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Skip Haynes 10/2017

October 2, 2017 – Skip Haynes was born Eugene Heitlinger in Franklin Park Illinois in 1946. He graduated East Leyden High School in 1963. When it comes to rock music being the sound track to our boomer generation, there are certain songs that stand out and stay a perennial anthem such as Scott McKenzie’s San Francisco (Wear some flowers in your hair), Steve Goodman’s City of New Orleans and the song Skip Haynes wrote and performed about Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive.

Haynes was born Eugene Heitlinger, but a club manager told him early in his career there wasn’t enough room on the marquee for that. Since his grandfather called him Skippy, he decided to take the name Skip Haynes. Continue reading Skip Haynes 10/2017

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Bobby Hebb 8/2010

Booby Hebb wrote SunnyAugust 3, 2010 – Robert Von Bobby Hebb was born on July 26, 1938 in Nshville, Tennessee.

His parents were both blind musicians. Hebb and older brother Harold performed as a song-and-dance team in Nashville beginning when Bobby was three and Harold was nine.

Hebb performed on a TV show hosted by country music record producer Owen Bradley, which earned him a place with Grand Ole Opry star Roy Acuff. Hebb played Spoons and other instruments in Acuff’s band. Harold later became a member of Johnny Bragg and the Marigolds. Bobby Hebb sang backup on Bo Diddley’s “Diddley Daddy”. Hebb played “West-coast-style” trumpet in a United States Navy jazz band, and replaced Mickey Baker in Mickey and Sylvia.

In 1960 he reached the New York Top 50 with a remake of Roy Acuff’s “Night Train To Memphis”.

On November 23, 1963, the day after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Bobby Hebb’s brother, Harold, was killed in a knife fight outside a Nashville nightclub. Hebb was devastated by both events and sought comfort in songwriting. Though many claim that the song he wrote after both tragedies was the optimistic “Sunny”, Hebb himself stated otherwise. He immersed himself in the Gerald Wilson album, You Better Believe It!, for comfort.

“All my intentions were just to think of happier times – basically looking for a brighter day – because times were at a low tide. After I wrote it, I thought “Sunny” just might be a different approach to what Johnny Bragg was talking about in “Just Walkin’ in the Rain”.
“Sunny” was recorded in New York City after demos were made with the record producer Jerry Ross. Released as a single in 1966, “Sunny” reached No. 3 on the R&B charts, No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and No. 12 in the United Kingdom. When Hebb toured with The Beatles in 1966 his “Sunny” was, at the time of the tour, ranked higher than any Beatles song then on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[citation needed] BMI rated “Sunny” number 25 in its “Top 100 songs of the century”.

In 1966 Bobby after recording “Sunny”, he toured with The Beatles.

BMI rates “Sunny” number 25 in its Top 100 songs of the century, it sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. It is also one of the most covered popular songs, with hundreds of versions released, by the likes of Cher, Boney M, Georgie Fame, Johnny Rivers, Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra with Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, The Four Seasons, the Four Tops, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, and Dusty Springfield.

Hebb also had lesser hits with his “A Satisfied Mind” in 1966 (No. 39 on the Billboard chart and No. 40 on the R&B chart) and “Love Me” in 1967 and wrote many other songs, including Lou Rawls’ 1971 hit “A Natural Man” (co-written with comedian Sandy Baron). Six years prior to “Sunny”, Hebb reached the New York City Top 50 with a remake of Roy Acuff’s “Night Train to Memphis”. In 1972, his single “Love Love Love” reached No. 32 on the UK charts.

In 1976, Hebb released a newly recorded disco version entitled “Sunny ’76”. The single was a minor hit reaching No. 94 on the R&B chart.

After a recording gap of thirty five years he recorded a new album; That’s All I Wanna Know was his first commercial release since Love Games in 1970. It was released in Europe in late 2005 by Tuition, a new pop indie label. New versions of “Sunny” were also issued two duets: one with Astrid North, and one with Pat Appleton. In October 2008 Bobby toured and played in Osaka and Tokyo in Japan.

On August 3, 2010 Bobby lost his battle with lung cancer at the age of 72.

Ipanema Films of Germany was involved in a biographical film which included Hebb, his biographer Joseph Tortelli, and Billy Cox.

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Lesley Duncan 3/2010

lesley_duncanMarch 12, 2010 – Lesley Duncan was born in Stockton-on-Tees in England on August 12th 1943.

She left school while only 14 years old. At 19, while working in a London coffee bar, she and her brother were placed on weekly retainers by a music publisher. Within a year Duncan had signed her first recording contract, with EMI, and appeared in the film What a Crazy World.

Her songs were often about life and its problems, “Everything Changes” and “Sing Children Sing”.

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Tony Jackson 8/2003

tony jackson with the searchersAugust 18, 2003 –Anthony Paul Tony Jackson (the Searchers) was born in Dingle, Liverpool on July 16th 1938. After leaving high school he went to Walton Technical College to train as an electrician. Jackson was inspired by the skiffle sound of Lonnie Donegan, and then by Buddy Holly and other U.S. rock and rollers. He founded the skiffle group the Martinis.

Nicknamed Black Jake, he joined the guitar duo the Searchers, which had been formed by John McNally and Mike Pender in 1959. The band soon expanded further to a quartet with the addition of the drummer Chris Curtis. Jackson built and learned to play a customized bass guitar. Learning his new job on the four-stringed instrument proved too difficult to permit him to continue singing lead so he made way for a new singer, Johnny Sandon, in 1960. They played in Liverpool’s nightclubs and the beer bars of Hamburg, Germany. Brian Epstein considered signing them but he lost interest after seeing a drunken Jackson fall off the stage at the Cavern Club. Sandon moved on in February 1962 and the band were signed by Pye Records in mid-1963 when the Beatles’ success created demand for Liverpudlian acts.

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Doug
Stegmeyer
8/1995

doug stegmeyer, bassist for the Billy Joel BandAugust 25, 1995 – Douglas Alan ‘Doug’ Stegmeyer was born on December 23rd 1951 in Flushing Queens, New York.

Doug along with high school friend Russell Javors, Liberty DeVitto and Howard Emerson, formed the band Topper, performing songs that Russell wrote. The band soon became noticed by Billy Joel, and when Joel found he needed a bassist on his Streetlife Serenade tour, he asked Doug.

From then on Doug played bass and backing vocals on every one of Joel’s studio albums from Turnstiles through The Bridge and the live albums Songs in the Attic and Kohuept. Stegmeyer was the first musician that Billy took from Topper; at Stegmeyer’s recommendation a year and a half later, Emerson, Javors, and DeVitto joined Joel in the studio for his Turnstiles album and for the accompanying tour. Stegmeyer became a core member of Billy Joel’s band, playing bass on all of Joel’s studio albums from Turnstiles through The Bridge and the live albums Songs in the Attic and КОНЦЕРТ. Throughout his tenure with Joel, Stegmeyer was dubbed “The Sergeant at Arms Of The Billy Joel Band.” After leaving Joel’s band in 1989 (along with Javors), Stegmeyer maintained a busy schedule recording and producing.

Doug also performed as bassist for Debbie Gibson and Hall & Oates.

On August 25, 1995, Stegmeyer died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his Smithtown, New York home/studio.

In 2014, Stegmeyer was inducted, posthumously, into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, along with his Topper and Joel bandmates Cannata, DeVitto, and Javors. The four were inducted primarily for their work with Joel.

“He was a very talented player. He was with me from the 1970s through 1988 and was the leader of the nucleus of the group that was the band. We called him the Sergeant-at-Arms. He was so committed to what he was doing.”

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Harry Nilsson 1/1994

NilssonJanuary 15, 1994 – Harry Edward Nilsson III aka Nilsson was born on June 15, 1941 in Brooklyn New York. His paternal grandparents were Swedish circus performers and dancers, especially known for their “aerial ballet” (which is the title of one of Nilsson’s albums). His father, Harry Edward Nilsson Jr., abandoned the family when young Harry was three. An autobiographical reference to this is found in the opening to Nilsson’s song “1941” and “Daddy’s Song”.

Because of the poor financial situation of his family, Nilsson worked from an early age, including a job at the Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles. When the theatre closed in 1960, he applied for a job at a bank, falsely claiming he was a high school graduate on his application (he only completed ninth grade). He had an aptitude for computers however, which were beginning to be employed by banks at the time. He performed so well the bank retained him even after uncovering his deception regarding being a high school graduate. He worked on bank computers at night, and in the daytime pursued his songwriting and singing career.His uncle, a mechanic in San Bernardino, California, helped Nilsson improve his vocal and musical abilities.

By 1958, Nilsson was intrigued by emerging forms of popular music, especially rhythm and blues artists like Ray Charles. He had made early attempts at performing while he was working at the Paramount, forming a vocal duo with his friend Jerry Smith and singing close harmonies in the style of the Everly Brothers. The manager at a favorite hangout gave Nilsson a plastic ukulele, which he learned to play, and he later learned to play the guitar and piano. In the 2006 documentary Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?, Nilsson recalled that when he could not remember lyrics or parts of the melodies to popular songs, he created his own, which led to writing original songs.

Uncle John’s singing lessons, along with Nilsson’s natural talent, helped when he got a job singing demos for songwriter Scott Turner in 1962. Turner paid Nilsson five dollars for each track they recorded. (When Nilsson became famous, Turner decided to release these early recordings, and contacted Nilsson to work out a fair payment. Nilsson replied that he had already been paid – five dollars a track.)

John Lennon and Harry NilssonNilsson went on a steady track upwards to success with songwriting credits that included names like Phil Spector, Glen Campbell, Fred Astaire, the Monkees, the Shangri-Las, the Yardbirds, but did not give up his bank job until late 1966. With special admiration for his work from the Beatles and especially John Lennon, Nilsson’s name became household. (When John Lennon and Paul McCartney held a press conference in 1968 to announce the formation of Apple Corps, Lennon was asked to name his favorite American artist. He replied, “Nilsson”. McCartney was then asked to name his favorite American group. He replied, “Nilsson”.

Nilsson acquired a manager, who steered him into a handful of TV guest appearances, and a brief run of stage performances in Europe set up by RCA. He disliked the experiences he had, though, and decided to stick to the recording studio. He later admitted this was a huge mistake on his part.

Yet within a couple of years, he started making records with casual disregard for how things were done. He made albums that jumped from style to style, and from era to era. He made an album of 1940s standards long before anyone else thought of it (eat your heart out Rod Stewart!). And he was a hard-drinking artist who rarely played live.

His real breakthrough came in 1971 when he recorded Badfinger’s “Without You” with reached Billboard No.1 for 4 weeks.
Close friends with John Lennon who produced his album “Pussycats” in 1973, he also maintained an apartment in London that became a tragedy chamber with a curse as Mama Cass Elliott was found dead there in 1974 at age 32 from heart failure and the Who drummer Keith Moon four years later also at age 32 from an overdose of Clomethiazole, a prescribed anti-alcohol drug.

Nilsson was profoundly affected by the death of John Lennon on December 8, 1980. He joined the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and overcame his preference for privacy to make appearances for gun control fundraising. He began to appear at Beatlefest conventions and he would get on stage with the Beatlefest house band “Liverpool” to either sing some of his own songs or “Give Peace a Chance.

After a long hiatus from the studio, Nilsson started recording sporadically once again in the mid to late 1980s. Most of these recordings were commissioned songs for movies or television shows. One notable exception was his work on a Yoko Ono Lennon tribute album, Every Man Has A Woman (1984); another was a cover of “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” recorded for Hal Willner’s 1988 tribute album Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films. Nilsson donated his performance royalties from the song to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

His career took several turns before he passed away but it was always interesting and it rarely repeated itself.

Nilsson himself passed away on January 15, 1994 at his California home from heart failure.

 

 

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Keith Relf 5/1976

keith-relfMay 14, 1976 – William Keith Relf was born on March 22, 1943 in Richmond, Surrey, England.

As a teenager he latched onto American rhythm and blues and became influenced by the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson and the Chicago Blues scene. Relf started playing in bands around the summer of 1956 as a singer, guitarist, and harmonica player. Despite his suffering from respiratory problems, his blues harp became a key part of the Yardbirds’ sound and success, according to many, and his vocals may have been as important a contribution to the band as the trio of worldfamous guitar players that joined the band.

When people remember the Yardbirds, as the British blues-based band that came to prominence in the mid to late 60s, what they remember most is the triumvirate of guitar players that used the group as a  to stardom: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and future Led Zeppelin founder Jimmy Page. While there is no doubt that these now world-famous guitar gods contributed greatly to the Yardbirds’ sound, another less-famous member gave the group voice, performing presence, and direction. That man was Keith Relf.

They drew their repertoire from the Chicago blues of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James, including “Smokestack Lightning”, “Good Morning Little School Girl”, “Boom Boom”, “I Wish You Would”, “Rollin’ and Tumblin'”, and “I’m a Man”.

A record contract followed, and soon the band, guided by the restless and substance-friendly Relf, drifted away from R&B. Subsequent hit songs suggested beatniks with harpsichords (“For Your Love”), melancholy monks (“Still I’m Sad”), and acid-soaked Romany (“Over Under Sideways Down”). Clapton left the band, and Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page joined, pushing the group deeper into psychedelic byways of fuzztone and distortion. Although Relf persevered, his attitude towards the high-powered guitar music that defined the group began to change. Exhausted from extensive touring and suffering from asthma, Relf wanted to sing gentler, more thoughtful music. By 1968, the Yardbirds’ end was at hand.

That year Relf dissolved the group, became a record producer and sideman, and began a new stage of his musical career just before his early death.

Keith Relf’s first post-Yardbirds group was Together, an acoustic duo with fellow ex-Yardbird Jim McCarty. Their Simon and Garfunkel-inspired music failed to catch on, however, and Relf formed a new band with his sister Jane called Renaissance. The group was indeed a renaissance for Relf, allowing him to explore his psychedelic and acoustic leanings freely over the course of two albums with much singing by his beautiful sister Jane. But difficult and unrewarding touring wore them down, and Relf dissolved the first incarnation in 1970. (Led by vocalist Annie Haslam, the group’s second, more progressive incarnation became a fixture of the 70s music scene.) Relf stayed active in the early 70s as a producer and occasional player. He produced tracks for bands such as the acoustic, world music, group Amber, Saturnalia and Medicine Head, with whom he played bass guitar.

In 1975 he founded a heavy metal group called Armageddon. Energized by the group into delivering some of his best vocals on record, Relf looked poised for new success. Sadly, this was not to be. Dogged by ill health, Relf broke up the group and went home to recuperate. Instead, he met an ironic end. The man “who left the Yardbirds largely because of electric guitars” died on May 14, 1976, from being fatally electrocuted by an improperly grounded electric guitar, while rehearsing new material for the formation of his new band Illusion. He was only 33 years old.

He was posthumously inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 with the Yardbirds.