Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Final Notes of 2011

Category:  Tribute

It was a particularly difficult year for music.  In the five years I've been keeping a database of music-related deaths for the year-end memorial this year had the largest number of entries.  With that, here is a list of the people in the world of music for whom the final curtain fell in 2011.

Harley Allen (lung cancer, March 30, age 55):  Country songwriter of such hits as Dierks Bentley's "My Last Name," John Michael Montgomery's "The Little Girl" and Alan Jackson's "Between the Devil and Me."  His father, Red Allen, was also a legendary bluegrass performer.
Liz Anderson (heart and lung disease, October 28, age 81):  The mother of Lynn Anderson was also a successful songwriter (such as the Merle Haggard hit "(All My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers") and singer on her own.
Nick Ashford (throat cancer, August 22, age 60):  Half of the R&B duo Ashford and Simpson, who performed as well as wrote numerous hits for others.
John Atterberry (random murder victim of man on shooting spree in L.A., December 12, age 40):  Pop music executive who worked with the likes of the Spice Girls.

Kenny Baker (stroke, July 8, age 85):  Legendary bluegrass fiddler who played with Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys for 25 years.
 Carl Bunch (diabetes complications, March 26, age 71):  Buddy Holly's drummer on the 1959 "Winter Dance Party" tour who was in the hospital with frostbite when Holly's plane crashed, he signed autographs as "the Frostbitten Cricket."  He also played with Roy Orbison and Hank Williams Jr.
Patsi Bale Cox (emphysema, November 5, age 66):  Noted author who wrote her own books (The Garth Factor) and collaborated with the likes of Loretta Lynn in country (Still Woman Enough) and rock's Pat Benatar (Between a Heart and a Rock Place).
Billy Bang (lung cancer, April 11, age 63):  Jazz violinist who was a one-time member of Sun Ra's band as well as a solo performer.
Jack Barlow (long illness, July 29, age 87):  Country singer who had hits with "I Love Country Music" and "Catch the Wind."  He created a stir with the novelty song, "The Man on Page 602," which he released under the pseudonym Zoot Fenster.
John Barry (heart attack, January 30, age 77):  Film composer who put the musical score to a dozen James Bond movies.
Joseph Brooks (suicide [suffocation], May 22, age 73):  From the height of success with a Grammy and Oscar for writing the song "You Light Up My Life, Brooks fell to the lowest of criminals.  He was awaiting trail for the rape of nearly a dozen young actresses when he killed himself.
Odell Brown (unknown causes, May 3, age 71):  R&B organ player and songwriter who penned Marvin Gaye's final hit "Sexual Healing."
Ray Bryant (long-term illness, June 2, age 79):  Jazz pianist who worked with Gillespie as well as having a long career of his own.
Bob Burnett (brain cancer, December 8, age 71):  Founding member of the Highwaymen, who had the hit "Michael."  Burnett is one of two members of the folk band to die in 2011 (the other being Gil Robbins).
Michael "Wurzel" Burston (heart disease-induced ventricular fibrillation, July 9, age 62):  The guitarist for the heavy metal band Motorhead for ten years.

Paul Cerney (cancer, March 14, age 57):  Songwriter who wrote tunes recorded by country (Restless Heart's "I'll Still Be Loving You"), R&B (Aretha Franklin  & the Four Tops' "If Ever a Love There Was") and blues ("The Blues is My Business" by Etta James) acts.
Buddy Charleton (lung cancer, January 25, age 72):  The steel guitarist for country legend Ernest Tubb during most of Tubb's 1960s success stories such as "Waltz Across Texas."
Terry Clements (stroke, February 20, age 63):  While many acts change band members as often as they change socks, Gordon Lightfoot had only one guitarist since his beginning as a recording artist:  Terry Clements.
Clarence Clemons (stroke, June 18, age 69):  It would be no understatement to say the Big Man was as important to Bruce Springsteen's music as Bruce Springsteen.  He also made the charts singing a duet with Jackson Browne, "You're a Friend of Mine."
Wilma Lee Cooper (natural causes, September 13, age 90):  Longtime Grand Ole Opry performer who was as purely country as they come.
Charlie Craig (lung cancer, July 1, age 73):  country songwriter who wrote hits such as "She's Single Again" and "The Generation Gap."

Beryl Davis (Alzheimer's, October 28, age 87):  A singer from the Big Band era who performed with likes of Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, and Vaughn Monroe, she also had a hit with "Do, Lord" as part of a group with Jane Russell and Connie Haines.
Don DeVito (prostate cancer, November 25, age 72):  He spent 40 years as a producer and A&R man at Columbia Records and worked with the likes of Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Aerosmith and Blue Oyster Cult.
Billy Diamond (unknown cause, October 20, age 95):  Fats Domino's longtime manager also gave Antoine Domino his legendary nickname.
Hazel Dickens (pneumonia, April 22, age 75):  IBMA Distinguished Achievement award-winner who put the hard times of her childhood in West Virginia into words, then unleashed them on the world with her powerful mountain vocals.
Jim Dickson (unknown cause, April 19, age 80):  The manager of the legendary 1960s band the Byrds.
Joel "Taz" DiGregorio (car wreck, October 12, age 67):  Charlie Daniel's keyboard player and songwriting partner for nearly 40 years, he wrote the fan favorite "The Devil Went Down to Georgia."
Frank Dileo (complications from heart surgery, August 24, age 63):  Michael Jackson's manager.
Jean Dinning (respiratory illness, February 22, age 86):  A member of the Dinning Sisters act, she wrote her brother Mark Dinning's big hit "Teen Angel."
Jessy Dixon (unknown cause, September 16, age 73):  Legendary gospel music performer who became a pop music crossover when he and his Jessy Dixon Singers backed Paul Simon on hits like "Loves Me Like a Rock."
Charlie Douglas (unknown cause, November 24, age 78):  Disc Jockey Hall of Fame member who is credited with inventing the overnight radio show aimed specifically at truck drivers.  He was also an announcer for the Grand Ole Opry for several years.
Cornell Dupree (emphysema, May 8, age 69):  R&B session guitarist, known as "Uncle Funky," who played with countless soul acts.  His guitar is heard on songs such as "Rainy Night in Georgia" and "R-E-S-P-E-C-T."

Ear X-tacy (lack of interest in record stores, October 27, age 26):  Louisville record store with a national following thanks to their "typewritten"-looking bumper stickers.
David "Honeyboy" Edwards (congestive heart failure, August 29, age 96):  Grammy-winning, Blues Hall of Fame Delta blues singer, the last of the originals, who was with Robert Johnson the night he died.
Esther Gordy Edwards (natural causes, August 24, age 91):  An executive at Motown Records and the sister of label founder Barry Gordy.
Herman Ernest (cancer, March 6, age 59):  The longtime drummer for the "Night Tripper" Dr. John.

Lamar Fike (non-Hodgken's lymphoma, January 21, age 75):  The second-longest tenured member of Elvis' "Memphis Mafia," he co-wrote Elvis and the Memphis Mafia.  He also served as Brenda Lee's road manager in the 60s and was a Capitol Records executive under Jimmy Bowen.
Bob Flanigan (congestive heart failure, May 11, age 84):  Co-founder of the 50s vocal group the Four Freshmen.
Frank Foster (kidney failure, July 26, age 82):  Director and saxophonist for the Count Basie Orchestra.

Manuel Galban (heart attack, July 7, age 80):  Guitarist in the legendary Cuban band the Buena Vista Social Club.
Russell Garcia (natural causes, November 20, age 95):  Conducter, arranger and composer who worked with the likes of Duke Ellington, Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra.
Gary Garcia (unknown causes, November 19, age 63):  Half of the one-hit wonder Buckner & Garcia who did the early 80s hit "Pac Man Fever."
Carl Gardner (long illness, June 12, age 83):  The lead singer of the Hall of Fame vocal group the Coasters.
Gil Garfield (Cancer, January 1, age 77):  Member of the one-hit wonder band The Cheers, who did "Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots."
Eugenia Gingold (congestive heart failure, December 22, 2010, announced January 2, 2011, age 94):  Mother of legendary singer/songwriter Carole King.
Johnny Giosa (car wreck, August 28, age 42):  Drummer for the hard rock band the Bullet Boys.
Andrew Gold (heart attack, June 3, age 59):  Singer/songwriter and musician who was best-known for the 1970s hit "Thank You for Being a Friend," which later became the theme song to the TV series The Golden Girls.
Billy Grammer (long illness, August 10, age 85):  A guitar designer and well-loved session man, he scored a huge hit in 1959 with "Gotta Travel On."
Marshall Grant (brain aneurysm, August 6, age 83):  The final member of Johnny Cash's seminal original backing band the Tennessee Two, he was stricken while preparing to perform at a show in Arkansas to raise money to preserve Cash's boyhood home.
Dobie Gray (cancer, December 6, age 71):  R&B and gospel performer best-known for the 1973 hit "Drift Away."
George Green (lung cancer, August 28, age 59):  John Mellencamp's co-writing partner who helped on hits "Crumblin' Down" and "Hurts So Good."
Rob Grill (head injury suffered in a fall, July 10, age 67):  The lead vocalist for the 60s group the Grass Roots.
Freddie Gruber (long illness, October 11, age 84):  Jazz drummer who played with Charlie Parker and later taught drums to his students, including Rush's Neil Peart.

Carlton Haney (stroke, March 16, age 82):  The man credited with inventing the phenomenon that is now known as the bluegrass music festival, Haney also served as the booking agent for bluegrass acts such as Bill Monroe and Reno & Smiley.
Mary Cleere Haran (hit by car while riding bicycle, February 5, age 58):  Cabaret-style vocalist who sought to revive popularity in pop hits of the 1930s and 40s.
Jack Hardy (lung cancer, March 15, age 63):  Influential New York-based folk singer/songwriter who helped Suzanne Vega get her start, he was also the founding editor of Fast Folk Musicial magazine.
Jet Harris (cancer, March 17, age 71):  British rock performer who was a member of the Shadows with Sir Cliff Richard.
Jack Hayes (natural causes, August 24, age 92):  TV theme show composer who gave us the opening music for Gunsmoke and Happy Days.
Warren Hellman (leukemia, December 18, age 77):  The founder and initial financial backer of, and frequent performer at, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco.
Gil-Scott Heron (complications from HIV and long-time drug use, May 27, age 62):  folk singer, songwriter, poet and activist.
Loleatta Holloway (heart attack, March 21, age 64):  Late 70s/early 80s disco singer who had a hit in 1980 with "Love Sensation."
Gladys Horton (stroke, January 26, age 66):  Member of the 60s R&B group the Marvelettes.
Ferlin Husky (colon cancer/congestive heart failure, March 17, age 85):  A country singer with a long career and two major crossover records, 1957's "Gone" and 1960's "Wings of a Dove."

Mick Karn (cancer, January 4, age 52):  Bassist for Peter Murphy and the band Japan.
Trish Keenan (complications of swine flu and pneumonia, January 14, age 42):  Leader of the band Broadcast.
Laura Kennedy (hepatitis C, November 14, age unknown):  Bassist in post-punk band Bush Tetras.
Tom King (congestive heart failure, April 23, age 68):  Founder of the 60s band the Outsiders and co-writer of their one hit "Time Won't Let Me."
Eddie Kirkland (car wreck, February 27, age 88):  One-time guitarist with John Lee Hooker, the blues man was known as the "gypsy of the blues."
Don Kirshner (heart failure, January 17, age 76):  Songwriter ("You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'"), producer (the Archies), and the founder of the 70s late-night TV rock show Don Kirshner's Rock Concert.
Moogy Klingman (bladder cancer, November 15, age 61):  A member of Todd Rungren's band Utopia and a songwriter, responsible for Bette Midler's theme song "Friends."
Alex Krist (killed by hit-and-run driver, January 13, age 47):  Drummer who played with "godfather of punk" Iggy Pop and the band the Nymphs.
Gene Kurtz (cancer, October 24, age 68):  Co-writer of the hit "Treat Her Right" and long-time performer in Austin's alt-country scene.
John Kuzma (unknown cause, July 1, age 60):  The guitarist for the band the Hooters who left just before their success with "All You Zombies."
Georgia Carroll Kyser (natural causes, January 14, age 91):  A singer and actress who was also the widow of big band leader Kay Kyser.

Jani Lane (acute alcohol poisoning, August 11, age 47):  Lead singer of the 80s band Warrant and writer of their biggest hit, "Heaven."
Paul Leka (lung cancer, October 12, age 68):  Songwriter of such hits as "Green Tambourine" and "Na Na Na (Kiss Him Goodbye)" as well as a record producer.
Charlie Louvin (pancreatic cancer, January 26, age 83):  The surviving half of the Louvin Brothers who had a solo career more commercially successful than the time he spent recording with his brother, but everyone remembers the unduplicated harmonies that Charlie created with Ira.

Ralph MacDonald (lung cancer, December 18, age 67):  Gifted percussionist heard on things as diverse as "Young Americans" by David Bowie and "Margaritaville" by Jimmy Buffett, he co-wrote the Roberta Flack/Donny Hathaway duet "Where Is the Love."
Ross MacManus (unknown cause, November 24, age 84):  British musician/recording artist and father of Elvis Costello, he played trumpet on two of his son's songs.
Wade Mainer (congestive heart failure, September 12, age 104):  A man older than the music he played for 70 years, Mainer was a mainstay in country music and the last of the genre's original pioneers.
Hugh Martin Jr. (natural causes, March 11, age 96):  Writer of the holiday classic "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."
Dr. David Mason (leukemia, April 29, age 85):  Classical trumpet and flugelhorn player who played the trumpet solo on the Beatles' "Penny Lane."
"Country" Johnny Mathis (pneumonia, September 27, age 80):  Hard to believe there were two people with the name "Johnny Mathis" in music.  This one, who later went by "Country Johnny Mathis" to avoid confusion with the pop singer who did "Chances Are" (who is still very much alive as of this writing), was a songwriter and singer who had a huge hit with "If You Don't Somebody Else Will" as part of Jimmy & Johnny.  Songs he wrote were recorded by the likes of Ray Price, Johnny Paycheck, and George Jones.
Jerry Mayo (blood disorder, June 6, age 76):  Trumpet player for the 50s vocal group Freddy and the Bellboys.
Mel McDaniel (lung cancer, March 31, age 68):  Country singer and Opry member who had a string of hits in the 1980s including "Louisiana Saturday Night," "Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On," and "Big Ole Brew."
Gene McDaniels (unknown cause, July 29, age 76):  Songwriter responsible for "A Hundred Pounds of Clay" and Roberta Flack's #1 song "Feel Like Makin' Love."
Huey Meaux (illness, April 23, age 82):  The man credited with discovering the Sir Douglas Quintet also owned SugarHill Studios (no relation to the record label), where Freddy Fender recorded his breakthrough hits "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" and "Before the Next Teardrop Falls."
Alan Meltzer (unknown cause, October 30, age 67):  Founder of the alt-rock label Wind-Up Records.
Ralph Mooney (kidney cancer, March 20, age 82):  One of country music's greatest steel guitarists, he wrote Ray Price's classic "Crazy Arms" and played with the likes of Wynn Stewart,  Buck Owens and Waylon Jennings.
Gary Moore (heart attack, February 6, age 58):  Guitarist for the 70s band Thin Lizzy.
Joe Morello (unknown cause, March 12, age 82):  Drummer for the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
Paul Motian (myelodyplastic syndrome, November 23, age 80):  Jazz drummer for nearly 60 years.

Duane Nelson (unknown cause, week of March 1, age 52):  Prince's brother and one-time employee.
Roger Nichols (pancreatic cancer, April 9, age 66):  Always listed as "The Immortal" on the Steely Dan albums he engineered, Nichols also worked with other acts such as John Denver, with whom he won a Grammy.
Joe Paul Nichols (Lou Gehrig's Disease, July 27, age 69):  One of the die-hard traditional country performers on the Heart of Texas label, he was also a member of the International Country Gospel Music Association.

James O'Gwynn (pneumonia, January 19, age 82):  Known as "the Smiling Irishman of Country Music," his best-known songs were "House of Blue Lovers" and "My Name is Mud."
Norio Ohga (multiple organ failure, April 23, age 82):  The Sony Music chairman who is credited with developing the compact disc as a music format.
Barbara Orbison (pancreatic cancer, December 6, age 60):  The widow of Roy Orbison and the manager of his incredible musical legacy died 23 years to the day after her husband's 1988 fatal heart attack.

Dan Peek (heart disease, July 24, age 60):  One of the original members of the 1972 "Best New Artist" Grammy-winning act America, he left the band in the 80s to concentrate of Christian music.
Joseph "Pinetop" Perkins (cardiac arrest, March 21, age 97):  Blues Hall of Fame piano player and recipient of a Grammy lifetime achievement award for his work.  He won a 2010 Grammy for an album with "Big Eyes" Smith, who also died this year.
Joan Peyser (complications from heart surgery, April 24, age 80):  Noted musicologist and biographer of the likes of Leonard Bernstein and George Gershwin.
Lee Pockriss (unknown cause, November 14, age 87):  Songwriter of such hits as "Catch a Falling Star," "Johnny Angel," and "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikni."
Bobby Poe (blood clot, January 22, age 77):  A rockabilly performer who was a member of Wanda Jackson's backing band.
Steve Popovich (heart problems, June 8, age 68):  Founder of the Columbia Records subsidiary label Cleveland International, where Meat Loaf found international success in 1978 with Bat Out of Hell.
Johnny Preston (heart failure, March 4, age 71):  Best known for his 1959 hit "Running Bear," which featured its author (J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson) and George Jones on backing vocals with Jones playing guitar.

Gerry Rafferty (alcoholism-related liver failure, January 4, age 63):  A gifted singer and songwriter who saw fame with "Stuck in the Middle With You" as a member of Stealers Wheel and on his own with "Baker Street" and the superlative 1978 album City to City.
Jerry Ragovoy (stroke, July 13, age 80):  R&B singer who wrote "Piece of My Heart," which Janis Joplin turned into a blues/rock classic.
Jody Rainwater (real name: Charles Johnson, complications of heart attack and other ailments, age 92):  A one-time member of Flatt & Scruggs's Foggy Mountain Boys and longtime Virginia country/bluegrass disc jockey.
Sam Rivers (pneumonia, December 26, age 88):  Innovative jazz saxophonist who was just as comfortable playing with John Lee Hooker as he was playing with Dizzy Gillespie.
Thomas Roady (heart attack, November 28, age 62):  The drummer for Ricky Skaggs' band Kentucky Thunder.
Gil Robbins (prostate cancer, April 5, age 80):  Member of the folk group the Highwaymen, best-known for their rendition of "Michael" in the early 60s.
Rudy Robbins (cancer, February 21, age 77):  Founding member of the "Official Cowboy Band of Texas" the Spirit of Texas.
Sylvia Robinson (congestive heart failure, September 29, age 75):  From half of Mickey & Sylvia (of "Love Is Strange" fame) to 70s disco singer and producer of the hit "Rapper's Delight."
Don Rondo (lung cancer, January 27, age 81):  Singer and songwriter from the 50s and 60s best-known for the hit "White Silver Sands."
Stan Ross (complications from surgery, March 11, age 82):  The co-owner of Gold Star Studios in L.A., where Phil Spector began his famous "Wall of Sound" productions.
Suze Rotolo (long-term illness, February 24, age 67):  The one-time girlfriend of Bob Dylan who was pictured on the cover of his Freewheelin' album.
George Roundtree (unknown cause, October 31, age 61):  The music director for the legendary group the Four Tops.
Alan Rubin (lung cancer, June 8, age 68):  The trumpet player known as "Mr. Fabulous," he played himself in The Blues Brothers.
Chuck Ruff (complications after surgery, October 14, age 60):  Drummer on Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein," he also played with Sammy Hagar.
Ken Russell (stroke, November 27, age 84):  Renown movie producer who brought the Who's rock opera Tommy to the big screen in 1975.
Mark Ryan (complications from liver damage, January 31, age 51):  An original member of Adam and the Ants.

Nick Santo (cancer, December 30, 2010 [announced in January 2011], age 69):  Member of the vocal group the Capris, best-known for "There's a Moon Out Tonight."
Mack Self (unknown causes, June 14, age 81):  Rockabilly Hall of Famer who had a hit with "Easy to Love" but was overshadowed by fellow Sun Records acts like Elvis, Jerry Lee, and Johnny Cash.
Eddie Serrato (end-stage renal failure/diabetes, February 24, age 65):  The drummer for "96 Tears" group ? and the Mysterians.
Sir George Shearing (congestive heart failure, February 14, age 91):  Legendary jazz pianist who had an international hit with "Lullaby of Birdland."
Jim "Motorhead" Sherwood (unknown cause, December 25, age 69):  Percussionist for Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention band.
Dick Sims (cancer, December 8, age 60):  Longtime keyboard player for Eric Clapton.
Gerald Smith (lung cancer, April 20, age 36):  Bass player for the band TV on the Radio.
Willie "Big Eyes" Smith (stroke, September 16, age 75):  Multiple-award winning blues harmonica player, vocalist and drummer.  His 2010 Grammy-winning partner "Pinetop" Perkins also died in 2011.
Phoebe Snow (complications from a 2010 brain hemorrhage, April 26, age 60):  Soulful folk singer best-remembered for her hit "Poetry Man" and dueting with Paul Simon on "Gone At Last."
Eddie Snyder (pneumonia, March 10, age 92):  The man who wrote Sinatra's classic "Strangers in the Night."
Melvin Sparks (diabetes, March 15, age 64):  R&B guitarist who worked with the likes of Hank Ballard, Marvin Gaye, Little Richard, and Jackie Wilson.
Billie Jo Spears (cancer, December 14, age 74):  Gifted singer with hits over three decades such as "Mr. Walker, It's All Over" and "Blanket on the Ground."
Dan "Bee" Spears (exposure after falling outside his home, December 8, age 62):  Willie Nelson's bassist for over four decades and the backbone of his band.
Mike Starr (prescription drug overdose, March 8, age 44):  One-time bassist for Alice in Chains.
Fred Steiner (stroke, June 23, age 88):  TV composer who wrote the theme to the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show as well as music scores for Star Trek, Perry Mason, and Hogan's Heroes.
John Strauss (Parkinson's disease, February 14, age 90):  The man who gave us the classic theme song to Car 54, Where Are You?
Poly Styrene (breast cancer, April 25, age 53):  Lead singer for the band X-Ray Spex.
Hubert Sumlin (heart failure, December 14, age 80):  Blues guitarist with Howlin' Wolf.

Victor Tallarico (natural causes, September 10, age 95):  The father of Aerosmith's front man Steve Tyler.
Marv Tarplin (unknown causes, September 30, age 70):  Guitarist for Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.
Howard Tate (leukemia, December 2, age 72):  R&B singer/songwriter, best-known for "Get It While You Can."
Joe Taylor (heart disease, March 24, age 89):  A Hoosier native who was content to play his music in Indiana instead of seeking national fame, he nevertheless found it when his song "He's a Cowboy Auctioneer" was recorded by Tex Ritter.
Andrea True (nee Truden, heart failure, November 7, age 68):  One-time porn star who had hits with "More More More" and "N.Y., You Got Me Dancing" in the mid-70s.
Mark Tulin (heart attack, February 26, age 62):  Bassist with the Electric Prunes in the 60s and early 70s, he also worked with the 90s band Smashing Pumpkins.
Buster Turner (unknown causes, March 3, age 82):  An east Tennessee-based country, bluegrass and gospel performer who wrote "Beautiful Altar of Prayer."

John Walker (liver cancer, May 7, age 67):  The front man for the R&B group the Walker Brothers.
Don Wayne (illness, September 12, age 78):  Country sngwriter who wrote the classics "Country Bumpkin" (Cal Smith) and "Saginaw, Michigan" (Lefty Frizzell's final #1 hit).
Mikey Welsh (drug overdose, October 8, age 40):  Former bassist for the band Weezer.
Margaret Whiting (natural causes, January 11, age 86):  A masterful pop singer who did one of the best-loved versions of "Baby It's Cold Outside" (with Johnny Mercer), she also made the country charts on several occasions as the singing partner of Jimmy Wakely.
Doc Williams (natural causes, January 31, age 96):  A longtime member of the Wheeling Jamboree and influence on countless West Virginia country musicians such as Brad Paisley.
Roger Williams (pancreatic cancer, October 8, age 87):  One of pop music's most distinguished piano players and stylists who had the massive hit "Autumn Leaves."
Vesta Williams (sleeping pill overdose, September 22, age 53):  80s R&B singer best-remembered for the song "Congratulations."
Jim Williamson (COPD, January 24, age 75):  Longtime recording engineer who worked on songs like "Coal Miner's Daughter," "Stand By Your Man" and "Rose Garden."
Amy Winehouse (alcohol poisoning, July 23, age 27):  Brilliant but troubled British pop singer with five Grammy awards under her belt.
Randy Wood (complications of a fall, April 9, age 94):  The man who gave us Dot Records, early home of acts such as bluegrass's Mac Wiseman, pop's Pat Boone, and country acts Roy Clark and Barbara Mandrell.
Johnnie Wright (natural causes, September 27, age 97):  Country singer who was best known as husband of "Queen of Country Music" Kitty Wells, he also had a string of hits with duet partner Jack Anglin as Johnnie & Jack as well as a solo career.

Paul Yandell (cancer, November 21, age 76):  The final person to receive the Chet Atkins-created designation "Certified Guitar Picker," Yandell backed many country acts (most notably, the Louvin Brothers) and played for years with his boyhood idol Atkins.
Snooky Young (lung ailment, May 11, age 92):  Jazz trumpet player who was a member of the Tonight Show band.


R.E.M. (disbanded, September 21, 31 years together):  the legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band that may not have invented "college rock" but certainly made it cool.

Farewell to each and every one, and thank you for the music.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Breath of Fresh Air

Category:  Sports News

Mike Krzyzewski coached his 902nd victory today (11/12).  This win ties him with his college basketball coach, Bob Knight, for the most in NCAA men's Division I basketball history.

In 36-plus years of coaching there has never been a scandal or a violation.  The worst thing that he's ever done was cuss out a Duke student newspaper reporter who, in Krzyzewski's opinion, was unfair to his team (not to him personally, mind you; rather to one of his players). 

He's been married to the same woman for 42 years and there's never been a hint or a whisper or any type of Rick Pitino-like infidelity.  

He is a graduate of West Point, where he played and had his first coaching job, meaning that he went into the Army in an era (the late 60s/early 70s) when other men his age were running away from military service.

He prays before games.

Most of the sports headlines over the past two weeks have been filled with stomach-turning news of the rape of young boys and subsequent cover-up by people who were considered pillars of their community.  That's why the 902nd "W" with Coach K on the sidelines is a breath of fresh air.  Whether you like Duke or hate them (and, as with many successful sports teams, there is no middle ground on which to walk), you cannot help but be thankful that this success has gone to a man above reproach.  There won't be any "tarnished legacy" when Mike Krzyzewski finally calls it a career.

We need more coaches like Mike Krzyzewski.  More importantly, we need more men like him.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Day the Music Store Died

Category:  News

Even if you're not from Louisville you've probably seen those bumper stickers.  How could you miss them:  the old typewriter font with the store's name in lower case letters save for that capital "X."

Ear X-tacy closed its doors in Louisville for the final time on October 27.  The store's demise is no real surprise, given all the other mega-chain stores that have bitten the dust with the advent of the download.  Yet somehow, through the changes from vinyl (which was predominant when I began shopping there when it opened in 1985) to cassettes to CDs and back to vinyl the store had managed to stay around.  It has been cited by numerous national sources as one of the top independent record stores in the country.  Now it has suffered the fate of so many other stores.

The store was the child of John Timmons, brother of 80s pop-metal band Danger Danger's lead guitarist Andy Timmons.  It was named after John's favorite band, XTC.  (John once said one of his biggest thrills was getting to talk to XTC front man Andy Partridge on the phone.)  It began in a small store on Poplar Level Road near the Watterson Expressway on-ramp.  The first move came when the expansion of the Watterson took the land.  Ear X-tacy moved next door to the Great Escape on Bardstown Road in the Highlands.  It then moved to a larger location further down Bardstown Road, near Eastern Parkway.   At the height of its popularity there were three locations in town, but last year the store had to move to a smaller location on Bardstown Road because of poor business.  In addition to records, CDs, and cassettes the store sold just about anything music-related short of instruments:  t-shirts, posters, tickets, books, magazines and bumper stickers.  Many free performances took place on the second floor of the store.

Despite the loyal fan base Timmons could no longer manage to keep the store in operation.  Whether it's the recession or the trends in downloading that keep people away from "real" stores in favor of cyber ones was not addressed in the press release.

Jim James, Louisville native and member of My Morning Jacket, told the Louisville Courier-Journal by e-mail, "There's a tear in my eye right now as I hear about the closing of one of my favorite places on earth."

It's sad to see the place go.  I discovered so much great music hanging out in that store.  It was at Ear X-tacy that I discovered the joy of the Replacements' Pleased to Meet Me, the brilliance of John Hiatt (name an album, any album), mourned the demise of Talking Heads, and debated the "they sold out" claim about R.E.M.  It was, in essence, my rock and roll university.

Ear X-tacy was 26.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

And I Thought It Was Bad LAST Year

Category:  News

The nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 2012 induction class were announced today. 

As usual, no legitimate superstars who should be nominated on the list (e.g., Steve Miller, Linda Ronstadt, Chicago, ELO, Rush, Moody Blues, Neil Sedaka), and a lot of disco, rap, and one-hit wonders (e.g., Beastie Boys) who should never be considered ARE on the list.

I'd comment on the way these nominations are making a mockery of the Hall of Fame, but these jokers aren't worth the caloric output.  It almost makes me glad Miller, Ronstadt, et. al. are NOT nominated:  it would cheapen their otherwise very successful careers.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pat Summitt's Toughest Game

Category:  Sports News

Nobody -- nobody -- has coached more victories in college basketball than Tennessee Lady Vols head coach Pat Summitt.  Now the Hall of Fame coach is facing her toughest opponent ever:  a serious health issue.  Summitt has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia. 

Summitt announced today (8/23) that she received the diagnosis of early-onset dementia (Alzheimer's type) in May.  Following the conclusion of the 2010-2011 season her doctor sent her to the Mayo Clinic, where she received the diagnosis.

Summitt is receiving treatment and will continue to coach.  The interim Athletics Director for the University of Tennessee, Joan Cronan, affirmed that "Pat Summitt is our head coach, and she will continue to be."

Pat Summitt has 1,071 victories, more than any other coach in any division of NCAA basketball, male or female.  She has won eight national titles and has spent her entire 39-year coaching career on the sidelines at Tennessee.  Her program has never been under any scrutiny by the NCAA for any violations, meaning she has won all those games and titles the right way.

Considering all the foul-smelling news coming out almost daily about college sports it is more important now than ever that the college games obtain more coaches like Pat Summitt.  Keep this marvelous coach and her family in your prayers as she battles this terrible diagnosis.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The More Simplistic the Better

Category: 50 Songs to Hear

SONG: You Are the Everything
SONGWRITERS: Michael Stipe / Peter Buck / Mike Mills / Bill Berry
ALBUM: Green
YEAR/LABEL: 1988; Warner Brothers

Yee haw!  Let's go make an art record!
(Peter Buck)

Athens, Georgia is the home of the University of Georgia.  Thanks to the bustling music scene that roared from the town in the late 70s and early 80s, one could make a legitimate argument that it is also the birthplace of "college rock," a genre of more adult, experimental music than the mainstream was cranking out in the disco and synthesizer era.  While acts from the Athens music scene enjoyed varying degrees of success (the B-52s were quite successful, Pylon and Kilkenny Cats were not), they all paled in comparison to the Hall of Fame success enjoyed by R.E.M.

When R.E.M. debuted in the early 1980s they were a cross between Tom Petty's jangling rock sound and Bob Dylan's cryptic lyrics (and garbled vocal delivery).  The albums had the added problem of no lyric sheets, meaning that it was up to the listener to decided what lead singer Michael Stipe was saying.  The music was perfect for the time:  "roots rock," the answer to the heavily-synthesized music that was dominating the pop charts at the time.  R.E.M. quickly became critics' darlings and picked up an increasing number of fans (among them, Warren Zevon, who recorded his Sentimental Hygiene album backed by Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry).  When they left the independent IRS label for giant Warner Brothers many claimed they were selling out, but in actuality their music was as fresh as the day they started.  Just as they ignored the popular music of the time when they started, as they sold millions they stayed true to what they wanted to do.  That meant as music got louder, with the rise in popularity of the hair bands in the mid-80s, R.E.M. decided to pull out the mandolin for a song.

That song is the highlight of their album Green, and indeed one of the highlights of their entire career:  the stunningly beautiful "You Are the Everything."

Proving they could mix music styles (the album was labeled, instead of "side one" and "side two," "air side" and "metal side") R.E.M. presented a lovely ballad that was as close to a love song as they had recorded (for the record, Stipe clearly and repeatedly stated in interviews that "The One I Love" was not a love song).  Buck picked up the mandolin and played a simple, beautiful melody as Stipe began, "Sometimes I feel like I can't even sing."  And you have to love a song that uses the word eviscerate, not to mention the notion of a band from the South throwing in a line that says, "You're drifting off to sleep with your teeth in your mouth."

R.E.M. has continued to impress fans and re-invent themselves.  Their masterpiece, however, is a haunting balled with a simplistic instrumentation that proves that a rock band doesn't have to "rock" to be memorable.


The entire Murmur album -- their initial album stands as one of the best of the 1980s.

The entire Dead Letter Office album -- a collection of B-sides, some fabulous ("Ages of You," their cover of "Femme Fatale"), some so bad they're good (their drunken rendition of "King of the Road," which they state in the liner notes should have led to a lawsuit from Roger Miller) but all that needed to be removed from the "buried B-side" status.  The best side of a single wasn't always the "A" or "plug" side!

"Gardening At Night" (originally on the Chronic Town EP, a different version appears on Eponymous) -- in various interviews both Michael Stipe and Mike Mills stated they have no clue what this song is about.  Flash back to the early days when songs didn't really have to be more profound than a Bob Dylan album to be good.  This song brings that notion forward.


You Haven't Heard
Winter's Come and Gone
Where Do I Go to Throw a Picture Away
When My Rowboat Comes In
When I Lift Up My Head
Rose of My Heart
Rock of Ages, Hide Thou Me
Our Town
Old Memories Mean Nothing to Me
Not That I Care
Nobody Eats at Linebaugh's Anymore
My Book of Memories
Lost to a Stranger

A Little Bitty Heart
Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs
Life is Too Short
I Want a Home in Dixie
I Lost Today
Down to the River to Pray
Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyeballs
A Death in the Family
Dark as a Dungeon
Bottomless Well

Wall of Death
Train Leaves Here This Morning
Swallowed By the Cracks
Stealin' Time
Starting Tomorrow
Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate
She's a Runaway
Painted Bells
Out to Sea
One More Song
New Delhi Freight Train

Long Way Home
Heart of Rome
Harriet Tubman's Gonna Carry Me Home
Entella Hotel
Desperados Under the Eaves
Crossing Muddy Waters
Cliffs of Dooneen
Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)
Baby Mine

Thursday, August 4, 2011

...Even If I Don't Know Anything About Jazz

Category:  Concert Review

I'll start by admitting point blank that I know nothing about jazz.  I know some of the names, of course -- Charlie Parker, Louie Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald -- but I don't have any real knowledge of the music, its history, or anything else.  Give me two notes can I can tell you if something's real country music or pop wanna-be, but jazz?  I haven't even graduated kindergarten in my education.  So when I spent an evening at Katerina's in Chicago watching Harmonious Wail perform over two hours of spectacular music all I could say is "wow."  

L-R: Jeff Weiss, Sims Delaney-Potthoff,
Maggie Delaney-Potthoff, Mark Kreitzer

Harmonious Wail is a quartet from Madison, Wisconsin fronted by the husband and wife team of Sims and Maggie Delaney-Potthoff.  They bill themselves as a "gypsy swing jazz band."  I do know enough to know the term "gypsy jazz" is an ode to Django, the masterful French guitarist who influenced people ranging from Les Paul to Chet Atkins.  Sims fronts the band not on guitar but on mandolin, having taken lessons from the legendary Jethro Burns (who was also influenced by Reinhardt).  Maggie plays various and unique percussive instruments (such as a empty box that once held boxes of Purex laundry detergent and a pair of scissors).  Mark Kreitzer plays guitar brilliantly, and Jeff "Jeffro" Weiss is a young but gifted stand-up bassist.

The band, quite simply, is superb.  Maggie has a voice that can melt ice cubes then turn around and re-freeze the water.  "Torch?"  Maybe.  "Great?"  Absolutely.  She let loose on a combination of originals ("I Like to Feel My Bones," a song written after a car wreck, and the title song from their most recent CD "The Vegan Zombie's Lament") and covers ("My Favorite Things" and a show-stopping rendition of Steely Dan's "Home at Last").  Sims' mandolin playing showed his respect for his teacher (most notably when he let loose on "Tico Tico," borrowing heavily from the 1962 Homer & Jethro Playing It Straight arrangement) as well as the love for Django (they played "Djangology" and "Minor Swing").

My favorite quote about music comes from Sir Paul McCartney, who said in an 1974 interview, "I just like good music.  And, you know, you gotta search for it."  I may not know much about jazz but I do know that Harmonious Wail is a superb band with talented musicians and a gifted vocalist, and they deserve to be heard, regardless of how much you do or don't know about jazz.

Harmonious Wail's web site

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

At Halftime of the Baseball Season...

Category:  Sports Rant

Now that the Midsummer Classic is over with an astonishing two-game winning streak by the National League in the books, it's time to sound off on the All-Star Game -- and a few other things.

1.  Don't Wanna Go to the All-Star Game?  Fine!  This year's All-Star Game may be remembered more for the players who snubbed it rather than the people who did attend, the outcome, or the game's MVP.  This has become a disturbing trend over the past few years:  instead of acknowledging the fans' votes and being grateful, more and more players seem upset that their less-successful teammates are getting a three to four-day vacation and they, the superstars, are not.  So, they're shunning the All-Star Game.  That used to be a resume-padder (so-and-so "is a three-time All Star").  Now people are treating it like a liability.  

Here's a solution:  if you don't go to the All-Star Game this year after being voted on the starting line-up by the fans, you're automatically excluded for three years.  That way, your fans won't waste their vote on you when they could instead be voting for someone who really would appreciate the fans' gratitude toward the season he's having.

2.  That Annoying "Every Team Must Be Represented" Rule.  There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball -- 14 American, 16 National.  There are 25 players in the game on each side.  There's also a rule:  each team must have at least one representative on the All-Star team.  Baloney.  A team with sixty-two losses at the All-Star Break deserves a representative?  In a word, NO.  

Instead, try this:  the last-place teams (in each of the six divisions) do not get a representative unless (a) he's voted in by the fans or (b) that team is the host for the game.  That way, if Houston were hosting the game this year they would get a representative, or if Carlos Lee received enough votes, they could be represented.  Otherwise, let them all stay home and work on getting out of the cellar (between that and Reds' closer Francisco Cordero melting down worse than a damaged Japanese nuclear reactor, that shouldn't take long) and leave that spot for a player that currently has to stay off the roster because of the rule.  (Think about it:  if this game "means something," would the manager rather have the best players that would help assure a victory, or would he rather have the best player from the worst team instead of, oh, another player off the first-place team?)

3.  And While We're On the Subject of "The All-Star Game Means Something..."  This may well be the worst thing Bud Selig has ever done to baseball -- and that's saying something.  The notion of giving home field advantage to the All-Star champ league hasn't helped re-spark passionate interest in the All-Star Game a whole heck of a lot, has it?  (See issue #1.)  Fine.  Chalk this up as a failed experiment and let's have the World Series home field advantage decided on the field -- the team with the best record gets it.  Hockey and basketball seem to think that's a good idea, so why can't baseball do it the logical way as well?

4.  Elsewhere, There's the NCAA's Feet-Dragging.  So does Ohio State have to give the Sugar Bowl trophy to Arkansas with "2011 Sugar Bowl champions: Ohio State" written on it for the Razorbacks' trophy case?  What's going to happen to Auburn if the investigations prove all the news reports about Cam Newton were true?  The NCAA moves about as fast as a turtle covered in molasses stuck in a frozen pond when it comes to investigations, and that's making them a laughingstock.  They need to change the rules so we don't have any more Heisman Trophies returned to the New York Athletic Club or bowl hardware handed over to the losing team.  Come up with a "limbo" program, move faster, or do something to prevent any more egg on the faces of award sponsors, bowl sponsors, universities, and/or the NCAA.

5.  How About Punishing the COACHES in These Scandals?  "Eddie Sutton" is a worse cuss word in Kentucky than "Christian Laettner."  While Sutton was the head basketball coach at Kentucky a number of scandals, from players cheating on their tests to payment of $1,000 to the father of a player, came to light.  The NCAA's punishment was swift and sure:  Kentucky almost got the "death penalty" for the basketball program but was "let off the hook" with a three-year probation, two-year postseason ban, and a ban from television.  While Kentucky's fans, innocent players, and new coach (R*ck P*t*no, another cuss word in the eyes of Wildcat fans considering where he's coaching now) paid the penalty, Eddie Sutton waltzed off to a new job at Oklahoma State.

That is just wrong.  The NCAA has to initiate a penalty for ALL the guilty parties.  If an assistant coach is slipping C-notes under the table to a player's parents that coach should be banned from working anywhere in an NCAA college for a number of years.  I don't know if Jim Tressel could get a job as towel washer at a university right now, given what happened at Ohio State, but given the fact that he is a proven winner (and the name of the game is "just win, baby") somebody is sure to offer him a job.  Not so fast:  when the slow but sure boom is lowered on Ohio State it should also come down on Tressel.  The fact that the guilty coaches, assistant coaches, and other behind-the-scenes people can walk away and immediately become gainfully employed by another university while the former college is left to bear the brunt of the sins is part of the reason there are so many problems in college sports now.  Let them experience a consequence for their actions and see how quickly things clear up.

6.  And Finally... If these sporting events wish "to honor America," how about having someone sing the National Anthem with dignity, respect, and all of the words instead of calling on pop stars who try to turn the song into their new top 40 hit?  Take it from a veteran:  having someone who sold four million records last year screaming the song while forgetting the words does not honor America.  It should shame these people that the Stanley Cup's games in Canada earlier this year featured a Canadian singing our National Anthem on-key, with respect, and not forgetting a single word.  If you want to "honor America," get Wayne Mesmer (who sings the National Anthem at many Cubs games), not Christine Aguilera or Jesse McCartney.

Thank you, and enjoy the second half of the season.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

When Scooter and the Big Man Bust This City in Half

Category:  Obituary/News

Thinking about Bruce Springsteen without Clarence Clemons is almost impossible.  It's the rock equivalent of Buck Owens without his lead guitarist/tenor singer Don Rich.  It's just not right.

Clarence Clemons, Springsteen's "Big Man" saxophonist, died today (6/18) at approximately 7:00 p.m. (ET) from complications of a stroke he suffered June 12.  The news had been bad from the beginning:  his stroke was considered "very serious" according to news reports, and sources reported that Springsteen and fellow E Street Band members were advised to get to Palm Beach, Florida (where Clemons lived and where he was stricken) as soon as possible.  Clemons underwent two surgeries on his brain after the stroke and was reported to be "responsive" although paralyzed on his left side following the operations.

Clemons was in the E Street Band at the beginning, playing saxophone that ranged from raucous rock and roll to beautiful soul.  He was featured on the cover of Springsteen's legendary breakthrough Born to Run album in 1975, and the song "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" mentioned him in the final verse ("I'm gonna sit back right easy and laugh when Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half").  Even Randy Newman mentioned Clemons in his song "My Life is Good," in which he spoofed Springsteen ("Rand, I'm tired, how would you like to be Boss for awhile?  Well, blow, Big Man, blow!").  In addition to his work with Springsteen, Clemons released his own music (his duet with Jackson Browne, "You're a Friend of Mine," was an MTV hit in the early 1980s) and played on numerous other recordings.

Shortly after Clemons' passing Bruce Springsteen released this statement:

"Clarence lived a wonderful life. He carried within him a love of people that made them love him. He created a wondrous and extended family. He loved the saxophone, loved our fans and gave everything he had every night he stepped on stage.  His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly 40 years. He was my great friend, my partner and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band."

Rock and roll will never be the same.

Farewell to the great Clarence "Big Man" Clemons.  He was 69.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Good and Bad in News

Category:  News Reporting

Kudos to the Weather Channel's Mike Bettes for being human.  It's really nice to know that seeing hundreds of people killed and injured and scores of buildings destroyed does emotionally affect a reporter.  That was honest, too, as real as the pain on Walter Cronkite's face when he announced that President Kennedy was dead in 1963.  Way to go, Mike.  I hope the weather improves so you don't get choked up over tornado devastation again for a long time.

As for other news reporters, could you please give us a break from the false prophet who keeps proclaiming a new date for the end of the world every time it becomes obvious that he doesn't have a clue?  This clod's giving Christians a bad name by claiming he knows more than God (since Jesus said that only God knows the day).  He's also giving reporters a bad name because they treat his spewings as if he's actually newsworthy.  Take a hint from Lou Grant, who once said, "There's no such thing as a slow news day, only slow news men." 

Or maybe a better reference would be Chevy Chase from "Weekend Update" from the original Saturday Night Live, where he reported that a celebrity was back in the news.  Chase then added, "Sources report that nobody is interested and nobody cares."  Neither do we.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Golf Loses a Giant

Category:  Sports News/Obituary

Seve Ballesteros lost his two and a half year battle with brain cancer today (5/7).  Ballesteros died at his home in Pedrena, Spain less than a day after his family announced that his condition had taken a "dramatic turn for the worse."

Ballesteros was to the European tour what Arnold Palmer is to golf in America, or what Gary Player is to the sport in South Africa.  He was an icon not only in his native Spain but throughout Europe.  He was the first European to slip the coveted Green Jacket, the prize for winning the Masters, on his shoulders.  Overall, he won five majors (three British Opens and two Masters).  Additionally, he won fifty European PGA events, more than anyone on the European tour.  He captained the European Ryder Cup in 1997, the year it was played in Spain for the first time, leading the Europeans to victory.

It was Ballesteros' seemingly impossible shots that made him a legend.  A slice in the woods wasn't a reason to cuss and slam his club (the way some people do), it was an opportunity to invent a new shot.  Archive footage airing on the sports tributes showed Ballesteros hitting a ball nearly 200 yards -- from his knees in the woods.

2010 Masters champion Phil Mickelson paid tribute to Ballesteros at this year's Masters Champions dinner.  The defending champion picks the menu for the dinner, and to honor Ballesteros Mickelson's dinner had a Spanish theme with a bilingual menu.

Spain has lost one of its most iconic figures, and golf has lost a superb player who was tremendously under-appreciated in this country.

Seve Ballesteros was only 54.