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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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Warrel Dane 12/2017

December 13, 2017 – Warrel Dane (Sanctuary/Nevermore) was born on March 7, 1961 as Warrel G. Baker in Seattle, Washington.

Warell, who first came to fame as the high-pitched singer of Serpent’s Knight, was famed for his vocal range and had originally trained for five years as an opera singer and utilized a very broad vocal range, spanning from notes as low as the G♯ below low C, or G♯1, to notes as high as the B♭ below soprano C, or B♭5. While his high head voice style vocals were much more prominent in the older Sanctuary albums, there were instances where he utilized it in Nevermore as well. Later in his career, Dane became more notable for his distinctively deep, dramatic voice. He cited Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Jefferson Airplane, Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, The Doors as his musical influences and Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson as his main vocal inspirations. Continue reading Warrel Dane 12/2017

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Robert Lee (Pops) Popwell 11/2017

November 27, 2017 – Robert Lee (Pops) Popwell (the Young Rascals) was born on the 29th of December 1950 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Popwell started his career in the ’60s. He quickly got work in the jazz and R&B worlds.

As a member of the house band The Macon Rhythm Section (with Johnny Sandlin, Pete Carr, Paul Hornsby and Jim Hawkins) for the Capricorn Records Studio in Macon Georgia, from 1968 he recorded with Doris Duke, Hubert Laws, Deryll Inman, The Atlanta Disco Band, Johnny Jenkins, and Livingston Taylor. Continue reading Robert Lee (Pops) Popwell 11/2017

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Hans Vermeulen – 11/2017

November 9, 2017 – Hans Vermeulen (Sandy Coast) was born on September 18, 1947 in Voorburg, the Hague in the Netherlands. He grew up in what was to become the birthplace of Nederpop, which produced bands like Golden earring (Radar Love) and Shocking Blue (Venus), Q 65, Rob Hoeke and many others.

He scored hits like I See Your Face Again , Capital Punishment and my favorite True Love That’s a Wonder with his first group Sandy Coast which he had formed in 1961.

When the first run of late sixties rock and roll ran dry, Sandy Coast disbanded in the early seventies, and did not reform until 1981, with a big comeback hit.
In 1975 Vermeulen founded Rainbow Train, a open door clearing house formation for musicians, in which he sang with his then-wife Dianne Marchal .
In those years he made impact as a much in demand EMI producer for popular Dutch singers like Margriet Eshuijs (Lucifer) and Anita Meyer. For Meyer he wrote in 1976 the number 1 hit The Alternative Way, on which he also sang and for Eshuijs he produced the still today hugely popular “House for Sale” hit. Continue reading Hans Vermeulen – 11/2017

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Paul Buckmaster 11/2017

November 7, 2017 – Paul Buckmaster born on June 13, 1946 in London England.

At age four, Buckmaster started attending a small private school in London called the London Violoncello School, and continued studying cello under several private teachers until he was ten. In 1957, his mother, a concert pianist took him and his two siblings to Naples, where he auditioned with cello professor Willy La Volpe, to be assessed as eligible for a scholarship. After Paul’s attending classes over a two-month period, La Volpe determined that Paul was eligible for an Italian State scholarship, and for the next four years, he studied there eight months per year. This was a radically formative period, in which he deepened his love for the music of J. S. Bach, studying the unaccompanied cellos suites. It was during this period in Italy that Paul discovered his love for jazz. He then won a scholarship to study the cello at the Royal Academy of Music, from which he graduated with a performance diploma in 1967. Continue reading Paul Buckmaster 11/2017

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Martin Eric Ain 10/2017

October 21, 2017 – Martin Eric Ain was born Martin Stricker in the USA from Swiss parents on July 18, 1967. His mother was a Catholic religion teacher. She taught the catechism. Ain figured that most probably, the reason for him joining up with the arch rebel — Satan himself! — was because that was the most powerful force to oppose his mother.

I remember that traumatic experience being in a church, and there was this life-sized cross with this tormented human figure nailed, its limbs twisted and turned. I must have been about 5 or 6. That was really bizarre, having all those people around me being solemn in a way, but then, on the other hand, really getting joyous toward the end of that ritual about this person dying. And then going to the front of the church and coming back having devoured part of the body of that person. As a child, you take something like that quite literally, you know? And it was never really explained to me in a way that seemed really logical. I had nightmares. For me, religion didn’t have a redemptive quality. It didn’t help me to have a more positive outlook on life. It was a negative, oppressive kind of thing. Christ was a symbol of utter failure and absolute totalitarian control.

As part of the legendary bands Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, Ain transcended influence. Continue reading Martin Eric Ain 10/2017

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Eamonn Campbell 10/2017

October 18, 2017 – Eamonn Campbell was born on November 29, 1946 in Drogheda in County Louth, but later moved to Walkinstown, a suburb of Dublin. He heard Elvis’ That’s All Right for the first time when he was 10; got his first guitar when he was 11 and taught himself how to play it in the next several year. 

He had his first gig at 14 and never really looked back, even though there were early plans to take up accounting. In 1964, he graduated high school with the intention of becoming an accountant. “But his accountant’s brain told him he’d make much more money out of gigging.” So instead he would go on to play for bands such as The Viceroys, The Checkmates and The Delta Boys. He also played locally with the The Bee Vee Five and the Country Gents before joining Dermot O’Brien and the Clubmen and he first met The Dubliners when both acts toured England together in 1967. Over the years that followed he got into production and often sat in with the Dubliners, which had formed in 1962. Continue reading Eamonn Campbell 10/2017

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Jimmy Beaumont 10/2017

October 7, 2017 – Jimmy Beaumont (The Skyliners) was born on October 21, 1940 in the Knoxville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA. While in his teens he formed the bebop group the Crescents. Joe Rock, a promo man working with Beaumont’s group, one day jotted down the lyrics to a song as he sat in his car at a series of stoplights, lamenting that his girlfriend was leaving for flight attendant school on the West Coast.

Rock took the lyrics to Jimmy Beaumont, who wrote a melody just as quickly as Rock wrote the words to a magical, tearful ballad that soon topped the Cashbox R&B chart and went to No. 3 on the Billboard R&B chart: the title …..“Since I Don’t Have You.”

“I had been listening to all the doo-wop groups from that period — The Platters, The Moonglows. I guess just from listening the melody just came out of me,” Beaumont told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette years later.

Thirteen labels rejected the song as a demo, but the record was released in late December 1958. In short order it went to No. 1 in Pittsburgh, prompting an invitation to “American Bandstand.”  Continue reading Jimmy Beaumont 10/2017

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Laudir de Oliveira 9/2017

September 17, 2017 – Laudir de Oliveira was born January 6, 1940 in Rio de Janeiro.  de Oliveira started out as a percussionist in Brazil, working with Sergio Mendes and Marcos Valle. He moved to the United States in 1968 and caught the eye of rock musicians and producers. Credited simply as “Laudir”, he also appeared on Joe Cocker’s 1969 debut album, playing on his hit single “Feelin’ Alright”.

In 1973, Chicago invited de Oliveira to play on their album “Chicago VI.” After playing on the albums Chicago VI and Chicago VII as a sideman, de Oliveira officially joined the band in 1975. Continue reading Laudir de Oliveira 9/2017

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Dave Hlubek 9/2017

September 3, 2017 – Dave Hlubek was born on August 28, 1951 in Jacksonville, Florida. At the age of 5 or 6, Hlubek and his family moved to the naval base in Oahu, Hawaii, where he attended Waikiki Elementary School. From there, Hlubek’s father was transferred and the family moved to Sunnyvale, California, then to Mountain View, and finally settling in San Jose. It was the South Bay that Dave called home during the next few years, before moving back to Jacksonville, Florida, around 1965. There he attended and graduated from Forrest High School.

Hlubek, founded the band Molly Hatchet in 1971. Vocalist Danny Joe Brown joined in 1974, along with Steve Holland, guitarist in 1974. Duane Roland, Banner Thomas and Bruce Crump completed the line up in 1976. Continue reading Dave Hlubek 9/2017

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Aamir Zaki 6/2017

June 2, 2017 – Aamir Zaki was born on April 8, 1968 in Saudi Arabia from Pakistani parents.

Music was part of his home education with both parents sharing classical, jazz, blues and rock with their children. Aamir became an instant admirer of Rhandy Rhoads, metal guitar virtuoso with Ozzy Osborne.

Playing guitar since the age of 14, he became known for his melodic phrasing, feel, and tone.

The first mainstream musician to recognise Zaki as a teenage prodigy was Alamgir, who got in touch with him to tour India, Dubai, England and the U.S.A. Continue reading Aamir Zaki 6/2017

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Col. Bruce Hampton 5/2017

May 1, 2018 – Bruce Hampton (born Gustav Valentine Berglund III was born on April 30, 1947 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Hampton first popped onto the music scene in 1967s, fronting the avant garde, Delta blues-influenced Hampton Grease Band in Atlanta Georgia. The band became a staple on the infamous Peachtree Street Strip, which rivaled Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco as a hippie hub. The Grease Band soon became known for its over-the-top performances. A good portion of this came from Hampton himself, who liberally broke rules with boundary-pushing sensibilities years before punk rock and Andy Kaufman. Continue reading Col. Bruce Hampton 5/2017

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Cuba Gooding Sr. 4/2017

cuba gooding sr. and jr.April 20, 2017 – Cuba Gooding Sr. (The Main Ingredient) was born in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City on April 27, 1944. While having moved to Cuba, his Barbados born father had promised his first wife on her deathbed that he would call his first son Cuba after the country they both adored. Gooding Sr. grew up eight blocks away from the Apollo Theater and nineteen blocks away from Carnegie Hall.

After his father, a New York cab driver who spoke 7 languages died when he was 11, the criminal grip of the city and the Harlem neighborhood took a hold of Gooding Sr. for awhile and as a result he spent a couple of years in jail, just before he joined Main Ingredient as a backing singer at first. Continue reading Cuba Gooding Sr. 4/2017

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Barry “Frosty” Smith 4/2017

Barry Smith, a musician's drummer

April 12, 2017 – Barry “Frosty” Smith (Soulhat/Sweathog) was born Barry Eugene Smith on March 20, 1946 in Bellingham, Washington.

Smith was raised in the California Bay Area, where he proved a tap dancing prodigy. He was a professional tap dancer from age 3 to 12. Obviously rhythm was part of him. He received schooling in classical piano before taking to the drum kit, due to their natural feel. After playing in dive clubs and strip bars in the San Francisco – San José area, he moved to Los Angeles in the early 70s where he got his first big break, as drummer for organist Lee Michaels with whom he toured nationally and internationally. Continue reading Barry “Frosty” Smith 4/2017

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Sib Hashian 3/2017

boston drummerMarch 22, 2017 – Sib Hashian – John Thomas “Sib” Hashian, (drummer for Boston) was born August 17, 1949, in Boston, Massachusetts.

Hashian was of Armenian/Italian ancestry and grew up in Boston’s North Shores area, where he collaborated with most of his Boston band members in a variety of bands during his teenage years.

“I started playing with Sib back in Lynn English High School, and he’s one of a few drummers I’ve ever worked with,” Boston lead guitarist Barry Goudreau told the Globe in 1980, explaining why he turned to his Boston bandmates while preparing a solo outing. Continue reading Sib Hashian 3/2017

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Valerie Carter 3/2017

Valerie Carter, the muse of our generationMarch 4, 2017 – Valerie Carter was born on February 5, 1953 in Winterhaven, near Orlando, Florida.

Being an “army brat” she moved between many cities in her young years. Her first break in music came while living with her family in Tucson, where she joined a band fronted by Gretchen Ronstadt, sister of Linda Ronstadt.

Next she was off to New York City where she formed the folk band Howdy Moon. They headed to California, released a self-titled album in 1974 and regularly played at the West Hollywood rock club, the Troubadour.

In the early 1970s in Los Angeles, she became known as a songwriter, penning tunes such as Cook With Honey for Judy Collins and Love Needs a Heart for Jackson Browne, who was introduced to her by Lowell George of Little Feat fame.

And here I have to stop and make a confession. Continue reading Valerie Carter 3/2017

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Steve Wright 1/2017

January 16, 2017 – Steve Wright (Greg Kihn Band) was born in El Cerrito California in 1950.

Wright had played in a band called Traumatic Experience with El Cerrito residents John Cuniberti and Jimmy Thorsen.
After changing their name to Hades Blues Works (later, Hades) they expanded into a quartet with Craig Ferreira in 1970

In 1975 Greg Kihn had already signed to Berserkley Records and had a song included on the album Beserkley Chartbusters before entering the studio to record the debut album with a new band consisting of Wright, Robbie Dunbar and Larry Lynch – the Greg Kihn Band.

What followed was 20 years of recording and touring with several monster hits composed by Steve Wright and Greg Kihn.  Continue reading Steve Wright 1/2017

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Andy Fraser 3/2015

Andy-FraserMarch 16, 2015 – Andy Fraser (Freewas born on Andrew McLan “Andy” Fraser 3 July 1952 in the Paddington area of Central London and started playing the piano at the age of five. He was trained classically until twelve, when he switched to guitar. By thirteen he was playing in East End, West Indian clubs and after being expelled from school in 1968 at age 15, enrolled at Hammersmith F.E. College where another student, Sappho Korner, introduced him to her father, pioneering blues musician and radio broadcaster Alexis Korner, who became a father-figure to him.

Shortly thereafter, upon receiving a telephone call from John Mayall, who was looking for a bass player, Korner suggested Fraser and, still only 15, Andy was in a pro band and earning £50 a week, although it ultimately turned out to be a brief tenure.

Korner was also instrumental in Fraser’s next move, to the ultimately very influential rock band Free, which consisted of Paul Rodgers (vocals), Paul Kossoff (guitar) and Simon Kirke (drums). Fraser produced and co-wrote the song “All Right Now” with Rodgers, a No. 1 hit in over 20 territories and recognised by ASCAP in 1990 for garnering over 1,000,000 radio plays in the United States by late 1989. In October 2006 a BMI London Million-Air Award was given to Rodgers and Fraser to mark over 3 million radio and television plays of “All Right Now“.

Simon Kirke later recalled: “All Right Now was created after a bad gig in Durham. We finished our show and walked off the stage to the sound of our own footsteps. The applause had died before I had even left the drum riser. It was obvious that we needed a rocker to close our shows. All of a sudden the inspiration struck Fraser and he started bopping around singing All Right Now. He sat down and wrote it right there in the dressing room. It couldn’t have taken more than ten minutes.”

Fraser also co-wrote two other hit singles for Free, My Brother Jake and The Stealer. Free initially split in 1971, and Fraser formed a trio, Toby, with guitarist Adrian Fisher (later with Sparks), and drummer Stan Speake. Material was recorded but not released, and Fraser re-joined Free in December 1971. He left for the second time in June 1972.

After leaving Free, Fraser formed Sharks with vocalist Snips (later Baker Gurvitz Army), guitarist Chris Spedding plus drummer, Marty Simon. Despite being well received by the critics, especially for Spedding’s tasteful guitar work, Fraser left after their debut album, First Water (1973).

He then formed the Andy Fraser Band, a trio with Kim Turner on drums and Nick Judd on keyboards. They released two albums, Andy Fraser Band and In Your Eyes, both in 1975, before that too folded. Attempts to form a band with Frankie Miller came to nothing, and Fraser re-located to California, to concentrate on songwriting. He crafted hits for Rod Stewart, Chaka Khan, Paul Young, Joe Cocker, Paul Carrack, Wilson Pickett, Three Dog Night, Bob Seger, Randy Crawford, Etta James, Frankie Miller, and Ted Nugent.

Fraser’s most famous compositions remain “All Right Now” and “Every Kinda People”, which Robert Palmer recorded in 1978 for his Double Fun album. In 1984, Fraser released another album of his own. Fine, Fine Line featured ex-Back Street Crawler drummer Tony Braunagel, Bob Marlette (keyboards), Michael Thompson (guitar) and David Faragher (bass), with Fraser contributing vocals.

Having been diagnosed with HIV, he was later diagnosed with Kaposi’s sarcoma, a form of cancer that had been very rare until the onset of the AIDS epidemic. This time-line was called into question by Fraser’s subsequent revelation that he was homosexual. He played bass with former Free colleague, Paul Rodgers, at Woodstock ’94, but otherwise kept a low profile until 2005, when a new release, Naked and Finally Free, appeared. At the time of the new album’s release, Fraser was interviewed by Dmitry M. Epstein for the DME website and revealed: “To be quite honest, I never thought of myself as a bass-player. I actually only used the bass-guitar because the other kids in our school-band wanted to be the singer, or drummer, or guitarist. I have always thought of myself as doing whatever was necessary to make the whole thing work. I’m happy adding piano, or tambourine, or anything that helped”.

In early 2006, writing for Vintage Guitar magazine, Tom Guerra conducted a comprehensive interview with Fraser, covering his career, influences and instruments and, in April, Fraser responded to the revival of interest in his music by announcing two rare live shows at Southern California’s Temecula Community Arts Theatre on 4 May. The shows, highlighted by an eight-piece band, were his first live performances since the 1994 Woodstock reunion.

In his later years Fraser was very active as CEO of his record label/multi-media company Mctrax International, which lead him to sign to his label UK protégé Tobi Earnshaw in 2008. He enjoyed getting back on the road in recent years, touring in the US, UK and Japan, as well as performing on stage playing bass for TOBI. Andy was currently working on a multitude of projects including the Summer release of “Standing At Your Window”, which he co-wrote with Frankie Miller, planning a UK/European Tour that included the Sweden Rock Festival alongside former Free bandmate Simon Kirke in Spike’s Free House, scheduling the release of his autobiography, and the release of “Tears of a Mermaid”, a film he was co-producing with his daughter Hannah “Mermaid” Fraser.

In 2008, Fraser wrote and sang the song “Obama (Yes We Can)”, to support the campaign to elect Barack Obama as president of the United States.

In May 2010, Andy Fraser was interviewed for BBC2’s documentary series titled Rock ‘n’ Roll. The project includes a five-part documentary, narrated by British music show anchor-man Mark Radcliffe plus online and radio content. “The documentary aims to explain the success of some of the greatest bands of the past 50 years, including the Who, the Police, the Doors, Bon Jovi and the Foo Fighters”.

In mid-2013, Fraser played a supporting role as bassist in the band of protege Tobi Earnshaw for a short series of UK dates. Accompanying Earnshaw and Fraser was a veteran ally, guitarist Chris Spedding. Fraser has produced and mentored Earnshaw on a number of album releases.

Fraser died on 16 March 2015 at his home in California. He was 62 and had been battling cancer and AIDS. The cause of his death however was a heart attack as result of hypertensive atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

A survivor of both cancer and AIDS, Fraser had a close brush with death in the 90’s, so he took his health very seriously. “Andy practiced a dedicated daily exercise routine and followed a strict healthy diet, he was in excellent shape. We celebrated with him as he performed onstage just weeks before he passed. Andy was bouncing and jamming, flying high on life right to the end!”, states his daughter Hannah Fraser.

He was also a strong social activist and defender of individual human rights, dedicating much of his time and resources to humanitarian and environmental causes. “Andy was such a passionate musician, such a good man, such an unconditional support to me as a father. He had a burning desire to do good in this world, and he single-mindedly dedicated himself to promoting the causes which he believed in.”, states other daughter Jasmine Fraser.

On the news of his death tributes began flooding in from all over the world, Joe Bonamassa dedicated 4 shows at the Apollo Hammersmith in his honor, Gov’t Mule played a tribute to the Free song Little Bit of Love, co-written by Fraser and a show he was slated to perform at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire on May 25th, and many feature articles in Newspapers and Magazines, worldwide.

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Scott Asheton 3/2014

Scott-AshetonMarch 15, 2014 – Scott Asheton (Iggy Pop & the Stooges) was born Scott Randolph Asheton on Aug. 16, 1949, in Washington DC.  After the death of his father, Ronald, a Marine Corps pilot, his mother, Ann, moved the family to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

He co-formed the Stooges in 1967, originally the Psychedelic Stooges, along with his older brother Ron Asheton, Dave Alexander and Iggy Pop. The Stooges  began as kind of amateur avant-gardists — “like jazz gone wild,” Iggy Pop once said.  Scott Asheton’s homemade drum set, as his brother recalled it, included a 55-gallon oil drum, timbales and a snare, though no cymbals.

Continue reading Scott Asheton 3/2014

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J.J. Cale 7/2013

JJ CaleJuly 26, 2013 – John Weldon, J.J. Cale was born on December 5, 1938 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he was also raised and graduated from Tulsa Central High School in 1956.

As well as learning to play the guitar he began studying the principles of sound engineering while still living with his parents in Tulsa, where he built himself a recording studio. After graduation he was drafted into military service, studying at the Air Force Air Training Command in Rantoul, Illinois. Cale recalled, “I didn’t really want to carry a gun and do all that stuff so I joined the Air Force and what I did is I took technical training and that’s kind of where I learned a little bit about electronics.” Cale’s knowledge of mixing and sound recording turned out to play an important role in creating the distinctive sound of his studio albums.

Continue reading J.J. Cale 7/2013

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Gaye Delorme 6/2011

gaye-delormeJune 23, 2011 – Gaye Delorme was born on March 20, 1947 in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. He was an entirely self-taught virtuoso guitar player, having picked up the guitar at age fifteen during a stint in juvenile detention. After moving to Edmonton in the late 1960s, he got into trouble with the law, but soon found a way out of problems was the guitar. He formed the short-lived group The Window, referred to by some as Alberta’s answer to Jimi Hendrix. His other projects during those formative years included The Extemely Deep Guys and, during a brief stint in Vancouver, an R&B group called Django (named after his admiration for jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt).

It was his gift on the guitar that made him one of the most talented musicians on the scene, and other artists tapped into those various attributes through the years, whether it was flamenco, classical, country, folk, jazz, blues, or rock. His wide-range of skills often included his uncanny ability to emulate other instruments, such as the sitar and the koto. In fact, Stevie Ray Vaughan once described Delorme as “one of the best,” and “a monster” by Colin James.

Continue reading Gaye Delorme 6/2011

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James Gurley 12/2009

james gurley2009 – James Gurley was born on December 22, 1939 in Detroit Michigan, the son of a stunt-car driver, and attended the city’s Cooley high school. His father would sometimes enlist his son’s ­support, strapping him to the bonnet of a car and driving through walls of fire. Gurley had his first encounter with a guitar at the age of 16 when an uncle brought one to his home, but initially he showed no interest. He took up the instrument seriously three years later, at age 19, initially teaching himself the rudiments by listening to recordings of the bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins. In 1962 he moved with his wife Nancy and son to the Bay area in San Francisco.

Continue reading James Gurley 12/2009

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Gordon Waller 7/2009

July 17, 2009 – Gordon Waller  (Peter & Gordon) was born in Braemar, Scotland, on June 4th 1945. The son of a surgeon, Gordon met fellow student, Peter Asher while attending the prestigious Westminster School, and they began playing together as the duo Peter & Gordon.

Both were keen guitarists and soon they were entertaining their fellow students. By 1963, they were playing (initially as Gordon and Peter) in pubs and small clubs at lunchtimes and evenings for small fees or for a meal, often singing their own compositions in the close harmony style of the Everly Brothers.

Continue reading Gordon Waller 7/2009

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Uriel Jones 3/2009

Uriel JonesMarch 24, 2009 – Uriel Jones (the Funk Brothers) was born on June 13th 1934 in Detroit. He began playing music in high school. But his first instrument was the trombone and wanted to box also. But when he went to band classes his lip was swollen and he couldn’t play the trombone, so he had to switch to the drums.

Drawn from the ranks of Detroit jazz players by Berry Gordy Jr., the founder of Motown, the Funk Brothers were the label’s regular studio backup band from 1959 to 1972, when Motown moved to Los Angeles and left most of them behind. Jones joined the Funk Brothers around 1963 after touring with Marvin Gaye and he moved up the line as recordings increased and principal drummer Benny Benjamin’s drug addicted health deteriorated fast. Around 1963 Jones and another player, Richard Allen, known as Pistol, started gradually taken over drumming his duties and Benjamin died of a stroke in 1969.

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Reg Isidore 3/2009

March 22, 2009 – Reg Isidore was born on 4 April 1949 in Aruba, Netherlands Antilles. As is quite common in the Caribbean Islands, kids are sent abroad for their formal education, which is how Reg Isidore ended up in London.

Reg’s musical career started with the 1960’s soul scene and included  stints with The High Tensions, The Rick ‘ n’ Beckers, Peter Green and the late great Richard Wright (Pink Floyd). In the early days he also played with Peter Bardens (Camel) for many years, then managed by Legendary manager John Schatt, who was building up his worldwide company the Filmpow Group.

As a musician however he was a rock drummer who became best known for his work with the Robin Trower Band. The band, consisting of Robin Trower (guitar), Jimmy Dewar (bass and vocals) and drummer Reg Isidore, formed in December of 1972 and played their first show in Vienna, Austria in February of 1973.

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David Williams 3/2009

david williamsMarch, 6, 2009 – David Williams (Session-guitarist) was born November 21st 1950 in Newport News, Virginia. He started his professional career with the Dells at age 18.

After he finished his time in the Army he hooked up with the Temptations for live gigs and eventually settled in Los Angeles where became one of the most in-demand session guitarists recording with Michael Jackson, The Jacksons, The Pointer Sisters, Peter Allen, Aretha Franklin, The Four Tops, Madonna, Julio Iglesias, George Benson, The Manhattan Transfer, Michael McDonald, Melissa Manchester, The Temptations, Stevie Nicks, Rod Stewart, Dionne Warwick, Shalamar, Go West, Genesis, Boz Scaggs, Karen Carpenter, Mariah Carey, Julian Lennon, Bryan Ferry, Paul McCartney, Johnny Mathis, Del Shannon, Chaka Khan, Kenny Loggins, Steve Perry, Lionel Richie, Jessica Simpson, Diana Ross, The Crusaders, Andraé Crouch, Eddie Murphy, Herbie Hancock, Peter Cetera, Whitney Houston, Monkey Business and more.

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Kelly Groucutt 2/2009

kelly groucuttFebruary 19, 2009- Kelly Groucutt (ELO) was born September 8, 1945 in Coseley, West Midlands, England.

Groucutt began his musical career at 15 as Rikki Storm of Rikki Storm and the Falcons. He went on to sing with various outfits during the ’60s, picking up the guitar as he went along. Groucutt was also a member of a band called “Sight and Sound”, and later with a band called “Barefoot”.

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Billy Powell 1/2009

Billy PowellJanuary 28, 2009 – William Norris “Billy” Powell was born on June 3rd 1952 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Powell grew up in a military family and spent several of his childhood years in Italy, where his father was stationed with the U.S. Navy. After his father died of cancer in 1960, the Powells returned to the United States to settle in Jacksonville, Florida. In elementary school, Powell met Leon Wilkeson, who would become a lifelong friend and the bassist for Lynyrd Skynyrd. Powell took an interest in piano and he began taking piano lessons from a local teacher named Madalyn Brown, who claimed that Billy did not need a teacher as he was a natural and picked things up well on his own.

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Ron Asheton 1/2009

Ron Asheton with Iggy PopJanuary 6, 2009 – Ronald Franklin Ron Asheton was born in Washington D.C. on July 17, 1948. As a founding member of the legendary Stooges (Iggy Pop),  Asheton forever changed the face of rock & roll, his raw, primordial riffs presaging the rise of punk by a decade. His distorted guitar was a hallmark of the Iggy Pop-led group.

He first surfaced in the teen band the Dirty Shames before joining the Iggy Pop-led Stooges in 1967; the Ann Arbor, MI-based group made its live debut on Halloween of that year, earning immediate notoriety for its frighteningly intense live presence and blistering, primitivist sound. Although celebrated in certain underground circles, the band – which also included Asheton’s drummer brother Scott and bassist Dave Alexander – was otherwise almost universally reviled, but still was signed by Elektra to record its self-titled 1969 debut LP; the album sold poorly, as did its successors (1970’s Fun House and 1973’s Raw Power), but the Stooges’ long-term impact was incalculable – in effect, their aggressive, take-no-prisoners approach laid the groundwork for the emergence of punk.

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John “Mitch” Mitchell 11/2008

MitchMitchell-630-85November 12, 2008 – Mitch Mitchell was born on 9 July 1947 in Ealing, west of London. He started life in show business as a child actor on the TV series “Jennings At School”.

His love for jazz and pop music drove him to become a musician. Mitch’s main influences in music were Max Roach and Elvin Jones, teaching himself on the drums, he mixed jazz and rock styles, which later became known as “fusion”, of which he was a pioneer. In the early days he found work as a session player and worked with groups such as Johnny Harris and the Shades, the Pretty Things and the Riot Squad and in 1965 he began playing with Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames.

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Miriam Makeba 11/2008

November 10, 2008  miriam8Zenzile Miriam Makeba was born on March 4th 1932 in Johannesburg South Africa. Growing up in the midst of South Africa’s Apartheid policies, Miriam Makeba became amongst many things, a woman of great vision who saw far into the future, and with an uncanny and acute sense of history. With the world in a fast moving switch away from colonialism and despicable policies of segregation and apartheid, Miriam stood in the center of many “controversial” actions. For her actions, she was exiled from South Africa for 30 years, during which time she earned the tributal nickname “Mama Afrika”.

As a singer of South African folk songs about repression, she was the first one to find a global audience. Her 1957 song Pata Pata became a huge success in the USA 10 years later. Continue reading Miriam Makeba 11/2008

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Bobby Ferrara 1/2008

Bobby FerraraJanuary 15, 2008 – Bobby Ferrara was born Robert Patrick Ferrara on July 22nd 1965 Bobby Ferrara in Queens Village, Long Island, New York.

He was in sixth grade when he started playing guitar and never received formal lessons. His major influences were Eddie van Halen and Kiss’s Ace Frehley and he practiced them 4 to 5 hours every day. He was a quiet introvert kid who loved his music and waited out his life for the right woman.
But those qualities made him an extraordinary shredder. His jaw-dropping solo flurries, wah-drenched fusillades and high-energy freakout got him New York’s Hot Licks guitar contest twice, and made him a world class guitarist.

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Hughie Thomasson 9/2007

Hughie Thomasson 300September 9, 2007 – Hughie Thomasson (The Outlaws) Born Hugh Edward Thomasson Jr., Hughie Thomasson joined a fledgling Tampa-area bar band named the Outlaws in the late ’60s. With David Dix on drums, Thomasson quickly made a name for himself as a no-nonsense guitar master. The group disbanded, but Thomasson reformed the Outlaws in 1972 with guitarist Henry Paul, drummer Monte Yoho and bassist Frank O’Keefe. (Paul later enjoyed a successful country career as a member of BlackHawk) Guitarist Billy Jones joined in 1973, completing the guitar army rock approach.

Known as the Florida Guitar Army for their triple-lead guitar attack, the Outlaws were the first group signed by former Columbia Records head Clive Davis when he formed Arista Records. He flew to Columbus, Ga., in 1974 to see the Outlaws perform with Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Columbus Civic Center and went to the Ramada Inn after the show and made an offer.

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Billy Thorpe 2/2007

Billy ThorpeFebruary 28, 2007 – Billy Thorpe (Thorpie and The Aztecs) was born on March 29th 1946 in Manchester England. His parents, Bill and Mabel Thorpe and he emigrated to Australia in 1955, arriving in Melbourne and then settling in Brisbane, Queensland. He performed as a ten-year-old under the pseudonym Little Rock Allen. Six months later, after he was heard singing and playing guitar by a television producer, Thorpe made regular musical appearances on Queensland television.

By the time he was 15, Thorpie had worked in stage shows, variety television, clubs and even vaudeville at Brisbane’s Theatre Royal with George Wallace. He toured regional venues with Reg Lindsay in 1961, and national venues with Johnny O’Keefe and with Col Joye. By 1963, as an experienced singer and musician, he decided to relocate to Sydney, where he joined The Aztecs.

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Desmond Dekker 5/2006

desmond_dekkerMay 25, 2006 – Desmond Dekker was born Desmond Adolphus Dacres on July 16th 1941 in Saint Andrew Parrish, Kingston, Jamaica. Dekker spent his early formative years in Kingston, the capital of Jamaica. From a very young age he would regularly attend the local church with his grandmother and aunt. This early religious upbringing as well as Dekker’s enjoyment of singing hymns led to a lifelong religious commitment. Orphaned in his teens following his mother’s death as a result of illness, he moved to the parish of St. Mary and then later to St. Thomas. While at St. Thomas, Dekker embarked on an apprenticeship as a tailor before returning to Kingston, where he secured employment as a welder.

His workplace singing had drawn the attention of his co-workers, who encouraged him to pursue a career in the music industry. In 1961 he auditioned for Coxsone Dodd (Studio One) and Duke Reid (Treasure Isle), though neither audition was successful. The young unsigned vocalist then successfully auditioned for Leslie Kong’s Beverley’s record label and was awarded his first recording contract. He auditioned before the stable’s biggest hitmaker, Derrick Morgan, who immediately spotted the young man’s potential. However, it was to be two long years before Kong finally took him into the studio, waiting patiently for him to compose a song worthy of recording.

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Gene Pitney 4/2006

Gene PitneyApril 5, 2006 – Gene Pitney was born February 17, 1940 in Hartford, Connecticut and grew up in Rockville, now part of Vernon, Connecticut. He once recalled how his first solo performance at school degenerated into an embarrassing whimper as Pitney was petrified by the expectant audience. Overcoming his nerves over the next few years, Pitney learned to play the guitar, drums and piano and formed a schoolboy band, Gene & the Genials.

He was nicknamed “the Rockville Rocket”. Pitney was an avid doo wop singer and sang with a group called the Embers. He made records as part of a duo called Jamie and Jane with Ginny Arnell (who in late 1963 had a solo hit, “Dumb Head”), and in 1959 recorded a single as Billy Bryan. By the time he had dropped out of the University of Connecticut, he was performing with Ginny Arnell as the male half of Jamie and Jane, then as singer/songwriter under the name Billy Bryan for Blaze Records and under his own name for Festival Records in 1960.

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Wilson Pickett 1/2006

Wilson-Pickett-2January 19, 2006 – Wilson Pickett was born March 18th 1941 in Prattville, Alabama and sang in Baptist church choirs in his young years. He was the fourth of 11 children and called his mother “the baddest woman in my book,” telling historian Gerri Hirshey: “I get scared of her now. She used to hit me with anything, skillets, stove wood — (one time I ran away) and cried for a week. Stayed in the woods, me and my little dog.” Pickett eventually left to live with his father in Detroit in 1955.

Pickett’s forceful, passionate style of singing was developed in the church and on the streets of Detroit under the influence of recording stars such as Little Richard, whom he referred to as “the architect of rock and roll”.

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Laurel Aitken 7/2005

July 17, 2005 – Laurel Aitken/Lorenzo Aitken (the Godfather of Ska) was born in Cuba of mixed Cuban and Jamaican descent on April 22nd 1927. His family settled in Jamaica in 1938 and he went on to become Jamaica’s first real recording star.

His first recordings in the late 1950s were mento tunes such as “Nebuchnezer”, “Sweet Chariot” and “Baba Kill Me Goat”. Progressing to a pre-ska shuffle, his 1958 single “Little Sheila”/”Boogie in My Bones” was one of the first records produced by Chris Blackwell, who founded his Island Records label that year, and the first Jamaican popular music record to be released in the UK.

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Pierre Moerlen 5/2005

pierre-moerlenMay 2, 2005 – Pierre Moerlen (Gong) was born on October 23, 1952 in the French Alsace Wine region.  The third of five children, his father Maurice Moerlen was a famous organist (one of his teachers was Maurice Duruflé) and his mother was a music teacher. All five Moerlen children learned music with their parents and all became musicians. Pierre’s younger brother, Benoît Moerlen, is also a percussionist (he worked also with Gong and Oldfield).

In January 1973, Pierre joined Daevid Allen‘s band, Gong, as percussionist, debuting on the Angel’s Egg album.

In June 1973 he was asked by Virgin’s boss Richard Branson to play percussion with Mike Oldfield for the premiere of Tubular Bells.

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Rod Price 3/2005

Rod PriceMarch 22, 2005 – Rod Price (Foghat) was born November 22, 1947. At the age of 21, Price joined the British blues band Black Cat Bones, replacing legendary Free alumni Paul Kossoff, which recorded one album, Barbed Wire Sandwich. The album was released at the end of 1969, when British blues was being supplanted by rock, and though artistically successful it was a commercial failure.

The band dissolved, and Price joined Foghat when the group was first formed in London in 1971. He played on the band’s first ten albums, released from 1972 through to 1980. His signature slide playing ability helped propel the band to being one of the most successful rock groups in the United States during the 1970s. His slide playing was featured distinctly on Foghat songs “Drivin’ Wheel”, “Stone Blue”, and the group’s biggest hit, “Slow Ride“, which was a top 20 hit in 1976. Price’s final performance with Foghat before he left for the first time was at the Philadelphia Spectrum on 16 November 1980. He was replaced by guitarist Erik Cartwright.

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Bruce Palmer 10/2004

Bruce PalmerOctober 1, 2004Bruce Palmer (Buffalo Springfield bassist) was born in Nova Scotia on September 9, 1946. He was raised in Toronto, Canada, where he began playing music at age 10. He played in the Mynah Birds with a young Rick James, who passed away just a few months earlier, which would eventually also include fellow Canadian Neil Young. Mynah Birds auditioned for Motown Records but split when James left the band.

He went on to co-found Buffalo Springfield in April 1966 in Toronto with Young, Stephen Stills, Dewey Martin and Richie Furay. Over just 19 months in 1967 and ’68, the group established itself as a folk/country/rock pioneer, producing the transcendent political anthem “For What It’s Worth”.

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Niki Sullivan 4/2004

NikiSullivan-1958April 6, 2004 – Niki Sullivan (Buddy Holly and the Crickets) was born June 23rd 1937 in South Gate, California. During the summer of 1956, the 19-year-old Sullivan first met Holly, by way of his high school friend Jerry Allison, at a jam session in Lubbock, Texas. Holly was impressed by his guitar-playing talents and offered him the chance to join both of them, as well as Joe B. Mauldin in a band. Sullivan readily accepted the offer, and thus the Crickets were born.

While trying to record “Peggy Sue” after many unsatisfactory takes, Sullivan ended up kneeling next to Holly while he played, and when cued flipped a switch on Holly’s Stratocaster, allowing him to break into the now-famous rhythm guitar solo. He also helped sing on back up and arrange the music to “Not Fade Away” (which he helped write), “I’m Gonna Love You Too”, “That’ll Be the Day” and “Maybe Baby”. It was around this period that he also wrote and produced the single “Look to the Future,” which was recorded by Gary Tollett and The Picks, who often did back-up vocals for the Crickets.

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Bob Mayo 2/2004

Bobby_MayoFeb 23, 2004 – Bob “Bobby” Mayo (Peter Frampton) was born on August 25, 1951 in New York City, and grew up in Westchester County. He began studying music at the age of five, focusing on classical piano. During the 1960s, Mayo’s interest in music grew due to the rock explosion. His first band was Ramble and the Descendants, where he played organ and sang. Mayo played with several other local bands and had plans to attend Juilliard School in New York City. His career took a detour when he suffered injuries in a serious car accident at the age of seventeen, but Bob was determined and he was able to move on.

In 1971, Mayo formed Doc Holliday with Frank Carillo, Tom Arlotta, and Bob Liggio. He then joined Rat Race Choir (73-74) one of the Tri-State area’s best bands, playing guitar. He then left RRC, was replaced with Mark Hitt and teamed up with Peter Frampton and joined his touring band. Because of this, he appeared on Peter Frampton’s album Frampton Comes Alive!. It was on this recording that Peter Frampton introduced Mayo with the words “Bob Mayo on the keyboards… Bob Mayo,” which has since become something of a legend among Peter Frampton fans. Mayo also appeared on the Peter Frampton albums I’m in You and Where I Should Be.

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Cornelius Bumpus 2/2004

Cornelius BumpusFebruary 3, 2004 – Cornelius Bumpus was born on May 7, 1945 in Santa Cruz, California. Bumpus began his career at the age of ten, playing alto saxophone in his school band in Santa Cruz, California. He put his love of music down to his parents’ record collection – it included early Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Fats Domino and James Brown. By the time Bumpus was 12, he was already landing gigs, playing at Portuguese dances in central California.

In 1966, he spent six months performing with the Bobby Freeman band, then embarked on a series of ventures as he honed his talent. In 1977, he joined Moby Grape, writing one tune for their Live Grape album. He also recorded two solo albums and toured with his own band.

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Mel Pritchard 1/2004

Mel PritchardJanuary 28, 2004 – Mel Pritchard was born in Oldham, Lancashire, England on January 20th 1948.

Mel and lifelong friend Les Holroyd were together at Derker Secondary Modern school where they joined a school band, then went on to form Heart and Soul and Oldham blues-rock band called The Wickeds. The band gained a good reputation playing semi-professional gigs. After adding two members from a rival band, the Keepers, the group emerged as Barclay James Harvest in 1966.

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Robert Palmer 9/2003

robert palmerSeptember 6, 2003 – Robert Palmer (Power Station) was born 19 January 1949 in Batley, Yorkshire, England. He was known for his distinctive voice and the eclectic mix of musical styles on his albums, combining soul, jazz, rock, pop, reggae and blues.

He found success both in his solo career and in the supergroup Power Station, and had Top 10 songs in both the US and the UK. His iconic music videos for the hits “Simply Irresistible” and “Addicted to Love“, featured identically dressed dancing women with pale faces, dark eye makeup and bright red lipstick. Sharp-suited, his involvement in the music industry commenced in the 1960s, covered five decades and included a spell with Vinegar Joe. Among other awards he was a two time Grammy Award winner with “Addicted To Love” and for “Simply Irresistible”.

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Adam Faith 3/2003

Adam FaithMarch 8, 2003 – Adam Faith was born Terence Nelhams-Wright June 23rd 1940 in Acton, west London, the third of five children of a coach driver and an office cleaner. After leaving school, he worked in the film industry, progressing from messenger boy to assistant film editor. He was inspired to form the Worried Men skiffle group in 1956 by Lonnie Donegan’s recording of Rock Island Line. As Faith said in his first autobiography Poor Me (1961): “Skiffle hit Britain with all the fury of Asian flu. Everyone went down with it.” Faith later repaid his debt by producing a 1978 comeback album for Donegan, Puttin’ On The Style.

While performing at the Two Is coffee bar in Soho, in a live broadcast for BBC TV’s 6-5 Special show in 1958, Nelhams caught the eye of producer Jack Good, who told him that he could be a successful singer with a change of name. Good gave him a book of Christian names from which Terry picked Adam from the boys section and Faith from the girls.

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Zal Yanovsky 12/2002

Zal YanovskyDecember 13, 2002 –  Zalman Zal Yanovsky (The Lovin’ Spoonful) was born on December 19, 1944 near Toronto, Canada. His father was a political cartoonist. Mostly self-taught, he began his musical career playing folk music coffee houses in Toronto. He lived on a kibbutz in Israel for a short time before returning to Canada. He then teamed with fellow Canadian Denny Doherty in the Halifax Three and both later joined Cass Elliot in the Mugwumps, a group made famous by Doherty’s and Cass’s later group the Mamas and the Papas in the song “Creeque Alley” which referred to an alley way in Charlotte Amalie on St.Thomas in the Virgin Islands.

In the Greenwich Village folk rock scene he was known as one of the early rock n roll performers to wear a cowboy hat, and fringed “Davy Crockett” style clothing, setting the trend followed by such 1960s performers as Sonny Bono, Johnny Rivers and David Crosby.

It was at this time he met John Sebastian and they formed the Lovin’ Spoonful with Steve Boone and Joe Butler, taking their name from a line in Mississippi John Hurt’s Coffee Blues. The band became an immediate smash with their first single, “Do You Believe in Magic?” a Top Ten hit in 1965, which led off a remarkable string of hits that established the Lovin’ Spoonful as one of the few American bands that could challenge the chart dominance of the Beatles and their British Invasion contemporaries.

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Otis Blackwell 5/2002

otis-blackwellMay 6, 2002 – Otis Blackwell  was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 16, 1931, he learnt the piano as a child and listened on the radio to rhythm and blues (then known as “race” music) and to country music in films starring such singing cowboys as Gene Autry and Tex Ritter. They were the two elements that were eventually to combine in the early 1950s to create the mainstream hybrid that became rock’n’roll.

On leaving school in the late 1940s, he worked first as a floor-sweeper at a New York theatre and then as a clothes-presser in a laundry. In 1952 he won a local talent contest at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem and secured a recording contract with Joe Davis’s Jay-Dee label. It was at Davis’s suggestion that he began writing his own songs. “I was thrown into it,” he later said.

His first release was his own composition “Daddy Rolling Stone”. It failed to reach the charts but later became a big hit in Jamaica where it was recorded by Derek Martin, and was also covered by The Who in their early “mod” period.

Blackwell made further recordings for RCA Records and the Groove label, which were among the earliest examples of the emerging rock’n’roll style. Yet, with all the time he was developing his songwriting, on Christmas Eve 1955, he sold the demos of six songs he had written for $25 each. They included “Don’t Be Cruel”, which featured him singing over an accompaniment of piano and a cardboard box for a drum.

Over time he realized his first love was songwriting and by that same year had settled into the groove that he would ride for decades as he became one of the greatest R&B songwriters of all time, whose work significantly influenced rock ‘n’ roll. Yet his first big hit as a writer came not with “Don’t Be Cruel” but with the sultry and atmospheric “Fever”. Originally an R&B hit in 1956 for Little Willie John, it became a huge global pop hit for Peggy Lee (who had passed just two months earlier) and has since been covered several hundred times by other artists.

His vocal style was said to have had a strong influence on the young Elvis Presley. He is however remembered best, not as a performer, but as a one-man song-writing factory, who helped to shape 1950s rock’n’roll and whose most memorable compositions included Don’t Be Cruel, All Shook Up, Fever and Great Balls of Fire.

His association with Presley began around the same time, when the singer covered “Don’t Be Cruel”. Originally released as the B-side of Hound Dog, the song had topped the American charts in its own right by September 1956. It simultaneously headed both the R&B and Country charts. Next, Presley recorded Blackwell’s “Paralysed”, which fared less well, although it later reached No 8 in the British charts.

But by April 1957 a version of “All Shook Up”, originally recorded by the little-known David Hill, had not only restored Presley to the top of the charts, but also become the biggest selling single of the year.

The song was written after Blackwell’s publisher, “Goldie” Goldhawk, had shaken up a bottle of Pepsi and said to him: “You can write about anything. Now write about this!”

Blackwell provided Presley with further hit songs, including “Return to Sender” and “One Broken Heart for Sale”. But “All Shook Up” and “Don’t Be Cruel” have remained in the record books as the two songs which stayed at No.1 for longer than any of Presley’s other hits.

There has been considerable speculation over the relationship between Blackwell and Presley, who never met. “We had a great thing going and I just wanted to leave it alone,” Blackwell said in an interview in 1989. Their two names often appeared together on records as co-writers, but in truth Presley’s role as a writer was negligible. It was common practice at the time to sell part or all of the rights of a song and Presley’s astute manager, Colonel Tom Parker, was well aware of the value of the publishing royalties. It has also been said that Presley borrowed many of his vocal mannerisms from Blackwell. Certainly it was the singer’s method at the time to copy wholesale the writer’s demo of a song, arrangement and all. As Presley used Blackwell’s demos to learn the songs, the debt was probably considerable.

A prolific writer, who sometimes used the white-sounding pseudonym John Davenport, Blackwell copyrighted more than a thousand compositions in his career. Among them was Jerry Lee Lewis’s signature tune “Great Balls of Fire”, as well as further hits for Lewis in “Breathless” and “Let’s Talk About Us”. There were more 1950s rock’n’roll hits with “Hey Little Girl” and “Just Keep It Up” by the now almost-forgotten Dee Clark, and Cliff Richard recorded his “Nine Times out of Ten”. Jimmy Jones had a hit in 1960 with Blackwell’s “Handy Man”, which was revived by James Taylor in the 1970s, and Neil Diamond, Billy Joel and Tanya Tucker also recorded his songs. So, too, did Ray Charles and Otis Redding, although Blackwell was disappointed that few black artists ever had hits with his compositions.

He continued writing and performing and enjoyed some success in 1976 with the comeback album “These Are My Songs!” on the Inner City label. He also recorded the tribute The No.1 King of Rock’n’Roll on his own Fever label when Presley died in 1977. In 1991 he was inducted into the National Academy of Popular Music’s Songwriters Hall of Fame. Three years later, Chrissie Hynde, Graham Parker and Deborah Harry were among those contributing cover versions of his songs to the album “Brace Yourself: A Tribute to the Songs of Otis Blackwell”.

Otis was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1986 and in 1991 into the National Academy of Popular Music’s Songwriters Hall of Fame.

His crowning moment came in the late 1980s when the Black Rock Coalition, an organization of black rock musicians, led by Vernon Reid, the lead guitarist of the band, Living Colour, held a tribute for him at the Prospect Park Bandshell in his native Brooklyn.

Although there were many other generous acknowledgements to his role and influence down the years, his style essentially belonged to an earlier era and he was never to repeat the scale of success he had enjoyed in rock’n’roll’s first decade.

Otis Blackwell died from a heart attack in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 6, 2002 at age 69.

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Paul Young 7/2000

July 14, 2000 – Paul Young (Sad Café/Mike + the Mechanics) was born on 17 June 1947 in the Wythenshawe district of Manchester, England. Paul started out in the music industry when he was just fourteen, forming skiffle band Johnny Dark and the Midnights. Paul eagerly worked his way up the music world, with his first big break coming in 1964, when he was asked to replace the Toggery Five vocalist Bob Smith. The Toggery Five contained more than one future star, with future Jethro Tull members Mick Abrahams and Clive Bunker already within their ranks. Keen to establish themselves, The Toggery Five released their first single: “I’m Gonna Jump” to a controversial reception (it was a song about a guy about to jump into the river, as his girlfriend had just left him). It was duly added to a watch list by the BBC, which thusly stunted it’s success.

A few singles later, the band reshuffled to become Paul Young’s Toggery, a band which enjoyed a solid, if short lived amount of success in the UK gig scene.

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Philippé
Wynne
7/1984

July 14, 1984 – Philippé Wynne aka Philippe Escalante Wynn; born Phillip Walker (The Spinners/P-Funk) was born on April 3rd 1941 in Detroit, Michigan, and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio.

His parents, DeGree Walker and Annie (née Wynn) divorced in November 1947 in Cincinnati. Around 1952, Philippe and his three siblings — Annie Walker, who later became an opera singer, Michael Leon Walker, and Margaret Walker — were placed in the New Orphan Asylum for Colored Children (which closed in 1967), in the Avondale neighborhood of Cincinnati, on Van Buren Street. Their father, DeGree Walker, was granted custody after the divorce, tho’, he worked as a contractor in construction and had to travel. Their mother, Annie, had run off to Detroit with another man.

“ I guess the hardest part to take was being there and knowing that both of your parents were still alive.”
— Philippè Wynne, 1981.

Around 1956, Philippé and his brother, Michael, ran away from the orphanage, and headed, to Detroit, to find their mother. In Detroit, the two formed a gospel group called the Walker Singers, which lasted until Philippe adopted his mother’s surname, Wynn (initially without an “e”)

Next he became a member of the Pacesetters followed by the James Brown group, the JB’s. Prior to joining the Spinners, Wynne spent time in Germany as the lead singer of the Afro Kings, a band from Liberia, before he replaced his cousin, G. C. Cameron, as one of the lead vocalists for The Spinners. Originally formed in the 1950s, the Spinners original lineup included Bobbie Smith, Pervis Jackson, Billy Henderson, George W. Dixon, and Henry Fambrough.

The group began as a quintet called ‘The Domingoes’ at a local high school in the Ferndale District of Detroit, Michigan. In 1961, they came to the attention of music producer Harvey Fuqua (and of The Moonglows), and were quickly signed to the Tri-Phi Records Label, with there new name of ‘The Detroit Spinners.’ Following the release of the group’s first Top Ten R&B hit single, “That’s What Girls Are Made For,’ George W. Dixon left the group, and was replaced by Edgar “Chico” Edwards.

Throughout the 1960s the group released several minor releases that failed, but by the mid-1960s, Edwards had been replaced by G.C. Cameron as lead singer, and they were now recording on the Motown Record Label, following the buyout of there old label of Tri-Phi. They again had a few more recordings including, “Truly Yours”, “I’ll Always Love You”, and a success with Stevie Wonder’s, “It’s A Shame”, in 1970. By 1972, the group’s contract at the Motown Record Label was over.

That same year the group let lead singer G.C. Cameron go and replaced him Philippe Wynne. Known for his silky voice, Wynne had previously been a gospel singer, and had worked with such groups as, Catfish, Bootsie Collins, and The Pacesetters, among others. The ‘new’ reformed group signed with the Atlantic Record Label and began to work with music producer Thom Bell. Quickly becoming a first-rate soul singer, Wynne helped the group to achieve many hit chart successes inlcuding on both the R&B and pop charts.

There recording successes included, “How Could I Let You Get Away”, “Games People Play”, “One Of A Kind (Love Affair),” “Ghetto Child”, “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love”, “I’ll Be Around”, “You’re Throwing A Good Love Love Away”, “Mighty Love”, and “Rubberband Man.” The group also had there share of successful albums, including some on the Top 20 and some going gold.

By 1977, Wynne decided he had enough and he left the group to pursure a solo career with Alan Thicke (RIP) as his manager. He was replaced as lead singer by John Edwards. Wynne recorded the solo album “Starting All Over”, and “Wynne Jammin”, on the Cotillion Record Label in 1980. Although none of Wynne’s solo achievements went anywhere, his fortunes turned upwards again when he joined George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic in 1979. He performed with them on several recordings, and was a featured vocalist on the Funkadelic single “(Not Just) Knee Deep” (a #1 hit on the Billboard R&B chart). While associated with Parliament-Funkadelic, Wynne also appeared on the Bootsy Collins album Sweat Band. Wynne released the solo album Wynne Jammin’ in 1980, and made a guest appearance on the song “Something Inside My Head” by Gene Dunlap, and in the song “Whip It” by the Treacherous Three. Wynne’s final album was the self-titled Philippé Wynne, released by Sugar Hill Records in 1984.

He scored notable hits such as “How Could I Let You Get Away”, “The Rubberband Man”, “One of a Kind (Love Affair)”, “I’ll Be Around”, “Mighty Love”, “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love”, and “Then Came You” with Dionne Warwick.

On July 14, 1984, while performing a concert in Oakland, California, Wynne suffered a massive heart attackand died the next morning. He was 43.

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Micki Harris 6/1982

addie_micki_harrisJune 11, 1982 – Addie “Micki” Harris was born Addie Harris McPherson on January 22, 1940 in Passaic, New Jersey.  As a founding member of The Shirelles, which originally formed in 1958 in Passaic, New Jersey by Shirley Owens, Alston Reeves, Doris Coley, Kenner Jackson and Beverly Lee, they became a sensation in early doo-wop.

The Shirelles were originally formed in 1957 in Passaic, NJ, by four either 16 or 17 years old high school friends: Doris Cole

 

y (later Doris Kenner-Jackson), Addie “Micki” Harris, Shirley Owens (later Shirley Alston), and Beverly Lee. 

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Lowell George 6/1979

Lowell GeorgeJune 29, 1979 – Lowell Thomas George (Little Feat) was born on April 13th 1945 in Hollywood, California, the son of Willard H. George, a furrier who raised chinchillas and supplied furs to the movie studios.

George’s first instrument was the harmonica. At the age of six he appeared on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour performing a duet with his older brother, Hampton. As a student at Hollywood High School (where he befriended future bandmate Paul Barrere as well as future wife Elizabeth), he took up the flute in the school marching band and orchestra. He had already started to play Hampton’s acoustic guitar at age 11, progressed to the electric guitar by his high school years, and later learned to play the saxophone, shakuhachi and sitar. During this period, George viewed the teen idol-oriented rock and roll of the era with contempt, instead favoring West Coast jazz and the soul jazz of Les McCann & Mose Allison. Following graduation in 1963, he briefly worked at a gas station (an experience that inspired such later songs as “Willin'”) to support himself while studying art and art history at Los Angeles Valley College for two years. Continue reading Lowell George 6/1979

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Sonny Boy Williamson 2 5/1965

sonny-boy-williamson-2May 25, 1965 – Sonny Boy Williamson ll was born Aleck (Alex) Ford aka Alex “Rice” Miller – (his stepfather’s name) on the Sara Jones Plantation near Glendora, in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. He claimed his birth date was December 5, 1899 although one researcher, David Evans, music professor at Memphis University, claims to have found census record evidence that he was born around 1912 while his gravestone has his birthdate as March 11th 1908. Another confusion is created by the fact that he went under the name Sonny Boy Williamson II, to distinguish from the fact that there is a “real” Sonny Boy Williamson, also a famous blues singer/harpist, whose last name was actually Williamson.

He lived and worked with his sharecropper stepfather, Jim Miller, whose last name he soon adopted, and mother, Millie Ford, until the early 1930s. Beginning in the 1930s, he traveled around Mississippi and Arkansas and encountered Big Joe Williams, Elmore James and Robert Lockwood, Jr., also known as Robert Junior Lockwood, who would play guitar on his later Checker Records sides. Continue reading Sonny Boy Williamson 2 5/1965

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Elmore James 5/1963

elmore-jamesMay 24, 1963 – Elmore James was born Elmore Brooks on January 27, 1918 in the old Richland community in Holmes County, Mississippi, the illegitimate son of 15-year-old Leola Brooks, a field hand. His father was probably Joe Willie “Frost” James, who moved in with Leola, and Elmore took his surname. He began making music at the age of 12, using a simple one-string instrument (diddley bow, or jitterbug) strung on a shack wall. As a teen he performed at dances under the names Cleanhead and Joe Willie James, before playing with the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson, and the legendary Robert Johnson.

James was strongly influenced by Robert Johnson, Kokomo Arnold and Tampa Red. He recorded several of Tampa Red’s songs. He also inherited from Tampa Red’s band two musicians who joined his own backing band, the Broomdusters, “Little” Johnny Jones (piano) and Odie Payne (drums). Continue reading Elmore James 5/1963