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.
LEVON HELM was the drummer for the most important band in rock & roll history, The Band. Okay, Beatles fans may have something to say about that.
Levon also played mandolin, guitar, piano and other instruments. He was also one of the three singers the group was blessed with. As they are my all-time favorite group I could carry on for far too long. I’ll just say listen to their music.
Here is Levon singing on perhaps The Band’s most famous song, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, a song Robbie Robertson wrote especially for Levon. (He was 71)
DIETRICH FISCHER-DIESKAU was a German baritone and conductor. He probably recorded more lieder than anyone else, hundreds of them. He also recorded and performed in pretty much every opera worth its salt and also oratorios and cantatas and the like.
He began his career soon after the war and famously teamed up with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (and a couple of others). Dietrich was one of the most admired performers in music.
Here he is singing from the Bach cantata, Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen BWV 56, the aria Endlich, endlich wird mein Joch. (86)
DORY PREVIN was a singer/songwriter renowned for the blazing honesty of her songs. Fans admired her but didn’t want to be her. She was at her most prolific and popular in the early seventies.
She was born Dorothy Langan and had a troubled childhood mainly due to her father who was gassed in the Great War.
Dory got into theatrical productions, mostly musical, and started writing extra verses for the various songs. A producer heard her and suggested she team up with André Previn. They became a successful songwriting team and eventually married.
Her most famous song is called Beware of Young Girls written about Mia Farrow who started an affair with André (and eventually married him). In the song, Dory warned that she will leave him too, and that proved to be so.
Dory had a breakdown over all this but recovered and recorded several more interesting, if rather searing albums. Later, when she and André became friends again, she said she regretted releasing the song. Dory suffered several strokes recently and died aged 86. Here is the song.
DONALD “DUCK” DUNN was a bass player, a studio musician at Stax records who played bass behind pretty much every soul artist from that company. He was also a member of possibly the greatest instrumental group in rock/soul history – Booker T & the MGs.
Donald didn’t play on their most famous track, Green Onions; he hadn’t joined the group at that stage. However, that’s probably the only one where he wasn’t present.
Donald was born in Memphis and his father gave him his nickname after watching a bunch of Disney cartoons. It stuck. While growing up, he was friends with a young guitarist named Steve Cropper who later also became a session muso at Stax and was another member of the MGs.
These two have played with pretty much every popular musician from the last 50 years. Here are Booker T & The MGs with Hip Hug-Her. (70)
GRAEME BELL was generally called the father of Australian jazz. He was almost certainly the grandfather as well or even great grand-dad by the time he died.
Graeme, and his brother who was also a jazz musician, were the children of an actor and singer, so show biz was on the cards. He was trained classically on piano but caught the jazz bug while still at school.
He actually wanted to be an artist and was a talented painter as well as owning a gallery later in his life.
During the war he was rejected by the army but joined the entertainment unit. After the war, Graeme formed his own jazz band and toured Europe and Britain extensively. He’s credited with reviving interest in jazz in that country.
In Australia in the fifties and sixties, he hosted several TV programs featuring local and international jazz and blues musicians and he was the first westerner to take a jazz band to China. He won pretty much every music award around in the country and many from elsewhere.
That’s Graeme playing piano on Tin Roof Blues. (97)
DAVY JONES was a child actor who was born in Manchester, England. Quite coincidentally, he was in the cast of “Oliver!” when they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show the same night as The Beatles first performed on that program.
The next year he was cast in the TV show The Monkees, blatantly modeled on The Beatles. The four selected turned out to be rather good musicians in their own right, much to the chagrin of the producers who wanted to keep them under their thumbs and use studio musicians on their records.
The TV program lasted three years and their records sold in the millions, some of which were really good pop music indeed.
This is Davy singing lead on Daydream Believer, a song written by the fine singer-songwriter John Stewart. John didn’t want the Monkees to record his song but as the royalty cheques started rolling in, he changed his mind. “What a fine job they did,” he said. (66)
DOUG DILLARD along with his brother Rodney formed the hugely influential group The Dillards. You may have seen them on The Andy Griffith Show.
They pretty much went on to invent country rock with their interesting meld of blue-grass, country, pop songs and rock & roll. They did some of the best ever covers of Beatles tunes.
Doug left the group and performed solo and with Gene Clark from The Byrds. They recorded a couple of highly regarded albums. He later teamed up with his brother and John Hartford (as Dillard Hartford Dillard) and they performed and recorded together.
Doug remained a popular performer until his death and was regularly cited as a major influence by other banjo pickers. Doug teams up with Gene Clark on Don't Come Rollin'. (75)
JOHNNIE BASSETT was a blues musician originally from Florida but he spent his working life in Detroit. He greatly admired, and was influenced by, the great T-Bone Walker whose playing and singing style he resembled. Albert and B.B. King were other influences.
He spent many years as a session musician backing and playing with such luminaries as John Lee Hooker, Dinah Washington and Lowell Fulson. He also performed with The Miracles, Tina Turner and even Jimi Hendrix.
In more recent years, he headed his own band and performed and recorded to considerable acclaim. Here is Johnnie with Reconsider Baby. (76)
JOE SOUTH was a singer/songwriter and a guitarist of the first rank, such that he played on Bob Dylan’s seminal album, “Blonde on Blonde” and was a session musician who backed Aretha Franklin among others.
He also had a solo career and had hits with such songs as Hush, Walk a Mile in my Shoes, I Knew You When and others.
He wrote songs for others, like Down in the Boondocks, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden and along with The Big Bopper, The Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor (really).
Joe sings his most famous song, Games People Play. (72)
Pookie Hudson formed a group in 1952 with some school friends, one of whom was EARNEST WARREN. This group went on to become The Spaniels, one of the earliest of the DooWop groups. Earnest sang lead tenor in the group and they had several hits in the early fifties.
He was drafted and they carried on without him but he rejoined after his stint in the army. In the late fifties, they were offered a song called The Twist which they recorded. It wasn’t released as they didn’t think it suited their style.
The Spaniels kept their career going until Pookie died in 2010. Now there’s only one of the original five left. Here they are with their most famous song, a classic of the genre, Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight. (77)
DOROTHY MCGUIRE was one of the McGuire Sisters who had some hits in the fifties, most notably Sugartime and an inferior cover version of The Spaniels’ Good Night Sweetheart, Goodnight. (84)
JIMMY JONES’ career began as a demo singer for the writers at the Brill Building. One day he wrote his own song, Handy Man, and this became a big hit in 1960. He followed that the same year with Good Timin’. Although a fine singer and great live performer, that was about the extent of his fame in the music industry. We still have those two songs though. (82)
CLEVELAND DUNCAN was the lead tenor for the DooWop group, The Penguins. They, like The Spaniels, were one of the earliest groups of this type and had a hit with the song Earth Angel. As with most of these songs back then, it was covered by a white group, The Crew Cuts. The Crew Cuts managed a couple of places higher on the charts but in the long run The Penguins sold vastly more copies.
It’s one of the biggest sellers in DooWop. This would prove to be their only hit. (77)
KAY DAVIS was a classically trained soprano but she made her name as one of singers in the Duke Ellington band. She auditioned because of a dare from a friend. Duke heard her and signed her immediately. He started writing sophisticated pieces to suit her voice. She remained with Duke for six years and then married and retired to Florida where she became a chef. (91)
ELIZABETH CONNELL was a mezzo and soprano noted for her roles in Wagner and Verdi operas. Born in South Africa, she won a scholarship to study at the London Opera Centre. She became a success there and performed in the great opera houses of the world – Covent Garden, La Scala, Salzburg, Bayreuth, the Sydney Opera House and pretty much everywhere else important.
Her first ten years she sang mezzo roles and then switched to soprano where she was equally successful. She kept singing until nearly the end, in spite of the lung cancer that caused her death. (65)
BILLY STRANGE was a session musician greatly in demand for his guitar playing. He could adapt to any style required and was equally at home on acoustic or electric. He was an important member of the Wrecking Crew, the musicians Phil Spector used to create his great songs. They were also used by the Beach Boys on their most famous albums. (81)
MICHAEL DAVIS was the bass player for the incendiary rock group MC5. This band was uncompromising in their approach to music and politics. They were aligned with the Black Panthers and helped form the White Panthers. Their album “Kick Out the Jams” demonstrates really well their approach to music. They were mad, bad and dangerous to know. (68)
ROBERT SHERMAN was a songwriter best known for his scores for Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He had a long association with the Disney studios and wrote the music for many of their films. He first started writing songs for such artists as Gene Autry, Johnny Burnette, Annette Funicello and others in the fifties and sixties. (86)
VINCENT LOVEGROVE was an Australian music manager, journalist, television producer, AIDS awareness pioneer and musician. He was in the sixties’ rock band The Valentines with Bon Scott (later the singer for AC/DC). He later managed several successful bands and solo artists and wrote about music for some years.
Both his second wife and their son (who contracted the disease during his birth) died from AIDS and Vince was instrumental in bringing AIDS awareness to the general public through documentaries and similar methods. He was killed in a car accident in New South Wales. (64)
RED HOLLOWAY was a tenor and alto saxophonist and bandleader. He performed with jazz greats such as Clark Terry, Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt, but he was equally at home with the blues, performing with B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Roosevelt Sykes. He also played with Billie Holiday and Ben Webster. Brought up in Chicago, he spent many years in Europe and later lived and worked in California. (84)
RONNIE MONTROSE was a hard rocking guitarist and the template for groups such as Guns and Roses, Def Leppard, Van Halen and others. In spite of that, he could play lyrically due, he said, to the influence of his father who was a jazz musician.
Ronnie also played session work with such luminaries as Herbie Hancock and Van Morrison. He fronted several heavy metal bands who are mostly unknown to me. (64)
JIMMY LITTLE was a musician, actor and teacher. He was a Yorta Yorta man raised on a mission in New South Wales. He had a singing career that lasted 60 years and he was the first indigenous person to have a number one hit record in Australia. He made his first record in 1956 and continued recording until the end. Late in his life he made an album of songs supplied by the cream of rock musicians that was a huge success, both stylistically and commercially.
He had a voice that honey-soaked angels would be envious of. From the eighties he taught and mentored indigenous music students and created a foundation to help indigenous Australians with health problems, particularly diseases of the kidneys and eyes. He said in an interview on TV when asked how he’d like to be remembered, "I just want people to remember me as a nice person who was fair-minded and had a bit of talent that put it to good use." (75)
JIM MARSHALL probably caused more deafness than any person in history. He was an English business man who developed the Marshall amplifier and speaker stacks that are so beloved by rock musicians. They became the touchstone for quality reproduction and it became de rigueur for bands to have a mountain of these behind them. (88)
DONNA SUMMER was born in Boston but went to New York with a rock band while still in her teens much to her parents’ dismay. She later auditioned for Hair and was given a part in a German version of the play. She moved to that country, married and performed there. Later, the producer Giorgio Moroder asked her to sing Love to Love You Baby which became a smash world-wide. Donna returned to America and became one of the biggest disco artists. (63)
MARIA COLE, born Marie Hawkins, was a jazz singer of considerable facility who performed with Benny Carter, Count Basie and Fletcher Henderson. However, she’s mostly associated with Duke Ellington with whom she performed for some time. Once she was on the bill with the Nat King Cole Trio and there was an immediate attraction. She and Nat married and remained that way for the rest of Nat’s life. Maria was also the mother of singer Natalie Cole. (89)
JON LORD was a classically trained keyboard player most famous for his time in the rock group Deep Purple. They were hugely successful but after several albums he left to work solo. He was friends with, and played alongside, such luminaries as George Harrison, Alvin Lee and Jim Capaldi. He wrote a number of scores that used a rock group and a symphony orchestra in the same setting which were quite successful. (71)
TONY MARTIN was an American singer and actor who started out as a saxophone player. He went to Hollywood to try his luck in films and managed a few bit parts. He also had a small radio program and was later a singer on the Burns and Allen radio show. During the war he was initially in Glenn Miller’s band but later went to India. After the war, he performed in several musicals and had many hit records. Tony was married to Cyd Charisse for 60 years. (98)
IAN TURPIE was an Australian actor, musician and TV presenter. He caught the acting bug before becoming a teenager and appeared in many plays and TV programs. He later took up the guitar and started singing and he wasn’t bad at either of them. He presented several musical programs on TV. Later he hosted a whole bunch of game shows. He and Olivia Newton-John were an item for some years when they were young. (68)
BOB BABBITT was a bass player who was classically trained but most noted for being one of the Funk Brothers, a group of musicians that Motown Records used to accompany pretty much everyone who recorded there. More than 200 hit records, apparently. He didn’t just record for Motown, he also accompanied such artists as Del Shannon, Jim Croce, Gladys Knight and also played on some of Jim Hendrix’s recordings. He appeared in the fine documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown a few years ago. (74)
CARLO CURLEY was an American classical concert organist, one of few such performers who could support himself performing concerts, recitals and the like. Although a native of North Carolina, he also called England and several Scandinavian countries home. He had a large following throughout the world and played on the finest organs around. (59)
MICHAEL BURKS was a blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. He was the son of a blues bass player and dad built a country club where Michael and his group were the house band. Michael later worked with O.V. Wright, Johnnie Taylor and others. He signed with Alligator records and made several fine records. (54)
SCOTT MCKENZIE was born Philip Blondheim in Florida. While a teenager his family moved to Virginia where he met and became friends with John Phillips, later one of The Mamas and The Papas. Along with Dick Weissman, they formed a group called The Journeymen in the mold of The Kingston Trio and made some albums. The group split in the wake of the musical revolution brought on by The Beatles.
To help ease the worries of the people of Monterey where John was helping to organize the Monterey Pop Festival, he wrote the song, San Francisco (Wear Flowers in your Hair) and gave it to Scott to record. The record was recorded, pressed and distributed in under two days. It was a world-wide hit that sold millions.
Later, Scott toured with the revamped Mamas and Papas. Although he released several other singles and some albums, Scott has often been labeled with the dreadful phrase “one hit wonder”. I say: Hey, that’s one more than I ever had. I imagine it’s the same for most readers. (73)
WILLA WARD, or Willarene to her family, was a gospel singer who first performed in her mum’s group The Ward Singers along with her more famous younger sister Clara. This was a hugely influential group, in particular upon Aretha Franklin and Little Richard. Willa left the group in the late fifties and created several pop ensembles as well as singing with such artists as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Chubby Checker and Patti LaBelle. (91)
HAL DAVID was a lyric writer usually associated with Burt Bacharach. In the sixties ,the pair had a run of hits equal to any others of the period. Dionne Warwick especially received many of their songs but she wasn’t alone – Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black, Tom Jones, The Carpenters, Elvis Costello and many others performed their songs. Hal also worked with others, including John Barry to produce film scores. (91)
MAX BYGRAVES was an English “all-round entertainer” – an actor, singer, composer, TV star, pretty much the lot. He first came to public notice on radio in Britain and had a number of hit records in that country during the fifties. He stumbled on his trade-mark singalong style when his mother complained that there wasn’t anything she liked to listen to on the radio. He made a number of albums in this style that sold millions. (89)
KEITH GRANT was a recording and production engineer who was responsible for getting the music down for such artists as The Beatles, The Who, Eric Clapton, The Eagles, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Queen, the Small Faces, Dusty Springfield and Scott Walker (and many others). Whew, now there’s a list to be proud of. (71)
Ronald Bertram Aloysius Greaves III, or as we know him, R.B. GREAVES was an American R & B singer who was born on an air force base in Guyana, grew up on Seminole reservation and lived a lot of his life in Britain. His uncle was the great Sam Cooke. R.B. had a huge hit in 1968 with the song, Take a Letter, Maria that was covered by many other artists. His was the definitive version. (68)
Tomorrow, Part 2 of Toes Up 2012.