This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
Here are some people whose birthday it is today. Not a bad lot of musicians who were born on this date. You may wonder why I’ve decided to highlight folks whose birthday it is today (but you’ve probably already figured it out).
The first, foremost and the king of them all for today, is B.B. KING. He turns 87 today.
What more can I say about B.B. that I haven’t said before? Really all that needs to be said is that he is one of the greatest blues musicians ever, an influential guitarist, fine singer and nothing else need be said. Here he sings and plays Early Every Morning, a very early track from the master that seems to presage rock & roll.
JON HENDRICKS is almost certainly the best male jazz singer ever. He’ll be blowing out 91 candles.
He’s probably best known as a member of the group Lambert Hendricks and Ross who invented vocalese, a form of jazz singing that they made their own. However, here’s Jon solo with the great Thelonious Monk performing In Walked Bud.
A great trio for this day are the two I’ve already mentioned and LAUREN BACALL. Although Betty sang in one or two films she’s not known as a musician, so I’ll move on.
CHARLIE BYRD is not a bad addition to the ranks of this day’s birthday alumni.
Charlie was born the same day as B.B. King, what a fine day that was for guitarists. Charlie’s dad played the mandolin and guitar and taught young Charlie to play very early. He went on to have formal training in classical guitar and composition.
He later became a pupil of Andre Segovia. Charlie saw Django Reinhart perform in Paris and his life’s work became apparent to him. Here’s Charlie playing some fine guitar licks along with Stan Getz with some equally good sax. Desafinado.
I always enjoyed watching Columbo. I know, the plots had holes through which you could drive a truck, but PETER FALK was always a hoot. Not forgetting the big stars who would line up to play the guest murderer. Peter’s another one for today.
LITTLE WILLIE LITTLEFIELD is yet another great blues musician from Texas. He’s a mere slip of a lad at 81.
By the age of 16 he was already well known in town and had recorded some songs in Houston. These caught the attention of a record producer from Los Angeles and Willie moved there and became an attraction on the west coast. Initially influenced by artists such as Amos Milburn and Charles Brown and other singer/pianists, Willie developed his own style.
Like many blues and jazz musicians he moved to Europe where his music was more appreciated. In the last decade he’s made something of a comeback and is still playing around the traps as of this writing. Here he plays Mellow Cats.
Another favorite TV program when I was even younger was Maverick. JACK KELLY played brother Brett in the series, although he always seemed to be overshadowed by James Garner as Bart.
Not the Dickens character, DAVID COPPERFIELD is an illusionist. He’s another blowing out candles today.
ELĪNA GARANČA is a mezzo-soprano from Riga in Latvia.
Here Elīna sings a marvelous duet with ANNA NETREBKO, who isn’t a birthday girl, but my goodness she came close, seeing the light of day on the 18th of September.
They sing The Barcarolle (Belle nuit, o nuit d'amour) from “The Tales of Hoffmann” by Jacques Offenbach. I have a number of versions of this and this one is by far the best I’ve heard.
JANIS PAIGE was known as an actor but she was also a trained opera singer. I have none of her music but she deserves a mention on her day.
BERNIE CALVERT was a member of the group The Hollies. He’s not the most famous of that group, that’d be Graham Nash, although a few hold-outs might suggest Allan Clarke. However, Bernie is the one whose birthday it is today.
Bernie started as a pianist, but his original group, The Dolphins, lacked a bass player so he took over the instrument. When the original bassist for The Hollies left Bernie was recruited for the position and remained for a couple of decades. He was really chuffed when the famous jazz bassist Ray Brown approached him and praised his bass playing on Bus Stop. Hear for yourself.
ANNE FRANCIS was an interesting actor, both on TV and in films. She deserves a mention.
KENNEY JONES was the drummer for The Small Faces, The Faces and later he took over the drumming role in The Who when that group got themselves back together again after Keith Moon dropped off the twig.
The Small Faces were reasonably successful and produced some fine music in the sixties. At the end of that decade they split up when Steve Marriott left to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton.
The other three remained together and hired a couple of journeymen musicians to round out the group. You may not know these two, Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, and as they were considerably taller than the others, the group dropped the “Small” from their name.
From their classic album, “Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake,” often included in the best British albums of the sixties, here are The Small Faces with Lazy Sunday.
You may not admit it, but I know you’ve bought something at the store that was started by J.C. PENNEY.
DAVID BELLAMY is one of the BELLAMY BROTHERS. They gave us such immortal songs as If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body (Would You Hold It Against Me).
They gave us other songs as well, better ones. That’s David on the right, incidentally. They have had considerable success in country music and the brothers released a rather good album back in the eighties called “Rebels Without a Clue” that had several songs worthy of inclusion.
I checked the other albums but kept coming back to that one. The song I’ve chosen is called When the Music Meant Everything.
A couple more actors to finish off, JENNIFER TILLY and MICKEY ROURKE. There are more I could mention but I’ve already gone a bit overboard.
HILDEGARD OF BINGEN was a real all-rounder. She is also 914 years old today.
Hildegard was an author, counsellor, linguist, naturalist, scientist, philosopher, physician, herbalist, poet and all-round polymath. Not bad for a woman from the 12th century.
She was also a nun, actually the head nun at the nun place where she worked. This is probably how she managed to do so much at that time when most women didn’t get much of a chance to do these things. Most men too, I imagine.
Her musical works have come down to us and they are sublime. This is one of them, or a bit of one of them, O Ecclesia, performed by Sequentia with Barbara Thornton out in front.
Yes, it’s my birthday as well as the previous musos and the others mentioned (along with about 19,000,000 other people on the planet). If you’re thinking of presents, I’m rather partial to Romanée-Conti and La Tâche wines.