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In Memoriam – October 2016

November 3rd, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

im1610-gallery_1With the death at 95 of Phil Chess, a giant in the history of rock & roll, soul and blues has gone. With his more animated younger brother Leonard, who died in 1969, the Jewish migrant from Poland founded the Chess label in Chicago. The label produced and released the records of the likes of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Etta James, Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin” Wolf, Little Walter, The Moonglows, The Flamingos and Buddy Guy, and in the 1960s by acts like Ramsey Lewis, Fontella Bass, Billy Stewart, and The Dells. The young label in 1951 released what is often called the “first rock & roll record”, Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats, another name for Ike Turner”s Kings of Rhythm. In a bit of rock & roll synergy, it was recorded by Sam Philips at his Memphis studio. Many other rock & roll and soul classics were co-produced by the Chess brothers, notably the Chuck Berry output. In the film about Chess records, Cadillac Records, Phil Chess was played by Shiloh Fernandez; in Who Do You Love?, also from 2008, he was portrayed by Jon Abrams.

Bobby Vee, who has died at 73, had an impressive string of hits between 1960 and 1962, before he was even out of his teens, with songs like Run To Him, Rubber Ball, Take Good Care Of My Baby, The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, and More Than I Can Say (later a hit for Leo Sayer). He remained a performer but never had much recording success again. But before he was famous, he had links with two legends in popular music. With his band in Fargo, The Shadows, 15-year-old Vee (then known by his full name, Bobby Velline) took Buddy Holly”s spot on the bill at the Winter Dance concert in Moorhead, Minnesota, the event Holly, Big Bopper and Richie Valens were flying to that ill-fated February 3, 1959. Soon after, Vee had in his touring band a fellow calling himself, with a bizarre turn in spelling, Elston Gunnn. That chap later found fame as Bob Dylan. Dylan always spoke admiringly of Bobby Vee.

At a time when we count how many members of 1960s groups are still alive, it comes as a bit of a surprise these days when a band records its first death. So it is with Joan Marie Johnson, one of the three original Dixie Cups (actually, there were four initially, but one left before they became famous).  The R&B vocal group from New Orleans had hits in 1964/65 with Leiber/Stoller-produced songs like Chapel Of Love, Iko Iko, You Should Have Seen The Way He Looked At Me, and People Say. But in 1966 their recording career suddenly stopped; still, the trio continued touring. Johnson left in 1974 after becoming a Jehovah”s Witness (a year later, The Intruders” Robert Edwards, who also died this month, did the same). In 2005 all three original members were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Sisters Barbara and Rosa Hawkins moved to Florida, Johnson to Texas, where she died on October 3 at the age of 72.

im1610-gallery_2Fans of ’60s soul will have heard a lot of Sonny Sanders‘ work, either as an arranger, producer, writer or backing singer. As an arranger, Sanders” most famous songs are the two Jackie Wilson classics, Higher And Higher and The Sweetest Feeling, The Platters” With This Ring, and Young-Holt Unlimited”s Soulful Strut (or, indeed, Barbara Acklin”s Am I The Same Girl), which he also co-wrote with the Chi-Lites” Eugene Record. Other co-written songs include Acklin”s Love Makes A Woman (featured on Any Major Soul 1968, and later a hit for Joyce Sims), and Solomon Burke”s If You Need Me, later covered by the Rolling Stones. He worked with virtually any act that recorded on the Brunswick label in the 1960s (from Gene Chandler and Barbara Acklin to the Chi-Lites and Erma Franklin). Before all that, his band The Satintones were the first vocal group to be signed to Motown. Sanders sang backing vocals on early Motown hits such as Marv Johnson’s You Got What It Takes and Barrett Strong”s Money.

On the very same day Sanders died, early-era Motown songwriter and producer Robert Bateman also departed. The two were both members of the above-mentioned Satintones and remained occasional songwriting partners: for example, they co-wrote Solomon Burke”s If You Need Me, mentioned above, with Wilson Picket. Earlier they co-wrote The Marvelletes” song Angel, which they originally recorded for The Satintones. Bateman”s biggest hit was another Marvellettes” song: Please Mr Postman, which he co-wrote and then produced with Brian Holland. He also wrote their hit Playboy, as well as songs for acts like Mary Wells, The Miracles and Marv Johnson. He was the recording engineer on tracks like Money (on which Sanders did backing vocals). By 1964 he had left Motown, and worked with acts like Burke, Wilson Picket and The Shangri-La”s.

Three of the biggest crossover hits in country music feature Curly Putnam on their writing credit: Green Green Grass Of Home (a hit for Porter Wagoner in 1965 and again the following year for Tom Jones), Tammy Wynette”s D-I-V-O-R-C-E in 1968, and George Jones” He Stopped Loving Her Today (the latter two co-written with Bobby Braddock). In addition, he wrote many country chart-toppers. His song Dumb Blonde provided Dolly Parton with a breakthrough hit. Putman kept friends also outside country circles. One of them was Paul McCartney, who stayed at Putman”s farm when he was recording in Nashville in 1974; he wrote the song Junior”s Farm about that. I trust they put a wreath up on Curly”s door…im1610-gallery_3The question Dead or Alive has become rhetorical with the sudden passing of the short-lived group”s frontman Pete Burns at the young age of 56. When Dead or Alive burst on to the scene in early 1985 with the Stock-Aitken-Waterman-produced UK #1 hit You Spin Me Round, Burns” appearance was quite striking. Later it became extraordinary.  Always a media figure with an eccentric reputation in some way, he augmented his androgynous appearance with liberal cosmetic surgery. A botched lip injection gave him a disfiguring look; he planned to sue the cosmetic surgeon for it. He spent his life-savings on reconstructive surgery, and was declared bankrupt in 2014. Burns died suddenly of cardiac arrest.

German actor, author and singer Manfred Krug was a star in East and West Germany, transcending the intellectual space which he occupied in his artistic endeavours. Born in the West a couple of years before the war, his working-class parents moved to the new German Democratic Republic (or East-Germany) in 1949. In the late “50s, Krug began his acting career, later also making a name for himself as a singer of jazz, chanson and pop. In the 1976 he fell out with the communist regime over the exiling of protest singer Wolf Biermann. Banned from performing, Krug successfully applied to leave for the West, a difficult process which he detailed in two books written 20 years later. Although already in his 40s, he soon became popular TV and film actor, gaining a fan base on Sesame Street and the crime series Tatort alike. All the while he released a string of albums. The featured track, which is really worth checking out, is from his East-German time, released on single in 1972.

I have already covered the death of Rod Temperton with a tribute mix (which turned out to be less popular than I had hoped for). Still, his passing merits special mention here, for very few who ever danced at parties in the 1980s would have failed to at least tap a toe to songs written by (and often arranged and/or produced) by the funkiest man to ever come out of Grimsby. Tracks like Rock With You, Off The Wall, Thriller, Stomp, Love X Love, Give Me The Night, Yah Mo Be There, Sweet Freedom, Boogie Nights, The Groove Line and so on.


Toni Williams, 77, New Zealand pop singer, on Oct. 1

Steve Byrd, 61, English guitarist, on Oct. 2
Kim Wilde – Love Blonde (1983, on guitar)

Joan Marie Johnson, 72, singer with R&B trio The Dixie Cups, on Oct. 3
Dixie Cups – Chapel Of Love (1964)
Dixie Cups – People Say (1964)

Caroline Crawley, 53, English singer with Shelleyan Orphan, This Mortal Coil, on Oct. 4
Shelleyan Orphan – Little Death (1992)

Rod Temperton, 66, English keyboardist, songwriter, producer, on Oct. 5

Don Ciccone, 70, American singer-songwriter and musician, on Oct. 8
The Critters – Mr. Dieingly Sad (1966, also as writer)
Four Seasons ““ December “63 (Oh What A Night) (1975, as member, also on bass)

Angus R. Grant, 49, fiddler with Scottish folk-fusion bands Shooglenifty, Swamptrash, on Oct. 9
Shooglenifty – Johnny Cope (2009)

Guy Nadon, 82, Canadian jazz drummer, on Oct. 9

Bored Nothing (Fergus Miller), 26, Australian indie musician, suicide on Oct. 9
Bored Nothing – Why Were You Dancing With All Those Guys (2014)

Quique Lucca, 103, Puerto Rican salsa musician, on Oct. 9

Sonny Sanders, 77, soul songwriter, arranger, producer, on Oct. 12
Jackie Wilson – (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher (1967, as arranger)
Barbara Acklin – Am I The Same Girl (1969, as co-writer and arranger)
Sidney Joe Qualls – How Can You Say Goodbye (1974, as arranger)

Robert Bateman, 80, soul songwriter, arranger, producer, on Oct. 12
The Satintones – My Beloved (1960, also with Sony Sanders)
The Marvelettes – Angel (1961, as co-writer, also with Sonny Sanders, and co-producer)
Solomon Burke – If You Need Me (1963, as co-writer, also with Sonny Sanders)

Werner Lämmerhirt, 67, German folk singer-songwriter and guitarist, on Oct. 14
Werner Lämmerhirt – Nine Hundred Miles (1974)

Robert “˜Big Sonny” Edwards, 74, singer with soul band The Intruders, on Oct. 15
The Intruders – Cowboys To Girls (1968)
The Intruders – (Win Place Or Show ) She’s A Winner (1972)

Bobby Ellis, 84, Jamaican trumpeter, on Oct. 18

Phil Chess, 95, producer and co-founder of Chess Records, on Oct. 19
Gene Ammons – My Foolish Heart (1950, first Chess Records release)
Chuck Berry – Maybellene (1955, as co-producer)
Etta James – At Last (1960, as co-producer)
Howlin’ Wolf – Little Red Rooster (1961, as co-producer)
Ramsey Lewis Trio – The ‘In’ Crowd (1965, as co-producer)

Chris Porter, 34, alt.country musician, in car crash on Oct. 19
Chris Porter – This Red Mountain (2015)

Mitchell Vandenburg, alt.country musician, in car crash on Oct. 19

Achieng Abura, Kenyan jazz-fusion musician, Oct. 20

Mieke Telkamp, 82, Dutch singer, on Oct. 20

Manfred Krug, 79, German actor and singer, on Oct. 21
Manfred Krug – Morgen (1972)

Pete Burns, 57, English singer and songwriter (Dead or Alive), on Oct. 23
Dead Or Alive – You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) (1984)

Go Go Lorenzo, 53, go-go musician, hit by car on Oct. 23
Go Go Lorenzo & The Davis Pinckney Project – You Can Dance (If You Want To) (1986)

Bobby Vee, 73, pop singer, on Oct. 24
Bobby Vee – Take Good Care Of My Baby (1961)
Bobby Vee – More Than I Can Say (1961)

Eddy Christiani, 98, Dutch musician and songwriter, on Oct. 24

John Zacherle, 98, TV presenter and novelty song singer, on Oct. 27
John Zacherle – Dinner With Drac (1958)

Bobby Wellins, 80, Scottish jazz saxophonist, on Oct. 27
Bobby Wellins – You Don’t Know What Love Is (1997)

Ron Grant, 72, TV & film score composer and software developer for composers, on Oct. 28

Paul Demers, 60, Canadian singer-songwriter, on Oct. 29

Curly Putman, 85, country songwriter, on Oct. 30
Curly Putman -Green Green Grass Of Home (1967, also as writer)
Tammy Wynette – D-I-V-O-R-C-E  (1968, as co-writer)
George Jones – He Stopped Loving Her Today (1980, as co-writer)

Bill Kyle, Scottish jazz fusion drummer, on Oct. 30

Jimmy Williams, lead singer of “70s soul-disco band Double Exposure, on Oct. 31
Double Exposure – Ten Percent (1976)

GET IT! (PW in comments)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    November 3rd, 2016 at 06:36 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. PL44
    November 3rd, 2016 at 19:59 | #2

    Always loved Bobby Vee. The Legendary Masters 2LP was one of the best finds in my father’s record collection when I was a teen. Alas, somehow I simply couldn’t place that needle in that split-of-a-second-pause spot between Punish Her (which I dislike until today, probably for exactly this experience) and his version of It Might As Well Rain Until September.

    Byebye Liebling Kreuzberg…

  3. dogbreath
    November 4th, 2016 at 17:28 | #3

    So, farewell then, Bobby Vee who will always remain a fixture on those Golden Oldies radio shows. I didn’t know before the Vee – Bob Dylan connection. And RIP Pete Burns of the unfortunately but presciently named Dead Or Alive. I wasn’t a fan but You Spin Me Round never fails to get me up on the dancefloor. Many thanks as always for a fine compiling job. Cheers!

  4. RhodB
    November 4th, 2016 at 22:43 | #4

    Thanks Amd

    The Chess legacy will live on for decades

    Another great compilation



  5. StumpTheDJ
    November 10th, 2016 at 06:09 | #5

    My favorite Manfred Krug track:

    “Wenn’s Draussen Grun Wird” [1973]

    And this track, known in the US from being on the Dusty Fingers compilations:

    “Wenn der Urlaub Kommt” [1975]

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