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Have You Heard the News...

Here are current stories about Oldies Artists in the News:

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.

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