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 goodness, what a year it's been. In the past we usually had two columns on consecutive days. This year there were so many notable musicians who died early on that we had an interim Toes Up half way through the year, so if you think there was someone important missing from this column it'll be there (I hope).
RONNIE GILBERT had a long career as a solo artist but at least to we readers of a certain age, she'll always be associated with The Weavers.
This group did more than any other to bring folk music to a world-wide audience. In doing so, they topped the charts and were blacklisted in the U.S. for their political views (but we welcomed them here in Australia and elsewhere).
After The Weavers, she continued singing, both solo and with others, notably with Holly Near. Here, with The Weavers, is Hard, Ain't It Hard. (She was 88)
JOHN RENBOURN was an influential person in Britain's folk revival in the sixties both as a solo performer and as a member of Pentangle, a group that also included jazz and blues elements.
He made a number of solo albums but his best work was in collaboration with fellow guitarist Bert Jansch. He also loved teaching guitar to anyone who wanted to learn. (70)
OLEG BRYJAK was a bass-baritone from Kazakhstan. He was renowned for his Wagner roles, particularly that of Alberich in the Ring Cycle. He also sang the works of Beethoven, Mozart, Donizetti and Verdi to considerable acclaim. (54)
JIMMY GREENSPOON was the keyboard player for the rock group Three Dog Night. He also played with Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, the Beach Boys and others. (67)
ORNETTE COLEMAN was one of the most innovative jazz musicians ever. He put the cat among the jazz pigeons when he put aside rhythmic and harmonic ideas and created an avant-garde approach to playing, becoming a leader of the free jazz movement.
His influence on jazz playing was enormous and it spilled over into other genres including rock – Jerry Garcia played on several of Ornette's records. He won many awards through the years, including a Pulitzer Prize for his music. Ornette plays Una Muy Bonita. (85)
LITTLE JIMMY DICKENS was, as his name suggests, quite diminutive. He was a country music performer whose career spanned from before the war to the present day. He also helped establish others including song writers Felice and Boudleaux Bryant and singer Marty Robbins. He continued performing until days before he died. (94)
Fans of British comedy series may remember NICHOLAS SMITH as Mr Rumbold in the comedy Are You Being Served? Besides being a character actor of considerable facility, he was also a musician of note. He was a singer, appearing in Gilbert and Sullivan works and straight opera.
Besides that, he was an accomplished pianist, guitarist and trumpeter and wrote music – he has more than a dozen string quartets to his name and many more works for voice and strings. (81)
KIM FOWLEY was a songwriter, record producer and manager who, early on, was associated with novelty records - Alley-Oop, Nut Rocker, Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow and the like. Later he was instrumental in getting the careers of Van Halen, The Runaways, Joan Jett, The Soft Machine and Traffic off the ground. He also ensured that Jimi Hendrix got a record contract. (75)
KURT MASUR was one of the most respected conductors in the world. He was associated with many of the top orchestras, but famously with the New York Philharmonic to which he brought new vigor after they'd become somewhat slack. He was also largely instrumental in the somewhat peaceful transition of East Germany (where he lived at the time) to a united country. His reputation was such that the protesters listened to his advice to avoid provocation and the government listened when he said they shouldn't shoot or otherwise harm the protesters. (88)
LEW SOLOFF was a jazz trumpeter who reached a wider audience as a member of the group Blood Sweat and Tears. He crossed many genres - he had no time for restrictive categories - and was a session musician for such artists as Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra and Lou Reed. He also performed with Gil Evans, Paul Simon and Dizzy Gillespie as well, and he played classical music at the Lincoln Centre. (71)
P.F. SLOAN was a singer-songwriter who had a little success as such in the sixties but whose songs became hits for others. He was associated with Dunhill Records early in his career as a songwriter and also as a musician and singer – it's him singing with Jan Berry on The Little Old Lady from Pasadena, not Dean Torrance.
Besides Jan and Dean, he wrote songs for Herman's Hermits, Johnny Rivers, Ann-Margaret, The Turtles and others. He was also a session musician associated with the Wrecking Crew who performed on Phil Spector's productions, as well as the Beach Boys and many others – his guitar work is featured on several Mamas and Papas' songs.
His biggest chart success was Barry McGuire's cover of his song Eve of Destruction. This is P.F.'s version. (70)
SAMUEL CHARTERS was an American musical historian particularly in blues, folk and jazz. He, along with Alan Lomax and Harry Smith, brought to the general public the extraordinary array of talent in these fields, particularly Robert Johnson and Blind Willie McTell.
He and his wife Ann, another renowned author, were later involved in civil rights and anti-Vietnam war campaigns. (85)
JULIE WILSON performed on Broadway in such musicals as "Kiss Me Kate" but she was best known as a cabaret performer who could perform with equal facility such composers as Kurt Weill, Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Kern, Rodgers and Hart, the Gershwins and Cole Porter. (90)
MICHAEL MASSER was a songwriter who pretty much launched the career of Whitney Houston. He also wrote successful songs for Diana Ross, Roberta Flack, George Benson, Barbra Streisand and Crystal Gayle. He received early encouragement and support from his idol Johnny Mercer. (74)
JACK ELY didn't write the song Louie Louie (that was Richard Berry) but he took it to the top of the charts singing it in the group The Kingsmen.
His version became so notorious that the F.B.I. took time (and no doubt spent a lot of money) analyzing it in case it was subversive or naughty or something (who can know the thought processes of this organization?) They came to the conclusion that it was incomprehensible.
See if you can do better than the Feds. (71)
GUNTHER SCHULLER was an American classical composer and musician who worked with many jazz greats, particularly John Lewis, Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus and Dizzy Gillespie, to produce an interesting hybrid. Fans of both forms of music were too narrow in their appreciation and hated it. He also wrote about music and for children as well. (89)
ERROL BROWN was born in Jamaica and moved to England when he was 12 years old. It was in that country where he first recorded some covers of John Lennon's songs. He gained worldwide fame in the group Hot Chocolate who had several huge hits with disco-styled songs. (71)
MICHAEL BROWN was classically trained but found fame playing keyboards in the sixties rock group the Left Banke (that's him second from the left).
He was also a songwriter and produced their most famous songs Pretty Ballerina and most especially Walk Away Renee about the girl friend of another band member.
He brought classical instruments into the group, particularly the harpsichord and clavinet, generally unheard of in such a group (except occasionally in The Crickets' songs). (65)
GUY CARAWAN was a folk singer who had a bit of a hand in writing the song We Shall Overcome and also helped popularize it. (87)
MATTIWILDA DOBBS was the third African-American singer to appear at the Metropolitan Opera, New York (after Marian Anderson and Robert McFerrin). She made her debut in “Rigoletto” and later sang many coloratura soprano parts.
Even early on, during her operatic career, she performed recitals. Mattiwilda travelled extensively, pretty much all over Europe and to Australia and countries nearby. She was a champion of civil rights and refused to sing before segregated audiences, so many cities missed her (that was their bad luck).
Mattiwilda sings Caro Nome from Verdi's “Rigoletto.”
BOBBY IRWIN was a studio and touring drummer particularly associated with Nick Lowe and Van Morrison. He also graced albums by Bryan Ferry, Carlene Carter and Lene Lovich. (62)
JEAN RITCHIE was a giant of the American folk music scene who influenced pretty much everyone who followed in her wake – Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Mimi Fariña, Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Judy Collins and on and on.
Her instrument of choice was the dulcimer, not heard much these days but it has a distinctive sound. She was the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship and used that to research songs in various parts of Britain and Ireland which set her (and many others) up for material. (92)
MARTY NAPOLEON was a jazz pianist who was a long-time member of Louis Armstrong's All Stars. He also appeared in groups lead by Chico Marx, Joe Venuti, Charlie Barnet and Gene Krupa. Marty had a prolific recording career with, amongst others, Coleman Hawkins, Red Allen and Charlie Shavers as well as his own groups. (93)
LOUIS JOHNSON was a bass player who added punch to records of artists such as Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Earl Klugh, and Grover Washington, Jr. He was also in a band with his brothers called, not too surprisingly, the Johnson Brothers Band. (60)
JIM ED BROWN was the middle sibling, along with sisters Maxine and Bonnie, in the group The Browns. They were quite a success in the fifties with their smooth country-like sound. They later performed folk music in the same manner.
The three of them were good friends with Elvis before he was famous and used to hang around with him and give him singing tips. Later Jim Ed had a considerable solo career and The Browns would often get back together and perform.
Here is the group, with Jim Ed singing lead, with their biggest hit, The Three Bells. (81)
CHRIS SQUIRE was the bass player and co-founder of the prog-rock group, Yes. He was the one constant in that group whose personnel kept turning over. Not just a bass player, he was the singer and main composer as well. He was considered by his peers as one of the finest bass player in rock & roll. (67)
JAMES HORNER was a film score composer who won an Oscar for Titanic and was nominated many times for other films such as A Beautiful Mind, Braveheart and Avatar. (61)
VAL DOONICAN was an Irish singer and guitarist who specialised in folk style material and was hugely successful on British TV as a presenter and singer. (88)
WILL HOLT wrote a number of musicals that appeared on Broadway, sometimes collaborating with Kurt Weill. As well as that, he was a successful folk singer in a duo with his first wife, Dolly Jonah. He also wrote folk style songs, the most famous of which was Lemon Tree, a huge hit for Peter, Paul and Mary (and others as well). (86)
The GRATEFUL DEAD played their last concert in 2015. Some say they went toes up when Jerry died. (50)
BRUCE ROWLAND was a session drummer who for a time was also a member of the Grease Band who were Joe Cocker's backing band. He was in the group when Joe played at Woodstock and redefined the song, With a Little Help From My Friends. After Joe, Bruce joined the folk-rock group Fairport Convention. (76)
THEODORE BIKEL was a singer, actor, political activist and much more. He played the original role of Captain Von Trapp in the Broadway premiere of The Sound of Music, and was the quintessential Zoltan Karpathy in the film version of My Fair Lady.
He played southern sheriffs, Russian officers, rabbis and pretty much everything else. He helped start the Newport Folk Festival and introduced Bob Dylan to the world, both there and on TV. He championed human rights everywhere and was on the board of Amnesty International. (91)
JON VICKERS was a Canadian opera singer, a tenor, who had a huge voice and brought intensity to every role he performed. Most notably, he performed Wagner, Verdi and Britten roles to universal acclaim (except for Benjamin Britten who didn't like his interpretation of Peter Grimes).
He also recorded definitive versions of works by Handel and Schubert. As an example of his voice here he is playing Don José in Bizet's “Carmen” singing the aria La fleur que tu m'avais jetée. (88)
I beg your pardon, LYNN ANDERSON never promised you a Rose Garden. This song, written by Joe South, became a massive hit for her. She didn't want to record it, she thought it was a "man's song" but she was prevailed upon and the rest is history.
The song set her up to be a successful country performer. Her personal life wasn't as successful. (67)
DOTTIE DILLARD was a backup singer and a member of the Anita Kerr singers. She appeared on about half the country records made in the fifties and sixties and a substantial proportion of the pop records as well. The group also toured with many famous country musicians, Jim Reeves, Bobby Bare, Chet Atkins and so on. (91)
LUDMILA DVORAKOVA was a Czech soprano who specialised in Wagner roles. Besides these, she liked to perform works by such composers as Smetana, Janacek, Martinu and Dvorak. Ludmila performed in all the great opera houses and with every conductor who twiddled a baton in that field. (92)
JOHNNY MEEKS became the lead guitarist in Gene Vincent's band when the previous one had become too exuberant in his personal life. He also wrote songs for Gene. After that he was a member of the group The Champs. Later he worked with Michael Nesmith and Merle Haggard. (78)
PHIL WOODS was a jazz saxophone player, one of the next generation following, and hugely influenced by, Charlie Parker. In fact one of his earliest gigs was in Dizzy Gillespie's band taking the role Charlie once performed. He also played with Clark Terry, Quincy Jones, Billy Joel, Paul Simon and many others. Later he formed his own group. (83)
CILLA BLACK started at the Cavern Club which spawned The Beatles. Indeed, they occasionally were her backing band at that venue and later wrote songs for her. She had hits all over the world and later became the youngest female entertainer to host her own TV program in Britain.
She was a natural for the medium and made a career on the box. She also kept singing. Here is one of her big hits, You're My World. (72)
The CHEQUERBOARD LOUNGE in Chicago was started by guitarist Buddy Guy and over the years featured the finest blues musicians, from Muddy Waters and Buddy himself to the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. (44)
BEN CAULEY was a trumpeter who famously played in the band the Bar-Kays and he was in the plane that crashed killing Otis Redding and the rest of the band. Ben was the only one who survived.
He later worked as a session musician at Stax Records and toured with Isaac Hayes, Aretha Franklin, the Doobie Brothers and many others. (67)
LADY BO, or Peggy Jones, to her mum and dad, was a pioneering electric guitar player who played on many of Bo Diddley's most famous records. She toured with Bo and her guitar playing inspired many young people in England (and elsewhere) to play the instrument. She later toured with James Brown and Sam & Dave as well. (75)
ROGER SMALLEY was born in Britain and was a classical composer and a leading figure in the avant-garde. Not surprisingly, he was a long term pupil of Karlheinz Stockhausen who pretty much started all that sort of thing.
Besides composing, Roger was a fine pianist who played not only modern compositions but the great Romantic era works as well. He later moved to Australia where he changed his composing style to create considerably more accessible works. (72)
FRANKIE FORD had one really big hit called Sea Cruise. It seems that Huey "Piano" Smith had recorded the song with Bobby Marchan singing. However, Bobby left Huey's group as he was planning a solo career. Huey scrubbed the vocals and got Frankie to sing instead.
It became a world wide hit and the song has been covered by hundreds of performers over the years. Later Frankie owned, and performed in, his own club in New Orleans and made occasional records. Here he is with the big hit. (76)
CYNTHIA ROBINSON was a trumpeter who was a founder member of the group Sly and the Family Stone. She was one of the few in the group who weren't part of the family, although she and Sly had a daughter together. She also worked with George Clinton, Grand Funk Railroad and Prince. (71)
If you wanted a steel guitar on your records, the go-to man was BUDDY EMMONS. He started out on a six string lap steel guitar and it was a natural progression to the pedal steel instrument.
Early on he played with Little Jimmy Dickens, Ernest Tubb and Ray Price. Roger Miller asked him to join his band and he was instrumental in getting Buddy into studio work. Buddy also designed his own instruments and set up a company to sell these with considerable success. (78)
MASABUMI KIKUCHI was a jazz pianist who was born in Tokyo just before the war. He was educated there and caught the ear of Lionel Hampton whilst touring the country. He joined his band and relocated to New York.
Over the years he made his own records and played, or collaborated, with Gil Evans, Miles Davis, Gary Peacock and others. He was a key figure in the avant guard jazz scene. (75)
AL ABRAMS was Motown Records first publicity man. He was instrumental in getting their music heard and appreciated all around the world. It could be said that the Motown legacy is as much Al’s as his lifetime friend Berry Gordy's. (74)
GAIL ZAPPA was Frank's wife as well as his muse and manager. After he died, she took charge of his considerable recorded legacy and ensured that the music was released properly and not exploited as had happened to others. (70)
BILLY SHERRILL was a songwriter and producer who was probably the most influential man in country music for several decades. He was responsible for making Charlie Rich and Tammy Wynette household names. He produced albums by George Jones, Tanya Tucker, Janie Fricke, Lacy J Dalton, Barbara Mandrell and many other performers.
Besides the country musicians, he produced albums for Cliff Richard, Elvis Costello and Ray Charles. (78)
MARK MURPHY was an original jazz singer whose improvisational skills made him a cult favorite with jazz fans (including Norma, the Assistant Musicologist). He was from New York but spent a lot of time in London and San Francisco. He was admired by the cream of jazz musicians – Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald at the top of those.
He also brought the works of Jack Kerouac to the jazz canon (before Jack did so himself). He won Downbeat's poll of the best jazz singer many years. From his Kerouac album, this is Be Bop Lives. (83)
BILLY JOE ROYAL, while still in his teens, became friends with songwriters and singers Joe South, Jerry Reed and Ray Stevens. This set him in good stead in later years as they sent songs his way, the most famous of those were Down in the Boondocks and Hush, both written by Joe South. (73)
ANDY WHITE was a session drummer who worked with Burt Bacharach, Anthony Newley, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Tom Jones, Chuck Berry and others. He also had his own rock group when younger.
However, his main claim to fame is that it was he who played the drums on The Beatles' first three singles – the record producers didn't think Ringo was up to the task. (85)
BRYN MERRICK was the bass player for the punk bank The Damned. At the same time, he played in other bands under assumed names. He died from neck cancer rather than as a result of fast living which is how he spent his life. (56)
ALLEN TOUSSAINT was arguably the most important music person from New Orleans in the last 50 years. He was a record producer, songwriter, pianist, singer and more besides. He wrote so many songs that became famous for others that it would astound you if I listed them all.
Besides performing on his own and with The Meters, "his band," he collaborated with artists as diverse as the Rolling Stones, Herb Alpert, Elvis Costello, The Band, Robert Palmer, Paul McCartney, Glenn Campbell as well as the cream of New Orleans musicians.
After Katrina, he was one of the first to return as an example to others to do the same. I understated the first sentence – he was one of the most important music persons in the world.
He had a heart attack after a concert, so he was performing right to the end. Here he performs one of his own songs, Working in the Coalmine, that Lee Dorsey took to the top of the charts (several times). (77)