December 12, 2017 – Pat DiNizio (The Smithereens) was born October 12, 1955 in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, where he actually lived his entire life. As a youngster, he was inspired by the pop music emanating from his transistor radio in the ‘60s and the hit tunes being written by his musical idols Buddy Holly, The Beatles, and The Beau Brummels among others.
He began playing music with several local bands in the early 1970s, but got serious around 1975 when he joined three classmates from nearby Cateret High School – guitarist Jim Babjak, bassist Mike Mesaros and drummer Dennis Diken and formed the Smithereens. That lineup would remain in place for nearly 25 years. Continue reading Pat DiNizio 12/2017
November 5, 2017 – Robert Knight, born Robert Peebles on April 24, 1945 grew up in Franklin Tennessee, just south of Nashville’s Music scene. Knight made his professional vocal debut with the Paramounts, a quintet consisting of school friends. Signed to Dot Records in 1960, they recorded “Free Me” in 1961, a US R&B hit single that was somewhat noteworthy as it outsold a rival version by Johnny Preston.Continue reading Robert Knight 11/2017
October 23, 2017 – George Young (with his bandmate and songwriting partner Harry Vanda-right in the picture) – Easybeats was born on November 6, 1946 in Glasgow Schotland. The lower middle class Young family were all musicians, but when the worst winter on record in Schotland arrived in post Christmas into January 1963, the family split as a result of 15 family members taking the opportunity to emigrate to Australia, including almost 16 year old George. Continue reading George Young 10/2017
January 31, 2017 – Deke Leonard (Man) was born Roger Leonard on 18 December 1944 in Llanelli, South Wales in the UK, the son of Winston, a dog breeder, and his wife, Ella. He attended Llanelli boys’ grammar school, where he formed his first band, Lucifer and the Corncrackers, with his cousin Meic Rees (vocals), Geoff Griffiths (drums) and Clive “Wes” Reynolds (bass), in 1962, taking his stage name from “Deke” Rivers, the character played by Elvis Presley in his 1957 movie Loving You. Leonard left school to work as a management trainee for a building contractor, where he quickly left to avoid getting fired. He decided to become a full-time musician or as he later confessed: “”serving a life sentence in the music business”.
The Corncrackers ran their own club, the “L” Club, featuring themselves and booking other Welsh musicians such as such as Tommy Scott (Tom Jones) and the Senators. He went on to play with other Welsh bands, the Jets, Smokeless Zone and the Dream., whilst also playing support to acts such as Johnny Kidd & The Pirates and The Hollies at a rival venue. When Rees left they continued as a trio; Keith Hodge then replaced Griffiths, but when Reynolds left to join the South Wales band The Jets, The Corncrackers broke up. Continue reading Deke Leonard 1/2017
January 21, 2017 – Walter “Junie” Morrison was born sometime in 1954 in Dayton, Ohio. The exact date has not been found as if intentionally hidden by his later alter ego J.S. Theracon, showing up on an infrequent basis during his life, mostly when contractual obligations got in the way of making music.
Morrison sang and played piano as a child in church, soon learning a range of other instruments such as guitar , bass, drums and brasses, making gospel a foundation for his music. He soon became a student school choir director and orchestra conductor at Roosevelt High School in Dayton. In 1970, in his mid-teens, after graduating from high school, he joined the funk band the Ohio Players.
He became their lead singer, trumpeter and keyboardist, and soon their musical director and producer, involved in some of their major hits and the albums Pain, Pleasure, and Ecstasy. He was largely responsible for writing and arranging the band’s 1973 hit single, “Funky Worm“. The band members nicknamed him Junie, he told the Red Bull Music Academy, because they were older. “It took quite a while before they let me forget my age and lack of experience in the ‘ways of the world,’ ” he said.Continue reading Junie Morrison 1/2017
February 28, 2005 – Chris Curtis (the Searchers) was born August 26, 1941 as Christopher Crummey in Oldham, Lancashire. Curtis moved to Liverpool when he was four and went to primary school where he met Mike Pendergast (Mike Pender).
He taught himself how to play the piano on the family instrument. He passed the 11-plus and went to St Mary’s College, Crosby, where he was taught violin although he wanted to play the double-bass. His father bought him a drum set during his late teens when he left school and he learned these in his spare time, when he was not selling prams at Swift’s Furniture store at Stanley Road, Liverpool. He developed a fascination for American music and particularly liked Fats Domino. He also grew the unusually long hair that would be his trademark in the early years.
January 20, 2000 – Ray Jones was born October 22nd 1939 in Liverpool, England. In 1963 Brian Epstein signed The Dakotas to be a backing band for Billy J. Kramer. Billy had been friends with John Lennon for some time and John gave the group a demo of a new song, “Do You Want to Know a Secret”, which they perfected whilst working in Hamburg at the Star Club. On returning to Britain, the song was recorded at Abbey Road studios, with producer George Martin. It stormed up the charts and reached No.2 in the spring of 1963.
This was followed by a No.1 hit “Bad to Me” c/w “I Call Your Name”, and was awarded a gold disc, followed by another hit with “I’ll Keep You Satisfied”. In addition to backing Billy J on his hits, the group itself is perhaps best known for their instrumental single called “The Cruel Sea”, which reached No.18 in the UK charts in July 1963.
Ray Jones had joined the band as bassist replacing Ian Fraser and Mike Maxfield joined the band in February 1962 as lead guitarist replacing Bryn Jones after being with a Manchester band called the Coasters. The group first backed Pete MacLaine (February 1962 – January 1963). However, Brian Epstein, who was managing Billy J. Kramer, made the Dakotas an offer to become Kramer’s backing band, which they accepted. Epstein insisted the name was Billy J Kramer with The Dakotas, not “and”. The group and Billy J Kramer then went to Hamburg to perfect their act.
In addition to backing Kramer on his hits, the group itself is perhaps best known for their instrumental single called “The Cruel Sea”, a composition of Maxfield that reached No.18 in the UK charts in July 1963. The track was re-titled “The Cruel Surf” in the U.S., and was subsequently covered by The Ventures.
The band released by “Magic Carpet” by George Martin in September 1963. It was not a hit. Their next single, “Oyeh” (November 1964), was not a chart success either.
After a row with Epstein, Ray Jones left the group in July 1964. Robin MacDonald moved to bass to make way for a new lead guitarist, Mick Green from Johnny Kidd and The Pirates.
Ray Jones never went back into professional music and died from an undisclosed cause on January 20, 2000 at age 60.