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In Memoriam – December 2015

January 7th, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

IM Dec 2015 gallery-1In what might be his best-known song, Ace of Spades, Motörhead”s frontman Lemmy Kilmister sang: “That”s the way I like it, Baby; I don”t want to live forever”. Just after Christmas he got his wish “” only just over a month after the death of Motörhead drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor. Lemmy, who was widely believed to be indestructible and therefore immortal, had learnt of his aggressive cancer only a couple of days before his death. Reportedly he checked out playing his favourite video game.

On the day Lemmy died one of the pioneers of rock & roll also went (coming too late to my attention for inclusion in the annual round-up of music deaths which I posted on New Year”s Eve). Saxophonist Joe Houston was a pioneer without being really a rock & roller. His jam was the jump, but he used the terminology of “rock and roll” and “rockin”” before it became a big thing, on a 1952 album titled Rock And Roll which included titles like titles such as “We”re Gonna Rock “˜N” Roll” and “Rockin” At The Drive-In” (Hear the latter HERE). Of course, the term had been used before, even by Ella Fitzgerald. But Houston was part of the movement that would give rise to the genre. His style of playing sax certainly became a feature of rock & roll. Houston went on to back the likes of Little Richard and Big Joe Turner during the rock & roll heyday. He never broke through, but played on the circuit until a stroke hit him in 2005. Apparently his gigs were raucous affairs

I was really saddened to hear of the death at 65 of Natalie Cole on New Year”s Eve. She was a fine singer, equally at home in soul as she was in jazz vocals. She also has a fascinating life which she recounted in a forthright memoir. Born the daughter of Nat King Cole, who died when Natalie was 14, she became a heroin addict and fraudster, and even worked as a prostitutes” “come-on girl” on the streets of Harlem. Then she cleaned up, had a string of soul hits, faded away and became a cocaine addict. She again cleaned up, and had a comeback in 1987 with I Live For Your Love. In 1991 she had her massive hit with a posthumous duet with her father, with modern technology facilitating as recording of his hit Unforgettable.

With his cousin Hugo Peretti (who died in 1986), Luigi Creatore adapted two foreign songs to create classic hits: The Token”s The Lion Sleeps Tonight (originally a South African song by Solomon Linda; read the who sorry tale here) and Elvis” Can”t Help Falling In Love, which borrowed heavily from the old French love song Plaisir d”amour, composed in 1785 by Johann Paul Aegidius Martini. Hugo & Luigi, as they liked to style themselves, also produced Perry Como, Little Peggy March and Sam Cooke (notably hits like Chain Gang, Twistin” the Night Away and Wonderful World) for RCA. Before that they produced a string of hits for Jimmie Rodgers, including Honeycomb and Kisses Sweeter Than Wine. These were released on the Roulette label in which they were partners with mafioso Mo Levy. The FBI identified Roulette as a source of revenue for the Genovese crime family (Peretti and Creatore were not implicated in illegal activity). In the 1970s they were partners in Avco Embassy Records, for whom acts like Van McCoy, The Stylistics, Maxine Brown and The Softones had hits.

IM Dec 2015 gallery-2Gladys Knight”s heavenly voice and perfect delivery overshadows everything, but The Pips were more than just a trio of backing singers. Many of the songs were arranged with their part as an integral part of the performance. Just listen to their vocals on the most famous Gladys Knight & The Pips song, Midnight Train To Georgia, for evidence of that. On Christmas Eve one of the Pips, William Guest, joined the great Soul Train in the Sky at the age of 74. The group members were all related: Gladys and her brother Bubba Knight were cousins to Guest and Edward Patton, who in 2005 was the first of them to die. The Pips, incidentally, were named after the nickname of another cousin. Look at The Pips performing their routine on The Richard Pryor Show in 1977, without Gladys.

Wally Roker was a rare breed in his day: in the 1950s he was a black musician who was savvy in the music industry and wasn”t going to be taken for a ride. As the bass singer of doo wop band The Heartbeats he also took care of the group”s business affairs. His savvy later led to the founding of the massively influential Scepter label, for which he was the A&R man. It was at Scepter that Burt Bacharach first made his mark with his records for the likes of Dionne Warwick and Chuck Jackson. Roker remained a record exec for the rest of his career. The featured song is a proto type for Daddy”s Home, a 1961 hit for Shep and the Limelites “” it was written by Shep Sheppard, a member of both groups.

With John Garner, singer of Sir Lord Baltimore, one of the pioneering voices of heavy metal is gone. In a genre that thrives on the frontman throwing poses, Garner was an anomaly: the lead singer who was also the drummer. Co-produced by Mike Appel, who”d become Bruce Springsteen”s mentor, Sir Lord Baltimore released their first album in 1970, titled Kingdom Come. In a review, Creem applied to it one of the earliest uses of the label “heavy metal” (the magazine had done so half a year earlier, probably for the first time, in reference to Humble Pie). One more LP followed; by 1976 the band had broken up. They reformed in 2006, releasing one CD, and then faded away again.

The producer Snuff Garrett merits mention for his work with artists such as Cher (with and without Sonny), Vicky Lawrence, Telly Savalas, Tanya Tucker, Merle Haggard, Smokey Robinson, Randy Crawford, Frank Sinatra, Sonny Curtis, Bobby Vee, Johnny Burnette, Brian Hyland, Eddie Cochran, The Crickets, Julie London, Peggy Lee, Liza Minnelli, Gene McDaniels (including Tower of Strength, featured on The Originals – Burt Bacharach Collection) , Jan & Dean, Gary Lewis & the Playboys and Del Shannon, or for giving young guys like Phil Spector, Scott Walker and Leon Russell an early leg-up in the industry, or for missing out on the gig of producing The Monkees. But what is particularly interesting about Garrett, a Texan who has died at 77, has nothing to do with music. In the 1970s he bought the cassette rights to the old RKO and Republic films for next to nothing. A few years later the video recorder became a big thing and films on video cassettes big business. Garrett”s collection, bought as a hobby, went on to earn him many millions.

Shirley Gunter, 82, pioneering R&B singer, on Dec. 1
Shirley Gunter & The Queens – Oop Shoop (1954)

Leoni Franco, 73, musician with Uruguayan pop band Los Iracundos, on Dec. 1

Wally Roker, 78, Bass singer with doo wop group The Heartbeats, on Dec. 2
The Heartbeats – A Thousand Miles Away (1957)

Kelvin Knight , 56, drummer of punk bands The Axe, Delta 5, on Dec. 2

Scott Weiland, 48, singer of Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver, on Dec. 3
Stone Temple Pilots ““ Trippin” On A Hole In A Paper Heart (1996)

J Capri, 23, Jamaican dancehall singer, in traffic accident on Dec. 4

Chris Carney, 35, singer with The Prom Kings, in traffic accident on Dec. 4

John Garner, 63, singer and drummer of rock band Sir Lord Baltimore, on Dec. 5
Sir Lord Baltimore – Lady Of Fire (1970)

Marque Lynche, 34, singer and former Mouseketeer, announced on Dec. 6

Gary Marker, 72, bassist (Rising Sons, Captain Beefheart) and recording engineer, on Dec. 8
Rising Sons – Candy Man (1966)

Bonnie Lou, 91, country/roackabilly singer, on Dec. 8
Bonnie Lou – Daddy-O (1955)

Rusty Jones, 73, American jazz drummer, on Dec. 9
George Shearing – The World Is A Ghetto (1975, on drums)

Rainer Bloss, 69, German electronic musician, on Dec. 10

Luigi Creatore, 93, songwriter and record producer, on Dec. 13
Sam Cooke – Chain Gang (1960, as co-producer)
Elvis Presley – Wild In The Country (1961, as co-writer)

Snuff Garrett, 76, record producer, on Dec. 16
Bobby Vee – The Night Has A Thousand Eyes (1962, as co-writer and producer)
Cher – Gypsys, Tramps And Thieves (1970, as producer)
Telly Savalas ““ If (1974, as producer)

Adam Roth, 57, guitarist with rock band Del Fuegos, on Dec. 16
The Del Fuegos – I Still Want You (1986)

Mick Lynch, singer of Irish indie rock band Stump, on Dec. 17
Stump – Charlton Heston (1988)

Gareth “˜Morty” Mortimer, 66, lead-singer of Welsh pop group Racing Cars, on Dec. 17
Racing Cars – They Shoot Horses, Don”t They? (1976)

Peter Broggs, 61, Jamaican reggae musician, on Dec. 19

Sam Dockery, 86, jazz pianist, on Dec. 21

Carson Van Osten, 70, bassist with Todd Rundgren and Disney comics artist, on Dec. 22
Nazz – Hello It”s Me (1968)

William Guest, 74, co-founder and member of Gladys Knight & the Pips, on Dec. 24
Gladys Knight & The Pips- Every Beat Of My Heart (1961)
Gladys Knight & The Pips – I Heard It Through The Grapevine (1968)
Gladys Knight & The Pips – Heavy Makes You Happy (1973)

Stevie Wright, 68, lead-singer of Australian rock group The Easybeats, on Dec. 27
The Easybeats – Friday On My Mind (1966)

Andy M. Stewart, 63, Scottish folk singer, formerly with Silly Wizard, on Dec. 27
Andy M. Stewart – The Ramblin” Rover (1982)

John Bradbury, 62, drummer of English two-tone band The Specials, on Dec. 28
The Specials – Rat Race (1980)
Special A.K.A. – Free Nelson Mandela (1984)

Lemmy Kilmister, 70, singer of Motörhead, Hawkwind, on Dec. 28
Hawkwind – Silver Machine (1972)
Moțrhead РKilled By Death (1984)

Joe Houston, 89, R&B and jazz saxophonist, on Dec. 28
Joe Houston – Worry, Worry, Worry (1952)
  Joe Houston & His Rockets – Teen Age Boogie (1958)

Ron Ford, 67, funk singer and songwriter (Parliament, Funkadelic, P-Funk Allstars), on Dec. 28
P-Funk All Stars ““ Pumpin” It Up (1983, also as co-writer)

Guru Josh, 51, British acid house musician, on Dec. 28
Guru Josh – Infinity (1989)

Dal Richards, 97, Canadian big band leader, on Dec. 31

Natalie Cole, 65, soul and jazz singer, on Dec. 31
Natalie Cole – This Will Be (1975)
Frank Sinatra with Natalie Cole – I Get A Kick Out Of You (1977)
Natalie Cole – Good To Be Back (1989)

(PW in comments)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    January 7th, 2016 at 07:11 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. J. Loslo
    January 8th, 2016 at 15:45 | #2

    Thanks for these. Seems like The Easybeats are thought of as one hit wonders here in the U.S., which is a shame. They made a lot of good music.

    On the other hand, somewhere in The Great Beyond, poor Snuff Garrett has had to stand before his Maker and admit that he was the guy who produced “If” for Telly Savalas.

  3. dogbreath
    January 8th, 2016 at 16:17 | #3

    First came across Lemmy when Hawkwind played the local Palais de Danse with “Silver Machine” riding high in the charts. There he was propping up the bar before the gig, cigarette in one hand, pint of beer in the other, a few likely lads and lasses around him, all wary of this big dark figure. But he was a real gent then and, whenever he came back with Motorhead, he stayed a down to earth, decent, humorous character to the end. The passing of a rock legend if ever there was. Saddened by Natalie Cole’s passing too and you’ve filled me in with half of her backstory that I didn’t know. The deaths of Scott Weiland, Gareth Mortimer, William Guest & Stevie Wright also leave gaps in my musical memory. Thanks for putting it all together.

  4. Graf Slabroff
    January 8th, 2016 at 19:30 | #4

    Hallo and a ‘Frohes Neues Jahr!’ from Germany.
    Though your website is a cornucopia of interesting stuff, ‘In Memoriam’ is THE must-read at month’s beginning. What I really like are the well-written background informations and the including of not-so-well known people like session musicians or those who had their moment in time and then bubbled under.
    It’s a sad subject, but ‘In Memoriam’ always will always be a fav of mine. So thank you and carry on!

  5. Anders Franzén
    January 9th, 2016 at 11:16 | #5


  6. Rhod
    January 9th, 2016 at 23:08 | #6

    Thanks Amd

    A great job once again. The Easybeats were the Aussie band that finally broke through internationally and set the stage for more bands to access/ experience over seas popularity.



  7. halfhearteddude
    January 10th, 2016 at 13:12 | #7

    Thank you Graf Slabroff and everybody else for your kind comments.

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