October 18, 2017 – Phil Miller (In Cahoots) was born on January 22, 1949 in Barnet, Hertfordshire, to Mavis (nee Dale), a librarian, and David Miller, a wartime lieutenant colonel in the Royal Marines and later head of commodities at the Stock Exchange. He was educated at Blackfriars boarding school, in Laxton, Northamptonshire, from where he occasionally truanted at night, hitch-hiking to London clubs to hear his musical heroes play, and returning unmissed in time for early-morning mass.
A self-taught guitarist, he formed his first band, Delivery, at 17, and played regularly upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s in London, backing visiting blues legends.
In 1971 he became a vital figure on the “Canterbury scene” when Robert Wyatt, who had just left Soft Machine, recruited Phil to join his new band, Matching Mole. The “scene”, noted for the frequent absence of the electric guitar as a lead instrument, boasted Phil as its undisputed exponent. Continue reading Phil Miller 10/2017
September 11, 2017 – Virgil Howe was born on September 23, 1975 in London, England, the second son to Yes founding member/ guitarist Steve Howe. He played on several of his father’s projects: he performed on keys, alongside his brother Dylan Howe on drums, for the Steve Howe solo albums The Grand Scheme of Things (1993) and Spectrum (2005). He was in Steve Howe’s Remedy band, who released an album Elements (2003), toured the UK and then released a live DVD. He wrote and performed on a piece on his father’s 2011 release Time. He also plays drums on 11 tracks of Steve Howe’s Anthology 2: Groups and Collaborations that were largely recorded in the 1980s. Under the name The Verge, Virgil Howe produced the Yes Remixes album, released 2003.
Nexus, due November 2017, is a joint album by Virgil & Steve Howe, due on InsideOut. Father Steve described the album: “Most of the credit goes to Virgil on this; it’s Virgil’s bed and melodies but I’ve come in to add a little bit more.” Continue reading Virgil Howe 9/2017
June 27, 2017 – Dave Rosser (Afghan Whigs) was born David Clark Rosser in St.Louis, Missouri on August 3, 1966. Raised in Gadsden, Alabama is where he first learned to play guitar and started what became a lifelong passion. After high school, David attended college and eventually moved to Memphis, where he worked in the family business for a short time. His calling as a career musician was apparent, and it led him to Auburn, Alabama, then finally to New Orleans in 1992.
He adopted New Orleans as his beloved city, and here his career took shape. He spent many years with the band Metal Rose, played throughout the French Quarter, and did studio work with many area musicians.Continue reading Dave Rosser 6/2017
June 2, 2017 – Aamir Zaki was born on April 8, 1968 in Saudi Arabia from Pakistani parents.
Music was part of his home education with both parents sharing classical, jazz, blues and rock with their children. Aamir became an instant admirer of Rhandy Rhoads, metal guitar virtuoso with Ozzy Osborne.
Playing guitar since the age of 14, he became known for his melodic phrasing, feel, and tone.
The first mainstream musician to recognise Zaki as a teenage prodigy was Alamgir, who got in touch with him to tour India, Dubai, England and the U.S.A. Continue reading Aamir Zaki 6/2017
May 5, 2017 – Clive Brooks was born on December 28, 1949 in Bow, East London where he was also raised.
Answering a Melody Maker ad in early 1968, Brooks joined Uriel, a blues-rock group in the style of Hendrix / Cream / blues / psychedelic group original formed by three City of London School pupils Dave Stewart (keyboards), Mont Campbell (bass and lead vocals) and Steve Hillage (guitar and vocals). The band re-grouped later under the name Arzachel and released one album in 1969, after they had already changed musical direction.Continue reading Clive Brooks 5/2017
January 31, 2017 – Deke Leonard (Man) was born Roger Leonard on 18 December 1944 in Llanelli, South Wales in the UK, the son of Winston, a dog breeder, and his wife, Ella. He attended Llanelli boys’ grammar school, where he formed his first band, Lucifer and the Corncrackers, with his cousin Meic Rees (vocals), Geoff Griffiths (drums) and Clive “Wes” Reynolds (bass), in 1962, taking his stage name from “Deke” Rivers, the character played by Elvis Presley in his 1957 movie Loving You. Leonard left school to work as a management trainee for a building contractor, where he quickly left to avoid getting fired. He decided to become a full-time musician or as he later confessed: “”serving a life sentence in the music business”.
The Corncrackers ran their own club, the “L” Club, featuring themselves and booking other Welsh musicians such as such as Tommy Scott (Tom Jones) and the Senators. He went on to play with other Welsh bands, the Jets, Smokeless Zone and the Dream., whilst also playing support to acts such as Johnny Kidd & The Pirates and The Hollies at a rival venue. When Rees left they continued as a trio; Keith Hodge then replaced Griffiths, but when Reynolds left to join the South Wales band The Jets, The Corncrackers broke up. Continue reading Deke Leonard 1/2017
January 31, 2017 – John Wetton (ASIA) was born on June 12, 1949 in Willington, Derbyshire, and grew up in the coastal city of Bournemouth, Dorset, England.
He first cut his musical teeth on church music at his family’s piano where he often played the bass parts to help his brother rehearse tunes for services….an experience that led to John’s love of the relationship between top line and bass melodies. It stayed a major feature of his music throughout his career. In his teens, John focused those melodies on the bass guitar and honed his skills by playing and singing with local bands. He also discovered a knack for songwriting with an early bandmate, Richard Palmer-James; a relationship that would continue to flourish through five decades.Continue reading John Wetton 1/2017
April 21, 2016 – Prince Rogers Nelson was born June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and actor, Prince became a superstar between 1978 and 1990 and beyond. He was renowned as an innovator and was widely known for his eclectic work, flamboyant stage presence, and wide vocal range. He was widely regarded as the pioneer of Minneapolis sound. His music integrates a wide variety of styles, including funk, rock, R&B, soul, hip hop, disco, psychedelia, jazz, and pop.
Prince developed an interest in music at an early age, writing his first song at age seven. After recording songs with his cousin’s band 94 East, 19-year-old Prince recorded several unsuccessful demo tapes before releasing his debut album For You in 1978, under the guidance of manager Owen Husney. His 1979 album Prince went platinum due to the success of the singles “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover”. Continue reading Prince 4/2016
April 1, 2015 – Dave Ball was born on March 30th 1950 in Birmingham, England. He was the youngest of three sons from a musical Birmingham family. “We were born show-offs and broke into a routine at the slightest excuse,” he said of his adolescence strumming a guitar alongside Pete and Denny. All three brothers played in various groups in Germany before teaming up with the drummer Cozy Powell to back Ace Kefford, formerly of The Move, and then forming Big Bertha in 1969.
Replacing Robin Trower in Procol Harum in 1970, he can be heard on the group’s live album, Procol Harum Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, but left late during the recordings for their 1973 album Grand Hotel, in Sept 1972. “I was getting bored,” he said in an interview. “There were only so many ideas I could put into that style.” Continue reading Dave Ball 4/2015
March 7, 2013 – Peter Banks (Yes) was born Peter Brockbanks on July 15th 1947 in Barnet, North London. He learned to play the guitar on an acoustic his dad bought for him and banjo as a sidekick.
Banks started his career in music with The Nighthawks in 1963 and played his first concert at the New Barnet Pop Festival before leaving that band to join The Devil’s Disciples in 1964. The band consisted of Banks on guitar, John Tite on vocals, Ray Alford on bass and Malcolm “Pinnie” Raye on drums. They recorded two songs on an acetate, Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On” (a hit for the Stones a little later) and Graham Gouldman’s (10CC) “For Your Love” which would be a hit record for The Yardbirds one year later. These two songs can be found on Banks’ archival album Can I Play You Something. Continue reading Peter Banks 3/2013
January 16, 2013 – Nic Potterwas born on 18 October 1951 in Swindon, England.
He left school at 15, originally to train in carpentry. At 16, he joined a late lineup of The Misunderstood however and recorded on their 1969 LP Golden Glass. At the same time as drummer Guy Evans, he joined Van Der Graaf Generator, when they were on a brief hiatus.
When Van der Graaf decided to reform after the release The Aerosol Grey Machine. When earlier bassist Keith Ellis decided to join Juicy Lucy, Evans recommended that Potter join as his replacement.
He first appeared on the album “The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other”, also playing some electric guitar on a few tracks in addition to his usual bass. He left the band in 1970 during the recording of their next album, ‘H to He, Who Am The Only One’, on which he recorded 3 tracks.
November 20, 2012 – Michael Dunford (Renaissance) was born in 1944 in Surrey, England.
The reclusive and soft-spoken composer, a mainstay in the world of progressive rock, was born, raised and educated in Surrey. His first job was selling clothing in a local shop followed by a stint as an airside driver at Heathrow Airport which enabled him to form a “skiffle” group which lead to his first rock band called Nashville Teens in the early 1960s. Nashville Teens reached #6 on U.K. singles charts with their version of Tobacco Road. On leaving them, he formed several other bands including The Pentad and The Plebes. One night he went to see the original band Renaissance perform locally and ended up joining them in the early 1970s. The original band members were Jim McCarty, Louis Cennamo, John Hawken, Keith Relf and Jane Relf.
Dunford entered the band during a period of transition. Though he wrote (and played guitar on) ‘Mr. Pine’ from 1971’s largely ignored ‘Illusion,’ his influence wasn’t truly felt until Renaissance’s third album, 1972’s ‘Prologue.’ This was the beginning of the band’s classic ’70s period, cementing their trademark brand of epic, symphonic prog. Dunford wrote two tracks on his own and co-wrote two others, though he didn’t actually contribute to the recording. Nonetheless, his writing gave the band focus: The elegant title-track (written by Dunford) is one of Renaissance’s most powerful instrumentals, featuring Haslam’s towering voice, John Tout’s jazzy, Latin-tinged piano, and Jon Camp’s furious bassline.
From that point forward, Dunford (along with writing partner, lyricist Betty Thatcher) was the band’s guiding creative force. He co-wrote all but one track on the band’s 1973 breakthrough, the orchestra-backed ‘Ashes Are Burning,’ making his studio debut and showcasing his signature acoustic guitar playing: subtle, misty, and slightly majestic.
And with each subsequent release, both Dunford and Renaissance grew more powerful. Their masterpiece was delivered in 1975 with ‘Scheherazade and Other Stories,’ their most cinematic and densely layered work, concluding with the 25-minute epic ‘Song of Scheherazade’ (which was also captured–in an arguably more thrilling context — on the 1976 live double-album ‘Live at Carnegie Hall’).
Though Renaissance were a British band, most of their success during this peak period came in the United States: ‘Scheherazade’ landed at No. 48 on the Billboard Album Charts, and their 1977 follow-up, ‘Novella,’ reached the same spot. The band’s biggest success, however, came in their home country with 1978’s ‘A Song for All Seasons,’ which peaked at No. 35 in the UK, thanks in large part to the success of that album’s hit single, ‘Northern Lights,’ which was built on Dunford’s shimmering strums and John Tout’s newly utilized synthesizers.
But these were also dark times. Punk and disco were diminishing the prog-rock’s relevance, leaving bands like Renaissance with a choice: either adapt or face extinction. As a result, Renaissance–under Camp’s guiding presence–went through a radical makeover in the 1980s. They released two albums, 1981’s ‘Camera Camera’ and 1983’s ‘Time-Line,’ both of which sought to blend the band’s artful rock with a more streamlined, synth-heavy approach leaning toward new-wave. After both albums tanked, the band’s remaining core trio (Dunford, Haslam, and Camp) dissolved into their own factions, with Dunford and Haslam seeking to continue the Renaissance name separately. Without each other, the magic wasn’t there.
But Dunford managed to reunite with Haslam, the magical voice behind his band’s best music, for 2001’s ‘Tuscany’ (also featuring Tout on keyboards, along with original drummer, Terence Sullivan), an album that recaptured some of the original Renaissance spirit.
Sadly, both Dunford and his old band are rarely mentioned in the same breath as their prog peers like Genesis, Yes, and King Crimson. Part of the reason is exposure: Even during their mid-to-late ’70s prime, Renaissance were never chart-toppers or stadium sell-outs (though they did manage one UK top-ten single, 1978’s ‘Northern Lights’). And they were never as technically flashy or boldly experimental as those bands: Throughout the group’s quietly excellent lifespan, the Renaissance catalogue is middle-of-the-road, but in a good way — consistently built on Annie Haslam’s soaring, operative, five-octave vocals, Jon Camp’s propulsive and melodic basslines, and Dunford’s tasteful guitar playing and arrangements. They were never prog’s trailblazers or sonic innovators — but they were certainly one of the most consistently great, album-to-album.
Dunford, the guitarist and chief composer behind Renaissance’s sweeping, symphonic progressive rock, passed away on November 20, 2012 after suffering an Instantaneous Cerebral Hemmorage at his Surrey, England home. He is survived not only by his wife, two sons, and sister — but also by some of the most hauntingly beautiful progressive rock albums ever recorded.
Before his death, Dunford was as musically active as he’d been in a decade: He’d just finished the first leg of a well-received tour (with Haslam and a new Renaissance line-up), with a newly recorded follow-up album, ‘Grandine il Vento,’ scheduled for a 2013 release. Ironically, what began as an incredibly exciting year for Renaissance turned into its final chapter. And considering the circumstances, ‘Vento’ should be the band’s swan song.
Though Dunford’s never been one of prog-rock’s most visible icons, he’s a crucial player in the genre’s rich history. He should be remembered that way.
March 10, 2010 – Micky Jones (Man) was born on June 7th 1946. In 1960, whilst still at school, Micky formed his first band The Rebels, before he formed his first professional band The Bystanders in 1962 which over the years developed into the legendary Welsh pychedelic, progressive rock, blues and country-rock band “Man”, officially formed in 1968 as a reincarnation of Welsh rock harmony group “The Bystanders from Merthyr Tydfil”.
They say that in order to understand the Welsh, you first must gain a sense of Wales. Unfortunately there are almost as many different colorful facets to the principality as there are people: in the south alone blue mountains rise from green valleys to hug the clouds, silver light drifts across granite castles, white cottages pepper the landscape and grey seas nibble at the coastline. What the tourist guides often fail to mention however is that this is also a landscape scarred black by the ravages of coal mining and tainted red by the rusting hulk of iron foundries. Where Ireland often gives the impression of having moved directly from the eighteenth century into the twenty-first without an industrial age in between, South Wales today still wears a curtain of steel. It’s an increasingly thin curtain in this post-industrial age, but the signs are all around nonetheless.
June 7, 2009 – Hugh Hopper (Soft Machine) was born on April 29, 1945 in Canterbury, England.
Hugh C. Hopper was perhaps the central figure of the whole famous Canterbury scene. In a career spanning forty years, he played with litterally everyone : Robert Wyatt, Daevid Allen, Richard Sinclair, Elton Dean, Mike Ratledge, Phil Miller, Dave Stewart, Pip Pyle…
February 19, 2009- Kelly Groucutt (ELO) was born September 8, 1945 in Coseley, West Midlands, England.
Groucutt began his musical career at 15 as Rikki Storm of Rikki Storm and the Falcons. He went on to sing with various outfits during the ’60s, picking up the guitar as he went along. Groucutt was also a member of a band called “Sight and Sound”, and later with a band called “Barefoot”.
September 15, 2008 – Rick Wright (Pink Floyd) was born on July 28, 1943 in Hatch End, London.
He taught himself to play guitar, trumpet and piano at age 12 after he was recuperating from breaking a leg. His mother helped and encouraged him to play the piano. He took private lessons in musical theory and composition at the Eric Gilder School of Music and became influenced by the traditional jazz revival, learning the trombone and saxophone as well as the piano. Uncertain about his future, he enrolled in 1962 at the Regent Street Polytechnic which was later incorporated into the University of Westminster. There he met fellow musicians Roger Waters and Nick Mason, and all three joined a band formed by classmate Clive Metcalf called Sigma 6.
May 11, 2008 – John Rutsey was born in Toronto, Canada on July 23, 1952.
In 1963, Rutsey met Lifeson, while attending St. Paschals School. Rutsey would play hockey with him on the street. Both interested in music, they decided to form a band. The two would be part of the band ‘The Projection’ with Bill Fitzgerald and “Doc” Cooper.
He became a founding member of the Canadian rock band Rush formed in 1968 with guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist Jeff Jones, who would soon be replaced by Geddy Lee.