Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Final Curtains of 2012

Category:  Tribute

Here are the musicians and music-related individuals who took their final bows in 2012.

Mark Abrahamian (September 2, heart attack, age 46):  guitarist for the Mickey Thomas incarnation of Starship.

Willie Ackerman (December 13, unknown cause, age 73):  prolific country session drummer who can be heard on tracks such as Marty Robbins' "El Paso" and Ferlin Husky's "Wings of a Dove."  He also appeared regularly on Hee Haw and the Grand Ole Opry.
Richard Adler (June 21, natural causes, age 91):  Tony Award-winning songwriter of such hits as Damn Yankees and Pajama Game.
Dave "Omar the Magnificent" Alexander (January 18, suicide [gunshot], age 73):  influential blues "boogie woogie" piano player.
Inez Andrews (December 19, cancer, age 73):  one of the voices of what is known as "the golden age" of gospel music.
Tom Ardolino (January 6, long illness, age 56):  the drummer for the legendary band NRBQ.
Mike Auldridge (December 28, cancer, age 73):  the Dobro player for the legendary bluegrass band the Seldom Scene.

Bob Babbitt (July 16, brain cancer, age 74):  prolific Motown session musician and bassist in the Funk Brothers.
Perry Baggs (July 12, complications of diabetes, age 50):  the drummer for the seminal rock band Jason and the Scorchers.
Bill Bailey (January 14, natural causes, age 81):  legendary disc jockey, known as the "Duke of Louisville" for his years at WAKY.  He also worked at stations in Cincinnati and Chicago.
Fontella Bass (December 26, complications from heart attack, age 72):  powerhouse R&B singer, best known for her 1965 hit "Rescue Me."
Eddie Bell (ne Eddie Blazonczyk; May 12, natural causes, age 70):  Grammy-winning polka bandleader.
Pete Bennett (November 22, heart attack, age 77):  music promoter who worked with the Beatles, as a group and solo, as well as Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones.
Bob Birch (August 16, suicide [gunshot], age 56):  bass player for Elton John.
Doug Bounsall (September 1, car accident, age 61):  a former member of the Dillards.
Chuck Brown (May 16, pneumonia, age 75):  affectionately known as "the godfather of go-go music," his band the Soul Searchers hit the charts in 1979 with "Bustin' Loose."
Dave Brubeck (December 5, heart failure, age 91):  a master of jazz piano and one of the few jazz performers to cross over to widespread pop success thanks to his hit "Take Five," he died en route to a doctor's appointment one day before his 92nd birthday.
Billy Bryans (April 23, lung cancer, age 57):  percussionist and producer who worked with the Parachute Club and produced the soundtrack to the Disney film Jungle 2 Jungle.
Larry Butler (January 20, natural causes, age 69):  a man with many hats, including the songwriter of BJ Thomas' 1975 #1 country and pop hit "(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song."  Butler also produced numerous country music acts, but his work with Kenny Rogers brought them both phenomenal success.  In 1980 Butler became the first, and to date the only, country music producer to win the "producer of the year" Grammy award.

Leslie Carter (January 31, drug overdose, age 25):  rising pop singer who followed her successful brothers Nick Carter and Aaron Carter into the business.
Ed Cassidy (December 6, cancer, age 89):  drummer for the 60s band Spirit.
Hadley Castle (October 25, brain tumor, age 79):  Cajun fiddler who saw his music featured in films such as A Perfect World and A Man and His Dog.
Jimmy Castor (January 6, heart failure, age 71):  the leader of the Jimmy Castor Bunch, the group who had hits with "Troglodyte" and "Bertha Butt Boogie."
Tony Cianciola (January 25, aneurysm, age 87):  a Knoxville-based accordion player who followed his cousin onto the WNOX Midday Merry-Go-Round, where he performed with country acts such as Chet Atkins, Archie Campbell, Don Gibson, and Johnnie & Jack.  Atkins was such a fan that he used Cianciola on some recording sessions.
Dick Clark (April 18, heart attack, age 82):  long before MTV there was American Bandstand, thanks to the man affectionately known as "the world's oldest teenager."
Susanna Clark (June 27, illness, age 73):  the wife of legendary songwriter Guy Clark was a songwriter herself, co-writing the country classic "Easy From Now On" with Carlene Carter.  She was also a gifted painter.  Her artwork adorned the cover of Willie Nelson's Stardust album.
Eddie Clerto (February 2, natural causes, age 93):  based on the west coast for most of his career, Clerto managed one minor hit, "Flying Saucer Boogie."  His band the Roundup Boys worked with numerous west coast country performers including Rose Maddox.
Maria Cole (July 10, cancer, age 89):  a singer herself, she was also the widow of Nat "King" Cole and mother of Natalie Cole.
Charlie Collins (January 12, stroke, age 78):  A well-known east Tennessee performer in his early life, Collins joined "king of country music" Roy Acuff's Smoky Mountain Boys in 1966.  After Acuff's death in 1992 Collins remained on the Grand Ole Opry as part of the square dance band.
Don Cornelius (February 1, suicide [gunshot], age 75):  the originator and host of the R&B version of American BandstandSoul Train.
Pete Cosey (May 30, post-operative complications, age 68):  long-time guitarist with jazz great Miles Davis.
B.B. Cunningham (October 14, murdered [shot to death], age 70):  as a member of the Hombres he wrote "Let It All Hang Out;" later he played bass for Jerry Lee Lewis.
Nick Curran (October 6, oral cancer, age 36):  punk, blues and roots rock musician.
Ted Curson (November 4, heart attack, age 77):  jazz trumpet player who performed with Charlie Mingus.

Hal David (September 1, stroke, age 91):  Burt Bacharach's songwriting partner and a prolific lyricist.

Carl Davis (August 9, lung disease, age 77):  producer of such hits as "Higher and Higher" and "Duke of Earl."
Michael Davis (February 17, liver failure, age 68):  the bassist for the band MC5.
Bill Dees (October 24, brain tumor, age 73):  songwriter responsible for the Roy Orbison smash "(Oh) Pretty Woman."
Al DeLory (February 5, unknown causes, age 82):  a session musician (the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album) who had one hit on his own, his rendition of the theme song to M*A*S*H, DeLory was the Grammy-winning producer and arranger for Glen Campbell during Campbell's rise to superstardom.
Robert Dickey (December 29, 2011, announced January 4, 2012, unknown causes, age 72):  the "Bobby" in James & Bobby Purify, who had the hit "I'm Your Puppet."
Doug Dillard (May 16, lung infection, age 75):  Sheriff Andy Taylor's favorite band was the Darlings, and Doug Darling was their banjo player.  The Dillards, of course, were a legitimate bluegrass band, inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 2010.  Aside from his work with the Dillards, Doug also teamed up with one-time Byrd member Gene Clark for the duo Dillard & Clark.
Lee Dorman (December 21, suspected heart attack, age 70):  bassist for the band Iron Butterfly, best-known for "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida."
Cleve Duncan (November 7, unknown cause, age 78):  member of the 50s vocal group the Penguins, best-known for their hit "Earth Angel."
Donald "Duck" Dunn (May 13, heart attack, age 70):  a bass player's bass player, he began with Booker T. & the MG's and moved on to session work across the spectrum of music.  He also played himself in the classic 1980 film The Blues Brothers.

Jimmy Elledge (June 10, stroke, age 69):  the man who had the first huge (million-selling) version of the Willie Nelson composition "Funny How Time Slips Away."
Jimmy Ellis (March 8, Alzheimer's disease, age 74):  a member of the Trammps, the band with the mid-70s hit "Disco Inferno."
Chris Ethridge (April 23, pancreatic cancer, age 65):  the bassist for Gram Parson's influential country-rock band the Flying Burrito Brothers.
Dan Evins (January 14, cancer, age 76):  the founder of Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores, the "home cooking" restaurant that has started its own record label.  The label's releases include albums by the Oak Ridge Boys, Dolly Parton, and two Grammy-nominated releases by Dailey & Vincent.

Martin Fay (November 14, long illness, age 76):  one of the founders of the legendary Irish folk band the Chieftains.
Pete Fornatale (April 26, brain aneurysm, age 66):  one of WNEW's legendary DJs.
Isaac "Dickie" Freeman (October 17, long illness, age 84):  a member of the gospel group the Fairfield Four.
Gil Friesen (December 13, leukemia, age 75):  the president of A&M Records.

Robin Gibb (May 20, cancer, age 62):  a member of the Bee Gees.
Joel Goldsmith (April 29, cancer, age 56):  the son of composer Jerry Goldsmith, he was the composer for the music for the TV series Stargate SG-1.
Minnette Goodman (December 5, lung cancer, age 85):  the mother of late folk singer/songwriter Steve Goodman was also a dedicate supporter and promoter of the Chicago folk music scene.
Don Grady (June 27, cancer, age 68):  the My Three Sons actor was also a musician (he had a minor hit in 1966) and songwriter.
R.B. Greaves (September 27, prostate cancer, age 68):  the performer of the hit "Take a Letter, Maria."
Bob Green (January 26, unknown causes, age 80):  Anita Bryant's former husband was also her manager.
Andy Griffith (July 3, heart attack, age 86):  the folksy sheriff of Mayberry was a good guitarist and singer, having a comedy hit with "What It Was, Was Football" and a string of successful gospel recordings.  Griffith was one of three people from his 1960s TV series to die this year (along with Doug Dillard and George Lindsey).
Jackie Guthrie (October 14, liver cancer, age 68):  the wife of folk legend Arlo Guthrie.

Greg Ham (body found April 19, undetermined cause, age 58):  the flautist of the 80s Australian band Men at Work.
Marvin Hamlisch (August 7, brief illness, age 68):  composer who became internationally famous with his work on the soundtrack of the 1973 classic The Sting.
Richard Harding (May 12, cancer, age 82):  the owner of the Chicago folk club the Quiet Knight, where John Prine was discovered while opening for Kris Kristofferson.
Major Harris (November 9, congestive heart failure and liver failure, age 65):  a one-time member of the group the Delfonics who later had a solo hit with "Love Won't Let Me Wait."
Dee Harvey (December 1, complications of an illness, age 47):  an R&B singer best-known for  his 1991 song "Leave Well Enough Alone."
Levon Helm (April 19, cancer, age 71):  the backbone and back beat of The Band whose talent and reach spanned genres and decades.  He acted in several films beginning with Coal Miner's Daughter and later won Grammy awards for his solo projects Dirt Farmer and Ramble at the Ryman.
Walt Hensley (November 25, cancer, age 76):  the "Banjo Baron of Baltimore" played with many bluegrass bands including the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers and the Country Gentlemen.
Stephen Hill (August 5, heart attack, age 55):  gospel singer/songwriter who frequently appeared on the Gaither Homecoming shows and taught at the Stamps Baxter School of Music.
Larry Hoppen (July 24, unknown cause, age 61):  co-founder of the band Orleans, responsible for hits such as "Dance With Me" and "Still the One."
Michael Hossack (March 12, cancer, age 65):  drummer for the Doobie Brothers.
Whitney Houston (February 11, drowned in bathtub, age age 48):  singer and actress whose career was sadly eclipsed by, and ultimately ended by, her personal demons.

Etta James (January 20, leukemia, age 73):  a vocalist....oh, what a vocalist.
Billy Johnson (February 27, unknown cause, age 51):  country session and touring guitarist for the likes of Billy Walker, Jim Ed Brown and Porter Wagoner.
Tim Johnson (October 21, cancer, age 52):  a board member of the Nashville Songwriters Association International and author of over 100 songs including "Thank God for Believers," "I Let Her Lie" and "Do You Believe Me Now."
Davy Jones (February 29, heart attack, age 66):  one of the pre-fab four, the Monkees.
Peter Jones (May 18, brain cancer, age 58):  the drummer for the band Crowded House.
Jimmy Jones (August 2, unknown causes, age 82):  a songwriter responsible for the hit "Handy Man."

Dick Kniss (January 27, pulmonary disease, age 74):  a one-time bassist for folk music icons Peter, Paul & Mary, he went on to work with John Denver, including co-writing "Sunshine on My Shoulder."

Charlie Lamb (March 7, pneumonia, age 90):  a country music journalist for over 60 years who coined the term "with a bullet" to signify fast-rising songs on the music charts.
John Levy (January 20, natural causes, age 99):  the first African-American talent manager, he worked with jazz acts such as Nancy Wilson and Ramsey Lewis.
Tonmi Lillman (February 14, unknown causes, age 38):  drummer for metal bands Synergy and To/Die/For.
George Lindsey (May 6, illness, age 83):  "Goober" on The Andy Griffith Show later became a regular on Hee Haw.
Jon Lord (July 16, pulmonary embolism and pancreatic cancer, age 71):  songwriter and keyboard player for Deep Purple.
Andrew Love (April 12, Alzheimer's disease, age 70):  a member of the Memphis Horns section, he played on many Elvis records.
Eric Lowen (March 23, Lou Gehrig's disease, age 60):  half of the songwriting duo Lowen and Navarro, who wrote hits such as Pat Benatar's "We Belong."

Jim Marshall (April 5, cancer, age 88):  the inventor of the Marshall amplifiers.
Mark "Bam Bam" McConnell (May 24, kidney failure, age unknown):  the drummer for Sebastian Bach.
Jimmy McCraclin (December 20, hypertension & diabetes, age 91):  singer/songwriter who wrote the hit "The Walk."
Kathi McDonald (October 2, unknown cause, age 64):  blues/rock singer who also appeared on albums by the Rolling Stones and Joe Cocker.
John McGann (April 6, kidney disease, unknown age):  multi-instrumentalist and influential mandolin teacher.
Jon Mcintire (February 15, lung cancer, age 70):  the manager for the Grateful Dead during the 70s.
Scott McKenzie (August 18, illness, age 73):  folk-rock singer who had the hit "San Francisco (Flowers in Your Hair)."
Fred Milano (January 1, lung cancer, age 72):  a member of Dion and the Belmonts.
Ronnie Montrose (March 3, suicide [gunshot]/suffered from prostate cancer, age 64):  hard rock singer and session guitarist.
Danny Morrison (February 14, heart attack, age unknown):  country songwriter behind "Blaze of Glory" and "Is It Cold in Here."
Teddy Mueller (June 28, hepatitis C, age 57):  drummer for the hard rock band Axe.
Joe Muraryi (April 20, stroke, age 84):  the final surviving clarinet player who worked with Louis Armstrong.

Johnny Otis (January 17, long illness, age 90):  an R&B drummer and producer who wrote the classic "Willie and the Hand Jive."

Frank Peppiatt (November 6, bladder cancer, age 85):  one of the co-creators of Hee Haw.
Charles "Skip" Pitts (May 1, cancer, age 65):  guitarist who worked with Isaac Hayes, including on the classic song "Theme From Shaft."
Dory Previn (February 14, natural causes, age 86):  singer/songwriter best-known for writing the theme to the movie Valley of the Dolls.

Mark Reale (January 25, subarachnoid hemorrhage & Crohn's disease, age 56):  guitarist for the band Riot.
Herb Reed (June 4, chronic heart disease, age 83):  the last surviving original member of the legendary vocal group the Platters.
Natina Reed (October 26, hit by car, age 32):  member of the band Blaque, who had the hit "Bring It All Back to Me."
Tom "Cat" Reeder (June 30, heart attack, age 78):  WAMU's bluegrass host and a Disc Jockey Hall of Fame member.
Ken Regan (November 25, cancer, no age given):  legendary rock photographer who took photos of everyone from the Beatles to Muhammad Ali.
Larry Reinhardt (January 2, infection/cancer, age 63):  guitarist for the 60s band Iron Butterfly. He was one of two band members to die in 2012 (Lee Dorman was the other).
Jenni Rivera (December 8, plane crash, age 43):  Spanish pop singer with huge following in Mexico and America, she had signed a deal to appear in an ABC sitcom eight days before her death.
Kenny Roberts (April 29, natural causes, age 85):  country music singer and yodeler who also did some acting.
Buddy Rogers (May 30, unknown cause, age 73):  the owner of a chain of "Uncle Bud's Catfish" restaurants in Nashville was also a session drummer who worked with the likes of Jerry Reed and Danny Davis & the Nashville Brass.
Martin Rushent (June 4, unknown cause, age 62):  British rock record producer whose hits included the Human League's "Don't You Want Me."
"Sweet Joe" Russell (May 5, kidney disease, age unknown):  founder of the a cappella band the Persuasions.

Mike Scaccia (seizuire while onstage, December 22, age 47):  guitarist for the heavy metal band Ministry.
Earl Scruggs (March 28, natural causes, age 88):  the man for whom the banjo seemed to be invented, his three-finger style of playing revolutionized bluegrass music.
Ravi Shankar (December 11, respiratory and heart failure, age 92):  the world's foremost sitar player (and George Harrison's sitar teacher) was also the father of singer Nora Jones.
Dick Shelton (January 17, pneumonia, age 71):  country singer Blake Shelton's father.
Robert Sherman (March 5, illness, age 86):  one of the Sherman Brothers who wrote songs for numerous Disney films and the song "It's a Small World," which has a ride named after it at the Disney theme parks.
John Shuffler (December 21, illness/complications of a stroke, age 81):  the bass player in the Shuffler Family bluegrass band began his career playing with the Stanley Brothers.
Danny Sims (October 3, colon cancer, age 75):  the record producer credited with discovering Bob Marley.
Joe South (September 5, heart attack, age 72):  primarily considered a country songwriter because of songs such as "Don't It Make You Wanna Go Home," "Games People Play," and "Rose Garden," he also wrote the Deep Purple classic "Hush."
Chris Stamp (November 24, cancer, age 70):  manager for such acts as the Who and Jimi Hendrix.
John Stockfish (August 20, natural causes, age 69):  the longtime bassist for folk icon Gordon Lightfoot.
Billy Strangs (February 22, illness, age 81):  a man who wore many hats, including playing guitar on the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album, arranging songs such as Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Were Made for Walkin,' and writing songs including "A Little Less Conversation."
"Big Jim" Sullivan (October 2, heart disease/diabetes, age 71):  prolific British session guitarist who worked on hits for Gilbert O'Sullivan, Dusty Springfield, and Tom Jones.
Rollin "Oscar" Sullivan (September 7, leukemia, age 93):  half of the Grand Ole Opry comedy duo Lonzo & Oscar, Sullivan was also a member of Eddy Arnold's band in the 1940s.  His mandolin work can be heard on Arnold's early recordings.
Donna Summer (May 17, lung cancer, age 63):  initially known as the "disco queen" she continued to have hits (e.g., "Unconditional Love") long after the disco craze died.  She was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year.
Stuart Swanlund (August 6, natural causes, age 54):  Marshall Tucker Band guitar player.

Richard Teeter (April 10, unknown cause, age 61):  drummer for the punk band the Dictators.
Jim Thomas (December 19, long illness, age 87):  Branson, Missouri businessman who is credited with starting the popularity of music theaters in the city.
Joe Thompson (February 20, natural causes, age 93):  African-American fiddler from North Carolina who performed with the Carolina Chocolate Drops and served as an ambassador for traditional music.

Herby Wallace (April 5, heart attack, age 64):  Steel Guitar Hall of Fame inductee who played on over 2,000 country sessions.
Willa Ward (August 12, natural causes, age 91):  member of the gospel group the Ward Sisters.
Mack Watkins (March 25, unknown causes, age unknown):  country session guitar player and the husband of Jeannie Kendall of the duo the Kendalls.
Doc Watson (May 29, complications from colon surgery and pneumonia, age 89):  one of the best friends a guitar could ever have.  His majestic playing thrilled audiences for decades, and his memorial to his late son, MerleFest, brought bluegrass, country and Americana artists and fans together in North Carolina for a quarter of a century. 
Bob Welch (June 7, suicide [gunshot], age 66):  lead guitarist for Fleetwood Mac who spearheaded their transition from blues band to mainstream rock, he was replaced by Lindsey Buckingham upon his departure.  He later found solo success with "Sentimental Lady," a re-working of a song he first recorded with Fleetwood Mac.  He was one of two former Fleetwood Mac members to die in 2012.
Kitty Wells (July 16, stroke, age 92):  in 1952 she kicked the door down for female country singers with "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," rightfully earning her the title "Queen of Country Music."
Bob Weston (January 3, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, age 64):  guitar player for Fleetwood Mac on the albums Mystery to Me and Penguin.  He was one of two former Fleetwood Mac members (along with Bob Welch, who was also on the Mystery to Me album) who died in 2012.
Andy Williams (September 25, bladder cancer, age 84):  more than a host of Christmas specials and the man who discovered the Osmond Brothers, he was one of the definitive pop vocalists in music.
Carmilla Williams (January 29, cancer, age 92):  opera soprano who had the distinction of being the first African-American woman to work with an American opera company.
Frank Wilson (September 27, lung infection, age 71):  a Motown producer and songwriter who co-wrote the Diana Ross & the Supremes hit "Love Child."
Belita Woods (May 14, heart failure, age 63):  a member of Parliament-Funkadelic and Brainstorm.

Adam Yauch (May 4, cancer, age 47):  founding member of the Beastie Boys.

Finally, a couple of deaths related to The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which went from a Tony-nominated Broadway musical to a 1982 film starring Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton.  On December 12 Lawrence King, the man who wrote the original 1973 Playboy magazine article about the "chicken ranch" and later collaborated on the play, died from emphysema at the age of 83.  Twelve days later veteran character actor Charles Durning, who stole the show with his performance of "The Sidestep," died of natural causes at the age of 89.

Farewell, and thank you for the music.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Called It, Didn't I?

Category:  News

Frank Burns once said he wasn't right very often.  Even the doctor of dunce from M*A*S*H could have called some of the winners in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee balloting.   Heck, I got most of them right!  

As previously predicted, Randy Newman was inducted, as was the late queen of disco Donna Summer and legendary blues man Albert King.  I was also thrilled to see that the Hall of Fame is finally getting around to putting commercially successful but critically panned acts in, as evident by the induction of Heart and Rush.  This gives me hope that maybe next year we will see the nomination (note that not only are these household names not inducted, they have NEVER BEEN NOMINATED) of other legendary acts such as Steve Miller, Linda Ronstadt, the Electric Light Orchestra, the Moody Blues, and Kiss.  Yeah, Kiss's music may be lame but I guarantee you that more people know who they are than know who Erik B. & Rakem (one of this year's nominees) are.  And as I always like to point out, it is a hall of FAME.

Congratulations, especially, to Rush.  I have never cared for that band (Geddy Lee's voice is worse than a cat using a chalkboard for a scratching post), but who on this earth in his/her right mind can argue with their success?  Their native country put them in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame a decade and a half ago.  It's nice to see the music snobs in Cleveland put their tastes aside for a change and put the most worthy act in.  

Maybe next year Miller, Ronstadt, ELO and the Moodies will join them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Shaking My Head in Disbelief Yet AGAIN

Category:  News

What on this earth is it going to take for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to wake the heck up and start nominating legendary ROCK AND ROLL acts?  It almost seems as though they'll put the Bay City Rollers on the ballot before acts like Steve Miller, Linda Ronstadt, Kiss, or ELO.

Here are this year's nominees:

Paul Butterfield Blues Band (hope they make it!)
Chic (are you kidding me?  FIVE top 40 hits in their entire CAREER?  Steve Miller had more than that in two years!)
Deep Purple (I am going to go out on a limb and say they'll make it on a Joe South sympathy vote:  South, who wrote one of their biggest hits, "Hush," died last month)
Heart (they have more legitimacy than Chic!)
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (another one-hit wonder act)
Albert King (and let's all say it together now, "You mean he's not already in???")
Kraftwerk (taking the ballot place of Miller, Ronstadt, ELO, Chicago, etc., the only reason I can think of them being nominated)
Marvelettes (ditto the Albert King remark)
The Meters (one of the founding bands of funk)
Randy Newman (mark it down now, Tuesday, October 16, 2012, that I'm predicting this:  Randy will be inducted.  Bet the ranch on it.)
N.W.A. (ah, yes, the rap & roll hall of fame....)
Procol Harum ("A Whiter Shade of Pale" is on my 100 favorites list, but one hit does not a hall of fame career make)
Public Enemy (see NWA)
Rush (whaddaya know, they're FINALLY getting around to nominating these guys, after 40 million albums sold, a documentary, and induction into Canada's music hall of fame.  I'm not a fan of the band but I sincerely hope they are inducted!)
Donna Summer (mark it down, she's in, sympathy vote)

I'm hoping Albert King, the Butterfield Blues Band, Rush, and Randy Newman make it.  I'm also hoping that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will start picking up those commercially successful but not critically well-received acts and putting them on the ballot.  As I often say, it's not a hall of "quality" or hall of "critics' darlings," it's a hall of FAME.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

One Man, One Guitar, Two Hours of Magic

Category:  Concert Review

Before performing his third song from a forthcoming album Richard Thompson told the capacity crowd at the Bloomington, Indiana Buskirk-Chumley Theater the first two songs he had performed were also from the new project.  The audience responded warmly with applause, to which Thompson quipped, "But the rest of the album is crap."

One thing is certain about Richard Thompson:  he hardly ever records inferior material, but with his incredible guitar playing, he can make crap sound good.

Thompson played solo as part of a brief post-Americana Music Association Awards tour.  The AMA's award ceremonies in Nashville gave Thompson the "Lifetime Achievement for Songwriting" award.  He has had a number of hits thanks to other people; namely, two country versions of "Tear-Stained Letter" and Del McCoury's cover of "1952 Vincent Black Lightning," which was the International Bluegrass Music Association's 2002 Song of the Year.  These successes as well as his masterful performance of his own songs show why that award was so richly justified.

After the two new songs Thompson jumped into familiar material, launching into a knockout version of "Valerie."  He followed with one of his most popular songs (and the song that inspired the name of his web site and record label), "Beeswing."  That was the way most of the night went:  a ballad ("I want to get those happy songs out of the way") was followed by a rocking, fun, or even funny number.

The first of four standing ovations came after his mesmerizing performance of "1952 Vincent Black Lightning."  He has described the song in other places as a simple "boy-meets-girl story, complicated by the presence of a motorcycle."  To paraphrase a line from the song, full bands don't have the soul of Thompson doing this song alone with his guitar.

With 45 years of material to draw on Thompson was sure to leave things out; however, he adequately covered all bases.  He performed "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" from his days with Fairport Convention, informing the audience that the song had been voted the favorite folk song by listeners of the BBC.  The exceptional Shoot Out the Lights album from his days with ex-wife Linda was represented by a stellar version of "Wall of Death."  Thompson even brought out a few buried chestnuts, especially "Pharaoh" from 1988's Amnesia.

Two pleasant surprises involved covers.  Noting that Hoagy Carmichael was born in Bloomington (and professing himself to be a big fan), Thompson performed a Carmichael number in the 90-year-old theater.  The other was the riotous Frank Loesser tune that distills Hamlet down to four verses.

Thompson closed out the set with "I Feel So Good" and was called back for two encores.  On the first someone from the audience yelled for "Waltzing's for Dreamers" so Thompson obliged with the song.  At the conclusion of the second encore Thompson led the crowd in singing The Band's classic "The Weight," saying after the song, "This is for you, Levon."

The tribute to the late Band drummer/vocalist was a special ending to a special night.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bob Welch Dies

Category:  News/Obituary

Bob Welch, a one-time member of Fleetwood Mac who left just before the band's superstar breakthrough Fleetwood Mac album and later had solo success, was found dead in his Nashville home today (6/7).  Nashville police reports indicate Welch died of a self-inflicted gunshot to his chest.  A suicide note was found in the house.

In 1971 Welch, a native of Los Angeles, auditioned for a British blues band called Fleetwood Mac to replace Jeremy Spencer.  His entrance into the band began Fleetwood Mac's transition from a blues band to a more "mainstream"-oriented rock act, although the band would never achieve superstardom during Welch's tenure. 

Welch played on five Fleetwood Mac albums, beginning with 1971's Future Games and ending with Heroes are Hard to Find in 1974.  When he left he was replaced by guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, who had as a condition of his acceptance into the band the inclusion of his girlfriend, Stevie Nicks.  The rest is history.

Welch resurfaced in 1977 with a solo album, French Kiss.  The album featured a new version of "Sentimental Lady," a song that originally appeared on Fleetwood Mac's Bare Trees album.  The newly-recorded version featured most of Fleetwood Mac backing Welch.  It became a top ten smash at a time when Fleetwood Mac was bogged down recording what would later become their 1979 double album Tusk.  Welch would enjoy three more hits over the following 16 months before fading from popular view.

In 1998 Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Instead of inducting all the members (as they did with the Eagles), the hall of fame omitted Bob Welch from the band's ceremonies.  Welch said in an interview with the Cleveland newspaper The Plain Dealer he felt the exclusion was due to his lawsuit against band drummer/co-founder Mick Fleetwood over decades-old issues and that Fleetwood had asked the hall of fame to exclude Welch.

Welch is the second former member of Fleetwood Mac to die this year.  In January guitarist Bob Weston, who played on two albums (Mystery to Me and Penguin), died of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage.

Bob Welch was 66.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

One Week of Major Music Losses

Category: News/Obituaries

As they say, when it rains it pours.  The tears have been pouring in the world of music over the past week.

Donald "Duck" Dunn:  He played bass.  Oh, how he played bass.  He was a legendary session man, working with everyone from Otis Redding on "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay" to Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour" to Sam & Dave on "Hold On, I'm Comin'" in the Stax/Volt era of Memphis soul.  A member of Booker T.'s MGs, Dunn later went on to play with rock legends Neil Young and Eric Clapton.  Dunn was also the bassist in the Blues Brothers band and said one of the best lines in the 1980 movie about the band (which was comprised of other powerhouse musicians such as Steve Cropper and Matt "Guitar" Murphy):  "We had a sound that could turn goat piss to gasoline."  Dunn died in his sleep while on tour in Tokyo on May 13.  No cause has officially been released but it is suspected he had a heart attack.  Dunn was 70.

Doug Dillard:  Many outside the world of bluegrass would say, "Who?"  Everyone in Mayberry, however, knows exactly who Doug Darling was.  Doug Dillard and his brother Rodney fronted the Dillards, who appeared in six episodes of The Andy Griffith Show as the Darling Boys.  Doug was the banjo-playing member of the band, who had a long career in bluegrass music outside of Mayberry.  In 2010 the Dillards were inducted into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.  This was the Andy Griffith Show's second loss of the month of May, as George "Goober" Lindsey died ten days before Dillard.  Dillard, who was 75, died after an illness.

Donna Summer:  In the mid-70s disco was the rage and Donna Summer was the genre's queen.  Songs such as "Love to Love You Baby" and "On the Radio" were massive hits.  Even after disco died Summer still made the charts with songs such as "She Works Hard for the Money" and "Unconditional Love."  Summer quietly battled lung cancer for nearly a year, finally succumbing to the disease on May 17 at the age of 63.

Robin Gibb:  "Bee Gees" was "B.G.s," or "Brothers Gibb."  The trio, Barry and twins Maurice and Robin, began the road to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the 60s with songs such as "To Love Somebody," "Words," and "I Started a Joke."  Some state they had a period of decline before their "disco comeback," but that isn't supported by Billboard chart information.  The Bee Gees had hits in the 70s such as "Run to Me" and "Alive" (1972) and "Mr. Natural" (1974) before disco.  Even songs from their hit album Main Course didn't focus solely on the emerging disco craze.  Songs such as "Edge of the Universe" and "Fanny (Be Tender With My Love)" were no different than any other Bee Gees hit from years earlier.  Still, their ties are to disco, thanks to their prominence on the soundtrack to the John Travolta film Saturday Night Fever.  Their songs were also recorded by numerous others (most notably, the huge crossover hit "Islands in the Stream" by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers).  Maurice Gibb died in 2003 from an undiagnosed intestinal issue.  Twin brother Robin had similar intestinal problems but also suffered from colon cancer.  He died May 20 at the age of 62.

Farewell to these greats of music.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What a Terrible Week for Music

Category: News/Obituaries

Music has been slammed by deaths this week.  And, even worse, it may not be over.

Dick Clark:  The "world's oldest teenager" was the man who first brought a visual aspect to music into American homes.  The long-running show American Bandstand allowed people to see the people singing their favorite hits.  Although the performances were pantomimed it was still the forerunner of the MTV generation.  In addition to that, his production company brought New Year's Rockin' Eve, the "alternative" to the traditional Guy Lumbardo music, to television, along with countless programs ranging from reality to game shows.  He also hosted The $10,000 ($25,000, or $100,000) Pyramid and TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes.  Even though he suffered a stroke in 2004 he maintained his duties on New Year's Rockin' Eve, although in a greatly diminished role because of the damage the stroke did to his ability to speak.  In doing so, Clark put a very famous face to the reality of strokes and did untold good for raising awareness for stroke prevention.  Clark went to St. John's Medical Center in Santa Monica for a minor surgical procedure and suffered a massive heart attack.  He was 82.

Levon Helm:  The Band was the band, an act that was Americana long before the term existed.  The combination of blues, country and rock stemmed from four Canadians teaming up with a drummer from Arkansas.  That drummer was Mark Lavon Helm, who was better known as Levon. Helm sang and wrote songs for The Band, and it was his talent that, in a sense, brought an end to the group that became renown for backing Bob Dylan when Dylan went from acoustic folkie to rock singer.  Helm was outraged over lead guitarist Robbie Robertson taking songwriter credit for all of The Band's songs, including things that Helm obviously wrote (most notably, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down").  The rift lasted for decades, to the point where Helm refused to attend the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies where The Band was inducted in 1994.  Helm went on to a critically-acclaimed post-Band musical career, with each of his final three projects winning Grammy awards.  Helm also acted in several movies including his debut role as Loretta Lynn's husband in Coal Miner's Daughter.  Robertson thankfully reconciled with Helm this past weekend, visiting Helm in New York's Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.  Helm died April 19 at the age of 71.

Greg Ham: In 1983 the Australian rock band Men at Work took home the Grammy award for Best New Artist.  The five-man band had several hits from their debut album Business As Usual, including "Who Can It Be Now" and "Down Under."  The horn player in the band was Greg Ham, who played saxophone on "Who Can It Be Now" and flute on "Down Under."  After the band broke up Ham continued to work as a musician, and also acted in the Australian series While You're Down There.  On April 19 Ham was found dead in his North Carlton, Melbourne home after friends went to check on him because they had not heard from him in days.  As of this writing no official cause of death has been announced; however, the police told Australian media that there were "unexplained circumstances" regarding Ham's death.  He was 58.

In addition to these three losses, Bee Gee Robin Gibb is reportedly in a coma and near death, suffering from liver and colon cancers.  Published reports, including Gibb's own web site, stated that Gibb is suffering from pneumonia in addition to his cancer woes.  Robin's twin brother, Maurice, died from a twisted intestine in 2003.  When Robin's problems began he was initially diagnosed with the same malady that claimed his brother's life; however, it was soon discovered that he also had colon cancer that had spread to his liver.  He continued to work, and his Titanic Requiem was to be performed with Robin in attendance on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.  However, in late March Gibb had abdominal surgery and his health has been deteriorating since.  Gibb is 62.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

We're the Young Generation

Category:  News/Obituary

Musically speaking, there was nothing quite like the 60s.  Sure, there were the Beatles and the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones, but there was also Aretha Franklin having a #1 hit not too long after Frank Sinatra hit the top spot.  The quiet folk of Simon and Garfunkel shared the airwaves with the more rock-dominated brand of folk music the Byrds provided.  Amid all of that magical mix came a made-for-TV band, the Monkees.

Monkees front man Davy Jones died today (2/29) of a heart attack.

Born in Manchester, England in 1945, Jones began his professional career as an actor, appearing in the legendary British soap opera Coronation Street in 1961.  He starred in a British production of Oliver!, which took him to New York to repeat the role at the ripe old age of sixteen.  His performance on Broadway earned him a Tony nomination.

Jones' manager Davy a contract with Screen Gems and a role on a new TV series.  That show was The Monkees.  Jones was paired with Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Mike Nesmith for the show that, to this day, defies description:  part sit-com, part SNL-like skit show, and heavily musical.  In the mid-80s MTV aired every episode of the series, crediting the show with starting the "video" era.

"The pre-fab four" (a take-off of the Beatles' nickname given the fact that the Monkees were basically put together for the show instead of the traditional means of band formation) may not have been solely responsible for starting the video era (one also has to consider 70s shows such as Don Kirshner's Rock Concert and Midnight Special as being part of the video revolution) but there is no question that show planted the seed.  The show was a hit and propelled the Monkees to superstardom.  By the end of 1966 the Monkees had scored two #1 songs -- "Last Train to Clarksville" and "I'm a Believer" -- and posed a serious threat to the Beatles' reign on the charts.

As with so many other "overnight sensation" fads the series was over three years later, but not before netting two Emmy awards (the first music-based television series to ever win an Emmy) and six top ten hits.  The Monkees also made a movie, the cult favorite Head (which features a cameo by Frank Zappa, the first speaking role for Teri Garr and a script credit to Jack Nicholson).  By the early 70s the Monkees were no more, as first Peter Tork then Mike Nesmith left.

Jones and Dolenz teamed up with the Monkees' principal songwriting duo of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart (who had scored their own hit in the 60s with "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight") to form Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart.  They toured together in the 70s.

After the revival brought new interest in the Monkees and a new generation of fans Dolenz, Jones and Tork toured frequently.  Nesmith only rarely appeared with the other three Monkees after the film, most recently at the early stages of a 1997 British tour.

Jones was an avid horseman.  He owned horses that ran at racetracks throughout Florida and held an amateur steeplechase jockey license in England.  In 1994 Jones, who in his youth had dreams of being a jockey, took a horse for part of its morning workout at Churchill Downs.  He told a reporter he would rather be a horse trainer than a singer.

The Monkees' theme song proclaimed, "We're the young generation and we've got something to say."  Jones' death is a reminder, as a friend on Facebook said, "we're not the 'young generation' anymore and haven't been for years."

Davy Jones was 66.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

They Called Him the Kid

Category:  Obituary/Tribute

He was "The Kid," not because he was necessarily the youngest player on the team but because he played baseball with the child-like enthusiasm that focused on the game first, not the money or the fame or the politics of being a major league baseball player.  More than that, he was a loving husband, father and friend.  He epitomized "teammate" in the truest since of the word.

Gary Carter, better known as "The Kid," died today (2/16) after a nine-month battle with brain cancer.

Carter played for the Montreal Expos for a dozen years before moving to the New York Mets.  While with the Mets he won his only World Series ring, in 1986, in a memorable seven-game series against the Boston Red Sox.  While Red Sox fans may remember (and cringe every time it's mentioned) Bill Buckner's error that enabled the Mets to win game six, it was Gary Carter's hit with two out in the bottom of the tenth inning that started the rally that enabled the Mets to erase a two-run deficit to deny the Red Sox the championship.

Gary Carter may not have had the superstar name recognition of contemporaries like Johnny Bench or Carlton Fisk but he was an equally capable catcher.  He had a superb .991 fielding percentage behind the plate, just one of the Hall of Fame stats he amassed during his 19 seasons on the field.  Carter also played the outfield, third base and first base during his career. He was voted to the All-Star team eleven times, twice winning the game MVP award.

Carter retired after the 1992 season, and it took until 2003 for his phone to ring informing him that he had been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In May 2011 Carter was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma.  Despite treatment tumors continued to be present on his brain, and by January 2012 he was labeled terminal when yet more tumors were discovered after Carter injured his arm in a fall.  

Carter's former teammater, pitcher Ron Darling, described The Kid earlier in the day:  "Gary Carter was everything you wanted in a sports hero:  a great talent, a great competitor, a great family man, and a great friend."

Gary "The Kid" Carter, gentleman sports hero, was 57.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Even the Losers....

Category:  Commercials

There used to be a purpose behind paying celebrities a lot of money to appear in a commercial.  The company wanted their product associated with someone who was well-known, liked, respected, and successful.

To paraphrase a popular series of tequila commercials, whatever happened to associating your product with success?

Products, thankfully, do not engage in the political ad rants (e.g., "don't buy that detergent, it'll eat a hole in your clothes!").  However, they do seem to be more and more interested in seeing just how far down the bottom of the barrel they can fall.  Country singer Randy Travis once had a song called "Better Class of Losers," and maybe that's what they're aiming for.

A few cases in point:  Miller Lite commercials now feature guys (always guys, they don't dare try this with women) who are "one strike away" from having their "man card" revoked.  One man can't look down from his lofty perch -- about six inches off the ground -- on a rock wall.  Then there are the downright nasty and vindictive Infiniti car commercials:  one features a man retaliating against his neighbor by bowling his car out of its parking spot with a gigantic snowball, and the other has the neighbor getting pelted by a hundred or so kids after throwing one snowball.  What's the message here:  Infiniti, the car of choice for people hell-bent on revenge?

And then there's the Chevy Volt, the car commercial so bad it makes me swear to never drive another Chevy if they give me one for free.  Those horrid ads were inescapable during the baseball playoffs, and they have thankfully disappeared (probably due to considerable negative feedback about the ads).

Maybe it's me.  I love the VW commercial with people trying to decipher what Elton John was saying in "Rocket Man" (and let me point out, as someone who was quite the Elton John fan in the 70s before the days of looking the lyrics up online, that was NOT always an easy task; and, if you doubt me, ask anyone in their 40s or 50s what they thought Elton was saying instead of "she's got electric boots" when they first heard "Bennie and the Jets" on the radio!).  A lot of people seem to dislike it.  These people in the VW ad, however, aren't vindictive jerks or guys struggling with their manhood because they're not drinking a particular beer.  They're reflecting a reality -- Elton's lyrics weren't easy to understand back then.

So as we hold our breath and prepare for the big day in advertising (the Super Bowl, just five or so weeks away), is it too much to ask that commercials begin to associate their products with winners instead of losers?  Tom Petty said, "Even the losers get lucky sometime," but not the way the commercials are portraying them.