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Tony Joe White 10/2018

Tony Joe White – October 24, 2018 was born on July 23, 1943, in Oak Grove, Louisiana as the youngest of seven children who grew up on a cotton farm. He first began performing music at school dances, and after graduating from high school he performed in night clubs in Texas and Louisiana.

As a singer-songwriter and guitarist, he became best known for his 1969 hit “Polk Salad Annie” and for “Rainy Night in Georgia”, which he wrote but was first made popular by Brook Benton in 1970. He also wrote “Steamy Windows” and “Undercover Agent for the Blues”, both hits for Tina Turner in 1989; those two songs came by way of Turner’s producer at the time, Mark Knopfler, who was a friend of White. “Polk Salad Annie” was also recorded by Elvis Presley and Tom Jones.

In 1967, White signed with Monument Records, which operated from a recording studio in the Nashville suburb of Hendersonville, Tennessee, and produced a variety of sounds, including rock and roll, country and western, and rhythm and blues. Billy Swan was his producer.

Over the next three years, White released four singles with no commercial success in the U.S., although “Soul Francisco” was a hit in France. “Polk Salad Annie” had been released for nine months and written off as a failure by his record label, when it finally entered the U.S. charts in July 1969. It climbed to the Top Ten by early August, and eventually reached No. 8, becoming White’s biggest hit.

White’s first album, 1969’s Black and White, was recorded with Muscle Shoals/Nashville musicians David Briggs, Norbert Putnam, and Jerry Carrigan, and featured “Willie and Laura Mae Jones” and “Polk Salad Annie”, along with a cover of Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman”. “Willie and Laura Mae Jones” was covered by Dusty Springfield and released as a single, later added to reissues of her 1969 album Dusty in Memphis.

Three more singles quickly followed, all minor hits, and White toured with Steppenwolf, Anne Murray, Sly & the Family Stone, Creedence Clearwater Revival and other major rock acts of the 1970s, playing in France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden and England.

In 1973, White appeared in the film Catch My Soul, a rock-opera adaption of Shakespeare’s Othello. White played and sang four and composed seven songs for the musical.

In late September 1973, White was recruited by record producer Huey Meaux to sit in on the legendary Memphis sessions that became Jerry Lee Lewis’s landmark Southern Roots album. By all accounts, these sessions were a three-day, around-the-clock party, which not only reunited the original MGs (Steve Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn and Al Jackson, Jr. of Booker T. and the MGs fame) for the first time in three years, but also featured Carl Perkins, Mark Lindsay (of Paul Revere & the Raiders), and Wayne Jackson plus The Memphis Horns.

From 1976 to 1983, White released three more albums, each on a different label. Trying to combine his own swamp-rock sound with the popular disco music at the time, the results were not met with success and White gave up his career as a singer and concentrated on writing songs. During this time frame, he collaborated with American expat Joe Dassin on his only English-language album, Home Made Ice Cream, and its French-language counterpart Blue Country.

In 1989, White produced one non-single track on Tina Turner’s Foreign Affair album, the rest of the album was produced by Dan Hartman. Playing a variety of instruments on the album, he also wrote four songs, including the title song and the hit single “Steamy Windows”. As a result of this he became managed by Roger Davies, who was Turner’s manager at the time, and he obtained a new contract with Polydor.

The resulting album, 1991’s Closer to the Truth, was a commercial success and put White back in the spotlight. He released two more albums for Polydor; The Path of a Decent Groove and Lake Placid Blues which was co-produced by Roger Davies.

In the 1990s, White toured Germany and France with Joe Cocker and Eric Clapton, and in 1992 he played the Montreux Festival.

In 1996, Tina Turner released the song “On Silent Wings” written by White.

In 2000, Hip-O Records released One Hot July in the U.S., giving White his first new major-label domestic release in 17 years. The critically acclaimed The Beginningappeared on Swamp Records in 2001, followed by Heroines, featuring several duets with female vocalists including Jessi Colter, Shelby Lynne, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, and Michelle White, on Sanctuary in 2004, and a live Austin City Limits concert, Live from Austin, TX, on New West Records in 2006. In 2004, White was the featured guest artist in an episode of the Legends Rock TV Show and Concert Series, produced by Megabien Entertainment.

In 2007, White released another live recording, Take Home the Swamp, as well as the compilation Introduction to Tony Joe White. Elkie Brooks recorded one of White’s songs, “Out of The Rain”, on her 2005 Electric Lady album. On July 14, 2006, in Magny-Cours, France, White performed as a warm-up act for Roger Waters’ The Dark Side of the Moon concert. White’s album, entitled Uncovered, was released in September 2006 and featured collaborations with Mark Knopfler, Michael McDonald, Eric Clapton, and J.J. Cale.

The song “Elements and Things” from the 1969 album …Continued features prominently during the horse-racing scenes in the 2012 HBO television series “Luck”.

In 2013, White signed to Yep Roc Records and released Hoodoo. Mother Jones called the album “Steamy, Irresistible” and No Depression noted Tony Joe White is “the real king of the swamp.” He also made his Live…with Jools Holland debut in London, playing songs from Hoodoo.

On October 15, 2014, White appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman alongside the Foo Fighters to perform “Polk Salad Annie”. Pointing to White, Letterman told his TV audience, “Holy cow! … If I was this guy, you could all kiss my ass. And I mean that.”

In May 2016, Tony Joe White released Rain Crow on Yep Roc Records. The lead track “Hoochie Woman” was co-written with his wife, Leann. The track “Conjure Child” is a follow up to an earlier song, “Conjure Woman.

The album Bad Mouthin’ was released in September 2018 again on Yep Roc Records. The album contains six self-penned songs and five blues standards written by, amongst others, Charley Patton and John Lee Hooker. On the album White also performs a cover of the Elvis Presley song “Heartbreak Hotel”. White plays acoustic and electric guitar on the album which was produced by his son Jody White and has a signature Tony Joe White laid back sound.

White died of a heart attack on October 24, 2018, at the age of 75

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Glenn Frey 1/2016

glenn FreyJanuary 18, 2016 – Glenn Frey was born on Nov. 6, 1948 in Detroit and was raised in nearby Royal Oak. He grew up on both the Motown sounds and harder-edged rock of his hometown. He played in a succession of local bands in the city and first connected with Bob Seger when Frey’s band, the Mushrooms, convinced Seger to write a song for them. Frey can also be heard singing extremely loud backing vocals (particularly on the first chorus) on Seger’s first hit and Frey’s first recorded appearance, 1968’s “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man.”

But it wasn’t long before warmer climes called and Frey followed then-girlfriend Joan Silwin to Los Angeles. Her sister Alexandra was a member of Honey Ltd., a girl group associated with Nancy Sinatra producer Lee Hazelwood, and she introduced Frey to her friend John David Souther.

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Billy Joe Royal 10/2015

Billy Joe RoyalOctober 3, 2015 – Singer Billy Joe Royal, best known for his pop hit “Down in the Boondocks” and a string of country singles in the 1980s,was born April 3, 1942 in Valdosta, Georgia.
As a young man he performed on the radio program “Georgia Jubilee,” which is where he met artists like Jerry Reed and Joe South. It was fellow Georgian Joe South who penned Mr. Royal’s 1965 breakout single, “Down in the Boondocks,” which peaked at No. 9. Royal would also find success with his follow-up single: another South-penned song, called “I Knew You When.”

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Mike Porcaro 3/2015

Mike-PorcaroMarch 15, 2015 – Mike Porcaro (Toto) was born in Los Angeles on May 29, 1955 and was the middle brother of Jeff Porcaro and Steve Porcaro. Their father was jazz drummer-percussionist Joe Porcaro.

Porcaro worked as a session bass player before replacing Toto original bass player David Hungate in 1982 shortly after the band completed recording the award-winning Toto IV album. Porcaro played cello on a track for the album and subsequently appeared in the band’s videos and performed as a full band member on the world tour in support of the album.

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Tim Drummond 1/2015

tim drummondJanuary 10, 2015 – 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.

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Phil Everly 1/2014

Phil EverlyJanuary 3, 2014 – Phil Everly was born on January 19th 1939 in Chicago, Illinois, into a musical family. His father, Ike who was also a musician had a show on KMA and KFNF in Shenandoah, Iowa, in the 1940s, with his wife Margaret and their two young sons, Don and Phil.

Singing on the show gave the brothers their first exposure to the music industry. The family sang together and lived and traveled in the area singing as the Everly Family. The Everly Brothers grew up from ages 5 and 7, through early high school, in Shenandoah before moving to Knoxville, Tennessee, where the brothers attended Knox West High School, continuing their musical development. The boys caught the attention of Chet Atkins who became an early champion.

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Joe South 9/2012

Joe-South1September 5, 2012 – Joe South, aka Joseph Alfred Souter was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist born in Atlanta, Georgia on February 28, 1940. He started his pop career in July 1958 writing the novelty hit “The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor”. In 1959, he wrote 2 songs which were recorded by Gene Vincent: “I Might Have Known” and “Gone Gone Gone”. He began his recording career with the National Recording Corporation, where he was staff guitarist along with other NRC artists Ray Stevens and Jerry Reed.

He was also a prominent sideman, playing guitar on the likes of Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools”, Tommy Roe’s “Sheila”, and Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde album.

His 1969 “Games People Play”, a hit on both sides of the Atlantic was accompanied by a lush string sound, organ, and brass, the production won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Song and the Grammy Award for Song of the Year.

His compositions have been recorded by many artists, including Billy Joe Royal’s songs “Down in the Boondocks”, “I Knew You When”, “Yo-Yo”, later a hit for the Osmonds, and “Hush” later a hit for Deep Purple and Kula Shaker. Joe’s most commercially successful composition was Lynn Anderson’s 1971 monster hit “(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden”, which was a hit in 16 countries and translated into many languages. Anderson won a Grammy Award for her vocals, and Joe won a Grammy Award for writing the song.

Joe was inducted into Georgia Music Hall of Fame. On September 5, 2012 he died from heart failure.

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Doug Fieger 2/2010

doug fiegerFebruary 14, 2010 – Doug Fieger (The Knack) was born on August 20th 1952 and raised in Oak Park, Michigan, a northern suburb of Detroit, and attended Oak Park High School. While still at school he sang lead and played bass in the group Sky, eventually recording two albums in 1970 and 1971. Doug also played bass guitar in the German progressive rock band Triumvirat for a short period in 1974. After which he founded the New Wave rock quartet The Knack based in Los Angeles that rose to fame with their first single, “My Sharona”, an international No.1 hit.

With a six-week run at No. 1, “My Sharona” was the inescapable hit of the summer of 1979, and it became a staple of high school dance parties for years to come. Built on a simple riff that was as perky as it was sexy, the song, by Mr. Fieger and the band’s lead guitarist, Berton Averre, celebrated teenage lust in unabashed terms. “When you gonna give it to me?” Mr. Fieger sang in the impatient whine that was his hallmark.

The song, written about a 17-year-old high school student who had caught the eye of the 26-year-old Mr. Fieger, displaced Chic’s disco anthem “Good Times” on Billboard’s singles chart and came to symbolize the commercial arrival of new wave, the poppier, snazzier-dressed cousin of punk rock. (That girl, Sharona Alperin, became a high-end real estate agent in Los Angeles.) With a carefully executed marketing plan, the members of the Knack seemed to position themselves as a new Beatles, adopting a uniform of white shirts and skinny black ties, even recreating a group pose from the film “A Hard Day’s Night” for the back cover of their debut album, “Get the Knack”. “My Sharona,” Fieger once said, had been written in 15 minutes. Billboard listed it as the No. 1 song of 1979.

The follow-up hit was “Good Girls Don’t” which stopped one notch short of the Top 10 – peaking at No.11, and Get The Knack spent five straight weeks at No.1 and eventually sold 3 million copies in the United States – 6 million globally. In addition to performing, Doug also produced the Rubber City Rebels debut album for Capitol Records and another album for the Los Angeles-based band, Mystery Pop

He died on 14 February 2010 from lung cancer on Feb. 14, 2010 at the age of 57.

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Les Paul 8/2009

les paul guitar legendAugust 12, 2009 – Les Paul( birth name Lester William Polfus) was born on June 9th 1915 in in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

By at least one account, Paul’s early musical ability wasn’t superb. “Your boy, Lester, will never learn music,” one teacher wrote his mother. But nobody could dissuade him from trying, and as a young boy he taught himself the harmonica, guitar and banjo.
By his teen years, Paul was playing in country bands around the Midwest. He also played live on St. Louis radio stations, calling himself the Rhubarb Red.

Coupled with Paul’s interest in playing instruments was a love for modifying them. At the age of nine he built his first crystal radio. At 10 he built a harmonica holder out of a coat hanger, and then later constructed his own amplified guitar. Continue reading Les Paul 8/2009

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Tim Krekel 6/2009

tim-krekelJune 24, 2009 – Tim Krekel (Jimmy Buffett) was born on October 10, 1950 in Louisville, Kentucky. He became interested in music early and his first lessons were on the drums. He began taking guitar lessons at age 10 or 11, when it dawned on him that “the guitar player was up front getting all the attention, like Rick Nelson”. He was singing and playing his guitar for audiences by the time he was 12, gigging in Lebanon, Kentucky, at places like The Golden Horseshoe and Club 68. He began to write his own songs in high school, although he was reluctant to share them with anyone for a few years.

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England Dan 3/2009

England-Dan-&-John-Ford-8March 25, 2009 – England Dan was born Danny Wayland Seals on February 8th 1948.

He was the younger brother of Jim Seals from the duo Seals & Crofts. Dan joined with fellow W.W. Samuell High School classmate and longtime friend John Ford Coley to perform first as part of Dallas pop/psych group Southwest”Freight on Board”/” F.O.B“, before going under the name of England Dan, and forming the soft rock duo England Dan & John Ford Coley in 1970.

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Hank Locklin 3/2009

Hank LocklinMarch 8, 2009 – Hank Locklin was born on February 15th 1918 in McLellan in the Florida Panhandle.

His pop hits, the only reason why he shows up on this listing, include “Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On”, “Geisha Girl”, and “Please Help Me I’m Falling”, which went to No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop music chart. Billboard Magazine’s 100th Anniversary issue also listed it as the second most successful country single of the Rock and Roll era.

As a songwriter, many of his songs were covered by by many other artists, including Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Roy Rogers, Dwight Yoakam and even Dean Martin.

Hank had a strong following in Europe, and Ireland, so much so that in 1963 he recorded an album called Irish Songs Country Style, which includes the beautiful song Wild Irish Rose. Also he has a fanclub situated in Langeli, Norway.

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Dewey Martin 1/2009

Dewey Martin of Buffalo SpringfieldJanuary 31, 2009 – Dewey Martin
, (Buffalo Springfield) born Walter Milton Dwayne Midkiff in Chesterville, Ontario, Canada on September 30, 1940 was best known for his work with the notoriously volatile country rock band, Buffalo Springfield.

Dewey started playing drums when he was 13 years old and joined a high school band The Jive Rockets, but was soon playing with more professional rockabilly bands, including Bernie Early & The Early Birds. After his army discharge, he moved to Nashville in 1961 where he became an in-demand session drummer, playing and recording with the likes of Carl Perkins, Charlie Rich, Patsy Cline, Everly Brothers, Faron Young and Roy Orbison among others.

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Sneaky Pete Kleinow 1/2007

Sneaky Pete KleinowJanuary 6, 2007 – Sneaky Pete Kleinow  was born on August 20th 1934 in South Bend, Indiana. He became intrigued by the steel guitar, particularly the Hawaiian stylings of Jerry Byrd, and he took up the instrument when he was 17. He worked repairing roads, but he would play in club bands at night. One band decided that everyone should have nicknames and, for Kleinow, “Sneaky” stuck.

In 1960, he moved to Los Angeles and wrote jingles, and worked as a special effects artist and stop motion animator for movies and television, including the Gumby and Davey and Goliath series. He did special effects for the film The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962) and the cult TV show The Outer Limits.

His first date as a session musician was on the Ventures‘ “Blue Star” in 1965. He played in clubs around Los Angeles and sat in with Bakersfield Sound-oriented combos and early country-rock aggregations playing the pedal steel guitar. This is where he became acquainted with Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons of The Byrds, helping the group to replicate their newly country-oriented sound onstage with banjoist Doug Dillard and, early in 1968, Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons told him of their plans to relaunch the rock band the Byrds in a country music setting.

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Freddy Fender 10/2006

223_freddy_fender_at_the_sea October 14, 2006Freddy Fender was born Baldemar Huerta on June 4th 1937 was the first and biggest pioneer in Tex Mex music, and one of the most important musicians in Tejano Music History. He is documented as The First American Hispanic and Hispanic Rock & Roll Recording Artist In Anglo Latino Musical History.

He actually made himself a guitar at the age of six and at 10 he was singing on local radio stations and winning talent competitions. Then at 16, he joined the Marines for three years. After his discharge, he started playing Texas honky tonks and dance halls. His big break came with Falcon Records in 1957, when he recorded Spanish versions of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” and Harry Belafonte’s “Jamaica Farewell.”

The recordings both reached No.1 slots in Mexico and South America. He signed with Imperial Records in 1959, renaming himself “Fender” after the brand of his electric guitar, and “Freddy”, well.. because it sounded good with Fender.

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Johnny Cash 9/2003

johnny cashSeptember 12, 2003 – J.R.JohnnyCash  was born February 26, 1932 and became one of the most imposing and influential figures in post-World War II country music. With his deep, baritone and spare, percussive guitar, he had a basic, distinctive sound.

Although primarily remembered as a country music icon, his genre-spanning songs and sound embraced rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, folk, and gospel. This crossover appeal won Cash the rare honor of multiple inductions in the Country Music, Rock and Roll and Gospel Music Halls of Fame.

Born in Kingsland, Arkansas, he was given the name “J.R.” because his parents could not agree on a name, only on initials. When he enlisted in the US Air Force, the military would not accept initials as his name, so he adopted John R. Cash as his legal name. Continue reading Johnny Cash 9/2003

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Felice Bryant 4/2003

bryant and boudleauxApril 22, 2003 – Felice Bryant was born Matilda Genevieve Scaduto on August 7, 1925. One half of the wife and husband country/pop music songwriting team who were also at the forefront of the evolution of pop music.

With her husband, Boudleaux, the two wrote numerous Everly Brothers’ hits including the autobiographical “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and “Bye Bye Love”. Their prolific and quality compositions would produce hit records for many stars from a variety of musical genres including Tony Bennett, Bob Moore, Simon and Garfunkel, Sonny James, Eddy Arnold, Charley Pride, Nazareth, Jim Reeves, Leo Sayer, Sarah Vaughan, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, the Grateful Dead, Elvis Costello, Count Basie, Dean Martin, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan among many others. They formed one of the most potent songwriting teams in country pop history.

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Waylon Jennings 2/2002

Waylon Jennings February 13, 2002 – Waylon Jennings was born  June 15th 1937. Jennings began playing guitar at 8 and began performing at 12 on KVOW radio. His first band was The Texas Longhorns. Jennings worked as a D.J. on KVOW, KDAV, KYTI, and KLLL. In 1958, Buddy Holly arranged Jennings’s first recording session, of “Jole Blon” and “When Sin Stops (Love Begins)”. Holly hired him to play bass.

He rose to early prominence as a bassist for Buddy Holly following the break-up of The Crickets. He escaped death in the February 3, 1959, plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, when he gave up his seat to Richardson who had been sick with the flu. In Clear Lake, Iowa, Jennings gave up his seat on the ill-fated flight that crashed and killed Holly, J. P. Richardson, Ritchie Valens, and pilot Roger Peterson.

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Nicolette Larson 12/1997

Nicolette-LarsonDecember 16, 1997Nicolette Larson was born on July 17th 1952 in Helena, Montana. Her father’s employment with the U.S. Treasury Department forced frequent relocation on Larson’s family, not an easy task for a family of eight. The Larsons moved every couple of years and the young Nicolette was exposed to every genre of music from soul to pop via country. She especially liked Hank Williams and her singing was undoubtedly influenced by Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn, but her peripatetic childhood and varied taste would later be reflected in albums containing Tamla Motown material alongside songs by Sam Cooke, Burt Bacharah and Jackson Browne.

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John Wolters 6/1997

drhook74-2June 16, 1997 – John Christian Wolters was born on April 28th 1945 in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey.

He became part of the already established country rock band Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show in 1973, when Jay David left the band, and stayed until 1985, when the band split up.

The band had a global smash with “Sylvia’s Mother” and a top-10 hit with “The Cover of the Rolling Stone” before Wolters replaced their original drummer on Fried Face (1974). In 1976 Dr. Hook (by then they had dropped the rest of their moniker) had a top-10 hit with a cover of Sam Cooke‘s “Only Sixteen” and a #11 hit with the title track of A Little Bit More.

Dr. Hook had several more hits including, the top-10 singles “Sharing the Night Together” (1978) and “When You’re in Love With a Beautiful Woman” (1979) as well as the top-five “Sexy Eyes” (1980).

The band had more than 35 gold and platinum LPs in Australia and Scandinavia, where they toured to large crowds until their 1985 split.

He died at age 52 of liver cancer in San Francisco, California on June 16, 1997.

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Townes vanZandt 1/1997

Townes van ZandtJanuary 1, 1997 – John Townes Van Zandt better known as Townes Van Zandt was born on March 7, 1944 in Fort Worth into a wealthy family. He was a third-great-grandson of Isaac Van Zandt (a prominent leader of the Republic of Texas) and a second great-grandson of Khleber Miller Van Zandt (a Confederate Major and one of the founders of Fort Worth). Van Zandt County in east Texas was named after his family in 1848. Townes’ parents were Harris Williams Van Zandt (1913–1966) and Dorothy Townes (1919–1983). He had two siblings, Bill and Donna. Harris was a corporate lawyer, and his career required the family to move several times during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1952 the family transplanted from Fort Worth to Midland, Texas, for six months before moving to Billings, Montana.

At Christmas in 1956, Townes’s father gave him a guitar, which he practiced while wandering the countryside. He would later tell an interviewer that “watching Elvis Presley’s October 28, 1956, performance on The Ed Sullivan Show was the starting point for me becoming a guitar player… I just thought that Elvis had all the money in the world, all the Cadillacs and all the girls, and all he did was play the guitar and sing. That made a big impression on me.” In 1958 the family moved to Boulder, Colorado. Van Zandt would remember his time in Colorado fondly and would often visit as an adult. He would later refer to Colorado in “My Proud Mountains”, “Colorado Girl”, and “Snowin’ On Raton”. Townes was a good student and active in team sports. In grade school, he received a high IQ score and his parents began grooming him to become a lawyer or senator. 

The University of Colorado at Boulder accepted Van Zandt as a student in 1962. In the spring of his second year, his parents flew to Boulder to bring Townes back to Houston, apparently worried about his binge drinking and episodes of depression.  They admitted him to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, where he was diagnosed with manic depression. He received three months of insulin shock therapy, which erased much of his long-term memory. Later, his mother claimed her “biggest regret in life was that she had allowed that treatment to occur”. In 1965 he was accepted into the University of Houston’s pre-law program. Soon after he attempted to join the Air Force, but was rejected due to a doctor’s diagnosis that labelled him “an acute manic-depressive who has made minimal adjustments to life”. He quit school around 1967, having been inspired by his singer-songwriter heroes to pursue a career in playing music.

 His music doesn’t jump up and down, wear fancy clothes, or beat around the bush. Whether he was singing a quiet, introspective country-folk song or a driving, hungry blues, Van Zandt’s lyrics and melodies were filled with the kind of haunting truth and beauty that you knew instinctively. His music came straight from his soul by way of a kind heart, an honest mind, and a keen ear for the gentle blend of words and melody. He could bring you down to a place so sad that you felt like you were scraping bottom, but just as quickly he could lift your spirits and make you smile at the sparkle of a summer morning or a loved one’s eyes — or raise a chuckle with a quick and funny talking blues. The magic of his songs is that they never leave you alone.
Despite his warm, dusty-sweet voice, as a singer Van Zandt never had anything resembling a hit in his nearly 30-year recording career — he had a hard enough time simply keeping his records in print. Nonetheless, he was widely respected and admired as one of the greatest country and folk artists of his generation. The long list of singers who’ve covered his songs includes Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson (who had a number one country hit with “Pancho and Lefty” in 1983), Emmylou Harris, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Nanci Griffith, Hoyt Axton, Bobby Bare, the Tindersticks, and the Cowboy Junkies.

Van Zandt was a Texan by birth and a traveler by nature. His father was in the oil business, and the family moved around a lot — Montana, Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois, among other places — which accounted for his sometimes vague answers to questions of where he “came from.” Van Zandt spent a couple years in a military academy and a bit more time in college in Colorado before dropping out to become a folksinger. (Van Zandt often returned to Colorado in subsequent years, spending entire summers, he said, alone in the mountains on horseback.)

Van Zandt moved to Houston and got his first paying gigs on the folk music circuit there in the mid-’60s. He played clubs like Sand Mountain and the Old Quarter (where in 1973 he recorded one of his finest albums, Live at the Old Quarter, released four years later), and he met singers such as Guy Clark (who became a lifelong friend and frequent road partner), Jerry Jeff Walker, and blues legend Lightnin’ Hopkins, who had a large influence on Van Zandt’s guitar playing in particular.

Another Texas songwriter, Mickey Newbury, saw Van Zandt in Houston one night and soon had him set up with a recording gig in Nashville (with Jack Clement producing). The sessions became Van Zandt’s debut album, For the Sake of the Song, released in 1968 by Poppy Records. The next five years were the most prolific ofVan Zandt’s career, as Poppy released the albums Our Mother the Mountain, Townes Van Zandt, Delta Momma Blues, High, Low and in Between, and The Late Great Townes Van Zandt. These included such gems as “For the Sake of the Song,” “To Live’s to Fly,” “Tecumseh Valley,” “Pancho and Lefty,” and many more that have made him a legend in American and European songwriting circles.

Van Zandt moved to Nashville in 1976 at the urging of his new manager, John Lomax III. He signed a new deal with Tomato Records and in 1977 released Live at the Old Quarter, a double album — and the first of several live recordings — that contained many of his finest songs. In 1978 Tomato released Flyin’ Shoes; the long list of players on that album included Chips Moman and Spooner Oldham.

Van Zandt didn’t record again for nearly a decade, but he continued to tour. He moved back to Texas briefly, returning again to Nashville in the mid-’80s. During the early ’80s, both “If I Needed You” and “Pancho and Lefty” became country radio hits. In 1987, Van Zandt was back in business with his eighth studio album, At My Window, which came out on his new label, Sugar Hill. By this time, Van Zandt’s voice had dropped to a lower register, but the weathered, somewhat road-weary edge to it was as pure and expressive as ever. Two years later, Sugar Hill released Live & Obscure(recorded in a Nashville club in 1985), and two more live albums (Rain on a Conga Drum and Rear View Mirror) appeared on European labels in the early ’90s. In 1990, Van Zandt toured with the Cowboy Junkies, and he wrote a song for them, “Cowboy Junkies Lament,” which appeared on the group’s Black Eyed Man album (along with a song the Junkies wrote for him, “Townes Blues”).

Sugar Hill released Roadsongs in 1994, on which Van Zandt covered songs by Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, and others, all recorded off the soundboard during recent concerts. At the end of that same year, Sugar Hill released No Deeper Blue, Van Zandt’s first studio album since 1987. Van Zandt recorded it in Ireland with a group of Irish musicians. Van Zandt sang every song but only played guitar on one.

Van Zandt continued writing and performing through the 1990s, though his output slowed noticeably as time went on. He had enjoyed some sobriety during the early 1990s, but was actively abusing alcohol during the final years of his life. In 1994 he was admitted to the hospital to detox, during which time a doctor told Jeanene Van Zandt that trying to detox Townes again could potentially kill him. A year and a half after the release of No Deeper Blue,Van Zandt died unexpectedly on January 1, 1997; he was 52 years old. Posthumous releases included collections like Last Rights: The Life & Times of Townes Van Zandt and Anthology: 1968-1979, as well as albums like 1998’s Abnormal and the following year’s Far Cry From Dead, which featured previously unreleased songs.

Townes Van Zandt was 52 years 9 months 25 days old when he died on 1 January 1997. Cause; lifelong alcohol abuse.

The early 2000s saw a resurgence of interest in Van Zandt’s music and enigmatic life; three book projects and two films entered production, and features on the musician appeared in such tastemaking rags as Mojo. But perhaps the greatest gem was the discovery of a collection of Van Zandt demos dating from 1966, a full two years before his proper debut. The ten previously unreleased recordings were issued by the Houston imprint Compadre in April 2003 as In the Beginning…. Included in the release were liner notes written by John Lomax III.

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Toy Caldwell 2/1993

Toy CaldwellFebruary 25, 1993 – Toy Talmadge Caldwell Jr (Marshall Tucker Band) was born in Spartanburg, SC on November 13, 1947.

He began playing guitar before his teen years with his younger brother Tommy Caldwell. He developed a unique style of playing, playing the electric guitar using his thumb rather than a pick. Toy played basketball and football in high school with friends George McCorkle, Jerry Eubanks, and Doug Gray. While very involved in sports, the boys eventually became interested in music including jazz and blues. By the age of sixteen, Caldwell was passionate about music, sports, and his other obsession, motorcycles. He also enjoyed hunting and fishing.

Like a good old southern boy, Caldwell decided to serve his country and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. In 1966, he reported for recruit training at Parris Island, South Carolina. After being wounded in Vietnam in September 1968, he was evacuated for two weeks, but then returned for duty. Caldwell was discharged in 1969 and once again began playing music with his high school buddies. The Spartanburg chapter of the Marine Corps League is named the Hutchings-Caldwells Detachment in honor of Toy, his brother Tommy and another Marine, Pvt Nolan Ryan Hutchings who was killed during the Iraq Invasion in 2003.

Toy was a founding member and lead guitarist of the Marshall Tucker Band which formed in 1973. He was a member of the band from 1973 to 1983 and wrote almost all of their songs. He later formed the Toy Caldwell Band and released an eponymous CD in 1992; the record was later renamed “Son of the South” by Southern rock luminary, Toy’s personal friend, Charlie Daniels.  In addition to his guitarist role, he occasionally performed lead vocals for Marshall Tucker Band, including on one of the band’s best-known hits, “Can’t You See.”

He was the older brother of co-founder and bass guitarist Tommy Caldwell, who was killed at age 30 in an automobile accident on April 28, 1980, and to Tim Caldwell, who on March 28, 1980, one month prior to Tommy’s death, was killed at age 25 in a collision with a Spartanburg County garbage truck on S.C. Highway 215

Toy Caldwell was 45, when he died on 25 February 1993 from cardio-respiratory failure due to cocaine ingestion.

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Jeff Porcaro 8/1992

Jeff PorcaroAugust 5, 1992 – Jeffrey Thomas “Jeff” Porcaro was born on April 1, 1954. He was not only a founding member of the hugely popular band “Toto”, he was also a highly sought after session drummer, by many regarded as the most in demand studio drummer in rock from the mid-’70s to the early ’90s. He has worked on hundreds of the most successful albums from that era and contributed to thousands of sessions.

At age 17 he became the drummer for Sonny and Cher’s Touring Band at the height of their popularity. He toured with Boz Scaggs and recorded with Steely Dan before he and his brothers, together with Steve Lukather and David Paich formed.

Porcaro was one of the most recorded session musicians in history, working on hundreds of albums and thousands of sessions.Even while with Toto, he was still a highly sought after session musician. He collaborated with many of the biggest names in the music business, including Boz Scaggs, Paul McCartney, Dire Straits, Donald Fagen, Steely Dan, Rickie Lee Jones, Michael Jackson, Al Jarreau, George Benson, Joe Walsh, Joe Cocker, Stan Getz, Sérgio Mendes, Lee Ritenour, Christopher Cross, James Newton-Howard, Jim Messina, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Eric Carmen, Eric Clapton, Miles Davis, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Larry Carlton, Michael McDonald, Seals & Crofts, and David Gilmour.

Porcaro had contributed drums to four tracks on Michael Jackson’s Thriller, as well as played on the Dangerous album hit “Heal the World”. He also played on 10cc’s …Meanwhile (1992).

He died unexpectedly at home on August 5, 1995.The Los Angeles County Coroner’s office listed the cause of death to be a heart attack from atherosclerosis induced by cocaine use, not from an allergic reaction to the pesticides as presumed immediately after his death and stated by Toto in the band’s official history. The official cause of death reported by the coroner has long been the subject of intense debate, with Porcaro’s family, friends, and Toto bandmates claiming that while he did occasionally use cocaine, he was by no means a heavy drug user nor was he an addict. Most of the people that knew him state that the coroner’s report is wrong, and that he died of a combination of undiagnosed heart disease and organophosphate poisoning caused by the insecticide he was spraying on the day he died.

In a podcast recorded with I’d Hit That in late 2013, Steve Lukather spoke about Jeff Porcaro’s death:

Steve Lukather: I spoke to him the day he passed…he said, ‘yeah, man I’ll see you this weekend and we’ll have a BBQ at the house and we’ll go clean up the yard’…and that’s when he got poison on himself and it turns out he had a bad heart anyway. He had two uncles that died when they were 40 years old from heart disease so it was genetic…this whole drug thing that came out its so insidious, and I hate the fucking fact cause he was never the bad drug guy…he’d be the guy going “what are guys staying up all night, you idiots”…in the early ’80s and late ’70s early ’80s it was crazy man, we’re not gonna deny any of it, but by the time he passed it was never, I don’t know, people just love to roam the dirty laundry as Henley wrote you know…and you read these Wikipedia shit, that’s right there, it’s like does anybody ever do homework on these facts…he just had a genetic predisposition…this whole thing with his arms hurting and all this, he was always, ‘my arms, my muscles’, it wasn’t his muscles, it was the fact that the blood was not getting to the extremities, he had hardening of the arteries at 38 years old.

Interviewer: How long was he complaining of the pain in the arms?

Steve Lukather: Years, it was debilitating to the point where touring became difficult for him.

A memorial concert took place at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles on December 14, 1992 with an all-star lineup that included Boz Scaggs, Donald Fagen, Don Henley, Michael McDonald, David Crosby, Eddie Van Halen, and the members of Toto. The proceeds of the concert were used to establish an educational trust fund for Porcaro’s sons.

Porcaro’s tombstone is inscribed with the following epitaph, comprised by lyrics from Kingdom of Desire track “Wings of Time”: “Our love doesn’t end here; it lives forever, on the Wings of Time.”

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Gene Clark 5/1991

gene-clarkMay 24, 1991 – Harold Eugene Gene Clark was born November 17, 1944 in Tipton, Missouri, the third of 13 children in a family of Irish, German, and Native American heritage. His family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where as a boy of 9 he began learning to play the guitar and harmonica from his father. He was soon playing Hank Williams tunes as well as material by early rockers such as Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers. He began writing songs at the age of 11. By the time he was 15, he had developed a rich tenor voice, and he formed a local rock and roll combo, Joe Meyers and the Sharks. Like many of his generation, Clark developed an interest in folk music because of the popularity of the Kingston Trio. When he graduated from Bonner Springs High School, in Bonner Springs, Kansas, in 1962, he formed a folk group, the Rum Runners. Inspired by the Kingston Trio and playing with several folk groups he began working with the New Christy Minstrels. They hired him, and he recorded two albums with the ensemble before leaving in early 1964 after hearing the Beatles.

He moved to Los Angeles, where he met fellow folkie and Beatles convert Jim (later Roger) McGuinn at the Troubadour Club. In early 1964 they began to assemble a band that would become the Byrds. Longing to perform his own songs in the sixties and now turning to a more rocky genre, they started assembling a band that would, in time, come to be known as the Byrds. Even though the Byrds gained initial fame with newly arranged cover of Bob Dylan songs, Gene became the Byrds’ dominant songwriter in the mid sixties, penning most of their best-known originals, including “Feel a Whole Lot Better,” “Here Without You,” and “Eight Miles High,” and was one of the group’s strongest vocal presences.

He initially played rhythm guitar in the band, but relinquished that position to David Crosby and became the tambourine and harmonica player. Bassist Chris Hillman noted years later in an interview remembering Clark, “At one time, he was the power in the Byrds, not McGuinn, not Crosby—it was Gene who would burst through the stage curtain banging on a tambourine, coming on like a young Prince Valiant. A hero, our savior. Few in the audience could take their eyes off this presence. He was the songwriter. He had the ‘gift’ that none of the rest of us had developed yet…. What deep inner part of his soul conjured up songs like ‘Set You Free This Time,’ ‘I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better,’ ‘I’m Feelin’ Higher,’ ‘Eight Miles High’? So many great songs! We learned a lot of songwriting from him and in the process learned a little bit about ourselves.”

A management decision gave McGuinn the lead vocals for their major singles and Bob Dylan songs. This disappointment, combined with Clark’s dislike of traveling (including a chronic fear of flying) and resentment by other band members about the extra income he derived from his songwriting, led to internal squabbling, and he left the group in early 1966. He briefly returned to Kansas City before moving back to Los Angeles to form Gene Clark & the Group with Chip Douglas, Joel Larson, and Bill Rhinehart.

gene-clark-2After leaving The Byrds he released 2 solo albums “Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers” and “The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark” before rejoining The Byrds just for a short time. Although he did not achieve commercial success as a solo artist, Clark was in the vanguard of popular music during much of his career, prefiguring developments in such disparate subgenres as psychedelic rock, baroque pop, newgrass, country rock, and alternative country.

With the future of his solo career in doubt, Clark briefly rejoined the Byrds in October 1967, as a replacement for the recently departed David Crosby, but left after only three weeks, following an anxiety attack in Minneapolis. During this brief period with the Byrds, he appeared with the band on the television program Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, lip-synching the group’s current single, “Goin’ Back”; he also performed “Mr. Spaceman” with the band. Although there is some disagreement among the band’s biographers, Clark is generally viewed as having contributed background vocals to the songs “Goin’ Back” and “Space Odyssey” for the forthcoming Byrds’ album The Notorious Byrd Brothers and was an uncredited co-author, with McGuinn, of “Get to You”, from that album.

In 1968, Clark signed with A&M Records and began a collaboration with the banjo player Doug Dillard, guitarist Bernie Leadon (later with the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Eagles), bass player Dave Jackson and mandolin player Don Beck joined them to form the nucleus of Dillard & Clark. They produced two albums, The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark (1968) and Through the Morning, Through the Night (1969).

The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark was an acoustic adventure in country rock; it included the songs “Train Leaves Here This Morning” (covered in 1972 on the album Eagles) and “She Darked the Sun” (covered by Linda Ronstadt on her 1970 album Silk Purse. Through the Morning, Through the Night was more bluegrass in character than its predecessor and used electric instrumentation. It also included Donna Washburn (Dillard’s girlfriend) as a backing vocalist, which contributed to the departure of Leadon and it marked a change to a traditional bluegrass direction, which caused Clark to lose interest. The song was used in Quincy Jones’s soundtrack of the 1972 Sam Peckinpah movie The Getaway. This song, along with “Polly” (both from the second Dillard & Clark album), was also covered by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss on their 2007 album Raising Sand. Both albums by Dillard & Clark fared poorly on the charts, but established them as pioneers of country rock and newgrass crossovers.

The collaboration with Dillard rejuvenated Clark’s creativity but greatly contributed to his growing drinking problem. Dillard & Clark disintegrated in late 1969 after the departures of Clark and Leadon. Clark, along with Leadon, Jackson and Beck provided backup on the debut album of Steve Young, Rock Salt & Nails, released in November 1969.

In 1970, Clark began work on a new single, recording two tracks with the original members of the Byrds (each recording his part separately). The resulting songs, “She’s the Kind of Girl” and “One in a Hundred”, were not released at the time, because of legal problems; they were included later on the album Roadmaster. In 1970 and 1971, Clark contributed vocals and two compositions (“Tried So Hard” and “Here Tonight”) to albums by the Flying Burrito Brothers.

Frustrated with the music industry, Clark bought a house in Albion, California, near Mendocino, married a woman named Carlie and fathered two sons (Kelly and Kai) while subsisting in semiretirement on his still-substantial Byrds royalties throughout the early 1970s, augmented by income from the Turtles’ 1969 American Top Ten hit “You Showed Me”, a previously unreleased composition by McGuinn and Clark from 1964.

He was now ready to cut some solo work. A strong, primarily acoustic set, the album White Light sold poorly in America but was an unexpected hit in the Netherlands. Clark’s next album, Roadmaster, combined new material with the unreleased 1969 tracks cut with the Byrds; while it was a strong album, A&M chose not to release it and it was initially released only in Holland. Clark left A&M just in time for the Byrds to cut a reunion album with their original lineup; Clark contributed a pair of fine songs to the project, “Full Circle” and “Changing Heart,” but most of the album sounded uninspired and the reunion quickly splintered.

In 1974, Clark signed to Asylum Records and cut the polished but heartfelt No Other. Clark, however, had hoped to release the set as a double album, which did not please labelhead David Geffen, and the album stalled in the marketplace without promotion. In 1977, Clark returned with a new album, Two Sides to Every Story, and put his fear of flying on hold to mount an international tour to promote it.

For his British dates, Clark found himself booked on a tour with ex-Byrds Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman; audiences were clearly hoping for a Byrds reunion and while the three men had planned nothing of the sort, they didn’t want to let down their fans and played a short set of Byrds hits as an encore for several dates on the tour. This led the three men to begin working up new material together once they returned to America, and in 1978, they began touring as McGuinn, Clark, and Hillman. After a well-received acoustic tour, the trio signed a major deal with Capitol Records and released their self-titled debut in 1979. However, the slick production (designed to make sure the group didn’t sound too much like the Byrds) didn’t flatter the group, and the album was a critical and commercial disappointment. Clark soon became disenchanted with the project, and on their second album, 1980s City, the billing had changed to Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman, with Gene Clark. By 1981, Clark had left and the group briefly continued on as McGuinn/Hillman.

After splitting with McGuinn and Hillman, Clark stayed on the sidelines of music for several years, assembling a band called Flyte that failed to score a record deal. Clark finally re-emerged in 1984 with a new band and album called Firebyrd; the rising popularity of jangle-rockers R.E.M. sparked a new interest in the Byrds, and Clark began developing new fans among L.A.’s roots-conscious paisley underground scene.

Clark appeared as a guest on an album by the Long Ryders, and in 1987, he cut a duo album with Carla Olson of the Textones called So Rebellious a Lover. So Rebellious was well-received and became a modest commercial success (it was the biggest selling album of Clark’s solo career), but Clark began to develop serious health problems around this time; he had ulcers, aggravated by years of heavy drinking, and in 1988, he underwent surgery, during which much of his stomach and intestines had to be removed.

Clark also lost a certain amount of goodwill among longtime Byrds fans when he joined drummer Michael Clarke for a series of shows billed A 20th Anniversary Celebration of the Byrds. Many clubs simply shortened the billing to the Byrds, and Clarke and Clark soon found themselves in an ugly legal battle with Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman over use of the group’s name. The Byrds set aside their differences long enough to appear together at their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in January of 1991, where the original lineup played a few songs together, including Clark’s “Feel a Whole Lot Better.”

A period of abstinence and recovery followed until Tom Petty’s cover of “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better”, on his album Full Moon Fever (1989), yielded huge royalties to Clark, who quickly began using crack cocaine and alcohol.  Consequently Clark’s health continued to decline and on May 24, 1991, not long after he had begun work on a second album with Carla Olson, Gene Clark died, with the coroner declaring he succumbed as a result of “natural causes” brought on by a bleeding ulcer.

He was 49.

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Pete Drake 7/1988

July 29, 1988 – Pete Drake was born Roddis Franklin Drake October 8th 1932 in Augusta, Georgia. The son of a Pentecostal minister, Drake began his music career with his siblings in the Drake Brothers band. His bother Jack went on to join Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadors for 25 years. Inspired by the Opry’s steel great Jerry Byrd he saved and bought himself a steel guitar for $38 in a pawn shop.

Drake’s melodic steel guitar playing made him one of Atlanta’s top young instrumentalists. He joined with future stars Jerry Reed, Doug Kershaw, Roger Miller and Joe South, in a mid-’50s band. Although this group failed to record, it provided Drake with the impetus to move to Nashville in 1959.

He recorded first for Starday before signing up to the new Mercury based Smash label. He played on many Nashville country/pop sessions for the likes of Don Gibson, The Everly Brothers and Marty Robbins. Pete had a pop Top 30 hit, “Forever” in 1964 (credited to “Pete Drake and his Talking Steel Guitar”), and recorded albums of country covers, his own tunes and experimental styles like his “talking guitar”. More often his trademark mellow toned steel guitar was used to strengthen albums by other artists.

He played on many crossover country/pop hits such as Lynn Anderson’s (I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden, Charlie Rich’s Behind Closed Doors, and Tammy Wynette’s Stand By Your Man. He became a cult name in the modern rock era by playing on sessions for Bob Dylan ( John Wesley Harding , Nashville Skyline & Self Portrait)), Ringo Starr (Beaucoups Of Blues, produced by Pete) and George Harrison (All Things Must Pass)

Interview with Pete Drake

Nashville pedal steel guitarist Pete Drake is truly a phenomenon. Not only has he been the man behind hundreds of country music hits, but through his recordings with Elvis Presley, George Harrison and Bob Dylan, is singlehandedly responsible for opening the entire pop and rock field to the sounds of the pedal steel.
Pete was born in Georgia forty years ago, but it wasn’t until he was eighteen that he began playing steel guitar. Like so many before and since, Drake was inspired by the sounds of Jerry Byrd at the Grand Ole Opry. Pete then spotted a lap steel guitar in an Atlanta pawn shop, saved his money and bought it for the vast sum of $38.00.

What kind was it?
A Supro; a little, single-neck like you hold in your lap. I tried to play like Jerry Byrd. I guess most of the steel players today started off the same way. He has really been fantastically influential. So I fooled around with that thing for six months or a year, and got a chance to do a couple of fill-in things on an Atlanta TV station when somebody’d be sick.
Did you have any formal training on steel?
I took one lesson, but I’d get records and sit around playing to them. That’s how I really got started. This was around ’49 or ’50. Then when Bud Isaacs came out with a pedal guitar on “Slowly” by Webb Pierce, that shocked everybody, wondering how he got that sound. I guess I was the first one around Atlanta to get a pedal guitar: I had one pedal on a four-neck steel. It really looked funny. I made it myself, and it was huge, really too big to carry on the road or anything. I was playing in clubs all around Atlanta, then right after that I formed my first band.
What kind of group was that?
I had some pretty big stars working with me back then: Jerry Reed, Joe South, Doug Kershaw was playing fiddle, Roger Miller was playing fiddle with me, and country singer Jack Greene was playing drums. And we got fired because we weren’t any good! I was on television in Atlanta for three and a half years, but we kind of wore ourselves out, so I decided to move to Nashville.
Why Nashville?
Roger Miller had come on to Nashville, and I had a brother there, Jack, who played bass with Ernest Tubb for 24 years. Jack died last year. At first Jack didn’t want me to come, because the steel guitar was kind of dead then, in 1959. Everybody was trying to go pop. They was putting strings and horns on Webb Pierce records, and nobody was using steel guitar. So I starved to death the first year and a half. Then I worked with Don Gibson a while, then Marty Robbins.

When did you begin getting record session work?
I guess what really got me in was the “Pete Drake style” on the C6th tuning. When I first came up here everybody thought it was square, so I quit playing like that and started playing like everybody else. Then one night on the Opry, just for kicks, I went back to my own style for one tune behind Carl and Pearl Butler. Roy Drusky was on Decca then, and he come up to me and said, “Hey, you’ve come up with a new style. I’m recording tomorrow, and I want you with me.” So I cut this session with him, and the word kind of got out that I had this new style (actually, it was the same thing I’d been playing for years in Atlanta, but it was new in Nashville). That month I did 24 sessions, and it’s been like that ever since. That was in the middle of 1960, and that first record was “I Don’t Believe You Love Me Any More,” a number one record. Then I recorded “Before This Day Ends” with George Hamilton, and it, too, became number one. I just couldn’t do anything wrong there for a long time.
How did your “Talking Guitar” thing come about?
Well, everybody wanted this style of mine, but I sort of got tired of it. I’d say, “Hey, let me try and come up with something new,” and they’d say, “Naw, I want you to do what you did on So-and-so’s record.” Now, I’d been trying to make something for people who couldn’t talk, who’d lost their voice. I had some neighbors who were deaf and dumb, and I thought it would be nice if they could talk. So I saw this old Kay Kayser movie, and Alvino Rey was playing the talking guitar. I thought, “Man, if he can make a guitar talk, surely I can make people talk.” So I worked on it for about five years, and it was so simple that I went all around it, you know, like we usually do.
How did the talking guitar work?
You play the notes on the guitar and it goes through the amplifier. I have a driver system so that you disconnect the speakers and the sound goes through the driver into a plastic tube. You put the tube in the side of your mouth then form the words with your mouth as you play them. You don’t actually say a word: The guitar is your vocal chords, and your mouth is the amplifier. It’s amplified by a microphone.
When did you first use it on records?
With Roger Miller. He had a record called “Lock, Stock And Teardrops,” on RCA Victor, but it didn’t hit. Then I used it on Jim Reeves’ “I’ve Enjoyed As Much Of This As I Can Stand.” I really thought I’d used the gimmick up by the time Shelby Singleton and Jerry Kennedy of Mercury Records wanted to record me. I had already recorded for Starday [a Mercury label] some straight steel things like “For Pete’s Sake,” but I went ahead and cut a song called “Forever” on the talking thing. It came out, and for about two months didn’t do a thing; then, all of a sudden, it cut loose and sold a million. So then I was known as the “Talking Steel Guitar Man,” and did several albums for Smash, which is a subsidiary of Mercury.
Do you still use the Talking Guitar?
Now I’m back into producing a lot of records, and not using it much. I’ve been so busy recording everybody else, I haven’t had time to record myself.

Tell us about your experiences getting into the pop field with the pedal steel.
You know, the steel wasn’t accepted in pop music until I had cut with people like Elvis Presley and Joan Baez. But the kids, themselves, didn’t accept it until I cut with Bob Dylan. After that I guess they figured steel was all right. I did the John Wesley Harding album, then Nashville Skyline and Self Portrait. Bob Dylan really helped me an awful lot. I mean, by having me play on those records he just opened the door for the pedal steel guitar, because then everybody wanted to use one. I was getting calls from all over the world. One day my secretary buzzed me and said, “George Harrison wants you on the phone.” And I said, “Well, where’s he from?” She said, “London.” And I said: “Well, what company’s he with?” She said, “The Beatles.” The name, you know, just didn’t ring any bells-well, I’m just a hillbilly, you know (laughter). Anyway, I ended up going to London for a week where we did the album All Things Must Pass.
Is that how Ringo came into it?
Ringo Starr asked me to produce him, so I told him I would if he’d come to Nashville, so he did and cut a country album which was really fantastic. It was good for Nashville, and, you know, I really wanted Nashville to get credit for it. Those guys, Ringo and George Harrison, really dig country music. And they’re fine people, too, just out of sight.

What kind of instrument do you play now?
Since I came to Nashville I have been playing Sho-Bud guitars and Standel amplifiers. I have some Sho-Bud amps, too. I’ve got four different guitars that I use with different artists. I try to change my sound around so it doesn’t seem like the same musicians on each record. I was looking in the trades the other day, and found that I was on 59 of the top 75 records in “Billboard.”
How about different tunings?
Yeah, I change a little. All my guitars have a little bit different pedals, enough to keep me confused. I, and just about everybody in Nashville, use basically the E9th with the chromatic strings and the C6th with a high G string. But everybody has their own pedal setups. I’ve got one pedal I call my Tammy Wynette pedal that I use with her; and I cut a hit with Johnny Rodriguez recently, “Pass Me By,” so I got me a Johnny Rodriguez pedal, too (laughter). If something hits big I try to save that for that particular artist.
Is your equipment modified?
My amps are just stock. As for my steels, I get Shot Jackson [of Sho-Bud in Nashville] to fix them up for me. If I want to raise or lower a string, I’ll go to him and say, “Can you do this?,” and he’ll say, “No,” then go ahead and do it. We did my Tammy Wynette pedal that way: I showed him how we could make it work with open strings, so he fixed it, and it was the most beautiful sound I every heard. So the next day we cut “I Don’t Wanna Play House” with Tammy, and it became a number one record.
You mentioned Jerry Byrd as a great inspiration, Whom else do you enjoy?
Well, there’s so many of them now, Lordy. I look at it kind of differently: There’s the recording musician and the everyday picker. They’re really not the same. A guy that’s really great on a show may not be any good at all on a session, or vice versa. For recording, I think Lloyd Green, Weldon Myrick, Bill West and Ben Keith are fantastic. They know how to come up with that little extra lick that you need to make a song. Hal Rugg is also a good recording steel man. For really technical playing, Buddy Emmons is a fantastic musician. Curley Chalker is my favorite jazz steel player, but in the studio I’d have to go with the commercial thing because I’m trying to make a dollar.

You know, you can play over country people’s heads, and I don’t think they’re ready for the jazz thing. I mean I like to listen to it, but it’s “musicians’ music,” and musicians don’t buy records (laughter).
What do you think is the future of the steel guitar and country music?
Right now something is happening that I’ve wanted to happen for a long time: Music’s coming together. It’s not country music, it’s not pop music, it’s music. Somebody said there’s only two kinds of music-good and bad. I like a little bit of it all.

Pete produced albums for hundreds of musicians, and founded Stop Records and First Generation Records. In 1970 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Walkway of Stars and the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1987

He lost a 3 year battle with emphysema on July 29, 1988 at the age of 56.

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Gordon Huntley 3/1985

gordonhMarch 7, 1985 – Gordon Huntley (Southern Comfort) was born in 1930. Nicknamed The Governor, he played steel pedal with the Hawaiian Serenaders on a triple neck Fender lap steel. In 1959 he progressed  on to ‘pedal’ steel by adding a pedal to his guitar made out of a tractor accelerator pedal and bicycle brake cable.

He started his long career out on the road with Felix Mendelssohn & his Hawaiian Serenaders, and by the late 50’s before pedals were standard in the UK, Gordon was playing a triple-neck Fender non-pedal guitar.

Later he took over from Jeff Newman in his band ‘The Westernaires’, made up of U.S. Servicemen when Jeff returned to the States in 1963. By this time he had built himself one pedal onto his steel! Soon after he got himself his first model, a six pedal. Around this time Gordon also teamed up with Nigel Dennis (a Newbury solicitor)  to manufacture Denley steel guitars (DENnis-huntLEY) however they were not without problems when Gordon lent on it at a gig and a leg sheared off!

By 1970 Gordon had joined to Ian Mathews’ Southern Comfort and was able to buy his first ZB Custom from friend Eric Snowball of ‘The Steel Mill’ in Maidstone, Kent, using the royalties from the single ‘Woodstock’ (which reached N0 1 in the UK charts that year). The group debuted with Frog City, in 1971, which was followed up by self-titled release and Stir Don’t Shake in 1972. Gordon played on all Southern Comforts albums and singles.

The beautiful velvet tones of his steel on their No.1 hit ‘Woodstock’ was probably an introduction and inspiration to many guitarists and future pedal steel guitarists.

From then on his steel sound could be heard on recordings by names such as  Iain Matthews, Elton John, Southern Comfort, Rod Stewart, Clodagh Rogers, Barbara Dickson, The Pretty Things, Pilot,Marc Ellington, Bridget Saint Paul, Cliff Richard, Pete Green, Demis Roussos, John Renbourn, Al Jones, Fairport Convention and many others. Gordon was known as the Father of British Pedal Steel guitaring.As well as all the bands he has been a member of he became a much in-demand session player in both the studio and out on the road, which he preferred,

Gordon died at the age of 55 on March 7, 1985 from complications of cancer.

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Tommy Caldwell 4/1980

Tommy CaldwellApril 28, 1980 – Thomas Michael “Tommy” Caldwell was born on November 9, 1949 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. With his older brother Toy, he formed the southern rock band the Marshall Tucker Band in 1973 and played bass and was its original frontman until his death in 1980. His death didn’t end the Marshall Tucker Band, but it changed things forever – in particular for his older brother Toy Caldwell.

The pair had been playing music together since Tommy was 7, and Toy was 9. The Toy Factory, led by the elder Caldwell, became the southern-rocking Marshall Tucker Band when Tommy joined as bassist in 1972. They took their name from a hometown piano tuner in the cotton-mill city f Spartanburg, S.C., and set about recording five gold-selling albums (including four in a row starting in 1973) and the platinum smash Carolina Dreams before the end of the ’70s.
Then tragedy struck. The Marshall Tucker Band had just returned home from a concert they recorded for broadcast on the King Biscuit Flower Hour when Tommy Caldwell’s Land Cruiser clipped a parked 1965 Ford Galaxy on April 22, 1980, in Spartanburg. Tommy’s Jeep, modified for off-road driving with oversized tires, flipped onto its side – and Caldwell suffered a head injury that would ultimately prove fatal. “It was just a freak accident,” Moon Mullins, a crew member for the band, said later.

The owner of the Galaxy, who was in the car but uninjured when Caldwell struck him, was charged with improper parking the next day. Caldwell died on April 28, 1980, after lingering in critical condition at Spartanburg General Hospital for almost a week.
Franklin Wilkie, a former bassist in Toy Caldwell’s pre-Marshall Tucker group, took over for Tommy – but the band never regained its commercial momentum. Tenth, the final album to feature Tommy Caldwell, was their last Top 40 album.
Toy Caldwell was hit particularly hard, having endured another brother’s death in a traffic accident just one month before Tommy’s.

By 1984, he’d left the Marshall Tucker Band, creating a huge hole as the group lost its lead guitarist, vocalist on “Can’t You See” and principal songwriter. Toy Caldwell died in 1993, after too much cocaine stopped his heart.
“Since Tommy’s death, he was there in body only,” Toy Caldwell’s wife Abbie said in 1998. “In hindsight, Toy kept an awful lot inside of him. I cannot imagine the pain he was in after his brothers’ deaths. … Toy put up a good front for the others, but now I know he had to be torn apart inside.”

Doug Gray, who sang the group’s No. 14 hit “Heard It in a Love Song,” carries on with the Marshall Tucker Band these days. Rhythm guitarist George McCorkle died in 2007, leaving Gray as the only member from the classic era defined by the Caldwells.
Tommy Caldwell spoke to that lasting bond, as musicians and as brothers, in 1978. “You won’t find me in another band when this one’s over,” Tommy said after the release of the aptly titled Together Forever. “You’ll find me back in the country in South Carolina. Me and my brother have been playing together forever and, when that’s over, we’re going home. If you heard it, then you were fortunate enough to catch it. If you didn’t? Well, there won’t be another one, man.”

As well as being the frontman, he also sang background vocals and wrote several songs, including “Melody Ann,” which was the only song he ever performed lead vocals on. His last performance with the band was on April 18, 1980. This performance is captured on the 2006 release, “Live on Long Island”.

He died on 28 April 1980 of injures from a Jeep crash a week earlier.  His younger brother Timmy, who was not a member of the band died a month before him, also the result of a car crash at age 25. Tommy Caldwell was 30 years old when he died.

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Gram Parsons 9/1973

gram parsonsSeptember 19, 1973 – Gram Parsons was born Cecil Ingram Connor III on November 5, 1946 in Winter Haven Florida, near Orlando. He became a very influential member of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, but died tragically from an overdose of morphine and alcohol at the age of 26 on September 19, 1973. Phil “The Mangler” Kaufman, his one time road manager hijacked his corpse from LAX tarmac, drove it up to Joshua Tree and lit it on fire as was previously agreed between the two.

Very proficient as singer, songwriter, guitarist and pianist; in his early teens he played in rock and roll cover bands such as the Pacers and the Legends, at 16 he turned to folk music, and in 1963 he teamed with his first professional outfit, the Shilos. Heavily influenced by the Kingston Trio and the Journeymen, the band played hootenannies, coffee houses and high school auditoriums. He went on to be a member of the International Submarine Band, The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers and was later a solo artist who recorded and performed duets with Emmylou Harris.
His influence on the Byrds musical output became crystal clear with their 1968 Sweetheart of the Rodeo album, with in turn gave way to country cross-overs like the Flying Burrito Brothers and the super stardom introduction of the Eagles.

An interesting tidbit comes after Gram Parsons first meets the Stones and Keith Richards. This took place in 1968 while the Byrds were touring Europe in support of their landmark “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” record. This is documented in the book “Gram Parsons: A Music Biography by Sid Griffin” Published by Sierra Books, Copyright 1985. Quote from page 20 of the paperback edition: “The Byrds were in London to play a benefit at the Royal Albert Hall. On the morning after the show, Parsons told McGuinn, Chris Hillman and then-Byrds drummer Kevin Kelly he was not going to South Africa under any circumstances. Parsons left the group and stayed in London while the Byrds flew to South Africa…” also quote:”Gram met Keith Richards in London and stayed with him for a spell, turning the Stones onto country music. Suddenly songs like ‘Dear Doctor’, ‘Country Honk’, and ‘Dead Flowers’ became part of the Stones’ repertoire”. There is a second book called “Hickory Wind: The life and Times of Gram Parsons” Published by Pocket Books, Copyright 1991 which is also very good reference on the life and times of this significant influence on the Rolling Stones. The life and music of the late Gram Parsons is essential learning material for any student of The Rolling Stones that is interested in understanding one of their strongest influences during “The Golden Era”.

Since his death, he has been credited with helping to found both country rock and alt-country and in 2004 Rolling Stone ranked him No.87 on their list of the 100 Most Influential Artists of All Time (He died of morphine and alcohol overdose in a hotel room in Joshua Tree, California).

A Typical Southern Story

Ingram Cecil Connor III was born on November 5, 1946, in Winter Haven, Florida, to Ingram Cecil (“Coon Dog”) and Avis (née Snively) Connor. The Connors normally resided at their main residence in Waycross, Georgia, but Avis traveled to her hometown in Florida to give birth. She was the daughter of citrus fruit magnate John A. Snively, who held extensive properties in Winter Haven and in Waycross. Parsons’ father was a famous World War II flying ace, decorated with the Air Medal, who was present at the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Biographer David Meyer characterized Parson’s parents as loving, writing in Twenty Thousand Roads that they are “remembered as affectionate parents and a loving couple”. However, he also notes that “unhappiness was eating away at the Connor family”: Avis suffered from depression, and both parents were alcoholics. Parsons’ father committed suicide two days before Christmas in 1958, devastating the 12 year old Gram and his younger sister, Little Avis. Avis subsequently married Robert Parsons, whose surname was adopted by Gram and his sister. Gram attended the prestigious Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida. For a time, the family found a stability of sorts. They were torn apart in early 1965, when Robert became embroiled in an extramarital affair and Avis’ heavy drinking led to her death from cirrhosis on July 5, 1965, the day of Gram’s graduation from Bolles.

As his family disintegrated around him, Parsons developed strong musical interests, particularly after seeing Elvis Presley perform in concert on February 22, 1956, in Waycross. Five years later, while barely in his teens, he played in rock and roll cover bands such as the Pacers and the Legends, headlining in clubs owned by his stepfather in the Winter Haven/Polk County area. By the age of 16 he graduated to folk music, and in 1963 he teamed with his first professional outfit, the Shilos, in Greenville, South Carolina. Heavily influenced by The Kingston Trio and the Journeymen, the band played hootenannies, coffee houses and high school auditoriums. Forays into New York City’s Greenwich Village included appearances at The Bitter End.

After The Shilos broke up, Parsons attended Harvard University, where he studied theology but departed after one semester. Despite being from the South, he did not become seriously interested in country music until his time at Harvard, where he heard Merle Haggard for the first time. In 1966, he and other musicians from the Boston folk scene formed a group called the International Submarine Band. They relocated to Los Angeles the following year, and after several lineup changes signed to Lee Hazlewood’s LHI Records, where they spent late 1967 recording Safe at Home. The album contains one of Parsons’ best-known songs, “Luxury Liner”, and an early version of “Do You Know How It Feels”, which he revisited later on in his career. Safe at Home would remain unreleased until mid-1968, by which time the International Submarine Band had broken up. When David Crosby and Michael Clarke left the Byrds, Gram Parsons became involved with the Byrds.

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Clarence White 7/1973

July 14, 1973 – Clarence White was born Clarence LeBlanc on June 7th 1944 in Lewiston, Maine. The LeBlanc family, later changing their surname to White, were of French-Canadian ancestry and hailed from New Brunswick, Canada. Clarence’s father, Eric LeBlanc, Sr., played guitar, banjo, fiddle, and harmonica, ensuring that his offspring grew up surrounded by music. A child prodigy, Clarence began playing guitar at the age of six. At such a young age he was barely able to hold the instrument and as a result, he briefly switched to ukulele, awaiting a time when his young hands would be big enough to confidently grapple with the guitar.

In 1954, when Clarence was ten, the White family relocated to Burbank, California and soon after, Clarence joined his brothers Roland and Eric Jr. (who played mandolin and banjo respectively) in a trio called Three Little Country Boys. The family group was occasionally augmented by sister Joanne on double bass. Although they initially started out playing contemporary country music, the group soon switched to a purely bluegrass repertoire, as a result of Roland White’s burgeoning interest in the genre. Early on, the group won a talent contest on radio station KXLA in Pasadena and by 1957, they had managed to attract the interest of country guitarist Joe Maphis. With Maphis’s help, the Three Little Country Boys made several appearances on the popular television program Town Hall Party.

In 1957, banjoist Billy Ray Latham and Dobro player LeRoy Mack were added to the line-up, with the band renaming themselves the Country Boys soon after. By 1961, the quartet had become well known enough to appear twice on the The Andy Griffith Show. That same year the Country Boys also added Roger Bush on double bass, as a replacement for Eric White, Jr., who had left the band to get married. Between 1959 and 1962, the Country Boys released three singles on the Sundown, Republic and Briar International record labels.

In September 1962, the Country Boys recorded their debut album ‘The New Sound of Bluegrass America’ released in early 1963 and changed their name to the Kentucky Colonels. Around this time, Clarence’s flatpicking guitar style was becoming a much more prominent part of the group’s music.

After meeting while attending a performance by Doc Watson at the Ash Grove folk club in Los Angeles, Clarence began to explore the possibilities of the acoustic guitar’s role in bluegrass music. At that time, the guitar was largely regarded as a rhythm instrument in bluegrass, with only a few performers, such as Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs and Don Reno, exploring its potential for soloing. White soon began to integrate elements of Watson’s playing style, including the use of open strings and syncopation, into his own flatpicking guitar technique. His breathtaking speed and virtuosity on the instrument was largely responsible for making the guitar a lead instrument within bluegrass. In addition to being accomplished musicians, the Kentucky Colonels’ music often featured close harmony vocals.

Following the release of their debut album, the Kentucky Colonels played a multitude of live appearances throughout California and the United States, including an appearance at the prestigious Monterey Folk Festival in May 1963. Between these bookings with the Colonels, White also made a guest appearance on Eric Weissberg and Marshall Brickman’s New Dimensions in Banjo & Bluegrass album, which would be re-released in 1973 as the soundtrack album to the film Deliverance (with Weissberg and Steve Mandell’s version of “Dueling Banjos” added to the album’s track listing).

In 1964 the Kentucky Colonels were signed to World Pacific Records by producer Jim Dickson, who would later became the manager of folk rock band The Byrds and by the close of the year, the Kentucky Colonels were considered by fans and critics to be one of the best bluegrass groups in the United States.

Although they were now a successful bluegrass recording act, it was becoming increasingly hard for the Kentucky Colonels to make a living playing bluegrass. The American folk music revival of the late 1950s and early 1960s, which had helped facilitate the Colonels’ commercial success, had been dealt a serious blow in 1964 by the popularity of the pop and beat music of the British Invasion. However, it wasn’t until mid-1965, with the release of The Byrds’ folk rock single “Mr. Tambourine Man” and Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, that the folk revival’s popularity began to seriously wane. Before long, many young folk performers and some bluegrass acts were switching to electric instrumentation. The Kentucky Colonels followed suit, plugging in with electric instruments and hiring a drummer in mid-1965, in order to keep a concert booking as a country dance band at a bowling alley. The band added fiddle player Scotty Stoneman to their line-up in mid-1965, as a replacement for Sloan, but some months later, the Kentucky Colonels dissolved as a band after playing their final show on October 31, 1965.

As 1965 turned into 1966, White met Gene Parsons and Gib Guilbeau at a recording session for the Gosdin Brothers and shortly after, he began to perform live with the duo in local California clubs, as well as doing regular session work on their records, which were released under the moniker of Cajun Gib and Gene.

1966 also saw White begin playing with a country group called Trio, which featured drummer Bart Haney and former Kentucky Colonel Roger Bush on bass. In autumn of that year, as a result of his friendship with Gilbeau, Parsons and the Gosdin Brothers, White was asked to provide lead guitar to ex-Byrd Gene Clark’s debut solo album, Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers. White also briefly joined Clark’s touring band shortly thereafter.

During the Clark album sessions, White reconnected with mandolin player and bassist Chris Hillman, who he had known during the early 1960s as a member of the bluegrass combo The Hillmen. At the time Hillman was  a member of The Byrds and in December 1966, he invited White to contribute countrified lead guitar playing to his songs “Time Between” and “The Girl with no Name”, which both appeared on The Byrds‘ Younger Than Yesterday album.

Together with Gene Parsons, he invented the B-Bender, a guitar accessory that enables a player to mechanically bend the B-string up a whole tone and emulate the sound of a pedal steel guitar. 

The country-oriented nature of the songs was something of a stylistic departure for the group and can be seen as an early indicator of the experimentation with country music that would color The Byrds’ subsequent work. White also contributed guitar to the band’s follow-up album, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, and to their landmark 1968 country rock release, Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

Early in 1968, White joined Nashville West, which also featured Gene Parsons, Gib Gilbeau, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Glen D. Hardin, and Wayne Moore. Nashville West recorded an album for Sierra Records, but the record didn’t appear until 1978.

Finally White was invited to join the Byrds in the fall of 1968 as Roger McGuinn was rebuilding the Byrds’ lineup after the departure of Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons, who went on to form the Flying Burrito Brothers. Clarence White fit into the revamped Byrds’ country-rock direction. He played on the group’s untitled album, which spawned the single “Chestnut Mare.” While he was with the band, he continued to work as a session musician, playing on Randy Newman’s 12 Songs (1970), Joe Cocker’s eponymous 1969 album, and the Everly Brothers’ Stories Would Could Tell (1971), and others, appearing on recordings by Ricky Nelson, Pat Boone, Randy Newman, Linda Ronstadt, Arlo Guthrie and Jackson Browne.

Once the Byrds disbanded in 1973, Clarence White continued his session work and joined bluegrass supergroup Muleskinner, which also featured David Grisman, Peter Rowan, John Guerin, Bill Keith, John Kahn, and Richard Greene. Muleskinner only released one album, which appeared later in 1973.

After the Muleskinner record was finished, White played a few dates with the Kentucky Colonels and began working on a solo album. He had only completed four tracks when he was killed by a drunken driver shortly after 2am on July 14, 1973, while he and his brother Roland were loading equipment onto a van, following a spur-of-the moment reunion gig of the Colonels. He was just 29.

• His guitar playing was sort of like a combination of Jerry Garcia, Roy Buchanan, and James Burton. He plays with the melody of Jerry, the tone and brilliance of Roy, and the conciseness and sweetness of James.

• White was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame in 2016.

• Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him 52 in its 2015 line-up of the 100 Most Influential Guitar Players in Rock and Roll.

Clarence White helped shape two genres: His acoustic flatpicking, first displayed as a teenager when he and his brother formed the Kentucky Colonels band, was key in making the guitar a lead instrument in bluegrass. Later, he set the stage for country rock and transferred that dynamic precision and melodic symmetry to the electric guitar. A top session man in the Sixties, he played on the Byrds’ 1968 landmark, Sweetheart of the Rodeo. After he joined the band later that year, White brought a full-bodied rock elation to his California-inflected Nashville chops. “He never played anything that sounded vaguely weak,” said the Byrds’ leader, Roger McGuinn. “He was always driving… into the music.” White had returned to bluegrass with the acclaimed Muleskinner album when he was killed by a drunk driver in 1973. He was 29. “Clarence was immersed in hard country and bluegrass,” said Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. “He incorporated those elements into rock & roll, and it totally blew people’s minds.”