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In Memoriam – March 2013

It”s turning out to be bad year for soul singers who were overshadowed by more famous bandmates. This month we lost Bobby Rogers (1), a co-founder of The Miracles and frequent songwriting partner of Smokey Robinson, and Bobby Smith (2) of The Spinners, who took lead vocals on such hits as Could It Be I”m Falling In Love, I”ll Be There and Games People Play; often these vocals were incorrectly attributed to the more extroverted and equally marvellous Philippé Wynne, who died in 1984. From the classic 1970s line-up of one of the nicest groups in the world, only one member, the baritone Henry Fambrough, survives.

0313_galleryYou might not have heard of the British trumpeter Derek Watkins (3), who died on March 22, but you”ll have heard him. He played on every James Bond soundtrack up to the recent Skyfall; those sharp, blazing trumpet sounds in movies such as Goldfinger,  Dr No or For Your Eyes Only (and, of course, that iconic theme), that was Watkins. And if Bond isn”t your thing, he also played the trumpet on The Beatles” Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever.

Another session musician you”ll have heard many times is Hugh McCracken (4), who died on March 28. His guitar appeared on songs such as the Lefte Bank”s Walk Away Renee, Paul Simon”s Still Crazy After All These Years, Roberta Flack”s Feel Like Making Love and on classic LPs such as Roberta Flack”s Quiet Fire, Paul McCartney”s Ram (he declined to co-found Wings), Barbra Steisand”s Barbra Joan Streisand, Aretha Franklin”s Young, Gifted and Black, Donny Hathaway”s Extension Of A Man, Hall & Oates” Abandoned Launderette, Billy Joel”s The Stranger and 52nd Street, John Lennon & Yoko Ono”s Double Fantasy, Steely Dan”s The Royal Scam, Katy Lied and Gaucho and Donald Fagan”s The Nightfly.

The producer on some albums McCracken played on, such as Paul Simon”s Still Crazy After All These Years and One-Trick Pony, Phoebe Snow”s Never Letting Go, and the Billy Joel albums, was the South African-born Phil Ramone (5), who died on March 30 (he produce all Joel albums from 1977″s The Stranger to 1986″s The Bridge). He won 14 Grammys, including one for best engineering for 1964″s Getz/Gilberto, which included The Girl From Impanema. He also had huge success producing duet albums by Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and Tony Bennett. He was also credited with having recorded Marilyn Monroe”s famous Happy Birthday Mr President performance.

Peter Banks (6), who has died at 65, has been described as a pioneer of prog-rock. As a founder member of prog-rock bores Yes “” the name was his idea “” he probably deserves that dubious honour, even if he left Yes in 1970. As my little in-joke, I feature here the debut LP”s shortest track.

Yes” Peter Banks is not to be confused by the member of the same name of Ten Years After, whose leader Alvin Lee (7) passed away the day before Banks. Afterlife is probably going to be slightly less eternal than one of Lee”s feared guitar solos, but he certainly influenced many guitarists “” just listen to the current crop of metal solo merchants “” and by all accounts Alvin was a thoroughly nice man.

Rockabilly singer Eddie Bond (8) was well regarded in his genre, but when he died on March 20, people remembered his one big clanger: at an audition for his band, he turned down Elvis Presley, then 18 years old. A recording artist in his own right, he later toured with Elvis, as well as with other Sun Records alumni with Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison.

Another rockabilly singer (and like Boyd at one point a Sun Records artist) who died this month had a good claim to have used the first singer to have used the term rock & roll to refer to music. In 1950 Hardrock Gunter (9), who died on March 15, released a single titled (Gonna Rock and Roll) Gonna Dance All Night, a year before Alan Freed did so. Others had used the term before that to describe precursors to what we now call rock & roll, but those were not quite like the music we term so today. Some musicologists identify Gunter”s 1949 hit Birmingham Bounce as the first white rock & roll record (which was covered by R&B singer Amos Milburn). Some even call it the first rock & roll record, having preceded Rocket 88 by a year. Personally, I find the search for the “first” rock & roll record futile, but it is nonetheless sad that Gunter”s death went by quite unnoticed.


Jewel Akens, 79, R&B singer, on March 1
Jewel Akens – The Birds And The Bees (1965)

Magic, 37, rapper, in traffic accident on March 1

Bobby Rogers, 73, songwriter and member of The Miracles, on March 3
Smokey Robinson and The Miracles ““ You”re So Fine And Sweet (1964, on lead vocals)
The Temptations – The Way You Do The Things You Do (1964, as co-writer)

Fran Warren, 87, vocalist, on March 4
Tony Martin & Fran Warren – I Said My Pajamas (And Put On My Pray”rs) (1949)

John LaChapelle, 95, jazz guitarist, on March 5

Melvin Rhyne, 76, jazz organist and pianist, on March 5
Wes Montgomery – The Way You Look Tonight (recorded 1959, on organ)

Alvin Lee, 68, British guitarist and leader of Ten Years After, on March 6
Ten Years After – Love Like A Man (1970)

Stompin” Tom Connors, 77, Canadian country-folk singer, on March 6

Peter Banks, 65, guitarist and co-founder of prog-rock group Yes, on March 7
Yes – Yesterday And Today (1969)

Claude King, 90, country music singer, on March 7
Claude King – Wolverton Mountain (1962)

Kenny Ball, 82, English jazz trumpeter, on March 7
Kenny Ball – Midnight In Moscow (1962)

Sammy Masters, 82, rockabilly musician and songwriter, on March 8
Sammy Masters – Pink Cadillac (1956)

Georgette Plana, 95, French singer, on March 10
Georgette Plana – Riquita (1968)

Clive Burr, 56, drummer of Iron Maiden (1979-82), on March 12
Iron Maiden – Run To The Hills (1982)

Jack Greene, 83, country singer, on March 14
Jack Greene – There Goes My Everything (1966)

Terry Lightfoot, 77, British jazz clarinetist, on March 15
Terry Lightfoot’s New Orleans Jazzmen ““ Wimoweh (1961)

Hardrock Gunter, 88, country and rockabilly musician, on March 15
Hardrock Gunter & the Pebbles – Birmingham Bounce (1949)
Hardrock Gunter & the Pebbles – Gonna Dance All Night  (1950, Bama label version)

Bobby Smith, 76, singer with The Spinners, on March 16
The Spinners – I’ll Always Love You (1965)
The Spinners – They Just Can’t Stop It (The Games People Play) (1975)

Jason Molina, 39, American singer-songwriter, on March 16
Songs: Ohia  ““ I”ve Been Riding With The Ghost  (2003)

Sean Hannan, 45, musician and songwriter with The Mad Hannans, on March 18
Mad Hannans – Blind Man (2007)

Floyd McRae, 80, singer with doo wop band The Chords, on March 19
The Chords ““ Sh-Boom (1954, also as co-writer)

Eddie Bond, 79, rockabilly singer, on March 20
Eddie Bond ““ Will I Be Lost Or Will I Be Found Again (1961)

Emílio Santiago, 66, Brazilian singer, on March 20

George Barrow, 92, jazz saxophonist, clarinetist and flautist, on March 20
Charles Mingus Quintet – Haitian Fight Song (1955, on tenor saxophone)

Derek Watkins, 68, British trumpeter, on March 22
Shirley Bassey ““ Goldfinger (1964)
The Beatles – Penny Lane (alternate take) (1967)

Bebo Valdés, 94, Cuban pianist, bandleader, composer; father of Chucho Valdés, on March 22
Bebo Vald̩s РPan Con Timba (2001)

Larry Robinson , 64, Americana musician, killed in a robbery on March 23

Deke Richards, 68, Motown songwriter, on March 24
The Jackson 5 ““ I Want You Back (1970, live)
Diana Ross ““ I”m Still Waiting (1970)

Lawrence McKiver, 97, member of ring shout group McIn­tosh County Shouters, on March 25
(see video HERE)

Jay Smith, 34, guitarist of Canadian rock group The Matt Mays Band, on March 26

Gordon Stoker, 88, tenor of Elvis” backing vocalists The Jordanaires, on March 27
Elvis Presley with the Jordanaires – When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again (1956)
Ann-Margaret feat the Jordanaires – I Just Don”t Understand (1961)

Paul Williams, 64, author and founder of the first US rock magazine, Crawdaddy!, on March 27

Hugh McCracken, 60s, session guitarist and harmonica player, on March 28
Tim Rose – Long Time Man (1967)
Merry Clayton – One More Ride (1975)
Donald Fagen – I.G.Y (1982)

Enzo Jannacci, 77, Italian rock & roll pioneer and comedian, on March 29

Clive Graeme Miles, 77, British folk songwriter, on March 29

Phil Ramone, 72, record producer, on March 30
Getz, Gilberto, Jobim – The Girl From Ipanema (1964, album version; as engineer)
Quincy Jones – Theme From the Anderson Tapes (1971, as producer)
Billy Joel ““ Rosalinda”s Eyes (1978, as producer, feat Hugh McCracken on acoustic guitar)

Franco Califano, 74, Italian singer and actor, on March 30
Franco Califano – Io per le strade di quartiere (1988)

GET IT or HERE (PW in comments)

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(Photo of graveyard: www.flickriver.com/photos/wolfgangstaudt/tags/friedhof/)


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  1. halfhearteddude
    April 3rd, 2013 at 18:22 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. J. Loslo
    April 5th, 2013 at 16:09 | #2

    Thanks for these. Yes, I’m one of those people who grabs these just about every month & rarely says thanks. So, thanks.

    They Just Can’t Stop It is a great song that I’d completely forgotten about.

  3. Rhod
    April 6th, 2013 at 01:07 | #3

    Thanks again for the in memoriam series. Great work in collating these songs for our enjoyment.



  4. RonNasty64
    April 7th, 2013 at 18:13 | #4

    I’m disappointed you didn’t include any Stompin’ Tom. It seemed like the entire country (Canada) mourned his loss. Every time I drive to London, Ontario, I pass the sign for Tillsonburg (“my back still aches when I hear that word”), I am reminded on Stompin’ Tom. RIP ST.

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