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Robert Bilbo Walker 11/2017

November 29, 2017 – Robert Bilbo Walker Jr. was born on February 19, 1937, on the Borden Plantation in Clarksdale, in the heart of the Mississippi Delta.

Walker was named after his father, Robert “Bilbo” Walker Sr., who was also nicknamed “Bilbo” — that’s how Walker Jr. acquired the nickname, which he hates. As he explains in the liner notes to Promised Land, people in his Clarksdale home would distinguish between his father and him by referring to them as Big Bilbo and Little Junior Bilbo. Later, after he began making a name for himself in Delta juke joints, Walker was called Chuck Berry Jr.
Walker was a completely self-taught musician who played piano, guitar, and drums. He got his musical education thanks to his father, who would have “Little Junior Bilbo” playing piano behind a curtain at country juke joints around his native Clarksdale. Continue reading Robert Bilbo Walker 11/2017

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DikMik 11/2017

November 16, 2017 – DikMik (Hawkwind) was born Michael Davies in 1943 in Richmond, England.

In 1969, DikMik Davies and friend Nik Turner signed on as roadies for the group that Dave Brock, a childhood friend of theirs, had formed with guitarist Mick Slattery, bassist John Harrison and drummer Terry Ollis.

It was the time of early psychedelics and electronic music and DikMik’s interest in the burgeoning genre of electronic music had led to him being offered a slot in the psychedelic space rock band Hawkwind, before even their first gig of .

Gatecrashing a local talent night at the All Saints Hall, Notting Hill, they were so disorganised as to not even have a name, opting for “Group X” at the last minute, nor any songs, choosing to play an extended 20-minute jam on The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High.” BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel was in the audience and was impressed enough to tell event organizer, Douglas Smith, to keep an eye on them. Continue reading DikMik 11/2017

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Fats Domino 10/2017

October 24, 20017 – Antoine Dominique Fats Domino was born on February 26, 1928 in New Orleans, Louisiana, the youngest of eight in a Louisiana Creole family. At age 9, he started to learn piano, taught by his brother-in-law, jazz guitarist Harrison Verrett. By age 14, Domino was performing in New Orleans bars.

In 1947, Billy Diamond, a New Orleans bandleader, accepted an invitation to hear the young pianist perform at a backyard barbecue. Domino played well enough that Diamond asked him to join his band, the Solid Senders, at the Hideaway Club in New Orleans, where he would earn $3 a week playing the piano. Diamond nicknamed him “Fats”, for three reasons: Domino reminded him of the renowned pianists Fats Waller and Fats Pichon, and young Domino’s ferocious appetite.

Continue reading Fats Domino 10/2017

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Grady Tate 10/2017

October 8, 2017 – Grady Tate was born on January 14, 1932 in Hayti, Durham, North Carolina. In 1963 he moved to New York City, where he became the drummer in Quincy Jones’s band.

Grady Tate’s drumming helped to define a particular hard bop, soul jazz and organ trio sound during the mid-1960s and beyond. His slick, layered and intense sound is instantly recognizable for its understated style in which he integrates his trademark subtle nuances with sharp, crisp “on top of the beat” timing (in comparison to playing slightly before, or slightly after the beat). The Grady Tate sound can be heard prominently on many of the classic Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery albums recorded on the Verve label in the 1960s. Continue reading Grady Tate 10/2017

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Frank Capp 9/2017

August 20, 1931 – Frank Capp was born Francis W. Cappuccio on August 20, 1931 in Worcester, Massachusetts. His uncles worked at Walberg and Auge, a percussion accessory manufacturer. One of them brought a pair of drumsticks home when he was four or five years old. He started banging on the furniture with the sticks, and I ultimately became a drummer. At age 14 he worked in the same music manufacturer shop which got him to the next phase of drumming. And when his dad later bought him his first Slingerland kit, he started a high school dance band and drumming became his life.

At age 19 he was recommended by a mutual friend and began playing with Stan Kenton in California starting in 1951 and remained with Kenton for a couple of years.This auspicious beginning was followed by a career as one of the hardest-working studio players in Los Angeles and as a drummer sought after by some of the world’s biggest singing stars and bandleaders—accomplishments that have almost been eclipsed by his success as a musical contractor. Continue reading Frank Capp 9/2017

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Hedley Jones 9/2017

September 1, 2017 – Hedley Jones (the Wailers) was born on November 12, 1917 in near Linstead, Jamaica, the son of David and Hettie Jones, and started making music as a child. He made his own cello at the age of 14, as well as a banjo. In 1935 he moved to Kingston, where he heard Marcus Garvey speak, and worked as a tailor, cabinet maker, bus conductor, repairing sewing machines, radios and gramophones. He said: “I was what people called a jack of all trades. I could fix everything.” His main work was as a proofreader, with the Gleaner and Jamaica Times.

He also played banjo in a Hawaiian jazz band, before forming his own Hedley Jones Sextet. Inspired by the recordings of Charlie Christian, but unable to afford an imported guitar, he built himself a solid-bodied electric guitar, and was featured with it on the front page of The Gleaner in September 1940, at about the same time that Les Paul was doing similar pioneering work in the US. Jones continued to build guitars for other Jamaican musicians in the years that followed. Continue reading Hedley Jones 9/2017

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Corki Casey O’Dell 5/2017

May 11, 2017 – Corki Casey O’Dell was born Vivian J. Ray Casey on May 13, 1936 in Phoenix, Arizona where she grew up as teenage guitarists with the likes of Lee Hazlewood, Sanford Clark and Duane Eddy.

In 1956, she joined then-husband, guitarist Al Casey, playing rhythm guitar on Sanford Clark’s country, pop and R&B hit “The Fool,” which would later be recorded by Elvis Presley, among others. The tune was penned by songwriter-producer Lee Hazelwood, who would use O’Dell on several of the sessions he produced.  Continue reading Corki Casey O’Dell 5/2017

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Clive Brooks 5/2017

Clive Brooks,center, with EggMay 5, 2017 – Clive Brooks was born on December 28, 1949 in Bow, East London where he  was also raised.

Answering a Melody Maker ad in early 1968, Brooks joined Uriel, a blues-rock group in the style of Hendrix / Cream / blues / psychedelic group original formed by three City of London School pupils Dave Stewart (keyboards), Mont Campbell (bass and lead vocals) and Steve Hillage (guitar and vocals). The band re-grouped later under the name Arzachel and released one album in 1969, after they had already changed musical direction. Continue reading Clive Brooks 5/2017

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John “J” Geils 4/2017

J.Geils, guitarist for the J.Geils BandApril 11, 2017 – John Warren “J” Geils was born on February 20, 1946, in New York City and grew up in Morris Plains, New Jersey. His father was an engineer at Bell Labs and a jazz and vintage car fan, two passions little John Geils’s took with him for the rest of his life. For his 10th birthday, his father took him to see Louis Armstrong. For his 13th birthday, he went with his father to see Miles Davis. Drawn to jazz early, he said he did not have the ”chops,” or jazz virtuosity, but discovered that he could play the blues. The chops are something he developed later in life, after the whirlwind years of touring with the J. Geils Band. Continue reading John “J” Geils 4/2017

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Chuck Berry 3/2017

chuck berry rock and roll legendMarch 18, 2017 – Charles Edward Anderson “Chuck” Berry was born on October 18, 1926 in St. Louis Missouri. Chuck was the fourth child in a family of six. He grew up in the north St. Louis neighborhood known as The Ville, an area where many middle-class people lived at the time. His father, Henry, was a contractor and deacon of a nearby Baptist church; his mother, Martha, was a certified public school principal. His upbringing allowed him to pursue his interest in music from an early age. He gave his first public performance in 1941 while still a student at Sumner High School.
In 1944, while still a student at Sumner High School, he was arrested for armed robbery after robbing three shops in Kansas City, Missouri, and then stealing a car at gunpoint with some friends.
Continue reading Chuck Berry 3/2017

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Joni Sledge 3/2017

Joni Sledge of Sister Sledge

March 10, 2017 – Joni (Joan Elise) Sledge (Sister Sledge) was born on Sept. 13, 1956, in Philadelphia to Edwin Sledge, a performer on Broadway, and Florez Sledge, an actress who oversaw her daughters’ careers as their business manager and traveled with them on tours.

Joni and her sisters, Debbie, Kim and Kathy, received voice training from their grandmother Viola Williams, a former operatic soprano, and gained early experience singing at the family church, Williams Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal.

 

Best known for their work with Chic in the late ’70s, siblings Debbie, Kim, Joni, and Kathy Sledge — collectively Sister Sledge — reached the height of their popularity during the disco era, but had been recording since the early ’70s and were still active in the late ’90s. Continue reading Joni Sledge 3/2017

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George Martin 3/2016

March 8, 2016 – George Martin (the Fifth Beatle) A trained musician, George Martin worked in the BBC’s classical department before moving to EMI and its subsidiary, Parlophone, producing jazz and classical as well as comedy records for Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Peter Ustinov. He was the genius producer behind a wave of hit British acts in the 1960s, including Gerry and the Pacemakers and Cilla Black, but it was his work with four other Liverpudlians that understandably overshadowed them all.

The Beatles auditioned for Martin on 6 June 1962, in studio three at the Abbey Road studios. Ron Richards and his engineer Norman Smith recorded four songs, which Martin (who was not present during the recording) listened to at the end of the session. The verdict was not promising, however, as Richards complained about Pete Best’s drumming, and Martin thought their original songs were simply not good enough. Martin asked the individual Beatles if there was anything they personally did not like, to which George Harrison replied, “Well, there’s your tie, for a start.” That was the turning point, according to Smith, as John Lennon and Paul McCartney joined in with jokes and comic wordplay, that made Martin think that he should sign them to a contract for their wit alone.

Continue reading George Martin 3/2016

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Ben E King 4/2015

Ben E. KingApril 30, 2015 – Ben E King was born on September 28, 1938, became perhaps best known as the singer and co-composer of “Stand by Me”—a US Top 10 hit evergreen, both in 1961 and later in 1986 (when it was used as the theme to the film of the same name), a number one hit in the UK in 1987, and no. 25 on the RIAA’s list of Songs of the Century—and as one of the principal lead singers of the R&B vocal group the Drifters.

When you think of Ben E. King, you don’t think of teenage crushes, even though his songs were the soundtrack for hundreds of millions of them. You think of eternal life and everlasting love, or at least the desire for these things.

Continue reading Ben E King 4/2015

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Manitas de Plata 11/2014

Manitas de PlataNovember 6, 2014 – Manitas de Plata was born Ricardo Baliardo on August 7th 1921 in a gypsy caravan in the Mediterranean city of Sète in southern France. He became world famous as Manitas de Plata, the French gitano flamenco virtuoso guitarist, arguably second only to Django Reinhardt

He initially became famous by playing each year at the Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer Gypsy pilgrimage in the Camargue, where he was recorded live by Deben Bhattacharya and only agreed to play in public ten years after the death of Django Reinhardt.

He recorded his first official album in the chapel of Arles in France, in 1963, for the Phillips label. Upon hearing him play at Arles in 1964, Pablo Picasso is said to have exclaimed “that man is of greater worth than I am!” and proceeded to draw on the guitar. Continue reading Manitas de Plata 11/2014

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Gerry Goffin 6/2014

gerry-goffinJune 19, 2014 – Gerald “Gerry” Goffin was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 11, 1939 and grew up in Queens. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve after graduating from Brooklyn Technical High School. After spending a year at the U.S. Naval Academy, he resigned from the Navy to study chemistry at Queens College.

While attending Queens College in 1958 he met Carol Klein, who had started writing songs under the name Carole King. They began collaborating on songwriting, with Carol writing the music and Gerry the lyrics, and…. began a relationship. Goffin had written the lyrics for a musical but needed someone to write the music. King didn’t like musicals; she liked rock ‘n’ roll. King was driven; Goffin went along. When King became pregnant, they married in August 1959, he was 20 and she was 17.

Continue reading Gerry Goffin 6/2014

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Reggie Tielman 3/2014

reggy-tielman March 13, 2014 – Reggie Tielman (Tielman Brothers) was born on May 20, 1933. Tielman was born in Makassar, Celebes, Dutch East Indies. Both his father, a KNIL captain named Herman Tielman, and his mother, Flora Laurentine Hess, were Indo-European. Aside from Reggie, the couple had 5 children: Reggie, Phonton, Loulou (Lawrence), and Jane (Janette Loraine). When the Japanese invaded the Indonesian Islands, the elder Tielman was imprisoned; Reggie and his siblings were taken care of by his mother. Together with his siblings Ponthon (4 August 1934 – 29 April 2000), Andy (30 May 1936 – 10 November 2011), Loulou (30 october 1938 – 4 August 1994)
Jane Tielman (17 August 1940 – 25 juni 1993) they formed the Tielman brothers in 1945 in Surabaya, Indonesia.

After the Japanese surrendered in 1945, the family was reunited. A few years later, Reggie and his siblings were performing jazz standards at private functions using the musical training their father had given them. They were performing throughout nascent Indonesia, which had proclaimed its independence from the Netherlands after the Japanese surrender. The siblings’ repertoire included both American and traditional Indonesian music.

Continue reading Reggie Tielman 3/2014

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Franny Beecher 2/2014

Franny Beecher24 February, 2014 – Franny Beecher was born on September 29, 1921 in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Franny Beecher joined Bill Haley and the Comets in 1954, replacing guitarist Danny Cedrone, who had died. Frank Beecher had already enjoyed fame as the lead guitarist in the Benny Goodman Orchestra in 1948-49. He appeared on The Toast of the Town show (which later became The Ed Sullivan Show) on CBS television with the Benny Goodman band in December, 1948. He is featured on two Benny Goodman albums, Modern Benny on Capitol and Benny Goodman at the Hollywood Palladium. Personnel lists generally refer to him as Francis Beecher.

Continue reading Franny Beecher 2/2014

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Pete Seeger 1/2014

Pete-Seeger January 27, 2014 – Pete Seeger was born May 3, 1917 born in Midtown Manhattan, New York. Seeger was born into a traditionally pacifistic and highly musical family, which was typically for the era politically translated into communist tendencies. His dad Charles Seeger was hired to establish the music department at the University of California, Berkeley, but was forced to resign in 1918 because of his outspoken pacifism during World War I. His parents divorced when he was seven.
He began playing the ukulele while attending Avon Old Farms, a private boarding school in Connecticut. His father and his stepmother, the composer Ruth Crawford Seeger, collected and transcribed rural American folk music, as did folklorists like John and Alan Lomax.

He heard the five-string banjo, which would become his main instrument, when his father took him to a square-dance festival in North Carolina.
Young Pete became enthralled by rural traditions. “I liked the strident vocal tone of the singers, the vigorous dancing,” he is quoted as saying in “How Can I Keep From Singing,” a biography by David Dunaway. “The words of the songs had all the meat of life in them. Their humor had a bite, it was not trivial. Their tragedy was real, not sentimental.” Continue reading Pete Seeger 1/2014

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Donna Hightower 8/2013

soul diva donna hightowerAugust 19, 2013 – Donna Hightower was born on December 28, 1926 in Caruthersville, Missouri to a family of sharecroppers. She listened to singers such as Ella Fitzgerald in her youth, but never planned to have a singing career and by the age of 23 had been married with two children, and divorced.

While working in a diner in Chicago, she was heard singing by Bob Tillman, a reporter with the Chicago Defender newspaper, who then won her a booking as a singer at the Strand Hotel. Initially billed as Little Donna Hightower, she won a recording contract with Decca Records and recorded her first single, “I Ain’t In The Mood”, in 1951.

Continue reading Donna Hightower 8/2013

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Eydie Gormé 8/2013

singer/songwriter eydie gorméAugust 10, 2013 – Eydie Gormé was born Edith Garmezano on August 16, 1928 in Manhattan, New York, the daughter of Nessim and Fortuna, Sephardic Jewish immigrants. Her father, a tailor, was from Sicily and her mother was from Turkey. Gormé was a cousin of singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka.

She graduated from William Howard Taft High School in 1946 with Stanley Kubrick in her class. She worked for the United Nations as an interpreter, using her fluency in the Ladino and Spanish languages, while singing in Ken Greenglass’s band during the weekends.

Straight out of high school, she also started singing with various big bands in 1950 such as the Tommy Tucker Orchestra and Don Brown.

She changed her name from Edith to Edie but later changed it to Eydie because people constantly mispronounced Edie as Eddie. Gorme also considered changing her family name; however, her mother protested, “It’s bad enough that you’re in show business. How will the neighbors know if you’re ever a success?”

 

Continue reading Eydie Gormé 8/2013

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Bobby Bland 6/2013

BOBBY BLAND June 23, 2013 – Bobby Bland was born Robert Calvin Brooks  in Rosemark, Tennessee on January 27, 1930.

Sometimes called “Lion of the Blues” and “Sinatra of the Blues”, Bobby Bland earned his enduring blues superstar status the hard way: without a guitar, harmonica, or any other instrument to fall back upon. All Bland had to offer was his magnificent voice, a tremendously powerful instrument in his early heyday, injected with charisma and melisma to spare. Just ask his legion of female fans, who deemed him a sex symbol late into his career.

For all his promise, Bland’s musical career ignited slowly. He was a founding member of the Beale Streeters, the fabled Memphis aggregation that also included B.B. King and Johnny Ace. Singles for Chess in 1951 (produced by Sam Phillips) and Modern the next year bombed, but that didn’t stop local DJ David Mattis from cutting Bland on a couple of 1952 singles for his fledgling Duke logo.

Continue reading Bobby Bland 6/2013

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Marshall Lytle 5/2013

marshall-lytleMay 25, 2013 – Marshall Lytle (Bill Haley & His Comets) was born on September 1st 1933 in Old Fort, North Carolina. He was a guitar player before joining Bill Haley’s country music group, The Saddlemen, in 1951, but was hired to play double bass for the group, so Haley taught Marshall the basics of slap bass playing.

In September 1952, they changed their name to Bill Haley & His Comets. Soon after, he co-wrote with Haley the band’s first national hit, “Crazy Man, Crazy” although he did not receive co-authorship credit for it until 2002.

He played on all of Haley’s recordings between 1951 and the summer of 1955, including “Rock Around the Clock”. In September 1955, he, along with drummer Dick Richards and saxophone player Joey Ambrose, quit The Comets in a salary dispute and formed their own musical group, The Jodimars. They became one of the first rock ‘n’ roll groups to take up residence in Las Vegas.

Continue reading Marshall Lytle 5/2013

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Jim Marshall 4/2012

Jim Marshall AmpsApril 5, 2012 – Jim Marshall  Even though Jim Marshall was a drummer who made a good income teaching drums to many British rockstars in the early fifties, his being in these pages is based on his importance to Rock as a builder of Rock’s most important amplifiers and speaker boxes.

It was the physical embodiment of rock’s power and majesty — a wall of black, vinyl-clad cabinets, one atop the other, crowned with a rectangular box containing the innovative circuitry that revolutionized the music.

This was the famed Marshall stack, the amplification gear that has dominated rock stages since its introduction in the early 1960s, bestowing on guitarists the ability to achieve unprecedented volume and controlled distortion.

From the Who, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix in the 1960s on through Peter Frampton, Van Halen, AC/DC, Motley Crue, Guns N’ Roses and Nirvana in succeeding decades, the cursive “Marshall” emblazoned on the speakers has served as an inescapable backdrop signature.

The Marshall stack was so much larger than life that it lent itself to excess as well. The famous amp in the mockumentary “Spinal Tap” with a unique setting of 11 on the dial was a Marshall, and no rock image was more over-the-top than that of KISS’ four members performing in front of some 40 Marshall cabinets.

Of course, they didn’t need that many.

“Hendrix used three 100-watt amps and three stacks,” their inventor Jim Marshall once said. “KISS go a lot further, but most of the cabinets and amps you see on stage are dummies. We once built 80 dummy cabinets for Bon Jovi. They all do it — it’s just backdrop.

“It would be stupid to use more than three 100-watt amps, wherever and whoever you are.”

Marshall died at 88 in an English hospice after suffering from cancer and several severe strokes, his son Terry Marshall told the Associated Press. Musicians, competitors and fans were quick to salute Marshall, who had retained an active role at Marshall Amplification well into his 80s.

Comments on Twitter came from Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx (“R.I.P. Jim Marshall. You were responsible for some of the greatest audio moments in music’s history and 50% of all our hearing loss”), Slash (“The news of Jim Marshall passing is deeply saddening. R & R will never be the same w/out him. But, his amps will live on FOREVER!”) and Megadeth’s David Ellefson (“You made rock n roll what it is for so many of us.”)

“RIP Jim Marshall. Such a huge loss for the music community,” was the sentiment expressed by Fullerton-based Fender Guitars, whose Bassman amplifier served as Marshall’s model when he set about to redefine the technology in 1962.

It was an unlikely undertaking, but Marshall’s life had consistently defied the odds. Born in London on July 29, 1923, he saw his youth interrupted by a case of bone tuberculosis that immobilized him in a hospital from the age of 5 to 13.

When he recovered, he took on menial jobs, began educating himself in engineering, learned to tap dance and became a big band singer and drummer. He worked as a toolmaker for aircraft manufacturers during World War II, but soon music took precedence.

He began giving drum lessons and opened a drum shop in London. One of his students was Mitch Mitchell, who would later introduce him to the leader of his new trio, Hendrix. The shop’s customers included the son of one of Marshall’s big band cohorts, a young rock musician who encouraged Marshall to add guitars and amps to his inventory.

Marshall took Pete Townshend’s advice, and business boomed. When Townshend and friends such as Ritchie Blackmore learned about his technical background, they prodded him to devise an amplifier with more power and rougher tone than the pure, clean-sounding Fenders.

Marshall took on the challenge, working with guitarist-electrician Ken Bran and hiring engineer Dudley Craven away from EMI Records to help him achieve the sound he envisioned. They adapted airplane vacuum tubes into the design, Marshall packed four 12-inch speakers into a tongue-and-groove cabinet whose top half angled slightly upward and they set a 50-watt amplifier on top of it.

They got it right on the sixth prototype, but the rock musicians were becoming intoxicated with the potential of greater volume and soon their urging led to a 100-watt amp powering eight speakers — two of the cabinets in the famed stack formation.

Marshall quickly built his enterprise into a consistently successful firm, adding midrange and low-end lines to the catalog. He twice received the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement and was appointed an officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2004. He was regularly listed among Britain’s wealthiest individuals.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, the man known as “the father of loud” did suffer some hearing problems. But it’s not what you might think.

“My right ear is not very good at all,” he said in a 2005 interview with the New Zealand Herald. “And I’d always put it down to when I was playing the top cymbal, but it was probably the brass section in the orchestras I was playing in the ’50s. So it happened before I was dealing with rock ‘n’ roll.”

Jim Marshall was almost 89 years old when he died from cardiac arrest on 5 April 2012.

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Gene
McDaniels
7/2011

July 29, 2011 – Eugene Booker “Gene” McDaniels was born on February 12th 1935 in Kansas City, Missouri, but grew up in Omaha, Nebraska.

His first performing group, the Echoes of Joy (later the Sultans) — organized when he was 11 — specialized exclusively in gospel music, but McDaniels later started to work popular tunes into their repertoire. Following a citywide singing competition in which he managed to distinguish himself amid the best of all of his peers, he started looking toward music as a career. He later forsook traditional academics in favor of study at the Omaha Conservatory of Music, and made his professional debut as a member of the Mississippi Piney Woods Singers, whose touring got him to the West Coast, where he began performing jazz as a solo singer in his spare time. There, he began singing in jazz clubs, achieving note with the Les McCann Trio, and came to the attention of Sy Waronker of Liberty Records.

After recording two unsuccessful singles and an album, he was teamed with producer Snuff Garrett, with whom he recorded his first hit, “A Hundred Pounds of Clay”, which reached number 3 in the Billboard Hot 100 chart in early 1961 and sold over one million copies, earning gold disc status. Its follow-up, “A Tear”, was less successful but his third single with Garrett, “Tower of Strength”, co-written by Burt Bacharach, reached number 5 and won McDaniels his second gold record. “Tower of Strength” reached number 49 in the UK Singles Chart, losing out to Frankie Vaughan’s chart-topping version.

His hits of the early 1960s, such as A Hundred Pounds of Clay and Tower of Strength, cast him as a suave performer of upbeat pop songs aimed at white teenagers; in his last years he would occasionally take the stage to deliver standards with all the graceful inventiveness of the great jazz singer he might have been.

In between came the event that changed his life, when his protest song Compared to What became an unexpected hit after being released on an album recorded at the 1969 Montreux jazz festival by his first employer, the pianist Les McCann, and the saxophonist Eddie Harris. The song went on to be covered more than 270 times by other artists, including Ray Charles, Della Reese and John Legend. Its success enabled McDaniels to stop performing in night-clubs, an environment he detested because of the lack of respect he felt was shown towards the music by their audiences.

 The series of albums he made after the royalties from Compared to What started flowing in, joined in 1974 by those from Feel Like Makin’ Love, which he wrote for Roberta Flack, failed to earn further chart success but attracted a small cult following which grew as the artists of the hip-hop generation discovered them and recycled their distinctive grooves in the form of samples. He was delighted by the attention from musicians 30 and 40 years his junior. “It’s a great source of pride,” he said. “I’m glad to be a part of the hip-hop movement – however remotely, however intimately.”

In 1962 he appeared performing in the movie It’s Trad, Dad!, directed by Richard Lester. He continued to have minor hit records, including “Chip Chip”, “Point Of No Return” and “Spanish Lace”, each in 1962, but his suave style of singing gradually became less fashionable. In 1965 he moved to Columbia Records, with little success, and in 1968, after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, he left the US to live in Denmark and Sweden, where he concentrated on songwriting. He returned to the US in 1971, and recorded thereafter as Eugene McDaniels. In 1965 his “Point Of No Return” was covered by the British R&B band Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames on their EP Fame At Last.

After the late 1960s, McDaniels turned his attention to a more black consciousness form, and his best-known song in this genre was “Compared to What”, a jazz-soul protest song made famous (and into a hit) by Les McCann and Eddie Harris on their album Swiss Movement, and also covered by Roberta Flack, Ray Charles, Della Reese, John Legend, the Roots, Sweetwater and others. McDaniels also attained the top spot on the chart as a songwriter. In 1974, Roberta Flack reached number 1 with his “Feel Like Makin’ Love” (not to be confused with the Bad Company song of the same name), which won a Grammy Award. McDaniels also received a BMI award for outstanding radio airplay; at the time of the award, the song had already had over five million plays.

In the UK, his career was hindered when British music publishers diverted his hit songs to local artists; Craig Douglas and Frankie Vaughan recorded A Hundred Pounds of Clay and Tower of Strength respectively, their popularity ensuring that the covers overshadowed the original versions. Nevertheless McDaniels was invited to Britain to appear alongside Douglas and Helen Shapiro in the 1961 film It’s Trad, Dad, whose director, Dick Lester, shot him wreathed in cigarette smoke against a black background, like a Herman Leonard photograph, as he delivered the ballad Another Tear Falls, later to be recorded with greater success by the Walker Brothers.

Garrett also encouraged him to sing such mainstream ballads as And the Angels Sing and Portrait of My Love, using sophisticated arrangements by Marty Paich and Hank Levine in an attempt to turn him into a younger version of Nat King Cole. But perhaps his best recording of the 60s, although not the most successful at the time, was of a powerful song called Walk With a Winner, for which he wrote the lyric. Jack Nitzsche’s driving arrangement and dense production helped make it an enduring favourite with Britain’s Northern Soul dancers.

At the end of the decade, Compared to What came out of the blue. Inspired by the civil rights and Vietnam war protests, its uncompromising lyric was first heard on Flack’s debut album in 1969: “The president, he’s got his war/Folks don’t know just what it’s for/Nobody gives us rhyme or reason/Have one doubt, they call it treason …” Flack’s version was accompanied by a delicately funky rhythm, but when McCann and Harris performed it in Montreux they added muscle to the groove so effectively that their nine-minute version quickly became a favourite with dancers, sending Swiss Movement, the LP on which it was featured, to the top of the jazz album charts.

Liberated from financial worries, McDaniels revived his own recording career with two albums, Outlaw (1970) and Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse (1971), in which, now rechristened Eugene McDaniels, he presented a strong and sometimes bitter social and political message set to stripped-down street-funk and quasi-rock rhythms. According to one source: “Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse is a standard-bearer for psychedelic soul/funk/jazz rhythms and is borrowed frequently for its samples.”

The cover photograph of Outlaw depicted a multiracial group of armed urban guerrillas, an explicit statement that seemed to align him more closely with the rage of Amiri Baraka and the Last Poets than with the gentler black protest music of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Curtis Mayfield’s Back to the World. Their impact, however, was minimal until they were unearthed by hip-hop’s crate-digging obsessives, who put such tracks as Cherrystones and Jagger the Dagger to new use. The album Natural Juices (1975) showed a more romantic side, but there was no audience for such fine love songs as Shell of a Man and Dream of You and Me. He moved into record production, working with the organist Jimmy Smith (for whom he produced the album Sit On It! in 1977) and the singers Nancy Wilson and Merry Clayton.

In the 1980s, he recorded an album with the percussionist Terry Silverlight, which has not yet been released. In 2005, McDaniels released Screams & Whispers on his own record label. In 2009, it was announced that he was to release a new album, Evolution’s Child, which featured his lyrics, and a number of songs composed or arranged with pianist Ted Brancato. Some of the songs featured jazz musician Ron Carter on concert bass and Terri Lyne Carrington on drums. McDaniel’s “Jagger the Dagger” was featured on the Tribe Vibes breakbeat compilation album, after it had been sampled by A Tribe Called Quest.

McDaniels also appeared in films. They included It’s Trad, Dad! (1962, released in the United States as Ring-A-Ding Rhythm), which was directed by Richard Lester. McDaniels also appeared in The Young Swingers (1963). He is briefly seen singing in the choir in the 1974 film Uptown Saturday Night. He was the original voice actor for “Nasus”, a champion in the computer game League of Legends.

McDaniels lived as a self-described celebrity “hermit” by the ocean in Kittery Point, Maine.

 

In 2010 he launched a series of YouTube videos on his website, featuring his music and thoughts on some of his creations. McDaniels died peacefully on July 29, 2011, at his home. He was 76.

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Pinetop
Perkins
3/2011

pinetop perkinsMarch 21, 2011 – Pinetop Perkins was born Joseph William Perkins on July 7th 1913 in Belzoni, Mississippi. He early on began his music career as a guitarist, but then injured the tendons in his left arm and switched to the piano.  and also switched from Robert Nighthawk’s KFFA radio program to Sonny Boy Williamson’s King Biscuit Time.

In the 1950s, Perkins joined Earl Hooker and began touring. He recorded “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie” (written by Pinetop Smith and originally recorded by him in 1928) at Sam Phillips’s Sun Studio, in Memphis, Tennessee. (“They used to call me Pinetop,” he recalled, “because I played that song.”) Perkins then relocated to Illinois and left the music business until Hooker persuaded him to record again in 1968. Perkins replaced Otis Spann when Spann left the Muddy Waters band in 1969. After ten years with that organization, he formed the Legendary Blues Band with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, recording through the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.  Pinetop played a brief musical cameo on the street outside Aretha’s Soul Food Cafe in the 1980 movie The Blues Brothers, having an argument with John Lee Hooker over who wrote “Boom Boom”. He also appeared in the 1987 movie Angel Heart as a member of guitarist Toots Sweet’s band.

Perkins was a sideman on countless recordings but never had an album devoted solely to his artistry until the release of After Hours on Blind Pig Records in 1988. The tour in support of the album featured Jimmy Rogers and guitarist Hubert Sumlin. In 1998 Perkins released the album Legends, featuring Sumlin.

Perkins was driving his automobile in 2004 in La Porte, Indiana, when his car was hit by a train. The car was wrecked, but the 91-year-old driver was not seriously hurt. Until his death, Perkins lived in Austin, Texas. He usually performed a couple of nights a week at Nuno’s, on Sixth Street. In 2005, he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

The song “Hey Mr. Pinetop Perkins”, performed by Perkins and Angela Strehli, played on the common misconception that he wrote “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie”:

Hey Mr. Pinetop Perkins
I got a question for you
How’d you write that first boogie woogie
The one they named after you

In 2008, Perkins, together with Henry Townsend, Robert Lockwood, Jr. and David “Honeyboy” Edwards, received a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album for Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live in Dallas. He was also nominated in the same category for his solo album Pinetop Perkins on the 88’s: Live in Chicago.

Then at age 97, he won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album for Joined at the Hip, an album he recorded with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. At the time of his death, Pinetop had more than 20 performances booked for 2011 including a headliner at the inaugural Amelia Island Blues Festival in September of that year (Willie “Big Eyes had  taken over the headliner slot on the festival, but sadly died on the morning of his intended performance). Pinetop Perkins was 97 at the time of his death. His death closed the era of the old blues men; he was the last one that had a personal recollection of Blues Great Robert Johnson.

 

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Hank Locklin 3/2009

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

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

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

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

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Dewey Martin 1/2009

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

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

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Duane Roland 6/2006

duane-rolandJune 19, 2006 – Duane Roland was born on December 3rd 1953 in Jeffersonville, Indiana and moved to Florida at the age of 7. Music was evident in the Roland home – Duane’s dad was an occasional guitarist, and his mom was a concert pianist. Duane originally played drums in his first band, at high school, before gravitating to the guitar.

On his decision to become a serious musician he said: “I was at the “West Palm Beach Music Festival” and the line up was Johnny Winter, Vanilla Fudge,Janis Joplin, King Krimson and the Rolling Stones. It had rained and I was laying on a piece of  plastic. King Krimson was late so Johnny Winter, Janis Joplin and The Vanilla Fudge got up and jammed and I came straight up off that plastic and said, “That’s what I wanna do! I watched Johnny play and that was it for me.”

Duane originally tried to put a band together with Banner Thomas, and Bruce Crump but it didn’t really work. He made his name in Florida as a guitarist with The Ball Brothers Band. When The Ball Brothers split, Duane filled in for Dave Hlubek with Molly Hatchet when Dave was unable to make a gig. He was in!! The band had originally formed around Jacksonville, Florida in 1971 and taken their name from a 17th century prostitute who allegedly mutilated and decapitated her clients with a hatchet.

Molly Hatchet was formed in 1971 by Dave Hlubek and Steve Holland. Danny Joe Brown joined in 1974, Duane Roland, Banner Thomas, Bruce Crump in 1975. When they finally got their recording contract with Epic they got some help and advice from Ronnie Van Zant, who was originally suppose to produce the album, but was unable to due to the tragic plane crash in ’77. Because of this the band’s debut was not released until late 1978. Fortunately for the band, this late delivery did little to deter their popularity. By the time their second record was released, the band had became enormously popular and stayed that way for many years despite the departure of vocalist/frontman Danny Joe Brown. Brown left the band in 1980 due to health problems stemming from diabetes. Others have stated that the band worked hard on the road, and drank just as hard, which was the reason that Brown had to go. Brown returned to the band in ’83 for a successful tour and the release of “No Guts No Glory”.

Duane began performing with Molly Hatchet fulltime in 1975, and he remained with the band through various personnel changes until he left in 1990. (the only exception being when he quit the band for ONE DAY during a summer tour in 1983!!)

They recorded and released their first album, “Molly Hatchet” in 1978, followed by “Flirtin’ with Disaster” in 1979. They toured behind the album building a larger fan base. He recorded seven albums with the band and is is credited with co-writing some of the band’s biggest hits, including “Bloody Reunion” and “Boogie No More”.  During his stay, he was famous for his ability to nail his lead spots in just one take. He was actually the only member of the classic lineup to appear on all seven albums. The only song he didn’t perform on was “Cheatin’ Woman”. He also co-wrote a great deal of classic Molly Hatchet music. Duane appeared on the 1989 album “Junkyard” by the band of the same name.

At the time he left in 1990, he was the owner of the Molly Hatchet brand. The agreement in the band had always been that the last man standing got the name.

Duane then quit music for almost a decade and ran a company in the field of office machine repairs and later became a call centre supervisor with an Internet company.

Duane was the only Hatchet original to not play in the Dixie Jam Band during Jammin’ for DJB. Riff West (the shows organiser) sites “legal difficulties” as the reason Duane did not perform. He did however, lend his talents by added his guitar tracks in the studio.

In 2002, Duane’s employer was bought out, and unemployment beckoned. He was also suffering problems with his hip, which he had replaced in late 2002. During his recuperation, the news broke that Jimmy Farrar had joined the SRA, and it wasn’t long before Jimmy was trying to bring Duane out again. He was on leave from the the Southern Rock Allstars to recuperate from a hip operation when in November 2004, Riff West confirmed that the rumours of a reunion of sorts were true. Riff, Bruce Crump, Steve Holland, Dave Hlubek, Duane Roland and Jimmy Farrar were rehearsing. Dave Hlubek dropped out of the project in January 2005 however…so the new band were the remaining five and Bruce’s bandmate from Daddy-Oh, guitarist Linne Disse. They named themselves after their classic song…”Gator Country Band” and kicked off their career in style opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd on March 12, 2005 in Orlando, FLA. Gator Country, included many of the founding members of Molly Hatchet

Duane Roland sadly passed away at his home in St. Augustine, Florida on Monday June 19, 2006. He was 53, and his death was apparently from “natural causes”.

“He had a heart as big as Texas and a talent twice that big,” said singer Jimmy Farrar, who performed with Roland in all three bands. “Not only was he a colleague but he was one of the best friends I ever had and he will be sorely missed.”

Drummer Bruce Crump said Roland was the anchor of Molly Hatchet during the 1980s, a time when the band’s lineup was constantly changing. “During all that time, Duane was the constant,” said Crump. “I can’t imagine playing Molly Hatchet music without Duane Roland. It just wouldn’t be the same.”

“…then the Allman Brothers came along and made the sound heavier and started churning out these 15-minute songs. Next, Lynyrd Skynyrd came along and refined that sound: made it more powerful and crunchier. Then you had Marshall Tucker and Grinderswitch and they added a country flavor to it and then came Molly Hatchet and we were the first to put a metal edge to it. That was the evolution of the things that were taking place then.”
– Dave Hlubek

 

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Johnnie Johnson 4/2005

Johnny JohnsonApril 13, 2005 – Johnnie Johnson (Johnny B Goode) was born July 8th 1924 in Fairmont, West Virginia. He began playing the piano in 1928.
While serving in the US Marine Corps during WW II, he was a member of Bobby Troup’s all serviceman jazz orchestra, The Barracudas. After his return, he moved to Detroit and then Chicago, where he sat in with many notable artists, including Muddy Waters and Little Walter.

He moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 1952 and put together a jazz and blues group, The Sir John Trio.  with the drummer Ebby Hardy and the saxophonist Alvin Bennett. The three had a regular engagement at the Cosmopolitan Club, in East St. Louis. On New Year’s Eve 1952, Bennett had a stroke and could not perform. Johnson, searching for a last-minute replacement, called a young man named Chuck Berry, the only musician Johnson knew who, because of his inexperience, would likely not be playing on New Year’s Eve. Although then a limited guitarist, Berry added vocals and showmanship to the group. When Bennett was not able to play after his stroke, Johnson hired Berry as a permanent member of the trio.

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Muddy Waters 4/1983

Muddy WatersApril 30, 1983 – Muddy Waters was born McKinley Morganfield on April 4th 1913 in Rolling Fork, Mississippi. He taught himself harmonica as a child. He later took up guitar, eagerly absorbing the classic delta blues styles of Robert Johnson and Son House and went on to become known as “the Father of Chicago blues”.

Waters grew up on Stovall Plantation, near Clarksdale, Mississippi, and by age seventeen was playing the guitar at parties, emulating local blues artists Son House and Robert Johnson. His grandmother, Della Grant, raised him after his mother died shortly following his birth. Grant gave the boy the nickname “Muddy” at an early age, because he loved to play in the muddy water of nearby Deer Creek. He later changed it to “Muddy Water” and finally “Muddy Waters”. Continue reading Muddy Waters 4/1983