17 May 2022 – Vangelis (Greek film composer and keyboards-synthesizer for Aphrodite’s Child). Vangelis was born Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou on March 29, 1943 in the Greek town of Agria. He was a self-taught musician who became a young piano prodigy. Then he moved to Paris and co-founded with Demis Roussos, the popular prog-rock group Aphrodite’s Child. After several global mega hits the band eventually split and Vangelis got a solo record deal with RCA Records, while still collaborating often with Roussos.
In 1981 he composed the score for Chariots of Fire. Its opening theme, with its uplifting inspirational swell and ornate arrangement, was released as a single and reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100. His efforts earned him a win for best original score at the Academy Awards.
The success led him to other film work. Notably, he composed the soundtrack for the original Blade Runner, as well as Carl Sagan’s PBS documentary series Cosmos. Outside of composing scores, Vangelis was prolific in his solo career, regularly releasing albums up until 2021’s Juno to Jupiter.
While he was most associated with the synthesizer, the instrument was also a source of frustration for him. “I’ve been using synthesizers for so many years, but they’ve never been designed properly. They create a lot of problems.” he told NPR in 2016. “The computers have completely different logic than the human logic.” So for his 2016 record Rosetta, dedicated to the space probe of the same name, he built his own synthesizer.
Vangelis had a lifelong interest in space which was reflected in his music — in its breadth and atmosphere. He believed that there was something inherent in humans to want to discover — whether that meant up in the sky or in a studio. For Vangelis, becoming a musician was never a conscious decision. “It’s very difficult not to make music,” Vangelis told NPR in 1977. “It’s as natural as I eat, as I make love. Music is the same.”
Vangelis, who gave the movie Chariots of Fire its signature synth-driven sound, died on the May 17, 2022 in a hospital in Paris, due to heart failure.. He was 79 years old.
July 25, 2017 – Michael Johnson was born on August 8, 1944 in the small town of Alamosa, Colorado and grew up in Denver. He started playing the guitar at 13. In 1963, he began attending Colorado State University to study music but his college career was truncated when he won an international talent contest two years later. First prize included a deal with Epic Records. Epic released the song “Hills”, written and sung by Johnson, as a single. Johnson began extensive touring of clubs and colleges, finding a receptive audience everywhere he went.
Wishing to hone his instrumental skills, he set off for Barcelona, Spain in 1966, to the Liceu Conservatory, studying with the eminent classical guitarists, Graciano Tarragó and Renata Tarragó. Upon his return to the States in late 1967, he joined Randy Sparks in a group called the New Society and did a tour of the Orient.Continue reading Michael Johnson 7/2017
February 19, 2017 – Larry Coryell was born Lorenz Albert Van DeLinder III on April 2, 1943 in Galveston, Texas. His biological father was a musician of German descent “who chased a lot of women”, but Larry never knew him as he was raised by his mother and stepfather Gene Coryell. His interest in music started when his mother encouraged him to learn the piano at age 4. At age 14 he became more interested in guitar and studied the works of Tal Farlow, Barney Kessel, and Johnny Smith. When he was 16 he ran off to join a rock band. The self-labeled “black sheep of the family,” he also “knocked up” his girlfriend. “It was traumatic to me.” Her parents sent the girl away, and she married someone else after giving birth to a daughter. (“I’ve never seen the kid,”) To cope with his emotions, Coryell plunged into practice sessions, copying a Wes Montgomery record until he knew every difficult lick by heart. He still regards that bit of discipline as a “minor catalyst” in his career. Bands he joined in those early days were the Jailers, the Rumblers, the Royals, and the Flames. He also played with the Checkers from nearby Yakima, Washington. He then moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington in an attempt to become a journalist. While there he played in a number of popular Northwest bands, including the Dynamics, while living in Seattle. But in 1965 the changing culture of the sixties in the US made him move to the mecca of folk rock and jazz guitar, New York City, where he first attended Mannes School of Music to study classical guitar.Continue reading Larry Coryell 2/2017
January 25, 2017 – Tom Edwards (Adam’s Ants) was born on February 21, 1975 in Ipswich, England. Little is officially known about his early days, except that he grew up in a normal family and his dad “Bib” had musical talents. From what I could find, Tom must have chosen the path of music rather early on in his life. He grew up in Bildeston and went to Great Cornard Upper School where he fostered a love of music that would go on to become his livelihood.
And reflecting on what I learned via Google, Facebook and several more websites, I learned that Tom was a more than adequate guitar player, who shared his talents easily and with many. His life was music from the occult to straight forward classic rock. He made a living in the performance of music and it took him around the globe with various bands and outfits such as Adam Ant, Roddy Frame, Fields of the Nephilim, Rebelles, Edwyn Collins, Andrea Corrs, Arno Castens and Spiderbites, as well as his brother Dickon’s band Fosca. Continue reading Tom Edwards 1/2017
January 24, 2017 – Björn Ake Thelin (The Spotnicks) was born on June 27, 1942 in the little village of Stöde about 25 miles west from the Swedish town of Sundsvall. He grew up in Frölunda, but lived with his family in northwestern Skåne for many years.
He joined The Spotnicks in 1961. The band had its great time in the 1960s when they became famous for their great instrumental guitar fire works and stage dressing in the form of space suits.
The group toured around the world and was very popular in countries such as West Germany, Japan, France and Mexico.The band sold in excess of 20 million albums. Quite a feat in those early days of rock and roll.
The Spotnicks originated from a duo, “The Rebels” (1956), formed by Bo Starander (rhythm guitar, vocals), and Björn Thelin (bass guitar). They were joined by lead guitarist Bo Winberg and became “Rock-Teddy and the Blue Caps” in 1957 in Gothenburg. He became Gothenburg’s rock king in 1958, like Rock-Teddy, in a competition in Göteborg’s concert hall with the Blue Caps companion group. In 1958 they added Ove Johansson (drums), changed their name to “The Frazers”, and began playing regularly in local clubs. They signed a recording contract in 1961, and changed their name to “The Spotnicks”, a play on the Russian satellite Sputnik as suggested by their manager, Roland Ferneborg. Starander was later known as Bob Lander.
January 23, 2017 – Bobby Freeman was born on June 13, 1940 in Alameda County and raised in San Francisco.
By his early teens Bobby was not only literally singing on street corners in the city’s Fillmore District but also spending every hour not in school dancing at the Booker T Washington community centre. He got his first taste of the record business as a tenor with a local vocal group led by Alvin Thomas; the Romancers, who made two singles for Dootsie Williams’ Dootone label in 1955. The group cut a further single for the local Bay Tone label (on which Freeman does not appear) before splintering, while Bobby formed another team, the Vocaleers. Having learned piano from Thomas, Freeman also began to write his own material in the mould of Little Richard and Fats Domino.
Itinerant deejay Jim “Specs”Hawthorne caught the group at a football rally at Mission High School in early 1958 and called for an audition at Sound Recorders. The rest of the Vocaleers weren’t interested, and so it was just Freeman and a bongo-playing pal who showed up at Sound Recorders in San Francisco. “Hawthorne asked, do you have any original songs, and I said yeah,” Bobby recounted to me in 2000. “He said OK, when I do this [points], start doing the material. There were some other songs, ‘Follow The Rainbow’, ‘Responsible’, and then we got into ‘Do You Wanna Dance’. Where the break is, the song was over. But Hawthorne wanted to get his money’s worth with whatever he was being charged, so he told me, do some more. That’s why the song starts up again – it wasn’t designed that way. But now, they call that a hook.”Continue reading Bobby Freeman 1/2017
January 23, 2017 – Marvell Thomas was born in Memphis Tennessee on August 22, 1941. The Thomas family is rooted in music and especially Memphis Soul. Legendary rock and roll pioneer Rufus (Walking the Dog) was his dad. His sisters Carla and Vaneese were much noted, especially Carla (the Queen of Memphis Soul) reached superstardom.
The eldest child of Rufus and Lorene Thomas, Marvell was born in 1941 and grew up in the shadow of Beale Street, where his father performed. “You could call it a second home,” Thomas said in 2011. “It was just three blocks from our house. I was a little kid, 5 years old, running up and down Beale Street all the time, much to my parents’ chagrin when they found out. Of course, I was there a lot legitimately too, when my father was hosting the talent show every Thursday night at the Palace Theatre.”Continue reading Marvell Thomas 1/2017
January 13, 2017 – Richie Ingui (The Soul Survivors) was born the November 15, 1947 in Manhattan, New York.
The predecessor group was formed in New York City in 1965 by Richie and his brother Charlie Ingui, along with Kenny Jeremiah. They first played together under the name The Dedications. (Jeremiah released several singles under this name in 1962 and 1964). They adopted the name Soul Survivors in 1965 and signed to Philadelphia label Crimson Records, who put them in touch with Gamble & Huff. “Expressway to Your Heart” was a #1 hit regionally in Philadelphia and New York in the fall of 1967, and the tune reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 nationally. “Expressway to Your Heart” spent 15 weeks in the charts and sold over one million copies. Continue reading Richie Ingui 1/2017
Feb 17, 2014 – Bob Casale Jr. aka Bob 2 -(Devo) was born Robert Edward Pizzute, Jr on July 14, 1952 in Kent, Ohio. His birth name was Pizzute because his father had legally changed his name from Robert Edward Casale to that of his foster parents.
He originally trained as a medical radiation technologist, but was recruited by his brother Gerald Casale to join his band, the new wave band Devo. In Devo concerts, Bob played lead-rhythm guitar and keyboards while working with MIDI sampling. He also sang backup vocals both on album and at live shows.
March 7, 2013 – Peter Banks (Yes) was born Peter Brockbanks on July 15th 1947 in Barnet, North London. He learned to play the guitar on an acoustic his dad bought for him and banjo as a sidekick.
Banks started his career in music with The Nighthawks in 1963 and played his first concert at the New Barnet Pop Festival before leaving that band to join The Devil’s Disciples in 1964. The band consisted of Banks on guitar, John Tite on vocals, Ray Alford on bass and Malcolm “Pinnie” Raye on drums. They recorded two songs on an acetate, Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On” (a hit for the Stones a little later) and Graham Gouldman’s (10CC) “For Your Love” which would be a hit record for The Yardbirds one year later. These two songs can be found on Banks’ archival album Can I Play You Something. Continue reading Peter Banks 3/2013
December 4, 2011 – Hubert Sumlin was born on November 16, 1931 near Greenwood, Mississippi, and grew up across the river in Hughes, Arkansas, where he took up the guitar as a child; by his teens he was playing for local functions, sometimes with the harmonica player James Cotton. The first time Sumlin saw Howlin’ Wolf in action, as he told Living Blues magazine in 1989, he was too young to get into the club, so he climbed on to some Coca-Cola boxes to peer through a window; the boxes shifted and Sumlin fell into the room, landing on Wolf’s head. After the gig, Wolf drove him home and asked his mother not to punish him. “I followed him ever since,” Sumlin said.
At the time Wolf was working with the guitarists Willie Johnson and Pat Hare, but Sumlin was occasionally permitted to sit in. Then, in 1953, Howlin’ Wolfleft the south for Chicago, where he would develop his music on the bustling club scene and in the studios of Chess Records. In spring 1954, he sent for Sumlin to join him, and soon afterwards the 23-year-old guitarist was heard on records such as Evil and Forty-Four, and a couple of years later the sublime Smokestack Lightning, though for a while he played second to more experienced guitarists like Johnson and Jody Williams.
August 29, 2011 – David “Honeyboy” Edwards American blues guitarist and singer, born in Shaw, Mississippi on June 28th 1915. At 14 he he left home to travel with bluesman Big Joe Williams.
Honeyboy was a part of many of the seminal moments of the blues. As Honeyboy writes in “The World Don’t Own Me Nothing”, “…it was in ’29 when Tommy Johnson come down from Crystal Springs, Mississippi. He was just a little guy, tan colored, easy-going; but he drank a whole lot. At nighttime, we’d go there and listen to Tommy Johnson play.” Honeyboy continues, ” Listening to Tommy, that’s when I really learned something about how to play guitar.”
Honeyboy’s life has been intertwined with almost every major blues legend, including Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, Big Joe Williams, Rice “Sonny Boy Williamson” Miller, Howlin’ Wolf, Peetie Wheatstraw, Sunnyland Slim, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Walter, Little Walter, Magic Sam, Muddy Waters, and … well, let’s just say the list goes on darn near forever!
He performed with and was a friend of blues legend Robert Johnson, the King of the Delta Blues, and was reportedly present on the night Johnson drank poisoned whiskey which eventually killed him three days later. The two traveled together, performing on street corners and at picnics, dances and fish fries during the 1930s.
“We would walk through the country with our guitars on our shoulders, stop at people’s houses, play a little music, walk on,” Mr. Edwards said in an interview with the blues historian Robert Palmer, recalling his peripatetic years with Johnson. “We could hitchhike, transfer from truck to truck, or, if we couldn’t catch one of them, we’d go to the train yard, ’cause the railroad was all through that part of the country then.” He added, “Man, we played for a lot of peoples.
On Saturday, somebody like me or Robert Johnson would go into one of these little towns, play for nickels and dimes. And sometimes, you know, you could be playin’ and have such a big crowd that it would block the whole street. Then the police would come around, and then I’d go to another town and where I could play at. But most of the time, they would let you play. Then sometimes the man who owned a country store would give us something like a couple of dollars to play on a Saturday afternoon. We could hitchhike, transfer from truck to truck, or if we couldn’t catch one of them, we’d go to the train yard, ’cause the railroad was all through that part of the country then…we might hop a freight, go to St. Louis or Chicago. Or we might hear about where a job was paying off – a highway crew, a railroad job, a levee camp there along the river, or some place in the country where a lot of people were workin’ on a farm. You could go there and play and everybody would hand you some money. I didn’t have a special place then. Anywhere was home. Where I do good, I stay. When it gets bad and dull, I’m gone.”
American music roots Folklorist Alan Lomax recorded David in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1942 for the Library of Congress, recording 15 album sides of music.
The songs included “Wind Howlin’ Blues” and “The Army Blues”. He did not record again commercially until 1951, when he recorded “Who May Be Your Regular Be” for Arc Records under the name of Mr Honey. Honeyboy also cut “Build A Cave” as ‘Mr. Honey’ for Artist.
Having moved to Chicago in the early fifties, Honeyboy played small clubs and street corners with Floyd Jones, Johnny Temple, and Kansas City Red. In 1953, Honeyboy recorded several songs for Chess that remained un-issued until “Drop Down Mama” was included in an anthology release.
He claims to have written several well-known blues songs including “Long Tall Woman Blues” and “Just Like Jesse James”. His discography for the 1950s and 1960s amounts to nine songs from seven sessions.
In 1972, Honeyboy met Michael Frank, and the two soon became fast friends. In 1976, they hit the North Side Blues scene as The Honeyboy Edwards Blues Band, as well as performing as a duo on occasion. Michael founded Earwig Records, and in 1979 Honeyboy and his friends Sunnyland Slim, Kansas City Red, Floyd Jones, and Big Walter Horton recorded “Old Friends”. From 1974 to 1977, he recorded material for a full length LP, I’ve Been Around, released in 1978.
Honeyboy’s early Library of Congress performances and more recent recordings were combined on “Delta Bluesman”, released by Earwig in 1992.
His release, Roamin and Ramblin, on the Earwig Music label, featured Honeyboy’s old school guitar and vocals – fresh takes on old gems and first time release of historic recordings. New 2007 sessions with harmonica greats Bobby Rush, Billy Branch and Johnny “Yard Dog” Jones, previously unreleased 1975 studio recordings of Honeyboy and Big Walter Horton, and circa 1976 concert tracks — solo and with Sugar Blue. Michael Frank, Paul Kaye, Rick Sherry and Kenny Smith also play on the album on various tracks. Honeyboy and Bobby Rush also tell some short blues tales.
David Honeyboy Edwards, the “Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen” continued his rambling life, touring the world well into his 90s, only just retiring July 17th 2011. A little over a month later he passed away from heart failure on August 29, 2011 at the age of 96.
He was inducted in 1996 into the Blues Hall of Fame.
Honeyboy was awarded a Grammy Award in 2008 for Best Traditional Blues Album, on which he appeared with Robert Lockwood, Henry Townsend and Pinetop Perkins and in 2010 was warded a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement.
July 24, 2011 –DanPeek (America) was born on November 1st 1950 in Panama City, Florida as his dad was in the US Airforce.
Via a short stay in Pakistan, the family ended up in London, England and it was at London Central High School, a school for children of U.S. armed services personnel, where he met Bunnell and Beckley. All three were musically inclined, and when they decided to form a band, they wanted to avoid anyone thinking they were Brits trying to sound American, so they settled on the name America.
February 6, 2011 –Gary Moore, who wrote and played “Still Got the Blues for You” and “Parisienne Walkways” into a daily highlight in my musical playlist, passed away on February 6, 2011 at age 58, while on vacation in Spain, reportedly after a night of excessive drinking and partying.
Gary Moore was a guitar talent that only comes around a couple of times in a generation. Jimi, Eric, Gary, Duane and Hughie Thomasson are the five that fill my High Five, as I’m witnessing our generation extending a welcome to those who learned from the great ones, like Joe Bonamassa and Kenny Wayne Sheppard and now show their talent to a new generation.
Robert William Gary Moore was born on 4 April 1952 and grew up on Castleview Road opposite Stormont Parliament Buildings, off the Upper Newtownards Road in east Belfast, Northern Ireland as one of five children of Bobby, a promoter, and Winnie, a housewife. He left the city as a teenager, because of troubles in his family – his parents parted a year later – just as The Troubles – political violence, were starting in Northern Ireland.
January 11, 2010 – Michael Robert “Mick” Green (the Pirates) was born on 22 February 1944 in Matlock Derbyshire, England but grew up in Wimbledon, south-west London, in the same block of flats as Johnny Spence and Frank Farley.
The three would eventually form a band that would play together for almost 50 years. Green met Farley in rather maverick circumstances; he fell out of a tree and landed on him. His first meeting with Spence was more conventional – Green turned up at Spence’s door holding a guitar and said: “I hear you know the opening bit to Cumberland Gap. Can you teach me?” The result was one of the most original guitarists Britain has ever produced.
The trio formed the Wayfaring Strangers in 1956, a skiffle band. Entering a competition at the Tottenham Royal Ballroom, the youngsters came second to a band called the Quarrymen, who later achieved success as the Beatles.
June 2, 2008 – Bo Diddley was bornEllas Otha Bates, later becoming Ellas McDaniel on December 30, 1928 in McComb, Mississippi. He was adopted and raised by his mother’s cousin, Gussie McDaniel, whose surname he assumed. In 1934, the McDaniel family moved to the South Side of Chicago, where he dropped the Otha and became Ellas McDaniel.
As he grew into a teenager he became an active member of his local Ebenezer Baptist Church, studying the trombone and the violin, becoming proficient enough for the musical director to invite him to join the orchestra playing violin, in which he performed until the age of 18. Around that age he became more interested in the pulsating, rhythmic music he heard at a local Pentecostal church and took up the guitar. Continue reading Bo Diddley 6/2008
March 21, 2008 – Klaus Dinger (Kraftwerk) was born on March 24th 1946 in Scherfede and brought up in Düsseldorf. Influenced by UK rock acts such as The Kinks and The Rolling Stones, he formed a band in 1966 called The No. Other members were friends Norbert Körfer, Lutz Bellman and Jo Maassen.
February, 26, 2008 – George Allen ”Buddy” Miles, Jr. (Band of Gypsies) was born on September 5, 1947 in Omaha, Nebraska. Buddy’s father played upright bass for the likes of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, and Dexter Gordon and by age 12, Miles Jr. had joined Miles Sr. in his touring band, The Bebops. In 1964, at the age of 16, Miles met Jimi Hendrix at a show in Montreal, Canada, where both were performing as sidemen for other artists.
“He was playing in the Isley Brothers band and I was with Ruby & The Romantics,” Miles remembered, adding: “He had his hair in a pony-tail with long sideburns. Even though he was shy, I could tell this guy was different. He looked rather strange, because everybody was wearing uniforms and he was eating his guitar, doing flip-flops and wearing chains.”Continue reading Buddy Miles 2/2008
December 5, 2007 –Karlheinz Stockhausen was born on August 22, 1928 near Cologne in Germany. I have hesitated celebrating him in this Ode to Rock and Roll, because strictly spoken he is a composer of music. In the end I felt in favor of inclusion because so many rock performers have admitted to be influenced by the man’s incredible body of work created in electronic music. Pink Floyd, Zappa, the Who, Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Bjørk, Kraftwerk, the Beatles, all reflect his influence on their own avant-garde experiments as well as the general fame and notoriety he had achieved by that time.
As a composer he is widely acknowledged by critics as one of the most important composers of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Critics have called him “one of the great visionaries of 20th-century music”. He is known for his ground-breaking work in electronic music, aleatory in serial composition, and musical.
March 19, 2007 – Luther Ingram was born in Jackson, Tennessee on November 30, 1937. Starting out with his brothers as The Gardenias in Alton, Ill., Ingram went on to a solo career with Koko Records, which was distributed by the famous Stax label.
His early interest in music led to him making his first record in 1965 at the age of 28. His first three recordings failed to chart but that changed when he signed for KoKo Records in the late 1960s, and his first hit “My Honey And Me” peaked at #55 on the Billboard Hot 100 on 14 February 1970. Many of his songs appeared in the pop and R&B charts, even though Koko was only a small label, owned by his manager and record producer, Johnny Baylor. Koko and Baylor were closely associated with the Memphis based Stax Records label during the height of its commercial success.
November 23, 2006 – April Lawton (Ramatan) was born on July 30th 1948 on Long Island New York. As guitar virtuoso, singer, and composer she came to notice in the early 70s as the lead guitarist of the criminally underrated rock band Ramatam, which also included former Iron Butterfly guitarist Mike Pinera and the former Jimi Hendrix drummer Mitch Mitchell. With Jimi just dead, she was hailed as the female Jimi Hendrix by many, and her style was a mix of Jeff Beck, Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Alan Holdsworth. When Pinera and Mitchell left after the self titled debut album, she stayed with Ramatam for “In April Came the Dawning of the Red Suns”, in my opinion one of the most incredibly versatile albums ever recorded. Continue reading April Lawton 11/2006
November 5, 2005 –Link Wray (Frederic Lincoln) was born in Dunn, North Carolina on May 2nd, 1929. Link’s family was very poor. As Link has said, “Elvis came from welfare, I came from below welfare.” Link’s mom was Shawnee Indian sporting his interest in music when Link was 8. He was sitting on the porch trying to play guitar when an old black guitar player named HAMBONE walked by and taught him the sound of the blues. Link has said as soon as HAMBONE started playing bottleneck slide guitar, he was hooked. He knew what he wanted to do. At age 13, Link’s family moved to Portsmouth, Virginia.
Link’s first band was in the late 40’s with his brothers Vernon and Doug, playing Western Swing. As Link put it, “rock and roll before it was rock and roll.”
July 6, 2004 – Syreeta Wright was born on August 3, 1946.
Wright was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1946, and started singing at age four. Her father died while serving in the Korean War and Wright and her two sisters, Yvonne and Kim, were raised by their mother Essie and their grandmother. The Wrights moved back and forth from Detroit to South Carolina before finally settling in Detroit just as Wright entered high school.
Money problems kept Wright from pursuing a career in ballet so she focused her attention on a music career joining several singing groups before landing a job as a receptionist for Motown in 1965. Within a year, she became a secretary for Mickey Stevenson, just as Martha Reeves had done before her.
March 13, 2003 – Sammy Samwell was born Ian Ralph Sawmill on January 19th 1937.
Not many residents in Sacramento, California knew that a British rock legend walked among them for two decades prior to his death. He was a gentle soul, a music-biz lifer, and the twinkle in his eye belied more rock influence than most players here could conjure up in a lifetime.
Imagine being a pivotal player in rock ’n’ roll in 1958—that was just a handful of years after Jackie Brenston made the very first rock ’n’ roll song, “Rocket 88,” and one year after Elvis was drafted. It was when guitarist Samwell, then 21, penned “Move It” for his band’s lead singer, Cliff Richard, the first British rock star.
In 1999, that shakin’-all-over ditty was voted one of the top 10 rock ’n’ roll records of all time by BBC Radio. In America, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tapped it as one of 500 songs that shaped the genre. Most importantly, John Lennon called “Move It” the most influential British record ever made.
March 26, 2002 – Joe Schermie (Three Dog Night) was born Joseph Edward Schermetzler on February 12th 1946 in Menasha near Madison, Wisconsin.
Joe grew up in a musical family. His parents were both in vaudeville and when they finally left the road to settle, they bought a nightclub in Madison. Joe and his sister, Judy, would sneak in and watch the shows. Outside of the club, the Schermetzler family spent many hours singing and performing together at home – each taking a different instrument and/or singing. Joe, himself, learned to play drums and then bass.
After Joe’s family relocated to Phoenix, Arizona, to facilitate to his mother’s health, Joe started hanging with various bands in the area. Along the line, he was introduced to Cory Wells, and, eventually, Joe was able to bring his good friend, Michael Allsup, into the new musical project called Three Dog Night,(the name was chosen because Aborigines slept with their dogs for warmth and a bitterly cold night was a “three dog night”), which would also include Jimmy Greenspoon, Danny Hutton, Floyd Sneed, and Chuck Negron. Joe’s destinctive, hard-driving bass lines can be heard in all the 21 biggest hits by the band up to 1973, when he was the first to leave the band
Disillusioned with his role in the group, he left the band in ’73 and in the years after leaving Three Dog Night, Joe performed with various famous recording artists both in and out of the studio. In the studio, he recorded with Kim Fowley on his “Outrageous” album and Stephen Stills on his “Stills” album. Joe also went out on the road with Yvonne Elliman in support of her hit single, “If I Can’t Have You,” and he ventured into production with his first effort being that of Gayle McCormick’s first solo, self-titled, album after leaving the hit-making group, “Smith.”
In 1976 he formed a group ‘S.S.Fools’ (after the Three Dog Night album Seven Separate Fools) that included former members of Three Dog Night, Michael Allsup and Floyd Sneed and later Toto vocalist Bobby Kimball, as well as Stan Seymore and Wayne Devilliers and they recorded an album on Columbia Records. But by the end of the seventies the band was history.
The 1990s were also a good time for Joe. He thoroughly enjoyed playing live and joined Chuck Negron on stage for a few shows, becoming a member of Chuck’s band for a brief time around 1997. Not long after that, he joined good friend, Floyd Sneed, in the formation of a rock group called “K.A.T.T.” (Katt and the Time Trippers) and, with the band, recorded his last album – a self-titled effort.
From the very early days, Joe always had a troll doll proudly displayed at the top of the neck of his bass. Through the years, those dolls would be stolen or lost, but he would always replace them. He never told anyone why they were there – not even his sister! The unique “dancing” he did while he was playing was a style he picked up from another family member early in his life.
Joe appeared on the cooking show Food Rules in 2000 with original Three Dog Night drummer Floyd Sneed.
Joe Schermie died unexpectedly of a heart attack on March 26, 2002 at the age of 56.
Three Dog Night founding bassist Joe Schermie was their soul-inspired harmonic bedrock: always in the pocket, rendering all the right notes with a diversity of rhythmic variations, and allowing space within the songs for their remarkable triumvirate of singers to shine. Joe was a true finesse player with a rock ‘n’ roll edge: a rarity for LA studio cats in those days.
March 21, 2002 – Speedy Keen was born John David Percy Keen on March 29th 1945. Speedy became vocalist, songwriter, keyboardist and drummer for Thunderclap Newman, a band The Who’s guitarist Pete Townshend created in 1969, to play and record songs written by ‘Speedy’, who had been The Who’s roadie and chauffeur for Peter.
Originally Peter Townsend, with whom Keen shared a flat, played bass for the band under the pseudonym Bijou Drains. Speedy wrote The Who’s “Armenia City in the Sky”, the only song The Who ever performed that was specifically written for the group by a non-member.
Speedy’s mega hit number one song “Something In The Air” , which he also sang, appeared on the soundtracks of the films The Magic Christian (1969), The Strawberry Statement (1970) Kingpin (1996), Almost Famous (2000), The Dish (2000) and The Girl Next Door (2004). He also released 2 solo albums (Previous Convictions) and went on to be record producer for the British band The Heartbreakers and Motörhead. “I Promise You” from the second album was used in the American TV series, The Big C.
21 January 2002 – Peggy Lee was bornNorma Deloris Engstrom on May 26th 1920 in Jamestown, North Dakota, the seventh of eight children. Her father was Swedish-American and her mother was Norwegian-American. Her mother died when Peggy was just a four year old toddler. Afterwards, her father married her step-mother Min Schaumber, who treated her with great cruelty while her alcoholic but loving father did little to stop it. As a teenager she developed her musical talent and took several part-time jobs so that she could be away from home to escape the abuse of her step-mother.
Lee first sang professionally over radio in Valley City, North Dakota. She later had her own series on a radio show sponsored by a local restaurant that paid her a salary in food. Both during and after her high school years, Lee sang for small sums on local radio stations. Radio personality Ken Kennedy in Fargo, North Dakota, changed her name from Norma to Peggy Lee. Miss Lee left home and traveled to Los Angeles at the age of 17. Continue reading Peggy Lee 1/2002
March 18, 2001 – John Phillips (Mamas and Papas) was born on August 30th 1935 in Parris Island, South Carolina. His father, Claude Andrew Phillips, was a retired United States Marine Corps officer who won an Oklahoma bar from another Marine in a poker game on the way home from France after World War I. His mother, Edna Gertrude (née Gaines), who had English and Cherokee ancestry, met his father in Oklahoma. According to his autobiography, Papa John, Phillips’ father was a heavy drinker who suffered from poor health.
Phillips grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, where he was inspired by Marlon Brando to be “street tough.” From 1942 to 1946, he attended Linton Hall Military School in Bristow, Virginia; according to his autobiography, he “hated the place,” citing “inspections,” and “beatings,” and recalls that “nuns used to watch us take showers.” He formed a group of teenage boys, who also sang doo-wop songs. He played basketball at George Washington High School, now George Washington Middle School in Alexandria, Virginia, where he graduated in 1953, and gained an appointment to the Naval Academy. However, he resigned during his first (plebe) year. Phillips then attended Hampden–Sydney College, a liberal arts college for men in Hampden Sydney, Virginia, but dropped out in 1959.
July 1, 1995 – Wolfman Jack was born Robert Weston Smith on January 21st 1938 in Brooklyn, New York.
He got his big break when he became a “gofer” at Paramount and began his radio career in 1960 at WYOU in Newport News, Virginia, where he developed his first radio name, Daddy Jules, a tribute to the influence that black DJs had on him in his formative years such as Dr. Jive, Jockey Jack, Professor Bob and Sugar Daddy. He was a fan of disc jockey Alan Freed, the ultimate deejay of New York radio, who helped to turn African-American rhythm and blues into Caucasian rock and roll music. Freed originally called himself the Moondog after New York City street musician Moondog. Freed both adopted this name and used a recorded howl to give his early broadcasts a unique character. Continue reading Wolfman Jack 7/1995
November 4, 1994 – Fred “Sonic” Smith was born on September 13, 1949 in West Virginia, but raised in Detroit.
As a teenager, he lived for music with speed, energy with a rebellious attitude and formed a rock group Smith’s Vibratones, before joining up with his old school pal, Wayne Kramer to form MC5, short for Motor City Five. This influential band released 3 albums before their break up in 1972, Kick Out the Jams in 1969, Back in the USA in 1970, and High Time in 1971. After the band broke up Fred went on to form Sonic’s Rendezvous Band, which released one single, “City Slang”.
December 21, 1992 –Albert King was born Albert Nelson on April 25th 1923 in Indianola, Mississippi, the same town where B.B. King grew up. However, on his Social Security application in 1942, his birthplace was entered as “Aboden, Miss.,” likely based on his pronunciation of Aberdeen. King, who gave his birth date as April 25, 1923, was raised primarily in Arkansas. As a child, he sang with his family’s gospel group at a church where his father played the guitar. When King was eight, his family moved to Forrest City, Arkansas and he would pick cotton on plantations in the area. Around that same time, King bought his first guitar, paying only $1.25. His first inspiration was T-Bone Walker.
January 29, 1992 – Willie Dixon was born July 1st 1915 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His mother Daisy often rhymed the things she said, a habit her son imitated. At the age of seven, young Dixon became an admirer of a band that featured pianist Little Brother Montgomery. He sang his first song at Springfield Baptist Church at the age of four. Dixon was first introduced to blues when he served time on prison farms in Mississippi as an early teenager.
He later learned how to sing harmony from local carpenter Leo Phelps. Dixon sang bass in Phelps’ group The Jubilee Singers, a local gospel quartet that regularly appeared on the Vicksburg radio station WQBC. Dixon began adapting poems he was writing as songs, and even sold some tunes to local music groups. By the time he was a teenager, Dixon was writing songs and selling copies to the local bands. With his bass voice, Dixon later joined a group organized by Phelps, the Union Jubilee Singers, who appeared on local radio. Continue reading Willie Dixon 1/1992
December 6, 1988 –Roy Kelton Orbison was born on April 23, 1936, in Vernon, Texas to Nadine and Orbie Lee. He formed his first band at age 13. The singer-songwriter dropped out of college to pursue music. He signed with Monument Records and recorded such ballads as “Only the Lonely” and “It’s Over.”
Born to a working-class Texan family, Orbison grew up immersed in musical styles ranging from rockabilly and country to zydeco, Tex-Mex and the blues. His dad gave him a guitar for his sixth birthday and he wrote his first song, “A Vow of Love,” in 1944 while staying at his grandmothers. In 1945 he entered and won a contest on KVWC in Vernon and this led to his own radio show singing the same songs every Saturday. By the time Roy was 13 he had formed his own band “The Wink Westerners”. The band appeared weekly on KERB radio in Kermit, Texas. Roy graduated from Wink High School in 1954. He attended North Texas State College in Denton, Texas for a year, and enrolled at Odessa Junior College in 1955 to study history and English. Continue reading Roy Orbison 12/1988
February 9, 1981 – Bill Haley was born on July 6th 1925. He was born in Highland Park, Michigan, but because of the Great Depression on the Detroit area, his father moved the family to Boothwyn, Pennsylvania. For six years Bill was a musical director of Radio Station WPWA in Chester, Pennsylvania, leading his own band The Saddlemen all through this period and in 1951 they made their first recordings. They renamed themselves Bill Haley with Haley’s Comets on Labour Day 1952.
Bill Haley and his Comets were there before Presley, Holly and Berry, playing rock & roll before it even had a name, and is credited by many for being the first popularizing this form of music in the early 1950s. Their hit song “Rock Around the Clock” went around the world for many decades. Continue reading Bill Haley 2/1981
December 29, 1976 – Freddie King was born September 3, 1934 in Gilmer, Texas. His mother told him that her father (who was a full-blooded Choctaw Indian) prophesied to her that she would have a child that will stir the souls of millions and inspire and influence generations. So she mother and his uncle Leon began teaching him to play guitar at the age of six.
His first guitar was a Silvertone acoustic. His most prized guitar at that time was his Roy Roger acoustic. In a interview years later he recalled going to the general store to order it. The store owner asked him if his mother knew he was trying to order a guitar on her store account. Freddie replied ” no”. The store owner told him to get permission. His mother said “no”. She told him, “if you want a new guitar you will have to work for it.” He stated that he picked cotton just long enough to earn the money to purchase a Roger’s guitar. Continue reading Freddie King 12/1976
December 20, 1973 – Bobby Darin was born Walden Robert Perciville Cassotto on May 14, 1936. Darin rose from poor beginnings in Harlem and the South Bronx, New York where he fought rheumatic fever as a child, which damaged his heart and plagued him throughout his life. As a result of these obstacles, he worked extremely hard to overcome them. Knowing his life would not be a long one, his ambition to succeed was fueled by an overwhelming desire to make it big in show business. By the time he was a teenager he could play several instruments quite proficiently, including piano, drums and guitar, he later added harmonica and xylophone.
Wanting a career in the New York theater, he dropped out of college after a year to play small nightclubs around the city with a musical combo. In the resort area of the Catskill Mountains, he was both an entertainer and a busboy. For the most of his teenage years Bobby was a comedy drummer and an ambitious vocalist. Continue reading Bobby Darin 12/1973
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