Have You Heard the News...
Here are current stories about Oldies Artists in the News:
Ray Manzarek, keyboardist with the Doors, died Monday (May 20) at a German clinic of complications from bile duct cancer. He was 74. Born in Chicago in 1939, he received a degree in economics from DePaul University there, then moved to Southern California to study cinematography at UCLA. It was there he initially met Jim Morrison and the two later hooked up and formed the Doors with drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robbie Kreiger. They soon were playing the Sunset Strip (first at the London Fog, then at the Whisky A Go Go) and came to the attention of Columbia Records. A lack of quick success there led them to Zak Holtzman, who signed them to his eclectic Elektra Records. Their first, self-titled, album in 1967 went to #2 on the charts and while its first single, "Break On Through," stalled at #126, the second single, "Light My Fire" zoomed to #1 for three weeks solidifying their place as psychedelic poets supreme. Six more albums made the top ten for the group (all told fifteen have charted over the years) and six singles reached the top 20, including "Hello, I Love You" (#1-1968), "Touch Me" (#3-1969) and "Love Her Madly (#11-1971). A series of drug and alcohol fueled incidents (including a conviction for public indecency) led Jim flee to Paris, where he died of a suspected drug overdose in 1971. The Doors struggled to continue (with Ray singing lead at one point), but eventually called it quits in 1973. Ray did participate in the Doors 21st Century revival group which John bitterly opposed. The group was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. Ray's autobiographical book, "Light My Fire," was published in 1998.
Singer/songwriter Alan O'Day, who recorded the #1 hit "Undercover Angel" (1977) and wrote Helen Reddy's "Angie Baby" (#1-1974), "Train of Thought" (#27-1974) from Cher and the Righteous Brothers' hit "Rock And Roll Heaven" (#3-1974), died of brain cancer at his Westwood, California home Friday (May 17). The Southern California native (though he also called Nashville home) was 72. He wrote over 100 songs for the animated "Muppet Babies" cartoon series as well as a song for Disney's "The Little Murmaid." All told, his songs were recorded by such varied artists as Olivia Newton-John, Anne Murray, Three Dog Night, Dave Mason, Johnny Mathis, the 5th Dimension, the Captain & Tenille, Tom Jones, Peggy Lee, John Travolta, Dusty Springfield, Bobby Sherman, David Clayton Thomas, Tony Orlando & Dawn, Paul Anka and Gene Pitney. One of his last projects was composing the theme song for the independent film, "You Don't Say."
Plans were announced Wednesday (May 22) to turn Gregg Allman's "My Cross To Bear" autobiography into a movie. The film will focus on the formative years of the Allman Brothers and Gregg's later attempts to straighten out his life. Though no cast or director have been named, filming is expected to begin in Georgia in late Summer.
Jimmy Steward, second tenor of the Ravens from 1951 to 1956 (on Mercury Records), reportedly died May 17.
The Philadelphia Music Alliance announced Tuesday (May 14) that they will honor composer/producers John Madara and David White (who gave us Danny & the Juniors' "At The Hop," "1-2-3" from Len Barry, "The Fly" by Chubby Checker and Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me") with a plaque on the Phildelphia Music Walk of Fame at an unspecified date in October.
Dion DuMucci was one of eight recipients of an Honorary Doctorate degree from Fordham University in New York City Saturday (May 18). Other honorees included a senator, federal prosecutor and deputy mayor.
Meanwhile Dr. John and Allen Toussaint received honorary degrees from Tulane University in New Orleans and Graham Nash of the Hollies and CSN&Y was honored by Lesley University in Boston-- all on Saturday (May 18). And Herbie Hancock got his degree from Columbia College in Chicago Sunday.
Judith Durham, lead singer of the Seekers, suffered a brain hemorrhage May 14 while the group was on tour in Melbourne, Australia. She was hospitalized, but will be transferred to a rehabiitation unit Friday (May 24). Doctors say that while her "everyday conversational speech is fluent, her processing of higher function speech and complex questions is impaired." She was able to sing the first verse of "Morningtown Ride," though. The group's 50th anniversary tour has been scrapped.
Songwriter Ray Whitley, who gave us the Tams' "Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy", "What Kind Of Fool" and "I've Been Hurt" (the latter two also hits for Bill Deal & the Rhondels), died Sunday (May 5) in Gainesville, Georgia at the age of 69. Ray recorded a smattering of unsuccessful singles himself and also wrote songs for-- among others-- Billy Joe Royal, the Swinging Medallions, Joe South and Tommy Roe. He should not be confused with the similarly-named country singer/songwriter who wrote "Back In The Saddle Again."
Bob Dylan did not attend his induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters Wednesday (May 15). He did issue a statement concerning the prestigious membership, which allows only 250 members at a time. Said Bob, "I feel extremely honored and very lucky to be included in this pantheon of great individual artists who comprise the Academy of Arts and Letters. I look forward to meeting all of you some time soon."
A two-day auction of artwork owned by the late Andy Williams brought in $46 million on the first day Wednesday (May 15) in New York. One painting alone by Willem de Koonings garnered $9.7 million.
Doctors have ordered Aretha Franklin to cancel all performances through June so she can undergo an unspecified "treatment." The original announcement was made May 13 wirh more concerts cancelled May 21. The 71 year-old's next scheduled performance will be in July. She was, however, healthy enough to perform on the "American Idol" finale May 16 on Fox-TV.
Stemming from an "inflamation of his vocal cords," Smokey Robinson postponed his concerts for the rest of May on Friday (May 10).
Little Richard received an honorary Doctorate of Humanities degree from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia Saturday (May 11). Meanwhile, Macon officials announced Friday that Richard's boyhood home there will be moved to avoid being demolished by a highway construction project. In its new location, the home will become a neighborhood resource center.
Rick Dees, the late "Tennessee" Ernie Ford and Rufus Thomas, the late Dewey Phillips (the first DJ to play Elvis Presley) and Elvis' "Memphis Mafia" buddy, George Klein were inducted Saturday (May 4) into the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame in ceremonies in Murfreesboro.
It's been learned that Don Shirley, best-known for his 1961 #40 pop instrumental, "Water Boy," died of complications from heart disease April 6 at his home in Manhattan. The Jamaican-born pianist was 86.
And Rosario "Sod" Vaccaro, the last of the original Four Aces of "Loved Is A Many Splendored Thing" fame, died April 5 at his home in Chester, Pennsylvania. He was 90.
The Killer opened Jerry Lee Lewis' Café and Honky Tonk on Beale Street in Memphis with a welcoming proclamation from the mayor Saturday (April 27).
Country legend George Jones passed away Friday (April 26) at a Nashville hospital where he had been admitted last week with fever and irregular blood pressure. The 81 year-old had charted 166 times on the country charts and even 6 times on the pop charts, including his version of "White Lightning" (#73-1959 Pop, #1 Country), "Tender Years" (#76-1961, #1 Country) and "The Race Is On" (#96-1965, #3 Country). His best-remembered classic would have to be "He Stopped Loving Her Today" (1980)- all-told one of ten #1 country hits for "The Possum," as he was known. George is also remembered for his volatile relationship with wife Tammy Wynette during their marriage from 1969 to 1975. His hard-drinking led to many missed concerts, earning him another nickname- "No Show Jones." Record collectors prize his early rockabilly recordings under the names Hank Smith and Thumper Jones. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992 and was a Kennedy Center honoree in 2008. He received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy award last year.
The O'Jays have filed a one million dollar lawsuit against Crown Royal Whiskey for using their song "For The Love Of Money" in a television commercial without permission, which they said was "humiliating and demeaning by reducing them to background singers" to a "poseur [rapper] with limited ability to carry a tune."
Carly Simon lent her voice to an episode of Fox-TV's "Family Guy" on Sunday (April 28). Her role was all of two sentences long and intimated that "You're So Vain" was about Don Knotts.
Congratulations to Archie Bell and the Drells, who were give a "day" in their honor by the city of Houston April 16.
Richie Havens, who opened the Woodstock Music Festival and had a #16 hit, "Here Comes The Sun" two years later in 1971, died Monday (April 22) of a heart attack at his home in Jersey City, New Jersey. He was 72. Richie- who opened the fest when the scheduled act couldn't get through the traffic jam and because, he said, he had the least musicians and instruments to set up-- returned to Bethel, New York for the 40th anniversary of Woodstock in 2009 and retired shortly thereafter.
Olivia Newton-John announced Tuesday (April 23) that she has postponed her upcoming residency in Las Vegas to help her sister Rona battle brain cancer. Olivia herself is a breast cancer survivor.
Neil Diamond appeared live at Boston's Fenway Park to sing their 7th inning stretch song, "Sweet Caroline" Saturday (April 20). In the process he saluted all the public safety workers who responded to the murders at the Boston Marathon and helped bring the killers to their due.
Rolf Harris-- the Australian native and British television host who sang "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" in 1963-- was identified Friday (April 19) as the unnamed entertainer arrested by Scotland Yard March 20 in connection with a sex scandal at the British Broadcasting Corporation involving underaged youth. The 83 year-old, who was given the Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2006 and sang at Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee, has reportedly vehemently denied the allegations of abuse.
Vincent Montana, Jr., Philadelphia vibraphone player and band leader of MFSB ("TSOP": #1-1974) and the Salsoul Orchestra ("Tangerine": #18-1976) died Saturday (April 13) at the age of 85. He also played on such hits as the Delfonics' "La La Means I Love You," the Soul Survivors' "Expressway To Your Heart," "Disco Inferno" by the Trammps and Eddie Holan's "Hey There Lonely Girl." He will be inducted (now posthumously) into the Philadelphia Walk of Fame in October.
"Motown: The Musical" officially opened on Broadway Sunday night (April 14) and, despite pulling in a million dollars in its final preview week, reviews were tepid. The New York Times said it was "dramatically slapdash but musically vibrant," The Chicago Tribune said it "has no clear point of view, no rich storytelling and nowhere near enough Detroit," adding that the production, based on Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr.'s Book, had too many songs. The Associated Press commented, "The songs are staggering, the book utterly flimsy." The Hollywood Reporter savaged it, stating, "Berry Gordy's book makes 'Jersey Boys' look like Eugene O'Neill." Meanwhile, the New York Post disliked its "bargain-basement sets, basic choreography performed merely adequately, and laughable dialogue." And Billboard said it was "like a jukebox went completely haywire."
Meat Loaf cancelled a concert in Nottingham, England Sunday (April 14) saying several members of the band were ill. Meat has hinted that this tour will be his last. The concert was rescheduled for next month.
George Jackson, co-writer of the Bob Seger hit, "Old Time Rock & Roll" and the Osmonds' "One Bad Apple," died Sunday of cancer at his home in Ridgeland, Mississipi, outside Jackson. He was 68. George was a singer himself in the early '60s, but made his name as a writer in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
Emilio Pericoli, the singer/actor who gave us the Italian-language hit, "Al De La'" (#6-1962), died Tuesday (April 9) in a hospital near his home in Romagna, Italy. He was 85. "Al Di La'" had been Italy's entrant in the San Remo Song Festival (sung by Betty Curtis) in 1961. The following year, Emilio's version was used in the movie "Rome Adventure" with Troy Donahue and Suzanne Pleshette. That lead to its American success, though he never charted again in the U.S.
Congratulations to Kenny Rogers, Bobby Bare and writer/producer/singer/publisher "Cowboy Jack" Clement, who were announced Wednesday (April 10) as the newest inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Official induction will take place later this year.
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac has filed for legal separation from his wife of 17 years. Papers were filed in Los Angeles March 22. Mick is seeking joint custody of his twin daughters, with his wife having physical custody.
Annette Funicello, the Mouseketeer turned singer and Beach Party actress, died of complications from multiple sclerosis Monday at a hospital in Bakersfield, California. She was 70. Born in Utica, New York, her family moved when she was four to Southern California. It was Walt Disney himself who discovered her when he saw her appear in a production of "Swan Lake" at a dance recital in Burbank. She was cast as one of the original Mouseketeers on Walt's "Mickey Mouse Club" on ABC-TV in 1955. Though one of the last chosen, she proved the most popular, garnering 6,000 letters a month. When the Club ended its television run in 1959, she appeared in guest roles on other television series (such as "Zorro" and "Make Room For Daddy") and starred in Disney movies like "Babes in Toyland" and "The Monkey's Uncle." By then, Annette was also a recording star, with hits like "Tall Paul" (#7-1959),-ironic, since she was dating the diminutive Paul Anka at the time- "O Dio Mio" (#10-1960), "Pineapple Princess" (#11-1960) and "First Name Initial" (#20-1960). She moved on in 1963 to star in a series of teenage "beach party" films (many with Frankie Avalon), including "Beach Party" (1963), "Muscle Beach Party" (1964), "Bikini Beach (1964), Pajama Party (1964) and "Beach Blanket Bingo" (1965). Respectful of Walt Disney, she kept her navel covered despite the ever-present bathing suits. Frankie and Annette reprised the "beach" concept in the film, "Back To The Beach" in 1987. It was during that movie's filming that she noticed neurological problems and announced in 1992 that she was suffering from MS. All-told, she appeared in 19 films and charted ten times. Her autobiography, "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes," was published in 1994.
British producer and engineer Andy Johns, who worked on four Led Zeppelin albums, the Rolling Stones' "Sticky Fingers," "Exile on Main Street" and "Goats Head Soup" LPs and albums by Van Halen and Steve Miller, died Sunday (April 7) after being hospitalized ten days earlier with an undisclosed liver ailment. He was 61.
Roy Cox, Jr., founding member and bassist with Bubble Puppe, died Tuesday (April 2) at the age of 64. The Houston group reached #14 in 1969 with "Hot Smoke & Sasafrass" and "bubbled under" at #128 the same year with "If I Had A Reason." The group was inducted into the South Texas Music Walk of Fame in 2004 and the Austin Music Hall of fame in 2011.
Barbra Streisand announced a return to film directing Thursday (April 4), saying she will helm an upcoming movie based on the romance between photographer Margaret Bourke-White and author Erskine Caldwell. Though the title was unannounced, it has been called "Skinny & Cat" in pre-production. Bab's previous directing efforts were "Prince Of Tides," "Yentl" and "The Mirror Has Two Faces." She will not act in the production. In other news,. Bill Clinton will present her with the 2012 Film Society of Lincoln Center Chaplin Award for film achievement April 22 in Washington.
Congratulations to Tina Turner, who, according to a Swiss newspaper, will aparently marry her boyfriend of 18 years, German producer Erwin Bach, in Lake Geneva this Summer. There has been no confirmation from her publicist as of yet. The couple have lived together in Zurich for 15 years.
Producer Phil Ramone died Saturday morning (March 30) at a New York hospital. He had been hospitalized February 28 in critical condition with an aortic aneurism (a life-threatening expansion of the heart's aorta). The 72 year-old South African native and Juliard-trained musician had worked with everyone from Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Lesley Gore, Carly Simon, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder to Ray Charles. Phil had been nominated 33 times for Grammy awards and won 14 times.
Bobby Rydell indicated on his Facebook page Monday (March 25) that he underwent double bypass heart surgery. Said Bobby, "Had a cardiac catheterization showing 2 blockages - no heart damage but I needed bypass surgery to prevent a heart attack. Had a double by pass at Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia where I came home to make a full recovery 5 days later. Will be back on the road shortly! Compared to the double transplant in July; this was a walk in the park. My amazing wife sure has her hands full with me!"
Dionne Warwick filed for bankruptcy in her home state of New Jersey Thursday (March 21), listing assets of $25,500 and liabilities of over $10 million, mostly stemming for tax debts to California and the federal government. Claiming "negligent and gross financial mismanagement," she says the original tax debt was paid, but penalties and interest continue to mount.
Deke Richards (nee Dennis Lucier), part of "The Corporation" team of producer/writers at Motown, died Sunday (March 24) at a Bellingham, Washington hospice from esophageal cancer. He was 68. The team, which included Motown President Berry Gordy, Jr., is best known for writing and producing early Jackson 5 hits, such as "The Love You Save," "ABC" and "I Want You Back."
A Florida judge dismissed a $250,000 copyright infringement suit against Harry Casey (KC of KC & the Sunshine Band) and others on Thursday (March 21), saying the former Sunshine Band member who filed the suit had never filed his copyrights.
Congratulations to Lenny Welch, who received an honorary diploma from Asbury Park High School in Asbury Park, New Jersey Friday (March 22)-- the school from which he dropped out in 1956 at the age of 17. At the age of 45, Lenny went back to school and earned his GED, then continued to get a BA in college. He recently spoke at his old school, relating the hardships he endured and overcame. The school then promised to get him the diploma he missed.
The Library of Congress announced 25 more recoring that will be added to its National Recording Registry Thursday (March 21). They range from 1918 to 1980 and include Chubby Checker's "The Twist," the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack, Pink Floyd's "Dark Side Of The Moon" album, "Cheap Thrills" from Big Brother & the Holding Company (with Janis Joplin), the Ramones first album and "Sound Of Silence" from Simon & Garfunkel. The additions bring to 375 the number of recordings restored in the historic archive.
Floyd "Buddy" McRae, second tenor and last surviving member of the Chords of "Sh-Boom" fame, died Tuesday (March 19) at a nursing center in the Bronx. Recorded for Atlantic Records' Cat label, the song (written by all the members and originally a B-side of a cover of Patti Page's "Cross Over The Bridge") made them the first R&B group to make the pop top ten (#9 in 1954, #3 R&B). Forced to change their name for legal reasons to the Chordcats and later the Sh-Booms, the group never had another chart hit and disbanded in the early '60s. The Bronx named a street near where they formed "Chords Way" last year in their honor. They were inducted into the United in Group Harmony Association Hall of Fame in 1996.
Sam Steward, Jr., bass singer with the Ideals, died March 12 in Chicago from a heart attack. The group is well-remember for the cult classic, "The Gorilla" which, though it didn't chart nationally, was a top 20 tune in the Windy City.
Robert (Bobby) Smith, one of the lead singers for the Spinners, died Saturday (March 16) at the age of 76 of complications from pneumonia and influenza. He had also been diagnosed with lung cancer last November. A Detroit native, Bobby joined the group there almost immediately after its formation as the Domingoes in 1954. Discovered and signed by Harvey Fuqua in 1960 to his Tri-Phi label, their first record, "That's What Girls Are Made For" (with Bobby on lead) reached #27 on the pop charts the next year. It was Bobby who named the group after flashy Cadillac hubcaps they called "spinners." In 1964, Tri-Phi merged with Motown and the Spinners joined that label, where their biggest hit was "It's A Shame" (#14-1970). It was with Atlantic Records (and producer Thom Bell), starting in 1972, that the group achieved superstardom. They had seven top ten records from 1972-1980, including "Then Came You" with Dionne Warwick (#1-1974), "Working My Way Back To You/Forgive Me Girl" (#2-1980), "I'll Be Around" (#3-1972) and "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love" (#4-1973). Even as the hits (30 in all) dried up, Bobby continued as the voice of the Spinners through his final performance last month (despite his cancer setback). With his death, Henry Fambrough remains the last surviving original member. The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999 and were nominated for the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.
Berklee College of Music in Boston will bestow honorary Doctorate degrees to Carole King, Willie Nelson and Annie Lennox of the Eurhythmics at their annual commencement May 11.
Carney Wilson, member of Wilson Phillips and daughter of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, announced Thursday (March 14) that she has been diagnosed with Bell's Palsy, which paralyzes nerves on one side of the face. Tweeting to her followers, the 44 year-old said, "Just wanted you all 2 know that I have Bell's Palsy on lf side of face right now. Scary, unfortunate, but it goes away. A challenge!" Carnie said she is successfully undergoing acupuncture treatment for the disorder.
Producers announced Friday (March 15) that "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" will open on Broadway next Spring. The show, which tells the story of her rise to fame, will feature songs she wrote with former husband Gerry Goffin, as well as those by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.
Jack Greene, who had five #1 country hits and crossed over to the pop charts with "There Goes My Everything" (#65-1967), died Thursday of complications from Alzheimer's Disease at his Nashville home. He was 83. Englebert Humperdinck covered "Everything" and had a top twenty pop hit with it. Jack's country classics include "All the Time," "You Are My Treasure," "Until My Dreams Come True," "What Locks the Door" and "Statue of a Fool."
There are very few details available, but it's been reported that Sammy (Lawmaster) Masters, who made it to #64 in 1960 with "Rockin' Red Wing", died on Friday March 8. the Sasakawa, Oklahoma native was 82.
It was announced Tuesday (March 12) that Bob Dylan has been selected for the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is the first rock star to be chosen among the best in music, literature and visual arts by the society, founded in 1898. Memembership is limited to only 250 and new members are added only upon the passing of an old one. While Bob did accept the membership, it's unknown whether he will attended the April dinner or May induction.
Peter (Brockbanks) Banks, original guitarist with Yes, was found dead at his London home Friday (March 8). He was 65. Peter (who actually named the group) left Yes over creative differences with their first album in 1970, replaced by Steve Howe. He went on to form Flash, who reached #29 in 1972 with "Small Beginnings."
Get well wishes to Jimy Sohns of the Shadows of Knight, who underwent successful surgery for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (left arm) Monday (March 11) in Chicago.
Our condolences go out to Tony Orlando, whose mother, Ruth died Wednesday (March 6) in a branson, Missouri hospital. The 87 year-old will be buried in Hackensack, New Jersey.
Rick Springfield was arrested at his suburban Los Angeles home Friday (March 8) for unknowingly failing to appear in court February 13 pertaining to to last year's DUI charge. His wife brought sheriffs the necessary paperwork to show he had pleaded "no contest" to the charge last August and had completed the required education program and he was released without being booked. He was even able to make a scheduled appearance that night in Porterville, California.
Tina Turner is on the cover of the April issue of the German version of Vogue. It's the first-ever appearance on the magazine by the 73 year-old and makes her the oldest model to ever grace the cover.
Country crossover star Claude King, best-remembered for his #6 pop hit, "Wolverton Mountain" in 1962, was found dead at his Shreveport, Louisiana home Thursday morning (March 7) . He was 90. Like fellow singer Jim Reeves, Claude was offered a baseball scholarship before settling in on a singing career with the "Louisiana Hayride" radio and TV programs out of Shreveport in the '50s. However, it wasn't until 1961 that he received a contract with Columbia Records. "Big River, Big Man" was the first of 30 country hits (it climbed to #7 country) and also managed to come in at #82 on the pop charts. It was followed by "The Commancheros" (#71-1961) before Claude recorded his biggest hit "Wolverton Mountain." Co-written with Merle Kilgore, it was inspired by an actual location in Arkansas and the real Clifton Clowers, who died in 1994 at age 102. The follow-up, "The Burning Of Atlanta," made #53 pop in 1962. Though his final country appearance was in 1977, Claude also worked as an actor, including the 1982CBS-TV mini-series, "The Blue And The Gray."
Traditional jazz trumpeter Kenny Ball died Thursday (March 7) from pneumonia at the age of 82. The Ilford, Essex, England musician is best remember for the #2 hit, "Midnight In Moscow" in 1962. He was named an honorary citizen of New Orleans in 1963 and played at the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
Alvin Lee, guitarist and lead singer with Ten Years after, died Wednesday (March 6) of complications following what was called "routine surgery". He was 68. Formed in Nottingham, England in 1962 as the Jaybirds, The group eventually moved to London and changed its name to Ten Years After in 1966- ten years after the rise of Elvis Presley. An appearance at the Windsor Jazz Festival led to a contract with Deram Records. Primarily an album group (they scored eight top 40 albums in the UK), TYA had a top ten hit single in Britain with "Love Like A Man" in 1970. Their only top 40 single in the US (of four charted records) was "I'd Love To Change The World" (#40-1971). The group, however, toured the US 28 times in seven years, largely on the success of their appearance at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 and the subsequent film. Alvin left Ten Years After in 1973, though he returned at various times over the years. He played on sessions for many seminal rock acts who had influenced him, such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Bo Diddley. He also performed in his own Alvin Lee & Company band.
Jewel Akens, best remembered for his top three hit, "The Birds And The Bees" from 1965, died Friday (March 1) in a Los Angeles hospital of complications from back surgery at the age of 79. Born in Houston in 1933, Jewel (his mother had expected a girl) and his family moved to Los Angeles, where he formed a group called the Four Dots in 1959, connecting with Eddie Cochran's manager, Jerry Capeheart and recording for Freedom and Liberty Records (with Eddie playing guitar). A year later he joined with Eddie Daniels as a duo and also as the Astro-Jets. Next, he recorded for Era Records in the Turnarounds where the label decided to have him record "The Birds And The Bees" solo. Unfortunately, its follow-up, "Georgie Porgie," only got to #65 in 1965 and "It's The Only Way To Fly" stumbled at #120 that year. Subsequent recordings on Paula and Colgems failed as well, but he continued to perform for the rest of his life.
Bobby Rogers, tenor singer and founding member of the Miracles, was found dead at his suburban Detroit home Sunday (March 3) after what was termed a "long illness". He was 73. Born a hour apart in the same Detroit hospital as later friend Smokey Robinson, the two collaborated on writing such Motown hits as the Miracles' "Goin' To A Go-Go" and the Temptations' "The Way You Do The Things You Do." Bobby and Smokey initially came together as the Matadors (an offshoot of Smokey's group, the Five Chimes), before attracting the attention of Berry Gordy, Jr., who signed them in 1958. After an initial release leased to Chess Records (they reached #93 with a tune called "Bad Girl") Berry formed Tamla Records. That was the beginning of the Motown empire. Though their initial recording-- an answer record to the Silhouettes' "Get A Job" called "Got a Job"-- didn't chart, the Miracles paid huge dividends when "Shop Around" reached #2 on the charts in 1961 and sold a million copies. While their next seven singles failed to crack the pop top 30, "You've Really Got A Hold On Me" (#8-1963) and "Mickey's Monkey" (#8-1963) opened the floodgates for 29 top 40 hits and eight top ten tunes, including "The Tears Of A Clown" (#1-1970), "Love Machine" (#1-1975), "I Second That Emotion" (#4-1967) and "Baby, Baby Don't Cry"( #8-1969). Throughout various changes, including the departure of Smokey in 1973 and a switch to Columbia Records in 1977, Bobby was the glue that held each incarnation of the Miracles together. He was married to Wanda Young of the Marvelettes from 1963 to 1975. Though Smokey was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame without the Miracles in 1987, the oversight was rectified in 2012 where the others were inducted, as well. The Miracles were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2009 and enshrined in the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001.
Former Kiss drummer Peter Criss, himself a breast cancer survivor, will receive the Humanitarian of the Year award from the American Cancer Society March 9 in Freehold, New Jersey.
Motown's corps of thirteen backup musicians known as the "Funk Brothers" will receive their collective star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Thursday, March 21.
Producer Phil Ramone was hospitalized in New York Thursday (February 28) in critical condition with an aortic aneurism (a life-threatening expansion of the heart's aorta). The 72 year-old has worked with everyone from Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Lesley Gore, Carly Simon, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder to Ray Charles. He has been nominated 33 times for Grammy awards and won 14 times. However, reports are hopeful that he will soon be out of ICU.
Virgil Johnson, lead singer with the Velvets on their classic 1961 #26 hit, "Tonight (Could Be The Night)," died Sunday (February 24) at a hospital in Lubbock, Texas. The Cameron, Texas native was 77. It was Roy Orbison who brought the group to the attention of his label, Monument Records. In fact, their second and last charted record, Laugh" (#90-1961), was written by Roy. But unlike the "Big O," fame was fleeting for the Velvets and soon Virgil (who had earned degrees in education, counseling and school administration) became a teacher, administrator and even athletic director at various Lubbock schools. His students were never aware of his early singing success. It was only after his retirement from academia in 1993 that his story was told. He once again did some performing and even did a show for radio station KDAV in Lubbock.
The "General Hospital" TV soap opera is 50 years old April 1. And, as part of the celebration, Rick Springfield will be returning to the show as Dr. Noah Drake. He appeared in 1981-83 and 2005-08 as well as last March in the role. His son, Liam Springthorpe will also appear on the soap as an undercover cop.
Damon Harris, Temptations member from 1971 to 1975 on "Superstar" (#18-1971), "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" (#1-1972) and "Masterpiece" (#7-1973), died Monday (February 18) from prostate cancer, at the age of 61. Damon joined the Temps at the age of 20 as the second replacement for Eddie Kendricks. He later went on to form the groups Impact and The Young Temps (Young Vandals).
And Richard Street, who replaced Paul Williams in the Temptations in mid-1971, passed away from a pulmonary embolism Wednesday (February 27) The Detroit native was 70. Richard sang on those same hits-- "Superstar" (#18-1971), "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" (#1-1972) and "Masterpiece" (#7-1973) as Damon. He had sung in an early predecessor to the Temps with Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin (who was his cousin), worked in quality control for Motown Records, then joined the Monitors-- who charted with "Greetings (This is Uncle Sam)" (#100-1966). Richard famously sang Paul Williams' parts offstage in concert while Paul was too ill to sing. Richard stayed with the group until 1993 when he left after being criticized for missing concerts after having kidney stones removed. He was married to Velvelettes lead singer Carolyn "Cal" Gill from 1969 to 1983.
Ace Frehley's bank filed for foreclosure on his Yorktown, New York home February 15, claiming the former Kiss guitarist owes over $700,000 on the home. They say Ace hasn't made payment (or paid the taxes) for two years. Ace, who is 61, left the group in 2002.
And Wayne Newton's 38-acre property near Las Vegas went on the market Friday (February 22) as part of a bankruptcy proceeding against the company formed to turn Casa de Shenandoah into a Graceland-like tourist attraction. Wayne has appealed the auction, set for May 31.
Cleotha "Cleedi" Staples, oldest sister of the Staple Singers clan, succumbed to Alzheimer's Disease at her Chicago home Thursday (February 21). She was 78. Formed in 1948 in a south side Chicago church as a gospel group by Roebuck "Pops" Staples, the quintet of Pops, Cleedi, Mavis, Yvonne and Pervis began recording sacred music in 1953 but much later were signed by Stax Records in Memphis, where they amassed eight top 40 pop hits, including "I'll Take You There" (#1-1972), "Let's Do It Again" (#1-1975) "Respect Yourself" (#12-1971) and "If You're Ready Come Go With Me" (#9-1973). The family was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 and received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy award in 2005.
Lyricist Diane Lampert, who co-wrote the Brenda Lee hit, "Break It To Me Gently" and Tommy Sands' "The Worrying Kind," died of heart failure Friday (February 22) in a Manhattan hospital at the age of 88. She also wrote the themes for such movies as "I'll Take Sweden," "A Touch Of "Pink" and "Silent Running."
The Songwriters Hall of Fame announced its 2013 class of inductees, to be honored June 13 in New York. They are Tony Hatch ("Downtown"), Steven Tyler & Joe Perry of Aerosmith ("Walk This Way"), former Eagle J.D. Souther ("Best Of My Love"), Mick Jones & Lou Gramm of Foreigner ("I Want To Know What Love Is") and Holly Knight ("Love Is A Battlefield").
Steven Tyler and Joe Perry will also receive the Founders Award from the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP) April 17 in Los Angeles.
Former Rolling Stone Mick Taylor has cancelled his April Australian tour on the advice of doctors. Dates in Scotland are also on hold. The source of his "ill health" has not been disclosed. The announcement was made Saturday (February 23) on his Web site.
Congratulations to Jackie DeShannon who will receive the Governor's Award For Lifetime Achievement at the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum 2013 Induction Ceremony April 12 in Lexington. Exile, Skeeter Davis and the Hilltoppers will be among those inducted that evening.
The late Mitch Miller and Lou Gramm of Foreigner will be inducted into the Rochester (New York) Music Hall of Fame April 28.
A Los Angeles judge Friday (February 22) granted Jermaine Jackson's name-change request to "Jacksun." The Jackson 5 singer said the change was for artistic reasons and not representative of any estrangement with his family.
Tony Sheridan, who sang on early tunes with the Beatles in Germany, died there Saturday (February 16) at the age of 72. He had been hospitalized for the past month. Born in Norwich, England in 1940, he formed a skiffle group in Soho in the late '50s and played guitar as a studio and stage musician in London for artists like Conway Twitty and Gene Vincent. Moving to Hamburg, Germany in 1960, he eventually paired up with a Liverpool group called the Beatles, which led to a German recording contract with producer Bert Kaempfert as "Tony Sheridan & the Beat Brothers." It was a request for "My Bonnie" from that June, 1961 session at his Liverpool record shop that convinced future Beatles manager Brian Epstein to check out the group, who had by then returned to England. The recordings eventually were released in America on MGM Records when Beatlemania hit. "My Bonnie" reached #26 in 1964, while "Why" made it to #88 that year. The biggest of these tunes was "Ain't She Sweet" with John and Paul-- not Tony-- singing lead. That single got to #19 here in 1964. Tony stayed in Hamburg and continued playing and recording-- though he adapted more to jazz and blues. Then-Beatles drummer Pete Best wrote on his Twitter account, "Great guy and great memories. I will miss you Tony. RIP."
Writer and producer George "Shadow" Morton died of cancer Thursday (February 14) in Laguna Beach, California at the age of 72. The Brooklyn native became friends with songwriter Ellie Greenwich and her husband, Jeff Barry challenged Shadow's assertion that he was also a songwriter, asking to see some of his writing. In one of the greatest bluffs in music history, Shadow (nicknamed that because he was nowhere to be found when someone wanted him) wrote "Remember (Walking In The Sand)" overnight. It was cleaned up and recorded with the Shangri-Las, who were then signed to Red Bird Records. Shadow wrote and produced many more hits for the girls, including "Leader Of The Pack" (it's said he drove his own motorcycle into the studio for authentic sound effects), "Give Him A Great Big Kiss" and "I Can Never Go Home Anymore." He also produced such hits as "Society's Child" for Janis Ian, Vanilla Fudge's version of "You Keep Me Hanging On" and reportedly Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida." He also worked with Mott the Hoople and the New York Dolls. Shadow was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006.
Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington was admitted to a Jackson, Wyoming hospital Thursday (February 14) to undergo tests for an abdominal infection. The group has cancelled weekend shows in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Chubby Checker filed suit Tuesday (February 12) in Florida against the Hewlett-Packard Corporation, claiming they offered a smartphone app bearing his name that was designed to estimate a man's penis size. Said Chubby's lawyers, "The 'app' adversely affects Chubby Checker's brand and value and if allowed to continue, will cause serious damage to the Plaintiff's goodwill and will tarnish his image that he has worked to maintain over the last 50 years." H-P says the 99-cent app was deleted last September and was only downloaded 84 times. The suit is asking for millions in damages.
Steve Knight, keyboardist with Mountain on their hit, "Mississippi Queen" (#21-1970) died January 19 in New York at the age of 77. Knight was born in Woodstock, New York, played with Mountain at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 (which he called the "glitziest, ultimately most meaningless" period of his career) and served as a Woodstock councilman from 2000 to 2007.
It's been learned that Bobby Sharp, writer of the tune, "Unchain My Heart," died January 29 at the age of 88. Bobby wrote the song in 1960, selling it for $50 to buy drugs. He later turned his life around, became a drug counselor and fought for seven years to obtain royalties. When the copyright ran out in 1988, he regained ownership of the song. Bobby worked in a mental health center in San Francisco until his retirement that same year.
Rick Huxley, bassist with the Dave Clark Five, died Monday (February 11) at his home in rural England. The Dartford native was 72. Though he had suffered from emphysema, he was described as being in good health and no cause of death was given. Formed in Tottingham in 1957, Rick joined the group (originally as a guitarist) the following year and played on 27 charted American records, including "Over And Over" (#1-1965), "Because" (#3-1964), "Bits And Pieces" (#4-1964) and "Catch Us If You Can" (#4-1965). The quintet made 18 appearances on the "Ed Sullivan Show" and appeared in their own movie, "Catch Us If You Can" (AKA "Having A Wild Weekend") in 1965. Two years after their last American hit they disbanded in 1970. Rick worked in real estate in later years. The Dave Clark Five was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 2008. Said Dave, "He always made me smile and I'll miss that immensely. He was never arrogant and flashy. He was a gentleman and very low key. He was a very, very talented musician and a great friend." Rick's death leaves Dave and guitarist Lenny Davidson as the last remaining members.
The 55th annual Grammy Awards were given out in Los Angeles Sunday night (February 10). Congratulations to the Oldies artists who were winners: Paul McCartney (Best traditional Pop Vocal Album), the Beach Boys (Best Historical Album), Dr. John (Best Blues Album), Janis Ian (Best Spoken Word Album for her autobiography), the late Ravi Shankar (Best World Music Album) Jimmy Cliff (Best Reggae album) and Billy Vera (liner notes for a Ray Charles compilation).
The NAACP will give Harry Belafonte its Spingarm Medal February 15 at their annual board meeting in New York. The honor is given to salute "outstanding and noble" achievement by African-Americans.
Jazz trumpeter Donaldson "Donald" Byrd, who charted with "Black Byrd" (#88) in 1973 and also "Think Twice" (#104) in 1975, died Monday (February 4). No cause of death was disclosed for the Detroit native, who was 80. A one-time member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, he is best-known in pop circles for forming the Blackbyrds while teaching jazz at Howard University in Washington, DC in the early '70s. The group reached the charts nine times from 1974 to 1978, most notably with "Walking In Rhythm" (#6-1975).
It's been learned that Spanky & Our Gang vocalist and bassist Kenny Hodges died of viral pneumonia January 29 at a hospital in Papillion, Nebraska. He was 76. Both Kenny and his wife were hospitalized with the disease though his wife is now recovering at home. The sextet charted nine times from 1967 to 1969, including the top ten hit, "Sunday Will Never Be The same" (#9-1967).
Mitch Ryder and his wife suffered minor injuries in an auto accident Saturday night (February 2) near their South Lyon, Michigan home. A suspected drunk driver swerved into their lane and rammed Ryder's car. His wife was hospitalized for a day and released. Mitch himself played at a friend's birthday party Sunday night.
Ethel "Darlene" McCrae, member of the Cookies and Ray Charles' Raelettes and backup singer for the likes of Neil Sedaka, Little Eva and LaVern Baker, died Monday (February 4) of cancer. Originally formed by Darlene, her cousin Beulah Robertson and Dorothy Jones in 1954, the girls were discovered singing at a talent show at the Apollo Theater in Harlem by manager Jess Stone. After one song on Lamp Records, they were signed by Atlantic, where they backed up many of the label's acts. Ray Charles lured Darlene and Beulah's replacement-- Margie Hendrix-- to join him permanently as the Raelettes. Darlene stayed with the Raelettes until 1967, when she rejoined the re-formed Cookies. So, while she sang on many hit records, Darlene missed all the charted records by both the Cookies and the Raelettes on their own, and her solo releases-- such as "My Heart's Not In It" on Tower Records and "You Made A Fool Of Me" on Roulette-- didn't chart either.
Reg Presley, lead singer with the Troggs, lost his battle with lung cancer Monday (February 3) at the age of 71. He had retired slightly more than a year ago to fight the disease. Born Reginald Ball in Andover, Hampshire, England in 1941, he formed the group with guitarist Chris Britton, bassist Pete Staples and drummer Ronnie Bullis in 1964 and signed a year later with Kinks manager Larry Page. After releasing their first, unsuccessful, single on CBS Records, the Troggs (short for "troglodyte") settled in with Fontana Records in 1966-- specifically a song written by Chip Taylor (brother of actor John Voight) called "Wild Thing." It proved to be an immediate #2 hit in the UK and was released in the US on Atco Records, where it reached #1. It's flip side, "With A Girl Like You," also charted at #29 in the US. However, Fontana Records was being distributed in America by Mercury and they released the song as well, with a different B-side. Sales of both releases were combined for charting purposes and Fontana won the US rights in a late 1966 settlement. While "Love Is All Around" reached #7 in 1968, that was the only other top 40 single for the group though they notched eight such hits in the UK. Despite Reg's death, the group (under remaining original member Chris Britton) continues touring.
Patty Andrews, lead singer of the singing Andrews Sisters died Wednesday (January 30) at home in Northridge, California at the age of 94. Along with sisters LaVerne and Maxine, they amassed 53 chart hits between 1940 and 1951 with 15 more backing Bing Crosby. Patty also charted solo with her version of "Suddenly There's A Valley" (#69) in 1955. She is the last surviving sister.
The U.S. Postal Service announced Tuesday (January 29) that they will issue a stamp honoring Johnny Cash later this year. No release date was announced, nor were the other two honorees in the "Music Icons" series.
Jim Nabors-- the "Gomer Pyle" TV Star who had many hit albums in the '60s-- married his gay partner January 15 in a ceremony in Seattle, Washington. The 82 year-old has never acknowledged his homosexuality to the media before but says he's been open to friends about it. He has known his partner for 38 years. He will not, however, become involved in the controversy over gay marriage saying, "I'm not a debater. And everybody has their own opinion about this and actually I'm not an activist so I've never gotten involved in any of this."
Leroy "Sugar" Bonner, guitarist and lead vocalist with the Ohio Players, passed away Saturday (January 26) at his home near Dayton, Ohio. An unconfirmed report said the 70 year-old was suffering from cancer. The group originally formed in Dayton in 1959 as the Ohio Untouchables and backed up the Falcons at one point in Detroit. They broke up and re-formed in 1963 (changing their name), which is when Leroy joined them. This time they served as the house band for Compass Records, but their only success on their own there was "Tresspassin'" (#50 R&B-1968). Breaking up and re-forming again in 1970 led to a contract with Westbound Records, where they charted with "Pain" (#64-Pop, #35 R&B) in 1972. It was "Funky Worm" (#15-Pop, #1-R&B) the following year though, that was their breakthrough tune. And when the the group moved to Mercury Records in 1974, they hit with six more top 40 pop hits and 16 more on the R&B charts, including "Fire" (#1-Pop and R&B-1975), "Love Rollercoaster" (#1 Pop and R&B-1976) and Skin Tight (#13-Pop, #2 R&B-1974). Leroy continued with the group until his death, except for a short hiatus in the '80s. (Though he was also known as "Sugarfoot," he stated in an interview that he prefered the nickname "Sugar.")
Congratulations to José Feliciano, who will be part of the inaugural class of inductees into the new Latino Songwriters Hall of Fame. Induction will take place April 23 in Miami Beach.
Tina Turner has been granted Swiss citizenship, according to an official notice by the the Kuesnacht city council Friday (January 25). The move still requires approval by state and federal officials but, if granted would mean that the Nutbush, Tennessee native will renounce her American citizenship. She has lived in the Zurich suburb since the mid '90s. Said Tina, "I'm very happy in Switzerland and I feel at home here... I cannot imagine a better place to live."
Barry Manilow was forced to cancel the opening night of his Broadway show Tuesday (January 22) as well as all shows through January 29, because of a bronchial infection. He apparently wasn't sick enough though, to attend the unveiling that day of "Barry Manilow Way" in New York at the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 44th Street.
Bobby Engemann, longtime member of the Lettermen, died Sunday (January 20) in Provo, Utah of complications from heart bypass surgery December 13. The Highland Park, Michigan native was 78. Bobby joined Jim Pike and Tony Butala in the Lettermen in 1959 while a student at Brigham Young University. He had previously sung in a trio called the Damons with his sister and brother. Moving to Los Angeles, the trio secured a contract with Warner Brothers records through the efforts of that brother-- Karl-- who was now an engineer with the label. Using the name of an earlier group that Tony had sung with, they released two singles to no success and moved on to Capitol records the following year. Their first Capitol single, "The Way You Look Tonight," reached #13 Pop (#3 on the Middle-of-the-Road chart) and was quickly followed by "When I Fall In Love" (#7 Pop, #1 MOR - 1962). Though they would only have one other top ten Pop hit six years later ("Goin' Out Of My Head/Can't Take My Eyes Off You" topped at #7 Pop, #2 MOR in 1967), the Lettermen's smooth harmonies allowed them to reach the Hot 100 thirty-one times (sixteen top ten Adult Contemporary hits), with thirty-four charted albums. Bobby however, left the group in 1967 (replaced by Jim's brother, Gary) to spend more time with his family and sold his interest in the group to the other two members. He joined the development staff at BYU but recorded and performed again after his children grew up. Declining health finally forced him to retire for good in 1997. The Lettermen were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of fame in 2001.
The Eagles' Timothy B. Schmitt reports he is recovering nicely from his November 18 surgery in New York for throat and neck cancer. Though it was considered major surgery, he was only hospitalized for three days and returned to the west coast within a week. "The brief synopsis is: I discovered a problem and took care of it, simple as that," the 65 year-old said on his Web site.
Sam Pace, tenor singer with Milwaukee's Esquires, died Monday (January 14) after what was described as a long illness. The Kansas City native was 68. Sam joined the group in 1961, four years after it was formed. After touring throughout the Midwest for years, it was finally in 1967 they had a hit with "Get On Up" (#11 Pop, #3 R&B) on Bunky Records (distributed by Scepter) as part of the "Chicago sound" of soul music. It was followed by "And Get Away" (#22 Pop, #9 R&B-1967) and three other songs on Bunky and Wand that failed to crack the top 90 on the pop charts, though they did return to the top 20 on the R&B charts in 1971 with "Girls In The City" (#120 Pop, #18 R&B) on Lemarr Records. A re-make of "Get On Up '76" (#62 R&B) marked the end of their recording career that year, but the Esquires kept on performing into the late 2000's. Bass singer Millard Edwards is now the only surviving member of the group.
Jimmy O'Neill, Los Angeles DJ and host of ABC-TV's "Shindig" program from 1964 to 1966, died Friday (January 11). He had just turned 72 and had suffered from diabetes and heart trouble. Jimmy was married in the early '60s to songwriter Sharon Sheeley (ex-girlfriend of Eddie Cochran, who was injured in Eddie's fatal car crash). He was even parodied as "Jimmy O'Neillstone" on "The Flintstones" program on ABC-TV.
Stevie Wonder, tax deadbeat? Sort of. Stevie was slapped with two tax liens by the state of California on December 10 for a total of-- $40. Plus $98 in interest.
John Wilkinson, rhythm guitarist with Elvis Presley from 1968 until the King's death, lost his battle with cancer Friday (January 11) at his home in Springfield, Missouri. He was 67. As part of the TCB Band, John played over 1,200 shows with Elvis. He started out as a singer and guitarist with the new Christy Minstels before Elvis saw him on a TV show and asked him to join his tour. The two, however, had met when John was only ten and had snuck backstage at one of the King's shows in Springfield. A statement from Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley said, "John and the beautiful music he made with Elvis will live forever in our hearts."
And Frank Page, longtime announcer on the "Louisiana Hayride" radio and TV programs, who first introduced the world to Elvis, died from a severe respiratory infection at a hospital in Shreveport Wednesday (January 9) at the age of 87. He worked at radio station KWKH in Shreveport for 65 years before retiring in 2005 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Louisiana Broadcasters Association.
Though Elton John issued a statement January 10 denying reports that he and his partner had expanded their family, son Elijah was born the next day.
Congratulations to Walter Murphy, who was nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar Thursday (January 10) for "Everybody Needs A Best Friend" from the movie, "Ted." The Academy Awards will be announced February 24.
Sammy Johns, remembered for his 1975 hit, "Chevy Van" (#5), died Friday (January 4) of unnamed causes at a hospital in Gastonia, North Carolina at the age of 66. Born in Charlotte, Sammy grew up in Gaston County, North Carolina and performed and recorded with his own group-- the Devilles-- while still in high school. After high school, he moved to Atlanta and secured a contract with General Recording Corporation (GRC Records). His first single, "Early Morning Love," reached #68 in 1974. It was followed by "Chevy Van," which actually had been recorded in 1973. Sammy said it was about a compilation of events, not a real incident, but the story of a hitchhiking beauty "making love in my Chevy van" struck a nerve with the record-buying public (so much so, that a 1988 re-make by Sammy reached #80 on the country charts). His follow-up, "Rag Doll" only reached #52 in 1975 and a move to Warner/Curb Records (because of GRC's financial troubles) yielded little success- no doubt due to his public battles with alcohol, drugs and divorce. He continued writing, however, penning Waylon Jennings' "America" and "Common Man" for John Conlee.
Tandyn Almer, who co-wrote the Association hit "Along Comes Mary", and the Beach Boys' "Sail On Sailor" with Brian Wilson, died Tuesday (January 8) from complications of respiratory and cardiac illnesses at his home in McLean, Virginia. He was 70.
"The Singing Rage, Miss Patti Page" died Tuesday (January 1) at a nursing home in Encitas, California. She was 85. Born Clara Ann Fowler in Muskogee, Oklahoma and raised in Tulsa, she took over the role of "Patti Page" on the Page Milk Company radio program on KTUL there in 1946. The next year she signed with Mercury Records, amassing 82 chart hits from 1948 to 1968, including the #1 tunes, "All My Love" (1950), "Tennessee Waltz" (1950), "I Went To Your Wedding" (1952) and "Doggie In The Window" (1953). She was a pioneer in the use of overdubbing vocals and was once billed as the "Patti Page Quartet" on a label. Even into the "rock era," she continued to chart, with tunes like "Allegheny Moon" (#2-1956) and "Old Cape Cod" (#3-1957). Patti had her own TV shows for all three networks at various times in the '50s and appeared in the movies "Elmer Gantry," "Dondi" and "Boys' Night Out." Her autobiography, "This Is My Song," was published in 2009.
Congratulations to the newest inductees to be added to the Hit Parade Hall of Fame: Hall & Oates, Sly & the Family Stone, Gordon Lightfoot, Santana, Jan & Dean, Tommy Roe, the Lettermen, Ronnie Milsap, Bill Withers, the Commodores and Ray Stevens. This year's nominees will be named in February.
Bobby Womack has announced that he is in the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease. He made the announcement in a British Broadcasting Corporation interview Saturday (December 29). The 68 year-old says, "It's not bad yet, but it's gonna get worse." He has already forgotten the words to his own songs and the names of his backup musicians onstage.
England's Queen Elizabeth II announced her list of New Years honors and they include singer Kate Bush (who will be named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire). Surpringly, Sir Paul McCartney's daughter, Stella McCartney will receive an OBE-- Officer of the British Empire-- for designing the country's Olympic uniforms.
Terminals at England's Birmingham International Airport will soon be re-named after local "heroes" and the council there has put forth the name of Ozzy Ozbourne. One councilman said he is open to naming the entire airport after Ozzy, who was born in Aston there.
Fontella Bass, who recorded the #4 pop hit, "Rescue Me" (#1 R&B) in 1965, died Wednesday (December 26) from complications of a heart attack at a St. Louis hospital. She was 72. Fontella had suffered the heart attack December 2. A St. Louis native, Fontella had sung with the Clara Ward's gospel singers (of which her mother was a member) while still a child. As a teen she began to sing in clubs and came to the attention of promoter Oliver Sain, who hired her to accompany blues singer Little Milton. When Milton couldn't perform one night, Fontella filled in and became a regular singer with Oliver's revue. Upon moving to Chicago in 1965, she auditioned for Chess Records, where she was initially paired with Bobby McClure. "Don't Mess Up A Good Thing" reached #33 pop and #5 R&B that year. It was the first of eight chart records on Chess' Checker label, the last six of which were solo. Other hits included "Recovery" (#37 pop, #13 R&B in 1966) and "I Surrender" (#78 pop, #33 R&B in 1966). Disillusioned with the music business (she fought for years to be given songwriting credit on "Rescue Me"), she and her husband-- trumpet player Lester Bowie-- moved to Paris where she recorded two albums with the Art Ensemble of Chicago but semi-retired in 1972. She sued American Express in 1990 over the use of "Rescue Me" in a television commercial and settled for $50,000. Her brother is R&B singer David Peaston.
Marva Whitney, who recorded the answer to the Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing" called "It's My Thing (You Can't Tell Me Who To Sock It To)" (#82-1969) and "Things Got To Get Better (Get Together)" (#110-1969), died Saturday (December 22) of complications of pneumonia at the age of 68. Marva, who toured with the James Brown Revue, was dubbed "Soul Sister #1" by James, who also also produced her records.
Jimmy McCracklin, best known for his 1958 hit, "The Walk" (#7 pop, #5 R&B), died Thursday (December 20) at a health facility in San Pablo, California after battling illnesses like diabetes and hypertension for years. Though he often disputed it, he was 91. Born in Helena, Arkansas as James Walker, he grew up in St. Louis. Serving in the Navy during World War II, he then returned home to box professionally while singing and playing blues harmonica on the side. Moving to Oakland in 1947, he worked at his sister-in-law's bar there, forming a band called the Blues Blasters in 1949. Recording for over a decade with little success for labels like Globe and Modern, he and his band (billed simply as "his band") recorded "The Walk" for Checker Records while working in Chicago (with distinctive guitar riffs from Lafayette "Thing" Thomas). Despite some success on the R&B charts, it was four more years before he reached the pop charts again, with "Just Got To Know" for his own Art-tone Records(#64 pop, #2 R&B in 1962). Joining the Imperial label, he reached the bottom ten of the pop charts three times in 1965 at which time his legacy was already established as a blues great. Perhaps his biggest hit was a song he wrote with Lowell Fulson and later a hit for Carla Thomas & Otis Redding and even later for Salt-n-Pepa- "Tramp." He was given the Pioneer Award by the Rhythm & Blues Foundation in 1990.
Lee Dorman, bassist with Iron Butterfly, was found dead in his car in Orange County, California Friday morning (December 21), according to police. A coroner's inquest the following day ruled he died of natural causes. Lee was 70 and had suffered from heart problems, which led to his retirement from music. There is even speculation he might have been traveling to see his doctor when he died. Formed in 1966 in San Diego, the group only lasted five years, but will always be remembered for the 17-minute classic, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," title track from their second album (the first to feature Lee), which sold a reported 20 million copies. The highly-shortened single version reached #30 on the pop charts in 1968, then returned a year later, peaking at #68. A staple of album radio, Iron Butterfly did manage five other singles chart appearances (one with a reformed version of the group minus Lee in 1975), none getting any higher than #66. Lee eventually returned to various incarnations of the group, but without repeating their earlier success. After retiring from music, he moved to Laguna Nigel in Southern California, where he reportedly tended bar and led boat cruises.
Congratulations to Rolling Stones (and ex-Faces) guitarist Ronnie Wood, who married his girlfriend, Sally, Friday (December 21) in London. They have known each other for nine years. Ronnie is 65. His wife is 34. It's his third marriage, her first. Rod Stewart was Best Man and Keith Richards and Paul McCartney also showed up.
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