Posted on Leave a comment

Ronnie Hawkins 5/22

Born in Huntsville, Arkansas  on January 10, 1935 Ronnie Hawkins made quite the career for himself in Canada (where he became a permanent resident in 1964). A road warrior, he made his rounds across North America and launched the careers of many musicians, including the Band (who backed him as the Hawks from 1961 to 1964), Roy Buchanan, Pat Travers and others.

Musicianship ran in Hawkins’s family; Hawkins’s father, uncles, and cousins had toured the honky-tonk circuit in Arkansas and Oklahoma in the 1930s and 1940s. His uncle Delmar “Skipper” Hawkins, a road musician, had moved to California about 1940 and joined cowboy singing star Roy Rogers’s band, the Sons of the Pioneers. Hawkins’s cousin Delmar Allen “Dale” Hawkins, the earliest white performer to sing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and the Regal Theater in Chicago, recorded the rhythm and blues song “Suzie Q” in 1957. Beginning at age eleven, Ronnie Hawkins sang at local fairs and before he was a teenager shared a stage with Hank Williams. He recalled that Williams was too drunk to perform, and his band, the Drifting Cowboys invited members of the audience to get on the stage and sing. Hawkins accepted the invitation and sang some Burl Ives songs he knew.

As a teenager Hawkins ran bootleg liquor from Missouri to the dry counties of Oklahoma in his modified Model A Ford, sometimes making three hundred dollars a day. He claimed in later years that he continued the activity until he was nineteen or twenty, and that it was how he made the money to buy into nightclubs. He had already formed his first band, the Hawks, when he graduated from high school in 1952, following which he studied physical education at the University of Arkansas, where in 1956 he dropped out just a few credits short of graduation.

Hawkins then enlisted in the United States Army, but he was required to serve only six months, having already completed ROTC training. Soon after his arrival at Fort Sill in Oklahoma for Army Basic Combat Training, he was having a drink at the Amvets club when an African American quartet began to play their music. Hearing the first notes so stirred him that he jumped onto the stage and started singing. “It sounded like something between the blues and rockabilly… me being a hayseed and those guys playing a lot funkier.” The experience caused Hawkins to realize what kind of music he really wanted to play, and he joined the four black musicians, who renamed themselves the Blackhawks.

The group had been performing a sort of jazz/blues something like Cab Calloway’s music of the 1940s, and Hawkins sought to introduce contemporary influences to their repertoire. With another new member, blues saxophonist A.C. Reed, they created some of the South’s most dynamic music sounds. “Instead of doing a kind of rockabilly that was closer to country music, I was doing rockabilly that was closer to soul music, which was exactly what I liked.” The band encountered prejudice, as many white people in the American South of the 1950s could not accept an integrated band and considered rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues the devil’s music.

The Blackhawks disbanded when his enlistment ended. Hawkins went back to Fayetteville, and two days later he got a call from Sun Records, who wanted him to front the house session band. By the time he got to Memphis, though, the group had already broken up. Nevertheless, he took advantage of the opportunity to cut two demos, Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” and Hank Williams’s “A Mansion on the Hill”, but the recordings attracted no attention. The demo session guitarist, Jimmy Ray “Luke” Paulman, suggested that Hawkins join him at his home in Helena, Arkansas, in the heart of the Mississippi Delta region, a hotbed of blues, rhythm and blues, and country music, an offer which he eagerly accepted.

Immediately upon arriving in Helena, Hawkins and Paulman found Paulman’s brother George (standup bass) and their cousin Willard “Pop” Jones (piano) and formed a band they named The Hawks. Drummer Levon Helm, who had grown up in nearby Turkey Scratch, Arkansas, first played with the group at the Delta Supper Club in early 1957 when George Paulman invited him to sit in with them for their closing set. Helm reminisced years later how Hawkins, accompanied by Luke Paulman, drove his Model A out to the Helm’s cotton farm, arriving in a cloud of dust to talk to Helm’s parents. Helm remembered him as “a big ol’ boy in tight pants, sharp shoes and a pompadour hanging down his forehead.” Helm listened to Hawkins negotiate an agreement with his parents, who insisted that he graduate high school before he could join the Hawks and go to Canada. Helm practiced diligently on a makeshift drum kit to improve his skills, and when he graduated in May, he was good enough to play drum in the band.

Hawkins’s live act included back flips and a “camel walk” that preceded Michael Jackson’s similar moonwalk by three decades. His stage persona gained him the monikers “Rompin’ Ronnie” and “Mr. Dynamo”. Hawkins also owned and operated the Rockwood Club in Fayetteville, where some of rock and roll’s earliest pioneers came to play, including Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Conway Twitty.

With Helm’s graduation from high school, he joined The Hawks and they went to Canada, where the group met success. On April 13, 1959, they auditioned for Morris Levy, owner of Roulette Records in New York. Only four hours later, they entered the studio and recorded their first record tracks. Their first single, “Forty Days”, was a barely disguised knockoff of Chuck Berry’s “Thirty Days” with the song “Mary Lou” by Young Jessie on the B-side; it reached number 26 on the US pop charts, becoming Hawkins’s biggest hit.

After spending nearly three months in Canada, the band returned to the South, with their base in Hawkin’s home town of Fayetteville. The band’s gigs in the southern states were mostly one-nighters or short run performances in Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Helm loved to drive, and would drive the band two or three hundred miles to the next show in Hawkin’s old Chevy, which Hawkins eventually replaced with a Cadillac towing a trailer containing their equipment.

Hawkins and the group had begun touring Canada in 1958 as the Ron Hawkins Quartet on the recommendation of Conway Twitty, who told him Canadian audiences wanted to hear rockabilly. Their bassist George Paulman was abusing liquor and pills, so Hawkins left him behind, and they played without a bass on their first tour of Ontario. Their first gig was at the Golden Rail Tavern in Hamilton, Ontario, where, according to booking agent Harold Kudlets, all the bartenders quit when they heard the band’s sound and saw Hawkins’s stunts on stage. In 1959 he performed a number of live shows in the country and signed a five-year contract with Roulette Records. Working out of Toronto, Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks cut the LP Ronnie Hawkins in 1959, and with Fred Carter, Jr. taking Jimmy Ray “Luke” Paulman’s place on lead guitar, they cut another LP, Mr. Dynamo, the next year, both of them recorded on the Roulette label.

He subsequently moved to Canada and in 1964 became a permanent resident. In 2017, he moved from Stoney Lake Manor in Douro-Dummer, where he had resided since 1970, to Peterborough, Ontario. Hawkins was an institution of the Ontario music scene for over 40 years. When he first came to Ontario he played gigs at places like the Grange Tavern in Hamilton, where Conway Twitty got his start, and made it his home base. In Toronto, where the Hawks dominated the local scene, Hawkins opened his own night club, the Hawk’s Nest, on the second floor of the Coq d’or Tavern on Yonge street, playing there for months at a time.

After the move to Canada, The Hawks, with the exception of Hawkins and drummer Levon Helm, dropped out of the band. Their vacancies were filled by Southwest Ontarians Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson. Young David Clayton-Thomas, a Canadian and future lead vocalist of the American group Blood, Sweat, and Tears, said he heard the Hawks when he got out of prison in 1962: “We young musicians would sit there by the bar at the Le Coq d’Or and just hang on every note.” This version of the Hawks, wearing mohair suits and razor-cut hair, were the top group among those who played the Le Coq d’Or, a rowdy establishment at the center of the action on the Yonge Street strip in Toronto. They were able to stay out of most of the bar fights that broke out there almost every night.

Along with Helm, they all left Hawkins in 1964 to form a group which came to be named The Band. They went to work for Bob Dylan in 1965, touring with him for a year, and were his backup band on The Basement Tapes. Hawkins continued to perform and record, and did a few tours in Europe.

In December 1969, Hawkins hosted John Lennon and Yoko Ono for a stay at his home in Mississauga, Ontario, during the couple’s campaign to promote world peace. Lennon signed his erotic “Bag One” lithographs during his stay there. Lennon also did a radio promo for a Hawkins single, a version of The Clovers song,”Down in the Alley”. When their visit ended, Lennon and Ono, with Hawkins and his wife Wanda as part of their entourage, took the CNR Rapido train to Montreal, where they engaged in their Bed-in for Peace at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. Hawkins later rode with them on a train to Ottawa to see then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau. Lennon also enlisted Hawkins as a peace ambassador, and Hawkins traveled to the border of China and Hong Kong with journalist Ritchie Yorke bearing an anti-war message.

In the early 1970s, Hawkins noticed guitarist Pat Travers performing in Ontario nightclubs and was so impressed by the young musician that he invited him to play in his band. Travers joined the group, but balked when Hawkins told him he wanted him to play “old ’50s and ’60s rockabilly tunes”. Years later, Travers told an interviewer, “… he wanted me to play them exactly the same, same sound, same picking, same everything. For a 19-, 20-year-old kid, that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. But he said, ‘You can do this, son, and you’ll be better than a hundred guitar players, because this is where it all comes from. You need to know this stuff. It’s like fundamental.’ And he was right”. Travers later had a successful recording career and became an influential guitarist in the 1970s hard rock genre.

In 1975, Bob Dylan cast Hawkins to play the role of “Bob Dylan” in the movie, Renaldo and Clara. The following year, he was a featured performer at the Band’s Thanksgiving Day farewell concert at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, which was documented in the 1978 film The Last Waltz. Robbie Robertson said of it in 2020, “If there was anything wrong that night, it was that the cocaine wasn’t very good.” Hawkins sampled some of the powder and told the other performers that there was so much flour and sugar in it that they would be “sneezing biscuits” for three months afterward. Hawkin’s 1984 LP, Making It Again, garnered him a Juno Award as Canada’s best Country Male Vocalist. In addition to his career as a musician, he become an accomplished actor, hosting his own television show Honky Tonk in the early 1980s and appearing in such films as Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate alongside his friend Kris Kristofferson, and in the action/adventure film Snake Eater. His version of the song “Mary Lou” was used in the 1989 slasher film, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II.

On January 10, 1995, Hawkins celebrated his 60th birthday by sponsoring a concert at Massey Hall in Toronto, which was documented on the album Let It Rock. The concert featured performances by Hawkins, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Band and Larry Gowan. Canadian musician Jeff Healey sat in on guitar as well. Hawkins’s band, the Hawks, or permutations of it, backed the performers. All of the musicians performing that night were collectively dubbed “the Rock ‘n’ Roll Orchestra”.

In 2003, Hawkins was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and went into remission, which he attributed to everything from psychic healers to native herbal medicine. His remarkable remission was featured in the 2012 film Ronnie Hawkins: Still Alive and Kicking.

Hawkins died in the early morning of May 29, 2022, at the age of 87, after the cancer returned. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Wanda, their two sons, Ronnie Hawkins Jr. and country singer Robin Hawkins, who had served as his guitarist since the 1980s, and daughter Leah Hawkins, an aspiring songwriter who had been his backup singer.

A man with an extraordinary sense of humor, he is considered highly influential in the establishment and evolution of rock music in Canada. Also known as “Rompin’ Ronnie”, “Mr. Dynamo” or “The Hawk”, he was one of the key players in the 1960s rock scene in Toronto. He performed all across North America and recorded more than 25 albums. His hit songs include covers of Chuck Berry’s “Thirty Days” (retitled “Forty Days”) and Young Jessie’s “Mary Lou”, a song about a gold digger. Other well-known recordings are a cover of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?” (without the question mark), “Hey! Bo Diddley”, and “Susie Q”, which was written by his cousin, rockabilly artist Dale Hawkins.
Hawkins was a talent scout and mentor of the musicians he recruited for his band, The Hawks. Roy Buchanan was an early Hawks guitarist on the song “Who Do You Love”. The most successful of his students were those who left to form The Band. Robbie Lane and the Disciples made their name opening for Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks at the Yonge Street bars in Toronto and eventually became his backing band. Others he had recruited later formed Janis Joplin’s Full Tilt Boogie Band, Crowbar, Bearfoot, and Skylark.
Hawkins was still playing 150 engagements a year in his 60s.

Posted on Leave a comment

Little Richard 5/20

Little Richard in performance at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York in 2007. “He was crucial,” one historian said, “in upping the voltage from high-powered R&B into the similar, yet different, guise of rock ’n’ roll.”

Little Richard, born Richard Wayne Penniman, delved deeply into the wellsprings of gospel music and the blues, and screaming as if for his very life, he created something new, thrilling and dangerous, called rock and roll. Richard Penniman, better known as Little Richard, who combined the sacred shouts of the black church and the profane sounds of the blues to create some of the world’s first and most influential rock ’n’ roll records.

Little Richard did not invent rock ’n’ roll. Other musicians had already been mining a similar vein by the time he recorded his first hit, “Tutti Frutti” — a raucous song about sex, its lyrics cleaned up but its meaning hard to miss — in a New Orleans recording studio in September 1955. Chuck Berry and Fats Domino had reached the pop Top 10, Bo Diddley had topped the rhythm-and-blues charts, and Elvis Presley had been making records for a year.

But Little Richard, delving deeply into the wellsprings of gospel music and the blues, pounding the piano furiously and screaming as if for his very life, raised the energy level several notches and created something not quite like any music that had been heard before — something new, thrilling and more than a little dangerous. As the rock historian Richie Unterberger put it, “He was crucial in upping the voltage from high-powered R&B into the similar, yet different, guise of rock ’n’ roll.”

Art Rupe of Specialty Records, the label for which he recorded his biggest hits, called Little Richard “dynamic, completely uninhibited, unpredictable, wild.”

“Tutti Frutti” rocketed up the charts and was quickly followed by “Long Tall Sally” and other records now acknowledged as classics. His live performances were electrifying.

“He’d just burst onto the stage from anywhere, and you wouldn’t be able to hear anything but the roar of the audience,” the record producer and arranger H.B. Barnum, who played saxophone with Little Richard early in his career, recalled in “The Life and Times of Little Richard” (1984), an authorized biography by Charles White. “He’d be on the stage, he’d be off the stage, he’d be jumping and yelling, screaming, whipping the audience on.”

An Immeasurable Influence

Rock ’n’ roll was an unabashedly macho music in its early days, but Little Richard, who had performed in drag as a teenager, presented a very different picture onstage: gaudily dressed, his hair piled six inches high, his face aglow with cinematic makeup. He was fond of saying in later years that if Elvis was the king of rock ’n’ roll, he was the queen. Offstage, he characterized himself variously as gay, bisexual and “omnisexual.”

His influence as a performer was immeasurable. It could be seen and heard in the flamboyant showmanship of James Brown, who idolized him (and used some of his musicians when Little Richard began a long hiatus from performing in 1957), and of Prince, whose ambisexual image owed a major debt to his.

Presley recorded his songs. The Beatles adopted his trademark sound, an octave-leaping exultation: “Woooo!” (Paul McCartney said that the first song he ever sang in public was “Long Tall Sally,” which he later recorded with the Beatles.) Bob Dylan wrote in his high school yearbook that his ambition was “to join Little Richard.”

Little Richard’s impact was social as well.

Little Richard in the mid-1950s, around the time his first hit record, “Tutti Frutti,” was released.
Little Richard in the mid-1950s, around the time his first hit record, “Tutti Frutti,” was released.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

“I’ve always thought that rock ’n’ roll brought the races together,” Mr. White quoted him as saying. “Especially being from the South, where you see the barriers, having all these people who we thought hated us showing all this love.”

Mr. Barnum told Mr. White that “they still had the audiences segregated” at concerts in the South in those days, but that when Little Richard performed, “most times, before the end of the night, they would all be mixed together.”

If uniting black and white audiences was a point of pride for Little Richard, it was a cause of concern for others, especially in the South. The White Citizens Council of North Alabama issued a denunciation of rock ’n’ roll largely because it brought “people of both races together.” And with many radio stations under pressure to keep black music off the air, Pat Boone’s cleaned-up, toned-down version of “Tutti Frutti” was a bigger hit than Little Richard’s original. (He also had a hit with “Long Tall Sally.”)

Still, it seemed that nothing could stop Little Richard’s drive to the top — until he stopped it himself.

He was at the height of his fame when he left the United States in late September 1957 to begin a tour in Australia. As he told the story, he was exhausted, under intense pressure from the Internal Revenue Service and furious at the low royalty rate he was receiving from Specialty. Without anyone to advise him, he had signed a contract that gave him half a cent for every record he sold. “Tutti Frutti” had sold half a million copies but had netted him only $25,000.

One night in early October, before 40,000 fans at an outdoor arena in Sydney, he had an epiphany.

“That night Russia sent off that very first Sputnik,” he told Mr. White, referring to the first satellite sent into space. “It looked as though the big ball of fire came directly over the stadium about two or three hundred feet above our heads. It shook my mind. It really shook my mind. I got up from the piano and said, ‘This is it. I am through. I am leaving show business to go back to God.’”

He had one last Top 10 hit: “Good Golly Miss Molly,” recorded in 1956 but not released until early 1958. By then, he had left rock ’n’ roll behind.

He became a traveling evangelist. He entered Oakwood College (now Oakwood University) in Huntsville, Ala., a Seventh-day Adventist school, to study for the ministry. He cut his hair, got married and began recording gospel music.

For the rest of his life, he would be torn between the gravity of the pulpit and the pull of the stage.

“Although I sing rock ’n’ roll, God still loves me,” he said in 2009. “I’m a rock ’n’ roll singer, but I’m still a Christian.”

He was lured back to the stage in 1962, and over the next two years he played to wild acclaim in England, Germany and France. Among his opening acts were the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, then at the start of their careers.

He went on to tour relentlessly in the United States, with a band that at one time included Jimi Hendrix on guitar. By the end of the 1960s, sold-out performances in Las Vegas and triumphant appearances at rock festivals in Atlantic City and Toronto were sending a clear message: Little Richard was back to stay. But he wasn’t.

‘I Lost My Reasoning’

By his own account, alcohol and cocaine began to sap his soul (“I lost my reasoning,” he would later say), and in 1977, he once again turned from rock ’n’ roll to God. He became a Bible salesman, began recording religious songs again and, for the second time, disappeared from the spotlight.

He did not stay away forever. The publication of his biography in 1984 signaled his return to the public eye, and he began performing again.

By now, he was as much a personality as a musician. In 1986 he played a prominent role as a record producer in Paul Mazursky’s hit movie “Down and Out in Beverly Hills.” On television, he appeared on talk, variety, comedy and awards shows. He officiated at celebrity weddings and preached at celebrity funerals.

He could still raise the roof in concert. In December 1992, he stole the show at a rock ’n’ roll revival concert at Wembley Arena in London. “I’m 60 years old today,” he told the audience, “and I still look remarkable.”

He continued to look remarkable — with the help of wigs and thick pancake makeup — as he toured intermittently into the 21st century. But age eventually took its toll.

By 2007, he was walking onstage with the aid of two canes. In 2012, he abruptly ended a performance at the Howard Theater in Washington, telling the crowd, “I can’t hardly breathe.” A year later, he told Rolling Stone magazine that he was retiring.

“I am done, in a sense,” he said. “I don’t feel like doing anything right now.”

Little Richard onstage at Wembley Stadium in London in 1972, on a bill that also included his fellow rock ’n’ roll pioneers Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry

Richard Wayne Penniman was born in Macon, Ga., on Dec. 5, 1932, the third of 12 children born to Charles and Leva Mae (Stewart) Penniman. His father was a brick mason who sold moonshine on the side. An uncle, a cousin and a grandfather were preachers, and as a boy he attended Seventh-day Adventist, Baptist and Holiness churches and aspired to be a singing evangelist. An early influence was the gospel singer and guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe, one of the first performers to combine a religious message with the urgency of R&B.

By the time he was in his teens, Richard’s ambition had taken a detour. He left home and began performing with traveling medicine and minstrel shows, part of a 19th-century tradition that was dying out. By 1948, billed as Little Richard — the name was a reference to his youth and not his physical stature — he was a cross-dressing performer with a minstrel troupe called Sugarfoot Sam From Alabam, which had been touring for decades.

In 1951, while singing alongside strippers, comics and drag queens on the Decataur Street strip in Atlanta, he recorded his first songs. The records were generic R&B, with no distinct style, and attracted almost no attention.

Around this time, he met two performers whose look and sound would have a profound impact on his own: Billy Wright and S.Q. Reeder, who performed and recorded as Esquerita. They were both accomplished pianists, flashy dressers, flamboyant entertainers and as openly gay as it was possible to be in the South in the 1950s.

Little Richard acknowledged his debt to Esquerita, who he said gave him some piano-playing tips, and Mr. Wright, whom he once called “the most fantastic entertainer I had ever seen.” But however much he borrowed from either man, the music and persona that emerged were his own.

His break came in 1955, when Mr. Rupe signed him to Specialty and arranged for him to record with local musicians in New Orleans. During a break at that session, he began singing a raucous but obscene song that Mr. Rupe thought had the potential to capture the nascent teenage record-buying audience. Mr. Rupe enlisted a New Orleans songwriter, Dorothy LaBostrie, to clean up the lyrics; the song became “Tutti Frutti”; and a rock ’n’ roll star was born.

By the time he stopped performing, Little Richard was in both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (he was inducted in the Hall’s first year) and the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the recipient of lifetime achievement awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. “Tutti Frutti” was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2010.

If Little Richard ever doubted that he deserved all the honors he received, he never admitted it. “A lot of people call me the architect of rock ’n’ roll,” he once said. “I don’t call myself that, but I believe it’s true.”

Little Richard died on Saturday morning May 9, 2020 in Tullahoma, Tennessee. He was 87. The cause was bone cancer. 

Posted on Leave a comment

Johnny Halliday 12/2017

December 5, 2017 – Johnny Halliday was born Jean-Philippe Léo Smet on June 15, 1943 in Paris. His father was Belgian and his mother French. took his stage name from A cousin-in-law from Oklahoma, USA who performed as Lee Halliday called Smet “Johnny” and became a father figure, introducing him to American music. And the name Johnny Halliday was born. Continue reading Johnny Halliday 12/2017

Posted on Leave a comment

Corki Casey O’Dell 5/2017

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

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

Posted on Leave a comment

Franny Beecher 2/2014

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

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

Continue reading Franny Beecher 2/2014

Posted on Leave a comment

Marshall Lytle 5/2013

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

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

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

Continue reading Marshall Lytle 5/2013

Posted on Leave a comment

Rick Huxley 2/2013

Rick HuxleyFebruary 11, 2013 – Rick Huxley  (Dave Clark Five) was born on August 5th 1940 in Dartford, Kent, England. He joined the Dave Clark Five in 1958 and played on all of the band’s hits including “Glad All Over” and “Bits and Pieces”.

For a time in the mid-’60s, in the middle of the British Invasion, Rick Huxley was one of the two or three best-known bass players in all of rock & roll, his name recognition lagging only a little behind that of Paul McCartney, and probably much wider than that of the Rolling Stones’ Bill Wyman, the Hollies’ Eric Haydock, the Who’s John Entwistle, or the Kinks’ Peter Quaife. As part of the Dave Clark Five, and its longest-serving member after Clark, Huxley was also a veteran musician with six years under his belt before the group broke internationally.

Continue reading Rick Huxley 2/2013

Posted on Leave a comment

Mick Green 1/2010

mick greenJanuary 11, 2010 Michael Robert “Mick” Green (the Pirates) was born on 22 February 1944 in Matlock Derbyshire, England but grew up in Wimbledon, south-west London, in the same block of flats as Johnny Spence and Frank Farley.

The three would eventually form a band that would play together for almost 50 years. Green met Farley in rather maverick circumstances; he fell out of a tree and landed on him. His first meeting with Spence was more conventional – Green turned up at Spence’s door holding a guitar and said: “I hear you know the opening bit to Cumberland Gap. Can you teach me?” The result was one of the most original guitarists Britain has ever produced.

The trio formed the Wayfaring Strangers in 1956, a skiffle band. Entering a competition at the Tottenham Royal Ballroom, the youngsters came second to a band called the Quarrymen, who later achieved success as the Beatles.

Continue reading Mick Green 1/2010

Posted on Leave a comment

Johnny Grande 6/2006

johnny-grandeJune 3, 2006 – John A. Johnny Grande (Bill Haley and the Comets) was born on January 14th 1930 in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He grew up in a musical family. His uncle once played in the band of John Philip Sousa, but his father wanted Grande to follow him into the coal hauling business. Grande preferred music, and learned to play the music from “La Traviata” on the accordion.

He played backup for polka and country players like Tex Ritter until he signed a partnership with Bill Haley in the late 1940s to form Bill Haley and His Four Aces of Western Swing. Haley was a great yodeler.

They later called themselves the Saddlemen, before settling on the Comets, which was the name of the band in 1951, when it covered Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88,” considered by many the very first rock and roll song.

The Comets had a more urbane image: They traded in their Stetsons for suits and ties, and Grande played piano on most numbers.

Continue reading Johnny Grande 6/2006

Posted on Leave a comment

John Fred 4/2005

john-fred-and-his-playboy-band-judy-in-disguisewith-glasses-californiaApril 15, 2005 – John Fred Gourrier (John Fred & His Playboy Band) was born on May 8th 1941 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His father, Fred Gourrier, had played professional baseball with the Detroit Tigers organization. In 1956 John formed a band that he called John Fred and the Playboys, a white group that played primarily rhythm and blues music. While still in high school, they cut their first record in late 1958 with Fats Domino’s band. The song was titled Shirley and John Fred and the Playboys saw their song rise as high as number 82 on the national record charts. The group also cut other singles that were not as successful, working at times with Mac Rebennack and with the Jordanaires. John Fred was a 6 foot 5 inch, blue-eyed soul singer who originally formed John Fred And The Playboys in 1956 and attended Southeastern Louisiana University from 1960 to 1963 and spent some time as a college basketball player.

Continue reading John Fred 4/2005

Posted on Leave a comment

Johnnie Johnson 4/2005

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

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

Continue reading Johnnie Johnson 4/2005

Posted on Leave a comment

Sam Phillips 7/2003

July 30, 2003 – Samuel Cornelius “Sam” Phillips was born on January 5, 1923 in Florence, Alabama and a graduate of Coffee High School. As a youngster he was intensely exposed to blues and became interested in music by African workers on his father’s cotton farm.

He became an important record producer, label owner, and talent scout throughout the 40s and 50s, and played an important role in the emergence of rock and roll as the major form of popular music in the 1950s.

He is most notably attributed with the discoveries of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash and is associated with several other noteworthy rhythm and blues and rock and roll stars of the period.

Sam was also founder of Sun Records, the studio that was vital to launching the careers of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Rufus Thomas and numerous other significant artists. As well as owning the Sun Studio Café in Memphis, he and his family founded Big River Broadcasting Corporation which owned and operated several radio stations in the Florence, Alabama, area, including WQLT-FM, WSBM, and WXFL.

Continue reading Sam Phillips 7/2003

Posted on Leave a comment

Brian Pendleton 5/2001

May 16, 2001 – Brian Pendleton (The Pretty Things) was born on 13th April 1944 in Wolverhampton, to Raymond and Kathleen Pendleton (nee Brownsword); Raymond and Kathleen had married early in 1942. Brian was born in Wolverhampton Road in the Heath Town district of the city, at an address that no longer exists. When he was still a baby the Pendletons moved to Dartford in Kent and his younger sister was born in 1950.

The teenage Brian attended Dartford Grammar School. He was in the year below future Pretty Thing Dick Taylor and superstar-to-be Mick Jagger. Although Brian and Dick would recognize each other at a later date (Dick certainly remembered Brian from school) it seems that as they were in different years they didn’t speak much, it is a playground truth that those pupils in the years below were not generally considered worthy of attention and this is doubtless still the case today! English schools divide their pupils into groups called ‘houses’ which are usually named after a person of local historic significance and represented by a color. Brian was a member of the house called Daeth, possibly in honor of a local (Dartford) family; it’s color was yellow. Peter Pike was in the same year as Brian and recalls that he was a reserved character but could from time to time be funny and lively.

Continue reading Brian Pendleton 5/2001

Posted on Leave a comment

Vince Taylor 8/1991

early rocker Vince TaylorAugust 27, 1991 – Vince Taylor was born Brian Maurice Holden on July 14, 1939 in Isleworth, Middlesex, England. When he was seven, immediately after WWII, the Holdens emigrated to America and settled in New Jersey where his father found employment. According to Wikipedia, around 1955, his sister, Sheila, got married to Joe Barbera, of Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Productions. As a result of this, the family moved to California, where Taylor attended Hollywood High School. As a teenager, Taylor took flying lessons and obtained a pilot’s license. (note: this seems to need further research, since Joe Barbera (creator of the Flintstones and Tom & Jerry a.o.) was married to his high school sweetheart with whom he had 4 children until 1963!!)

At age 18, impressed by the music of Gene Vincent and Elvis Presley, Taylor began to sing, mostly at amateur gigs. Barbera, his brother-in-law, acted as his ‘manager’, in his late forties at that time. When Barbera went to London on business he asked Taylor to join him. In London, Taylor went to the 2i’s Coffee Bar on Old Compton Street in Soho, where Tommy Steele was playing. There he met drummer Tony Meehan (later of the Shadows) and bass player Tex Makins (born Anthony Paul Makins, 3 July 1940, Wembley, Middlesex). They formed a band called the Playboys. Whilst looking at a packet of Pall Mall cigarettes he noticed the phrase, ‘In hoc signo vinces’. He decided on the new stage name of Vince Taylor.

His first singles for Parlophone, “I Like Love” and “Right Behind You Baby”, were released in 1958, followed several months later by “Pledgin’ My Love” backed with “Brand New Cadillac”, (the latter track featuring guitarist Joe Moretti, who later featured on “Shakin’ All Over” with Johnny Kidd & The Pirates). Parlophone was not satisfied with the immediate results and severed the recording contract. Taylor moved to Palette Records and recorded “I’ll Be Your Hero”, backed with “Jet Black Machine”, which was released on 19 August 1960.

On 23 April 1960 ABC-TV screened the first edition of their new weekly rock and roll TV show, Wham! The first show featured Taylor with Dickie Pride, Billy Fury, Joe Brown, Jess Conrad, Little Tony, and Johnny Kidd & The Pirates.

However, his unpredictable personality, although dynamic on stage, caused several arguments within the band, and the Playboys fired Taylor and changed their name to ‘The Bobbie Clarke Noise’. The ‘Noise’ was contracted to play at the Olympia in Paris in July 1961. The top of the bill was Wee Willie Harris.[3]

Despite his sacking Taylor remained friendly with the band and he asked if he could come to Paris too. He dressed up for the sound check in his trademark black leather stage gear, and added a chain around his neck with a Joan of Arc medallion, which he had bought on arrival at Calais. One version of the story says he gave such an extraordinary performance at the sound check, that the organizers decided to put Taylor at the top of the bill for both shows. As a result of his performance at those two shows, Eddie Barclay signed him to a six-year record deal on the Barclay label.

During 1961 and 1962, Taylor toured Europe with Clarke’s band, once again called Vince Taylor and his Playboys. Between gigs they recorded several EPs and an album of 20 songs at Barclay Studios in Paris.
By the end of 1962, Vince Taylor and the Playboys were the top of the bill at the Olympia in Paris. Sylvie Vartan was the opening act.

Despite his on-stage rapport with the Playboys, the off-stage relationship faltered. As a result, the band once more broke up. Taylor played several engagements backed by the English band the Echoes (who also backed Gene Vincent whenever he played the UK), but he still presented the band as the Playboys.

In February 1964, a new single “Memphis Tennessee”, backed with “A Shot of Rhythm and Blues”, was released on the Barclay label. The Playboys were Joey Greco and Claude Djaoui on guitars, Ralph Di Pietro on bass, and Bobbie Clarke on drums. The group was under contract to the Johnny Hallyday orchestra.

Hallyday was drafted into the French Army, and Clarke again joined Taylor and they started up ‘The Bobbie Clarke Noise’ along with Ralph Danks (guitar), Alain Bugby of The Strangers (bass), Johnny Taylor, ex lead singer for the Strangers (rhythm guitar), and “Stash” Prince Stanislas Klossowski de Rola (percussion). Managed by Jean Claude Camus, the band embarked on a triumphant tour of Spain and then co-topped the bill with the Rolling Stones during the Easter week-end of 1965 at the Olympia in Paris.

The band then disbanded and Taylor, undergoing problems with drugs and alcohol abuse, joined a religious movement. Danks left to play guitar with Three Dog Night, and later Tom Jones, Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan. Stash, a close friend of the Rolling Stones, would later produce the Dirty Strangers album featuring Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood. Clarke replaced drummer Don Conka for several studio sessions with the original line up of the band Love. He also played with Vince Flaherty and his band The Invincibles, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, and the first incarnation of Deep Purple before forming a group, Bodast, with Steve Howe and Dave Curtis. In 1968, Bodast recorded an album for MGM Records, opened for the Who, and were the backing band for Chuck Berry at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Meanwhile, Clarke was involved in a comeback for his friend Taylor, a one-month tour across France, billed as ‘Vince Taylor and Bobbie Clarke backed by Les Rockers’. Eddie Barclay gave a new chance to Taylor who recorded again and performed intermittently throughout the 1970s and 1980s, until his death.

During his career, Taylor wrote and recorded many songs, among them his hit in Europe, “Brand New Cadillac” which has been covered by many other artists including the Clash on their 1979 album London Calling. Taylor lived in Switzerland late in his life, where he worked as an aircraft mechanic. He said it was the happiest time of his life.

Taylor died from cancer in August 1991, at age 52. He was buried in Lausanne, Switzerland.

(52)

Posted on Leave a comment

Bill Haley 2/1981

bill-haleyFebruary 9, 1981 – Bill Haley was born on July 6th 1925. He was born in Highland Park, Michigan, but because of the Great Depression on the Detroit area, his father moved the family to Boothwyn, Pennsylvania. For six years Bill was a musical director of Radio Station WPWA in Chester, Pennsylvania, leading his own band The Saddlemen all through this period and in 1951 they made their first recordings. They renamed themselves Bill Haley with Haley’s Comets on Labour Day 1952.

Bill Haley and his Comets were there before Presley, Holly and Berry, playing rock & roll before it even had a name, and is credited by many for being the first popularizing this form of music in the early 1950s. Their hit song “Rock Around the Clock” went around the world for many decades. Continue reading Bill Haley 2/1981

Posted on Leave a comment

Gene Vincent 10/1971

gene-vincent-2October 12, 1971 – Gene Vincent born Vincent Eugene Craddock on Feb 11, 1935 in Norfolk Virginia, American singer born in Norfolk, Virginia, a pioneer of rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly. His 1956 top 10 hit with his Blue Caps, “Be-Bop-A-Lula,” is considered a significant early example of rockabilly.

Other hits included “Race With The Devil”, “Bluejean Bop”, “Lotta Lovin'”, “Bluejean Bop” and “Woman Love”. Vincent also became one of the first rock stars to star in a film, ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ together with Jayne Mansfield.

On April 16, 1960, while on tour in the UK, Gene , Eddie Cochran and songwriter Sharon Sheeley were involved in a high-speed traffic accident in a private hire taxi. Gene broke his ribs and collarbone and further damaged his weakened leg, Sharon suffered a broken pelvis, but tragically Eddie Cochran, who had been thrown from the vehicle, suffered serious brain injuries and died the next day.

He was the first inductee into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame upon its formation in 1997. The following year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1749 N. Vine St. He is a member of the Rock and Roll and Rockabilly halls of fame. He sadly died from a ruptured stomach ulcer while visiting his father in California on Oct. 12, 1971 at age 36.

Posted on Leave a comment

Eddie Cochran 4/1960

Eddie_CochranApril 17, 1960 – Eddie Cochran was born on October 3rd 1938 in Minnesota but moved with his family to California in the early 1950s. He was involved with music from an early age, playing in the school band and teaching himself to play blues guitar. In 1954, he formed a duet with the guitarist Hank Cochran (no relation), and when they split the following year, Eddie began a song-writing career with Jerry Capehart. His first success came when he performed the song “Twenty Flight Rock” which also later came out in the film The Girl Can’t Help It, starring Jayne Mansfield. Soon afterwards, Liberty Records signed him to a big recording contract. Like so many of his contemporaries like Elvis and Ricky Nelson, his music career ran parallel with a budding movie career.

His songs have influenced bands and artists such as The Who, The Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, Tom Petty, The Stray Cats, Motörhead, Rod Stewart, Humble Pie, Lemmy Kilmister, T. Rex, The White Stripes, Brian Setzer, Cliff Richard, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, UFO, The Sex Pistols and many more. Continue reading Eddie Cochran 4/1960

Posted on Leave a comment

Danny Cedrone 6/1954

danny-cedroneJune 17, 1954 – Donato Joseph “Danny” Cedrone was born on June 20th 1920 Born in Jamesville, New York. He began his musical career in the 1940s, but he came into his own in the early 1950s, first as a session guitarist hired by what was then a country and western musical group based out of Chester, Pennsylvania called Bill Haley and His Saddlemen.

In 1951, Danny played lead on their recording of “Rocket 88” which is considered one of the first acknowledged rock and roll recordings. At this time he also formed his own group, The Esquire Boys recording hits such as “Rock-a-Beatin’ Boogie”.

He never joined Haley’s group as a full-time member. In 1952, he played lead guitar on Haley’s version of “Rock the Joint”, and his swift guitar solo, which combined a jazz-influenced first half followed by a lightning-fast down-scale run, was a highlight of the recording. He worked with Haley’s group in 1954, by which time it had been renamed The Comets.

Continue reading Danny Cedrone 6/1954