Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Son of Beech! Sheet!

Category:  Obituary/Tribute

February has been incredibly unkind to actors.  Thus far the shortest month has hit the acting world with four major deaths.  Maximilian Schell, the Oscar-winning actor from Judgment At Nuremberg, died of pneumonia at age 83 on February 1.  Philip Seymour Hoffman, another Oscar-winner (Capote), died of a suspected heroin overdose at the age of 46 on February 2.  Shirley Temple Black, the world's most famous child actor, died February 10th of natural causes at age 85.  

Yesterday (2/25) Harold Ramis died.  

The others may have made more of a dramatic impression, but Harold Ramis was a movie maker of my generation, so I feel his loss more.  And he made me laugh.  Oh, did he make me laugh.  From his work on National Lampoon albums (the riotous "Prison Farm" on Gold Turkey) to his directing, writing and acting in some of the classic comedies of the 1980's and 90's, Ramis was, as much as any person in Hollywood, the man holding the feather that tickled millions of funny bones.

Ramis was one of the co-writers of the landmark comedy Animal House.  He starred in Stripes alongside longtime friend Bill Murray (a frequent star in films Ramis worked on as writer and/or director), the film about two buddies who join the Army together.  Ramis' Russell Ziskey has his trials as an English instructor to immigrants (one of the best lines in the entire movie occurs while the credits are still rolling:  when Russell asks if any of his students know even a little English, one man raises his hand and offers his knowledge of English:  "Son of bitch (pronounced beech)!  Shit (sheet)!"

From Ghostbusters to Groundhog Day to Analyze This, Ramis was busy working in front of the camera and behind it as director and writer.  His goal was to make people laugh, and he accomplished it admirably.

Harold Ramis died of a autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disorder that enlarges the veins in the body, which he had suffered from for four years.  He was 69.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Classes of 1986 and 2013

Category:  Observation

Last Friday (1/31) I went to Nashville for the second Friday in a row to see Webb Wilder.  He was doing an "unplugged" show with his longtime Beatnecks bassist Tom Comet at Puckett's.  After the show I mentioned to Tom about how remarkable "the class of 1986" was when it came to music.

There have rarely been years like 1986.  First, the established artists were churning out great album after great album.  Elvis Costello headed the year with two albums that rank among his all-time best, King of America and Blood and Chocolate.  (Either one would have sufficed as a masterpiece for the year.)  Richard Thompson released Daring Adventures.  R.E.M.'s Lifes Rich Pageant solidified their standing as one of the best bands in the U.S.  Talking Heads put out True Stories and scored their final top 40 hit with "Wild Wild Life."  And, Peter Gabriel finally broke through to superstar status with So.  

On top of that, the newcomers in 1986 were remarkable.  The best debut of the year was the BoDeans' Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams, followed closely by the eponymous first album by They Might Be Giants.  The Smithereens made their national, major-label debut (after a few local-label releases) with Especially For You.  Two neo-traditionalists highlighted country music's year:  Dwight Yoakam with Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc. and Randy Travis with Storms of Life.  And, of course, Webb Wilder's first album, It Came From Nashville, which is what spawned the subject to begin with.

Comet and I discussed the reason for why the mid-80's were so prolifically ripe with incredible music.  (Even the commercial music wasn't all bad then.)  We didn't come up with a plausible explanation before we said our farewells, but that chat has left me thinking about it, especially in light of 2013.

Much like 1986, the year in music from 2013 was head-spinning with the quality and quantity of good music.  (Unlike 1986, though, I cannot make the claim that there was valid commercial music -- well, not with a straight face, anyway.)  A quick look at 2013:  Jason Isbell's remarkable Southeastern, chronicling his liberation from alcoholism and other topics like cancer (you won't get through "Elephant" in the first listening) and staying at bad hotels ("Super 8," which is as funny as "Elephant" is dark), was far and away the album of the year.  It topped nearly every critical list, and those that did not have it at #1 had it in the top three.  Following that was Robbie Fulks' comeback-to-end-all-comeback albums, Gone Away Backward, where he returned to his bluegrass roots and showed that he is still the best songwriter in the world of alt-country, bar none.  Guy Clark, the poet laureate of Texas, put out My Favorite Picture of You, with a cover and a title song about his late wife, Susanna (who wrote "Easy From Now On" with Carlene Carter and painted the picture on the cover of Willie Nelson's Stardust album) that will tear at your heart.  Old friends Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris teamed up for their first "official" album together (Crowell was a member of Harris' "Hot Band" in the mid-70's), Old Yellow Moon.  The Wood Brothers released The Muse, Barbara Nesbitt self-released Almost Home, Holly Willams (whom I saw opening for Isbell in January), the granddaughter of Hank Williams, released The Highway, the exceptional Cheater's Game by Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison, Richard Thompson's Electric, The Ash and Clay by the Milk Carton Kids, an eponymous release from Pokey LaFarge, and Stories Don't End from Dawes.  And that's just the ones I got around to!

Going back to the question that Tom Comet and I left unanswered, what was it about the mid-80's -- and 2013 -- that brought out the best in artists?  There's no way of knowing for certain, but I do have a theory.

In the mid-80's, when you had acts like R.E.M., Marshall Crenshaw, Warren Zevon the Violent Femmes (the only act in history to have a platinum album without it ever making the Billboard "top 200" album chart), and Richard Thompson having well-known names even if their music wasn't top 40 material, there were outlets.  Major labels would sign non-commercial acts (the Femmes, Los Lobos, and the BoDeans were on a Warner Brothers subsidiary label -- Slash -- that was just for so-called "underground" music).  There were hundreds of FM stations on university campuses that eschewed the big name acts of the day like Bon Jovi and Prince in favor of acts like the Replacements (hence the term, "college rock").  And, maybe more importantly, MTV was in an era where it wasn't universally accepted (I didn't have MTV on my cable system until 1985) and it was focused more on music than whatever it is they do now (I think maybe they should call it EBMTV = Everything But Music Television).  They had shows such as 120 Minutes that focused solely on the college rock world.  Therefore, anyone who wanted to run away from Phil Collins' R&B cover du jour had lots of alternatives.  

Since there were outlets (and not all "commercial" FM stations had yet signed on to "play the same 302 songs by the same 47 acts" mentality referred to as the "superstars" format), there was no reason for an artist to not let his/her creative juices flow without fear of relegation to the cutout bin.  No, the Replacements weren't outselling Thriller, but the labels understood that the Replacements weren't supposed to outsell Thriller.  By the start of the 90's, however, rock and roll was overrun by the hairbands (bands that looked alike, sounded alike, dressed alike, and even had logos that looked alike) and country's neo-traditional movement was fading into an achy-breaky memory.  And, as record labels tend to do at least once every decade, there was a housecleaning -- and out went the "college rock" gang.

Fast forward to today.  Like the 80's there are countless outlets for music.  Let MTV play ridiculous "reality" shows that have as much to do with music as wallpaper, because artists have You Tube, MySpace, and their own web sites to issue videos.  The local FM station is a satellite feed with "Stairway to Heaven" played every hour on the hour, but that doesn't matter because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of radio stations on the Internet.  Independent labels flourish in today's market because they can easily reach their niche without having all of the issues that "major labels" did reaching their "college rock" audiences in the 80's.  Artists can self-release their own material (all three of Barbara Nesbitt's albums have been self-published; Robbie Fulks put fifty songs for sale as an album [50 Vc. Doberman] on his web site).  The world is wide open once again for artists to make the music they want to make on their terms.

One thing that these acts have today that was lacking thirty years ago, however, is an organization to help:  the Americana Music Association.  You can ask ten people what constitutes "Americana" music and you're going to get eleven different answers.  I tend to jokingly refer to "Americana" as "rock, blues, bluegrass and country that's too good for commercial radio."  Regardless of what the actual definition is (when I attended the Americana Music Association conference in 2007 they didn't seem to know, either:  after every act performing at the awards show, from Joe Ely to Ricky Skaggs to Darrell Scott, host Jim Lauderdale would point to the singer and say, "Now that's Americana!"), the organization is there to help fledgling acts who want to, in the words of a Jimmy Buffett song, make their music for themselves instead of making music for money.

Here's to the class of 1986, one of the greatest years of music.

And here's to 2013, proving that the best is still to come with Americana.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Band Helps Devastated Family

Category:  News

The Band Perry, a modern country-pop trio of siblings, has stepped in to assist a family devastated by tragedy earlier in the week.

On January 30 a fire destroyed the home of the Watson family in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky.  Nine of the eleven family members -- including eight children -- were killed in the fire.  The two survivors, the father and one child, are in critical but stable condition at the burn center at Nashville's Vanderbilt Hospital.

The family had no insurance of any type, leaving a huge bill for nine funerals.  The Band Perry, however, heard about this tragedy and stepped in to help.  The trio has paid the funeral expenses for all nine victims.  Additionally, the group is providing two weeks' worth of hotel expenses for relatives to be near the survivors in Nashville.

So many singers like to sing about telling people to change the world.  It's nice to see one of those acts actually CHANGE the world instead of just singing about it.

The Band Perry Pays Funeral Expenses

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Musical Final Bows for 2013

Category:  Tribute

Here are some of the musicians and music-related individuals who performed their final songs in 2013:


Patti Page (January 1, long illness, age 85):  "the singing rage" with a marvelous voice that was equally welcome in pop and country, where her rendition of "Tennessee Waltz" became the best-known version of all.
Sammy Johns (January 4, unknown cause, age 66):  singer of the 70's hit "Chevy Van" and songwriter of country hits such as "Common Man" by John Conlee and "Desperado Love" by Conway Twitty.
Tandyn Almer (January 8, respiratory & cardiac illnesses, age 70):  songwriter who worked with the Beach Boys and is best known for writing the Association's hit "Along Comes Mary."
Frank Page (January 8, pneumonia, age 87):  Disc Jockey Hall of Fame announcer who worked on Shreveport's Louisiana Hayride program and had the distinction of being the first announcer to introduce an audience to Elvis Presley.
Rex Trailer (January 9, pneumonia, age 84):  a country music performer from the 50s who worked with an early incarnation of Bill Haley & His Comets, Trailer later went on to success as the host of a regional children's show, Rex Trailer's Boomtown.
Claude Nobs (January 10, injuries from a cross-country skiing accident, age 76):  "Funky Claude" in Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" was the founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.
Jimmy O'Neill (January 11, heart problems & diabetes, age 72):  host of the 1960s ABC music program Shindig.
John Wilkinson (January 11, cancer, age 67):  guitar player in the TCB band, Elvis' touring outfit.
Precious Bryant (January 12, heart failure/complications of diabetes, age 71):  blues guitarist who had her own style and legions of fans (including Bonnie Raitt) who tried in vain to mimic her  playing.
John R. Powers (January 16, heart attack, age 67):  author of the hilarious book Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?, which became a Broadway musical.
Claude Black (January 17, cancer, age 80):  Toledo-based jazz pianist who worked with numerous legendary acts including Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, and even Aretha Fraklin.
Tony Douglas (January 22, lymphoma, age 82):  country singer best known for his 1963 hit "His and Hers."
Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner (January 26, cancer, age 70):  lead singer of the 70s funk band the Ohio Players, known for their provocative album covers and their #1 hit "Love Rollercoaster."
Patty Andrews (January 30, natural causes, age 94):  the last surviving Andrews Sister, who delighted audiences beginning in the late 1930s.


Cecil Womack (February 1, unknown cause, age 65):  a one-time member of the Valentinos, the originators of "It's All Over Now," his career included working with one-time wife Mary Wells and Sam Cooke and writing the hit "Love TKO."
Donald Byrd (February 4, unknown causes, age 80):  legendary be-bop and jazz trumpet player.
Reg Presley (February 4, cancer, age 71):  lead singer of the Troggs and writer of their hit "Love Is All Around."
Rick Huxley (February 11, emphysema, age 72):  bassist for the Dave Clark Five.
Mark Kamins (February 14, heart attack, age 57):  disc jockey and producer who is credited with discovering Madonna.
Shadow Morton (February 14, cancer, age 71):  writer and producer of "Leader of the Pack" and "Remember (Walking in the Sand)," hits for the Shangri-Las.
Tony Sheridan (February 16, complications from heart surgery, age 72):  an early collaborator with the Beatles.
Mindy McCready (February 17, suicide [gunshot], age 37):  troubled modern country singer who took her own life a month after her boyfriend David Wilson killed himself.
Kevin Ayers (February 18, unknown causes, age 68):  founder of the British psychedelic band the Soft Machine.
Damon Harris (February 18, prostate cancer, age 62):  member of the legendary R&B band the Temptations.
Magic Slim (February 21, bleeding ulcers and other health issues, age 75):  legendary blues guitar player.
Cleotha Staples (February 21, Alzheimer's disease, age 78):  member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gospel group the Staples Singers.
Sonny Russo (February 23, unknown causes, age 83):  jazz trombonist who played with Sinatra and a host of other jazz and pop legends.
Virgil Johnson (February 24, unknown causes, age 77):  member of the doo-wop band the Velvets, who had the 1961 hit "Tonight (Could Be the Night)."
Dirk Fischer (February 25, colon cancer, age 88):  jazz trumpet and trombone player.
Dan Toler (February 25, Lou Gehrig's Disease, age 64):  guitarist who worked with the Allman Brothers Band, Dickey Betts & Great Southern, and the Renegades of Southern Rock.
Van Cliburn (February 27, bone cancer, age 78):  a Texan who conquered the Soviet Union during the Cold War with his magnificent classical playing, Cliburn is the only solo musician in history to receive a ticker tape parade in New York City.
Chuck Goff (February 27, car wreck, age 54):  bassist and bandleader for singer Toby Keith.
Richard Street (February 27, pulmonary embolism, age 70):  a member of the Temptations, one of two members of the legendary R&B vocal group to die in February 2013 (the other was Damon Harris).


Jewel Aken (March 1, complications of back surgery, age 72):  singer best known for his 1965 hit "The Birds and the Bees."
Bobby Rogers (March 3, long illness, age 73):  co-founder of the legendary R&B band Smoky Robinson & the Miracles.
Fran Warren (March 4, natural causes, age 87):  the vocalist behind the 1947 hit "Sunday Kind of Love" died on her 87th birthday.
Stompin' Tom Connors (March 6, renal failure, age 77):  well-known Canadian folk singer who contributed "The Hockey Song" to the NHL lexicon.
Alvin Lee (March 6, post-operative complications, age 67):  guitarist for the band Ten Years After, who had the hit "I'd Love to Change the World."
Kenny Ball (March 7, pneumonia, age 82):  jazz trumpet player who had a top 3 pop hit, "Midnight in Moscow," in 1962.
Claude King (March 7, natural causes, age 90):  country singer who found major crossover success with the song "Wolverton Mountain."
Peter Banks (March 7, heart failure, age 65):  the original guitarist for the band Yes.
Sammy Masters (March 8, natural causes, age 82):  Rockabilly Hall of Fame inductee who had his songs recorded by the likes of Patsy Cline, Bobby Darin and Willie Nelson.
Clive Burr (March 12, multiple sclerosis, age 56):  drummer for the heavy metal band Iron Maiden.
Jack Greene (March 14, Alzheimer's disease, age 83):  country singer who won the first CMA "song of the year" award in 1967 with his song "Statue of a Fool."
Sidney "Hardrock" Gunter (March 15, pneumonia, age 88):  early rockabilly singer who wrote the Red Foley smash hit "Birmingham Bounce."
Jason Molina (March 16, alcoholism-related organ failure, age 39):  indie rock singer-songwriter who recorded under his own name and the names Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co.
Bobby Smith (March 16, complications of flu and pneumonia, age 76):  lead singer of the legendary R&B group the Spinners.
George Barrow (March 19, natural causes, age 91):  jazz saxophonist who played in the Charlie Mingus Quintet and as a Broadway musician in Ain't Misbehavin' and 42nd Street.
Eddie Bond (March 20, Alzheimer's disease, age 79):  rockabilly musician who rejected 18-year-old Elvis Presley when Presley auditioned for his band in 1955.
Deke Richards (March 24, esophageal cancer, age 68):  Motown songwriter who penned the Jackson Five hits "Mama's Pearl," "I Want You Back" and "A-B-C."
Margie Alexander (March 26, unknown cause, age 64):  back-up singer for Clarence Carter who went into gospel music, with her "Keep On Searching" making the Billboard charts in the 70's.
Roosevelt Jamison (March 27, unknown cause, age 76):  Memphis-based songwriter best-known for writing the Otis Redding's hit "That's How Strong My Love Is."
Gordon Stoker (March 27, long illness, age 88):  the tenor singer of the Jordanaires, the vocal group that backed Elvis and just about everyone else.
Paul S. Williams (March 27, complications from traumatic brain injury suffered in a 1995 bicycle accident, age 64):  founder of the rock magazine Crawdaddy and author of a three-volume set Bob Dylan, Performing Artist.
Hugh McCracken (March 28, leukemia, age 70):  guitarist who spent time in the first incarnation of Paul McCartney's band Wings, then worked as a prolific session man.
Robert Zildjian (March 28, cancer, age 89):  the man who gave the world the famous Sabian drum cymbals.
Phil Ramone (March 30, aortic aneurysm, age 79):  the man who produced some of the biggest-selling rock albums of the 1970's and 80's, including The Stranger and The Nylon Curtain by Billy Joel and Valotte by Julian Lennon.


Don Shirley (April 6, heart disease, age 86):  American jazz and classical pianist who made the pop top 40 with "Water Boy."
Don Blackman (April 11, cancer, age 59):  pianist with Parliament/Funkadelic, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Tweenynine.
Sue Draheim (April 11, cancer, age 63):  fiddler who played with the likes of Richard Thompson and was a member of the all-female Any Old Time String Band.
Chi Cheng (April 13, cardiac arrest and complications from a 2008 car accident, age 42):  bassist in the alternative metal band the Deftones.
George Jackson (April 14, cancer, age 68):  R&B songwriter who wrote the Osmonds' hit "One Bad Apple" and Bob Seger's classic "Old-Time Rock and Roll."
Scott Miller (April 15, unknown cause, age 53):  member of the bands Game Theory and the Loud Family, he also wrote the book Music: What Happened?.
Rita MacNeil (April 16, complications from surgery, age 68):  Juno Award-winning Canadian folk-country singer who had her biggest hit, "Flying On Your Own," covered by Anne Murray.
George Beverly Shea (April 16, stroke, age 104):  the gospel singer and composer who was featured in Billy Graham's evangelistic crusades for 65 years.
Edwin Shirley (April 16, bleeding issue, age 64):  owner of Edwin Shirley Trucking, the premiere music tour transportation company in the United Kingdom.
Cordell Mosson (April 18, liver failure, age 60):  bass player who replaced Bootsy Collins in Parliament-Funkadelic.
Chrissy Amphlett (April 21, breast cancer, age 53):  lead singer for the 80's new wave band the Divinyls.
Richie Havens (April 22, heart attack, age 72):  folk singer/songwriter, poet and activist who became an overnight sensation when he appeared at Woodstock.
George Jones (April 26, hypoxic respiratory failure, age 81): for many THE definition of country music, the country music singer's country music singer with a career that spanned seven decades.
Barry Fey (April 28, suicide, age 69):  the man responsible for booking acts at Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheater, including the little-known (at the time) Irish band U2 in 1983.


Chris Kelly (May 1, drug overdose, age 34):  member of the rap duo Kris Kross.
Jeff Hanneman (May 2, alcohol-related liver failure, age 49):  founder and guitarist for the heavy metal band Slayer.
Ollie Mitchell (May 11, cancer, age 86):  trumpet player who worked as part of the session musician group known as the Wrecking Crew, he was also an original member of Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass.
Monroe Hopper (May 17, unknown cause, age 86):  member of the Gospel Hall of Fame group the Hoppers.
Alan O'Day (May 17, brain cancer, age 72):  songwriter (Helen Reddy's "Angie Baby") and singer (his own 1977 hit "Undercover Angel").
Ray Manzarek (May 20, bile duct cancer, age 74):  founding member and keyboardist for the Doors.
Trevor Bolder (May 21, pancreatic cancer, age 62):  British bass player who worked with Uriah Heep and David Bowie's "Spiders From Mars" tour.
Frank Comstock (May 21, natural causes, age 90):  trombonist with Les Brown who later wrote music for dozens of TV series including Adam-12, F-Troop and Rocky and His Friends.
Lorene Mann (May 24, stroke, age 76):  a founding member of the Nashville Songwriters Association, the singer/songwriter wrote country hits "Don't Go Near the Indians" and "Left to Right" as well as recorded an album of duets with Archie Campbell.
Ed Shaughnessy (May 24, heart attack, age 88):  the drummer for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson's band.
Marshall Lytle (May 25, lung cancer, age 79):  the bass player for Bill Haley's Comets and a 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.


Rob Morsberger (June 2, glioblastoma, age 53):  singer/songwriter who collaborated with the likes of Patti Smith and Marshall Crenshaw.
Joey Covington (June 4, car wreck, age 67):  drummer in Bay Area bands Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship, Hot Tuna, and Quicksilver Messenger Service.
Don Bowman (June 5, complications from a stroke, age 75):  the writer of Jim Stafford's hit "Wildwood Weed" also wrote serious songs with Waylon Jennings ("Just to Satisfy You") and served as the original host of radio's American Country Countdown.
Elaine Laron (June 6, pneumonia, age 83):  TV jingle and songwriter who was the primary lyricist for the Grammy Award-winning soundtrack to the PBS children's reading show The Electric Company.
Arturo Vega (June 8, unknown cause, age 65):  graphic designer who worked in the New York punk scene, he most famously created the logo for the Ramones.
Johnny Smith (June 11, complications from a fall, age 90):  jazz guitarist who wrote the guitar classic "Walk, Don't Run."
Gavin Taylor (June 12, short illness, age 72):  British director who brought lives shows to film such as the U2 At Red Rocks and Queen at Wembley concerts.
Sam Most (June 13, cancer, age 82):  jazz flute player who began his career in Tommy Dorsey's band.
Tom Tall (ne Tommie Lee Guthrie) (June 14, unknown cause, age 75):  country and rockabilly singer best known for singing "Are You Mine" with Ginny Wright in the 1950's.
Slim Whitman (June 19, heart failure, age 90):  country yodeler with a dozen top ten hits and three gold singles, he may be best-known for having his voice kill invading aliens in Mars Attacks!
Bobby "Blue" Bland (June 23, illness, age 83):  the "Sinatra of the Blues," Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and Grammy Lifetime Achievement recipient, Bland was a blues legend who found commercial success in the 60's with "I PIty the Fool," "Turn On Your Love Light," and "Farther Up the Road."
Little Willie Littlefield (June 23, cancer, age 81):  early rock/boogie-woogie piano player credited with being the first person to record the classic "Kansas City."
Puff Johnson (nee Ewanya Johnson) (June 24, cervical cancer, age 40):  pop singer who opened for Michael Jackson and had the hit "Forever More."
Alan Myers (June 24, stomach cancer, age 58):  drummer for the legendary new wave band Devo.
Paul Smith (June 29, heart failure, age 91):  bebop jazz pianist who worked as Ella Fitzgerald's accompanist and served as the music director for The Dinah Shore Show.

Texas Johnny Brown (July 1, lung cancer, age 85):  blues guitarist, singer and songwriter who wrote "Two Steps From the Blues."
Johnny MacRae (July 3, heart disease, age 84):  country songwriter who penned such hits as "Whiskey, If You Were a Woman" and "I'd Be Better Off in a Pine Box."
Brett Walker (July 8, unknown causes, age 51):  indie rock singer/songwriter who had numerous songs featured in TV series such as One Life to Live and CSI Miami.
Jim Foglesong (July 9, natural causes, age 90):  Country Music Hall of Fame record executive who signed the likes of Don Williams, Donna Fargo, Suzy Bogguss, George Strait and Garth Brooks.
Faye Hunter (July 21, suicide, age 59):  lead vocalist of the band Let's Active.
JJ Cale (July 26, heart attack, age 74):  rock guitarist, singer and songwriter who gave the world the hits "After Midnight" and "Cocaine."


Tim Wright (August 4, cancer, age 63):  bassist for Pere Ubu and DNA.
George Duke (August 5, leukemia, age 67):  Grammy-winning jazz keyboardist.
Cowboy Jack Clement (August 8, liver cancer, age 82):  one of country music's most colorful figures, Cowboy Jack's career spanned seven decades as a singer, songwriter, producer, publisher, and studio owner.  He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013.
Al Coury (August 9, stroke, age 79):  Capitol Records executive who helped the careers of artists from the Beach Boys to Bob Seger.
Eydie Gormé (August 10, illness, age 84):  wife of Steve Lawrence and cousin of Neil Sedaka, she delighted audiences for decades with her solo hits ("Blame It on the Bossa Nova") and nightclub acts with her husband.
Jody Payne (August 10, heart disease, age 77):  guitarist for Willie Nelson's band.
Tompall Glaser (August 13, long illness, age 75):  country singer who was one-fourth of the quartet (with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter) on the landmark Wanted!  The Outlaws, country's first platinum album, in 1976.
Allen Lanier (August 14, COPD, age 67):  original keyboardist for the rock band Blue Oyster Cult.
Jane Harvey (August 15, stomach cancer, age 88):  jazz singer who worked with Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Desi Arnez's bands.
Sid Bernstein (August 21, natural causes, age 95):  concert promoter responsible for bringing the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to the U.S., effectively beginning the "British Invasion" of the 1960's.
John "Juke" Logan (August 30, esophageal cancer, age 66):  blues harmonica player who performed on albums by country, blues and rock acts and contributed to the theme songs to the TV series Roseanne and Home Improvement.


Ray Dolby (September 12, leukemia, age 80):  the inventor of the Dolby NR noise reduction process.
Mac Curtis (September 16, car wreck, age 74):  Rockabilly Hall of Fame musician and disc jockey.
Marvin Rainwater (September 17, heart failure, age 88):  country singer best known for his crossover hit "Gonna Find Me a Bluebird."
Gia Maione (September 23, long illness, age 72):  jazz singer and widow of Louis Prima.
Billy Mure (September 25, natural causes, age 97):  guitarist who worked on countless sessions for artists as diverse as Paul Anka and Marty Robbins.
Ramblin' Tommy Scott (September 30, injuries from an August 10 car wreck, age 96):  country music performer who worked with Charlie Monroe's Kentucky Partners and traveled as "the Last Real Medicine Show."


Philip Chevron (October 8, esophageal cancer, age 56):  guitarist for the Irish band the Pogues.
Larry Verne (October 8, heart failure, age 77):  singer of the novelty hit "Mr. Custer."
Jan Kuehnemund (October 10, cancer, age 51):  founder and lead guitarist of the all-female glam band Vixen.
Cal Smith (October 10, unknown cause, age 81):  country singer best known for a string of hits including "The Lord Knows I'm Drinking" and "Country Bumpkin."
Roland Janes (October 18, heart attack, age 80):  rockabilly guitarist and producer who worked at Sun during the glory days, he also founded Rita Records, the label with the hit "Mountain of Love."
Leon Ashley (October 20, illness, age 77):  country singer who had a hit with "Laura (What's He Got I Ain't Got)," the first time an artist wrote, sang, published and self-released a song that went to #1.
Colonel Robert Morris (October 21, complications from heart attack, age 58):  songwriter of "Trucker's Last Ride" and drummer who played with Charlie Feathers.
Gypie Mayo (October 23, unknown cause, age 62):  British guitarist who worked with Dr. Feelgood.
Lou Reed (October 27, liver disease, age 71):  punk poet, singer and songwriter who began his career in Andy Warhol's Factory and performed in the Velvet Underground.  The people he knew during his time in the Factory was chronicled in his best-known song, "Walk on the Wild Side."
Sherman Halsey (October 29, unknown cause, age 56):  son of Nashville managing legend Jim Halsey and video producer/director for several country artists including Dwight Yoakam, Brooks & Dunn and the Oak Ridge Boys.
Pete Haycock (October 30, heart attack, age 62):  guitarist for the Climax Blues Band, best known for their hit "Couldn't Get It Right."
Bobby Parker (October 31, heart attack, age 76):  blues guitarist best known for his 1961 song "Watch Your Step."


Clyde Stacy (November 6, car wreck, age 77):  Oklahoma-based rockabilly singer who had a hit with "Hoy Hoy."
Bob Beckham (November 11, unknown cause, age 86):  singer with the 1959 hit "Just As Much As Ever" who later became a publisher and mentor of acts such as Kris Kristofferson and Ray Stevens.
Wayne Mills (November 25, shot to death, age 44):  a honky tonk singer who had performed dates with Jamey Johnson, he was nearing completion of a new album when he was shot by a Nashville bar owner during an argument.
Chico Hamilton (November 25, unknown cause, age 92):  jazz drummer and bandleader who began his career in a band with Charlie Mingus.  He also appeared as a musician in the film You'll Never Get Rich.
Oliver Cheatham (November 29, heart attack, age 65):  R&B singer who had the 1983 hit "Get Down Saturday Night."
Dick Dodd (November 29, cancer, age 68):  from days as a Mousketeer he went to the Standells, where he played drums and sang lead on their legendary hit "Dirty Water."


Junior Murvin (December 2, complications of diabetes, age 67):  Jamaica reggae singer who originated the song "Police and Thieves," later covered by the Clash on their seminal debut album.
Homer Bailes (December 3, natural causes, age 91):  the final surviving member of the legendary Bailes Brothers band, inductees in the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame and the first act from West Virginia to become members of the Grand Ole Opry.
Chick Willis (December 7, cancer, age 79):  blues singing cousin of Chuck Willis who played with Elmore James following his cousin's death.
John Wyker (December 8, congestive heart failure, age 68):  member of the southern rock band Sailcat, best-known for their 1978 song "Motorcycle Mama."
Jim Hall (December 10, short illness, age 83):  master jazz guitar player who worked with Ella Fitzgerald and Sonny Rollins and influenced generations of younger players.
George H. Buck (December 11, heart attack, age 84):  a man devoted to promoting jazz, he founded Jazzology Records and GHB Records and founded the George H. Buck Jr. Jazz Foundation to further the music he loved.
Ray Price (December 16, pancreatic cancer, age 87):  Country Music Hall of Fame member who had generations of honky tonk, country shuffle, and "Nashville sound" fans thanks to songs such as "Heartaches By the Number" and "For the Good Times."
Larry Lujack (December 18, esophageal cancer, age 73):  National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame member who was a staple on Chicago's WLS.
Herb Geller (December 19, pneumonia, age 85):  jazz saxophonist who began his career playing with Joe Venuti and went on to international acclaim playing in Europe and backing recordings of the likes of Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald.
David Richards (December 20, long illness, age 57):  British record producer who worked with artists such as Queen, David Bowie and Iggy Pop.
Herman "Trigger" Alpert (December 22, natural causes, age 97):  a double-bass player, he was the final surviving member of Glenn Miller's orchestra.
Yusef Lateef (ne William Huddleston) (December 23, prostate cancer, age 93):  Grammy-winning jazz saxophonist and flutist.

Farewell, and thank you for the music.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Keeping the "They Come in Threes" Myth Going....

Category:  News/Obituary

There's a popular myth that celebrity deaths tend to come in threes.  That seemed to have some validity on Sunday (12/15), when the deaths of three actors were announced.

Peter O'Toole:  His roles were vast, from the title roles in Lawrence of Arabia and Goodbye Mr. Chips to the swashbuckling Errol Flynn-like character in My Favorite Year, O'Toole's real-life escapades were more extravagant than any fictional creation he portrayed on screen.  He was famous for being a wild man offstage, although heart surgery in the 1970's forced him to quit drinking.  He only retired from acting last year.  An eight-time Oscar nominee, his only statue was an honorary one.  He died December 14th after a long illness at the age of 81.

Tom Laughlin:  Although Tom Laughlin had a long list of credits as a character actor in the 1950's and 60's it was the half-Indian Green Beret character he created, Billy Jack, that is his legacy.  He wrote and starred in four installments of the "Billy Jack" series (which co-starred his wife, Delores Taylor).  Laughlin had been in poor health for years, having endured prostate and tongue cancers and a series of strokes.  He died December 12th at the age of 82.

Joan Fontaine:  the sister of of Olivia deHavilland, Joan Fontaine had the distinction of being the only female performer to ever win an Oscar for an Alfred Hitchcock film (Suspicion, 1941).  She and deHavilland are the only pair of sister to be Oscar winners.  Fontaine died of natural causes in her California home at the age of 96.

Farewell to these three who have brought many happy moments to many fans.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

This Isn't Clairvoyance

Category:  News

It's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination time again.  This year, while there are still nominations that boggle the mind, it seems as though the nominations are actually catching up to the commercial popularity of acts (hence the term fame) and nominating accordingly.  Here are this year's nominees:

Paul Butterfield Blues Band:  The second nomination for the legendary blues singer and harmonica player and his band.  Given his influence they'll be inducted eventually.

Chic:  This is the eighth nomination for a disco-era band that is essentially a two-hit wonder.  Far more deserving nominees have been omitted, and this act really needs to disappear from the list.

Deep Purple:  The second nomination for the hard rock band named for a 1930's pop song.  Not the worst nomination on the list, but I don't see them getting inducted.  I thought last year they might garner enough "sympathy votes" off the death of songwriter Joe South (who wrote "Hush," one of Deep Purple's biggest hits) to be inducted; however, this year I don't see them making it, especially considering the other nominees.

Peter Gabriel:  His first solo nomination (he's inducted as a member of Genesis).  I would say that Gabriel is one of the certainties this year, if for no other reason than the critical success of most of his work and the commercial success of So and its groundbreaking video hit "Sledgehammer."

Daryl Hall & John Oates:  It is about time they were nominated!  Hall & Oates have surpassed the Everly Brothers as the most commercially successful duo in rock music history.  They should be inducted.

Kiss:  Another "about time you got around to noticing this act" nomination.  Kiss is about as lame as any band can be on record.  It is their live shows that earned them their loyal following and keeps them (although I am not in that category).  They should be inducted.

LL Cool J:  Taking Steve Miller's nomination space this year.  Shouldn't have been nominated, shouldn't win.

The Meters:  Second nomination.  As of this writing they are in next-to-last place in the fan vote (only Chic has fewer votes). 

Nirvana:  First nomination.  Bet the ranch on their induction.

NWA:  Second nomination, taking the Moody Blues' space on the ballot.  Not deserving of the space on the ballot.

The Replacements:  First nomination.  As someone who thinks Pleased to Meet Me was one of the best albums of the 80's:  WHY are they nominated?

Linda Ronstadt:  First nomination.  Tonight, November 2, 2013, let it be stated that I'm guaranteeing you she'll be inducted.  This isn't clairvoyance, this is the pathetic reality of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:  in July Ronstadt announced that, due to advanced Parkinson's Disease, she can no longer sing.  Now that her marvelous voice has been silenced they're going to honor her.  And that stinks worse than a skunk factory.

Cat Stevens:  Let's face it, if you grew up listening to the radio in the 1970's you like at least one Cat Stevens song.  One of the great folk singer-songwriters of that era, I sincerely hope that religious prejudice doesn't keep him from being inducted.  

Link Wray:  Second nomination.  It's a crime that there had to be a second nomination.  He should've been in a decade or two ago.

Yes:  First nomination.  I never cared for them, but there's no question they were the premiere "art rock" band of the 1970's.

The Zombies:  First nomination.  I don't see them getting in.

My bets are on Ronstadt more than anyone -- even Nirvana.  Given that Nirvana basically created a new genre of rock I would be genuinely surprised if they aren't inducted.  I would also be surprised if Hall & Oates aren't inducted, now that they have finally been nominated, and I would also list Peter Gabriel as a very likely winner.  I would also like to see inductions for Cat Stevens, Kiss, and -- even though I am befuddled over their nomination -- the Replacements.  (If you're going to nominate them, then induct them!)  Finally, Link Wray -- it's embarrassing that he's not inducted, given that he's generally credited with inventing (or popularizing) the "power chord" in guitar playing.  Where would rock and roll be without him?

And my annual plea for the "hey, remember to nominate these people" acts who have yet again been overlooked:

Moody Blues -- yeah, they're still touring nearly 50 years after they formed.  And, unlike the Rolling Stones, they aren't charging a second mortgage for the tickets -- and they aren't a parody of themselves.

Steve Miller -- Miller just turned 70 last month.  He's been at this longer than half the nominees have been alive.  Half the people on this list don't have entire discographies that have sold more than Fly Like an Eagle.

ELO -- a novel idea became a massively successful act.  That lousy song used in the coffee commercials in the mid-80's might be what keeps them from being nominated, but they should be nominated -- and inducted.

Neil Sedaka -- one of the premiere acts in rock and roll between Elvis and the Beatles, and his songwriting skills predated ("Stupid Cupid") and post-dated ("Love Will Keep Us Together") his 60's hits.

Don Henley -- hey, if you're going to nominate people already inducted again for their solo work you might as well nominate the most commercially successful solo Eagle career (which was also the best solo Eagle career).

Inductions will be announced in late December.  Fans are allowed to vote for up to five nominees at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's site.  The act with the most fan votes has one vote added to their "official" tally.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Update on Robbin Thompson

Category:  News

When I didn't receive an e-mailed newsletter from Robbin Thompson for months following his February announcement that he had been battling stomach cancer for 12 years I naturally suspected the worst.  Fortunately, the news from Robbin in his most recent newsletter contains good news.  

"I know most of you got my newsletter from February that basically disclosed my 13 year fight with the cancer," Thompson wrote in his newsletter released on his website and e-mailed to his fans.  "Well..I had my 1st check-up since the surgery and the news was pretty good. No visible signs of tumors!! woohoo! I know it's not over but it's the 1st time in 13 years I've heard a Dr. say that so, needless to say I'm pretty stoked. I still have to take the drugs and the drugs that keep those drugs from killin' me but I'm ok with that. Now I can concentrate on the normal stuff that happens to all of us at this age like bad knees and why the hell do my feet hurt? what are those spots in front of my eyes? Stuff that everyone gets...right? Thanks for all the support and prayers. it worked."

Thompson has other things to concentrate on as well, such as promoting his most recent album, A Real Fine Day.  Thompson continues to appear in his native Virginia regularly, and he will be heading to Finland and Sweden for a tour starting in September.

Best wishes and continued prayers for a performer who was a significant part of my musical life for the two and a half years I lived in that "Sweet Virginia Breeze" that Robbin Thompson always sings about.