Sunday, 01 January 2012
ELDER MUSIC: Toes Up in 2011 - Part 2
You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.
This is the second part of Toes Up for this year. Part One was yesterday in case you missed it.
DUTCH TILDERS was Australia’s foremost blues performer. Born Mattheus Tilders in The Netherlands, his family moved to Australia when he was 14. He started performing soon after that “as it was better than working,” he said.
He was always dismissive of his talents saying that his deep, gravely voice was ordinary and claimed he only played guitar so he’d have something to do with his hands. He was wrong on both counts.
This film clip was done not long before he died and is an appropriate send off for Dutch. He is Going on a Journey. (Age 69)
FERLIN HUSKY was a country singer who had cross-over hits in the fifties. He was born in Missouri and served in the marines during WWII, occasionally entertaining the crew on his ship.
He hit it big with a duet with Jean Shepard called A Dear John Letter. They recorded a follow up called, Forgive Me John.
He had a couple of big hits later in the decade with Gone and especially Wings of a Dove. He had a long and successful career in country music and was a regular on the Grand Ole Opry. I’ve decided against his big hit or that dreadful first song and gone with Gone. (85)
CORNELL DUPREE was a fine jazz and R&B guitarist. He was also an in-demand session musician who has played on the albums of pretty much everyone of note.
He was a founder member of the band Stuff who were about the best jazz/funk group around in the seventies and eighties. Here Cornell plays Foots with Stuff from their first album, also called “Stuff.” (69)
Music was ANDREW GOLD’s family business. His father won an Oscar for film music and his mother was Marni Nixon who was the real singer for Natalie Wood, Audrey Hepburn and Deborah Kerr amongst others.
Andrew was a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who had some hits in the seventies. He also played on several of Linda Ronstadt’s albums as well as some of the solo works of three quarters of The Beatles. He also worked with Jackson Browne and The Eagles.
The details in the song Lonely Boy seem to suggest that it’s autobiographical but Andrew has claimed that it isn’t; he had a very happy childhood. (59)
It has been claimed that GIL SCOTT-HERON was the man whose works were the main influence on the development of rap and hip hop. Gil disputed that premise, saying he was a poet who performed to music, usually jazz, but other musical styles as well.
Gil started out writing detective fiction and that gained him a scholarship to a prestigious school. He later turned to music and poetry. His poetry was a critical analysis of politics, racism and mass media, especially in his best known piece, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. (62)
JOHNNY PRESTON, or John Preston Courville, was from Port Arthur, Texas. He sang in a choir and a local DJ and sometime songwriter named J.P. Richardson heard him sing and thought he was a natural.
J.P., or The Big Bopper to his listeners, had a song for him. Johnny didn’t want to record it as he thought it far too sombre and depressing. J.P. told him it’d be a big hit and he was right.
Johnny had some other reasonable selling records but it was Running Bear that made number one everywhere. (71)
JOHN WALKER was one of the Walker Brothers who were a successful pop group in the sixties, mainly in England even though they were American. He was born John Haus and neither of the other two were named Walker either but I guess it was easy to remember.
Their biggest hit, and a fine song it is too, was The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Any More. (67)
DOBIE GRAY was a soul/pop singer who had a number of big hits in the sixties and seventies. He was born Lawrence Brown, or maybe Leonard Ainsworth in Texas. I’m surprised no one asked him which it was. Maybe they did.
He moved to Los Angeles in the early sixties to become an actor but he encountered Sonny Bono who encouraged him to sing instead. Sonny got him a record deal and he recorded the first version of The In Crowd, later covered so well by Ramsey Lewis.
He had a few more songs that didn’t do anything until he released Drift Away which was a great success. He followed that with an excellent cover of the Tom Jans song Loving Arms. In the seventies, he moved to Nashville where he recorded southern soul, rock & roll and even country influenced songs. This is Dobie with his biggest hit, Drift Away.
PHOEBE SNOW was born Phoebe Laub into a musical household in New York. While still in school, she’d perform in folk clubs in Greenwich Village. It was at this time she gained her stage name. Phoebe had voice lessons and studied opera but decided to stick with folk music.
In the seventies, she recorded several fine albums and had a big hit with the song Poetry Man. She was later an in-demand backing singer both on records and in live performances. She died after suffering a stroke at age 60. This is Phoebe with Poetry Man.
JET HARRIS or Terrance to his mum and dad, played bass in the hugely influential English group the Shadows. He gained his nickname at school as he was a pretty useful runner.
His musical life began with him playing double bass in a jazz group and later he joined a group called the Drifters who had to change their name as there was already a famous one with that name. He took up the Fender bass for the Shadows as they became known.
Many bands, particularly in the surf guitar style have paid tribute to the Shadows as well as groups like The Beatles and Dire Straits (and many others). They were largely an instrumental band but they also backed pretty much all of Cliff Richard’s early hits. This is The Shadows with Apache. (71)
HUBERT SUMLIN was one of the great Chicago blues guitarists. He’s not as well known as some others as he spent much of his career as the guitarist for Howlin’ Wolf. Indeed, he first met Wolf when he was a kid when he sneaked into one of his performances.
Hubert was born in Mississippi and raised in Arkansas and moved to Chicago when Wolf offered the position in his band. After Wolf died, Hubert kept most of the band together performing as the Wolf Pack. He kept performing right up until he died at age 80.
RALPH MOONEY was a steel guitar player who bolstered the sound of many country hits, particularly those of Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and Wanda Jackson. For 20 years he was in Waylon Jennings’ band and was also a songwriter of considerable facility. (82)
GIL ROBBINS was a bass player and singer who was a member of such groups as The Cumberland Three (along with the great singer/songwriter John Stewart) and The Highwaymen.
He was also a member of Harry Belafonte’s backing band and played with Tom Paxton for a while. Later, The Highwaymen had a revival and opened for another group with the same name who had hit it big. They were Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson. Gil was the father of actor and musician Tim Robbins. (80)
JIMMY NORMAN was a soul singer and lyricist. He wrote the lyrics for Time is on My Side that Etta James and later the Rolling Stones took to the top of the charts. In the way of things back then, he received not a cent.
Jimmy spent time in Jamaica and wrote and recorded with Johnny Nash and Bob Marley. He was also a member of The Coasters and several of his solo recordings featured Jimi Hendrix before he was well known.
Late in his life, a producer found many of his songs that had never been recorded and had Jimmy record these for an album that’s only just been released. (74)
JERRY RAGOVOY was a record producer and songwriter who got all the money for Time is on My Side. He produced such ground breaking artists as Fabian and Frankie Avalon. Jerry also wrote songs for Janis Joplin, Garnet Mims and others. (81)
Eugene SNOOKY YOUNG was a jazz trumpeter who liked playing with the mute in that instrument. Early on, he played in bands led by Jimmie Lunceford, Count Basie and Lionel Hampton. Later he toured with Doc Severinsen and was part of the Tonight Show group.
He also backed such artists as B.B. King, Bobby Blue Bland and The Band. (92)
KATHY KIRBY or Kathleen O’Rourke to her folks, was an English singer who had hits in that country with covers of Doris Day songs. She also represented Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest (she came second) and later appeared extensively on TV. It seems she had a “tumultuous” personal life but we won’t go there. (72)
CLARENCE CLEMONS was the big man, the saxophonist and boon companion for Bruce Springsteen in the E Street band.
Clarence was born in Virginia and grew up surrounded by gospel music. He moved to New Jersey where was a counsellor for disturbed children for many years although still playing music in his spare time.
Legend has it that he went to a Bruce Springsteen concert and told Bruce that he wanted to play with the band. Clarence was big man and Bruce acceded to his wishes.
They gelled immediately and became close friends for the rest of his life. He also occasionally performed with such diverse folks as Jackson Browne, Aretha Franklin, the Grateful Dead and Twisted Sister. (69)
FRED STEINER was a composer from New York who created the themes for many TV programs we know and (some of which we) love – Perry Mason, Star Trek, Twilight Zone, Hawaii Five-O, Gunsmoke, Hogan’s Heroes among others.
He also won an Oscar for co-writing the music for the film The Color Purple. (88)
AMY WINEHOUSE led a lurid public and private life fuelled by the alcohol and drugs that led to her death. Rather surprisingly, when she was sober, she was a pretty decent singer. (27)
DAN PEEK was a founder member of the rock group America, all of whose members were born outside that country to members of the military. The group had several big hits, Horse With No Name that I first thought at the time was actually Neil Young. Ventura Highway and Sister Golden Hair are the other ones that spring to mind.
Dan left the group after these hits as he thought that his indulgence in drugs and alcohol would kill him. They probably did in the long run. (60)
MARSHALL GRANT was the bass player for the Tennessee Two who gave the early Johnny Cash recordings and performances their distinctive sound.
That’s Marshall on the right with Luther Perkins, the guitarist for the T.T.
He started out working in an automobile sales company where he met Luther and also Roy Cash, Johnny’s brother. When Johnny returned from serving in the air force, Roy mentioned these two to him and one of the most important groups from the fifties was born. (83)
BOBBY ROBINSON was a record producer and songwriter. He was from South Carolina and after serving in the war, opened a record shop in New York that became a focus for independent record promoters.
This got Bobby into producing and he did that, initially with blues records but later DooWop and R&B, and still later rap and hip hop. He produced records or wrote songs for Wilbert Harrison, the Shirelles, Lee Dorsey, Gladys Knight, King Curtis and many more. (93)
NICK ASHFORD was a songwriter at Motown who, along with his wife Valerie Simpson, wrote songs for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight and many others.
Later, they performed themselves as Ashford and Simpson and were quite successful at that as well. They continued performing until quite recently when Nick developed throat cancer. (69)
JOHNNIE WRIGHT began his musical career with Jack Anglin as the country duo Johnnie and Jack in 1936. They performed together until Jack’s death in 1963. Johnnie continued as a solo artist and encouraged his wife, Kitty Wells, to perform.
She became a star of country music. Johnnie and Kitty had been married for 74 years when Johnnie died, aged 97.
Although she had a bit of a solo career early on, SYLVIA ROBINSON really hit it big when she teamed up with Mickey Baker achieving several hits as Mickey and Sylvia. They bought their own night club, established a publishing company and record label.
Later, Sylvia started a record company to showcase unknown rappers and hip hop artists. (75)
LEE POCKRISS was probably the biggest selling “unknown” songwriter of the last half century. After serving as a cryptographer in the Air Force, he won a contest to become a songwriter. Eventually he wrote such songs as Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini, Catch A Falling Star, In My Little Corner Of The World, Calcutta, Leader Of The Laundromat and others of that ilk. (87)
DAVID “HONEYBOY” EDWARDS was a blues musician from Mississippi. He was almost certainly the last remaining link to the pre-war blues players who were so influential – Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Charley Patton, Big Joe Williams and many more.
David was actually present when Robert Johnson died; that alone would have ensured he was remembered. He was another of the musicians recorded by Alan Lomax and brought to a far wider audience. He won a Grammy at age 93. (96)
The KEEF HARTLEY Band was at Woodstock but few remember this as he didn’t appear in the film or on the record of the event. This was because he didn’t give permission as there was no money up front for the band.
Keith, as he was born, was a drummer. He said he chose the instrument as he had short arms and couldn’t manage the guitar neck. He started his career in Rory Storm’s group taking over when the previous drummer, Ringo Starr, got a better offer. He later played with John Mayall and still later started his own group. (67)
HOWARD TATE was a soul singer who started his musical life in a gospel group that also included Garnet Mimms. Garnet, through contacts he already had, got them a recording contract that Howard used to record some fine soul songs as a single artist. These brought him considerable critical acclaim, but not huge sales.
He later recorded with Lloyd Price and Johnny Nash and even covered some of The Band’s songs and those of Bob Dylan as well. His lack of success with the public led him to retire in the late seventies and he descended into a serious drug habit. Early this century, his career was revived and he recorded several well received albums. He died of complications from leukemia. (72)
BILLIE JO SPEARS was a country singer who had a huge, career defining hit with the song, Blanket on the Ground. She started in show biz when her elder sister got a contract. Big sis went off and got married and had kids so they substituted Billie Jo for her.
Her big hit ensured she had a lifelong career in country music and she already had gigs set up for 2012. (74)