Friday, August 26, 2011

August 26: Laura Branigan, "How Am I Supposed to Live," "Gloria" died on this day in 2004...

She was 47 when she died from a brain aneurism. She had been suffering from headaches for several weeks before her death. Her ashes were scattered over Long Island Sound.

Laura is best known for her 1982 Platinum-certified hit "Gloria," which stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 for 36 weeks, at the time a record for a female artist. Other notable successes include the No.1 single in Europe, "Self Control," Top 10 hit "Solitaire," and for the No.1 Adult Contemporary hit "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You."

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Laura Branigan Platinum CollectionBraniganOver My Heart

Laura also contributed songs to films and television soundtracks, including the Grammy- and Academy Award-winning Flashdance soundtrack, the Ghostbusters soundtrack, and the Baywatch soundtrack, as well as having songs featured in the popular "Grand Theft Auto" video game series.

Her signature song "Gloria" stayed on the Billboard Hot 100  for 36 weeks, at the time a record for a female artist. The song holds a place in the top 100 singles of both 1982 and 1983.
She also played Janis Joplin in the American musical "Love, Janis."

Link to The Official Laura Branigan Website

Friday, August 19, 2011

August 19: Blues legend Blind Willie McTell died on this date in 1959...

... he was 61 years-old when he passed away.

Blind Willie McTell was an African-American blues musician and songwriter who sang and accompanied himself on the guitar. He was a twelve-string finger picking Piedmont blues guitarist. He recorded 149 songs between 1927 and 1956.

Born William Samuel McTier (or McTear) in Thomson, Georgia, blind in one eye, McTell had lost his remaining vision by late childhood but became an adept reading Braille. He showed proficiency in music from an early age and learned to play the six-string guitar as soon as he could.

After his father left the family and his mother died, he left his hometown and became a wandering busker. He began his recording career in 1927 for Victor Records in Atlanta.

In the years before World War II, he traveled and performed widely, recording for a number of labels under many different names, including Blind Willie McTell, Blind Sammie, Georgia Bill, Hot Shot Willie, Blind Willie, Barrelhouse Sammie, and Pig & Whistle Red. "Pig 'n Whistle" was a reference to a chain of Atlanta Bar-B-Que restaurants, one of which was located on the south side of East Ponce de Leon between Boulevard and Moreland Avenue frequently where he played for tips in the parking lot.  He was also known to play behind the nearby building that later became Ray Lee's Blue Lantern Lounge.

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The Best Of Blind Willie McTell

His musical style was a form of country blues bridging the gap between the raw blues of the early part of the 20th century and the more refined east coast "Piedmont" sound. He took on the less common and more unwieldy 12-string guitar because of its loudness.

McTell was unique among country bluesmen for his ability to play the guitar in both a complex, fingerpicking ragtime style similar to Blind Blake or Blind Boy Fuller and a heavier bottleneck blues style ("Three Women Blues"). He never played a song the same way twice. He would vary the bar pattern and sometimes even the rhythm and chord progression from verse to verse.

McTell was also an excellent accompanist and recorded many songs with his longtime musical companion, Curley Weaver; their recordings are some of the most outstanding examples of country blues guitar duets. See, for example, "It's a Good Little Thing" or "You Were Born to Die."

In 1934, he married Ruthy Kate Williams - also known as Kate McTell. She accompanied him on stage and on several recordings before becoming a nurse in 1939. Most of their marriage from 1942 until his death was spent apart, with her living in Fort Gordon near Augusta and him working around Atlanta.

Postwar, he recorded for Atlantic Records and Regal Records in 1949, but these recordings met with less commercial success than his previous works. He continued to perform around Atlanta, but his career was cut short by ill health, including diabetes and alcoholism.

In 1956, an Atlanta record store manager, Edward Rhodes, discovered McTell playing in the street for quarters and enticed him with a bottle of corn liquor into his store, where he captured a few final performances on a tape recorder. These were released posthumously on Prestige/Bluesville Records as Last Session.

McTell died in Milledgeville, Georgia, of a stroke in 1959.

Bob Dylan has paid tribute to McTell on at least four occasions: In his 1965 song "Highway 61 Revisited," the second verse begins with "Georgia Sam he had a bloody nose," referring to one of Blind Willie McTell's many recording names; later in his song "Blind Willie McTell," recorded in 1983 but released in 1991 on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3; then with covers of McTell's "Broke Down Engine" and "Delia" on his 1993 album, World Gone Wrong.

Also, in his song "Po'Boy," on 2001's "Love & Theft", which contains the lyric, "had to go to Florida dodging them Georgia laws," which comes from McTell's "Kill It Kid."

A blues bar in Atlanta is named after him and regularly features blues musicians and bands.

He was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame in 1981.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

August 18: Tony Jackson bass player, and sometimes lead singer for The Searchers died on this day in 2003. He was 65.

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


Tony Jackson, born Anthony Paul Jackson, in Dingle, Liverpool, and nicknamed "Black Jake," joined a guitar duo formed by John McNally and Mike Pender in 1959. The band soon expanded with the addition of drummer Chris Curtis. Originally founded as a skiffle group in Liverpool in 1959, the band took their name from the classic 1956 John Wayne western "The Searchers."

When Tony joined the group with his home-made bass guitar and amplifier, the group was informally known as Tony and the Searchers.

The Searchers played in Liverpool's nightclubs and the beer bars of Hamburg, Germany. Supposedly Brian Epstein considered signing them but he lost interest after seeing a drunken Tony fall off the stage at the Cavern Club.

Tony was lead singer and played bass on the band's first two UK hits, "Sweets for My Sweet" and "Sugar and Spice." In 1964, Jackson was unhappy with the band's move away from rock and roll to a softer, more melodic sound and felt that he was not getting appropriate attention. He left the group and put together a new band, the Vibrations, which had an organ-based sound instead of the Searchers' twelve-string guitars. After minimal success, in 1965 they changed their name to The Tony Jackson Group.

 In the 1990s, arthritis in his hands became so bad he had to abandon even recreational guitar playing. Towards the end of his life he suffered from diabetes, heart disease, and cirrhosis of the liver from a lifetime of heavy alcohol consumption.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

August 14: Jazz vocalist and actress Abbey Lincoln died on this date in 2010...

... she was 80-years-old when she died.

Born Anna Marie Wooldridge in Chicago, Illinois, Abbey's singing style was influenced by Billie Holiday. She often could be found at the Blue Note in New York City.

She co-starred in Nothing But a Man with Ivan Dixon, an independent film written and directed by Michael Roemer. She also co-starred with Sidney Poitier and Beau Bridges in 1968's For Love of Ivy, and received a 1969 Golden Globe nomination for her appearance in the film.

Her first album, Abbey Lincoln’s Affair, A Story of a Girl in Love was released in 1956. Lincoln also appeared in the 1956 film The Girl Can't Help It, for which she famously wore a dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in Gentleman Prefer Blondes and interpreted the theme song, working with Benny Carter.

Lincoln sang on the 1960s landmark jazz civil rights recording, We Insist! – Freedom Now Suite by jazz musician Max Roach and was married to him from 1962 to 1970. After this album, Abbey Lincoln was associated with fighting racism in the U.S.

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Abbey Is BlueAbbey Lincoln: Golden Lady

In the 1990 Spike Lee movie Mo' Better Blues, she played young Bleek Gilliams' mother, who was very insistent that Bleek (played as an adult by Denzel Washington) come inside their house and practice his trumpet instead of playing outside with his friends.

In 2003, she received the National Endowment for the Arts NEA Jazz Masters Award.

Lincoln died on August 14, 2010 in Manhattan at the age of 80. She died in her Manhattan nursing home after suffering deteriorating health for years following open heart surgery in 2007. No cause of death was officially given.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

August 13: Southern soul singer-songwriter Joe Tex died on this date in 1982...

... he died five days after his 49th birthday. 

Joe Tex's style of speaking over music, which he called 'rap', made him a predecessor of the modern genre' of the same name.
Born Joseph Arrington, Jr. in Baytown, Texas, Joe Tex's professional career as a singer began onstage at the Apollo in Harlem, New York. He won first place in a 1954 talent contest and duly secured a record deal. Although his early releases on King Records, Ace and Anna Records did not sell well, Tex honed his songwriting talent. Afterwards, Tex signed with Dial Records.

It was not until 1965 that Tex began to achieve success, guided by Nashville, Tennessee-based record producer, Buddy Killen. Recorded at the FAME studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and distributed by Atlantic on Killen's Dial record label, "Hold What You've Got" was a U.S. #5 pop hit. "Hold What You've Got" spent 11 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and sold a million copies by 1966.

Others singles followed, including the ballads "A Woman Can Change a Man," and "The Love You Save (May Be Your Own)." A change in tempo also brought hits such as "S.Y.S.L.J.F.M. (The Letter Song),"and "Show Me." In 1965 alone, Tex released seven singles, followed by six in 1966 and five in 1967. He had released over thirty singles prior to the release of his first album in 1965.

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Joe Tex - 25 All Time Greatest HitsThe Very Best of, Volume 1Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)

In late 1967, the singles "Skinny Legs and All" (U.S. #10) and "Men Are Getting Scarce" also became major hits for Tex. "Skinny Legs And All" was Tex's second million seller spending 15 weeks in the charts. He was awarded a gold disc by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in January 1968.

His last major hit of that time was "I Gotcha." "I Gotcha" also written by Tex and released in January 1972, went to #2 for two weeks, and stayed for 20 weeks in the listings. It went on to sell over two million copies by August that year. Follow its release, Tex decided to retire.

He returned to music in 1975, and two years later enjoyed a comeback hit with "Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)," which reached U.S. #12. By the 1980s he had withdrawn again from full-time performing. He devoted himself to Islam, his Texas ranch and the Houston Oilers American Football team.

James Brown
A feud between Tex and fellow labelmate James Brown began after Brown, who Tex felt copied his stage moves, began dating Tex's wife, Bea Ford. In response, Tex wrote a song called "You Keep Her." They played a few more shows together until Tex mocked James Brown's act of throwing a cape over his shoulder and screamed "please - get me out of this cape." Brown later fired a gun at Tex in a nightclub.

A convert to the Muslim faith since 1966, he changed his name to Yusuf Hazziez, and toured as a spiritual lecturer.
On August 13, 1982, Joe Tex died at his home in Navasota, Texas, following a heart attack, just five days after his 49th birthday.

Several other artists have covered Tex's work, including the rock band Nazareth's I Want To (Do Everything for You) and Phish who performed "You Better Believe It Baby" on July 26, 1998 at the Starplex Amphitheater in Dallas, Texas and again on August 2, 1998 at Deer Creek Music Center in Noblesville, Indiana.

The rock band The Trews covered "The Love You Save (May Be Your Own)" in 2009 on their acoustic album, Acoustic - Friends & Total Strangers. Lawrence "Lipbone" Redding covered "The Love You Save (May Be Your Own)" on his 2011 album, Unbroken.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

August 9: Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead died on this date in 1995...

... he was 53-years-old when he passed away. 

Jerome John Garcia was born in San Francisco, California. His parents named him after composer Jerome Kern. Garcia was influenced by music at an early age, taking piano lessons for much of his childhood. His father was a retired professional musician and his mother enjoyed playing the piano.

During a five-year period in which he lived with his grandparents, Garcia developed an interest in country and to bluegrass by his grandmother. It was at this point that Garcia started playing the banjo, his first stringed instrument.

In 1953, Garcia was also introduced to rock and roll and rhythm and blues by his brother, and enjoyed listening to the likes of Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, B. B. King, Hank Ballard, and, later, Chuck Berry. His brother would memorize the vocals from his favorite songs, and would then make Jerry learn the harmony parts, a move to which Garcia later attributed much of his early ear training.

In mid-1957, Garcia began smoking cigarettes and was introduced to marijuana. After the family moved back to San Francisco, on Garcia's fifteenth birthday, his mother bought him an accordion, instead of an electric guitar which he wanted. After some pleading, his mother exchanged the accordion for a Danelectro with a small amplifier at a local pawnshop. Garcia's stepfather, who was somewhat proficient with instruments, helped tune his guitar to an unusual open tuning.

In 1959, Garcia's mother again moved the family to get Garcia to stay out of trouble, this time to Cazadero, a small town in Sonoma County, 90 miles north of San Francisco. Garcia joined a band at his school known as the Chords.

In 1960 Garcia stole his mother's car, and as punishment, was forced to join the United States Army. Garcia spent most of his time in the army missing roll call and accruing many counts of AWOL. As a result, Garcia was given a general discharge on December 14, 1960.

In early 1961, after a near fatal car accident, Garcia realized he needed to begin playing the guitar in earnest. In 1962 he met Phil Lesh, the eventual bassist of the Grateful Dead, during a party in Menlo Park's bohemian Perry Lane neighborhood. 

While attending another party in Palo Alto, Lesh approached Garcia to suggest that he record some songs on Lesh's tape recorder with the intention of getting them played on the radio station KPFA. They recorded "Matty Groves" and "The Long Black Veil," and they later landed a spot on the show, where a ninety-minute special was done specifically on Garcia. It was broadcast under the title "'The Long Black Veil' and Other Ballads: An Evening with Jerry Garcia."

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Not for Kids OnlyShady GrovePositively 4th Street

Garcia soon began playing and teaching acoustic guitar and banjo. One of Garcia's students was Bob Matthews, who later engineered many of the Grateful Dead's albums. Matthews went to high school and was friends with Bob Weir, and on New Year's Eve 1963, he introduced Weir and Garcia to each other.

Between 1962 and 1964, Garcia sang and performed mainly bluegrass, old-time and folk music. One of the bands Garcia performed with was a bluegrass and folk band called Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, whose membership also included Ron "Pigpen" McKernan.

Around this time, the psychedelic LSD was beginning to gain prominence. Garcia first began experimenting with LSD in 1964. In 1965, Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions evolved into the Warlocks, with the addition of Phil Lesh on bass guitar and Bill Kreutzmann on percussion. However, the band quickly learned that another group was already performing under their new name, prompting another name change.

After several suggestions, Garcia came up with the name by opening a Funk and Wagnall's dictionary spotting the "Grateful Dead." Despite his band mates dislike of the name, it quickly spread by word of mouth, and soon became their official title.
Garcia performed with the Grateful Dead for their entire three-decade career from 1965–1995. Garcia also founded and participated in a variety of side projects, including the Saunders-Garcia Band (with longtime friend Merl Saunders), Jerry Garcia Band, Old and in the Way, the Garcia/Grisman acoustic duo, Legion of Mary, and the New Riders of the Purple Sage (which Garcia co-founded with John Dawson and David Nelson).

He also released several solo albums, and contributed to a number of albums by other artists over the years as a session musician. He was well known by many for his distinctive guitar playing and was ranked 13th in Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" cover story.

 Garcia was sometimes ill because of his unstable weight, and in 1986 went into a diabetic coma that nearly cost him his life. Although his overall health improved somewhat after that, he also struggled with heroin addiction, and was staying in a California drug rehabilitation facility when he died of a heart attack in August 1995.
Garcia was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Grateful Dead in 1994.

According to fellow Bay Area guitar player Henry Kaiser, Garcia is "the most recorded guitarist in history. With more than 2,200 Grateful Dead concerts, and 1,000 Jerry Garcia Band concerts captured on tape — as well as numerous studio sessions — there are about 15,000 hours of his guitar work preserved for the ages."

On July 21, 2005, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission passed a resolution to name the amphitheater in McLaren Park "The Jerry Garcia Amphitheater." The amphitheater is located in the Excelsior District, where Garcia grew up.

Numerous music festivals across the United States and Uxbridge, Middlesex, UK hold annual events in memory of Jerry Garcia.