Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Shangri-Las' Marge Ganser, "Leader of the Pack" "Remember, Walking in the Sand," died on this date in 1996 ...

... she was 48 when she passed away.

... Mary Ann died May 14, 1970, and Marge passed away July 28, 1996.
Did you know...

Billy Joel, a then-unknown working as a session musician, played on the demo of "Remember (Walkin' In The Sand)." The demo was nearly seven minutes long, and for it to be played on the radio, the production team had it fade out around 2:16.

Because Betty did not tour until summer of 1965, and because she often did not appear in photos, many believed the Shangri-Las were a trio.

Between 1964 and 1966 The Shangri-Las charted frequently with heartbreaking teen melodramas, and remain best known for "Leader of the Pack" and "Remember (Walkin' in the Sand)."

The Shangri-Las' were known for their "tough girls" look. Having grown up in a rough neighborhood of Queens, they had a harder, rougher edge than other female groups. Many other acts, who had never seen them, assumed they were Black.

There were many rumors about wild escapades. In one instance, there was a story that Mary Weiss was in trouble with the FBI for transporting a firearm across state lines. In her defense, she said someone tried to break into her hotel room one night, and for protection she bought a pistol. The group believed their reputation helped fend off advances from other musicians when they toured.

The group was formed at Andrew Jackson High School in Cambria Heights, Queens, New York, in 1963. It consisted of two sets of sisters: lead singer Mary Weiss and sister Betty and identical twins Marguerite "Marge" and Mary Ann Ganser The girls often appeared as a trio, since Betty rarely appeared on stage until late 1965, preferring to avoid touring.

They began playing school shows, talent shows, and teen hops, when they captured the attention of Artie Ripp, who arranged the group's first record deal with Kama Sutra. Their first recording in December 1963 was "Simon Says," later issued on the Smash label, on which Betty Weiss sang lead. They also recorded "Wishing Well" / "Hate To Say I Told You So," which became their first release in early 1964 when leased to the small Spokane label.

Initially, the girls performed without a name. But when they signed their first deal, they began calling themselves the Shangri-Las, after a Queens restaurant.

Mary Weiss was the main lead singer; Betty, however, took lead on "Maybe," and a number of B-sides and album tracks. One of The Ganser Twins took lead on "I'm Blue," which is a cover of the Ikettes biggest hit at the time, and was included on their 1965 album Shangri-Las 65!.One of the twins also takes the lead on "Sophisticated Boom Boom" b-side of "Long Live Our Love."

In April 1964, when the girls were still minors, their parents signed with Red Bird Records; the Ganser twins were 16, Mary was 15 and Betty was 17. They had their first success with the summer hit, "Remember (Walking in the Sand)" The recordings for Morton featured lavish production with heavy orchestration and sound effects, and their next and biggest hit.

The Shangri-Las continued to chart in the U.S., specializing in adolescent themes such as alienation, loneliness, abandonment and death. Singles included "Give Him a Great Big Kiss," "Out in the Streets," "Give Us Your Blessings," the top ten hit "I Can Never Go Home Anymore," "Long Live Our Love," "He Cried" and the spoken-word "Past, Present and Future," featuring music from Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata."

Famous lines from "Give Him a Great Big Kiss" include "When I say I'm in love, you best believe I'm in love, L-U-V," and "Well I hear he's bad." "Hmm, he's good-bad, but he's not evil."

The group appeared on several TV shows, but in 1966 two of three releases on Red Bird failed to crack the U.S. top 50, although the group remained popular in England and Japan.

Mary Ann Ganser left but returned when Marge—the most outspoken member, sometimes considered the leader — left early in 1967. Then Red Bird Records folded. The group signed with Mercury Records. but the label showed a lack of enthusiasm for the group. During their Mercury stint, the Shangri-Las had no further hits. In 1968, they disbanded.

Court fights ensued with the group claiming they received meager royalties, despite the millions of records they sold.

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Myrmidons of Melodrama: Definitive Collection

Marge Ganser, worked for NYNEX in Valley Stream, New York, and died of breast cancer on July 28, 1996 at 48.

Her twin, Mary Ann Ganser died on March 14, 1970, aged 22. The cause of her death has been variously reported as encephalitis, a seizure disorder, or barbiturates.



Monday, July 12, 2010

July 12: R&B singer Minnie Riperton - "Loving You is Easy 'Cause You're Beautiful" - died on this date in 1979...

She was 31-years old when she died from breast cancer.

Minnie was born in Chicago, Illinois. At a  young age, Riperton, the youngest of eight children, began taking dancing and ballet. Once she reached high school, she began singing in the Hyde Park A Capella Choir. From there, she signed her first professional contract when she was 16, and sang with an all-girl group named "The Gems." 

After breaking from "The Gems," Riperton made a complete switch; she joined the psychedelic rock group "The Rotary Connection" in 1967, becoming the lead singer in 1968. During her time with "The Rotary Connection," Riperton met songwriter and producer Dick Rudolph. They married in 1969 and had a son, Marc Rudolph.

Together, Rudolph and Riperton worked on Riperton's first solo album, 1969's "Come to My Garden," which met with only minimal success. Riperton rejoined "The Rotary Connection" for their last album, 1971's "Hey Love."

After finishing work with them, Riperton relocated to Gainesville, Florida, where she gave birth to her daughter Maya Rudolph. Eventually, she moved to Los Angeles to become a member of Stevie Wonder's backing group, "Wonderlove."

The year 1974 proved to be big for Riperton, as her album "Perfect Angel" was certified gold by the RIAA. In 1975, she returned to the studio to produce 1975's "Adventures in Paradise" and, although it didn't mirror the success of "Perfect Angel," it was popular with R&B audiences. The album contained the song "Inside My Love," which has now become a classic with younger audiences.

In 1976, while working on her fourth solo album, "Stay In Love: A Romantic Fantasy Set to Music," Riperton found that she was suffering from breast cancer.

The following year, President Jimmy Carter presented her with the American Cancer Society's Courage Award, and she later became the chairwoman. In 1978, Riperton signed a new contract with Capitol Records and began work on her last album, titled "Minnie."
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HIGHLY Recommended (Links to ENTIRE Amazon Website):
The Best of Minnie RipertonPerfect AngelCome to My Garden

Riperton's influence can be heard in the voices of Mariah Carey, Chanté Moore and Christina Aguilera. Her son, Marc Rudolph, is a music engineer. Her daughter, Maya Rudolph, is a regular cast member on "Saturday Night Live" and starred in the movies  Prairie Home Companion, and Away We Go.

The album contained the hits "Memory Lane" and "Lover and Friend". Her health continued to decline in 1979, and eventually she lost her battle with cancer and passed away on July 12, 1979. A year after her death, Capitol released a posthumous album, "Love Lives Forever," featuring her recorded vocals with various singers such as Peabo Bryson, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

July 7: Syd Barrett, founding member of Pink Floyd, died on this date in 2006 ...

... He was 50 years-old when he passed away.

Roger Keith Barrett was born in Cambridge, England. He is most remembered as a founding member of psychedelic/progressive rock band Pink Floyd, providing major musical and stylistic direction in their early work, although he left the group in 1968 amidst speculations of mental illness combined with heavy drug use.

Barrett was active as a rock musician for about seven years, recording two albums with Pink Floyd and two solo albums before going into self-imposed seclusion lasting more than thirty years. His post rock-band life was as an artist and a keen gardener, ending with his death in 2006. A number of biographies have been written about him since the 1980s and Pink Floyd wrote and recorded many tributes to him after he left, the most known being the 1975 album Wish You Were Here.

His father, Arthur Max Barrett, was a prominent pathologist, and both he and his wife, Winifred, encouraged the Roger in his musical pursuits. Barrett acquired the nickname "Syd" at the age of 14, a reference to an old local Cambridge jazz Double Bassist, Sid Barrett. Syd Barrett changed the spelling of his first name to Syd to differentiate himself.

His father died of cancer 1n December 1961, less than a month before Barrett's 16th birthday. In an effort to help her son recover from his grief, Barrett's mother encouraged his band, The Mottoes, to perform in their front room. Roger Waters and Barrett were childhood friends, and Waters often visited the Barrett home.

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Best of Syd Barrett: Wouldn't You Miss MeA Very Irregular Head: The Life of Syd Barrett

Starting in 1964, the band that became Pink Floyd underwent various line-up and name changes including "The Abdabs," "The Screaming Abdabs," "Sigma 6," and "The Meggadeaths." In 1965, Barrett joined them and they became known as "The Tea Set." When they played a gig with a band that had the same name, Barrett made-up the name "The Pink Floyd Sound," by juxtaposing the first names of the Blues musicians Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Eventually, they dropped Sound from their name.

While Pink Floyd began by playing cover versions of American R&B songs, by 1966 they had carved out their own style of improvised rock and roll, which drew as much from improvised jazz as it did from British pop music.

That year, a new rock concert venue, the UFO, opened in London and quickly became the go-to place for playing and listening to psychedelic music. As the "House Band," Pink Floyd was their most popular attraction, and, after making appearances at the rival Roundhouse, became the most popular musical group of the so-called "London Underground" psychedelic music scene.

By the end of 1966, Pink Floyd had agreed to be managed by Andrew King and Peter Jenner. Through Joe Boyd, the promoter of the UFO Club - and an influential figure in the British music scene - a recording session was arranged for the group in January 1967 at Sound Techniques in Chelsea, which resulted in a demo of the single "Arnold Layne."

King and Jenner took the song to EMI, who were impressed enough to offer the band a contract, and an agreement for an album. By the time the album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, was released, "Arnold Layne" had reached number 20 on the British singles charts and the follow-up single, "See Emily Play," had done even better, peaking at number 6.

Their first three singles, including "Apples and Oranges," were written by Barrett, who also was the principal visionary of their critically acclaimed 1967 debut "Piper" album. The album's title was taken from the mystical "Pan" chapter of The Wind in the Willows. Of the eleven songs on The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Barrett wrote eight and co-wrote another two.

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was recorded intermittently between January and July 1967 in Studio 3 at Abbey Road Studios, and produced by former Beatles engineer Norman Smith. This was during same time at Abbey Road that The Beatles were recording Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in Studio 2.

When The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was released in August of that year it became a smash hit in the UK, hitting #6 on the British album charts. However, as the band began to attract a large fan base, the mounting pressures on Barrett are thought to have contributed to his escalating psychological problems.

Through late 1967 and early 1968, Barrett's behaviour became increasingly erratic and unpredictable, partly as a consequence of his reported heavy use of psychedelic drugs, notably LSD. Many report having seen him on stage with the group, strumming on one chord through the entire concert, or not playing at all.

At a show at The Fillmore in San Francisco, during a performance of "Interstellar Overdrive," Barrett slowly detuned his guitar. The audience seemed to enjoy such antics, unaware of the rest of the band's consternation.

During their disastrous shortened tour of the U.S., where Pink Floyd was trying to make inroads, guitarist David O'List from The Nice was called in to substitute for Barrett on several occasions when he was unable to perform or failed to appear. On their return to the UK, David Gilmour - a school friend of Syd's - was asked to join the band as a second guitarist to cover for Barrett, whose erratic behaviour prevented him from performing.

For a few shows, Gilmour played and sang while Barrett wandered around on stage, only playing on rare occasions. The other members tired of Barrett's antics and, in January 1968, on the way to a show at Southampton University, the band elected not to give Barrett a ride. By then, they had decided to keep him in the group as a non-touring member, since to that point, Syd had written most of their material.

Even this arrangement quickly proved to be impractical.
According to Roger Waters, Barrett came into what was to be their last practice session with a new song he had dubbed "Have You Got It, Yet?" The song seemed simple enough when he first presented it to his bandmates, but it soon became impossibly difficult to learn and they eventually realized that Barrett kept changing the arrangement. He would then play it again, with the arbitrary changes, and sing "Have you got it yet?" Eventually they realised they never would and that they were the brunt of an "inside" Syd Barrett joke.

Barrett did not contribute material to the band after A Saucerful of Secrets was released in 1968. Of the songs he wrote for Pink Floyd after The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, only one, "Jugband Blues," made it to the band's second album. "Apples and Oranges" became a less-than-successful single, and two others, "Scream Thy Last Scream" and "Vegetable Man," were never officially released. Barrett supposedly spent time outside the recording studio, waiting to be invited in. He also showed up to a few gigs and glared at Gilmour.

On April 6, 1968, the group officially announced Barrett was no longer a member of Pink Floyd.

After leaving Pink Floyd, Barrett distanced himself from the public eye. EMI and Harvest Records convinced Syd to go solo,  and he released two solo albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett. Most of the compositions on both albums date from Barrett's most productive period of songwriting, late 1966 to mid-1967, and it is believed that he wrote few new songs after he left Pink Floyd.

Many artists have acknowledged Barrett's influence on their work. Paul McCartney, Pete Townshend, Marc Bolan, and David Bowie were early fans; Jimmy Page, Brian Eno, and The Damned all expressed interest in working with him at some point during the 1970s. Bowie recorded a cover of "See Emily Play" on his 1973 album Pin Ups. Townshend called Barrett "legendary."

Painting by Syd Barrett
With Roger Waters in "saner" times. 

Barrett's decline had a profound effect on Roger Waters' songwriting, and the theme of mental illness would permeate Pink Floyd's later albums, particularly 1973's The Dark Side of the Moon and  Wish You Were Here two years later which was a deliberate and affectionate tribute to Barrett.  The songs "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and the title track being specifically about him. The title track borrows imagery of a "steel rail" from Barrett's solo song, "If It's In You," from The Madcap Laughs album.

A series of events called "The City Wakes" was held in Cambridge in October 2008 to celebrate Barrett's life, art and music. Barrett's sister, Rosemary Breen, supported this, the first-ever series of official events in memory of her brother.

After the success of "The City Wakes" festival in 2008, arts charity Escape Artists announced plans to create a centre in Cambridge, using art to help people suffering from mental health problems. The charity has set up a trust to raise money for the centre and has started fundraising by auctioning a mosaic designed by Syd while he was a teenager growing up in Cambridge.


Monday, July 5, 2010

July 5: Ernie K-Doe - "Mother-in-Law" - died on this date in 2001...

... he was 65 years-old when he passed away.

Born Ernest Kador, Jr. in New Orleans, Ernie was a member of the Blue Diamonds in 1954 before making his first solo recordings the following year. "Mother-in-Law," written by Allen Toussaint, was his first hit, and was #1 on both the Billboard pop and R&B charts.

 K-Doe never had another top-40 pop hit, but 1961's "Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta" (#21) and 1967's "Later For Tomorrow" (#37) both made the R&B top 40. While best known as a singer, he was also an accomplished drummer.

In the 1980s K-Doe did radio shows on New Orleans community stations WWOZ and WTUL. The shows were known for his explosively energetic announcements and frequent self promotion. K-Doe's catch phrases included "Burn, K-Doe, Burn!" "I'm a Charity Hospital Baby!"

He called himself "Mister Naugahyde" until he was ordered to desist by the owners of the Naugahyde trademark.

In the 1990s K-Doe began billing himself as "The Emperor of the Universe" and wearing a cape and crown he became a famous local eccentric on the New Orleans scene. K-Doe continued performing and occasionally recording until shortly before his death.

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An elaborate showman, one of K-Doe's most notable later performances was at New Orleans' Aquarium of the Americas where he performed at a benefit for a local group aiding people with disabilities. The show ended with K-Doe performing seven continuous renditions of "Mother In Law" while dancing in front of the Gulf of Mexico shark tank exhibit dressed in a green plumed cape. Later recordings of note include "White Boy, Black Boy."

The song 'Here Come The Girls' was released in 1970 in England, but was not a hit. It was re-released in 2007 and made No. 43. A cover by the Sugababes made No.3 in the UK charts in 2008.

K-Doe died in 2001 and, after a traditional jazz funeral, was interred in the 200-year-old Duval tomb in Saint Louis Cemetery #2, in his native New Orleans. He had burial space in his father's family cemetery in Erwinville, LA, but his widow, Antoinette, as well as his fans and friends in New Orleans, wanted his remains in the city, so the Duval family offered him some of their burial space. He is buried in the same tomb with his second mother-in-law, with whom he was very close, and his best friend, legendary Earl King.

His widow, Antoinette K-Doe, continued to operate his music club/bar, "Ernie K-Doe's Mother-in-Law Lounge," which houses a life-size statue of K-Doe himself. The club was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina in late 2005 and had to shut down.

With the help of the Hands on Network and the musical artist, Usher Raymond, Antoinette reopened the Mother-in-Law Lounge on August 28, 2006 in its original location.

Antoinette also led a tongue-in-cheek campaign for K-Doe's election for mayor of hurricane-ravaged New Orleans in 2006, five years after his death. She is quoted as saying "He's the only one qualified ...." Antoinette died in New Orleans on February 24, 2009, the Mardi Gras day, after suffering a massive heart attack.

In 2009 Ernie K-Doe was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

July 3: Blues singer Mississippi Fred McDowell died on this date in 1972 ...

... he was 68 years-old when he passed away.

Fred McDowell was born in Rossville, Tennessee, near Memphis. He started playing guitar at the age of 14 and played at dances around Rossville.

He moved to Memphis in 1926 where he worked in a number of jobs and played music for tips. He settled in Como, Mississippi, about 40 miles south of Memphis, in the early 1940s and worked as a farmer while performing at dances and other social gatherings.

At first, McDowell played slide guitar using a pocket knife and then a slide made from a beef rib bone. He later switched to a glass slide attached on his ring finger. (SEE VIDEO.)

Nicknamed " Mississippi Fred," he is often considered a Delta Blues singer. It's more accurate to describe him as the first of the bluesmen from the North Mississippi region, which is east of the Delta region.

(Press album cover for direct link to the entire Amazon Website):
Heroes of the Blues: The Very Best of Fred McDowell


The rhythm he produced on the guitar was close in structure to its African roots - which often used the "hypnotic effect" of a droning, single chord vamp rather than a pattern of chord changes. The North Mississippi style was also played by Junior Kimbrough and R. L. Burnside, and lead to the founding of the Fat Possum record label of Oxford, Mississippi.

There was growing interest in blues and folk music during the 1950s, and McDowell played a key role in elevating and bringing the sound to the public - once his first recordings came to light in 1959.

Mississippi Fred's records were popular, and he performed often at a variety of venues. He continued to perform in the North Mississippi blues style as he had for decades, but also added an electric guitar to his acoustic sound. McDowell's 1969 album I Do Not Play No Rock 'N' Roll was his first featuring electric guitar

Despite his claim that "I do not play no rock and roll," he often associated with rock musicians. He helped teach Bonnie Raitt slide guitar technique, and was flattered by The Rolling Stones' rather straightforward, authentic version of his "You Gotta Move" on their 1971 Sticky Fingers album.

McDowell's final album, Live in New York, was a concert performance from November 1971 at the Village Gaslight (aka The Gaslight Cafe), Greenwich Village, New York.

McDowell died of cancer in 1972. On August 6, 1993 a memorial was placed on his grave site by the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund. The ceremony was presided over by Dick Waterman, and the memorial with McDowell's portrait upon it was paid for by Bonnie Raitt.