December 8, 2017 – Vincent Nguini (Guitarist For Paul Simon) was born in Obala, Cameroon, West Africa in July 1952. Music and the understanding of it was the driving force behind his life’s ambitions from very early on.
He traveled around Africa in the early and mid-1970s, learning many regional guitar styles, before relocating to Paris in 1978. In Paris, long a recording center for music from French-speaking Africa, he studied music and did studio work with many African musicians. He joined the band of the Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango, who had an international hit in 1972 with “Soul Makossa,” and soon became its musical director. Continue reading Vincent Nguini 12/2017
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
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
July 21, 2017 – Kenny Shields was born in 1947 in the farming community of Nokomis, Saskatchewan, Canada. His passion for music and entertaining emerged at the age of six when he entered and won an amateur talent show. While continuing his interest in music and singing, upon graduation from secondary school he moved to Saskatoon to attend university but was immediately recruited by the city’s premiere band – Witness Incorporated.
Kenny’s lifelong dream began to take shape as the band built a loyal fan base across the country, scoring with a string of national radio hits including “I’ll Forget Her Tomorrow”, “Jezebel” and “Harlem Lady, all featuring Kenny’s unmistakable vocals. After touring with such legendary artists as Roy Orbison and Cream, tragedy struck in 1970 when Shields was critically injured in an automobile accident that sidetracked him from music for several years. Continue reading Kenny Shields 7/2017
April 11, 2017 – Toby Smith (Jamiroquai) was born Toby Grafftey-Smith on October 29, 1970.
Growing up he received classical training on piano and early on developed a keen interest in the “nerdy” side of music. At age 14 he started recording his own tunes on a Tascam and produced his first record at 17, then signed his track “Kleptomaniacs” to London Records. At about the same time his sister took him clubbing in London and he developed an interest in house (dance) music. Continue reading Toby Smith 4/2017
April 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
March 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
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
June 14, 2016 – Henry Campbell Liken McCullough (Wings) was born in Northern Ireland on 21 July 1943. He first came to prominence as a guitar player of talent in the early 1960s as the teenage lead guitarist with The Skyrockets showband from Enniskillen. In 1964, with three other members of The Skyrockets, he left and formed a new showband fronted by South African born vocalist Gene Chetty, which they named Gene and The Gents.
In 1967 McCullough moved to Belfast where he joined Chris Stewart (bass), Ernie Graham (vocals) and Dave Lutton (drums) to form the psychedelic band The People. Later that year the band moved to London and were signed by Chas Chandler’s management team, who changed the group’s name to Éire Apparent. Under Chandler’s guidance after a single release they toured with groups such as Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, The Move and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, as well as Eric Burdon and the Animals. Continue reading Henry McCullough 6/2016
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.
August 1, 2015 – Cilla Black was born Priscilla Marie Veronica White in Liverpool on May 27, 1943, just a couple of months after Beatle George Harrison was born in the same city.
Although she was an aspiring entertainer, in the early 60’s Cilla was working as a typist, a waitress, and as a hat check girl at the Cavern in Liverpool, the same venue where the Beatles were performing and beginning to draw attention at that time. She performed at times with some local Liverpool bands including Rory Storm and the Hurricanes and The Big Three, and received encouragement from her friends in the Beatles. An article in the local music newspaper Mersey Beat mis-identifed her as Cilla Black, and Cilla liked the name and decided to keep it as a stage name. She was signed to a recording contract by Brian Epstein, then went to the Parlophone label, where her records were produced by George Martin. Her first single was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and titled Love Of The Loved. It made it to number 35 on the UK chart.
June 3, 2015 – Andrew Maurice Gold was born on August 2, 1951 at Burbank, Los Angeles, into a musical family. His father, Ernest Gold, composed the scores for dozens of Hollywood films, including Exodus (1960) — for which he won an Oscar — Too Much Too Soon (1958) and On The Beach (1959); his mother, the classically-trained soprano Marni Nixon, was best known for supplying the singing voices for film actresses, notably Deborah Kerr in The King And I (1956), Natalie Wood in West Side Story (1961), and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (1964). She also appeared as Sister Sophia in The Sound Of Music (1965).
Andrew was 13 when he started writing pop songs, although he never learned to read music. At Oakwood School in north Hollywood, he introduced himself to the singer Linda Ronstadt when she played a gig there with her group the Stone Poneys . By the early 1970s he had joined her band, and in 1974 played a variety of instruments and made the musical arrangements for Linda Ronstadt’s breakthrough album Heart Like A Wheel, as well as for her next four albums. Among other accomplishments, he played the majority of instruments on “You’re No Good,” Ronstadt’s only #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, and the same on “When Will I Be Loved,” “Heat Wave” and many other classic hits. He was in her band from 1973 until 1977, and then sporadically throughout the 1980s and 1990s.Continue reading Andrew Gold 6/2015
May 8, 2015 – Rutger Gunnarsson was born in Linköping, Sweden on February 12, 1946.
Few bassists have played on records that have sold over 350 million copies: Paul McCartney, a handful of session kingpins like Carol Kaye, and – lesser known, but still brilliant–ABBA’s Rutger Gunnarsson.
He joined the ABBA family in 1972, when he was a classical guitar major at Stockholm’s Royal College of Music. A classmate tipped him off about a bass audition for the pre-ABBA band the Hootenanny Singers. ”Their act included a comedy part where the whole band sang harmony, so they started with that,” Rutger remembers. ”I sang my part right off the sheet-no problem to me – but it apparently impressed them enough to offer me the job on the spot. I didn’t even touch the bass!”
February 16, 2015 – Lesley Sue Gore was born Lesley Sue Goldstein on May 2, 1946 in Brooklyn, New York City into a middle-class Jewish family, the daughter of Leo and Ronny Gore.
Her father was the owner of Peter Pan, a children’s swimwear and underwear manufacturer and later became a leading brand licensing agent in the apparel industry. She was raised in Tenafly, New Jersey, a little distance from the George Washington Bridge and was a junior at the Dwight School for Girls in nearby Englewood when “It’s My Party” became a number one hit. The song was eventually nominated for a Grammy Award for rock and roll recording. It sold over one million copies and was certified as a gold record.
January 31, 2015 – Don Covay was born Donald Randolph in Orangeburg, South Carolina on March 24, 1938. Covay was the son of a Baptist preacher who died when his son was eight. The family soon after relocated to Washington, D.C., where he and his siblings formed a gospel group dubbed the Cherry Keys; while in middle school, however, some of Covay’s classmates convinced him to make the leap to secular music, and in 1953 he joined the Rainbows, a local doo wop group that previously enjoyed a national smash with “Mary Lee.”
By the time Covay joined the Rainbows the original lineup had long since splintered, and his recorded debut with the group, 1956’s “Shirley,” was not a hit. He stuck around for one more single, “Minnie,” before exiting; contrary to legend, this iteration of the Rainbows did not include either a young Marvin Gaye or Billy Stewart, although both fledgling singers did occasionally fill in for absent personnel during live performances.
January 25, 2015 –Demis Roussos (Aphrodite’s Child) was born as Artemios Ventouris Roussos in Alexandria, Egypt, on June 15, 1946. His family was greek and his father George was a classical guitarist and engineer, while his mother Olga was a singer. As a child, he studied music and joined the Greek Byzantine Church choir. When his parents lost their possessions during the Suez Crisis, they decided to move to Greece.
As a teenager Demis sang in several local groups, including The Idols, where he met Vangelis. In 1967 he formed rock band Aphrodite’s Child with his friends Vangelis and Loukas Sideras, initially as a singer, but later he also played bass guitar. The band set off for London to break into the international music scene but were turned back at Dover due to visa problems. They retreated to Paris where they decided to stay, signing a record deal there with Philips Records.
January 13, 2015 –Dozy Ward-Davieswas born November 27th 1944 in Enford, Wiltshire, England. In the late 1950s, all of 15 years old, he lead a semi professional local rock band called the Beatnicks, before he becoming the founding member of the band, Dave Dee and the Bostons in 1961. They changed their name to Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, when they gained a recording contract with Fontana Records.
They first entered the UK charts in December 1965 with You Make it Move. A string of hits followed including Hold Tight!, Bend It! and Save Me and a UK number one single with the whip-cracking Legend of Xanadu, in 1968.
Dec 21, 2014 – Udo Jürgens wasborn Udo Jürgen Bockelmann on September 30, 1934 in Klagenfurt, Austria. Udo grew up in the family castle Ottmanach in Kärnten with his brothers John (1931) and Manfred (1943). In 1939 he gets a harp (harmonica) as a present and he teaches himself to play national anthems on it. In 1942 he moves up the ladder with an accordeon and six years later he gets his formal music education at the conservatory of Klagenfurt in piano, singing and compositions.
In the 1950 he won a composer contest organized by Austria’s public broadcasting channel ORF with the song “Je t’aime” and he gets his music education on the road with the Udo Bolan band and several other reincarnations. The 50s is a long learning curve and his first record deal comes apart in a big flop and in 1956 he changes his artist name into Udo Jürgens.
October 4, 2014 – Paul Revere was born Paul Revere Dick on January 7, 1938 in Harvard, Nebraska, and grew up in Boise, Idaho.
In his early 20s, he owned several burger restaurants in Caldwell, but in 1958 at the age of 20, he also had formed a group called The Downbeats; it was an instrumental band before he recruited singer Mark Lindsay, then changed the name to Paul Revere & The Raiders in 1960.
As their frontman, keyboardist, he became “The madman of rock and roll” for over 56 years.
June 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.
January 2, 2014 – John “Jay” Traynor was born on March 30th 1943 in Brooklyn New York. He was a lead vocalist of the Mystics, singing falsetto on “The White Cliffs of Dover” and lead on “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and “Blue Star”.
The foundation of what would become Jay and the Americans was laid in 1959, when two teenagers named Kenny Vance and Sandy Deane formed a doo-wop style group called “The Harbourlites“. After a couple of failed recordings, Sandy began looking for a stronger lead singer. As fate would have it, John “Jay” Traynor, a stand-in singer with a group called “The Mystics” was looking for another band and since the two groups shared Jim Gribble as manager, the three got together, adding a fourth member, Howie Kane.
November 24, 2013 – Bob Allison was born Bernard Colin Day on February 2nd 1941 in the UK. He became a pop singer and one half of the duo The Allisons, who were marketed as being brothers, using the surname of Allison. Both Bob and John were born in Wiltshire and started harmonizing very early on in life.
The Allisons represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Festival in 1961 with the song “Are You Sure?”. They came second with 24 points and the song spent 16 weeks in the top 40 (six weeks at No. 2 and a further three weeks in the top 4), and became a solid million copy seller.
February 4, 2013 – Reginald Maurice Ball was born on 12 June 1941 became better known by his stage name Reg Presley, was the lead singer with the 1960s British rock and roll band The Troggs, whose best known hit was “Wild Thing”, written by actor Jon Voight’s brother Wes (James Wesley) who went by the stage name Chip Taylor.
Wild Thing made it to no.2 in England, but reached no.1 in the US as it sold 13 million copies worldwide. Presley then wrote the band’s only UK number one single with the follow-up “With a Girl Like You”. He also wrote the song “Love Is All Around”, which was featured in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. Other hits from their short-lived career (1965-1968) were ‘ I can’t control myself’ and ‘Anyway that you want me’.
The Troggs are widely seen as a highly influential band whose sound was an inspiration for garage rock and punk rock. Influential American critic Lester Bangs “called the band the progenitors of punk”, according to NPR. For example, the Troggs influenced artists such as Iggy Pop and the early version of British pop-punk pioneers Buzzcocks featured “I Can’t Control Myself” in their live repertoire. The Ramones are also amongst punk bands who cited the Troggs as an influence. “I Can’t Control Myself” is perhaps the most enduring favorite of critics; it continues to be championed for its originality and lasting influence by radio hosts such as “Little” Steven Van Zandt.
MC5 covered “I Want You” at their live shows and recorded the song for the album Kick Out the Jams, although they renamed it “I Want You Right Now”.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience famously covered “Wild Thing” during their appearance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, introducing it as the British/American joint “national anthem”, and climaxing with Hendrix burning his guitar.
More recently performing a live version of Wild Thing featuring Queen guitarist, Brian May to open the rockers ‘Wildlife Rocks’ event at Guildford Cathedral in May 2014.
In 1990, the first hit for the band Spiritualized was a cover of “Anyway That You Want Me”. This cover was later used in the movie Me and You and Everyone We Know.
“With a Girl Like You” is featured uncut in a school dance scene from the 1991 Nicole Kidman/Noah Taylor movie, Flirting. It is also featured in Shine, The Good Night and The Boat That Rocked.
In 1991, “Love Is All Around” was covered by R.E.M. during live performances and was released later that year as a B-side on their “Radio Song” single. They also performed an acoustic version of the song on MTV Unplugged.
In 1994, Scottish band Wet Wet Wet’s version of Love Is All Around spent fifteen weeks at number one in the UK after its inclusion in Four Weddings and a Funeral. The authorship royalties enabled Reg Presley’s 1990s research and publication on extraterrestrials and other paranormal phenomena.
The point-and-click adventure game Hopkins FBI features “I Can’t Control Myself” and “Lost Girl”.
A modified version of “Love Is All Around” was featured in the film Love Actually (2003), performed by actor Bill Nighy.
“The Troggs” was the name of the high school gang in the movie Bang Bang, You’re Dead, who persuade the main character to join them in attacking their high school.
“Trogg” is the name of one of Bane’s three henchmen in Dennis O’Neil’s Batman: Knightfall comic arc. The other henchmen are Byrd and Zombie, named after two other popular ’60s rock bands, the Byrds and the Zombies.
An in-studio tape of Reg Presley’s running commentary on a recording session, filled with in-fighting and swearing (known as The Troggs Tapes), was widely circulated in the music underground, and was included in the Archaeology box set, as well as the compilation album, The Rhino Brothers Present the World’s Worst Records. The in-group infighting is believed to be the inspiration for a scene in the comedy film, This is Spinal Tap, where the band members are arguing. Some of this dialogue was sampled by the California punk band The Dwarves on their recording of a cover version of the Troggs song “Strange Movies”.
Such was the influence Reg Presley and the Troggs had on Rock and Roll.
January 11, 2013 – John Wilkinson was born on July 3rd 1945 in Springfield, Missouri.
John was drawn to music very early. At the age of 10, he famously sneaked into Elvis Presley’s dressing room before a show at the Shrine Mosque in Springfield, telling Elvis, “you can’t play guitar worth a damn.” Elvis was amused and impressed with this kid and predicted they would meet again. They did. After playing in a high school band with his classmates called, “The Coachmen,” John went on to make a name for himself as a folk and country singer and guitar player.
He traveled around the country playing with such groups as , The Goodtime Singers, Greenwood County Singers, and The New Christy Minstrels.
John and Elvis met again in 1968, when the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll saw John on a TV show in Los Angeles and called to invite John to join his band. John played over 1,200 shows as Elvis’ rhythm guitar player, right up until The King’s death in 1977.
After that he played less music, and made a living in retail and airline services management. He married his wife, Terry, in 1983. A serious stroke in 1989 left him unable to play the guitar. Nevertheless, for several years after that, he traveled the U.S. and Europe, appearing with the old TCB band and others, singing and paying tribute to Elvis. He was proud of the fact that he never turned down a request for an autograph.
Everyone in the TCB band was family. “Besides my own father, he was probably the most kind and compassionate and considerate and generous man I’ve ever met in my life,” Wilkinson said of Presley, still wearing the gold TCB emblem the King put around his neck in 1969.
Even after suffering a stroke in 1989 that left him unable to play the guitar, Wilkinson continued singing with fellow musicians, including the old TCB Band (the acronym stood for Taking Care of Business), and also made a living in retail and airline services management.
Despite his amazing musicianship -“He was honestly one of the best acoustic guitar players I’d ever heard,”- admitted one of his band mates, he enjoyed the incredible places he got to visit, and his entertaining stories of meeting famous people, the most remarkable thing about John was his kindness.
It didn’t matter if he was meeting adoring fans, joking with Chuck Berry about keeping his B-string in tune, or if he was talking to a neighbor about her dog, people were people to him. Folks were folks. John would look you square in the eye and accept you, just as you were. There was nothing phony about him. Ellison recalled, adding that Wilkinson kept in touch with many of the performers from the folk music era in the late 1960s and early ’70s.
John died fighting a long battle with cancer on Jan 11, 2013 at age 67.
July 24, 2012 – Larry Lewis Hoppen (Orleans) was born on January 12, 1951 in Ithaca New York. From a musical family, Larry learned to play keyboards, guitar, bass, melodica and trumpet. His mom took him on her nightclub gigs when he was 10!
After briefly trying Music Ed. at Ithaca College (1967-69), he left to pursue a career as a musical artist and never looked back. Between 1969 and 1971 his Ithaca band Boffalongo made 2 LPs for United Artists Records, including the original recording of “Dancin’ in the Moonlight”, later a hit by friends King Harvest. Soon after Boffalongo disbanded in late 1971, Larry got a call from singer/songwriter (then-future, now-former US Congressman, D-NY, 19) John Hall, inviting him to come to Woodstock, NY to join with the late Wells Kelly and himself to form Orleans, which he did in early 1972. Larry’s younger brother, Lance, joined the band in the fall of that year.
The band initially found its core audience touring the clubs and college circuit of the northeastern United States and it was not until their third album, Let There Be Music, released in March 1975, that the band scored its first Billboard Hot 100 hit with “Let There Be Music”followed by Orleans biggest hits “Still the One“, “Dance With Me” and “Love Takes Time“. It was Larry’s remarkable tenor that clearly defined the success of these hits.
In 1977 Larry joined Jerry Marotta in the backing band for Garland Jeffreys. He and Orleans continued to tour with the likes of Stephen Stills and Chicago. In the early 80s Larry and his brother Lance formed a side group, Mood Ring. After a stint in Nashville, Larry and Orleans returned to Woodstock, and slowly re-established their presence in the Northeast over the next couple of years.
During off times with the band Larry also performed and/or recorded with Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Livingston Taylor, Lulu, Graham Parker, Blues Traveler, Ricky Skaggs, Steve Wariner, Michael Franks, Levon Helm, the late great Michael Brecker, the late great Chet Atkins, the late great Artie Traum, John Sebastian, Bela Fleck, Felix Cavaliere, Edgar Winter, Robbie Dupree, Spencer Davis, Rick Derringer, Mark Farner, John Ford Coley, Jimi Jamison, John Cafferty and many more.
Larry released 3 solo albums: “HandMade” and “Looking for the Light”, the latter being a flagship fundraising vehicle for his 501(c)3 nonprofit Sunshine for HIV Kids, and One of the Lucky Ones.
Larry continued to write, tour and record with Orleans until his death on July 24, 2012 from “a perfect storm of life’s pressures” as it states on the band’s website. They were scheduled to perform in a concert sponsored by morning TV’s “Fox & Friends” on Friday July 27th.
June 5, 2012 – Dennis St. John (Neil Diamond’s drummer and musical director) was born on November 9, 1941 in Beatrice, Nebraska, to Jeanne and Colonel Ralph St. John.
In 1947 my mother and I were amongst the first American military dependant families to live in Germany. The German prisoners of war at my father’s depot had a great Dixieland band. Every Friday I got to sit and listen to this band in the warehouse, before they had to report back to the stockade. It was my first experience with live music and has stayed with me ever since. When we returned from Germany in 1950, we moved to Chicago, and that’s where I heard my first Fender electric bass, which helped nudge me closer to music. After a couple more moves, and high-school bands in Olympia, Washington and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I graduated in 1959. I immediately put on my Princeton t-shirt, and took my fake ID to the world famous Somers Point, New Jersey traffic circle, home of Bayshores, Tony Mart’s, and Steele’s Bar. I’d spend day after day, night after night listening to the legendary Jimmy Cavallo & the House Rockers. That’s when I decided I’d like to be a drummer.
He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
A gifted percussionist, he began his career in music after forming a band in college (St.John and the Cardinals) part of which became the root for the Atlanta Rhythm Section. After college he relocated to Los Angeles, where he went on to play on over fifty gold and platinum albums with top artists of the sixties and seventies.
His name may not be instantly recognizable, but during the height of his career in the sixties and seventies, Dennis toured and recorded with several top artists, drumming on sixteen top-10 records and over fifty Gold and Platinum albums. If you’ve ever heard the Bellamy Brothers’ “Let Your Love Flow” or “Spooky” or “Spiders & Snakes” or Linda Ronstadt’s “Desperado” or Neil Diamond’s “Forever In Blue Jeans” or “America”, then you’ve heard just a small sampling of the hundreds of recordings featuring his playing.
Dennis crossed paths with an impressive number of artists such as James Brown, Kenny Rogers, Barbra Streisand, Roy Orbison, Ronnie Milsap, Sammy Davis Jr., Liberace, Little Richard, Rufus Thomas, Tommy Roe, The Standells, Otis Redding, and Paul Revere and the Raiders. But he’s best known as Neil Diamond’s drummer and musical director from 1971-81. Several herniated discs forced him to quit active touring in the early 1980s and he formed a talent development company, guiding many future performers to stardom in the years after.
He described the most memorable event of his career as the 10 days of recording Hot August Night in 1972 (at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles) saying “it was by far the most energetic, creative, and satisfying gig I’ve ever played.”
Dennis died from complications of esophageal cancer on June 5, 2012 at the age of 70.
Taking to Twitter to pay his respects, Neil Diamond wrote, “Lost my old friend Dennis St. John. His drumming graces my recordings from Hot August Night to The Jazz Singer – I’ll miss him big time.”
Entry on his obituary: “I knew Dennis. He used to come to the bar I worked at for many years when he came to visit his mother. My husband always referred to him as the guy with the pony tail. He was a true gentleman and always took time to talk to me even though I was just a bartender there. I often introduced him to people, but they always seemed to fail to understand what impact he had in the music business. I have not worked for around 4 years and was so sad to hear that he had lost his battle with cancer. He always took such good care of his mother and felt bad if he didn’t feel she was being taken care of correctly. Everyone was so happy to see him when he visited. There just aren’t enough words to do this man justice.”
May 20, 2012 – Robin Hugh Gibb (BeeGees) was born on 22 December 1949 in Douglas, Isle of Man, to Hugh and Barbara Gibb. He was the fraternal twin of Maurice Gibb and was the older of the two by 35 minutes. Apart from Maurice, he had one sister, Lesley Evans, and two brothers, Barry and Andy. They lived in utter poverty.
In 1953, the Gibbs watched the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on the television. Their neighbour in Willaston, Isle of Man, Marie Beck who was the friend of his mother and her sister Peggy. Another neighbour, Helen Kenney was living in Douglas Head as Kenney recalls “Barry and the twins used to come into Mrs. Beck’s house and we would mind them, Robin once said to me, ‘We’re going to be rich one day, we’re going to form a band!’ “Little did I realise he meant it”.
His family moved to Manchester where at aged 8, Robin started out performing alongside his brothers as a child act encouraged by their father Hugh, a drummer and band leader. The Gibb brothers formed The Rattlesnakes which consisted of Barry on guitar and vocals, Robin and Maurice on vocals, Paul Frost on drums and Kenny Horrocks on tea-chest bass, and the quintet performed in local theatres in Manchester, their influences at that time such as The Everly Brothers, Cliff Richard and Paul Anka. In May 1958, the Rattlesnakes were disbanded as Frost and Horrocks left, and the name changed to Wee Johnny Hayes and the Blue Cats. In August 1958, the family traveled to Australia on the same ship as Australian musician Red Symons; it is rumored that the brothers began committing petty crimes such as arson, which may have been the reason the family moved to Australia.
While schoolboys in Manchester, Barry, the oldest Gibb brother, and his younger twins Maurice and Robin perfected the art of singing in close harmony. They first performed, aged nine and six, in the toilets of John Lewis, because that was where the best acoustics in town could be found. That shared bond as performers helped them escape from their handto-mouth existence; the family moved house every few weeks at one stage in order to stay ahead of the bailiffs.
Robin explained: “The real world was just too real and we didn’t want to be a part of normal life. We wanted to create a magic world for the three of us. The three of us were like one person, and we were doing what we needed to do: make music. It became an obsession.”
The brothers also developed a taste for truanting and getting into trouble. “Barry and Robin were pilfering right, left and centre from Woolies and getting away with it,” recalled Maurice in an interview before his death in 2003.
“One day, I was walking home and all the billboards in the main street in Chorlton were blazing away, firemen and policemen running around everywhere. That was Robin, the family arsonist. Another time he set the back of a shop on fire.” The family were advised about assisted passage to Australia by the neighbourhood policeman, who seems to have hinted that it was that or legal action. The three boys performed in their pyjamas every night on the deck of the ship which took them away.
Once in Australia, the brothers continued to perform and took the name Bee Gees, an abbreviation of brothers Gibb.
In 1963 their first single, “The Battle of The Blue and The Grey”, made the charts in Sydney and led to an appearance on a local TV station. In 1965 their single “The Spicks and Specks” gave them their first Australian No.1.
Dreaming of more than the Australian market, they returned to the UK in 1966 where they were auditioned by impresario Robert Stigwood, who got them a recording contract with Polydor, here they had their first major hit with “To Love Somebody”, co-written by Robin, followed by hits including “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You”, “Massachusetts”, “Words” and “World”. But the lead vocals were credited to Barry, this eventually led to tension and in 1969, Robin left the group…
Once back in the UK in 1967, success came quickly; legendary music impresario Robert Stigwood took them on and they had their first hit in Britain with New York Mining Disaster. Robin was only 17, and fell in love with the first woman he met: Molly Hullis, Beatles manager Brian Epstein’s secretary. They were married within a year, and quickly had two children, Spencer and Melissa.
The BeeGees second single – To Love Somebody, co-written by Robin – became a pop standard and over the years was covered by hundreds of artists. The lead vocals on the record were taken by Barry. This led to considerable tension in the band, with Robin accusing Stigwood of favouring his brother as the lead vocalist. The band hung together for more chart successes, including Massachusetts and Words. But when his song Lamplight was relegated to the B-side of Barry’s First of May in 1969, Robin quit the group.
The pressure of fame was simply too much for vulnerable Robin, and his drug use became uncontrollable. “We used to go to America for a tour and I would stay up all night, collapse and then wake up in hospital suffering from exhaustion. I didn’t know what I was doing.” His parents had him made a ward of court because they were so concerned. He even quit the band – the first of many attempts to walk away from his brothers.
He had one hit single, Saved by the Bell, but was unable to follow it up and decided he was not cut out for a solo career. In 1970 the band reunited and achieved an immediate chart hit in the US with Lonely Days, which they followed up with How Can You Mend a Broken Heart? But it was clear that The Bee Gees’ brand of soulful ballads was no longer in fashion and there was a real danger they would fade into obscurity. Stigwood persuaded the brothers to switch their sound towards disco and their next single, Jive Talkin’, saw them make a chart comeback in both the US and UK.
His marriage was falling apart as the band became more famous, with Robin jetting around the world while Molly stayed at home with the children in Epsom, Surrey. A gulf opened up between the brothers, too. Maurice was a drinker, but Barry and Robin continued to share a taste for amphetamines. Each had their own manager, the arguments were frequent and Robin walked out several times.
At the summit of the band’s incredible success with the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever in 1977, (How Deep is Your Love, Stayin’ Alive and Night Fever, their most successful track), when the Bee Gees were at the height of their reincarnated fame as tight-trousered, bouffant-haired, nutmeg-tanned sex symbols, Molly told him their marriage was over.
“I loved my wife, but I was still very young and still attracted to other people,” he admitted. “I have a high sex drive and I was unfaithful. I’ve had quite a few physical encounters – probably more than 100. Some of them were disappointing. They were mostly a distraction, almost like notches on a belt. I didn’t have sex for love, just for fun.”
The separation was acrimonious, and Robin did not see the children for four years, although he got on better terms later. He recalls being unable to eat while the divorce dragged on. “I felt I was going to die from complete misery,” he said. Robin even ended up in prison in 1983 after the divorce judge found that he had breached an agreement by talking publicly about the marriage. Sentenced to two weeks in jail, he appealed and spent only a couple of hours inside.
Gibb continued writing songs for other artists, co-writing four of the tracks – among them hit song Woman in Love – on Barbra Streisand’s Guilty album with brother Barry. Robin also co-wrote material for Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick and Kenny Rogers.
At a low ebb in 1980, he was introduced to his second wife Dwina. Sharing a birthday and an interest in history, Robin says it was love at first sight, and once contended that he might have known her in a former life. The birth of their son Robin John a year after his divorce from Molly was not publicly revealed until the kid was nearly one.
Early in the marriage, his younger brother Andy sought sanctuary with Robin and Dwina at their Oxfordshire home. He was just 30, and running away from a failed marriage, failing career and the rumored chaotic after-effects of cocaine addiction. He died suddenly at Robin’s home from natural causes of an inflammation of the heart muscle, as it turned out later.
The Bee Gees however continued to record and perform and achieved some chart success, even though Barry had also been suffering from a number of health problems including arthritis, while in the early 1990s Maurice sought treatment for his alcoholism.
In 1997 they released the album Still Waters, which sold more than four million copies, and were presented with a Brit award for outstanding contribution to music.
In January 2003 tragedy struck again with the sudden death of Maurice at the age of 53. Following his death, Robin and Barry disbanded the group. Andy’s death had hit Robin hard, but a harder blow was the death of his twin Maurice, always the peacemaker and the extrovert in the group. Maurice died suddenly after his intestine burst. Robin was so grief-stricken that for months he couldn’t come to terms with his brother’s death. “I can’t accept that he’s dead,” he said later that year. “I just imagine he’s alive somewhere else. Pretend is the right word.”
Robin continued to tour and record and reunited with Barry in Miami in 2006 for a charity concert, prompting rumours of a possible reformation. In 2008 he was at the forefront of the campaign for a permanent memorial in London to the men of Bomber Command.
Two years later he sang the Bee Gees hit I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You with a group of soldiers in support of the Poppy Day appeal.
Also in 2008, Robin performed at the BBC’s Electric Proms, marking the 30th anniversary of Saturday Night Fever topping the UK charts.
But ill health dogged him. In 2010, he cancelled a series of shows due to severe stomach pains and went on to have emergency surgery for a blocked intestine, something his twin brother had died from.
In late 2011 it was announced that Robin had been diagnosed with liver cancer. His gaunt appearance prompted suggestions that he was close to death. However, he went into temporary remission and had been in recovery for several months. “I feel fantastic,” he told BBC Radio 2 in February. “I am very active and my sense of well-being is good.”
His final work was a collaboration with his son, RJ, on The Titanic Requiem, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the naval disaster.
Robin transitioned after contracting pneumonia while bravely battling against liver cancer on May 20, 2012.
From their early incarnation as pop troubadours to their dramatic reinvention as the kings of disco in the mid-1970s, The BeeGees notched up more than 200 million album sales worldwide. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Robin Gibb was a talented singer and songwriter whose best work came from his collaboration with his brothers.
“There are songs we wrote in 1968 that people are still singing,” he told one interviewer in 2008. “There’s very few artists with that kind of history.
February 29, 2012 – David “Davy” Jones (The Monkees) was born on December 30th 1945 in Manchester, England and at age 11 began an acting career, appearing on the soap opera ‘Coronation Street’, produced by Granada Television in Manchester, where in 1961 he played Colin Lomax, the grandson of Ena Sharples.
However, after the death of his mother when he was 14, Davy made a career change and became a jockey, training with Basil Foster for awhile. (Jones cared for Foster in his later years, bringing him to the United States and providing him with financial support).
Even though he could have been one of the greats according to insiders, he was soon back in the public entertainment eye, first on stage in London’s West End and then on Broadway, playing the Artful Dodger, in the show Oliver!, which was nominated for a Tony Award. He also had a starring cameo role in a hallmark episode of The Brady Bunch television show and later reprised parody film; Love, American Style; and My Two Dads.
On February 9th 1964, Davy appeared with the Broadway cast of Oliver! on The Ed Sullivan Show, the same episode on which The Beatles made their first appearance. Jones said of that night, “I watched the Beatles from the side of the stage, I saw the girls going crazy, and I said to myself, this is it, I want a piece of that.” At that time Jones was considered one of the great teen idols.
Following his Ed Sullivan appearance, Jones signed a contract with Ward Sylvester of Screen Gems (then the television division of Columbia Pictures). A pair of American television appearances followed, as Jones received screen time in episodes of Ben Casey and The Farmer’s Daughter.
Jones debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 in the week of 14 August 1965, with the single “What Are We Going To Do?” The 19-year-old singer was signed to Colpix Records, a label owned by Columbia. His debut album David Jones, on the same label, followed soon after. In 1967 the album was issued in the UK, in mono only, on the Pye Records label. A collector’s item today.
From 1966 to 1971, Jones was a member of the Monkees, a pop-rock group formed expressly for a television show of the same name. With Screen Gems producing the series, Jones was shortlisted for auditions, as he was the only Monkee who was signed to a deal with the studio, but still had to meet producers Bob Rafelson’s and Bert Schneider’s standards. Jones sang lead vocals on many of the Monkees’ recordings, including “I Wanna Be Free” and “Daydream Believer”.
The NBC television series the Monkees was popular, and remained in syndication. After the group disbanded in 1971, Jones reunited with Micky Dolenz as well as Monkees songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart in 1974 as a short-lived group called Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart. In the period after disbanding the Monkees he went back to TV and fashion and some half assed efforts in music.
A Monkees television show marathon (“Pleasant Valley Sunday”) broadcast on 23 February 1986 by MTV resulted in a wave of Monkeemania not seen since the group’s heyday. Jones reunited with Dolenz and Peter Tork from 1986 to 1989 to celebrate the band’s renewed success and promote the 20th anniversary of the group. A new top 20 hit, “That Was Then, This Is Now” was released (though Jones did not perform on the song) as well as an album, Pool It!.
Monkees activity ceased until 1996 when Jones reunited with Dolenz, Tork and Michael Nesmith to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the band. The group released a new album entitled Justus, the first album since 1967’s Headquarters that featured the band members performing all instrumental duties. It was the last time all four Monkees performed together.
In February 2011, Jones confirmed rumors of another Monkees reunion. “There’s even talk of putting the Monkees back together again in the next year or so for a U.S. and UK tour,” he told Disney’s Backstage Pass newsletter. “You’re always hearing all those great songs on the radio, in commercials, movies, almost everywhere.” The tour (Jones’s last) came to fruition entitled, An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour.
Not much later on February 29, 2012, the leap year day, Davy died from a massive heart attack at age 66.
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.
July 23, 2009 – Danny McBride (Sha Na Na) was born Daniel Hatton on November 20, 1945 in Reading, Massachusetts, where he graduated at Reading Memorial High School in 1963, where he would entertain his childhood friends with puppet shows, and then graduated from Boston University in 1970. After graduating he went into broadcasting, starting as a news reporter on a North Carolina radio station.
McBride and his group, the Cavaliers, had been popular in the early/mid 60’s Boston music scene, but McBride later became widely known as lead guitarist and lead singer for Sha Na Na during their heyday and on their own TV series of the same name.
July 4, 2009 – Drake Levin was bornDrake Maxwell Levinchefski on August 17th 1946 in Chicago, Illinois. Many sources cite his birth name as Levinshefski, but his brother Jeff said the family’s version, Levinchevski, was shortened to Levin many years before his birth. When he was 13, his family moved to Boise, Idaho. As a young man he played in a band called the Surfers, along with a bassist, Phil Volk, who would later join the Raiders.
March, 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.
January 9, 2009 – Dave Dee was born David John Harman on December 17th 1943 in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England. One day in 1946 he arrived home from kindergarten to find a man in a kilt talking to his mother. It was his father, whom he had never seen, and who had just returned from the war as a soldier in the Black Watch.
As a boy, he boarded at the Adcroft School of Building, formerly the Hammersmith School of Arts and Crafts which had been evacuated during the war from London to a former army camp at Trowbridge. Having been warned off the building trade by his father, David dabbled in plumbing but also became interested in music, initially the sort that accompanies Morris dancing. At 13 he played in a skiffle group and later sang in a Salvation Army choir, an experience he claimed cost him his virginity with a teenage comrade “dressed in the full uniform, including stockings and suspenders – the whole works”.
March 16, 2008 – Ola Brunkert (Swedish session drummer for Abba) was born in Örebro, Sweden on 15 September 1946. He began his musical career as a jazz drummer. His first professional job was with the Slim’s Blues Gang, before joining the pop group Science Poption in the mid ’60s. He then formed the jazz-rock combo Opus III with the guitarist Janne Schaffer and by 1970 had become one of the most sought after session drummers in Stockholm. His first session with Abba was on their first single, “People Need Love,” in 1972.
He was not among the four members of ABBA whose faces adorned the album covers — Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad—but was a key supporting musician for the group as it achieved stardom. Brunkert played on the group’s first single “People Need Love”, their Eurovision hit “Waterloo”, and consistently on a great many of their recordings throughout the 1970s. ABBA promised that ‘one day we’re gonna let you hear him sing’ in the liner notes for the album Arrival in 1976. His last recording session with the group was in October 1981, recording their hit single “One of Us”.
January 10, 2008 – Rod Allen (The Fortunes)was born Rodney Bainbridge on March 31, 1944 in Leicester, England where his parents were shopkeepers. His interest in popular music was fired by skiffle, in particular by the voice and guitar of Lonnie Donegan, whose fan club he joined at the age of 12.
When he was 14, the family moved to the Sparkbrook district of Birmingham and Rod attended Moseley grammar school. After graduation he worked for the Co-operative Insurance Society for 18 months, before he became a full-time musician. He had formed an acoustic guitar group, the Clifftones, with friends Glen Dale and Barry Pritchard. In 1963 they went electric, with Rod mastering the bass guitar; they added a drummer and keyboards player. They were managed by the flamboyant concert promoter Reg Calvert, who prevailed upon them to accompany a singer Calvert had renamed “Robbie Hood”. The Clifftones inevitably became the Merry Men, dressed in jerkins and green tights.
July 3, 2007 – Boots Randolph was born Homer Louis Randolph III was born on June 3, 1927 in Paducah, Kentucky, where he grew up in the rural community of Cadiz.
When Boots Randolph was “tootin’ his horn”, he did more than just play the saxophone. More than just pop out music notes. And that’s why his saxophone sounded like it could sing…could talk…could almost speak to deaf ears! His ability was awesome. His versatile style still has no equal. He brought audiences to their feet ever since the early sixties, when his signature song– “Yakety Sax” — first hit the airwaves. It took off like gangbusters and turned the young musician into a celebrity, probably before some of his friends in the hills of Kentucky could even spell it!
June 10, 2007 – Lynne Randell was born Lynne Randall on 14 December 1949 in Liverpool England where she had started primary school. When five years old however, her family migrated to Australia and settled in the Melbourne suburb of Murrumbeena. She later attended Mordialloc High School. She completed Form Three and won a singing talent quest at a school fete – the prize was a one-week engagement at Lorne on the Victorian surf coast.
March 9, 2007 – Brad Delp was born on June 12, 1951. Delp was born in Peabody, Massachusetts on June 12, 1951 to French-Canadian immigrants. He was raised in Danvers, Massachusetts.
In 1969, guitarist Barry Goudreau introduced Delp to Tom Scholz, who was looking for a singer to complete some demo recordings. Eventually Scholz formed the short-lived band Mother’s Milk (1973–74), including Delp and Goudreau. After producing a demo, Epic Records eventually signed the act. Mother’s Milk was renamed Boston, and the self-titled debut album (recorded in 1975, although many tracks had been written years before) was released in August 1976. Delp performed all of the lead and all backing harmony vocals, including all layered vocal overdubs.
Boston’s debut album sold more than 20 million copies, and produced rock standards such as “More Than a Feeling”, “Foreplay/Long Time” and “Peace of Mind”.
December 27, 2006 – Pierre Delanoë was born Pierre Charles Marcel Napoléon Leroyer on December 16, 1918 in Paris, France.
After studying and receiving a law degree, Delanoë began worked as a tax collector and then a tax inspector. After World War II he met singer Gilbert Bécaud and started a career as a lyricist. He did sing with Bécaud in clubs in the beginning, but this did not last long.
He has written some of France’s most beloved songs with Bécaud, including “Et maintenant“, translated into English as “What Now My Love“, which was covered by artists including Agnetha Fältskog, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, The Supremes, Sonny & Cher, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, and The Temptations. Another international hit “Je t’appartiens” (“Let It Be Me”) was covered by The Everly Brothers, Tom Jones, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Nina Simone and Nofx. “Crois-moi ça durera” was covered as “You’ll See” by Nat King Cole.
December 2, 2006 – Mariska Veres was born on October 1, 1947 in The Hague. Her father was the famous Hungarian Romani violinist Lajos Veres, and her mother, Maria Ender, was born in Germany of French and Russian parents. In the early childhood years Mariska often accompanied her father on the piano along with her elder sister Ilonka.
She began her career as a singer in 1963 with the guitar band Les Mysteres. In 1965 she joined the Bumble Bees, the Blue Fighters, Danny and his Favourites, then General Four in 1966, and the Motowns later in 1966. In 1968 Mariska was invited to join Shocking Blue to replace singer Fred de Wilde who was called into the armed forces.
A reincarnation of The Bumble Bees had performed at a party where Veres’s stunning appearance and powerful vocals attracted the attention of Shocking Blue’s manager and publisher. He talked bandleader van Leeuwen into having Veres replace de Wilde. “She had a very impressive voice, quite different from all the other girl singers,” van Leeuwen recalled: “She was rather like Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane. Once she joined, everything happened very quickly. The first single we did was ” Venus” in 1969. In one year, everything we dreamed about happened. It sold millions around the world and gave other Dutch groups a belief in their own potential.”
August 22, 2006 – Bruce Gary was born on April 7, 1951 in Burbank, California. Bruce had a tormented and horrid childhood as he grew up in the early ’60s in the west San Fernando Valley, not far from Malibu. “The popular music of my peers at that time was a wonderful combination of guitar, keyboards, bass and drums called surf music,” he said in a 2002 interview.
“It made me forget a lot of what was going on at home”. “Somehow it perfectly reflected the carefree times of my youth. I started playing drums when I was six years old. The first proper band I played in was called The Watchmen. I was eleven. We cut our teeth playing music by such artists as The Ventures, The Beach Boys, Dick Dale & The Del-Tones, The Surfaris, The Astronauts, The Wailers, and many more bands of that nature. We enjoyed a healthy dose of playing local parties and youth centers in the Valley.”
June 6, 2006 – William Everett “Billy” Preston (Beatles/Stones/etc.) was born on September 2, 1946 in Houston, Texas but raised mostly in Los Angeles, California.
When he was three, the family moved to Los Angeles, where Preston began playing piano while sitting on his mother Robbie’s lap. Noted as a child prodigy, Preston was entirely self-taught and never had a music lesson. By the age of ten, Preston was playing organ onstage backing several gospel singers such as Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland and Andraé Crouch. At age eleven, Preston appeared on Nat King Cole’s national TV show singing the Fats Domino hit, “Blueberry Hill” with Cole. Also at eleven, he appeared in the W.C. Handy biopic starring Nat King Cole: St. Louis Blues (1958), playing W.C. Handy at a younger age.
April 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.
July 6, 2005 – Dennis D’Ell (the Honeycombs)was born Denis James Dalziel on October 14, 1943 in Whitecapel, London, England. His father was the son of a lorry driver, in Stepney, east London and Dennis trained as a signalman for British Railways. He was also a plumber before joining the Sheratons which became later the Honeycombs.
Encouraged by his railroad co-workers he entered and won a talent contest in 1963. A number of news articles imply that the talent contest led directly to Denis joining the Honeycombs, however it was a chance conversation between Martin Murray and a mutual friend which led to them hooking up.
Martin Murray and Alan Ward on guitars, John Lantree on bass, and his sister Anne Lantree on drums had a local semi-pro band called the Sheratons. Shortly afterwards the band auditioned with maverick producer Joe Meek, agreed on a management deal with new songwriters Howard and Blaikley, signed to Pye records, and changed their name to The Honeycombs. As Anne’s nickname was “Honey” and she and Murray were hairdressers (that is, combers), they became “the Honeycombs”, as suggested by Louis Benjamin (1922–1994), Pye’s later chairman, a pun on the drummer’s name and her job as a hairdresser’s assistant.
BBC employees and budding songwriters Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley recorded some demonstration records of their songs, including “Have I the Right?” with the Honeycombs.
Joe Meek offered to record them but went into a tantrum when they arrived late to meet him due to London traffic. Howard and Blaikley won him round and “Have I the Right?” was recorded in three parts – the backing musicians, the vocals and then the stomping on the stairs. While they were jumping up and down, the cleaning lady called and told them to hurry up.
Conspicuous in “Have I the Right?” is the prominence of the drums, whose effect was enhanced by members of the group stamping their feet on the wooden stairs to the studio. Meek recorded the effect with five microphones he had fixed to the banisters with bicycle clips. For the finishing touch someone beat a tambourine directly onto a microphone. The recording was also somewhat sped up.
Leased to Pye Records, “Have I the Right?” was promoted by the pirate station Radio Caroline and the publicity surrounding a group with a girl drummer was enormous. The sales started slowly, but by the end of July the record started to climb in the UK Singles Chart. Honey Lantree’s status as a female drummer in a top band wasn’t just a visual novelty, she genuinely could play drums. At the end of August the record reached No. 1. “Have I the Right?” was also a big success outside the UK, hitting No. 1 in Australia and Canada, No. 3 in Ireland, No. 5 in the US and No. 2 in the Netherlands. Overall sales of the record reached a million.
The group toured Europe, The Far East, Japan and Australia soon after the song had become a hit. They went on tour to the Far East and Australia, and were not able to promote their later records at home. The tour gained them a long-lasting popularity in Japan, however. Especially for the Japanese market the group produced a live album and a single, “Love in Tokyo”. The group also made a lasting impression in Sweden, where they scored two No. 1 singles.
The Honeycombs had further success with “Is It Because?” and made the album It’s the Honeycombs (1964), but D’Ell was uncomfortable with Meek’s speeded-up trickery and criticized him in an interview with New Musical Express. Meek then recorded the Ray Davies song “Something Better Beginning” at standard speed, admittedly with some distortion, but the record only nudged into the Top Forty. When Meek resorted to his regular activities, the Honeycombs had another Top Twenty hit, with “That’s the Way”, and made the album All Systems Go!
In August 1965 the group released, “That’s the Way”, with Honey Lantree sharing vocals with D’Ell (when on tour, Viv Prince of The Pretty Things took over the drumming). This record became their fourth British hit and reached No. 12. Its successor, “This Year Next Year”, again with Lantree and D’Ell sharing vocals, did not reach the UK chart. The group floundered after Meek’s suicide in 1967. They split up and did not reform until 1994.
D’Ell sang and played harmonica on all but the last single the group recorded. “Who Is Sylvia?” was an adaptation of Franz Schubert’s song “An Sylvia”. “It’s So Hard” was also recorded by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich as “Hard to Love You”.
In April 1966 Denis D’Ell, Alan Ward and Peter Pye left the group. D’Ell became a solo singer, usually of soul songs, and his “Better Use Your Head” (1967) became a 1970s favorite on the Northern Soul circuit.
In the early seventies Denis formed a band with Rod Butler called Zarabanda and also fronted the Don Harvey band.
• In 1975 he won a controversial victory in a national talent show.
• In April 1976 he released Home Is Home / Morning Without You
• In the 1980s he was with The Southside Blues Band.
• In 1983 he appeared in an episode of The Time Of Your Life
• In 1994 the MKII version of The Honeycombs reformed for a 30th anniversary gig, and around that time they recorded a cover of “Live And Let Die” for a compilation album Cult Themes from the 70s Volume 2 on Future Legend Records.
• During the nineties and into the new millennium he was with a duo called “The Shuffle Brothers” with Tommy Dunn (who also played with blues band National Gold) and sometimes Andy Robinson Andy Robinson Band who would depp for Tommy.
Andy Robinson, who played with him in later years said “Working with Dennis was a real pleasure and great learning curve. We used to play a pub in Southend on Sea called the “Minerva” on a Sunday, playing sometimes from midday to midnight and I don’t ever think he repeated a song once. His knowledge was enormous as was his talent and sound.
The last time I saw him was at a fundraising gig in Saffron Walden football club, his appearance was heartbreaking, he died soon after.”
On July 6, 2005 he lost his battle with cancer at the age of 61.
What is not so well known is that Denis did not particularly like the music that made him famous. He was critical of Joe Meek’s recording techniques. He said “There was always contention between us and Joe that he never recorded the band the way we sounded. He was fond of speeding us up so that I ended up sounding like Mickey Mouse. He liked to compress everything and put on so much echo ─ we ended up like the Tornados with a singer.”
In an August 1964 NME article, he gives his favourite singers as Elvis, Roy Orbison, and Brook Benton and favourite artists/instrumetalists as Ray Coniff, Floyd Cramer, Chet Atkins, and Bill Black.
In the summer of 1964 Denis saw a band called ‘Dave Dee and the Bostons’ and liked them. He got them a slot supporting The Honeycombs and showed them to managers Howard and Blaikley who took the band on, changing the name to ‘Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick, and Titch’. The deal between The Honeycombs and Howard and Blaikley required that the Honeycombs got first refusal of all new songs written by the pair. If they turned a song down then it would go to Dave Dee.
After Martin Murray left The Honeycombs the mantle of band leader naturally fell to D’Ell. Since Denis preferred blues to pop he turned down a lot of songs. In fact The Honeycombs second album only has three Howard and Blaikley numbers on it compared to the first which only had three songs NOT penned by the pair. Naturally those songs were offered to Dave Dee. So songs like ‘All I Want’, ‘No Time’, ‘You Make It Move’, 1965; and (among many others) ‘Bend It’ 1966 might have been Honeycombs songs.
Music must have been in Dennis’s blood since not only did he remain in the music business through thick and thin until his untimely death in 2005, but also his brother Laurie still plays bass to this day in various bands, including Medicine Hat.
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.
January 12, 2003 – Maurice Ernest Gibb (the BeeGees) was born in Douglas, Isle of Man on 22 December 1949, as the fraternal twin of Robin Gibb, and was the younger of the two by 35 minutes. At that time, he had one sister, Lesley, and one other older brother, Barry.
In January 1955, the Gibbs moved back to Manchester, England. Around 1955, Gibb and his brothers were heard harmonizing by their parents. Also in 1955, he started his music career when he joined the skiffle/rock and roll group the Rattlesnakes with his brothers and two friends, Paul Frost and Kenny Horrocks, who were their neighbours. The group’s first major appearance was on 28 December 1957 when they performed at a local Gaumont cinema where children were invited to sing between films. They had planned to sing along to a 78 rpm record which Lesley had just been given as a Christmas present, but on the way Gibb and his brother Robin dropped and broke it, so they sang live. The audience were pleased by their singing, which reportedly may have been the song “Wake Up Little Susie” by the Everly Brothers.
December 31, 2002 – Kevin Scott MacMichael (the Cutting Crew) was born on November 7, 1951 in New Brunswick, Canada. Coming from a musical background, his father played drums and his mother was a teacher, Kevin picked up the guitar while in school and began his life-long passion for playing this instrument and the Beatles. He must’ve been quite inspired, as he apparently then learned how to play over 200 Beatles songs on guitar! (212 to be exact).
He began his career playing in local bands on the East Coast of Canada in the late 1970’s, notably Chalice and in 1978 the band Spice. Spice featured another guitarist Floyd King, who Kevin would continue to collaborate with over the years. They released a few singles that are very difficult to find now, including “Prisoner of Love” and “Beautiful You”.
March 27, 2002 – Dudley Moore was born on April 19th 1935. As an actor, musician, comedian and composer he first came to prominence as one of the four writer-performers in Beyond the Fringe in the early 1960s and became famous as half of the popular television double-act he formed with Peter Cook.
Dudley was bullied from an early age, and had an unhappy family life; seeking refuge from his problems he became a choirboy at the age of six and took up piano and violin. He rapidly developed into a talented pianist and organist and was playing the pipe organ at church weddings by the age of 14. He attended Dagenham County High School where he received musical tuition from a dedicated teacher, Peter Cork, who became a friend and confidant.
His musical talent won him an organ scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford. He soon became an accomplished jazz pianist and composer. He began working with such leading musicians as John Dankworth and Cleo Laine. In 1960, he left Dankworth’s band to work on Beyond the Fringe. During the 1960s he also formed the “Dudley Moore Trio”. His early recordings included “My Blue Heaven”, “Lysie Does It”, “Poova Nova”, “Take Your Time”, “Indiana”, “Sooz Blooz”, “Bauble, Bangles and Beads”, “Sad One for George” and “Autumn Leaves”.
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.
December 24, 2000 – Nick Massi was born Nicholas Macioci in Newark, New Jersey on September 19, 1927. Bass singer and bass guitarist for the Four Seasons, he had been playing with several bands before joining The Four Lovers in 1958.
After the group evolved into the Four Seasons in 1961, he handled bass vocals and vocal arrangements throughout the band’s glory days, which resulted in international hits such as “Sherry,” “Dawn (Go Away),” and “Rag Doll”. During his tenure, the group made the Billboard Top 40 chart 17 times and toured throughout the United States and overseas, melding doo- wop vocals with a contemporary beat. He remained with the group until 1965, when he grew tired of touring and the first antics that landed some of the band members briefly in jail. He continued his career in music however as he worked as an arranger, vocal coach, and engineer in numerous New Jersey studios, with bands such as the Baby Toys, the Carmels, and the Victorians.
It was Massi’s pop savvy that allowed the Four Seasons to be one of the few American bands, along with the Beach Boys, to weather the British invasion, as they continued to release successful singles after the arrival of The Beatles such as “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man” and “Rag Doll,” which friends said was his favorite.
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.
April 17, 1998 – Linda Louise, Lady McCartney (Wings) was born Linda Eastman on September 24, 1941 in New York City. Prior to marrying Paul, she was a professional photographer of celebrities and contemporary musicians, with her work published in music industry magazines. Her photos were also published in the book, Linda McCartney’s Sixties: Portrait of an Era, in 1992.
October 12, 1997 – John Denver, was born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr in Roswell, New Mexico on December 31st 1943. At the age of 12, he received a 1910 Gibson acoustic jazz guitar from his grandmother and he taught himself to play it well enough to play locally as a teenager in groups such as the folk-music group “The Alpine Trio”.
John went on to become one of the most popular acoustic artists of the 1970s in terms of record sales, he recorded and released around 300 songs, about 200 of which he composed himself.
He was named Poet Laureate of Colorado in 1977. Songs such as “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, “Rocky Mountain High”, “Sunshine on My Shoulders”, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”, “Annie’s Song” and “Calypso” attained worldwide popularity.
March 22, 1986 – Mark Max Edward Dinning was born on August 17th 1933 in Manchester, Oklahoma, the youngest of nine children, but grew up on a farm outside of Nashville, Tennessee. In 1960, he recorded “Teen Angel” that was written by his sister Jean and her husband Red Surrey.
The lyrics told of the death of a teenage love that radio stations in the United Kingdom deemed too morbid to be aired, but it went to No.1 on the Billboard Charts in the U.S. Despite lack of airplay in the UK, the song reached No.37 on the UK Singles Chart and sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.
Dinning had an alcohol addiction, which restricted his performances, and caused promoters to stop booking him as he faded from public view. Although Dinning never duplicated the success of “Teen Angel”, he had three minor hit records in the ensuing years.
He died of a heart attack on March 22, 1986 at age 52.
February 4, 1983 – Karen Carpenter was born in New Haven, Connecticut on March 2nd 1950. When she was young, she enjoyed playing baseball with other children on the street. On the TV program This Is Your Life, she stated that she liked pitching and later, in the early 1970s, she would become the pitcher on the Carpenters’ official softball team. Her brother Richard developed an interest in music at an early age, becoming a piano prodigy. The family moved in June 1963 to the Los Angeles suburb of Downey.
In 1964 when Carpenter entered Downey High School, she joined the school band. Bruce Gifford, the conductor (who had previously taught her older brother) gave her the glockenspiel, an instrument she disliked and after admiring the performance of her friend, Frankie Chavez (who idolized famous jazz drummer Buddy Rich), she asked if she could play the drums instead. Continue reading Karen Carpenter 2/1983
April 24th, 1975 – Pete Ham (Badfinger) was born Peter William Ham in Swansea, Wales on April 27, 1947. He formed a local rock group called The Panthers around 1961. This group would undergo several name and lineup changes before it became The Iveys in 1965. The band was relocated to London by The Mojos manager, Bill Collins, in 1966, and they continued to perform for three years throughout the United Kingdom. As it was, Ham eventually became the prominent songwriter for the band, as a Revox tape recorder was made available by Collins to encourage him. Ray Davies of The Kinks took an initial interest in the group, although tracks produced by Davies did not surface commercially until decades later. In 1968, The Iveys came to the attention of Mal Evans (The Beatles personal assistant) and were eventually signed to the Beatles’ Apple Records label after approval from all four Beatles, who were reportedly impressed by the band’s songwriting abilities.
The Iveys changed their name to Badfinger with the single release of “Come and Get It,” a composition written by Paul McCartney, and it became a worldwide Top Ten hit. Ham had initially protested against using a non-original to promote the band, as he had gained confidence in the group’s compositions, but he was quickly convinced of the springboard effect of having a likely hit single. His own creative perseverance paid off eventually, as his “No Matter What” composition became another Top Ten worldwide hit after its release in late 1970.
He followed up writing two more worldwide hits with “Day After Day” and “Baby Blue.” His greatest songwriting success came with his co-written composition “Without You” – a worldwide number 1 when it was later covered by Harry Nilsson and released in 1972. The song has since become a ballad standard and is covered by hundreds of singers from many genres worldwide. An Ivor Novello award for Song of the Year was issued in 1973 along with Grammy nominations. George Harrison used Ham’s talents for a number of album sessions including the All Things Must Pass album and for other Apple Records artist’s recordings. This friendship culminated with Ham’s acoustic guitar duet on “Here Comes the Sun” with Harrison at The Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, later portrayed in the theatrical film of the concert.
In 1972, Badfinger was picked up by Warner Bros. Records, as the Apple Records label was crumbling and it seemed the band was primed for major recognition. Unfortunately however the era from 1973–75, found Badfinger embroiled in many internal, financial, and managerial problems and their music was stifled. By 1975, with no income and the band’s business manager uncommunicative, Ham became despondent and he hanged himself in the garage of his Surrey home.
Ham was aged 27 at the time; his suicide fell just three days shy of his 28th birthday. He left behind a pregnant girlfriend, who gave birth to their daughter one month after his death. His suicide note had the statement, “I will not be allowed to love and trust everybody. This is better.”
It also included an accusatory blast toward Badfinger’s business manager, Stan Polley: “P.S. Stan Polley is a soulless bastard. I will take him with me.” News of Ham’s death was not widely disseminated at the time, as no public comment was made by The Beatles, Apple Corps Ltd, or Warner Bros. Records.
Ham is often credited as being one of the earliest purveyors of the power pop genre. His most widespread effect in popular music is the ballad “Without You,” written with Badfinger bandmate Tom Evans. Collections of Ham’s home demo recordings have been posthumously released: 1997’s 7 Park Avenue, 1999’s Golders Green and 2013’s The Keyhole Street Demos 1966–67. On 27 April 2013, Ham was commemorated by his hometown’s first official heritage blue plaque. The unveiling ceremony took place at Swansea’s High Street station, located at Ivey Place, on what would have been Ham’s 66th birthday. Following the unveiling, which was performed by Ham’s daughter Petera, a tribute concert featuring two original Iveys members was held at Swansea’s Grand Theatre.
As is the case with suicides, Ham reached a point where death seemed to be the only solution to his problems. He met band mate/co-songwriter Tom Evans in a pub near his home on the evening of April 24th, 1975, three days before his 28th birthday, and told him: “Don’t worry, I know a way out.” Fortified with drink, Ham went back to his home, wrote a note in which he expressed his bitterness towards his manager and hanged himself in his garage. Evans hanged himself seven years later leaving a note that stated, he wanted to be where Petey was.
The story of one of power rock’s eternal melodies “Without You”, left its creators in desperation, like the 15 minute of fame legacy kills.