Kim Simmonds (Savoy Brown) was born Kim Maiden Simmonds on Dec. 5, 1947 in Caerphilly, Wales, to Henry Simmonds, an electrician, and Phyllis (Davies) Simmonds, a homemaker. As a child, he was drawn to the early rock ’n’ roll albums owned by his older brother, Harry, who later worked for Bill Haley’s British fan club. “My brother took me to see all the rock ’n’ roll movies,I grew up with all that: Little Richard, Bill Haley and, of course, Elvis.” By age 10 he had moved with his family to London, where his brother took him to jazz record stores that also sold blues albums. The singer and pianist Memphis Slim — one of the sophisticated blues guys that could keep one foot in the jazz world and one foot in the blues world became a favorite. Simmonds bought his first guitar at 13 and began imitating the blues licks on the records he loved. So intent was he on a music career that he never completed high school.
A chance meeting at a record shop in 1965 with the harmonica player John O’Leary led to the formation of what was initially called the Savoy Brown Blues Band. (The first word in the name echoed the name of an important American jazz and R&B label) The group’s initial lineup featured six players, two of them Black — the singer Brice Portius and the drummer Leo Manning — making them one of the few multiracial bands on the British rock scene of the 1960s. Continue reading Kim Simmonds – 12/2022
Wilko Johnson (Dr. Feelgood) was born John Andrew Wilkinson on 12 July 1947 in Canvey Island, Essex, UK. One of his earliest memories was of the 1953 floods, which hit low-lying Canvey badly and caused many deaths. His father, a gas-fitter, was “a stupid and uneducated and violent person”, according to his son, and died when Wilko was a teenager. Canvey became a romantic place in Johnson’s mind, with its lonely views of the Thames estuary overshadowed by the towers and blazing fires of the nearby Shell Haven oil refinery. Johnson and his contemporaries dubbed the area the Thames Delta, in homage to the Mississippi Delta, which spawned the blues musicians they admired. He first began playing the guitar after watching the Shadows on television, then later was inspired by Mick Green, guitarist with Johnny Kidd & the Pirates. Green’s knack for mixing up lead and rhythm guitar parts had a clear influence on Johnson’s technique. Wilko instinctively began to play left-handed, but forced himself to switch to right-handed. When he found that playing right-handed meant he could not hold a plectrum, he perfected a way of flicking his fingernails across the strings, which helped him to play the speedy, slashing rhythms that became his stock-in-trade. Continue reading Wilko Johnson – 11/2022
December 30, 1942 – Robert Michael Nesmith was the only child of Warren and Bette Nesmith, who divorced when he was four. Bette remarried and relocated to Dallas where, as executive secretary at Texas Bank and Trust, she developed her own typewriter correction fluid. In 1979, a few months before her death, she sold her Liquid Paper Corporation to Gillette for $48m. Her son and heir finally acquired financial freedom. Rewind 20 years to find a teenage Nesmith dabbling in music and drama at school before enlisting in the US Air Force in 1960. Two years later he was honorably discharged at his own request, swapping mechanics for music. Cutting his teeth in touring folk, country and rock’n’roll bands, he moved to Los Angeles.
A publishing and recording deal followed, yielding a handful of underperforming solo singles. Nesmith joined the queue of 437 hopefuls to audition for a part in a new TV show, inspired by The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, about a co-habiting pop band. The producers wanted Nesmith and his hat for their Prefab Four, The Monkees.
Monkeemania ensued but Nesmith was quick to push back against the bubblegum material selected by the show’s musical director Don Kirshner. Nesmith negotiated alongside his bandmates for greater control of their output and image. Their subsequent psychedelic film and soundtrack, Head, was a flop (though later lauded as a cult favourite). Still the piece of the puzzle that didn’t fit, he bought his way out of his contract several years early, forfeiting future royalties.
Robert Michael Nesmith was raised by his mother, Bette, who supported him by working as a secretary. Frustrated creating mistakes on her electric typewriter, she developed a typewriter correction fluid. The invention later became Liquid Paper. Bette Nesmith sold the Liquid Paper Corporation to Gillette in 1979 for $48 million. She died a few months later, at age 56, with Michael inheriting the fortune.
Mike Nesmith, the beanie-hatted quiet man of The Monkees, was an accidental trailblazer from a family of accidental trailblazers. He came late to music-making, only picking up a guitar in his early twenties. Yet in a matter of years he was a (somewhat ambivalent) pop star and TV celebrity, then an unsung country rock pioneer and then the man who invented MTV for the guys who invented MTV. Not bad, and maybe not surprising, for the son of an imprecise typist who created Tipp-Ex to cover her errors. Nesmith never quite made a commercial killing from his almost clairvoyant creativity. While his own songs were hits for the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Run DMC, Frankie Laine and Lynn Anderson, he struggled with fame in a fictional band whose best-loved tunes flowed from the pens of other writers. The Monkees’ TV show ran for two series from 1966-68 but acquired pop immortality through school holiday repeats. The band members – Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Nesmith – played fictionalised versions of themselves. The Monkees struck popular music with hit songs like “Last Train to Clarksville”, “Daydream Believer” and “I’m A Believer.” The group was created for television, starring in their popular TV sitcom and later spin off motion picture “Head.” The Monkees broke up in 1969, after which Nesmith formed his First National Band. He also wrote the song Different Drum, which became a major hit for singer Linda Ronstadt.
Nesmith founded Pacific Arts, a multimedia production and distribution company, in 1974. Pacific Arts pioneered the home video market, but collapsed in a dispute with PBS over licensing rights. A federal jury eventually awarded Nesmith $47m in 1999. After filming a music video for his 1977 single Rio, Nesmith came up with the idea of a TV program consisting entirely of music videos. Nesmith called his idea PopClips, which aired on Nickelodeon in 1980. He later sold the PopClips intellectual property to Time Warner, who used it to develop and launch MTV. Intrigued by the promotional possibilities of the embryonic format, Time Warner bought the rights and used it as a template for MTV.
In 1981, Nesmith won the first Grammy Award for Video of the Year for his hour-long television show, Elephant Parts. He was also an executive producer of the film Repo Man (1984).
Nesmith’s involvement in various Monkees reunions was sporadic, however, he did rejoin his three amigos in 1996, marking the band’s 30th anniversary with the Justus album and accompanying TV special ‘Hey, Hey, It’s the Monkees’, before contributing to the 50th anniversary album Good Times! The Monkees continued with occasional reunion tours despite the loss of original members Peter Tork and Davy Jones. Remaining members Nesmith and Micky Dolenz ended a tour just weeks before Nesmith’s death. The final date of the tour was held on November 14, 2021, at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.
Michael Nesmith crossed the rainbow on December 10, 2021
Daniel David Kirwan (guitarist for Fleetwood Mac) was born on May 13, 1950 as Daniel David Langran and grew up in Brixton, South London. His parents separated when he was young. His mother, Phyllis Rose Langran then married Aloysious J. Kirwan in 1958 when Danny was eight. Kirwan left school in 1967 with six O-levels and worked for a year as an insurance clerk in Fenchurch Street in the City of London.
His mother was a singer and as a consequence he grew up listening to the music of jazz musicians such as Eddie Lang, Joe Venuti, Belgian gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt and 1930s–40s groups such as the Ink Spots. He began learning guitar at the relative late age of 15 and quickly became an accomplished self-taught guitarist and musician, influenced by guitarists such as Hank Marvin of the Shadows, Django Reinhardt, Jimi Hendrix, and particularly by Eric Clapton’s playing in the Bluesbreakers. Kirwan was 17 when he came to the attention of the newly formed blues band Fleetwood Mac in London while fronting his first band Boilerhouse, a blues three-piece with Trevor Stevens on bass guitar and Dave Terrey on drums. Boilerhouse played support slots for Fleetwood Mac at London venues such as the Nag’s Head in Battersea and John Gee’s Marquee Club in Wardour Street.
Danny Kirwan was a natural guitarist, much in the same vein as Peter Green, who could make a string sing and a note come alive without any pedal support, just his fingers. Officially the story is that Peter Green in search for a more melodic blues direction for the band, saw Danny as his perfect counterpart and Mick Fleetwood later said: “Danny was a huge force in our early years … Danny’s true legacy, in my mind, will forever live on in the music he wrote and played so beautifully as a part of the foundation of Fleetwood Mac, that has now endured for over fifty years. Danny was a quantum leap ahead of us creatively … He is the lost component. In many ways, Danny is a forgotten hero.”
Danny Kirwan himself however downplayed his contributions to Fleetwood Mac’s sound and ethos. “I was lucky to have played for the band at all,” Kirwan told the British paper. “I just started off following them around, but I could play the guitar a bit and Mick felt sorry for me and put me in. I did it for about four years, to about 1972, but … I couldn’t handle the lifestyle and the women and the traveling.”
Danny’s guitar playing was very melodic, much in the style of the Incredible Stringband and some California Commune bands like Mad River and Love in the late sixties, which was styled as psychedelic underground. Danny did vibrato bends and pull-offs that were until then hardly ever heard.
Danny had joined the band in 1968, barely 18 years old. He appeared on five of Fleetwood Mac’s albums: 1969’s Then Play On and Blues Jam at Chess; 1970’s Kiln House; 1971’s Future Games; and finally on 1972’s Bare Trees. His compositions clearly made an impact on everyone of those albums. But Danny became the second “victim” of Fleetwood Mac after his buddy Peter Green left the band in 1970. You see in those early days, the members in Fleetwood Mac were hard partying rockers. They had fun and were living the high-life. Peter Green out of a growing mental illness pushed by drug abuse was the first one to leave and young Danny Kirwan had lost his mentor and music partner.
When American westcoast guitarist Bob Welch was brought in to replace Peter Green, Danny entered a vacuum, as band victim #3, slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer was already translating their hard charging life style into a religious obsession. (He was supposed to tour North America with the band in early 1971, but he went missing shortly before Fleetwood Mac was to play a concert in Los Angeles. Spencer supposedly left the hotel he and the group were staying at to get some groceries, but he never returned.)
In 1999 Welch said Kirwan had been “a talented, gifted musician, almost equal to Peter Green in his beautiful guitar playing and faultless string bends,” but commented in a later interview: “Danny wasn’t a very lighthearted person, to say the least. He probably shouldn’t have been drinking as much as he did, even at his young age. He was always very intense about his work, as I was, but he didn’t seem to ever be able to distance himself from it and laugh about it.”
Before a concert on a US tour in August 1972, a backstage argument between a drunken Kirwan and Welch resulted in Kirwan smashing his guitar, trashing the dressing room and refusing to go on stage. Having reportedly smashed his head bloody on a wall, Kirwan watched the band struggle through the set without him, with Welch trying to cover his guitar parts. Welch remembered, “I was extremely pissed off, and the set seemed to drag on forever.” The band fired Kirwan, and the artistic direction of Fleetwood Mac was left in the hands of Welch and Christine McVie. Fleetwood said later that the pressure had become too much for Kirwan, and he had suffered a breakdown.
Danny Kirwin released three albums as a solo artist from 1975 to 1979, during which years he also recorded albums with Otis Spann, Chris Youlden, and Tramp, as well as worked with his former Fleetwood Mac colleagues Jeremy Spencer and Christine McVieon some of their solo projects. As a member of Fleetwood Mac, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, even though he did not come to the induction.
For most of the 1980s and 90s he battled mental illness, alcoholism and homelessness. It emerged that he had been living in basements and shelters, making ends meet through social security and small royalty payments.
In 1993, after Mick Fleetwood made inquiries about his well-being, the London paper The Independent and the U.K.’s Missing Persons Bureau tracked him down in a homeless shelter in London’s West End, where Kirwan had been living for the past four years in reasonable comfort, arranged for by his family.
Danny Kirwan died Friday June 8, 2018 in London at the age of 68, presumably according to his ex-wife from pro-longed pneumonia.
Ed King, ( Lynyrd Skynyrd/Strawberry Alarm Clock) – September 14, 1949 – August 22, 2018 was born in Glendale California and a guitar prodigy from early on in his life. Not even 18 years old, he became a founding member of the Los Angeles band Strawberry Alarm Clock, remembered for their 1967 #1 single “Incense and Peppermints.”
King met members of the future Lynyrd Skynyrd when they were opening for Strawberry Alarm Clock in early 1968. When Strawberry Alarm Clock disbanded, he became an official member of Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1972, replacing Leon Wilkeson on bass when Leon had left the band briefly. When Wilkeson rejoined the band King switched to lead guitar turning Skynyrd into the “guitar army” band, famous for its guitar fireworks.
He helped write “Sweet Home Alabama” in 1974; the song became one of Skynyrd’s strongest hits and a staple of rock guitarists everywhere. It is King’s voice heard counting off 1-2-3 at the beginning of “Sweet Home Alabama.” Other songs that King wrote or co-wrote include “Poison Whiskey”, “Saturday Night Special”, “Whiskey Rock-a-Roller” and “Workin’ For MCA”. He appeared on the band’s first three albums, Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd, Second Helping, and Nuthin’ Fancy.
Ed King quit Lynyrd Skynyrd pretty much at the peak of their fame, mainly because he finally got fed up with Ronnie Van Zant’s mercurial ways.
Skynyrd had three guitarists — at that point, King and founding members Gary Rossington and Allen Collins — but King was an outsider from the start. All of the other band members had grown up in the same part of Jacksonville, Florida, while King wasn’t even a Southerner, but a native of Glendale, California. He was marvelously talented — that riff in “Sweet Home Alabama”? That was King’s creation — and he was valued for his abilities as both a musician and a songwriter, but he was never really “one of the gang”.
Of writing the song with bandmate Ronnie Van Zant, King claimed, “we wrote that song in half an hour, but it took us about a half a day to put it together. The song came real quick. I started off with that riff and Ronnie was sitting on the edge of the couch, making this signal to me to just keep rolling it over and over.”
In an interview shortly before his death from cancer in 2018, King pointed to the below photo as being illustrative of his place in the band — all by himself to the left, with the other guys all standing side by side:
In March of 1975, during a show in Ann Arbor, Michigan, King snapped two guitar strings while playing “Free Bird”, throwing off his performance. According to King, his guitar tech had not been around to change his strings because he had been thrown in jail, along with Van Zant, following an altercation with police.
Ronnie didn’t care why King’s strings broke; all he knew was that Ed had fucked up. He unleashed a torrent of verbal abuse on King, including such colorful pronouncements as “you don’t amount to a pimple on Allen’s ass”.
Following the incident, King said he returned to his hotel room, thinking “what the hell am I doing here?”, packed his belongings, and left without a word, leaving his bandmates to wake up the next morning to find out he was gone (and Rossington and Collins to scramble to rearrange the songs to make up for King’s absence).
About the decision to leave the band, King said “well, I was out of my mind for quitting. But it was the best thing I ever did. It just got a little too nutty for me. So, in the middle of the night, I just walked out. It had been a bad night the night before. I had gotten fed up with frankly all the violence. I had good reason to leave.”
King was ultimately replaced by Steve Gaines in 1976; Gaines would die in the 1977 plane crash that also killed his sister Cassie and Van Zant. King said he visited the cemetery after the crash to pay his respects, and it was then that he discovered that he and Steve had been born on exactly the same day: September 14, 1949. He felt he had dodged a huge bullet by quitting when he did.
King would later reconcile with the other band members, and rejoined them when they reformed Skynyrd in 1987, but had to leave the band due to to congestive heart failure problems in 1996. He had a heart transplant surgery in 2011. Both he and Gaines were among the band members inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
He died, presumably from cancer at his Nashville home on August 22, 2018.
Founding member of Lynyrd Skynyrd Gary Rossington released a message on Twitter: ” I’ve just found out about Ed’s passing and I’m shocked and saddened. Ed was our brother, and a great Songwriter and Guitar player. I know he will be reunited with the rest of the boys in Rock & Roll Heaven.”
November 29, 2001 – George Harrison was born on February 25, 1943 in Liverpool England. Harrison was not born into wealth and by his own admission, Harrison was not much of a student, and what little interest he did have in his studies washed away with his discovery of the electric guitar and American rock and roll. As Harrison would later describe it, he had an “epiphany” of sorts at the age 12 or 13 while riding a bike around his neighborhood and getting his first whiff of Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel,” which was playing from a nearby house. By the age of 14, Harrison, whose early rock heroes included Carl Perkins, Little Richard and Buddy Holly, had purchased his first guitar and taught himself a few chords. Continue reading George Harrison 11/2001
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