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In Memoriam – December 2014 – Part 2

January 15th, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

When I posted the first half of the December In Memoriam last month, I promised the second half would be incorporated into the January edition. The Grim Reaper was too active in December to allow for that (37 listed in total; of those 22 in this post). So here is December”s In Memoriam, Part 2.

The month”s headline death was that of Joe Cocker, who had featured on the tribute collection to Bobby Keys, the saxophonist who died in early December. Much has been written about Cocker, though few obituaries made much of that note-missing final “me” in You Are So Beautiful, which to me defines Cocker. That was one of the many cover versions which Cocker was famed for. Indeed, I think he was a better interpreter of other people”s songs than of his own. Of course, the hit which provided his breakthrough, With A Little Help From My Friends, was a cover, one which he so comprehensively reworked as to make it his own “” succeeding in doing what his idols in the world of soul had been doing for so long before him.

IM1214_2Earlier this year, Germany celebrated the 80th birthday of singer Udo Jürgens in big style, with TV extravaganzas and all. Three months later, Jürgens” death returned the singer-songwriter to the front pages of German newspapers and magazines. At a time when the banal Schlager dominated German music, in the 1960s and “70s,  Jürgens was part of it and yet above it. His lyrics and music tended to be of a higher standard.

Jürgens was a decent satirist, though not one to piss off his wealthy fan base too much, and was among the first mainstream celebs to comment on German xenophobia, albeit gently and with resort to cliché, in 1975″s Griechischer Wein (which apparently is still very popular in Greece). In between, he wrote music for singers such as Shirley Bassey, Sammy Davis Jr and Matt Monro. Born in Austria as the son of Germans and later taking Swiss citizenship, he won the 1966 Eurovision Song Contest for Luxembourg with Mercy Cheri, a song which he co-wrote. He even tried his hand at recording in English, as featured on the Curious Germany mix.

You might not know Millie Kirkham“s name, but you will have heard her soprano on several Elvis hits, such as The Wonder Of You, Surrender, Polk Salad Annie, (You’re The) Devil in Disguise, C.C. Rider or Blue Christmas. She also backed the likes of Roy Orbison (on Pretty Woman), George Jones (on He Stopped Loving Her Today), Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, Gordon Lightfoot, Reba McEntire, Ferlin Huskey, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tom T Hall and Brenda Lee.

A week after Kirkham, a guitarist in Elvis” studio house band died. Chip Young had backed Elvis from 1965-77. He also played for the country likes of George Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Bobby Bare, Eddy Arnold, Carl Perkins, Oak Ridge Boys, Statler Brothers, Faron Young, Earl Scruggs, Skeeter Davis, Tom T Hall, Tanya Tucker, Roger Miller, Reba McEntire, and Jerry Lee Lewis. He played for Nancy Sinatra on her country album, for swamp rocker Tony Joe White, for indie-rockers My Morning Jacket, for blues man Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, for soul singer Candi Staton. His obits say that he played guitar on Dolly”s Jolene; though he was one of several guitarists to play on the LP, I could find no confirmation that it was him. Young also produced artists such as Jerry Reed, Jimmy Buffett, Johnny Mathis, Billy Swan and Delbert McClinton.

When I saw that Dick Dale had died, I thought it was the legendary surf-guitarist whose version of the old Greek hit Misirlou appeared on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. But that Dick Dale is still alive; the dead one was a feature on The Lawrence Welk Show. On the variety show he not only sang and played the sax, but also appeared in sketches. He also was the show”s Santa Claus, so it seems appropriate that he should have died on Boxing Day, at the ripe age of 88.

The song featured for Buddy DeFranco, the jazz clarinetist who has died at 91, is remarkable for its line-up which includes Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, Buddy Rich on drums and, most prominently, Nat King Cole on piano. It was recorded 67 years and three days before DeFranco”s death.


Millie Kirkham, 91, backing singer, on December 14
Elvis Presley – The Wonder Of You (1970, on backing vocals)

Joe Carr, 63, bluegrass musician, on December 14

Wendy Rene, 67, soul singer, on December 16
Wendy Rene – After Laughter Comes Tears (1964)

Rock Scully, 73, manager of the Grateful Dead, on December 16
Grateful Dead – Attics Of My Life (1970)

John Fry, 69, founder of Ardent Studios, on December 18
Big Star – The Ballad Of El Goodo (1972, as executive producer & studio owner)

Larry Henley, 77, singer with The Newbeats and songwriter, on December 18
Roger Whittaker – Wind Beneath My Wings (1982, as writer)

Larry Smith, 63, hip hop producer (Run-DMC, Whodini), on December 18
Run-DMC – Rock Box (1984, as producer and co-writer)

Barbara Jones, 62, Jamaican reggae and gospel singer, on December 19
Barbara Jones – Just When I Needed You Most (1981)

Ronnie Bedford, 83, jazz drummer, on December 20

Chip Young, 76, guitarist and record producer, on December 20
Billy Swan – I Can Help (1974, on electric guitar and as producer)

Udo Jürgens, 80, Austrian-born composer and singer, on December 21
Matt Monro – Walk Away (1964, as co-writer)
Udo Jürgens – Es wird Nacht, Senorita (1968)

Joe Cocker, 70, rock singer, on December 22
Joe Cocker – Woman To Woman (1972)
Joe Cocker – It”s A Sin When You Love Somebody (1974)

Jo Jo Benson, 76, soul singer, on December 23
Peggy Scott & Jo Jo Benson – Soulshake (1969)

Alvin Jett, 54, blues guitarist, on December 23

Buddy DeFranco, 91, jazz clarinetist, on December 24
Metronome All Stars – Leap Here (1947, on clarinet)

Alberta Adams, 97, blues singer, on December 25
Alberta Adams – Detroit Is My Home (2008)

Dick Dale, 88, saxophonist and singer, on December 26

Al Belletto, 86, jazz musician, on December 27

Frankie Randall, 76, singer and actor, on December 28
Frankie Randall – Theme from Flipper (1965)
Frankie Randall – I Can See For Miles (1968)

Merrill Womach, 87, gospel singer, on December 28

Jim Galloway, 78, Canadian jazz clarinetist and saxophonist, on December 30

Melvin Jackson, 79, session blues saxophonist and trumpeter, on December 30


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  1. halfhearteddude
    January 15th, 2015 at 11:19 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Mike
    January 15th, 2015 at 11:45 | #2

    Thanks for these postings. I deeply appreciate that you note and give a rememberance of session musicians and singers when they pass.

  3. JohnnyDiego
    January 15th, 2015 at 13:09 | #3

    It must be a terrible struggle to juggle your life to music along with your life to family and friends. A series such as In Memoriam must take great gobs of your time. Thank you, Dude.
    I might add that I have never been a Joe Cocker fan but his performance of “With A Little Help From My Friends” at Woodstock, in my opinion, completely stole the festival.
    Thank you again for taking a huge block out of your life and devoting it to us, your friends and followers.

  4. halfhearteddude
    January 15th, 2015 at 13:58 | #4

    Well, JohnnyDiego, it does take a fair bit of time to put together the In Memoriams and other mixes (though I update the IM list weekly, and choose the music, so it’s several smaller chunks than a big one). Some people play hours of video games; I create blog posts that make people happy. It’s not a bad hobby.

  5. Horst
    January 15th, 2015 at 15:28 | #5

    Just one small amendment: Udo Jürgens won the 1966 Eurovison Song Contest IN Luxemburg, not FOR Luxemburg. “Merci, Chérie” was Austria’s entry.

  6. dogbreath
    January 15th, 2015 at 16:11 | #6

    It was as a spotty, callow youth watching Mr Cocker’s set on the Woodstock film that helped get me in the mess I’m in today: obsessive about music and collecting music! And just like the other acts at Woodstock were (and still are) part of that musical pot-pourri, so are the other names in this month’s In Memoriam, known to me or not. Thanks as always for doing the uploading bit so we can do the downloading bit. Cheers!

  7. GarthJeff
    January 17th, 2015 at 08:26 | #7

    JohnnyDiego & dogbreath – I second your sentiments. I couldn’t have written it better myself! Many Thanks AMD.

  8. Tom
    January 20th, 2015 at 06:52 | #8

    Like you, I went: “Huh, Dick Dale???” – then read your piece. And as a tribute to the “other” DD, here’s a link to a Lawrence Welk show with Dick & Gail [Ferrell] singing, believe it or don’t, “One Toke Over The Line.” Magnificent doesn’t begin to describe what you’re about to see!


  9. halfhearteddude
    January 21st, 2015 at 11:25 | #9

    Wow, that IS astounding!

  10. ocboddity
    January 22nd, 2015 at 20:53 | #10

    I really love your site an do get a lot of interesting stuff or ideas from your work! BUT that – for the first time pissed me off: It’s AUSTRIA – not Luxembourg – who Udo Jürgens – natural born Austrian – won the Song Contest for, for the first time! Just 48 years ahead of Conchita Wurst ….

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