England's Queen Elizabeth II announced her New Year's honors Saturday (December 31). Ray Davies of the Kinks will receive a knighthood for "services to the arts". Comedian/Singer Ken Dodd (who bubbled-under the US charts with "Tears For Souvenirs" in 1966) will also be knighted. Singer Marty Wilde (who gave us "Abergavenny" as Shannon in 1969 and is the father of '80s singer Kim Wilde) gets a Member of the Order of the British Empire honor. Lest you take it all too seriously, Victoria (Posh Spice) Beckham of the Spice Girls will be given an Officer of the Order of the British Empire medal for "services to the fashion industry."
The 2016 class of inductees into America's Pop Music Hall of Fame in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania were announced Thursday (December 29). Congratulations to ABBA, the Dave Clark Five, Earth Wind & Fire, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, Billy Joel, Diana Ross and Rod Stewart, who received the public vote. The Hall Trustees chose Fats Domino, the Drifters, Connie Francis and Bobby Vee as "legends". The class of 2017 will be chosen beginning next September.
(Mary Frances) Debbie Reynolds was rushed to a hospital in Los Angeles Wednesday (December 28) where she passed away one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher, died from a heart attack suffered December 23. (Carrie was also the daughter of the late singer Eddie Fisher and ex-wife of singer Paul Simon.) Debbie was 84. As a singer, Debbie was best remembered for singing the theme song from her 1957 movie, "Tammy And The Bachelor". "Tammy" became a #1 hit for her that year, and was followed by "A Very Special Love" (#20-1958) and "Am I That Easy To Forget" (#25-1960). She also had a #3 hit in 1951 with Carleton Carpenter on "Aba Daba Honeymoon". But it was as a stage and screen actress that the El Paso, Texas native made her mark. Her films included "Singing In The Rain", "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" (which earned her an Oscar nomination), "How The West Was Won", "The Singing Nun", "Bundle Of Joy" (with then-husband Eddie Fisher) and "The Catered Affair". On stage, she was nominated for a Tony award for her leading performance in "Irene". She starred in the "Debbie Reynolds Show" on NBC-TV in 1969 and owned a hotel in Las Vegas at one time. She received the Gene Hersholt Humanitarian Oscar in 2016 and an honorary Doctorate from the University of Nevada-Reno in 2007. She was awarded two stars (for theatre and for film) on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Rick Parfitt, guitarist on Status Quo's "Pictures Of Matchstick Men" (#12-1968), died of complications from surgery Saturday (December 24) in Marbella, Spain. He had a severe infection following a fall that injured his shoulder. Rick and Frances Rossi formed the group in 1967 and, while they had only one top 40 hit in the U.S., charted with 22 top 10 tunes in the U.K.
A portion of Detroit's Milwaukee Avenue near his first childhood home was named "Stevie Wonder Avenue" in honor of the Motown singer Wednesday (December 21). The city's mayor was on hand for the honorary dedication and presented Stevie with the key to the city.
Geoffrey Mortimer, bass player and vocalist with the Hullabaloos ("I'm Gonna Love You Too" #56-1965) died Saturday (December 17) of cancer at his home in Hull, England. He was 71. The group, known for their long, dyed-blonde hair, were originally formed as Ricky Knight and the Crusaders after their original lead singer, but changed to a play-on-words of their home town. Produced by Americans Hugo and Luigi, they broke up in 1966.
The Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame announced its 2017 class of inductees Tuesday (December 20). Joan Baez, the Electric Light Orchestra, Yes and Journey will join Tupac Shakur and Pearl Jam in the Hall, with induction to take place April 7 in New York. While Chic did not make the cut, producer Nile Rodgers from the group will be given the Award for Musical Excellence. Lifetime Achievement honors will be given to Sly Stone, Jimmie Rodgers, Charlie Pride, Shirley Caesar, Ahmad Jamal, Nina Simone and the Velvet Underground.
The Broadway production of "Jersey Boys: The Story of the Four Seasons", will close January 15 after 11 years and 4,642 performances. It's the 12th longest-running musical in Broadway history.
Jim Lowe, the New York disk jockey also remembered for "The Green Door" (#1-1956), died Monday (December 12) at his home in East Hampton, Long Island, New York, after what was termed a long illness. The Springfield, Missouri-born Jim was 93. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he worked briefly in radio in Springfield, Indianapolis (WIRE) and Chicago (WMAQ) before moving to the Big Apple, where he was heard at various times on WCBS, WNEW and WNBC. He is also known for "Close The Door" (#27-1955) and his version of "Four Walls" (#15-1957). Jim retired from broadcasting in 2004 and served on the board of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.
Ralph Johnson, a member of the Impressions from 1973-1976 and 1983-2000 died Sunday (December 4) at the age of 63. The Greenville, South Carolina native was heard on "Finally Got Myself Together" (#17 Pop, #1 R&B - 1974) and "Sooner Of Later" (#68 Pop, #3 R&B - 1975).
Greg Lake, guitarist with King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, died Wednesday (December 7) of cancer at the age of 69. Born in Poole, Dorset, England, he learned to play guitar at age 12 and, in 1969, formed King Crimson with his friend Roger Fripp. The group shot to fame with their classic album, "In The Court Of The Crimson King", but Greg was gone after their second album ("In The Wake Of Poseidon") a year later, having been approached by Keith Emerson to form ELP with Carl Palmer. Though primarily an album-oriented band (including the classics "Pictures At An Exhibition" and "Brain Salad Surgery"), they charted four times on the singles charts, as well, with staples like "Lucky Man" (#48-1971 and #51-1972) and "From The Beginning" (#39-1972)- with Greg producing most of their material. The group broke up in 1979 (having sold a reported 49 million records and earning 7 gold records) though Greg and Keith re-formed ELP with Cozy Powell in 2010. Greg is also remembered for his anti-Christmas tune "I Believe In Father Christmas" (#95) in 1975.
73 year-old Mick Jagger became a father for the 8th time Thursday (December 8) when his 29 year-old girlfriend gave birth to an unnamed baby boy. Mick also has five grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
59th Street in Chicago between Racine Avenue and May Street was honorarily named "Gene Chandler Duke of Earl Way" Saturday (December 3) after the city's native son.
The Grammy Hall of Fame announced the 25 recordings that will be inducted as the Class of 2017 Tuesday (November 29). They include Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock", the Beach Boys' "I Get Around", "You Don't Own Me" from Lesley Gore, "Wake Up Little Susie" by the Everly Brothers, Dion's "The Wanderer", "I Got You Babe" by Sonny & Cher, "Maggie May" from Rod Stewart, "Thank You Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin" from Sly & the Family Stone, Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water", "Changes" from David Bowie, the Jackson 5's "ABC", Arlo Guthrie's recording of "City Of New Orleans" and Lalo Schiffrin's "Mission Impossible" theme. 1,038 songs have now been added to the Hall of Fame, all of which are at least 25 years old.
Bob Dylan says he will not receive his Nobel Prize for Literature December 10 in Stockholm, Sweden "due to pre-existing commitments".
Producers Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff and singer Patti Labelle received the Marion Anderson Award Tuesday (November 15) in Philadelphia. The award was "created to celebrate critically acclaimed artists who have used their talents for personal artistic expression and whose bodies of work have contributed to our society in a singular manner."
Mentor Williams, brother of singer/songwriter Paul Williams and composer of Dobie Gray's hit, "Drift Away", died Wednesday (November 16), presumably at his home in Taos, New Mexico. Mentor was in a relationship with singer Lynn Anderson from the '80s through her death last year.
Bruce Springsteen and Diana Ross are among 21 notable Americans who will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom Tuesday (November 22) at the White House.
Singer/Studio Pianist Leon Russell (nee Claude Brides) passed away Sunday (November 13) in Nashville. The Lawton, Oklahoma native was 74. Leon learned to play piano at the age of four and while in high school in Tulsa, played in a group with David Gates of Bread and later in one with J.J. Cale. Moving to Los Angeles in the late '50s, Leon became a much sought after studio musician, playing the city's Wrecking Crew on sessions with Gary Lewis & the Playboys (he co-wrote their hits "Everybody Loves A Clown" and "She's Just My Style", the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, Herb Alpert, Frank Sinatra, the Byrds and many More. He played as part of Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, on Joe Cocker's "Mad Dos And Englishmen" tour and as part of George Harrison's "Concert For Bangladesh". Among his compositions were "Delta Lady" for Joe Cocker, "Superstar" (eventually a Carpenters hit) and "This Masquerade" (a hit for George Benson). As a recording artists Leon charted 11 times, including "Tight Rope" (#11-1972) and "Lady Blue" (#14-1975).
Doug Edwards, Guitarist with the Canadian group Skylark and co-writer of their only American hit, "Wildflower" (#9-1973), died Friday (November 11) in Vancouver at the age of 71. He had heart bypass surgery in February and was being treated for cancer. When the group broke up in 1975, Doug continued working as a session musician and for the last 20 years played with Chilliwack.
Singer/Songwriter Leonard Cohen died Thursday (November 10) at the age of 82. Born in Westmount, Quebec, he sang with a folk trio in Canada before completing his education and moving to the Greek isle of Hydra, where he novels and books of poetry. It was meeting Judy Collins in New York that got one of his poems-set-to-music, "Suzanne", recorded in 1966. That led to his own recording career. Though none of his singles ever charted and none of his four charted albums ever got any higher than #63, he was an influence on many singers and songwriters-- so much so that he was elected to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 2008. He also was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and was named a Companion of the Order of Canada.
Legendary guitarist Alexander "Al" Caiola died Wednesday (November 9) at the age of 96. Al was one of the top studio musicians in New York in the '50s and '60s, playing on such hits as "Diana" and "Put Your Head On My Shoulder" with Paul Anka, Percy Faith's "Theme From 'A Summer Place'", "Mack The Knife" and "Dream Lover" for Bobby Darin, Neil Sedaka's "Calendar Girl", Johnny Mathis' "Chances Are", "Mrs. Robinson" from Simon & Garfunkel and Buddy Holly's "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" (that's only a fraction of the songs he played on even for those artists). As a recording artist himself, he charted with the TV theme "Bonanza (#19 in 1961) and the movie theme "The Magnificent Seven" (#35-1961). All told, the Jersey City, New Jersey native recorded over 50 albums. He played on hundreds of commercial jingles and issued a series of best-selling guitar instruction books.
Kay Starr, best remembered for the 1952 hit "The Wheel Of Fortune" (#1) and 1956's "Rock And Roll Waltz" (#1), died Thursday (November 3) at her home in Beverly Hills at the age of 94. Born Katherine Laverne Starks in Dougherty, Oklahoma, she sang on the radio as a child in Dallas and Memphis before settling in under her new name as a girl vocalist with Joe Venuti's orchestra at the age of 15. Stints with other bands followed, including Glen Miller and Bob Crosby, before Kay signed a solo contract with Capitol Records in 1947. Hits like "Hoop-De-Doo" (#2-1950) and "Bonaparte's Retreat" (#4-1950) followed and in 1955 she switched to RCA Records, only to see her chart popularity wane in the face of rock 'n' roll music. She continued to perform onstage for many years and was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. Billie Holiday herself once remarked that Kay Starr was "the only white woman that could sing the blues".
Country songwriter Claude "Curly" Putman died Sunday (October 30) at his home outside Nashville. He was 85. Curly is best known for writing or co-writing tunes like Tom Jones' "Green, Green Grass Of Home", Tammy Wynette's "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" and George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today".
John "The Cool Ghoul" Zacherle (also spelled Zacherley for legal reasons), horror TV show host in both Philadelphia and New York, died Thursday (October 27) in New York at the age of 98. John is still remembered for the 1958 novelty hit, "Dinner With Drac" (#6). The Philadelphia native was also a pioneering progressive DJ on WNEW-FM and WPLJ-FM in New York.
Singer Bobby Vee, whose career began with an unpaid appearance in his native Fargo, North Dakota as a local fill-in on Buddy Holly's ill-fated Winter Dance Party, died himself Monday (October 24) in a hospice center in Rogers, Minnesota from complications of Alzheimer's Disease. He was 73. Continuing his career with his brother and friend as the Shadows (he was lead singer since he knew all the words), the group even hired a young Bob Dylan (calling himself Elston Gunnn) to play piano. But Bob's piano skills were limited and pianos weren't very portable in those days, so he soon left. The Shadows (with Bobby getting top billing) recorded a tune called "Suzie Baby" in 1959, which was released by Soma Records in Minneapolis and picked up for national distribution by Liberty Records. Though it only reached #77, it encouraged Liberty to continue working with the group. Their faith paid off the next year, when "Devil Or Angel" peaked at #6, It was followed by more hits- "Rubber Ball" (#6-1961), the Carole King composition, "Take Good Care Of My Baby" (#1-1961), "Run To Him" (#2-1961) and "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes" (#3-1963). Though the British Invasion put a damper on Bobby's career, he came back in 1967 with "Come Back When You Grow Up" (#3).All told, Bobby charted 38 times in 12 years. He appeared as himself in films like "Swingin' Along" (1962) and "Just For Fun" (1963). He was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2011.
Phil Chess, co-founder of Chess Records in Chicago with his brother, Leonard, died Wednesday (October 19) in Tucson, Arizona, at the age of 95.
The Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame announced it's 2017 nominees Tuesday (October 18) and they include the Zombies, Joe Tex, Joan Baez, Steppenwolf, J. Geils Band, Kraftwerk, the Electric Light Orchestra, Journey, Chaka Khan, Chic, Yes and the Cars. They join first time nominees Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur, Bad Brains and Jane's Addiction along with Janet Jackson and MC5. Winners will be announced in December with induction in April.
And the Songwriters Hall of Fame announced their nominees Thursday (October 20). Among non-performers, P.F. Sloan & Steve Barri ("Eve Of Destruction", "A Must to Avoid" and "You baby"), Kenny Nolan (yes, we know he was a singer, too-- "I Like Dreamin'", "Lady Marmalade" and "My Eyes Adored You"), Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham ("Cry Like A Baby" and "I'm Yopur Puppet"), Mickey Stevenson ("Dancing In The Street", "It Takes Two" and "Devil With A Blue Dress On") and Allee Willis ("September", "Boogie Wonderland" and "Neutron Dance") join 7 other nominees. Among performer/songwriters, Peter Cetera, Robert Lamm and James Pankow of Chicago, David Gates of Bread, ELO's Cat Stevens, Jeff Lynne of ELO, Sly Stone, Robert "Kool" Bell, Ronald Bell & George Brown of Kool & the Gang, Madonna, George Michaeland four others were honoed. Induction will take place next June in New York City.
Robert "Big Sonny" Edwards, founding member of Philadelphia's Intruders, died Saturday (October 15) from a heart attack at the age of 74. Originally formed in 1960 as a doo-wop group, the group recorded for Gowen Records before coming to the attention of producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who signed them to their newly formed Gamble label in 1965. Though they saw R&B chart action with tunes like "(We'll Be) United" (#78 Pop, #14 R&B - 1966) and "Together" (#48 Pop, #9 R&B - 1967),it wasn't until "Cowbos To Girls" (#8 Pop, #1 R&B-1968) that the group achieved crossover success. It was followed by "(Love Is Like A) Baseball Game" (#26 Pop, #4 R&B-1968), but that would prove to be their last top 20 Pop hit. Big Sonny left the group in 1975 to devote himself to his religion. The Intruders received a bronze plaque along the Philadelphia Music Walk of Fame in 1996.
Diminutive Canadian singer Pat Hervey has died of cancer. The 5'3" Pat was a protTgT of Chet Atkins and, while she never charted in the states, appeared four times on the charts in her native Toronto
Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature Thursday (October 13), the first American to be honored since 1993. In announcing the prize, the committee said that, "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition... Dylan has the status of an icon. His influence on contemporary music is profound, and he is the object of a steady stream of secondary literature." The prize comes with a $900,000 remuneration.
Motown songwriter Robert Bateman died Wednesday (October 12) from a heart attack in Sherman Oaks, California. He was 80. Bateman had travelled from his native Detroit to California last month when he suffered cardiac arrest and fell into a coma. Robert, who also sang in a group called the Satintones (and were Motown's first group to release a single- narrowly edging the Miracles), is best remembered for discovering the Marvelettes and writing "Please Mr. Postman", "Playboy" and "Twistin' Postman" for the group. He also produced the Falcons and Wilson Pickett, as well as Supremes member Florence Ballard's solo effort.
Rod Stewart was knighted (as "Sir Roderick") by England's Prince William in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London Tuesday (October 11). He commented afterwards that it was a "truly monumental honour."
Don Ciccone, original member of the Critters and later a successful member of the Four Seasons, died Saturday (October 8) at the age of 71. Born in Plainfield, New Jersey, he joined a local group called the Vibratones in 1964 (though some of the members had already backed him up on a solo recording the previous year). Changing their names to the Critters, they recorded for Musicor before hitting on Kapp Records in 1966 with John Sebastian's tune,"Younger Girl" (#42). It was followed up by an ever bigger hit, "Mr. Dieingly Sad" (#17-66). Other chart entries included "Bad Misunderstanding" (#55-1966) and "Don't Let The Rain Fall Down On Me" (#39-1967). The group broke up in 1967 as Don enlisted in the Air Force, but two years after his return he was invited to join the Four Seasons and played guitar and sang on "Who Loves You" (#3-1975) and "December,1963" (#1-1976). Leaving in 1981, Don became a commercial jingle writer, toured with Tommy James as his musical director and, in later ears, re-formed the Critters.
Joan Marie Johnson (Faust) who, along with her cousins Barbara Ann and Rosa Lee Hawkins formed the Dixie Cups and reached #1 in 1964 with "Chapel Of Love", died of congestive heart failure in her native New Orleans at the age of 72. Formed to compete in a high school talent contest in 1963 (as the Mel-Tones), they caught the eye of Joe ("You Talk Too Much") Jones who became their manager (despite their not winning the contest). Joe auditioned the girls for producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who signed them to their Red Bird label as the Dixie Cups. The success of "Chapel Of Love" was followed by "People Say" (#12-1964) and "Iko Iko" (#20-1965) but a year later Joan left to battle sickle cell anemia and devote herself to her church. The Dixie Cups were inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2007.
British Songwriter Rod Temperton, keyboardist with Heatwave and composer of their hits "Boogie Nights" and "Always And Forever", died of cancer Wednesday (October 5) just four days shy of his 69th birthday. Rod also wrote several Michael Jackson hits, including "Thriller", "Off The Wall" and "Rock With You", George Bemson's "Give Me The Night", Michael McDonald's "Sweet Freedom" and "Baby Come To Me", made popular by Patti Austin and James Ingram.
Singer/songwriter John D. Loudermilk passed away Wednesday (September 21) at the age of 82. Born in Durham, North Carolina (his cousins were the country singers, the Louvin Brothers), John worked as a handyman at a local TV station and convinced the owner to let him sing a song he wrote over-the-air. George Hamilton IV was impressed enough with "A Rose And A Baby Ruth" that he recorded it and set John on the path of music. As a singer, John is best remembered for "Language Of Love" (#32-1961) and for his own version of "Sittin' In The Balcony" as Johnny Dee (#38-1957), which he also wrote. But John's catalog of compositions is surpassed by few in rock history, including "Indian Reservation", "Thou Shalt Not Steal", Stonewall Jackson's "Waterloo","Talk Back Tremblin' Lips", "Norman", "Tobacco Road" and "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye". John was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976 and entered the North Carolina Music Hallof Fame five years ago.
Sam the Sham Samudio, John Lee Hooker, the Hi Records Rhythm Section and William Bell are among the 2016 inductees into the Memphis music Hall of Fame, announced Wednesday (September 21). Official induction will take place November 3.
Both Terry and Susan Jacks-- long divorced-- are hospitalized at this time. Terry has suffered his second stroke in five months and Susan was on life support until recently with kidney problems. She underwent a kidney transplant in 2010. Our prayers go out to both halves of the Poppy Family.
Jerry Corbetta, lead singer and keyboard player with Sugarloaf, died Friday (September 16) at a hospice in his home town of Denver. The 68 year-old had suffered from Pick's Disease (a frontal lobe disorder) for the past six-plus years. Jerry and guitarist Bob Webber had played together in Denver in a group called the Moonrakers, who recorded for Tower Records. They then formed Chocolate Hair and were signed by Liberty Records. After a last minute change to Sugarloaf (a mountain outside Boulder, Colorado) the group reached #3 in 1970 with "Green-Eyed Lady". The follow-up off their second album, "Tongue In Cheek", reached only #55 and "Mother Nature's Wine" floundered at #88 the following year. Dropped by Liberty, the group recorded for a bit for Neil Bogart's Brut label before writing and recording "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" as "Sugarloaf/Jerry Corbetta" for their manager's own Claridge Label. The song contained an homage to the Beatles' "I Feel Fine" and a touch tone that was the actual number of CBS Records in New York-- who had turned them down for a contract. It reached #9 in early 1975, but again, its follow-ups never got any higher than #87 on the national charts. Jerry performed as part of Disco Tex's Sex-O-Lettes on the single "Get Dancin" (#10-1975) and played with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons from 1980-1984. In later years, he toured with the Classic Rock All-Stars before retiring to fight his disease in 2009.
The Ron Howard-directed documentary film, "The Beatles: Eight Days A Week", had its world premiere in London Thursday night (September 15). Ron, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were on hand for the film, which chronicles the touring years of the Fab Four.
Endoscopic sinus surgery has forced Billy Joel to postpone a September 30 concert at New York's Madison Square Garden. He is expected to resume performing October 28.
Joe Jeffrey, who took "My Pledge Of Love" to #14 in 1969, died September 4 of cancer at his home in Cleveland. Joe, who changed his name from Joe Stafford to avoid confusion with the female Jo Stafford, was 80. "Pledge" turned out to be Joe's only hit, though he "bubbled under" the charts with "Dreamin' Till Then" (#108-1969), "Hey Hey Woman" (#109-1969) and his version of White Plains' "My Baby Loves Lovin'" (#115-1970).
The last surviving member of the Weavers, Baritone Fred Hellerman, died Thursday (September 1) at his home in Weston, Cinnecticut at the age of 89. The group-- including Pete Seeger, Lee Hays (who had performed together earlier in the Almanac Singers) and Ronnie Gilbert-- formed in 1948 in Greenwich Village, New York where they appeared at the Village Vanguard club. Their name came from an 1892 play about the uprising by Eastern European weavers nearly 50 years earlier. They were quickly signed to Decca Records where they succeeded with traditional American folk tunes like "Goodnight Irene" (#1-1950), "So Long It's Been Good To Know You" (#4-1951) and "On Top Of Old Smoky" (#2-1951)-- the latter with Terry Gilkyson. When Pete and Lee were identified as members of the Communist Party and called to testify before the House Committee on Unamerican Activities in 1955 (Lee pleaded the Fifth Amendment, Pete refused to answer on First Amendment grounds though he had left the party in 1949 and was indicted for contempt of Congress), the group's success was over. Decca had already dropped their contract in 1952, they were blacklisted from radio and television and the group eventually split up. When the group disbanded, Fred continued working in thebusiness, playing guitar on Joan Baez' first two albums and producing Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant", among other feats. The Weavers reunited in 1980 for a documentary film, "The Weavers: Wasn't That A Time," which was released two years later. They were given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys in 2006 and inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001.
English Heritage unveiled a blue Plaque outside the first home Queen's Freddie Mercury lived in after moving to West London in 1964 (he was born in Zanzibar) on Thursday (September 1).
The husband of Heart's Ann Wilson appeared in King County, Washington District Court Monday (August 29) accused of assaulting his wife's twin teenaged nephews (sons of the group's Nancy Wilson) Friday after they left Ann's tour bus open while Heart was performing in Seattle. Dean Stuart Wetter was arrested, spent a night in jail, posted $10,000 bail and will appear in court again Wednesday.
Michael Nesmith will be given the Ernie Kovacs Award at the Dallas VideoFest October 1. The award is presented to television visionaries who have carried on the pioneering work of the late comedian. Michael is a Dallas native.
Mark Chapman, convicted murderer of John Lennon, was denied parole for the ninth time Monday (August 29). He is currently incarcerated in western New York. He will be eligible for parole again in 2018.
A demo recording by Paul McCartney and John Lennon of the song "It's For You" given to Cila Black was discovered by her nephew was auctioned Saturday (August 27) for nearly $24,000 (over $27,000 with commission). Cilla had a top ten British hit with the song in 1964.
The Herb Alpert Foundation, operated by the A&M Records founder and Tijuana Brass trumpeter and his wife, Lani Hall from Sergio Mendes & Brazil '66, announced Thursday (August 25) that it will donate $10.1 million to an endowment that will provide tuition free attendance (beginning in a year) at Los Angeles Community College for all music majors.
The Ides of March sang the national anthem before the Chicago White Sox game with the visiting Seattle Mariners Thursday night (August 25) in US Cellular Field. The Sox won the game 7-6.
Due to doctors' orders, Aretha Franklin has been forced to cancel upcoming concerts over the next two month. They include high-profile appearances in New York and Washington, DC. Aretha made the announcement Monday (August 22), saying, "I decided it was time to go home and take care of myself consistent with doctors' orders." No other details were given.
Congratulations to Ringo Starr, who became a great-grandfather Sunday (August 14) when granddaughter Tatia Starkey (daughter of Zak) gave birth to son Stone Zakomo Low. Tatia plays bass and sings in the group Belakiss. Her dad is now a drummer with the Who.
The Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame will induct its fourth class Sunday (August 21) in Detroit. They include Smokey Robinson, the Supremes, Fats Domino, Sam and Dave, Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Dionne Warwick, Eddie Floyd and Eddie Holman. Mary Wilson of the Supremes will host.
Glenn Yarbrough, founding member and tenor with the Limeliters who had a long solo career, died Thursday (August 11) in Nashville after suffering with dementia. He was 86. Glenn was born in Milwaukee but grew up in New York. He attended St. John's College in Annapolis, where his roommate was future Elektra Records President Jac Holtzman. Jac's connection with folk artist Woody Guthrie convinced Glenn to take up guitar, as well. After serving in the Army, Glenn eventually managed a small club in Aspen, Colorado called the Limelite, where he formed a folk trio named after the establishment. In 1961, the group charted for the only time with "A Dollar Down" (#60-1961). Glenn left the group in the mid-'60s (though he temporarily reunited with them many times) and his solo career launched with "Baby The Rain Must Fall" (title song of the Steve McQueen/Lee Remick movie) which made it to #12 in 1965. While the followup, "It's Gonna Be Fine" (#54-1965) was his last appearance on the charts, his folk performances continued to please audiences into the 21st century. A failed surgery on his larynx in 2010 put him in cardiac arrest and left him unable to continue singing.
Condolences to Bee Gee Barry Gibb, whose mother Barbara passed away Friday (August 12) in Miami at the age of 95.
Gregg Allman was released from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota Tuesday (August 9) and has cancelled all concert dates through October 29 due to the "serious health issues" that caused his hospitalization last week.
British singer Ed Sheeran was sued by the estate of Ed Townsend in New York Tuesday (August 9) alleging that Ed's song, "Thinking Out Loud," copied from the Marvin Gaye 1973 song, "Let's Get It On," which Ed co-wrote. Earlier this year, Marvin's heirs successfully sued Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke and their song "Blurred Lines" with similar charges, to the tune of $7.4 million.
Ricci Martin, youngest son of Dean Martin, was found dead of unknown causes Wednesday (August 3) at his Utah home. He was 62. Ricci took the place of his brother Dino in Dino, Desi & Billy in a'90s revival of the group. He collaborated with Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys on an album in the '70s. Most recently, he had been performing a tribute show to his late father. His book, "That's Amore", was published in 2002.
Carman Romano, baritone and co-founder of the Staten Island doo-wop group, the Elegants, died Tuesday (August 2), just short of his 77th birthday. The ultimate one-hit wonder, their song "Little Star" reached #1 in 1958 and was the group's only chart entry.
The Buckinghams sang the national anthem before their hometown Chicago Cubs' baseball game with the Miami Marlins Tuesday (August 2) at Wrigley Field. The Cubs won 5-0.
On July 19, Winston-Salem, North Carolina named a bridge after their native son, the late George Hamilton IV, on what would have been his 79th birthday. George passed away in 2014.
Pat Upton, lead vocalist and guitarist with the Spiral Starecase, and writer of their big hit, "More Today Than Yesterday" (#12-1969), died Wednesday (July 27) at the age of 75 after what was termed a "long illness". Pat was born in Geraldine, Alabama, but while serving in the US Air Force in Sacramento, competed in a talent contest with four other airmen. Leaving the service, the Fydallions-- as they called themselves-- came to the attention of Columbia Records, who signed them but insisted on a name change. For their new name, the group chose the 1946 Dorothy McGuire movie, "The Spiral Staircase," but with a different spelling. Encouraged to write their own songs, Pat came up with "More Today Than Yesterday" in a Las Vegas motel room (originally with Bobby Goldsboro in mind). It joined "Baby What I Mean" (#111-1968), "No One For Me To Turn To" (#52-1969) and "She's Ready" (#72-1970) as chart entries for the quintet. Unfortunately, internal squabbles led to their breakup in 1970. Pat worked as a backup guitarist and sang with Rick Nelson before opening his own club in Guntersville, Alabama. The club turned out to be the site of Rick's last performance in 1985 before his fatal plane crash.
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd has undergone heart surgery to repair blockage in his arteries and the group has put its current tour on hold until August 4 at the earliest. It's been a bad health month for the group as lead singer Johnny Van Zandt was hospitalized for bronchitis on July 15. The 64 year-old Gary suffered a heart attack last October, requiring surgery.
Lewie Steinberg, original bass player with Booker T. & the MG's on early tunes like "Green Onions" (#3-1962), died Thursday (July 21) at the age of 82. He had been battling cancer in recent years. Lewis was replaced by Donald "Duck" Dunn in 1965. He was inducted along with other MG's into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2002. He also was awarded a Brass Note on Memphis' Beale Street Walk of Fame.
Gary S. Paxton (born Larry Wayne Stevens), singer and co-producer of "Alley Oop" as the Hollywood Argyles (#1-1960) and the "Flip" half of the duo Skip and Flip-- who gave us "It Was I" (#11-1959) and "Cherry Pie" (#11-1960), died Saturday (July 16) at his home in Branson, Missouri. He was 77 and suffered from Hepatitis C-- which almost took his life in 1990. Born in Coffeyville, Kansas, he was raised in Arizona where he started his first band at age 14, eventually dropping out of school to become a performer. After his brief career with Clyde "Skip" Battin in Phoenix, he moved to Hollywood where he produced such hits as "The Monster Mash" with Bobby "Boris" Pickett, "Along Comes Mary" and "Cherish" for the Association. He also produced "Sweet Pea" and "Hooray For Hazel" with Tommy Roe. Moving on to Country music in Bakersfield, California, he was shot three times by hit men reportedly hired by an artist he was producing (dying twice, he said, on the operating table before pulling through). He left the music business for eight years before returning to produce and perform Gospel music (having converted to Christianity), winning the Best Inspirational Grammy for a 1975 album. Gary was inducted into the Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1999.
Bonnie Brown, youngest singer with the family group, the Browns, (with sister Maxine and brother Jim Ed), died of complications of lung cancer Saturday (July 16) in a Franklin, Tennessee hospital. The Sparkman, Arkansas native was 77. Jim and Maxine originally joined Ernest Tubb's radio show as a duo. Their "Looking Back To See" was a #8 country hit in 1954, the year before Bonnie joined to make them a trio. From 1954 to 1968, the trio charted with 21 country tunes, 13 of which crossed over to the pop charts, including "The Three Bells" (#1 pop and country-1959), "Scarlet Ribbons" (#13 pop, #7 country-1959) and "The Old Lamplighter" (#5 pop, #20 country-1960). Jim began a solo career in 1965 and the trio split up two years later, with Bonnie devoting herself to her children. The Browns were elected last year to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The Governor of Oklahoma has declared Friday, July 29 to be "Jody Miller Day" in the state in honor of the "Queen Of The House" singer. Jody will perform a special concert in Blanchard, Oklahoma that day.
Mick Jagger's 29 year-old girlfriend is pregnant with the nearly 73 year-old's child, a spokesman confirmed Wednesday (July 13). It would be ballerina Melanie Hamrick's first child-- and Mick's 8th. The two have been together since 2014. She will reportedly give up her ballet career and move to either Los Angeles or her family's home in Connecticut.
Rokusuke Ei, who wrote the original Japanese lyrics for "Ue o Muite Aruko"- a #1 hit in the U.S. in 1963 as "Sukiyaki" by Kyu Sakamoto-- died Thursday (July 7) at the age of 83. Though he suffered from Parkinson's Disease, he had written a series of books on how to spend one's final years. The song, which translates to "I look up as I walk" and was essentially a love song, was born during his frustration over continued American military presence in Japan after World War II as he returned from his daily protest (a fact that Capitol Records in the U.S. covered up when it re-named the song after a Japanese dish). The song remains the only Japanese-language tune to reach #1 in America. Ei performed on his own, self-named, radio program until a week before his death (once reading the Japanese constitution for two hours non-stop).
Joe Perry, guitarist with Aerosmith, collapsed onstage and was hospitalized Sunday night (July 10) during a performance in New York with the celebrity group Hollywood Vampires (which includes Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp). Alice tweeted later that the 65 year-old Joe was in stable condition.
Smokey Robinson was announced Tuesday (July 5) as the 2016 winner of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song by the US Library of Congress. Smokey win be honored at a ceremony in November in Washington, DC.
It's been learned that Mike Pedicin, the Philadelphia saxophonist who led his own, self-named, quintet in the fifties, died June 26. He was 98. The Mike Pedicin Quintet charted in 1956 with "The Large Large House" (#78) and in 1958 with their version of "Shake A Hand" (#71).
And Floyd Robinson, the Nashville-born singer remembered for his 1959 hit, "Makin' Love" (#20), died May 28 in his suburban Nashville home after a long illness. He was 83. Floyd had his own radio program on WLAC and WSM in Nashville while still in school and his band, the Eagles Rangers, backed up artists like Eddy Arnold, George Jones and Jim Reeves. Floyd also wrote his cousin Jesse Lee Turner's 1959 hit, "The Little Space Girl" (#20).
Winfield "Scotty" Moore, the original guitarist with Elvis Presley who-- along with bassist Bill Black-- were known as the "Blue Moon Boys" (after the B-side of the King's first single, "Blue Moon Of Kentucky") died Tuesday (June 28) at his home in Nashville at the age of 84. Born in Gadsen, Tennessee, Scotty led a country group called the Starlite Wranglers (that included Bill) when Sun Records' Sam Phillips asked him in 1954 to work with Elvis on establishing a "sound". Though initially unsuccessful, it was an impromptu jam between Elvis and Scotty during a session break that caught Sam's attention and led to their first single, "That's Alright (Mama)". Scotty continued playing with Elvis through his move to RCA Records and million sellers like "Heartbreak Hotel", "Hound Dog" and "Jailhouse Rock". He appeared on TV with Elvis in the '50s and on his celebrated "comeback" TV special. Scotty also appeared in four of the King's movies. As a producer he is best known for Thomas Wayne's version of "Tragedy" from 1958. Scotty was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2015.
Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis Presley, filed for divorce from her fourth husband-- who was also her guitarist and music director- after ten years of marriage, citing "irreconcilable differences". The 48 year-old has twin 7 year-old girls with Michael Lockwood and she is asking for sole custody with monitored visitation. The couple have been separated since June 13.
"A Sign Of The Times," a new musical featuring tunes made famous by Petula Clark, Glenn Yarbrough, Dusty Springfield, Tyrone Davis, Nancy Sinatra, the Vogues, Fontella Bass and others, will debut July 29 at the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, Connecticut. It is scheduled to run until September 4. Contributing the book for the musical is comedy writer Bruce Villanch.
Bonny "Sir Mack" Rice, member of the Falcons from 1957 to 1963 who sang baritone on "You're So Fine" (#17-1959), died Monday (June 27) in Detroit of complications from Alzheimer's Disease. The Clarksdale, Missssippi-born Mack was 82. Though he attempted a solo career after the Falcons disbanded (and did manage to "bubble-under" the pop charts a couple of times in the '60s) it was as a songwriter that he made his name. His best-known composition was "Mustang Sally" (a #23 hit for fellow Falcons member Wilson Pickett in 1966), which originally was called "Mustang Mama" until Aretha Franklin-- who played keyboard on the demo-- suggested the name change. The song was originally a #15 R&B song for Mack in 1965 but was overshadowed by Wilson's version the following year. Mack also wrote "Respect Yourself" (#12-1971 for the Staple Singers and #5-1987 for Bruce Willis) as well as Johnnie Taylor's 1973 tune, "Cheaper To Keep Her"(#15).
The Board of Trustees of the University of Connecticut voted Wednesday (June 29) to revoke the honorary Doctorate it conferred upon Bill Cosby in 1996. Bill received a real Doctorate in Education in 1976 from the University of Massachusetts. He also has honorary degrees from Wesleyan University in 1987 and Yale University in 2003. Said the UConn Provost, "The University respects the principles of due process and Mr. Cosby's right to a fair and public trial on the criminal charges against him. But the conduct which he admitted in his sworn testimony provides compelling reasons for the University of Connecticut to consider the revocation of his honorary degree."
James Taylor, the Eagles and Mavis Staples of the Staple Singers have been tapped top received Kennedy Center Honors December 3 in Hollywood, it was announced Thursday (June 23) The Eagles had been scheduled to receive the award last year from the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, DC but had to bow out because of the death of Glenn Frey.
An 8-member jury ruled Thursday (June 23) that members of Led Zeppelin did not plagiarize the 1967 Spirit song "Taurus" when composing "Stairway To Heaven". The suit was brought by the trust of the late Spirit guitarist Randy California. Members of Zeppelin testified that while they performed with Spirit early in their career, they didn't remember hearing the distinctive opening passage that the suit said highlighted both songs.
The Georgia Department of Revenue raided all three locations of Gladys Knight's Chicken and Waffles Restaurants in Atlanta Tuesday (June 21). The agents were looking for evidence that Gladys' son, Shanga Hankerson, had inappropriately diverted a million dollars from the business. Gladys does not own the chain, she simply lent her name to her son's endeavor. In a statement she said, "she is sure that her son and his business partners will rectify the situation." Seven warrants were issued for Shanga for "theft by taking and theft by conversion."
Bernie Worrell, founding keyboardist of Parliament and Funkadelic ("Tear The Roof Off The Sucker") died Friday (June 24) of lung cancer at his home in Everson, Washington. The "Wizard of Woo" was 72. Bernie was also influential in shaping the sound of the Talking Heads.
Wayne Jackson, trumpeter with the Mar-Keys and as part of the studio backup section called the Memphis Horns on tunes like Elvis Presley's "Kentucky Rain" and Dusty Springfield's "Son Of A Preacher Man", died Tuesday (June 21) of congestive heart failure at Methodist University Hospital there. The Memphis native was 74. The Memphis Horns received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 2012.
Kim Venable, drummer with the Classics IV on such hits as "Traces" and "Stormy", died June 12 at his home in Pike Road, Alabama. He was 72.
Brian Rading, bassist with the Five Man Electrical Band ("Signs"), died June 8 at the age of 69.
And Henry McCullough, guitarist with Paul McCartney and Wings on songs like "Live And Let Die" and "My Love", died June 14 at the age of 72.
Meat Loaf collapsed onstage in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Thursday night (June 16) and was taken to a local hospital. The 68 year-old has heart problems and asthma and previously collapsed during performances in 2003 and 2011. He had already cancelled two future concerts because of ill health.
Britain's Crown Prosecution Service announced Thursday (June 16) that, after two years of investigating, there is insufficient evidence to move forward with sexual abuse charges against Cliff Richard. Despite a highly-publicized raid on Cliff's home 22 months ago, a statement was issued saying, "The force apologises wholeheartedly for the additional anxiety caused by our initial handling of the media interest in this case and has implemented the learning from this..." For his part, Cliff's statement read, "Ever since the highly-publicised and BBC filmed raid on my home I have chosen not to speak publicly. Even though I was under pressure to 'speak out', other than to state my innocence, which was easy for me to do as I have never molested anyone in my life, I chose to remain silent. This was despite the widely shared sense of injustice resulting from the high profile fumbling of my case from day one... [P]eople who are facing allegations should never be named publicly until charged."
The trial brought by the trust of the late Spirit guitarist Randy California over whether Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin plagiarized his 1967 song "Taurus" in composing 1970's "Stairway To Heaven" began in Los Angeles Tuesday (June 14). The suit seeks $40 million in damages.
Producer and recording studio owner Lincoln "Chips" Moman died Monday (June 13) in a hospice facility in his hometown of Lagrange, George. He was 79. Though born in Georgia, it was in Memphis that Chips made his name. He played guitar with the likes of Johnny Burnette and Gene Vincent before joining Stax Records in Memphis, producing Carla Thomas' "Gee Whiz" and Booker T's "Green Onions" (the MG's were named partly after Chips' car). Opening his own American Sound Studio there, he worked with artists like the Gentrys ("Keep On Dancing"), the Box Tops ("The Letter"), Merrilee Rush ("Angel Of The Morning"), Sandy Posey ("Born A Woman") and Joe Tex ("I Gotcha"). His biggest triumph was producing Elvis Presley's legendary "Memphis Sessions", which yielded the King's comeback hits, "Suspicious Minds", "In The Ghetto" and "Kentucky Rain". Chips also produced Neil Diamond's "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show" and "Sweet Caroline" and co-wrote the B.J. Thomas hit, "Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song" and the Waylon Jennings tune "Luchenbach, Texas". Chips was inducted into Memphis' Musicians Hall of Fame in 2014 the same year a historical plaque was placed where his recording studio stood.
England's Queen Elizabeth II announced her "birthday" honors Friday (June 10) and Rod Stewart topped the list with a knighthood for his contributions to music and charity. The 71 year-old "Sir Roderick" will be knighted sometime in the coming months. Vera Lynn, already a "Dame" for her efforts supporting wartime soldiers, will be further honored with the "Order of the Companions of Honour". Said Rod, "I've led a wonderful life and have had a tremendous career thanks to the generous support of the great British public. This monumental honour has topped it off and I couldn't ask for anything more. I thank Her Majesty and promise to 'wear it well'." The Queen's actual birthday was in April but is publicly celebrated in June.
Bobby Curtola-- whose "Fortuneteller" was a #41 tune in 1962-- has died, according to an announcement by his family on his Facebook page Sunday (June 5). He was 73. A teen idol in his native Canada, the Thunder Bay, Ontario-born Bobby reached the top 40 thirty times north of the border between 1960 and 1970 and also charted in the US with "Aladdin" (#82-1962). He was named to the Order of Canada in 1997 and inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Muhammad Ali-- the boxer who inspired Johnny Wakelin's 1975 hit, "Black Superman" (#21)-- died Friday (June 3) in a Phoenix area hospital of respiratory complications. He was 74. The Louisville, Kentucky native had suffered from Parkinson's Disease for 32 years. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, he won a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics as a light heavyweight. As a pro heavyweight, he won the championship three times, giving himself the title "The Greatest". Converting to Islam and changing his name in 1964, he refused induction into the US Army in 1967. Stripped of his initial title, his conviction for draft evasion was overturned by the US Supreme Court in 1971. He even recording himself-- his 1964 record of "Stand By Me" and "I Am The Greatest" "bubbled under" the national charts, earning positions 104 and 122 respectively. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2005.
Britain's Royal Mail will honor Pink Floyd with a series of commemmorative postage stamps July 7. Five stamps will re-create their iconic album covers and four stamps will feature them in concert. The first day of issue was chosen because it is the 10th anniversary of guitarist Syd Barrett's death.
Julius LaRosa, the Italian crooner who gave us such hits as "Eh Cumpari" (#2-1953) and "Anywhere I Wander" (#4-1953) died Thursday (May 12) of natural causes at the age of 86. Born in Brooklyn, Julius joined the Navy at age 17. His Navy buddies promoted his talent to radio and TV personality Arthur Godfrey, who arranged for the crooner to appear on his TV show, then promised him a job upon his discharge. True to his word, Julius began singing on Arthur's morning and prime-time shows beginning in 1951. However, the young singer's career on Cadence Records (owned by Godfrey's bandleader, Archie Bleyer) rankled Arthur and in October of 1953 he fired both men, claiming that Julius in particular lacked humility. Julius went on to host his own TV show from 1956 to 1957. In addition to his recordings, he worked as a disk jockey and appeared on the soap opera "Another World", for which he won a daytime Emmy award.
Johnny Sea (nee Seay), whose patriotic answer to "Eve Of Destruction" entitled "Day For Decision" reached #35 in 1966, died Saturday (May 14) when his single-engine plane clipped a cell telephone tower wire and crashed near West, Texas. The Gullport, Mississippi-born Seay was 75. Johnny appeared 8 times on the country charts from 1959 to 1968, including "Frankie's Man Johnny" (#13-1959) and "Nobody's Darling But Mine" (#13-1960).
The Isley Brothers were among four performers who received honorary Doctorates from Berklee College of Music in Boston Saturday (May 7). Ernie Isley accepted the degree on behalf of the group.
Gregg Allman received an honorary Doctorate in Humanities from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia Saturday (May 14). Former President Jimmy Carter bestowed the honor..
And Anne Murray will receive an honorary degree from Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia May 20.
Again, the news was reported late, but Ned Miller, best remembered for his 1963 country crossover, "From A Jack To A King" (#6), died March 18 in Medford, Oregon at the age of 90. Ned (born Henry Ned Miller in Rains, Utah) also wrote "Dark Moon", a 1956 hit for Bonnmie Guitar and Gale Storm and "Invisible Tears" (#57-1964 for Ray Conniff). Though he appeared a total of 11 times on the country charts from 1963 to 1970, he disliked touring because of stage fright and retired early.
The news came late but we've heard that Phil Humphrey, one-half of the Fendermen who hit #5 in 1960 with "Mule Skinner Blues," died of heart failure March 29 in a Minnesota hospital at the age of 78. Jim Sundquist of the group passed away in 2013. They formed the duo at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and recorded for Soma records in Minneapolis. Their version of Huey Smith's "Don't You Just Know It" bubbled under the Billboard charts at #110 in late 1960 and the group split up two years later. Phil started another group in Canada and moved around British Columbia and California, eventually settling in Albert Lea, Minnesota, starting a home renovation business and counseling troubled youth.
Billy Paul, the Philadelphia soul singer who took "Me And Mrs. Jones" to #1 in 1972, died Sunday (April 24) at a hospital in his home town just one week after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was 81. Born Paul Williams, he began his career at the age of 11 singing on a local radio station. From the West Philadelphia Music School, he graduated to the Granoff School of Music. Soon he was performing as the opening act for some of the biggest acts in music under his new name. In 1952 he recorded his first singles, but his early career took a detour when he was drafted by the Army, where he served with Elvis Presley in Germany. Upon his release he continued to record (mostly jazz) to little success. It was in 1968, though, that he met producer Kenny Gamble. Signed to the fledgling Gamble label, he also recorded for Kenny (now with co-producer Leon Huff) on their Neptune label. But success was still elusive until the producers formed Philadelphia International, which was distributed by CBS. "Me And Mrs. Jones" became his only gold record and won Billy a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. But it proved to be his only top 30 hit, due mainly to controversial follow-up records like "Am I Black Enough For You" and "Let's Make A Baby." He did chart 12 more times on the R&B charts, but "Thanks For Saving My Life" (#9-1974) was his only other appearance in the R&B top ten. Billy officially "retired" in 1989 but continued to perform in concert and even released a live album in 2000.
It's been learned that Jimy Sohns, lead singer of the Shadows of Knight of "Gloria" fame, suffered a stroke April 12 and is currently undergoing rehabilitation. While his talking voice is affected, he still is able to sing and he has regained the use of 70% of his right side (doctors had originally estimated he'd regain 40%). Nevertheless, Jimmy and the Shadows have postponed several upcoming concert dates but hope to return at the end of June.
Guitarist Lonnie Mack, best remembered for the 1963 instrumentals "Memphis" (#5) and "Wham!" (#14), died Thursday (April 21) at a medical center near his home in Smithville, Tennessee. The Harrison, Indiana native (born Lonnie McIntosh) was 71. Known for his pioneering style (helped by the tremelo bar on his instrument), he not ony charted seven times on his own, but played on sessions for such music royalty as James Brown, Freddie King, Hank Ballard and-- most notably on the Doors' "Morrison Hotel" (where Jim Morrison can be heard yelling, "Do it, Lonnie!" He retired from 1971 to 1985 before being rediscovered by a new generation of musicians and fans, including Stevie Ray Vaughn. Lonnie was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2005 and the International Guitar Hall of Fame ion 2001.
The body of singer Prince was found at his Paisley Park, Minnesota compound Thursday morning (April 21). Details are sketchy, but the 57 year-old Minneapolis native was hospitalized the previous week in Moline, Illinois for what was reported to be the flu. Prince Rogers Nelson is remembered for the #1 hits "When Doves Cry" (1984), "Let's Go Crazy" (1984), "Kiss" (1986), "Batdance" (1989) and "Cream" (1991).
Former Kiss member Ace Frehley was hospitalized in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania Friday (April 15) for "Exhaustion and dehydration." The guitarist was forced to postpone his Saturday concert in Poughkeepsie, New York and will be flying home to Southern California instead to recuperate.
Mike Lazo, lead singer with the Tempos on their original version of "See You In September" (#23-1959), died Tuesday (April 12) at a nursing facility in Pittsburh at the age of 83. Though it was the group's only chart record, Mike continued to perform throughout Pennsylvania as Mike Daye until emphysema forced him to finally retire.
Jack (Earl Burroughs) Hammer, co-writer of Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls Of Fire", Wanda Jackson's "Fujiyama Mama" and the Cadillacs' "Peek A Boo", died Monday (April 11) in Los Angeles. The New Orleans native was 90. Besides his songwriting skills, Jack was a member of the Platters at one time and recorded many solo albums (he was known as the "Twistin' King" in Europe in the '60s). He also performed on Broadway in "Bubblin' Brown Sugar" in the '70s.
Tom Jones' wife of 59 years, Melinda Rose ("Linda"), died Sunday (April 10) in a Los Angeles hospital after a "short but fierce" battle with cancer. She was 75. Tom had cancelled his Asian tour on April 2 to be by her side (though his management denied at the time that she was the reason). The two were married in Wales when they were both 16. Their son serves now as Tom's manager.
Country star Merle Haggard, whose 1970 tune, "Okie From Muskogee" (#41-Pop, #1-Country, 1970) made him a star, died Wednesday (April 6) of pneumonia on his 79th birthday. He had been in poor health for quite some time. Born in Bakersfield, California, he spent three years in San Quentin (California) Prison for burglary, starting in 1957. Continuing his love of music upon his release, he became part of the Bakersfield sound popularized by Buck Owens. Merle charted in 1964 on tiny Tally Records with "Sing A Sad Song" (#19 Country) and a year later he was signed to Buck's own label, Capitol. All told, he charted 105 times on the Country charts (12 times on the Pop charts) in 42 years, including crossovers like "The Fighting Side Of Me" (#92-Pop, #1-Country, 1970) and "If We Make It Through December" (#28-Pop, #1-Country, 1973). Merle was granted a full pardon for his early offenses by then-California Governor Ronald Reagan in 1972. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994 and was granted an honorary doctorate in fine arts by California State University in Bakersfield in 2013.
Leon Haywood, best remembered for his 1975 hit, "I Want'a Do Something Freaky To You" (#15-Pop, #7-R&B) died Tuesday (April 5). The Houston native was 74. Leon started playing keyboards with blues musicians in Houston and Los Angeles before joining Sam Cooke's backup band until Sam's death in 1964. Leon moved on to a solo career, charting with "She's With Her Other Love" (#92-Pop, #13-R&B) as Leon Hayward (he quickly changed to his real name). While "Freaky" was his only Pop top 40 hit, he was a staple of the R&B charts from 1965-1984, including "Keep It In The Family" (#50-Pop, #11-R&B, 1974), "Come An' Get Yourself Some" (#83 Pop, #19 R&B, 1975) and "Don't Push It Don't Force It" (#49 Pop, #2-R&B, 1980). He also wrote and produced Carl Carlton's "She's A Bad Mama Jama" (#22-Pop, #2-R&B, 1981) and went on to produce blues artists, may on his own EveJim Records.
Carlo Mastrangelo, founding member and lead singer of the Belmonts after the departure of Dion, died Monday (April 4) near his home in Boca Raton, Florida from an undisclosed illness. He was 77. The group-- named for Belmont Avenue in New York, was paired with Dion DiMucci in 1958. Bronx native Carlo sang bass on tunes like "I Wonder Why" (#22-1958), "A Teenager In Lover" (#5-1959), and "Where Or When" (#3-1960) until Dion's departure for a solo career in 1960. Carlo moved up to lead singer on songs like "Tell Me Why" (#18-1961) and "Come On Little Angel" (#28-1962) but left himself for a solo career as "Carlo" in 1962 after a dispute with the group over the finances of their self-owned label. He never charted again in the U.S., either solo or with his later group, the Endless Pulse (later, Pulse). He did however, work with Dion again as a backup musician and songwriting partner from 1964 to 1966. In 1972, Dion and the Belmonts reunited at Madison Square Garden in New York for an oldies show that was recorded and released as an album.
Details are sketchy, but its been learned that Mike Gibbons, lead singer and trumpet player with Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods, died Saturday (April 2). Formed in 1965 while the founding members were still in high school (Mike joined later in the decade), the group got its break opening for the Osmonds in the early '70s. Though they had recorded in their native Cincinnati and with Family Productions (where "Special Someone" as "The Heywoods" made it to #64 nationally in 1972), it was signing with ABC Records and spotlighting keyboard player Robert "Bo" Donaldson that made them stars. With Mike singing lead, their cover of Paper Lace's "Billy, Don't Be A Hero" spent 2 weeks at #1 in 1974, followed by "Who Do You Think You Are (#15-1974) and "The Heartbreak Kid" (#39-1974). But "Our Last Song Together" (#95-1975) proved to be just that-- at least on the charts. Singles for Capitol Records, Playboy Records and Republic Records (as the Bo Donaldson Band) failed to chart and even a switch to country music as River Bend failed to re-kindle their star power. By the '80s, they split up though they did reunite to play the oldies circuit in 1996.
A 57 year-old woman who played saxophone, clarinet, and keyboards with the Monkees onstage since 1996 sued Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork Friday (April 1) in Los Angeles for discrimination, claiming she was fired by them because of her age, weight and disabilities (she suffers from lupus and rheumatoid arthritis). She says her replacement-- also a woman-- is "under 40 years of age". The defendants have not made a statement.
Andy "Thunderclap" Newman, keyboardist with the British group that bore his name, died Wednesday (March 29) in London at the age of 73. The band was formed by Who guitarist Pete Townshend and featured Andy, John "Speedy" Keene on vocals and drums and Jimmy McCulloch on guitar. They are best remembered for "Something In The Air," a #1 hit in Britain in 1969 (#37 in the US). Though they split up in 1971, Andy re-formed the band in 2010 with a new lineup.
Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke, who starred in her own, self-named television show, died in Los Angeles Tuesday (March 29) of sepsis from a ruptured intestine. She was 69. Born Anna Marie Duke in Queens, New York, her mother turned her over to live with talent managers who changed her name to Patty. She appeared on TV and in print ads and in 1959 even won $32,000 on the "$64,000 Challenge" TV show. Her big break was appearing as Helen Keller on Broadway in "The Miracle Worker" from 1959 to 1961. She then went on to star in the film version of the story and won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1962. In 1963 she starred in the "Patty Duke Show" as both wild Patty Lane and her prim and proper identical cousin, Cathy. The show ran for three years and during that time she recorded two hit records- "Don't Just Stand There" (#8-1965) and "Say Something Funny" (#22-1965). She attempted to change her image with a major role in the film, "Valley Of The Dolls" in 1969 and won a Golden Globe as Best Actress for her portrayal of Neely O'Hara. She was president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1985 to 1988. Her autobiography, chronicling her battle with bi-polar disorder, "Call Me Anna," was published in 1988. Married four times- including actor John Astin-- she was the mother of actor Sean Astin (who, it was revealed later, was not John's biological son).
Congratulations to Charlie Daniels and Fred Foster (producer of artists like Roy Orbison, owner of Monument and Sound Stage 7 Records and co-writer of tunes like "Me And Bobby McGee"). They will join Randy Travis as 2016 inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville later this year. The selections were announced Tuesday (March 29).
David Cassidy pleaded "no contest" Monday (March 28) to reckless driving charges involving ann accident in Broward County, Florida last year. He has agreed to give up hisdrivers licence until 2021 and will be on probationforthe next two years.
A Los Angeles police officer filed suit Monday (March 28) against Elton John for sexual battery and harassment. The officer, a medal of valor winner, worked for Elton as an off-duty security guard and claims Elton inappropriately touched him multiple times and made suggestive comments. He is seeking unspecified damages for pain and suffering, medical bills and lost income. A spokesman for the singer said the suit is "baseless."
The bluegrass musical "Bright Star," written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell (Mrs. Paul Simon) with music supervision by Peter Asher (of Peter & Gordon) opened on Broadway Thursday (March 24) to generally good reviews. The New York Times says it is "gentle-spirited, not gaudy, and moves with an easygoing grace where others prance and strut. And it tells a sentiment-spritzed story - of lives torn apart and made whole again - that you might be more likely to encounter in black and white, flickering from your flat-screen on Turner Classic Movies." Variety, though said it, "is Broadway-slick... with top-rung creatives involved in the production... an appealing lead performance from Carmen Cusack. But the sheer scale of the package overwhelms this sweet but slender homespun material." And the Chicago Tribune opined, "despite its tonal unevenness and frequent, needless diversions from truth, [it] still feels like a significant, distinctive and artful entry into the Broadway repertory."
Ringo Starr's boyhood home in Liverpool sold at auction Thursday (March 24) for just short of $100,000. Though the new owner is a Beatles fan and owns properties connected to John Lennon and George Harrison, she is not allowed under terms of the sale to turn the home into a tourist attraction.
Clare Alden MacIntyre-Ross, one-time girlfriend of Harry Chapin and reportedly the inspiration for his songs, "Taxi" and "Sequel," died of a stroke March 9 in Falls Church, Virginia. The two were Summer camp counselors but split up and drifted apart in real life.
Songwriter/performer Peter Andreoli (Pete Anders), who sang with the Videls (the original "Mister Lonely" - #73-1960), the Trade Winds ("New York's A Lonely Town" - #32-1965) and the Innocence ("There's Got To Be A Word" #34-1967), died Thursday (March 24). The Providence, Rhode Island native was 74. In 1956, Pete joined the Videls while in high school, eventually joining up with songwriting partner Vinnie Poncia. When the group broke up, Pete and Vinnie continued as songwriters in New York (though they still appeared from time to time with members of the Mystics under both group's names). In 1964 the two moved to California to write for Phil Spector, writing "Do I Love You" and "The Best Part Of Breaking Up" for the Ronettes. After moving back to the Big Apple, their demo of "New York's A Lonely Town" was considered good enough by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller to be released as a single. But they kept on composing, including the theme to Elvis Presley's movie, "Harem Scarum" (called "Harem Holiday"-- the movie's title in many foreign countries). Another single as the Trade Winds-- "Mind Excursion"-- made it to #51 in 1966, followed up the next year by "There's Got To Be A Word" as the Innocence and a solo effort by Pete, "Sunshine Highway"-- which got some airplay in Chicago but failed to chart nationally. That same year the team split up. Pete dropped out of the music business for fifteen years as he underwent drug rehabilitation seven times. He also faced a battle with cancer, which he won. Pete and Vinnie were the first inductees into the Hall Of Fame of the Rhode Island Pop Music Archive in 2010. Pete was also inducted into the Rhode Island Songwriters Association Hall Of Fame in 1997.
Arthur Lee Andrew Thompson, lead singer of Lee Andrews and the Hearts, died Wednesday (March 16) in his native Philadelphia at the age of 79. Born in Goldsboro, North Carolina (his father had sung with the Dixie Hummingbirds), he was raised in Philadelphia, where he formed the Hearts quintet (originally called the Dreams and later, the Dreamers) in 1952 while still in high school. First recording for Reco-Arts and Rainbow Records, they then moved on to Mainline Records (which sold their masters to Chess), as "Long Lonely Nights" (#45 Pop, #11 R&B-1957) became a doo-wop staple. It was followed by "Tear Drops" (#33 Pop, #3 R&B) the following year and "Try The Impossible" (#33 Pop) on United Artists Records in 1958. Lee moved on to a solo career on Swan and then Cameo Records before semi-retiring and opening a local dress shop. His son, Ahmir Thompson became known as Questlove and served as drummer and producer for the Roots, who charted three times themselves in the late '90s. The Hearts and the Roots were inducted into the Philadelphia Music Alliance's Walk of Fame in 1992.
Keith Emerson, pianist with the Nice and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, died Thursday (March 10) at his home in Santa Monica, California. He was 71. Death was attributed to a single gunshot wound and police have now ruled it a suicide. Born in Todmorden, Yorkshire, England, he grew up in Worthing, West Sussex. Trained in classical music, he played in four local groups before co-founding The Nice in 1967. In 1969, Keith joined King Crimson's Greg Lake in forming ELP with Carl Palmer of Atomic Rooster. Signed to Atlantic Records, they achieved ten gold albums from 1970 to 1992. Though primarily an album-oriented band, they charted four times on the singles charts, as well, with staples like "Lucky Man" (#48-1971 and #51-1972) and "From The Beginning" (#39-1972). The group broke up in 1979 but Keith and Greg re-formed with Cozy Powell. In 2002 Keith toured with a re-formed Nice. His autobiography, "Pictures of an Exhibitionist" (a take-off on the group's album, "Pictures At An Exhibition") was published in 2004.
Gogi Grant, best remembered for her 1956 #1 hit, "The Wayward Wind," died Thursday (March 10) at the age of 91. Born Myrtle Audrey Arinsberg in Philadelphia, she moved to Los Angeles with her family at age 12 and made a name for herself winning talent contests. She began to record, first as Audrey Brown, then as Audrey Grant before being named "Gogi" by a local record man. Signed to Era Records, she had a hit out of the box with "Suddenly There's A Valley" (#9-1955) before topping it with "The Wayward Wind." However, four other singles failed to crack the top 40, though a re-release of "The Wayward Wind" made #50 in 1961. She retired from performing in 1967.
Beatles producer Sir George Martin died Tuesday (March 8) of natural causes at his home in England. The "Fifth Beatle" was 90. Though the London native primarily created symphonic and comedy records early on in his career, it was signing the Fab Four to Parlophone Records in 1962 that launched him as one of the premiere producers in rock music. Besides the Beatles, he worked with such British Invasion artists as Gerry and the Pacemakers, Cilla Black, and Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas. Later he expanded to such artists as America, Cheap Trick, the Bee Gees and Ultravox. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1988 and was awarded a knighthood in 1996.
Former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, according to a statement released Tuesday (March 8). A spokesman indicated the 79 year-old was "undergoing treatment and is expected to make a full recovery as it was caught in the early stages." He left the group officially in 1993.
The wife of Eagles and Poco co-founder, bassist Randy Meisner accidentally shot herself to death Sunday night (March 6) in the couple's Studio City, California home. Earlier that afternoon police had been called by Lana Rae Meisner because Randy was waving a BB gun and "acting erratically." However, two hours after police left, Randy called to report that Lana had shot herself or been killed by accident. Police now believe she was taking a rifle out of a bedroom case when it went off, killing her. The couple had been married for nearly 20 years. Randy left the Eagles in 1977 and has suffered from bi-polar disorder.
Gayle McCormick, the lead singer of the group Smith who had her own hit with "It's A Cryin' Shame", died Tuesday (March 1) in St. Louis of cancer. She was 67. Gayle started out in the mid-'60s singing in St. Louis with Steve Cummings & The Klassmen, where they had some local hits before travelling to California in 1969 and taking over for a defunct band called Smith. Signed to ABC-Dunhill Records, the group exploded out of the box with their version of the Shirelles classic, "Baby It's You" (#5-1969). Subsequent efforts- "Take A Look Around (#43-1970) and "What Am I Gonna Do" (#73-1970)-- were less-successful and the group disbanded in 1971. Still impressed with Gayle though, Dunhill signed Gayle as a solo singer. "Gonna Be Alright Now" (#84-1971) was no more successful than her group efforts but "It's A Cryin' Shame" (#44-1971) was much bigger in many markets. It was followed by a cover of "You Really Got A Hold On Me" (#98-1972) that disappointed Dunhill enough to drop her. Subsequent efforts on Decca and Fantasy failed to chart, but she did manage to reach the Easy Listening charts again in 1975 with "Coming In Out Of The Rain" on the tiny Shady Brook label. By then she had married and moved to Hawaii, though eventually she re-located to St Louis.
The Songwriters Hall of Fame announced their 2016 inductees Wednesday (March 2). The late Marvin Gaye, Chip Taylor ("Wild Thing"), Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards ("Le Freak"), Elvis Costello and Tom Petty will be honored June 9 in New York.
Cream drummer Ginger Baker has cancelled his upcoming tour (ten dates in April and May) at the request of his doctors because of what was termed "serious heart problems".
Lenny Baker, rotund sax player with Sha Na Na, died Wednesday (February 24) of undisclosed causes at his home at Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. He was 69. Though not an original, Woodstock-performing member of the group, he joined in 1970, in time for their TV show, which ran from 1977-1981 and for their two charting songs, "Top Forty" (#84-1971) and "Just Like Romeo And Juliet" (#55-1975). He also sang "Blue Moon" in the movie "Grease". Lenny retired from performing in 2000.