July 20, 2017 – Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) was born on 20 March 1976 in Phoenix, Arizona. The son of a police detective who worked with child sex abuse cases, Bennington had a troubled youth. “Growing up, for me, was very scary and very lonely,” he told Metal Hammer magazine in 2014. “I started getting molested when I was about seven or eight,” he said, describing the abuser as an older friend. “I was getting beaten up and being forced to do things I didn’t want to do. It destroyed my self-confidence. Like most people, I was too afraid to say anything. I didn’t want people to think I was gay or that I was lying. It was a horrible experience,” he told the magazine.
His parents divorced when he was 11 years old, and he went to live with his father, whom he described as “not emotionally very stable then”, adding that “there was no-one I could turn to”. Soon after his parents divorced he began abusing marijuana, alcohol, opium, cocaine, methamphetamine and LSD. The abuse and situation at home affected him so much that he felt the urge to kill people and run away. To comfort himself, he drew pictures and wrote poetry and songs. He later revealed the abuser’s identity to his father, but chose not to continue the case after he realized the abuser was a victim himself.
After years of intense drug use as a teenager, he got sober and moved to Los Angeles, where he successfully auditioned to join Linkin Park.
An early line-up of Linkin Park was formed in 1996 and the band’s 2000 debut album, Hybrid Theory, surfed the popular wave of nu-metal, Rolling Stone magazine writes. The album’s canny mix of pop, hip-hop, and melodic alt-rock drove it to sales of more than 11 million copies early on, making it the top-selling rock record of the ’00s. Given the rapid changes to the music industry in the immediate aftermath of Hybrid Theory, it’s plausible to suggest that no rock record will ever come close to achieving those sorts of sales figures ever again. The album single-handedly initiated Bennington into a small (now rapidly shrinking) fraternity of arena-rock vocalists — Bennington was one of the few guys on the planet with the qualifications to front a big-time rock band.
Hybrid Theory eventually sold more than 30 million albums and became one of the top-selling albums since the start of this millennium.
The angst-ridden vocals of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington helped lead the group to global critical acclaim.
The frontman’s brooding charisma – added to the group’s blend of rap, metal and electronic music – spawned a string of chart-topping hits.
Later in the 2000s, as the band’s success took off, he again began using drugs before returning to sobriety, telling Spin Magazine in 2009: “It’s not cool to be an alcoholic.
“It’s not cool to go drink and be a dumbass.
“It’s cool to be a part of recovery.
“Most of my work has been a reflection of what I’ve been going through in one way or another,” he added.
The band has sold 70 million albums worldwide and won two Grammy Awards.
Linkin Park had a string of hits including Faint, Numb, What I’ve done, In The End and Crawling, and collaborated with rapper Jay-Z.
Their latest music video for the song ‘Talking to Myself’ was released on the same day this father of six took his life. Another coincidence of his day of departure: Sound Garden’s Chris Cornell, who took his own life in May, would have turned 53. Bennington and Cornell were close for many years. The two had toured together and joined each other onstage, and Bennington even performed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at Cornell’s private Los Angeles funeral at Hollywood Forever Cemetery on May 26. He was also the Godfather to Cornell’s son Christopher.
Upon hearing the horrible news of Cornell’s death, the night before Linkin Park’s Kimmel tribute, Bennington posted a heart-wrenching open letter to Cornell, writing:
“I dreamt about the Beatles last night. I woke up with their song ‘Rocky Raccoon’ playing in my head and a concerned look on my wife’s face. She told me my friend has just passed away. Thoughts of you flooded my mind and I wept.
“I’m still weeping, with sadness, as well as gratitude for having shared some very special moments with you and your beautiful family. You have inspired me in many ways you could never have known. Your talent was pure and unrivaled. Your voice was joy and pain, anger and forgiveness, love and heartache all wrapped into one. I suppose that’s what we all are. You helped me understand that.
“I just watched a video of you singing ‘A Day In The Life’ by the Beatles and thought of my dream. I’d like to think you were saying goodbye in your own way. I can’t imagine a world without you in it. I pray you find peace in the next life. Send me love to your wife and children, friends, and family. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life.”
With All My Love
In addition to working with Linkin Park, he also sang for the Stone Temple Pilots from 2013-2015 replacing Scott Weiland, for his side project Dead by Sunrise, and Kings of Chaos.
Bennington leaves six children from two marriages and an early relationship as he moves on to another life at 41.
For millennials, who were in their teens when Linkin Park’s blockbuster debut Hybrid Theory was released in 2000, Bennington looms as a defining rock star of the era. A singer capable of both piercing bombast and pained sensitivity, Bennington’s nimble tenor initially played off the rapping of Mike Shinoda, but over time his versatility and soulfulness made him the band’s primary frontman. For kids who found solace in Linkin Park’s music, Bennington was the band member they were most likely to connect with.
July 13, 2017 – Simon Holmes (The Hummingbirds) was born on March 28, 1963 in the southern beachside suburb of Melbourne, Australia. The family lived in Bentleigh, before shifting to Turramurra in 1967, before going overseas for three years, in upstate New York, where Holmes started school at Myers Corner. The family then moved to Geneva, Switzerland. He spent part of his childhood in Canberra, attending the AME School: an alternative education institution and then Hawker College. Holmes moved to Sydney in the early 1980s. He started studying anthropology and archaeology at the University of Sydney, but left after two years. Continue reading Simon Holmes 7/2017
May 17, 2017 – Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) was born Christopher John Boyle on July 20, 1964 in Seattle, Washington, where he was also raised. He was the fourth of six children. His father, Ed, was a pharmacist; his mother, Karen, was an accountant. Cornell was a loner; he tried to deal with his anxiety around other people through rock music but during his early teenage years, he spiraled into severe depression and almost never left the house. His first favorite band were the Beatles. A noteworthy rumor later was that Cornell spent a two-year period between the ages of nine and eleven solidly listening to the Beatles after finding a large collection of Beatles records abandoned in the basement of a neighbor’s house. Continue reading Chris Cornell 5/2017
March 4, 2017 – Tommy Page was born on May 24, 1970 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. He began playing the piano at age eight and learned keyboards at age 12, joining his brother in a band. Obviously gifted, he graduated from Highschool at age 15 and found himself in New York attending the Stern School of business at age 16.
To help support himself during his freshman year at Stern (then 16), Page worked as a cloakroom attendant in a popular New York nightclub called Nell’s. The job gave Page a chance to play his demo tape to the house DJ, who then used the demos as part of his club mixes. The unknown sounds were so impressive that soon Page was introduced to Sire Records founder Seymour Stein. Continue reading Tommy Page 3/2017
January 24, 2017 – Claude Hudson “Butch” Trucks was born on May 11, 1947 in Jacksonville, Florida.
A drummer, one of Trucks’ first bands was local Jacksonville band The Vikings, who made one 7-inch record in 1964. Another early band was The 31st of February which formed and broke up in 1968. This group’s lineup eventually included both Duane Allman and Gregg Allman. They recorded a cover of “Morning Dew”, by 1960s folk singer Bonnie Dobson.
Trucks then helped form The Allman Brothers Band in 1969, along with Duane Allman (guitar), Gregg Allman (vocals and organ), Dickey Betts (guitar), Berry Oakley (bass), and fellow drummer Jai Johanny Johanson. Together, the two drummers developed a rhythmic drive that would prove crucial to the band’s success. Trucks laid down a powerful conventional beat while the jazz-influenced Johanson added a second laminate of percussion and ad libitum cymbal flourishes, seamlessly melded into one syncopated sound. Continue reading Butch Trucks 1/2017
March 10, 2016 – Keith Noel Emerson (Emerson,Lake,Palmer ELP) was born in Todmorden, Yorkshire on 2 November 1944. His family had been evacuated there from the south coast of England during the Second World War. He grew up in Goring-by-Sea, in the borough of the seaside resort of Worthing, West Sussex and attended West Tarring School. His parents were musically inclined and arranged for him to take piano lessons starting at the age of 8. His father, Noel, was an amateur pianist, and thought that Emerson would benefit most as a player from being versatile and being able to read music. However, he never received any formal musical training, and described his piano teachers as being “local little old ladies”. He learned western classical music, which largely inspired his own style, combining it with jazz and rock themes. Continue reading Keith Emerson 3/2016
April 23, 2013 – Robert Charles “Bob” Brozman was born to a Jewish family living on Long Island, New York, United States. He began playing the guitar when he was 6.
He performed in a number of styles, including gypsy jazz, calypso, blues, ragtime, Hawaiian music, and Caribbean music. He also collaborated with musicians from diverse cultural backgrounds, from India, Africa, Japan, Papua New Guinea and Réunion. He has been called “an instrumental wizard” and “a walking archive of 20th Century American music”. Brozman maintained a steady schedule throughout the year, touring constantly throughout North America, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa. He recorded numerous albums and has won the Guitar Player Readers’ Poll three times in the categories Best Blues, Best World and Best Slide Guitarist. In 1999, Brozman and Woody Mann founded International Guitar Seminars, which hosts over 120 students annually at sites in California, New York, and Canada. From 2000 to 2005 his collaborations landed in the European Top 10 for World Music five times.Continue reading Bob Brozman 4/2013
April 15, 2013 – Scott Miller was born on April 4th 1960; he committed suicide April 15, 2013, aged 53.
Miller’s father recorded his son singing the theme from the TV show Have Gun—Will Travel when Scott was four years old. Soon Miller was making up his own songs to sing. By age nine, he was taking folk and classical guitar lessons from a man named Tiny Moore, who had played with Bob Wills.
By 1971, Miller had switched to rock, and he was in his first band just a year later. Throughout his childhood, he had been interested in anything having to do with recording, and when he turned fifteen he finally got the TEAC four-track machine he’d been coveting. Like many others his age, Scott Miller loved the Beatles, the space program, and those shows that counted down to the number one song for the week. He started making his own countdown lists when he was twelve. Continue reading Scott Miller 4/2013
June 7, 2012 – Bob Welch (Fleetwood Mac) was born on July 31, 1945 in Los Angeles, California, into a show business family. His father was the successful Hollywood movie producer Robert Welch, best known for his work with Bob Hope. Neighbors were Yul Brunner and Jonathan Winters. As a youngster, he learned clarinet, switching to guitar in his early teens and developed an interest in jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock music.
After graduation from high school, the younger Welch moved to Paris for a while, but returned to Los Angeles shortly after. After dropping out of university he joined the Los Angeles-based interracial vocal group The Seven Souls as a guitarist in 1964. When the band broke up in 1969 Bob moved to Paris and started a trio and became friends with future CBS correspondent Ed Bradley.
In 1971 while living there, he received a phone call from Mick Fleetwood asking him to come to London. Fleetwood met him at the airport, Welch told the Nashville Tennessean in 2003. “He was driving a yellow VW. He was 6-6 and weighed about 120 pounds. He was a strange-looking human being.”Welch was invited to join Fleetwood Mac, and along with fellow newcomer Christine McVie, Bob helped to steer the band away from Peter Greene/Jeremy Spencer’s blues roots into a more melodic direction.
During the time he spend with Fleetwood Mac they released their album Future Games in 1971, Bare Trees in 1972, this album included Welch’s song Sentimental Lady, Mystery To Me in 1973 (included Bob’s son Hypnotized), also that year the band released Penguin and Bob’s final album with Fleetwood Mac Heroes are Hard To Find in 1974.
Things became problematic between Bob and other guitarist Danny Kirwan, due to the latter’s alcohol abuse. Kirwan left the band in August 1974 after he refused to go on stage at a concert after an argument with Welch and Mick Fleetwood fired him. Welch then left the band in December 1974, after a brief affair with Christine McVie, much to the dislike of bass player John McVie and was replaced by Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham.
Welch left the band amid the chaos of the McVie divorce, just prior to mainstream success with the 1975 album “Fleetwood Mac” and then “Rumors,” Fleetwood Mac’s acclaimed 1977 superhit album.
The following year he created Paris, the Hard Rock band with Todd Rundgren, Thom Mooney, Hunt Sales and bassist Glenn Cornick (Jethro Tull). Paris released their first album “Paris” and “Big Towne, 2061” in 1976, the band split up the following year, after which Welch then embarked on his solo career.
He scored a massive hit with “Ebony Eyes” in 1977. The album from which it was culled, “French Kiss,” featured a number of former Fleetwood Mac members, as well as a rendition of “Sentimental Lady,” a song originally recorded with Mac but reworked by Welch.
French Kiss his first solo album was released in September 1977, Three Hearts in 1979, The Other One that same year followed by Man Overboard in 1980 and Bob Welch in 1981. The albums contained several singles successes including “Hot Love, Cold World”, “Ebony Eyes”, and “Precious Love”. His next album Eye Contact was released in 1983 the same year he became addicted to heroin.
Bob then met his wife Wendy Armistead Welch at Johnny Depp’s club the Viper Room, when it still was called Central. They got married in 1985, moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1990, and had no children.
Wendy Welch was given credit by her husband, in his own words he said:
The time frame between 1984-1998 was a story for me of pulling out of major depression, drug addiction and extreme negativity, which I was able to do, thanks to a. the LA Sheriff’s Dept (busted), b. Cedars Sinai hospital (in a coma 2 weeks), and, especially, c.a lovely lady named Wendy Armistead, who helped me stop beating my head against a brick wall ! During this time Wendy helped me to get back into reading music again, to want to do a band again, (the Touch, Ave. M), and to regain my musical and personal identity, which had gotten pretty trashed.
In 1999, after three years clean of drugs he released Bob Welch Looks At Bop. Between 2003 and 2004 he released His Fleetwood Mac Years & Beyond I and II, and Live at Roxy in 2004.
After having spinal surgery and been told he would not get better, Bob pulled the trigger on himself in his Nashville home with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest on June 7, 2012. He was 66.
Wendy found her husband with wound shot to the chest at their home around noon. Media later quoted Wendy talking about the spinal surgery Bob had, the doctor telling him he would not get better and adding that he did not want her to have to take care of an invalid. He left a suicide note, but its content were not revealed.
Fleetwood Mac and its former and some current members were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, however Bob was not.
“My era was the bridge era,” Welch told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1998, after he was excluded from the Fleetwood Mac line-up inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “It was a transition. But it was an important period in the history of the band. Mick Fleetwood dedicated a whole chapter of his biography to my era of the band and credited me with ‘saving Fleetwood Mac.’ Now they want to write me out of the history of the group.”
• Mick Fleetwood, who hired Welch in 1971 after the departure of Peter Green, said Welch was a key part of the band’s evolution. “He was a huge part of our history which sometimes gets forgotten. Mostly his legacy would be his songwriting abilities that he brought to Fleetwood Mac, which will survive all of us,” said Fleetwood. “If you look into our musical history, you’ll see a huge period that was completely ensconced in Bob’s work.”
• although Stevie Nicks and Welch weren’t in Fleetwood Mac at the same time, she released a statement expressing her admiration and regrets: “The death of Bob Welch is devastating …. I had many great times with him after Lindsey and I joined Fleetwood Mac. He was an amazing guitar player — he was funny, sweet — and he was smart — I am so very sorry for his family and for the family of Fleetwood Mac — so, so sad …”
• David Adelstein, who served as Welch’s keyboard player from 1977 through 1982 said: “For me, they were very exciting times back then. We were the opening act for Dave Mason back around February 12, 1978, our first show at Rocklyn College, NY. A short time later, Bob was leading us up the stairs to what was the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen, Cal-Jam II. We opened the show with a 10:00 AM call! That was a rush — 250,000 people in the crowd at the old Ontario Motor Speedway. During that tour, Bob opened shows for not only Dave Mason, but for Jefferson Starship, Heart, Beach Boys, Styx, Allman Bros. and of course [Fleetwood] Mac (a great billing — the best of both worlds)”. When it came to the follow up album, Bob and his producer, John Carter, gave me my first opportunity to play on that album. When it came around to the third album, Bob gave myself and guitarist Todd Sharp the opportunity to include an original song on the album. This launched my songwriting career. All in all, I have awesome memories from my time playing with Welch, sharing dinners at some wonderful restaurants (he appreciated great food), along with his love of music and that included all kinds of music! The circle of friends here in the LA area … are already missing him much.”
March 3, 2012 – Ronnie Montrose. There are credible sources that claim he was born November 29, 1947 in Denver, Colorado, and others say he was born in San Francisco, California. No confusion is there about his early childhood in Colorado.
In his own words Montrose was born in San Francisco, California. When he was a toddler, his parents moved back to his mother’s home state of Colorado (his father was from Bertrand, Nebraska, and his mother was from Golden, Colorado). He spent most of his younger years in Denver, Colorado until he ran away at about 16 years old to pursue a musical career. He ultimately spent most of his life in the San Francisco Bay area, where he became an influential, highly-rated player whose crunchy riffs, fluid licks and mesmerising solos lit up FM radio during the 1970s.
April 15, 2008 – Cliff Davies was born in 1949 south of London, England.
After receiving tuition from pipe band drummer Jock Cree, and playing local gigs in the Aldershot area (Home of the British Army to the south of London), in the early 70s, he went on to join the Roy Young Band, then the second incarnation of British jazz-rock band If from 1972 to 1975. He played on four albums by the band and contributed songwriting to many of their songs.
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”.
June 2, 2006 – Vince Welnick (The Tubes/Grateful Dead) was born on February 21st 1951 in Phoenix, Arizona.
Welnick started playing keyboards as a teenager. He joined a band, the Beans, which eventually morphed into the Tubes, a San Francisco-based theater rock band popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s and noted for early live performances that combined lewd quasi-pornography with wild satires of media, consumerism and politics.
The Tubes in the 1980s were a major commercial rock act with substantial MTV success. Videos for rock classics “Talk To Ya Later” and “She’s A Beauty” played in heavy rotation on the MTV network for years in the mid-1980s. While playing in the Tubes, he also played and recorded with Todd Rundgren.
March 26, 2005 – Paul Hester (Crowded House) was born on January 8th 1959 in Melbourne, Australia. His mother a jazz drummer, encouraged him at an early age to learn the drums. After playing in local bands as a teenager, he formed the band Cheks and in 1982 they moved to Sydney renaming themselves Deckchairs Overboard.
He did a brief spell with Split Enz in 1983, before he along with Neil Finn formed a new band with guitarist Nick Seymour. They were signed by the US label Capitol and moved to LA. At first, they called themselves the Mullanes (Finn’s middle name), but after record company pressure they changed the name to Crowded House. Their first album in 1986 which included the US top-10 hit Don’t Dream It Over, catapulted them into major attraction on the international touring circuit until he left mid-tour in 1994 because of the stress and anxieties related to constant touring.
July 11, 2001 – Herman Brood was born on November 5th 1946 in Zwolle, the Netherlands. In the early years, his influences included Fats Domino and Little Richard. He always liked to paint and play piano.
He started playing the piano at age 12 and founded beat band The Moans in 1964, which would later become Long Tall Ernie and the Shakers. He also briefly played piano with Dutch premier blues band Cuby and the Blizzards, but was removed by management when the record company discovered he used drugs.
For a number of years in the late 1960, early 1970s Herman spent time in jail for dealing LSD, or moved abroad, while he had a number of short-term engagements with The Studs, the Flash & Dance Band, Vitesse.
In 1976, Brood started his own group, Herman Brood & His Wild Romance, (and started work with photographer Anton Corbijn) initially with Ferdi Karmelk on guitar, (Nina Hagen’s romantic partner and father of her daughter), Gerrit Veen (bass), Peter Walrecht (drums), and Ellen Piebes and Ria Ruiters (back vocals). They played the club and bar circuit, first in Groningen, In 1977 the band released their first album, Street.
April 6, 1998 – Wendy Williams was born on May 28, 1949 in Webster, New York. She studied clarinet at the Community Music School program of the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music and later was a clarinetist in her high school’s concert band. At the age of six, she appeared tap-dancing on the Howdy Doody show as a member of the “Peanut Gallery”.
She had her first run-in with the law at the age of 15, when she was arrested for sun bathing nude. Williams attended R. L. Thomas High School in Webster at least partway through the tenth grade, but left school before graduating. Her schoolmates and teachers recalled Williams as a “shy and pretty girl, an average student who played in the junior high band, paid attention to her hair and clothes, and who spoke so softly you had to lean toward her to hear her.
April 2, 1998 – Robert ‘Rob’ Pilatus (Milli Vanilli) was born June 8th 1965 in Munich, Germany. The son of an African American soldier and a German mother, he was later adopted by a German family and raised in Munich. He worked as a model and break dancer before joining Milli Vanilli, a pop/dance music project formed by Frank Farian in Germany in 1988, fronted by Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus.
Their debut platinum album “Girl You Know It’s True” became a worldwide platinum hit and produced five hit singles including 3 No.1 hits, “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You”, “Baby Don’t Forget My Number” and “Blame It On The Rain”. The album won them the 1990 Grammy Award for Best New Artist. In reality however Pilatus and Morvan served as the public faces for singers Charles Shaw and Brad Howell, whom Farian thought were vocally talented but lacked a marketable image.
Despite the enormous success, the duo were a frequent target of rumours and allegations of onstage lip-synching and not having sung on the album. Charles Shaw, one of the actual vocalists, told a reporter the truth, but retracted his statement after Farian paid him $150,000.
When Pilatus and Morvan pressured Farian to let them sing on the next album, Farian admitted to reporters on 15 November 1990 that they had not performed on the recordings. Milli Vanilli’s Grammy Award was withdrawn four days later, and Arista Records dropped them from its roster and deleted their album and songs from their catalog, making Girl You Know It’s True the largest-selling album to ever be taken out of print. A court ruling in the United States allowed anyone who had bought the album to receive a refund.
Farian later attempted an unsuccessful comeback for the group without Pilatus and Morvan. Months after the scandal, Pilatus and Morvan appeared in a commercial for Carefree sugarless chewing gum. In it the duo lip-synched to an opera recording. An announcer asked, “How long does the taste of Carefree Sugarless Gum last?” The record began to skip and the announcer added, “Until these guys sing for themselves.”
In 1991, Pilatus called the Los Angeles Times threatening suicide; he had to be retrieved from a hotel balcony by police.
In 1992, Pilatus and Morvan signed with a new label, Taj, and released Rob & Fab, an album featuring their own voices, but the album only sold around 2,000 copies. The label went bankrupt shortly thereafter.
After this failed comeback attempt, Rob turned to a life of crime and in 1996, he served three months in jail for assault, vandalism and attempted robbery. He also spent six months on drug rehabilitation, before returning to Germany.
He died from a drug overdose on April 2, 1998 at the age of 32 in a Frankfurt hotel room — possibly the victim, former producer Frank Farian told the German media, of a combination of alcohol and prescription pills.
On February 14, 2007, it was announced that Universal Pictures was developing a film based on the story of Milli Vanilli’s rise and fall in the music industry.
Milli Vanilli partner Fabrice Morvan released a statement, saying in part, ”Milli Vanilli was not a disgrace. The only disgrace is how Rob died, all alone….Where were the ones that pushed us to the top, who made the millions?”
November 22, 1997 – Michael Hutchence was born on January 22nd 1960 in Sydney Australia, but spent much of his early childhood in Hong Kong where at the age of eight he made his professional debut singing in a commercial for a toy company.
Back in Australia as a young teenager in high school he befriended Andrew Farriss who was a talented lyricist, with whom he co-wrote almost all of INXS’ (inExcess) songs, and who in tun has attributed his own success as a songwriter to Hutchence’s ‘genius.’
Hutchence and Farriss would spend a lot of time jamming in the garage with Andrew’s brothers. Farriss then convinced Hutchence to join his band, Doctor Dolphin, alongside two classmates, Kent Kerny and Neil Sanders. From a nearby High School, bass guitarist Garry Beers and Geoff Kennelly on drums filled out the line-up and they became serious about the idea of starting a proper band. However his parents’ breakup saw him spending time in California and it was not until 1977 that the band formally took shape as the Vegetables, followed by the Farriss Bros band and finally in 1979 as INXS. Their first album INXS put them on the map with several no 1 hits and Hutchence became the epitomy of the typical rock and roll frontman.
Hutchence became the main spokesperson for the band and, according to rock music historian, Ian McFarlane, “He was the archetypal rock showman. He exuded an overtly sexual, macho cool with his flowing locks, and lithe and exuberant stage movements”. Close friends and family, however, maintain he was more introverted than his on-stage persona, even though his moves into the arena of movie acting in the 1980s would dispute that statement.
He died a victim of love on Nov 22, 1997 at the age of 37 (Asphyxiation)
The Coroner’s Conclusion:
On consideration of the entirety of the evidence I am satisfied Michael Hutchence was in a severe depressed state on the morning of November 22, 1997. Hutchence’s blood showed traces of alcohol, cocaine, Prozac and prescription drugs. This was due to a number of factors, including the relationship with Paula Yates and the pressure of the ongoing dispute with Sir Robert Geldof, combined with the effects of the substances that he had ingested at that time. I am satisfied the cause of death was “hanging”. I am also satisfied there was no other person involved in causing the death. Nothing will be gained by holding a formal inquest.
Hutchence co-founded the rock band INXS, which sold over 75 million records worldwide.
Hutchence attended Davidson High School, where he met and befriended Andrew Farriss. Around this time, Hutchence and Farriss spent a lot of time jamming in the garage with Andrew’s brothers. Farriss then convinced Hutchence to join his band, Doctor Dolphin.
Hutchence, the Farriss brothers, Kerny, Sanders, Beers and Kennelly briefly performed as The Vegetables, singing “We Are the Vegetables”. Ten months later, they returned to Sydney and recorded a set of demos. The Farriss Brothers regularly supported hard rockers Midnight Oil on the pub rock circuit, and were renamed as INXS in 1979.
In May 1980, the group released their first single, “Simple Simon”/”We Are the Vegetables” which was followed by the debut album INXS in October. The early records demonstrated their new wave/ska/pop style, and were followed by near constant touring with almost 300 shows during 1981 as the band developed their status as a live act.
In October 1981, their second album Underneath the Colours was released and became a hit in Australia peaking at No. 15.
In October 1982, Shabooh Shoobah was released internationally on Atlantic/Atco Records, peaking at No. 52 on the US Billboard 200 and No. 46 on the Hot Pop Albums chart. In Australia it peaked at No. 5 and remained in the albums charts for 94 weeks. The single “The One Thing” brought them their first Top 30 hit in United States peaking at No 30.
INXS undertook their first US performance in San Diego in March 1983, to a crowd of 24 patrons. Their first tour was as support for Adam and the Ants, then support for Stray Cats, The Kinks, Hall & Oates followed by The Go-Go’s.
The album The Swing, released in April 1984, received significant attention from around the world, as “Original Sin” became the band’s first No. 1 single in Australia and was popular worldwide. During 1984, INXS toured non-stop, performing across Europe, the UK, the US and Australia. By December 1984, The Swing had gone double platinum, making it one of the five biggest domestic albums in the history of Australian music at the time.
In March 1985, the band re-entered Sydney’s Rhinoceros Studios to record their next album, together with producer Chris Thomas (Sex Pistols, Pink Floyd, The Pretenders, Elton John). As the band was finishing the recording sessions, Thomas stated that the album was not good enough and still had no “killer” track. Andrew produced a demo tape of a funk song he had been working on called “Funk Song No. 13” and evolved it into “What You Need”.
Listen Like Thieves was released in October 1985 to critical approval, reaching No. 3 on the Australian charts and No. 11 on the US charts. With the release of Listen Like Thieves, the band developed a rock sound influenced by Led Zeppelin and XTC while remaining true to the band’s original roots in Aussie pubs. It was also the first album to feature songs written by a combination of band members, with Andrew Farris and Hutchence becoming the primary songwriters.
Kick was released in October 1987 and provided the band with worldwide popularity. The album peaked at No. 1 in Australia, No. 3 on the US Billboard 200. It was an upbeat, confident album that yielded four Top 10 US singles: No. 1 single “Need You Tonight”, “Devil Inside”, “New Sensation”, and “Never Tear Us Apart”.
In October 1990, INXS released X, and scored hits with “Suicide Blonde” and “Disappear”. INXS performed at Wembley Stadium on 13 July 1991, during their “Summer XS” tour stop in London to a sold-out audience of 74,000 fans.This performance was recorded and filmed to become Live Baby Live, a live album that was released in November 1991.
From that point on, they released albums with decline in popularity but still was a major live act draw.
On 22 November 1997, Michael Hutchence was found dead in his Sydney Ritz-Carlton hotel room.
Hutchence and English television presenter Paula Yates had a daughter, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily.
June 20, 1996 – James ‘Jim’ Ellison (Material Issue) was born on April 18, 1964 in Chicago, Illinois. As a teenager Jim was inspired by the likes of David Bowie, the Who, and Sweet to seriously take up guitar playing. Then while attending Chicago’s Columbia Art College he formed the powerpop band Material Issue in an effort to form a group that would merge the pop hooks of the Beatles, Cheap Trick and Big Star with a modern rock edge.
He soon got his wish, as he hooked up with fellow students Ted Ansani (bass, vocals) and Mike Zelenko (drums), forming Material Issue in 1986. With the group causing a local buzz from the get-go, Ellison also formed his own independent record label around this time, Big Block Records, which he ran out of his bedroom in Addison, Illinois. Continue reading Jim Ellison 6/1996
August 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.”
March 8, 1995 – Ingo Schwichtenberg (Helloween) was born May 18th 1965 in Hamburg, Germany. At the age of 14 he took some clarinet lessons with the encouragement of a music teacher at school and started playing folk music in the school’s band. During this period he also had his first approach to a drum kit. “As the drummer in my group was very bad, I could not stand it and I sat in front of the kit and played as I liked ” he said ” I think I was fifteen… I knew I was going to play it seriously since then”.
His father Heinz bought him his very first drum kit and he started practicing by himself. During the same year he met a young guitarist called Kai Hansen who played in a new born band called “Gentry”. The boys became good friends immediately and Kai asked Ingo to join the band because they needed a drummer. ( “Gentry” was made up of: Kai Hansen – guitars, Markus Grosskopf – bass guitar, Piet Sielck – vocals, Ingo Schwichtenberg – drums). Right after that the band was renamed to “Second Hell”. Ingo remembered: “I was a rock’ n’ roller with long hair and with a leather jacket. (laugh) As others in the same age wore tidy clothes, I may have been seen very different from them, but there was no bad relationship with them”.
1982-1983: The band changed their name into “Iron Fist” and the line-up was finally completed by Michael Weikath on second guitar. While playing in “Iron Fist”, Ingo did different jobs in order to gather as much money as possible for buying himself a new professional drumkit (a Yamaha): he worked at an office for two years ( which he really disliked a lot!) and then he worked also in a huge Hamburg market. “Though it was a hard job starting from 6 o’clock in the morning, I learned a lot of things there. I think it was good for me to have done it”.
1984: After watching the movie “Halloween”, Ingo came up with the idea to rename the band “Helloween” and the “a” was replaced with an “e”. The band started a mini tour around all the small clubs in Hamburg and took part on the sampler “Death Metal”. At that time his family was very supportive to him, so Ingo was encouraged to go ahead with music. “As the album cover was the illustration of a disgusting man who was disemboweled, my father frowned: “…On this album?!?”, and he was looking at it suspiciously (laugh). But listening to “Metal Invaders” and “Oernst Of Life”, he seemed to be pleased with the melody and said: “Keep going!”. At the end of the same year, Helloween finally signed their first contract with Noise Records.
1985: In March “Helloween” the first mini-LP was released. “When we made our mini album, “e;Helloween”, it was the first recording. So, “this is the mixer! This is the recording mic! Wonderful!! We were excited!” said Ingo smiling. Then, on November 18th the band released “Walls of Jericho”, the first full-length album that laid the basis of modern power metal with its unique speed’n’ thrashy touch. The album gathered the metal audience’s approval and got also lots of positive reviews from all over Europe.
1986: November. While touring all over Europe, Kai found some difficulties in singing and playing guitar at the same time. Ingo confirmed: “Kai wanted to devote himself to be a guitarist. So sooner or later we needed a singer, a front man”. So they recruited the 18 year-old prodigy singer Michael Kiske and started working on their third effort. “When he joined, he was eighteen years old, but I thought he himself knew he was a talented man and he knew well what he should do”.
1987-1988: “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part. I” finally saw the light on February 1987, putting Helloween on a higher level of popularity and received overwhelming feed-backs from all over the world, including U.S.A and Japan.
After touring Europe ( with Overkill) and U.S.A. ( with Armored Saint and Grim Reaper), in 1988 the band released the second part of the Keeper’ s concept, ” Keeper of The Seven Keys Part II” . The album went gold in Germany and Asia, and reached #108 on the U.S. Billboard Chart as well… and the whole heavy metal world fell in love with the Pumpkins!
1989: On January 1st Kai left Helloween and formed a new project called Gamma Ray. It’s well known that Ingo never recovered from his good friend’s departure… The guys found in Roland Grapow ( from Rampage) a brand new guitarist that fit with the band not just only as a musician but as a friend as well. Talking about Roland’s joining Ingo said : “The rapid growth of Roland is amazing. Because before joining Helloween, he was a car repairman. [..] Suddenly he had a call from Weiki : “Why don’t we play together in Helloween?” .
With this new line-up, Helloween embarked on their second U.S.A. tour. During this period, the guys decided to break up their contract with Noise and signing with EMI Records, but things didn’t exactly go as they were expecting and they plunged soon into a real mess… Noise filed a lawsuit against Helloween which went on for a longtime.
1990: At the end of the legal battle Helloween lost and the band had to pay a huge amount of money to Noise Records. In addition they were not allowed to perform or release any kind of material except for Europe and Japan. This bitter experience left its mark on the whole band, especially on Ingo who remembered: “1989 was a terribly bad time for the band and for me. I had never experienced such hard days before”. During those days Ingo was dying to play drums so, together with Markus, he took part as special guest in a German metal band called Doc Eisenhauer which released the album “Alles im Lack” (1992) and did also a few concerts in some pubs around Hamburg. The beginning of the 90’s were also crucial for Ingo’s health because he started giving some signs that something was going wrong with his mind…
1991: After two years of silence, Helloween finally released “Pink Bubbles Go Ape” but only in Japan and U.K. The album didn’t receive many positive reviews by fans and critics. This was one of many reasons that brought some tensions between the guys about what kind of musical direction the band should take.
1992-1993: After reaching an agreement with EMI and Noise, “Pink Bubbles Go Ape” was finally released in Germany and rest of Europe as well ( april 1992). One year later it was the turn of “Chameleon”. Even though it contained some very good tracks, the album was harshly criticized and became the most disappointing work of Helloween’s whole carreer. Inner tensions grew, meanwhile Ingo’s health situation became really serious: he seemed to be sunk in a deep state of depression, his behavior was characterized by strange and crazy episodes and, in addition to that, he was heavily into drugs ( cocaine and hashish) and drank a lot, starting a dangerously vicious circle that he couldn’t get out of. However, Helloween went on tour to promote “Chameleon” and his conditions kept up worsening. ” We started to notice something was wrong with him when we were on tour, with all that road pressure” remembers Weiky ” Ingo had a strange behavior… he did strange things and we noticed something seriously wrong with him. We lived with him and we could see his changes”.
And the situation took a turn for the worse: during a show in Hiroshima, Ingo collapsed on stage and was immediately hospitalized. During some therapies and treatments they found out that Ingo suffered from hereditary schizophrenia. The whole band didn’t know what to do with him, but one thing was clear: he couldn’t be part of the band anymore until he recovered from drugs and alcohol abuse and took his medications against schizophrenia seriously; so after a six hour telephone call with Weikath, in which he explained why they had made that hard and painful decision, Ingo was asked to leave Helloween. Schwichtenberg’s replacement in the band was Uli Kusch.
Talking about Ingo’s mental disease as well as his drug and alcohol addiction, Weiky said ” … He was destroying his own brain and he didn’t notice it! The problem was that he didn’t know how many damages he was doing. How could we let him go through the stress of a new album and a new tour? “. Unfortunately it seemed that Ingo never accepted his fate and he didn’t trust doctors, so he didn’t take his medications regularly: “Ah, it’s all crap what they tell me. Why should I take medications? I have to heal myself somehow” he used to say.
1995: After his ejection from the band, Schwichtenberg slid further and further into his schizophrenic episodes. Everybody knows how the story ended. On march 8, 1995 Ingo committed suicide by jumping in front of a subway train. It happened two and a half months before his 30th birthday. ” If he could have lived a life with a wife, children and a house in the fields, he would certainly have had a better chance to be better” said Weiky ” The stress in our carreers is terrible, sometimes I think I’m lucky surviving all this. Imagine how all that damaged Ingo! To be honest, I think that he took much more than his condition would allow”.
His friend Kai Hansen had dedicated the song “Afterlife” from Gamma Ray’s Land of the Free to him. As well, Michael Kiske made a tribute to Schwichtenberg with the track “Always”, from his first solo album Instant Clarity. Also the song Step Out of Hell from Helloween album Chameleon is written by Roland Grapow about Schwichtenberg’s problems with drugs and drinking.
October 4, 1994 – Danny Gatton was without a shadow of a doubt the most underrated guitar virtuoso the US ever produced…so far. He fused rockabilly, blues, rock, jazz, and country to create his own distinctive style at a mind boggling speed.
Born in Washington DC on September 4, 1945, he began his career playing in bands while still a teenager and began to attract wider interest in the 1970s while playing guitar and banjo for the group Liz Meyer & Friends. He made his name as a performer the 1980s, both as a solo performer and with his Redneck Jazz Explosion, in which he would trade licks with virtuoso pedal steel player Buddy Emmons over a tight bass-drums rhythm which drew from blues, country, bebop and rockabilly influences.
April 5, 1994 – Kurt Cobain. (Nirvana) A very talented and very troubled rock grunge frontman, Kurt Cobain became a rock legend in the early 1990s with his band, Nirvana. He committed suicide at his Seattle home in 1994. Kurt Cobain was born February 20, 1967, in Aberdeen, Washington. In 1988, he started the grunge band Nirvana. Nirvana made the leap to a major label in 1991, signing with Geffen Records. Cobain also began using heroin around this time. Nirvana’s highly acclaimed album In Utero was released in 1993.
February 8, 1990– Del Shannon was born born Charles Weedon Westover on December 30, 1934 in Grand Rapids Michigan and grew up in nearby Coopersville. He learned ukulele and guitar and listened to country and western music, including Hank Williams, Hank Snow, and Lefty Frizzell. He was drafted into the Army in 1954, and while in Germany played guitar in a band called “The Cool Flames”.
When his military service ended, he returned to Battle Creek, Michigan, and worked as a carpet salesman and as a truck driver in a furniture factory. He found part-time work as a rhythm guitarist in singer Doug DeMott’s group called “The Moonlight Ramblers”, working at the Hi-Lo Club.
In 1958, he took over a band as leader and singer, with the name Charlie Johnson, and renaming his band the Big Little Show Band. In early 1959 he added keyboardist Max Crook, who played the Musitron (his own invention of an early synthesizer). Crook had made recordings, and he persuaded Ann Arbor disc jockey Ollie McLaughlin to hear the band. McLaughlin took the group’s demos to Harry Balk and Irving Micahnik of Talent Artists in Detroit. In July 1960, Westover and Crook signed to become recording artists and composers on the Bigtop label. Balk suggested Westover use a new name, and they came up with “Del Shannon”, combining Mark Shannon—a wrestling pseudonym used by a regular at the Hi-Lo Club—with Del, derived from the Cadillac Coupe de Ville, his favorite car.
He flew to New York City, but his first sessions were not successful. McLaughlin then persuaded Shannon and Crook to rewrite and re-record one of their earlier songs, originally called “Little Runaway”, using the Musitron as lead instrument.On January 21st 1961 Del Shannon recorded “Runaway”, which reached No.1 in the Billboard chart in April and made its way around the globe.
This hit was followed with “Hats Off to Larry”, which peaked at No.5 on the Billboard and No.1 on Cashbox in 1961. Other hits included “So Long, Baby,” and “Little Town Flirt”. He continued his success in England, where he had always been more popular. In 1963, he became the first American to record a cover version of a Beatles song, “From Me to You” which charted in the US before the Beatles. After these hits, Shannon was unable to keep his momentum in the U.S., but continued his success in England, where he had always been more popular.
In late 1964, Shannon produced a demo recording session for a young fellow Michigander named Bob Seger, who would go on to stardom much later. Shannon gave acetates of the session to Dick Clark (Del was on one of Clark’s tours in 1965), and by 1966, Bob Seger was recording for Philadelphia’s famed Cameo Records label, resulting in some regional hits which would eventually lead to a major-label deal with Capitol Records.
Shannon signed with Liberty in 1966 and revived Toni Fisher’s “The Big Hurt” and the Rolling Stones‘ “Under My Thumb”. Peter and Gordon released his “I Go to Pieces” in 1965.
Shannon also discovered country singer Johnny Carver, who was then working in the Los Angeles area. He got Carver a contract with Liberty Records’ subsidiary Imperial Records, writing, producing and arranging both sides of Carver’s debut single “One Way or the Other”/”Think About Her All the Time”. Carver went on to have nearly 20 Country-chart hits during the late 1960s and 1970s. The liner notes to his debut Imperial album acknowledge Shannon’s role in his being brought to the label.
In the late 1960s, not having charted for several years, Shannon turned to production. In 1969, he discovered Smith and arranged their hit “Baby, It’s You”, which had been a hit for the Shirelles in 1963. In 1970, he produced Brian Hyland’s million-seller “Gypsy Woman”, a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s hit.
During Shannon’s Liberty Records tenure, success on a national scale eluded him, but he did score several “regional” US chart hits with “The Big Hurt”, “Under My Thumb”, “She”, “Led Along” and “Runaway” (1967 version). That version (recorded in England and produced by Rolling Stones producer Andrew Loog Oldham) also did well on Canadian and Australian pop charts. In early 1967 Shannon recorded the album Home and Away in England, with Oldham at the helm. Intended by Oldham as the British answer to Pet Sounds, Home and Away was shelved by Liberty Records, although a handful of singles were issued. It was not until 1978 that all of the tracks were eventually issued (with three non-related tracks) on a British album titled And The Music Plays On. In 1991, all of the tracks were released in the US as part of the Del Shannon–The Liberty Years CD. In 2006, 39 years after it was recorded, Home and Away was finally released as a stand-alone collection by EMI Records in the UK. This CD collected the 11 original tracks in stereo and the five single releases (US, UK and Philippines) in their original monaural mixes.
In September 1967, Shannon began laying down the tracks for The Further Adventures of Charles Westover, which would be highly regarded by fans and critics alike, despite disappointing sales. The album yielded two 1968 singles, “Thinkin’ It Over” and “Gemini”. In October 1968, Liberty Records released their tenth (in the US) and final Del Shannon single, a cover of Dee Clark’s 1961 hit “Raindrops”. This brought to a close a commercially disappointing period in Shannon’s career. In 1972, he signed with United Artists and recorded Live In England, released in June 1973. Reviewer Chris Martin critiqued the album favourably, saying that Shannon never improvised, was always true to the original sounds of his music and that only Lou Christie rivaled his falsetto. In April 1975, he signed with Island Records.
After he and his manager jointly sought back royalties for Shannon, Bug Music was founded in 1975 to administer his songs.
A 1976 article on Shannon’s concert at the Roxy Theatre described the singer as “personal, pure and simple rock ‘n’ roll, dated but gratifyingly undiluted.” Shannon sang some of his new rock songs along with classics like “Endless Sleep” and “The Big Hurt”. The Los Angeles Times wrote, “Shannon’s haunting vignettes of heartbreak and restlessness contain something of a cosmic undercurrent which has the protagonist tragically doomed to a bleak, shadowy struggle.”
In 1978 Shannon stopped drinking and began work on “Sea of Love”, released in the early 1980s on his album Drop Down and Get Me, produced by Tom Petty. The album took two years to record and featured Petty’s Heartbreakers backing Shannon. However, RSO Records, to which Shannon was signed, folded. Further work on the LP was done for the Network Records label (which was distributed by Elektra Records). Seven songs are Shannon originals with covers of the Everly Brothers, the Rolling Stones, Frankie Ford and “Sea of Love” by Phil Phillips. It was Shannon’s first album in eight years.
In February 1982, Shannon appeared at the Bottom Line. He performed pop-rock tunes and old hits. New York Times reviewer Stephen Holden described an “easygoing pop-country” manner. On “Runaway” and “Keep Searchin'”, Shannon and his band rediscovered the sound “in which his keen falsetto played off against airy organ obbligatos.” In the 1980s, Shannon performed “competent but mundane country-rock”. In 1986 he enjoyed a top-ten hit as a songwriter when pop-country singer Juice Newton released a single of her cover of Shannon’s “Cheap Love”, which reached #9 on the Billboard Hot Country chart.
Shannon enjoyed a resurgence after re-recording “Runaway” with new lyrics as the theme for the NBC-TV television program Crime Story. In 1988, Shannon sang “The World We Know” with the Smithereens on their album Green Thoughts. Two years later, he recorded with Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra, and there were rumors he would join the Traveling Wilburys after Roy Orbison’s death. Previously, in 1975, Shannon had recorded tracks with Lynne, along with “In My Arms Again”, a self-penned country song recorded for Warner Brothers, which had signed Shannon in 1984.
In 1988, Del sang on “The World We Know” with The Smithereens on their album Green Thoughts. Shortly after, in 1990, he recorded with Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra and there were rumors he would join The Traveling Wilburys after Roy Orbison’s death. Previously, in 1975, he had recorded tracks with Lynne, along with In My Arms Again, a self-penned country song.
Suffering from depression, he was working on a comeback album with Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra, when Shannon fatally shot himself in the head with a .22 calibre rifle. His wife thought his death might have been related to his recent use of the prescription drug, Prozac. He died February 8, 1990 at age 55.
Following his death, the Traveling Wilburys honored him by recording a version of “Runaway”. Lynne also co-produced Shannon’s posthumous album, Rock On, released on Silvertone in 1991.
August 14, 1988 – Leroy “Roy” Buchanan was born on September 23rd 1939 in Ozark, Arkansas and was raised there and in Pixley, California, a farming area near Bakersfield. His father was a sharecropper in Arkansas and a farm laborer in California.
His first musical memories were of racially mixed revival meetings he attended with his mother Minnie. “Gospel,” he recalled, “that’s how I first got into black music.” He in fact drew upon many disparate influences while learning to play his instrument (though he later claimed his aptitude derived from being “half-wolf”). He initially showed talent on steel guitar before switching to guitar in the early 50s, and started his professional career at age 15, in Johnny Otis’s rhythm and blues revue.
In 1958, Buchanan made his recording debut with Dale Hawkins, including playing the solo on “My Babe” for Chicago’s Chess Records. Two years later, during a tour through Toronto, Buchanan left Dale Hawkins to play for his cousin Ronnie Hawkins and tutor Ronnie’s guitar player, Robbie Robertson. Buchanan plays bass on the Ronnie Hawkins single, “Who Do You Love?”. Buchanan soon returned to the U.S. and Ronnie Hawkins’ group later gained fame as The Band.
By the dawn of the ’60s, Buchanan had relocated once more, this time to Canada, where he signed on with rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins. The bass player of Ronnie Hawkins’ backing band, the Hawks, studied guitar with Buchanan during his tenure with the band. Upon Buchanan’s exit, the bassist-turned-guitarist would become the leader of the group, which would eventually become popular roots rockers the Band: Robbie Robertson.
In 1961 he released “Mule Train Stomp”, his first single for Swan, featuring rich guitar tones. Buchanan’s 1962 recording with drummer Bobby Gregg, nicknamed “Potato Peeler,” first introduced the trademark Buchanan “pinch” harmonic. An effort to cash in on the British Invasion caught Buchanan with the British Walkers. Buchanan spent the ’60s as a sideman with obscure acts, as well as working as a session guitarist for such varied artists as pop idol Freddy Cannon, country artist Merle Kilgore, and drummer Bobby Gregg, among others, before Buchanan settled down in the Washington, D.C., area in the mid- to late ’60s and founded his own outfit, the Snakestretchers. Despite not having appeared on any recordings of his own, word of Buchanan’s exceptional playing skills began to spread among musicians as he received accolades from the likes of John Lennon, Eric Clapton, and Merle Haggard, as well as supposedly being invited to join the Rolling Stones at one point (which he turned down).In the mid-1960s, Buchanan settled down in the Washington, D.C. area, playing for Danny Denver’s band for many years while acquiring a reputation as “...one of the very finest rock guitarists around”.
Reputedly Jimi Hendrix would not take up the challenge of a ‘pick-off’ with Roy. The facts behind that claim are that in March 1968 a photographer friend, John Gossage gave Buchanan tickets to a concert by the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Washington Hilton. Buchanan reportedly was dismayed to find his own trademark sounds, like the wah-wah that he’d painstakingly produced with his hands and his Telecaster, was created by electronic pedals. He could never attempt Hendrix’s stage show, and this realization refocused him on his own quintessentially American roots-style guitar picking.
Gossage recalls how Roy was very impressed by the Hendrix 1967 debut album Are You Experienced?, which was why he made sure to give Roy a ticket to the early show at the Hilton. Gossage went backstage to take photos and tried to convince Jimi to go and see Roy at the Silver Dollar that night after the show, but Jimi seemed more interested in hanging out with the young lady who was backstage with him. Gossage confirms Hendrix never showed up at the Silver Dollar, but he did talk to Roy about seeing the Hilton show. That same night at the Silver Dollar, Roy did several Hendrix numbers and “from that point on, had nothing but good things to say about Hendrix”. He later released recordings of the Hendrix composition “If 6 Was 9” and the Hendrix hit “Hey Joe” (written by Billy Roberts).
At the end of the 1960s, with a growing family, Buchanan left the professional music industry for a while to learn a trade and trained as a hairdresser. In the early ’70s, Roy Buchanan performed extensively in the Washington D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area with the Danny Denver Band, which had a large following in the area. He became widely appreciated as a solo act in the DC area at this time.
Buchanan’s life changed in 1971, when he gained national notice as the result of an hour-long PBS television documentary. Entitled Introducing Roy Buchanan, and sometimes mistakenly called The Best Unknown Guitarist in the World, it earned a record deal with Polydor Records and praise from John Lennon and Merle Haggard, besides an alleged invitation to join the Rolling Stones which he turned down and which gave him the nickname “the man who tumbled the stones down”. In 1977 he appeared on the PBS music program Austin City Limits during Season 2. Buchanan spent the remainder of the decade issuing solo albums, including such guitar classics as his 1972 self-titled debut (which contained one of Buchanan’s best-known tracks, “The Messiah Will Come Again”), 1974’s That’s What I Am Here For, and 1975’s Live Stock, before switching to Atlantic for several releases. But by the ’80s, Buchanan had grown disillusioned by the music business due to the record company’s attempts to mold him into a more mainstream artist, which led to a four-year exile from music between 1981 and 1985.
Buchanan vowed never to enter a studio again unless he could record his own music his own way. Four years later, Alligator Records coaxed Buchanan back into the studio.
His first album for Alligator, When a Guitar Plays the Blues, was released in the spring of 1985. It was the first time he had total artistic freedom in the studio. The album entered Billboard’s pop charts and remained on the charts for 13 weeks. His second Alligator LP, Dancing on the Edge (with vocals on three tracks by Delbert McClinton), was released in the fall of 1986. The album also charted, on the Billboard album chart for 8 weeks. He released the twelfth and last album of his career, Hot Wires, in 1987.
Although playing a number of guitars, he was most often associated with a 1953 Fender Telecaster guitar nicknamed “Nancy”, the one he used to produce his trebly signature tone
But just as his career seemed to be on the upswing once more, tragedy struck on August 14, 1988, when Buchanan was picked up by police in Fairfax, VA, for public intoxication. Shortly after being arrested and placed in a holding cell, a policeman performed a routine check on Buchanan and was shocked to discover that he had hung himself in his cell. Buchanan’s stature as one of blues-rock’s all-time great guitarists grew even greater after his tragic death, resulting in such posthumous collections as Sweet Dreams: The Anthology, Guitar on Fire: The Atlantic Sessions, Deluxe Edition, and 20th Century Masters and the live When a Telecaster Plays the Blues, which appeared in 2009. He was 48 at the time of his death.
Buchanan has influenced many guitarists, including Gary Moore, Danny Gatton, Arlen Roth, and Jeff Beck. Beck dedicated his version of “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” from Blow by Blow to him. His work is said to “stretch the limits of the electric guitar,” and he is praised for “his subtlety of tone and the breadth of his knowledge, from the blackest of blues to moaning R&B and clean, concise, bone-deep rock ‘n’ roll.” Danny Gatton, who was also features as “the World’s Greatest Unknown Guitar Player”, committed suicide in 1994.
In 2004, Guitar Player listed his version of “Sweet Dreams,” from his debut album on Polydor, Roy Buchanan, as having one of the “50 Greatest Tones of All Time.” In the same year, the readers of Guitar Player voted Buchanan #46 in a top 50 readers’ poll. Roy is the subject of Freddy Blohm’s song “King of a Small Room.”
March 29, 1985 – The Singing Nun or Soeur Sourire in her native Belgium, was born Jeanine Deckers on October 17, 1933.
When entering the Dominican Fichermont Convent in Belgium she became Sister Luc Gabriel. She became internationally famous in 1963 as Soeur Sourire (Sister Smile) when she scored a hit with the song “Dominique”.
In the English speaking world, she is mostly referred to as “The Singing Nun”. She gave concerts and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.
November 18, 1983 – Tom Evans was born on June 5th 1947. The sad and tragic story of Evans and his fellow bandmate Pete Hamm is amplified by the greed grabbing conditions that the music industry has always been plagued by; ruthless and dishonest.
Tom Evans was a very talented bassist, guitarist, singer, songwriter, who started his music career as a member of “The Inbeateens” in 1961. With the growing recognition of the Beatles, he soon progressed to a Liverpool mod/soul group called Them Calderstones.
In 1967, he joined a Welsh band called The Iveys who changed their name to Badfinger in 1969, while under contract with the Beatles’ owned Apple Records. Paul McCartney gave the group a boost by offering them his song “Come and Get It” which he produced for the band. It became a featured track for the film The Magic Christian, which starred Ringo Starr and Peter Sellers and put Badfinger on the map.
They followed up with major successes in 1970 and 71 with titles like “No Matter What,” “Day After Day,” and “Baby Blue”, each featuring some of Toms vocals, songwriting capabilities, background harmony and dual leads. His high-career moment came with the composition “Without You”, co-written with bandmate Peter Ham. The song became a No.1 hit worldwide for Harry Nilsson and has since become one of the top worldwide evergreens, covered by hundreds of performers.
Evans & Joey Molland of Badfinger argued on the telephone, reportedly about the publishing royalty of the song “Without You.” Following the argument, Tom sadly hanged himself in the garden at his home at age 36 on November 18, 1983 at age 36, in an eerie replay of fellow band mate Pete Ham’s 1975 death scene. Marianne Evans, his wife, was quoted in a documentary as having stated that “Tommy said ‘I want to be where Pete is. It’s a better place than down here’ ….”
The band had everything going for them. They were in the right place, playing the right music, at the right time. They wrote great songs and got the attention of all the right people, including Paul McCartney.
What could go wrong?
Badfinger are like an allegory for everything that’s wrong with the music business.
They were signed to Apple records, the Beatles’ label and had legendary producer Tony Visconti (not that he was legendary at the time) as their producer got their first album.
The management came under Alan Klein. He was the manager of the Stones, but also managed the Beatles after Epstein’s death. Forget what you’ve heard about Yoko, Klein was the person who drove a wedge between the Beatles.
With the troubles caused by the Beatles’ break up and the general mismanagement of Apple, the band were largely left with no promotion and the album was nothing like as big as expected.
Their song Without You was rather undervalued by the band and buried as the closing song on side one of they’re first album. It was the result of two songs. Pete Ham had a verse he liked but a chorus he didn’t; Tom Evans had a chorus that worked but a verse he didn’t like.
However, many other people noticed it and it was recorded very successfully by Harry Nilsson, before becoming something of a standard and being recorded by dozens of other people, including Mariah Carey.
The royalties should be a straight forward 50/50 split between Ham and Evans. However, there was rumoured to be a verbal agreement to include the rest of the band. The management of the group was taken over by Stan Polley, an American entertainment manager. Polley created a contract that gave all the band members a set salary incorporating writing royalties. Polley’s company was included within this, effectively giving him over ten times the income than any members of the band received, while also splitting writing credits with members who weren’t involved in the composition.
The following court case tied up the band in legal wrangling for several years and created divisions between the members, making the band unworkable.
In the meantime the Nilsson version of Without You was huge. Under normal circumstances writing a big hit record, especially in the early 70s, could set you up quite comfortably for life. However, the issues of royalties meant this wasn’t the case. With at one point the song being attributed not only to Ham and Evans but also to fellow band mates Mike Gibbins and Joey Molland, as well as their former manager, Bill Collins.
In 1975 Ham became so depressed, over the court case, and financial problems that he hanged himself, citing Polley as one of the causes. He was 27. The financial issues continued with several law suits and a claim for royalties against Evans by the remaining members. In 1983 Evans also hanged himself.
Mike Gibbins and Joey Molland continued to tour as Badfinger. After much further issues, to the best of my knowledge, the royalties are now exclusively shared between the estates of Ham and Evans, which seems a little too late!
April 5, 1983 – Daniel EarlDanny Rapp was born on May 9th 1941 in Philadelphia, PA. The group was formed in a high school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1955, and besides Rapp included, Frank Maffei, Lennie Baker, Dave White Tricker, Joe Terranova, and Bill Carlucci. Originally known as ‘The Juvenairs’ the group choreographed their own dance moves, and often performed at after school gigs and local area shows. They later became known as Danny and the Juniors.
In 1957, the group was discovered by songwriter/producer named John Madara, who had happened to see them while they were were working a record hop. A promoter of Rock ‘n’ Roll music, Madara introduced the band to David White Tricker and a vocal coach named Artie Singer, who also owned the Singular Records Label. After an audition, the band was signed to the label, and soon released their first song, ‘Do The Bop,’ written by Madara and White. The song’s title was later changed to, ‘At The Bop’ .
The song came to the attention of Dick Clark, who suggested they rename it to “At the Hop,” due to the fact that the word ‘Bop’ was by then pretty much out of fashion. The song released in that year, was first cut as a demo with the help of music producer Leon Huff and after 13 takes at the Reco-Art Studios, the copy was sent around to radio DJ’s. The song was released as the group’s first single, and it became a regional hit first, and then a national hit. The song went to #1 for 7 weeks on the music charts and sold over 7,000 copies in their hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The song which was an immediate success would also become there signature song. They were also asked to appear on Dick Clark’s television program, “American Bandstand” as a replacement for ‘Little Anthony & The Imperials.’ Following the success of there single, ‘At The Hop,’ the band then released the Top 20 hit, ‘Rock And Roll Here To Stay,’ and also toured with several bands of Alan Freed‘s traveling Rock ‘n’ Roll shows.
They followed this with two other singles that ended up going into the Top 40 Charts. In 1963 the group switched over to the Swan Record Label, but after the release of a couple more songs including, ‘Twistin’ USA,’ and ‘Dottie,’ the group eventually disbanded a year later. The Juniors released several more records in the 1960s but were not able to produce any more hits. In the 70s they toured the oldies circuit, re-releasing “At the Hop” in 1976
The group’s members continued on in the music business doing their own things, Madara kept producing and finding new talent, while the group’s members joined, founded other bands, or had solo careers.
Rapp’s last performance was in Phoenix, Arizona at the Silver Lining Lounge of The Pointe Tapatio Resort in a month-long engagement which was scheduled to end on Saturday, April 2, 1983. However two performances short of the contract he got into a couple of disputes offstage with a female member of the group that prompted resort security to intervene and confront him. With two more shows yet to complete, Danny took off and headed to a small town more than 160 miles away, where he checked into the Yacht Club Motel in Quartzsite, Arizona, just east of the California border. He was seen on Saturday drinking heavily in the Jigsaw, one of the two bars in town. Sometime over the weekend, he bought a .25-caliber automatic from a private individual.
Rapp’s body was found in his hotel room on Sunday, April 3, 1983, with a single self-inflicted gunshot wound to the right side of the head. He was a few weeks short of his 42nd birthday.
David White co-wrote “At the Hop” with John Madara and Artie Singer. Originally called “Do the Bop” and written by David and John, the song was renamed and some of its lyrics changed at the recommendation of Dick Clark because the dance known as the Bop was already fading in popularity around the time the song was released. Hops were the new thing. Artie came aboard as a co-writer of the new version, and Dick was given half of the publishing rights for it.
As David recalls in his own words about that song, “We recorded ‘Do the Bop’ with Johnny Madara singing lead vocals and my group, The Juvenaires, backing him up. Artie took it to Johnny’s label, Prep Records, but they turned it down. Artie then took it to Dick Clark, who suggested the title change to ‘At the Hop’. Aritie changed some of the lyrics and became a co-writer,” continuing, “We went back into the recording studio and this time, my group recorded the song with Danny singing lead. Artie took it back to Dick Clark and gave him half the publishing of the song. ‘At the Hop’ was then released on the Singular label, which couldn’t handle the distribution demands. So Artie sold the master to ABC Paramount.” The practice of payola was not illegal at that time, allowing Dick Clark to get away with securing those publishing rights, David explained to me.
February 2, 1979 – Sid Vicious was born John Simon Ritchie on May 10th 1957 in Lewisham in Southeast London England. His mother dropped out of school early due to a lack of academic success and went on to join the Royal Airforce, where she met her husband-to-be, Ritchie’s father, a guardsman at Buckingham Palace and a semi-professional trombone player on the London Jazz scene.
Shortly after Ritchie’s birth, he and his mother moved to Ibiza, where they expected to be joined by his father who, it was planned, would support them financially in the meantime. However, after the first few cheques failed to arrive, Anne realized senior would not be coming. Anne later married Christopher Beverley in 1965, before setting up a family home back in Kent, England. Ritchie took his stepfather’s surname and was known as John Beverley.
Christopher Beverley died a short while later from cancer and by 1968 Ritchie and his mother were living in a rented flat in Turnbridge Wells, where he attended Sandown Court School. In 1971 mom and son moved to Hackney in east London. He also spent some time living in Clevedon, Somerset.
Ritchie first met John Lydon in 1973, when they were both students at Hackney Technical College. Lydon describes Ritchie at this time as a David Bowie fan and a “clothes hound”.
By age 17, Ritchie was hanging around London’s center. One favorite spot was Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s then-little-known clothing store, SEX. There he met American expatriate Chrissie Hynde before she formed the Pretenders. Though at least five years older, she tried (but failed) to convince Ritchie to join her in a sham marriage so she could get a work permit.
John Lydon nicknamed Ritchie “Sid Vicious” after Lydon’s pet hamster Sid, who had bitten Ritchie, eliciting Ritchie’s response: “Sid is really vicious!” The animal was described by Lydon as “the softest, furriest, weediest thing on earth.” At the time, Ritchie was squatting with Lydon, John Joseph Wardle (Jah Wobble), and John Gray, and the four were colloquially known as “The Four Johns”.
According to Lydon, he and Vicious would often busk for money, with Vicious playing the tambourine. They would play Alice Cooper covers, and people gave them money to stop. Once a man gave them “three bob” (three shillings, i.e., 15p in decimal currency) and they all danced. Yet the darker side of Sid’s personality emerged when he assaulted New Musical Express journalist Nick Kent with a motorbike chain, with help from Jah Wobble. On another occasion, at the Speakeasy (a London nightclub popular with rock stars of the day) he threatened BBC DJ and Old Grey Whistle Test presenter Bob Harris.
His ‘musical’ career started in 1976 as a member of The Flowers of Romance along with former co-founding member of The Clash, Keith Levene, Palmolive and Viv Albertine. He appeared with Siouxsie and the Banshees, playing drums at their notorious first gig at the 100 Club Punk Festival in London’s Oxford Street. According to members of The Damned, Vicious, along with Dave Vanian, was considered for the position of lead singer for The Damned but failed to show up for the audition. The song “Belsen Was a Gas” originates from this band, and was later performed live by the Sex Pistols, as well as Sid Vicious’ solo act.
He played his first gig with the Sex Pistols on 3 April 1977 at the The Screen On The Green in London. His debut was filmed by Don Letts and appears in Punk Rock Movie. In Nov. 1977, Sid met American groupie Nancy Spungen. Both the group and Sid visibly deteriorated during their 1978 American tour.
The Pistols broke up in San Francisco after their concert at the Winterland Ballroom on 14 January 1978. With Nancy acting as his “manager”, Sid embarked on a solo career during which he performed with musicians including Mick Jones of The Clash, original Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, Rat Scabies of The Damned and the New York Dolls’ Arthur Kane, Jerry Nolan, and Johnny Thunders.
He performed the majority of his performances at Max’s Kansas City and drew large crowds. His final performances as a solo musician took place at Max’s.
On October 12th 1978, Sid claimed to have awoken from a drugged stupor to find Nancy dead on the bathroom floor of their room in the Hotel Chelsea in Manhattan, New York. She had suffered a single stab wound to her abdomen and appeared to have bled to death. On October 22 1978, ten days after Nancy’s death, he attempted suicide by slicing his wrist and subsequently became a patient at Bellevue Hospital.
A little over three months later, on February 2nd 1979, Vicious died from a heroin overdose as he had been partying in a New York flat to celebrate his release on $50,000 (£29,412) bail pending his trial for the murder of his girlfriend. A few days after his cremation, his mother found a suicide note in the pocket of his jacket: “We had a death pact, and I have to keep my half of the bargain. Please bury me next to my baby in my leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots. Goodbye”.
He was 21 years old.
In 2006 he was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Sex Pistols.
April 9, 1976 – Phil Ochs was born on December 19, 1940 in El Paso, Texas.
Being a 1960s protest singer-songwriter he wrote hundreds of songs and released eight albums. Politically, Phil described himself as a “left social democrat” who became an “early revolutionary” after the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago led to a police riot, which had a profound effect on his state of mind.
He performed at many political events, including anti-Vietnam War and civil rights rallies, student events, and organized labor events over the course of his career, in addition to many concert appearances at such venues as New York City’s Town Hall and Carnegie Hall.
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.
August 16, 1973 – Paul Williams was born on July 2nd 1939 in Birmingham, Alabama.
He was the son of Sophia and Rufus Williams, a gospel singer in a gospel music vocal group called the Ensley Jubilee Singers. He met Eddie Kendricks in elementary school; supposedly, the two first encountered each other in a fistfight after Williams dumped a bucket of mop water on Kendricks. Both boys shared a love of singing, and sang in their church choir together. As teenagers, Williams, Kendricks, and Kell Osborne and Willie Waller performed in a secular singing group known as The Cavaliers, with dreams of making it big in the music industry. In 1957, Williams, Kendricks, and Osbourne left Birmingham to start careers, leaving Waller behind. Now known as The Primes, the trio moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and eventually found a manager in Milton Jenkins, who moved the group to Detroit, Michigan. Although The Primes never recorded, they were successful performers, and even launched a spin-off female group called The Primettes, who later became The Supremes.
In 1961, Kell Osborne moved to California, and the Primes disbanded. Kendricks returned to Alabama, but visited Paul in Detroit shortly after. While on this visit, he and Paul had learned that Otis Williams, head of a rival Detroit act known as The Distants, had two openings in his group’s lineup. Paul Williams and Kendricks joined Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, and Elbridge Bryant to form The Elgins, who signed to the local Motown label in 1961, after first changing their name to The Temptations.
Although the group now had a record deal, Paul Williams and his bandmates endured a long series of failed singles before finally hitting the Billboard Top 20 in 1964 with “The Way You Do the Things You Do.” More hits quickly followed, including “My Girl”, “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” and “(I Know) I’m Losing You.”
Williams sang lead on several of the group’s songs, and served as the main lead singer during the group’s early years. His early leads include, “Your Wonderful Love” (1961), “Slow Down Heart” (1962), “I Want a Love I Can See” (1963), and “Oh, Mother of Mine” (1961) (the group’s first single) and “Farewell My Love” (1963) both shared with Eddie Kendricks. Considered the Temptations’ best dancer, Williams served as the group’s original choreographer, devising routines for his group and The Supremes (most notably their trademark “Stop! In the Name of Love” routine), before Cholly Atkins took over that role for all of Motown’s acts. Williams’ later leads on Temptations songs include, “Just Another Lonely Night” (1965), “No More Water in the Well” (1967), a cover version of “Hey Girl” (1969), and his signature song “Don’t Look Back” (1965).
Williams also sang lead with Dennis Edwards, who joined in 1968, on Motown’s first Grammy Award-Winner “Cloud Nine”. One of his best-known lead performances is his stand out live performance of “For Once in My Life,” from the television special TCB, originally broadcast on December 9, 1968 on NBC. The live version of the song “Don’t Look Back” is also frequently cited as one of his standout performances. He also took over the lead vocal for live performances of “My Girl” following David Ruffin’s departure from the group.
Williams suffered from sickle-cell anemia, which frequently wreaked havoc on his physical health. In 1965, Williams began an affair with Winnie Brown, hair stylist for The Supremes and a relative of Supremes member Florence Ballard. In love with Brown but still devoted to his wife and children, Williams was also depressed because Cholly Atkins’ presence now made Williams’ former role as choreographer essentially, but not completely, obsolete. Life on the road was starting to take its toll on Williams as well, and, having previously consumed nothing stronger than milk, he began to drink alcohol heavily, namely Courvoisier, which, according to Otis Williams, was hard to take.
In the spring of 1969, Williams and Brown opened a celebrity fashion boutique in downtown Detroit. The business was not as successful as planned, and Williams soon found himself owing more than $80,000 in taxes. His health had deteriorated to the point that he would sometimes be unable to perform, suffering from combinations of exhaustion and pain which he combated with heavy drinking. Each of the other four Temptations did what they could to help Williams, alternating between raiding and draining his alcohol stashes, personal interventions, and keeping oxygen tanks backstage, but Williams’ health, as well as the quality of his performances, continued to decline and he refused to see a doctor.
Otis Williams and the other Temptations decided to resort to enlisting an on-hand fill-in for Paul Williams. Richard Street, then-lead singer of fellow Motown act The Monitors and formerly lead singer of The Distants, was hired to travel with The Temptations and sing all of Williams’ parts, save for Williams’ special numbers such as “Don’t Look Back” and “For Once in My Life”, from backstage behind a curtain. When Williams was not well enough to go on, Street took his place onstage. In April 1971, Williams was finally persuaded to go see a doctor. The doctor found a spot on Williams’ liver and advised him to retire from the group altogether. Williams left the group and Street became his permanent replacement. In support of helping Williams get back on his feet, The Temptations continued to pay Williams his same one-fifth share of the group’s earnings, and kept Williams on their payroll as an advisor and choreographer, and Williams continued to help the group with routines and dance moves for the next two years.
By early 1973, Williams made his return to Motown’s Hitsville USA recording studios, and began working on solo material. Kendricks, who had quit the Temptations just before Williams left, produced and co-wrote Williams’ first single, “Feel Like Givin’ Up”, which was to have been issued on Motown’s Gordy imprint with “Once You Had a Heart” as its b-side. However, after Williams’ death was ruled a suicide in August 1973, Motown decided to shelve the sides, because the song “Feel Like Givin’ Up” was just too literal to bear and the single was not released.
On August 17, 1973, Paul Williams was found dead in an alley in the car having just left the new house of his then-girlfriend after an argument. He was 34. A gun was found near his body. His death was ruled a suicide by the coroner; Williams had expressed suicidal thoughts to Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin months before his death.
The circumstances surrounding Williams’ death caused the Williams family to suspect that some form of foul play was the actual cause of Williams’ death. According to details in the coroner’s report, there were three reasons to suspect foulplay: 1. Williams had used his right hand to shoot himself on the left side of his head. 2. A bottle of alcohol was found near Williams’ left side, as if he had dropped it while being shot. 3. The gun used in the shooting was found to have fired two shots, only one of which had killed Williams.
As a member of the Temptations, Paul Williams was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2013. Both of his solo recordings were later released by Motown on Temptations-related compilations in the 1980s and 1990s.
A DETROIT MOTOWN STORY:
Detroit— Kenneth Williams went to prison for strangling his great-aunt with a telephone cord in 1989, the same year his father Paul was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Before entering prison, the younger Williams asked his sister to save his share of royalty checks he inherited from his dad, Paul Williams, one of the original members of the Temptations, the superstar Motown group known for the hits “My Girl,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.”
“I figured I was well off,” Kenneth Williams, 49, told The Detroit News.
The Redford Township man was released from prison in July after serving more than 20 years and discovered the money — estimated at more than $200,000 — was gone. His sister, Paula Williams, spent it, according to a complaint he filed against her in federal court in Detroit.
The accusation serves as another sad footnote to the legacy of Motown legend Paul Williams, the baritone singer who choreographed the group’s stylish dance moves, and who died in 1973 under murky circumstances. And it is the latest in a long line of fights over one of the most consistently lucrative commodities to come out of Detroit in 51 years: Motown royalties.
The accusations add a new layer of drama to one of the most successful, and tragic, acts in the Motown Records stable. It is a stable filled with stars whose success and tragedies — including premature deaths, murder, drug addiction and legal woes — have inspired Broadway musicals, TV movies and reams of tell-all books.
Federal and Wayne County court records expose a fight within a family dogged by disaster in the decades after Paul Williams and four friends topped the charts.
Thanks to all those hits, Williams’ heirs split about $80,000 a year in Motown royalties based on sales of the group’s music, Paul Williams’ likeness and other rights. The royalties were paid out twice a year.
Motown money fights, which are not unique to the Williams family, are somewhat ironic, said Peter Benjaminson, author of “The Lost Supreme: The Life of Dreamgirl Florence Ballard.”
“When Motown started, there weren’t any significant royalties for most people,” he said. “The average rock star had one hit, then tried for another one, failed, and went to work at a factory.
“One of the big surprises for Motown and everyone who worked for it is how long the songs have lasted and sold.”
It’s hard for Paul Williams Jr., who was 7 years old when his father died, to say whether the royalties are a blessing or a curse.
“Money, ugh,” Paul Jr. said. “What money does to people, I don’t understand.”
His sister Paula declined comment through her lawyer.
The Williams family has been fighting for Motown royalties since Aug. 17, 1973, the day Paul Williams died at age 34 of what police said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had left the Temptations in 1971.
He was coping with health and personal issues at the time and was estranged from his wife, Mary Agnes Williams. A divorce was pending.
In 1987, 14 years after he died, the family reopened Paul Williams’ estate to pursue royalties owed by Motown and determine his rightful heirs, a complicated task because Williams died without a will.
Williams’ family accused Motown of not paying any royalties after the singer died.
The family claimed it was owed $195,000. But Motown said the family could not pursue royalties that were more than 6 years old.
The family eventually settled in March 1988 for $96,520. That covered the years 1981 through June 1987.
Next, Wayne County Probate Judge Joseph Pernick had to divide the royalty pie and determine shares and heirs.
Williams had three daughters and two sons — Sarita, Paula and Mary and Kenneth and Paul Jr. — with wife Mary Agnes.
Before he died, Paul Williams acknowledged fathering a sixth child, son Paul Williams Lucas.
The royalty pie was about to be divided — when a seventh child surfaced, a son born in 1968 to one of Paul Williams’ girlfriends.
Derrick Vinyard, who was 5 when Paul Williams died, wanted a share of the Motown royalties.
Paula Williams denied that Vinyard was an heir.
The Motown star’s brother, however, disagreed.
Johnny Williams said his brother never denied being Vinyard’s father, according to a 1988 deposition transcript filed in the probate case.
Johnny Williams said he saw Paul and Vinyard’s mother on dates at the Fox Theatre and the Twenty Grand nightclub. And there were rumors Paul Williams had fathered twins in Cleveland.
“He’s a breeder,” Johnny Williams said of his brother during the deposition.
The judge concluded Vinyard was an heir — and divided the late Motown star’s past and future royalties.
Paul Williams’ widow would get one-third. The seven children would split the rest equally.
In January 1989, the family agreed to have Paula parcel out the royalty checks to her four siblings and mother twice a year.
The two half siblings receive their money directly from the record company.
‘Prison saved my life’
Kenneth Williams didn’t have long to enjoy the windfall.
On July 18, 1989, he killed his 81-year-old great-aunt Mary Bryant inside her bungalow on Detroit’s northwest side. She was shot in the head and strangled with a telephone cord, which a neighbor found wrapped three times around the woman’s throat, according to a published report.
Kenneth Williams was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison.
“I was out of my mind on crack cocaine,” Williams said. “I was out of control. Prison basically saved my life.”
Young Kenneth had lived a charmed life before the death of his father.
Kenneth spent nights on the road with his father and the group in Las Vegas, Miami and Atlanta.
“Where the show went, I went,” he said.
Kenneth, nicknamed “Bossman” by his dad, spent afternoons learning from Temptations frontman Dennis Edwards how to make paper airplanes, which he threw out a window from an upper floor of Motown headquarters along Woodward.
Kenneth was 11 when his father died. The outgoing youngster turned angry, rebellious and “was put out of every school in Detroit.”
“I was lost,” he said. “I lost my best friend.”
At 19, he smoked his first joint.
At 25, he tried cocaine.
At 27, “that —- took me to another place,” he says.
That’s how old he was when he strangled his great-aunt. He turned 28 just before heading to prison.
“I was trying to deal with why I was in prison and what made me go there,” he said. “The money? I wasn’t even thinking about it.”
He thought the cash was safe during the 7,536 days he spent in prison. He was released July 23, after serving more than 20 years.
Money was gone
He soon learned his cash was gone and confronted his sister, who admitted spending the money, he alleges in a court filing.
“She thought he was never going to get out of prison,” his lawyer Kenneth Burger wrote in a lawsuit.
Paul Williams Jr., told The Detroit News he hasn’t received his full share of royalties in years from Paula.
“She’s doing it to all of us,” Paul Jr. of Sterling Heights said. “She did right by us for 10 years, but she’s been slipping since then. It’s greed.”
Kenneth, meanwhile, works 15-hour days at construction sites while his lawsuit against his sister and Motown successor Universal Music Group is pending in federal court. He alleges breach of contract, negligence, fraud and conspiracy, among other charges, and wants unspecified damages.
It’s a complicated fight because his sister filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Detroit in December.
The bankruptcy filing provides rare insight into the value of Motown royalties because Paula had to list how much she received in recent years.
She received $40,594 in 2008. A year later, the Motown royalties rose to $58,036, according to the filing.
Kenneth Williams has asked Universal to send future payments directly to his house.
He refuses to be bitter or angry despite the fight with his sister.
“I’m still there for her if she needs me,” Williams said. “But I don’t trust people after what I’ve been through. We live in a wicked world.”
Buy the 2017 Tribute Book
Rock-n-Roll Music by The Beatles in Paris 1965
R.I.P. NEIL PEART – RUSH
R.I.P. JOHN PRINE
R.I.P. BILL WITHERS
R.I.P. LITTLE RICHARD
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2018 VIDEO TRIBUTES
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Aretha Franklin Singing The Weight with Duane Allman on Slide 1967
R.I.P.Mike Harrison – Spooky Tooth – Wrong Time 1968
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R.I.P. France Gall Poupée de cire, Poupé de son 1965
R.I.P. Ray Thomas – The Moody Blues – Nights in White Satin 1967