Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April 26: Lucille Ball- "I Love Lucy" - died on this date in 1989...

... she died at the age of 77.

Lucille Désirée Ball was an American comedienne, film, television, stage and radio actress, model, film and television executive, and star of the sitcoms I Love Lucy, The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucy Show, Here's Lucy and Life With Lucy.

One of the most popular and influential stars in the United States during her lifetime, with one of Hollywood's longest careers, especially on television.

Ball was nominated for an Emmy Award thirteen times, and won four times. In 1977 Ball was among the first recipients of the Women in Film Crystal Award.

She was the recipient of the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1979, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors in 1986 and the Governors Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 1989.


Lucy was born in Jamestown, New York, although she told many people that she was born in Butte, Montana. When she was 3, her family did move to Anaconda, Montana and then to Wyandotte, Michigan.

In 1927 Ball enrolled at the John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts in New York City. A fellow student was actress Bette Davis. Ball went home a few weeks later when drama coaches told her that she "had no future at all as a performer."

Undaunted, in 1929, she landed work as a fashion model. Her career was thriving when she became ill with rheumatoid arthritis and was unable to work for two years. She moved to New York City once again in 1932 to resume her pursuit of a career as an actress, and had some success as a fashion model for designer Hattie Carnegie and as the Chesterfield cigarette girl.

She began on Broadway under the name Dianne Belmont. She was hired—but then quickly fired—by theatre impresario Earl Carroll from his Vanities, and by Florenz Ziegfeld from a touring company of Rio Rita.

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Lucille Ball (The Best of Old Time Radio/Legendary Performers)The Long, Long Trailer


She was let go from the Shubert brothers production of Stepping Stones. After an uncredited stint as one of the Goldwyn Girls in Roman Scandals in 1933, she permanently moved to Hollywood to appear in films. In 1929, Ball landed work as a model and later began her performing career on Broadway using the stage name Dianne Belmont. She appeared in many small movie roles in the 1930s as a contract player for RKO Radio Pictures. Ball was labeled as the "Queen of the Bs" (referring to her many roles in B-films).

She appeared in many small movie roles in the 1930s as a contract player for RKO Radio Pictures, including a two-reel comedy short with the Three Stooges (Three Little Pigskins,) and Room Service with the Marx Brothers. She was also one of the featured models in the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film Roberta, and briefly as the flower girl in Top Hat, as well as a brief supporting role at the beginning of Follow the Fleet.

Ball met and eloped with Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz in 1940. In 1951, Ball was pivotal in the creation of the television series I Love Lucy. The show co-starred her then-husband, Desi Arnaz as Ricky Ricardo and Vivian Vance and William Frawley as Ethel and Fred Mertz, the Ricardos' landlords and friends.

On July 17, 1951, at almost 40 years old, Ball gave birth to their first child, Lucie Désirée Arnaz. A year and a half later, Ball gave birth to their second child, Desiderio Alberto Arnaz IV, known as Desi Arnaz, Jr.

The show ended in 1957 after 180 episodes. Then, some minor adjustments were made to the program's format - the time of the show was lengthened from 30 minutes to 60 minutes, new characters were added, the storyline was altered, and the show was renamed The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, which ran for three seasons (1957–1960) and 13 episodes. Ball and Arnaz divorced on May 4, 1960. In 1962, Ball became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu; a studio that produced many successful and popular television series.

Ball went on to star in two more successful television series: The Lucy Show, which ran on CBS from 1962 to 1968 (156 Episodes), and Here's Lucy from 1968 to 1974 (144 episodes). Her last attempt at a television series was a 1986 show called Life with Lucy - which failed after 8 episodes aired, although 13 were produced.

On April 26, 1989, Ball died of a dissecting aortic aneurysm at age 77. At the time of her death she was married to her second husband and business partner, standup comedian Gary Morton for more than twenty-seven years.
Lucy was awarded the Legacy of Laughter award at the fifth Annual TV Land Awards in 2007, and I Love Lucy was named the Greatest TV Series by Hall of Fame Magazine. In November of that year, Lucille Ball was chosen as the second out of the 50 Greatest TV Icons, after Johnny Carson. In a poll done by the public, however, they chose her as the greatest icon.

On August 6, 2011, which would have been her hundredth birthday, Google honored Ball with an interactive doodle on their homepage. This doodle displayed six classic moments from the I Love Lucy sitcom.


April 26: Phoebe Snow - "Poetry Man" - died on this date in 2011...

... she was 60-years-old when she passed away.

Phoebe Ann Laub - AKA Phoebe Snow - was born in New York City, New York and grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey. Snow was raised in a household where Delta blues, Broadway show tunes, Dixieland jazz, classical music, and folk music recordings were played all the time. Her father, Merrill Laub, had an encyclopedic knowledge of American film and theater. Her mother, Lili Laub, was a dance teacher who had performed with the Martha Graham group.

Phoebe used to carry her prized Martin 00018 acoustic guitar from club to club in Greenwich Village, playing and singing on amateur nights. Her stage name is a fictional advertising character created in the early 1900s for the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad-Phoebe Snow was a young woman who appeared on boxcars. Snow took voice lessons, and studied opera informally.

It was at The Bitter End club in 1972 that Denny Cordell, a promotions executive for Shelter Records, was so taken by the singer that he signed her to the label and produced her first recording. She released a self-titled album, Phoebe Snow, in 1974. Featuring guest performances by The Persuasions, Zoot Sims, Teddy Wilson, David Bromberg, and Dave Mason. Snow sold over a million copies in the U.S. and became one of the most acclaimed recordings of the era. It spawned a Top Five single on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Poetry Man" and was itself a Top Five album in Billboard. It won Snow a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, and established her as a respected singer/songwriter. The cover of Rolling Stone magazine followed.

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Very Best of The Phoebe SnowPoetry Man
In 1975 also brought the first of several appearances as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live, on which Snow performed both solo and in duets with Paul Simon and Linda Ronstadt.

During the 1975 SNL appearance, she was seven months pregnant with her daughter. She was briefly married to Phil Kearns, and in December 1975 she gave birth to a severely brain-injured daughter, Valerie Rose. She cared for her at home until Valerie died on March 18, 2007 at the age of 31. Snow's efforts to care for Valerie nearly ended her career.

Snow's backup vocal is heard on Paul Simon's hit song "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" along with Valerie Simpson and Patti Austin. She also duets with him on the song gospel-tinged "Gone At Last." Both songs appear on Simon's Grammy-winning 1975 album Still Crazy After All These Years.

Legal battles took place between Snow and Shelter Records, and Snow ended up signed to Columbia Records. Her second album, Second Childhood, appeared in 1976, produced by Phil Ramone. It was jazzier and more introspective, but did not sell well. Snow moved to a harder sound for It Looks Like Snow, released later in 1976. 1977 saw Never Letting Go, again with Ramone, while 1978's Against the Grain was produced by Barry Beckett. After that Snow parted ways with Columbia.

In 1981, Snow, now signed with Mirage Records, released Rock Away, recorded with members of Billy Joel's band; it spun off the Top 50 hit "Games."

Snow would now spend long periods away from recording, often singing commercial jingles for AT&T and others in order to support herself and her daughter.

During the 1980s she also battled her own life-threatening illness. Snow returned to recording with Something Real in 1989 and gathered a few more hits on the Adult Contemporary charts.

In 1990, she contributed a cover version of the Delaney & Bonnie song "Get Ourselves Together" to the Elektra compilation Rubáiyát which included Earth Wind & Fire guitarist Dick Smith. Even when she was not recording her own works, Phoebe continued to tour extensively as a solo artist throughout North America, Great Britain, Germany, and the Far East.

Snow has performed with a numerous artists including Lou Rawls, Jewel, Donald Fagen, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Queen, Jackson Browne, Dave Mason, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs, Cyndi Lauper, Roger Daltrey, Chaka Khan, Michael Bolton, Thelma Houston, Mavis Staples and Laurie Anderson. She also sings the title track on the 1997 Laura Nyro tribute album, Time and Love, and joined the pop group, Zap Mama, who recorded its own version of "Poetry Man," in an impromptu duet on the PBS series, "Sessions At West 54th."

In May 1998, Snow received New York City's Cultural Achievement Award. She was also the recipient of a Don Kirschner Rock Award, several Playboy Music Poll Awards, New York Music Awards and the Clio Award.

In 2003, Snow released her album Natural Wonder on Eagle Records, containing ten original tracks, her first original material in fourteen years.

Snow appeared in the film Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom as herself. Some of her music was also featured on the soundtrack of the film.

Snow suffered a cerebral hemorrhage on January 19, 2010 and slipped into a coma, enduring bouts of blood clots, pneumonia, and congestive heart failure. Snow died on April 26, 2011 at age 60 in Edison, New Jersey. Prior to her stroke, Snow had planned to release a new album in 2010, and had been scheduled to begin touring with her band in March.


Monday, April 11, 2011

April 11: June Pointer, lead vocalist of the vocal group The Pointer Sisters, died on this date in 2006 ...

... June was 52-years-old when she died.

The Pointer Sisters, from  Oakland, California achieved mainstream success over three decades. Their sound spanned diverse genres including pop, disco, jazz, bebop, blues, soul, funk, dance, country and rock.


Born June Antoinette Pointer, she was the youngest of six to minister parents Reverend Elton and Sarah Pointer. Early on, June shared a love for singing with her sisters. In 1969, she and sister Bonnie founded The Pointers - A Pair. The duo became a trio later on that year when Anita quit her job as a secretary to join them; the group changed its name to The Pointer Sisters.

After failed singles with Atlantic Records, eldest sister Ruth was enlisted to join the group in 1972. The sisters then signed with Blue Thumb, and their careers finally began taking off.

Releasing their self-titled debut album in 1973, the Pointer Sisters found fame with pop hit singles such as "Yes We Can Can," the country hit, "Fairytale," and the R&B hits, "How Long (Betcha Got a Chick on the Side)" and "You Gotta Believe" before Bonnie exited from the group to forge a solo career in 1977.

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The Pointer Sisters - Greatest HitsEnergyYes We Can Can: The Best of the Blue Thumb Recordings20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection

June suffered a stroke on February 27, 2006. While in the hospital, June was also diagnosed with cancer which had metastasized in her breast, colon, liver and bone.

June died at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California in the company of her older sisters and brothers: Ruth, Anita, Aaron, and Fritz.

The remaining sisters continued on as a trio and then found huge success, hitting the Top 10 with a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Fire" (1978), then following that with "He's So Shy" (1980), and "Slow Hand" (1981).

They then released what would be their biggest album to date, 1983's Break Out, which included the hits "Automatic," "Jump (for My Love)," a re-release of "I'm So Excited" - which became a bigger hit than when originally released in 1982 - and Neutron Dance."

Other hits from follow up albums included "Dare Me" "Freedom" and "Goldmine."

June is notable for being the lead singer of "He's So Shy," "Jump (For My Love)," "Baby Come And Get It" and "Dare Me" among others. The group eventually would receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

During the 1980s, June ventured into a solo career, releasing albums in 1983 and 1989. She scored modest hits with "Ready For Some Action" (1983) and 1989's "Tight On Time (I'll Fit U In)." She also performed the song "Little Boy Sweet" for the 1983 film National Lampoon's Vacation.

Together with Bruce Willis she scored a top 5 pop single in 1987 with a cover of the Staples Singers' "Respect Yourself." June also gained some notoriety for posing for Playboy magazine in the 80's.

Struggling with drug addiction for much of her career, June was ousted from the Pointer Sisters by 2004 as her sisters hoped and waited for her to become drug-free. Ruth's daughter filled in for June during stage performances.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

April 6: Country singer Tammy Wynette died on this date in 1998...

... she was 55 when she passed away.


Did you know?
In 1963, Wynette attended beauty school in Tupelo, Mississippi, and became a hairdresser; she would renew her cosmetology license every year for the rest of her life, just in case she should have to go back to a daily job.

Born Virginia Wynette Pugh, Tammy Wynette was one of country music's best-known artists and biggest-selling female vocalists. She was dubbed the First Lady of Country Music, and her best-known song, "Stand by Your Man," was one of the biggest selling hit singles by a woman in the history of the country music genre.

Many of Tammy Wynette's hits dealt with classic themes of loneliness, divorce and the difficulties of male-female relationships. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, she dominated the country charts, scoring 17 number one hits. Along with Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, she defined the role of female country vocalists in the 1970s.

Her 1969 marriage to country singer George Jones - which ended in divorce in 1975 - created a country music "couple," following the prior success of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. Jones and Wynette recorded a series of duet albums and singles, which charted throughout the 1970s, concurrent to their respective solo hits.
Tammy Wynette was born Virginia Wynette Pugh raised on the Itawamba County, Mississippi farm of her maternal grandparents near Tremont, Mississippi. Her father was a farmer and local musician. He died of a brain tumor when Wynette was nine months of age. A

As a youngster, she worked in the fields picking cotton alongside the hired crews to get in the crop. As a child, Wynette taught herself to play a variety of instruments left behind by her father.

As a child and teenager, she found in country music an escape from her hard life. Wynette grew up idolizing Hank Williams, Skeeter Davis, Patsy Cline, and George Jones, and would play their records over and over on the children's record player she owned, dreaming of one day being a star herself.

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Tammy Wynette - 20 Greatest Hits


Tammy attended Tremont High School, where she was an all-star basketball player. A month before graduation, she married her first husband, Euple Byrd. She worked as a waitress, receptionist, and a barmaid, and also worked in a shoe factory.

She left her first husband before the birth of their third daughter. He did not support her ambition to become a country singer, and, according to Wynette, told her "Dream on, Baby."

When her baby developed spinal meningitis and Wynette tried to make extra money by performing at night. In 1965, Wynette sang on the Country Boy Eddie Show on WBRC-TV in Birmingham, Alabama, which led to appearances with Porter Wagoner. In 1966, she moved with her three girls from Birmingham to Nashville, Tennessee, where she attempted to get a recording contract.

After being turned down repeatedly by every other record company she'd met with, she auditioned for producer Billy Sherrill who signed her to Epic Records in 1966 with one caveat; that she change her name. According to her 1979 memoir, Stand by Your Man, during their meeting, Wynette was wearing her long, blonde hair in a ponytail, and Sherill noted that she reminded him of Debbie Reynolds in the film Tammy and the Bachelor, and suggested "Tammy" as a possible name; thus she became Tammy Wynette.

Her first single, "Apartment No. 9" (written by Bobby Austin and Johnny Paycheck), was released in December 1966, and just missed the Top 40 on the Country charts, peaking at No. 44. It was followed by "Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad," which became a big hit, peaking at number three.

The song launched a string of Top Ten hits that ran through the end of the '70s, interrupted only by three singles that didn't crack the Top Ten. After "Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad" was a success, "My Elusive Dreams," a duet with David Houston, became her first number one in the summer of 1967, followed by "I Don't Wanna Play House" later that year. "I Don't Wanna Play House" won Wynette a Grammy award in 1967 for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, one of two wins for Wynette in that category.[citation needed]
During 1968 and 1969, Wynette had five number one hits — "Take Me to Your World," "D-I-V-O-R-C-E," "Stand by Your Man," "Singing My Song," and "The Ways to Love a Man."

"Stand by Your Man" was reportedly written in the Epic studio in just 15 minutes by Billy Sherrill and Wynette, and was released at a time when the women's rights movement was beginning to stir in the U.S. It stirred up controversy and became a lightning rod for feminists. However, the song became very successful, reaching the top spot on the Country charts, and was also a Top 20 pop hit, peaking at No. 19 on the Billboard pop charts in 1968, Wynette's only Top 40 hit as a solo artist on the pop charts.

In 1969, Wynette won the Grammy award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for "Stand by Your Man," and is nowconsidered a "classic" or Country music "standard." She earned a Gold record for Tammy's Greatest Hits which was certified in 1970 by the RIAA. The album would later be awarded Platinum record. In 1970, director Bob Rafelson used a number of her songs in the soundtrack of his 1970 film Five Easy Pieces.

During the early 1970s, Wynette, along with singer Loretta Lynn, ruled the country charts and was one of the most successful female vocalists of the genre.

After years of medical problems, numerous hospitalizations, approximately 26 major operations and an addiction to large doses of pain medication, Wynette died while sleeping on her couch on April 6, 1998, at age 55. Wynette's doctor from Pennsylvania said she died of a blood clot in her lung. Despite her persistent illnesses, she continued to perform until shortly before her death and had other performances scheduled.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

April 3: "The Divine One," Sarah Vaughan, died on this date in 1990 ...

... she was 66 years-old when she passed away.

Sarah Lois Vaughan was born in Newark, New Jersey. Her father, Asbury "Rat Fool" Vaughan, was a carpenter by trade and played guitar and piano. Her mother, Ada, sang in the church choir. Sarah began piano lessons at the age of seven, sang in the church choir and occasionally played piano for rehearsals and services.

Vaughan developed an early love for popular music from listening to records and the radio. In the 1930s, Newark had a very active live music scene and Vaughan frequently saw local and touring bands. By her mid-teens, Vaughan began venturing into Newark's night clubs and performing as a pianist and, occasionally, singer, most notably at the Piccadilly Club and the Newark Airport USO.

Vaughan transferred to Newark Arts High School, which opened in 1931 as the first arts "magnet" high school in the U.S. Vaughan dropped out of high school during her junior year to concentrate more fully on music. Around this time, Vaughan and her friends also began venturing across the Hudson River into New York City to hear big bands at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

Vaughan was frequently accompanied by a friend, Doris Robinson, on her trips into New York City. Sometime in the fall of 1942 (when Sarah was 18 years old), Vaughan suggested that Robinson enter the Apollo Amateur Night contest. Vaughan played piano accompaniment for Robinson, who won second prize. Vaughan later decided to go back and compete herself as a singer. Vaughan sang "Body and Soul" and won. The prize, was US$10 and the promise of a week's engagement at the Apollo. In the spring of 1943 she returned to the Apollo and opened for Ella Fitzgerald.

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Complete Musicraft Master

Sometime during her week of performances at the Apollo, Vaughan was introduced to bandleader and pianist Earl Hines. After a brief tryout at the Apollo, Hines officially replaced his existing female singer with Vaughan on April 4, 1943.

Vaughan spent the remainder of 1943 and part of 1944 touring the country with the Earl Hines big band that also featured baritone Billy Eckstine. Band pianist John Malachi is credited with giving Vaughan the moniker "Sassy," a nickname that matched her personality.

Vaughan officially left the Eckstine band in late 1944 to pursue a solo career, although she remained very close to Eckstine personally and recorded with him frequently throughout her life.

Vaughan began her solo career in 1945 by freelancing in clubs on New York's 52nd Street. In May 1945, Vaughan recorded "Lover Man" for the Guild label. After being invited by violinist Stuff Smith to record the song "Time and Again" in October, Vaughan was offered a contract to record for the Musicraft label.

While at Cafe Society an integrated club in New York's Sheridan Square, Vaughan became friends with trumpeter George Treadwell. He became her manager, musical director, and later, her first husband. Many of Vaughan's 1946 Musicraft recordings became quite well-known among jazz aficionados and critics, including "If You Could See Me Now," "Don't Blame Me," "I've Got a Crush on You," "Everything I Have Is Yours" and "Body and Soul."

Vaughan's recording success for Musicraft continued through 1947 and 1948. Her recording of "Tenderly" became an unexpected pop hit in late 1947. Her December 27, 1947, recording of "It's Magic" found chart success in early 1948 as did her later recording that year of "Nature Boy." Her chart successes continued with the charting of "Black Coffee" in the summer of 1949.

Through 1953, Vaughan recorded mostly commercial pop ballads, a number of which had chart success: "That Lucky Old Sun," "Make Believe (You Are Glad When You're Sorry)," "I'm Crazy to Love You," "Our Very Own," "I Love the Guy," "Thinking of You", "I Cried for You," "These Things I Offer You," "Vanity," "I Ran All the Way Home," "Saint or Sinner," "My Tormented Heart," and "Time," among others.

Vaughan also achieved substantial critical acclaim. She won Esquire magazine's New Star Award for 1947 as well as awards from Down Beat magazine continuously from 1947 through 1952, and from Metronome magazine from 1948 through 1953.

In 1989, Vaughan's health began to decline. While performing at New York's Blue Note jazz club in 1989, Vaughan received a diagnosis of lung cancer and was too ill to finish the final day of what would turn out to be her final series of public performances.

Vaughan returned to her home in California to begin chemotherapy. She died on April 3, 1990, a week after her 66th birthday.


Among her many honors, The National Endowment for the Arts bestowed upon her its "highest honor in jazz," the NEA Jazz Masters Award, in 1989.

Also, recordings of Sarah Vaughan were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old, and that have "qualitative or historical significance."