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.
JESSE WINCHESTER was born in Louisiana and lived his early life in a couple of southern states. He moved to Canada in the mid-sixties as he was a pacifist and against the Vietnam war.
He became a Canadian citizen and lived in that country from then on until the last decade or so when he returned to the area of his youth. In Canada he was heard by Robbie Robertson who organized a record deal and played on his first album along with a couple of his Band mates.
It was a critical success but didn't sell very well. None of his albums sold very many copies even though each is a gem. He wrote some of the most beautiful songs around, and some fun ones as well.
He sang like an angel. His songs were covered by the best musicians around and his concerts, for me, were must-see events. From his "Humour Me" album, Too Weak to Say Goodbye. (age 69)
♫ Jesse Winchester - Too Weak to Say Goodbye
MARIA VON TRAPP was the last remaining member of the family about whom a film was made that I have still not seen. I'm told that her character was named Louisa in that film. (99)
MANITAS DE PLATA was a French flamenco guitarist. He was born in a gypsy caravan in southern France and refused to perform in public until 10 years after the death of his hero, Django Reinhardt.
After that, there was no stopping him – he toured the world, made records and became the most famous exponent of his art. Several of his sons and nephews formed the Gipsy Kings. (93)
CLAUDIO ABBADO was one of the most respected conductors in the second half of the 20th century (and later). He was born in fascist Italy and his family aided the partisans and helped many Jewish refugees escape to Switzerland.
He studied piano but found conducting more to his liking. Claudio graced the podium of La Scala, the London Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera amongst other posts.
He also organized his own orchestra, the Orchestra Mozart, for which he hand-picked the best around. It's from that orchestra, with Claudio conducting and Alessio Allegrini playing the horn, we'll hear the first movement of Mozart's Horn concerto No 1 in D major, K 412. (80)
♫ Mozart - Horn Concerto No. 1 in D major K. 412 (1)
ENCEL'S Stereo was the go-to place for quality stereo equipment in Melbourne. I have acquired amplifiers, speakers, turntables and CD players from them over the years (Norma, the Assistant Musicologist has inherited some of these) and they are all working as well as the day they were bought. Perhaps that was the problem. (55)
BOB CASALE was a guitarist, keyboard player and sound engineer. He was also a founder member of the group Devo who made it big in art-rock circles but did nothing for me. (61)
I thought that PETE SEEGER would live forever. It just goes to show.
How can his life be summed up in a dozen lines? He was a folk singer and activist all his life, and he wrote many songs that became anthems for the civil rights, anti-war and ecology movements.
His father was a musicologist (a real one) and his mother a concert pianist and later a teacher at Juilliard. His older brothers went into academia but his four half-siblings all became musicians.
Pete first came to prominence in the Almanac Singers whose revolving membership also included Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston and Lee Hayes. He found fame as part of the Weavers who had number one hits all over the world. That is, until they were blacklisted.
As a solo performer he was one of the driving forces behind the folk boom of the fifties and sixties. Pete may have been the most optimistic person who ever lived.
He performs one of his friend Woody Guthrie's signature songs (although he didn't actually write it), Hobo's Lullaby. (94)
♫ Pete Seeger - Hobo's Lullaby
ALEXANDER IVASHKIN was a cello player who ran foul of the authorities in the dying days of the Soviet Union by championing and playing contemporary composers. He later pursued research in America on the composer Charles Ives and worked with John Cage, George Crumb and others. (65)
MARCIA STRASSMAN was an actress noted for her roles in Welcome Back Kotter and M*A*S*H. She was also a singer who released a few songs that didn't do much on the charts. (66)
MICKEY ROONEY needs no introduction from me. He made a whole bunch of films with Judy Garland. He's probably the first person to say, "Hey kids, let's put on a show,” something that's been a theme in films ever since.
Besides singing, Mickey was an accomplished pianist and drummer. More than 90 years separate his first film role from his last, a record I imagine won't be broken soon. (93)
HORACE SILVER was a major jazz pianist. His first important gigs were in Stan Getz's band and he later formed the Jazz Messengers with Art Blakey.
Over the years he played with all the important jazz players including Lester Young, Colman Hawkins, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown and many others. His influence extended further afield than jazz and can be heard in rock & roll (just play any Steely Dan record) and various Latin music genres.
Dozens of important jazz players received their start in his group. Horace plays Walk On. (85)
♫ Horace Silver - Walk On
HERB JEFFRIES was the leading man in a string of all-black western films in the thirties. He started out singing in Erskine Tate's Orchestra and later with Earl Hines' group. Most famously, he was a member of Duke Ellington's Orchestra in the forties. (probably 100)
ARMANDO PERAZA was a Cuban born percussionist, singer and composer who worked with such notables as Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Dexter Gordon, Dave Brubeck, George Shearing and Cal Tjader. However, his longest gig was with Carlos Santana, both with the group Santana and other ventures where he and Carlos performed. (89)
BOBBY WOMACK was the third of five brothers, all of whom sang. They sang in church initially, and later formed a group called The Valentinos who had a bit of a hit with a song called It’s All Over Now, later covered by the Rolling Stones (which improved Bobby's bank balance considerably, as he wrote the song).
The Valentinos evolved in the Womack Brothers. Along the way they caught the ear of Sam Cooke who signed them to his record label. Bobby went out as a solo performer and made many records as well as writing sound track scores and songs for other singers.
Besides his solo work and performing with his brothers, he also worked as a session musician for people like Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Dusty Springfield and Wilson Pickett. This is Bobby with I'm a Midnight Mover. (70)
♫ Bobby Womack - I'm a Midnight Mover
GERRY GOFFIN wrote the words to many songs that you'd recognise from the sixties and beyond, mostly to the music of his wife at the time Carole King. He later won Oscars, Tonys and just about every other award for his songs. (75)
TOMMY RAMONE was the drummer and songwriter for the seminal punk band The Ramones. He also produced their records and was about the only steadying influence the group had. He was the last of the original members of the group. (65)
The music of JIMMY SCOTT was introduced to Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and me by our friend Tom. Tom is a young person who likes old folks' music so we suggest music to each other.
Jimmy had a very rare genetic disease that stunted his growth. It also stopped his voice development such that he had what could almost be described as a male contralto, rather reminiscent of Sarah Vaughan or Billie Holiday.
He began his career singing with the Lionel Hampton band and later performed with such heavyweights as Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Doc Pomus and Ray Charles. He sang (the same song) at both Dwight Eisenhower's and Bill Clinton's inaugurations.
Jimmy gives his unique interpretation of The Drifters' hit On Broadway. (88)
♫ Jimmy Scott - On Broadway
MIKE HAWKER was an English songwriter who wrote hits for Helen Shapiro and Dusty Springfield. Because of this he was in great demand to write songs for other female performers at the time. He was also a reviewer of mainly jazz performances. (77)
LORIN MAAZEL was probably the most prolific conductor ever – he conducted more than 150 orchestras in his lifetime.
He was a child prodigy on the violin and in conducting, making his first appearance conducting at age eight. I'm surprised he could see over the rostrum.
Lorin was born in Paris but spent much of his life in America. As well as the usual circuit, he also took orchestras to China and North Korea to spread the word of great music everywhere. He was also a composer of some note, and wrote cello works for Mstislav Rostropovich and flute pieces for James Galway amongst others. (84)
JOHNNY WINTER was the best albino Texas blues guitarist ever. In spite of that rather faint praise, he really was a great electric blues guitarist, not much of a singer though, but who cares when he can play that well.
He was discovered in Texas by Chet Helms who brought him to San Francisco where he was championed by Michael Bloomfield (the best white blues guitarist ever) and he had a glowing spread in Rolling Stone.
vThis set him up as one of the must-see acts of the sixties and seventies. He insisted on complete artistic control of his record albums, and later championed and recorded with Muddy Waters after Muddy had been shamelessly ignored by record companies.
This is Johnny with Be Careful with a Fool. (70)
♫ Johnny Winter - Be Careful with a Fool
IDRIS MUHAMMAD was a New Orleans jazz drummer who played with Pharoah Sanders, Ahmad Jamal, Nat Adderley, Gene Ammons, John Scofield and many others. He wasn't limited to jazz as he supported Roberta Flack and George Benson. In his early career he played drums with Fats Domino, Sam Cooke and Jerry Butler. (74)
TONY CAHILL was an Australian drummer who eventually switched to playing bass. He began as a member of Oz bands the Purple Hearts and Python Lee Jackson and joined the Easybeats when their original drummer left. He was also a member of Georgie Fame's band.
After switching to bass, he joined John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. He jammed with Jimi Hendrix and recruited Rod Stewart to sing on his first recording. He was later a session muso and recorded for Ray Charles, Martha Reeves, the O'Jays, Donna Summer, Sreaming Lord Sutch and more. (72)
GEORGE HAMILTON IV started out as a pop singer in the fifties with songs such as A Rose and A Baby Ruth and Abilene and evolved into a respected country musician. In between, he was one of the first to record songs from writers like Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Ian Tyson. (77)
CARLO BERGONZI was renowned as one of the greatest interpreters of Verdi. He didn't restrict himself to that composer and was acclaimed for singing parts by Puccini, Donizetti, Giordano and many others.
He lived most of his life (when he wasn't touring) in Busseto, a small town where Verdi also lived. During the war, he was deported to Germany for anti-Nazi activities and spent two years in a prison camp. Afterwards he resumed his studies and made his debut as Figaro.
He started as a baritone and then took time off to train himself to be a tenor. He performed pretty much all the major opera roles. Appropriately, here he is performing Se quel guerrier io fossi from Verdi's “Aida.” (90)
♫ Carlo Bergonzi - Aida ~ Se quel guerrier io fossi
RAPHAEL RAVENSCROFT was a saxophone player who is probably best known for the solo at the end of Gerry Rafferty's hit song, Baker Street. (60)
MAGDA OLIVERO was an Italian opera soprano much loved by audiences but reviled by critics for her many musical shortcomings. She did bring a certain intensity to her performances that often resulted in hysteria from her many fans. (104)
ALVIN STARDUST (born Bernard Jewry) had a couple of goes at rock & roll success. The first was when he was asked to join the group Shane Fenton and the Fentones. Alas, before they made it big Shane died and young Bernard took over the role of Shane to some success in the early sixties.
In the seventies, Bernard reinvented himself as Alvin Stardust who had more success as a moody rock star, particularly in his native Britain. (72)
JIM KEAYS was the singer, songwriter and harmonica player for the iconic Australian rock group the Masters Apprentices (the lack of apostrophe was deliberate, they claimed) from the mid sixties to the early seventies.
They had numerous hits in that period as well as a dozen or more albums released. Later, as a solo performer, he released several critically acclaimed albums and often performed in musical plays.
In the current century, he often teamed up with fellow sixties rock performers Darryl Cotton and Russell Morris and toured under the name Cotton Keays & Morris. There were several reunions of the Masters and Jim was working on a new album when he died.
Here are the Masters Apprentices with Because I Love You, one of their biggest hits. (67)
♫ Masters Apprentices - Because I Love You
TIM HAUSER was the founder and driving force behind the group Manhattan Transfer. The group brought intricate vocal harmonies of an earlier era to modern, and old, songs. They could sound like the Andrews Sisters, DooWop groups or Lambert, Hendricks and Ross with equal facility.
Tim occasionally produced albums for other performers and also marketed a line of tomato sauces. (72)
GLEN A LARSON was most noted as a TV producer and writer. However, he started out as a singer and songwriter. In the fifties he joined The Four Preps and wrote a number of their hits, including their two biggest, 26 Miles and Big Man (77)
PETER SCULTHORPE was Australia's most important and best known modern composer. He was born in Tasmania and educated at Melbourne University and Oxford but discovered after both stints that modern classical composers can't make a living.
In spite of that, he persevered and soon proved that notion wrong. He brought elements of Australia's original inhabitants' music into his compositions and championed Aboriginal musicians. His most famous series of compositions is the Sun Music series, where he includes Aboriginal, Balinese, Japanese and other elements into his music.
He wrote many string quartets, often commissioned by leading quartets, and also wrote many compositions about the landscape of his country – Kakadu, Earth Cry, Mangrove and many others.
Here is an atypical piece, although I suppose all his could be described thus, called Left Bank Waltz, a composition for solo piano. (85)
♫ Peter Sculthorpe - Left Bank Waltz