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.
Oh my, there are a lot this year. This is the first of two columns.
GUY CLARK was one of the finest of the Texas singer/songwriters. He was the epicentre of likeminded performers, including Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Jerry Jeff Walker and others.
His songs were an interesting blend of poetry and wit and he turned it all into a musical art form that few have matched. All his albums are worth listening to and there are two that I prefer (slightly) more than the others – "South Coast of Texas" and "Dublin Blues".
I listened to them both to select a track; there were many in contention. It was just how I felt on the day of selection, which is as it should be. Today it's South Coast of Texas. (He was 74)
PIERRE BOULEZ was a French classical composer and conductor. His compositions are generally "challenging" (which translates as unlistenable-to) and as a conductor he presented the works of 20th century composers such as Berg, Stravinsky, Bartok, Debussy and so on.
He also brought electronic music and such into the classical repertoire and was a champion of the works of Frank Zappa. He did more than anyone to bring modern classical music to the forefront. (90)
GLENN FREY was the guitarist, songwriter and one of the singers for The Eagles, a band that had the two biggest selling albums in history.
He was born in Detroit and began his recording career there, playing guitar on his friend Bob Seger's early albums. After that, he left for Los Angeles where he encountered Jackson Browne, J.D. Souther and others, with whom he performed and wrote songs.
Around this time Linda Ronstadt needed a backing band for an up-coming tour. Taking the advice of her companion, J.D. Souther, she hired Glenn and three others. This group meshed so well that at the end of the tour they decided to stay together as a separate band.
They called themselves The Eagles. They became hugely successful both as a recording group and in performances. They later split (and re-formed several times) and Glenn had quite a successful solo career – his songs were used in films and TV programs and he acted in some as well.
Here is Glenn with a song he wrote and sang with The Eagles, Tequila Sunrise. (67)
LONG JOHN HUNTER was from Louisiana but he's more associated with the Texas blues scene. He was a singer and guitarist of the first order - however, he's little known outside lovers of electric blues style, possibly because he spent many years in Mexico playing his music there. (84)
PAUL KANTNER was one of the founders of the San Francisco rock group Jefferson Airplane. They were blessed with a fine lead guitarist in Jorma Kaukonen and two excellent singers in Marty Balin and Grace Slick but it was Paul who kept the group on track, at least for a few years.
They were the first of the San Francisco groups to receive a recording contract and had a hit album and several hit singles. By the early seventies the band had evolved into Jefferson Starship who were essentially a group playing just the hits and Paul quit amid multitudinous lawsuits. He really didn't do much musically after that. (74)
By an amazing coincidence, SIGNE ANDERSON died the same day as Paul. Signe was the original singer for the Airplane but left to care for her baby daughter; that's when Grace Slick came on board.
Signe can be heard on the original album by the group called "Jefferson Airplane Takes Off". (74)
From that album here are Paul and Signe singing Run Around.
OTIS CLAY was a blues and R & B singer who was from Mississippi but made Chicago his home. He could belt out blues with the best of them and sing tender songs that could break your heart. Besides his musical achievements, Otis was known for his charitable work in his adopted city. (72)
DAN HICKS was a musician who went against the trends of music in the sixties when he was at his peak.
Not for him the ever increasing volume of the rock bands at the time. He took his inspiration from western swing, Django Reinhardt, the Andrews Sisters, Fats Waller and put his own spin on all of it. He surrounded himself with fine musicians who played in his band the Hot Licks, who shared his musical views.
Although never a top seller, he was very influential and many other musicians took his example to heart. Here Dan and the Licks perform How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away. (74)
The first and definitely the best trio in rock & roll history was Elvis, Scotty and Bill. The last remaining member of that group, SCOTTY MOORE died recently (Bill was Bill Black, and you probably know who the other one was).
Scotty was a session guitarist at Sun Records and was called in by Sam Phillips to play on Elvis's first recordings (along with Bill). They worked well together and eventually recorded a lot more and toured together (later adding D.J. Fontana on drums). (84)
NEVILLE MARRINER was an English violinist and one of the world's finest conductors. He founded (and was conductor with) the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, an orchestra that is second to none.
He studied at the Royal College of Music and joined the army when war broke out. Later he was in several orchestras and string quartets and went to America where he started the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and was conductor at several other orchestras.
Upon returning to England he formed the Academy and remained musical director there until recently. He was one of the first to use authentic period instruments in recordings of Baroque and early Classical works. He conducted all round the world.
This is Neville conducting the Academy of St Martin in the Fields with the third movement of J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No 5. (92)
GEORGE MARTIN was the most important record producer in history because he was the one who allowed The Beatles to do what they wanted to do.
He managed to achieve the sounds they could only hear in their heads. Before the fab four, he produced comedy records, classical ones, pop music and early rock & roll so he was the perfect person for them. He was also classically trained on piano, oboe and composition. (90)
JON ENGLISH was an English-born Australian singer, actor and songwriter. He was the singer and guitarist for the group Sebastian Hardie, but he first made it big playing Judas in "Jesus Christ Superstar".
He was an in-demand actor on TV playing serious and comic roles. He was a stage actor as well and appeared in a number of Gilbert and Sullivan works. He also recorded songs, many of which became hits. One of those is Carmilla. (66)
STEVE YOUNG was a country music singer and songwriter who brought elements of folk, blues, gospel and rock into his work. He was essentially a country-rock performer before that genre had been invented.
Although not very well known to the general public, he wrote songs that were covered by many, including The Eagles, Joan Baez, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams Jnr, Rita Coolidge and others. (73)
RALPH STANLEY performed with his brother Carter as the Stanley Brothers. They were a major influence in the development of bluegrass and country music from the forties onwards. His "high, lonesome" style of singing was emulated by many and the brothers' harmony was a huge influence on the Everly Brothers and others.
After his brother died, Ralph formed the Clinch Mountain Boys that started the careers of several modern bluegrass musicians, such as Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley. This is Ralph with his brother performing It's Never Too Late To Start Over. (89)
MACK RICE was a soul singer and song writer – he wrote Mustang Sally, a big hit for Wilson Pickett.
He first came to notice in a group called The Falcons that also included Wilson and Eddie Floyd. He had a bit of a career as a singer, but his main claim to fame is as a songwriter for musicians, both at Stax records and Motown. The number of singers who recorded his songs is far too extensive to list here. (82)
ROSS HANNAFORD was considered by everyone to be Australia's finest rock guitarist. He had a long collaboration with his friend Ross Wilson with whom he was in several bands starting with The Pink Finks when they were still teenagers.
Later they formed Sons of the Vegetal Mother inspired by the music of Frank Zappa. The two are best known for the band Daddy Cool, one of the most important and loved bands in Oz history.
They were in a later band, Mighty Kong and Ross (Hannaford) later formed several of his own groups, most notably Dianna Kiss. He also played on many musicians' albums.
Here is Ross with Paul Madigan performing There's Really Nothing You Can Do. Paul sings the first half of the song and Ross plays electric guitar and sings the second half. (65)
Speaking of Daddy Cool, WAYNE DUNCAN was the bass player for the group. He was also a member of Sons of the Vegetal Mother and was respected by his peers as one of the finest bass players in Oz rock. (72)
FRED HELLERMAN was the last remaining member of The Weavers. He was the main guitarist of the group and wrote songs for them (as well as for others).
They had quite a few hits in the early fifties until the right-wing nut cases blacklisted them from radio and TV. They still performed in concert to great acclaim.
After the Weavers, Fred also produced records (Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant and its successor, as well as Joan Baez's and Judy Collins' first albums). His songs have been recorded by Harry Belafonte, Sam Cooke, Don Williams, The Kingston Trio, Roberta Flack and others.
Fred sings lead vocal with The Weavers on Sixteen Tons.
PETE FOUNTAIN was a New Orleans jazz clarinet player. He didn't restrict himself to traditional jazz but also played in the modern style as well as dabbling in pop, honky tonk and Creole music.
He first came to prominence as a member of Lawrence Welk's orchestra but left after a difference about Pete's wanting to play jazz. He returned to New Orleans and opened his own club that featured most of the best musicians over the years. (86)
You've all heard MARNI NIXON sing many, many times and most of you are saying, "Ah yes, of course". There may be a few of you, however, who are going, "Who, who? I know not of what you speak".
To remind you: Marni supplied the singing voice of Deborah Kerr in "The King and I", Natalie Wood in "West Side Story", Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady", Deborah again in "An Affair to Remember" and many others.She was much in demand for that role because she was classically trained (in violin as well as voice), had perfect pitch and could sight-read extremely well.
Outside of films, Marni was a specialist in the works of modern classical composers such as Stravinsky, Webern, Copland, Schoenberg, Ives, Berg and so on. From Aaron Copland's "8 Poems of Emily Dickinson", this is No 4, Heart, We Will Forget Him. (86)
JOHN D. LOUDERMILK was a songwriter and singer whose songs were covered by many famous singers – The Everly Brothers, Glen Campbell, Roy Orbison, Sammy Davis Jnr, Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash and on and on.
He also had some hits himself. I remember fondly Angela Jones and Language of Love. Also, who could forget Calling Doctor Casey? (82)
MOSE ALLISON was a jazz pianist, singer and songwriter who was influenced by the blues that surrounded him where he grew up in Mississippi. In turn, he had a huge influence on later musicians, particularly those of the first wave of British bands in the sixties.
This is most evident in Georgie Fame's style but also Van Morrison and The Who acknowledge their debt to Mose. His songs have been covered by hundreds of performers over the years and you can also hear hints of him in Randy Newman, J.J. Cale, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and many lesser performers.
Mose sings and plays Lost Mind. (89)
JUAN GABRIEL was a Mexican singer who was a superstar in that country and elsewhere in Latin America. He wrote songs for himself and others and performed in many genres. He also sold more than 100 million records; few musicians anywhere have beaten that. (66)
LEONARD COHEN was a Canadian singer, songwriter, poet and author. He spent much of the sixties on the Greek island of Hydra writing poetry, novels and eventually songs that became the basis of his first two albums. Many other performers took notice of those songs and recorded them as well.
He produced only 14 albums, but all of them contained songs as good as anyone else has written. Although lacking a conventional good singing voice, his concerts were always eagerly anticipated. Nobody sang his songs as well as he did himself (well, almost nobody).
From the first album is the song Sisters of Mercy. (82)
By a coincidence, MARIANNE IHLEN died this year as well. She was the inspiration of several of Lennie's early songs, most especially So Long Marianne. It's her picture on the back cover of "Songs From a Room". (81)
KEITH EMERSON was one third of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, in which he played various keyboards. (71)
GREG LAKE makes it two thirds of the group; he played bass. Carl Palmer must be looking over his shoulder. (69)
LEE ANDREWS was lead singer for the Doowop group Lee Andrews and The Hearts who had several hits in the fifties. (79)
NED MILLER was a country music songwriter and singer best known for his world-wide hit From a Jack to a King. (90)
AMJAD SABRI was a Pakistani singer of Sufi devotional music, murdered by mad men. (39)
HENRY MCCULLOUGH was a Northern Irish guitarist who played in the Grease Band, Spooky Tooth and Paul McCartney's Wings. (72)
GIORGIO GOMELSKY was a music promoter and record producer who started the careers of the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll. (81)
DALLAS TAYLOR was a session drummer who played for Crosby, Stills and Nash and toured with The Doors and Paul Butterfield's band. (66)
JOAN MARIE JOHNSON was a member of the Dixie Cups who had several hits in the sixties, most notably Iko Iko and Chapel of Love. (72)
JEREMY STEIG was a jazz flute player who also dabbled in rock music and wrote several soundtracks. (73)
GARY PAXTON was a songwriter, singer and record producer who was responsible Alley-Oop and other novelty songs. (77)
DAVE SWARBRICK was an English folk singer and violinist, and a member of Fairport Convention. (75)
MAURICE WHITE was the founder and guiding light of the band Earth, Wind & Fire. (74)
AL CAIOLA was a session guitarist who had instrumental hits of his own. He also performed TV and film theme tunes. (96)
MENTOR WILLIAMS was a song writer, and occasional singer, best known for writing the song Drift Away. (70)
ALAN ZAVOD was an Australian jazz pianist who was discovered by Duke Ellington. He was a student at the Berklee College of Music, and later became a professor there. He played with Frank Zappa, Sting, Eric Clapton, Nigel Kennedy and others. (71)
This has been an awful year (in more ways than one). You can read Part 2 of Toes Up 2016 here.