s talk about Rory. When did you first see him live? LM- I saw him for the first time in 1968 at the Marquee Club in London, at that time with the first Taste setup, namely Eric Kitteringham and Norman Damery.
MG- When did you first meet him in person? LM- It was sometime in 1971.
MG- How did you come to join Rory’s band? LM- Rod De’ath, who was with the Killing Floor, just like me, substituted for Wilgar Campbell on the drums as everybody knows. Shortly afterwards, Rory asked me whether I would like to join them too.
MG- On the first album, Blueprint, you seem to play also on the guitar. On which songs? LM- Only on one track, on Race the Breeze. I played the rhythm guitar. By the way, even nowadays, when I am at home, I play the guitar, even more often than I play the piano. Just to relax.
MG- Did you or other musicians in Rory’s band never give any interviews? LM- We gave one in 1973 for New Musical Express. Gerry, Rod De’Ath and myself were interviewed. It would certainly have been great fun. But that guy was such an idiot. When the interview was published, everything had been misinterpreted. That cured us all. This one here is the second interview in my life, but this time I am convinced that you will publish what I have said.
MG- Otherwise, which were the best moments during the period in Rory’s band? LM- Over the years, there had been so many marvelous live shows. It is impossible for me to pick out particular concerts because most concerts with Rory were marvelous. The very best memories are those of the gigs at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in 1976 or ’77 – even Bob Dylan got so enthusiastic over this shows that he came to see Rory in the dressing room after the concert- and all the shows we did during ’72 and ’76 in Belfast and Cork in Ireland.
MG- Are there any bad memories of the Rory era? LM- If my memory does not fail me, there are hardly any bad memories. Except for some occasional trouble with the instruments there were not any. We were much more constant than other bands and this goes for Rory even nowadays.
MG- Which LP, do you think, is Rory’s best one, choosing from those on which you played? Which one, in your opinion, is his best of those you did not take part in? LM- Of course I have my favourites -20:20 Vision on Tattoo is really nice. At the Bottom on Against the Grain has always been one of my favourites, then Banker’s Blues on Blueprint; I have still a great respect for the album, Calling Card. On this album, the band sounds incredibly compact. It has got a marvelous sound, fantastic songs. In my opinion, everything is perfect. Besides, I am happy with the version of Seven Days from the Defender album. Anyway, Defender is one of his very best LP’s.
MG: How did the surprising cooperation for the Defender LP come about? LM: Rory rang me up and told me that he was going to record an acoustic blues track for his new album. He thought that my style would be good for the song. It took us one afternoon to get the track finished.
MG: In which country is Rory most popular? LM: I am not able to tell you because I really don’t know. But I think his prestige throughout the world guarantees his success in every country.
MG: Did you change your attitude towards the Rory Gallagher Band before you became a permanent member and since you left the band? LM: I always admired the band and I still do so now. Rory’s set-ups have always been great; he has always had excellent musicians with him.
MG: Before recording Defender, did Rory ever ask you to play on one of his other albums? LM: No, he did not
MG: How was the situation when the split between Rod de’Ath and you happened? LM: Very friendly
MG: Are you still in touch with each other? LM: We meet each other occasionally, but our engagements make it sometimes difficult. The contact is still there, though. I think we are always glad to meet now and then.
MG: Have you ever had any contacts with other musicians of the Taste/Rory? LM: I met most of them and had a good drink with them. I have never met Norman Damery, Eric Kittering ham and John Wilson.
MG: After the split, have you seen Rory live again? LM: I am quite ashamed to admit that I never have. Just once I watched a TV show with Ted McKenna on the drums. But I do want to see Rory again, particularly when he plays Mark Feltham.
MG: Did you get any “precious metals’ for Rory’s albums on which you played? LM: For Tattoo there was a gold disc, a silver disc each for Against the Grain and Irish Tour ’74. I hang them all in the front room if my house.
MG: Are Rory’s Irish tours so fantastic as it is described everywhere? LM: Absolutely. Ireland is our home country. The enthusiasm and gratitude which we received on our Irish tours is indescribable. It is the most thankful audience in the world. Emotional and excellent concerts. I am sure that this is still the case nowadays when the band plays there.
MG: What do you think of the albums which Rory recorded with black artists such as Albert King and Muddy Waters? LM: Excellent albums. These people are our roots.
MG: What did you do after the split with Rory? LM: Rod De’Ath and I formed Ramrod. Then I tried to get solo engagements. Band wise, I did not do anything except a few sessions with Dowliner Sect and Screamin’ Lord Sutch. A few things with Mick Clarke. The Southside Blues band, sessions with Tommy Morrison, tours and concerts with Chuck Berry and Albert Collins.
MG: What are you doing at the moment? LM: I have a flower shop on my own, which I run during the day. In the evenings, I have a permanent job with a West-end French restaurant where I am the bar pianist. It is near Leicester Square, Central London. Sessions happen occasionally.
MG: How did the co-operation with Chuck Berry come about? LM: The London Capitol Radio announced that they were looking for two musicians for a Chuck Berry tour. A friend of mine, a musician, told me about it. I got in touch and go the job.
MG: How was the engagement with Albert Collins arranged? LM: Again, a friend of mine, also a musician, gave me a ring and told me that Collins was looking for a pianist for his two shows in London. I played there and got the job.
MG: What about the Screamin’ Lord Sutch? LM: We recorded an album, which was arranged by Rod De’Ath. Sutch’s old hits were being re-recorded for an LP which was planned to be put on the German market. Keith Grant (bass) and Terry Gibson (guitar), two old friends of mine, who played with the Dowliner Sect, were also there.
MG: What about the recordings of Gerry McAvoy’s solo album? LM: All the recordings were organized by Gerry. They were recorded before and after I left the band. Most of the recordings were recorded live in the Bridge House, one of the best clubs at the end of the 70’s. At that time, there were many friends helping each other at concerts or studio sessions.
MG: What about Tommy Morrison? Is he a club performer in England or how would you describe him? I have never heard anything about him…. LM: Tommy is a good friends of Paul Rogers ( ex-Free/ Bad Company/ The Firm). Since Paul and I know each other, he asked me and Rod De’Ath whether we would like to record an LP with Tommy. I do not think Tommy has ever played live.
MG: How big, do you think, is the chance for a successful future for the Mick Clarke Band? Can you imagine a break-through of the band, similar to Vaughan’s, Thorogood’s? LM: Mick and I have been very close friends for over 20 years. His development as a guitarist is most remarkable. In my opinion, he certainly ranks among the top musicians. His voice and stage performance have improved greatly. So why not?
MG: Is there the possibility of you becoming a permanent member of the band? LM: I would like to spend as much time as possible with the band. But because of my engagements, it not possible just now. I would like to be more involved. Anyway, I play on the first two of the four albums by Clarke. If I had more time or if there were not so many engagements, I would not have to think twice.
MG: Which musicians did you do jam sessions with? Are there any hard rock bands among them? LM: It is hard to remember everybody, but there were certainly a few sessions worth being remembered. For example, there was a very fine one in 1975 at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. Rory was there, Rod De’Ath and Gerry MacAvoy, Louisiana Red came, Harvey Brooks on bass, a West Coast veteran, who played on Mike Bloomfield’s LP’s. Besides, there was the whole brass band of Etta James. During an American tour there was a big encore with the Rory band and the Doobie Brothers. During a break in 1973 in Chicago, I played two days in Otis Rush’s band. At that time I saw lots of interesting people for the first time live, for example, Junior Wells, Phillip Guy, Mighty Joe Young……In 1968, we (killing Floor) played with Freddie King. There were hardly any hard rock musicians, no famous ones for that matter.
MG: Music wise, which moments do you consider the best? LM: The first time I was live on stage with Freddie King and Rory, the gigs with Otis Rush, the shows with Albert Collins and Chuck Berry, then of course when I met Muddy Waters, the concert with the Mick Clarke Band in Chur was brilliant.
MG: Which was the best period? LM: When I was with Rory, no doubt. Everybody in the band was improving incredibly fast because we played most nights and everywhere. In any case, I learnt most at that time.
MG: What did you enjoy more, to play live or in the studio? Which live performances did you enjoy most? LM: I liked every band a lot. We always had a lot of fun on stage. There were so many fine gigs with Rory. And even though they were writing so many negative things about Chuck berry nowadays, I must say that at least every third gig with him was fantastic. As far as the studio is concerned, I usually played with Rory. But other studio recordings , too, were nice. Apart from Rory, it is probably Mick Clarke I like working with most.
MG: Which LP, in your opinion, is the best from those you played on? LM: Calling Card, because of the way I play and also the whole feeling of the album. I would have liked to have made an LP with Chuck Berry because the group he had at that time was really great. I also like the two albums with Mick Clarke, particularly, Rock Me. It would be nice to get a gold disc for that one.
MG: Now, here is a quite different subject: What do you or other Rory band members think of fanclubs? LM: No idea. Anyway, I think a good fanclub is important for 90% of the musicians. I do not think that it is smiled at. Probably there are many people who realize only now that there is a Rory fanclub and that the fanzines is really interesting. In any case, I like reading it.
MG: Apart from music, do you have any other hobbies? LM: I’ll enjoy a good drink…..