Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June 27: Actor and musician Don Grady - Robbie Douglas on “My Three Sons” - died on this date in 2012...

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


Grady was born Don Louis Agrati in San Diego, California. He grew up in Lafayette, California, before being signed by Disney and leaving the area. Besides The Mickey Mouse Club, his early acting credits included several Western series, including John Payne's The Restless Gun, Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater, Wagon Train and The Rifleman. He also had a role in the NBC medical drama, The Eleventh Hour.

Originally cast as the frustrated middle brother on My Three Sons, he became the "confident elder brother" with the departure of Mike (Tim Considine, who had earlier appeared with Grady in The New Adventures of Spin and Marty), and the adoption of Ernie (Barry Livingston), who became the new "third son."

He not only wrote and performed many of his original songs on My Three Sons, he stepped behind the cameras to write some episodes as well.

During production of My Three Sons, Grady both appeared with his own band The Greefs on the series, and was the drummer for The Yellow Balloon, whose self-titled song became a minor hit during 1967. 

After My Three Sons ended in 1972, Grady pursued a musical career. His works included music for the Blake Edwards comedy film Switch, the theme song for The Phil Donahue Show and for EFX, a Las Vegas multimedia stage show which starred Michael Crawford, David Cassidy, Tommy Tune, and Rick Springfield.

He wrote and produced Homegrown, an original album released as Don Agrati on Elektra Records. The success of this album abroad led many European bands to cover Don's songs, one of which garnered a gold record for the Dutch band, Lucifer.

The Greefs
Following his first live theatrical performance starring in the national tour of Pippin, Don moved to New York, and appeared in many musicals, including Godspell, Damn Yankees, and Tom Sawyer. It was there that he made the pivotal decision to leave acting altogether, and writing music full time. Don returned to Los Angeles, and pursued formal music training in composition, orchestration, and conducting under such legendary and renowned instructors as Albert Harris, David Angel, Bill Fritz, Bill Schaeffer, Buddy Baker, and predominantly his music mentor, Don Nemitz.

Soon, he began composing music for the live stunt shows at Universal Studios Hollywood and Florida. His score for The Wild, Wild, Wild West show ran for 14 years. Don was also  the Music Director for George Lucas Live, a 3-hour arena event for which he conducted the London Symphony Orchestra.

Don's first major television score, co-written with Don Nemitz, was The Revolutionary War, a 6-hour film which won the Cable Ace Award for Best Documentary. He followed that up scoring the Emmy Award-winning documentary, Why Dogs Smile & Chimpanzees Cry.

Don returned to the Disney family in 2001, composing music for more than 30 Disney DVD's including the last five Special Platinum Edition releases, The Emperor's New Groove, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Aladdin, and Jungle Book.

In the fall of 2008, Grady released Boomer: JazRokPop, a collection of songs written for and about the baby boomer generation. Boomer was his first original album as an artist since Homegrown in 1973.

After a long battle with cancer, Grady died on June 27, 2012, , just 19 days after his 68th birthday.


For more on Don (Robbie!) visit his Website at -


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June 26: The "first lady of Israeli song and poetry," Naomi Shemer, died on this date in 2004 ...

 ... born on July 13, 1930 she was 73-years-old when she passed away.

Naomi Semer was born on Kvutzat Kinneret, a kibbutz her parents had helped found, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Naomi’s musical skill was evident during her childhood, when she began to lead community singing on the kibbutz.

After completing school she was sent to study at the academy of music in Jerusalem and upon returning to the kibbutz taught music to the kibbutz children. During this period she wrote several children’s songs, including “The Short Tour,” “The Post Van,” and“Our Little Brother,”all of which appeared for the first time on the 1958 album by Yuaffa Yarkoni, Songs from Kinneret.

Shemer began her army service in the Israeli Defense Force's Nahal entertainment troupe. During her military service in 1956 she wrote several songs for a revue by the Central Command troupe, “A Raid in the Village” under the pseudonym S. Carmel. After her discharge she married the actor Gideon Shemewith whom she had a daughter, Lali. They were later divorced; she went on to marry attorney Mordechai Horowitz, with whom she had a son, Ariel.

Shemer did her own songwriting and composing, set famous poems to music, such as those of the Israeli poet, Rachel, and adapted well-known songs into Hebrew, such as the Beatles songs "Let It Be."

In 1963, she composed "Hurshat Ha'Eucalyptus (The Eucalyptus Grove)," a song that evokes Kvutzat Kinneret where she was born, and sung in a recent version by Ishtar.

In 1967, she wrote the famous patriotic song "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav," sung by Shuly Nathan. Inspired by the Basque lullaby "Pello Joxepe" (something Shemer admitted to later on), it was originally for the Israeli Music Festival, and she added another verse after the Six-Day War that year.

In 1982 her third collection, Book Three, was published. At the annual Arad Festival, which was launched that year, as well as at subsequent Arad Festivals, Shemer’s songs filled the programs of all the ensembles, every one of which performed at least one or two of her songs. In 1983, Shemer received the Israel Prize for Hebrew song (words and melody).

In 2005, she was voted the 6th-greatest Israeli of all time, in a poll by the Israeli news website Ynet to determine whom the general public considered the 200 Greatest Israelis.

Shemer continued to write and perform until her death. She died of cancer in 2004, aged 73. Shemer's grave is on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret). The stones were left by visitors, in keeping with an ancient Jewish custom


Friday, June 22, 2012

June 22: Judy Garland died on this date in 1969...

... she was 47 years-old when she passed away.

Through a career that spanned 45 years, Judy Garland attained international stardom as an actress in musical and dramatic roles, as a recording artist and on the concert stage. Respected for her versatility, she received a juvenile Academy Award, won a Golden Globe Award, as well as Grammy Awards and a Special Tony Award.

She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in A Star is Born and for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the 1961 film, Judgement at Nuremberg. When she was 40, she became the youngest recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in the motion picture industry.
Born Frances Ethel Gumm in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, Garland's parents were vaudevillians who settled in Grand Rapids to run a movie theatre featuring vaudeville acts.
"Baby" - as Frances was called by her parents and sisters - inherited her family's love for song and dance. Baby Gumm's first appearance came at the age of two-and-a-half when she joined her two older sisters, Mary Jane "Suzy/Suzanne" Gumm and Dorothy Virginia "Jimmie" Gumm on the stage of her father's movie theater during a Christmas show. They  sang "Jingle Bells."

Accompanied by their mother on piano, The Gumm Sisters performed at their father's theater for the next few years. After rumors of lewdness by her father surfaced, the family moved to Lancaster, California, in June 1926. They bought another theater, and began working to get the three daughters into motion pictures.

After appearing in vaudeville with her sisters, Garland was signed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a teenager. There she made more than two dozen films, including nine with Mickey Rooney and the 1939 film with which she would be most identified, The Wizard of Oz. After 15 years, Garland was released from the studio but gained renewed success through record-breaking concert appearances, including a return to acting beginning with critically acclaimed performances.


(Continued below video and Amazon portals ...)

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Judy At Carnegie Hall: Fortieth Anniversary EditionThe Judy Garland Collection


Despite her professional triumphs, Garland battled personal problems throughout her life. Insecure about her appearance, her feelings were compounded by film executives. Garland was plagued by financial instability, often owing hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes. She married five times, with her first four marriages ending in divorce.

On June 22, 1969, Garland was found dead in the bathroom of her Chelsea, London house. At the inquest the cause of death was "an incautious self-overdosage" of barbiturates. The coroner said that the overdose had been unintentional and that there was no evidence to suggest she had committed suicide. Surviving her were her children, Liza Minnelli, Lorna Luft and Joey Luft.

Judy Garland's legacy as a performer and a personality has endured long after her death. The American Film Institute named Garland eighth among the Greatest Female Stars of All Time. She has been the subject of over two dozen biographies since her death, including the well-received Me and My Shadows: A Family Memoir by her daughter, Lorna Luft.

Luft's memoir was later adapted into the multiple award-winning television miniseries, Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows, which won Emmy Awards for two actresses portraying Garland, Tammy Blanchard and Judy Davis.

English actress Tracie Bennett portrayed Garland to critical acclaim in a dramatization of her eventual decline and months preceding her death in a play titled End of the Rainbow at London's Trafalgar Studios. Both the play and Bennett received Laurence Olivier Award nominations.

Garland was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. Several of her recordings have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. These include "Over the Rainbow," which was ranked as the number one movie song of all time in the American Film Institute's "100 Years...100 Songs" list.

Four more Garland songs are featured on the list: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (#76), "Get Happy" (#61), "The Trolley Song" (#26), and "The Man That Got Away" (#11). Garland has twice been honored on U.S. postage stamps, in 1989 as Dorothy, and in 2006 as Vicki Lester from A Star Is Born).

In 1999, the American Film Institute placed her among the ten greatest female stars in the history of American cinema.


Monday, June 18, 2012

June 18: Saxophonist Clarence Clemons with the E Street Band died today...

... he was 69 years-old.

From 1972 until his death, Clarence Anicholas Clemons, Jr., also known as The Big Man, was a prominent member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band He released several solo albums and in 1985 had a hit single with "You're a Friend of Mine," a duet with Jackson Browne.

As a guest musician he also featured on Aretha Franklin's "Freeway of Love" and on Twisted Sister's "Be Chrool to Your Scuel" as well as performing in concert with The Grateful Dead and Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band.

As an actor Clemons featured in several films, including New York, New York and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. He also made cameo appearances in several TV series, such as Diff'rent Strokes, Nash Bridges, The Simpsons and The Wire.

Together with his friend Don Reo he published his autobiography, Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales, in 2009. Clemons suffered a stroke on June 12, 2011 and died due to complications from the stroke on June 18 at 69 years old.


Clemons was the grandson of a Southern Baptist preacher and grew up listening to Gospel music. When he was nine, his father gave him an alto saxophone as a Christmas present and paid for music lessons. He later switched to baritone sax and played in a high school jazz band.

His uncle also influenced his early musical development when he bought him his first King Curtis album. Curtis, and his work with The Coasters in particular, would be become a major influence on Clemons and led to him switching to tenor saxophone.

As a youth Clemons also showed potential as an American football player, and he attended Maryland State College on both music and football scholarships. A lineman, he drew interest of the Cleveland Browns who offered him a try out. The day before he was to report, he was involved in a serious car accident which effectively ended any plans of a career in the NFL.

(Continued below video and Amazon portals ...)

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Brothers in ArmsBig Man: Real Life & Tall Tales

Clemons had one of his earliest recording studio experiences when he was 18 years-old. with Tyrone Ashley's Funky Music Machine, a band from Plainfield, New Jersey. He also performed with Daniel Petraitis, a New Jersey and Nashville legend. These sessions were eventually released in 2007 by Truth and Soul Records as Let Me Be Your Man.

While at Maryland State College Clemons also joined his first band, The Vibratones, which played James Brown covers and stayed together for about four years between 1961 and 1965. While still playing with this band he moved to Newark, New Jersey were he worked as a counsellor for emotionally disturbed children at the Jamesburg Training School for Boys between 1962 and 1970.

Clemons first met Bruce Springsteen in September 1971. At the time Clemons was playing with Norman Seldin & The Joyful Noyze at The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Seldin was a Jersey Shore musician/entrepreneur who, as well as playing piano and leading various bands, had his own record label, Selsom Records.

In 1969 Clemons had recorded a selt-titled album with this band. In 2008 tracks from this album were reissued on an anthology, Asbury Park – Then And Now. Karen Cassidy, lead vocalist with The Joyful Noyze, encouraged Clemons to check out Springsteen who was playing with The Bruce Springsteen Band at the nearby Student Prince.

When Clarence went to hear Springsteen, when he opened the door it flew off its hinges and blew down the street. The band, who were on-stage, stared at Clarence framed in the doorway. Clarence said, "I want to play with your band." Springsteen stammered, "Sure, you do anything you want."

The first song they did together was "Spirit In The Night." "Bruce and I looked at each other and didn't say anything, we just knew. We knew we were the missing links in each other's lives."

Clemons went on and had notable solos with The E Street Band on such tunes as "Born to Run," "Thunder Road" and "Badlands."


Friday, June 15, 2012

June 15: "First Lady of Song" Ella Fitzgerald died on this date in 1996...

... she was 79 years-of-age when she passed away.

"Lady Ella," Ella Jane Fitzgerald was an American jazz and song vocalist. With a vocal range spanning three octaves she was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation, and a "horn-like" improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.
Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Virginia. When she was young, Fitzgerald wanted to be a dancer, although she loved listening to jazz recordings by Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby and The Boswell Sisters, especially the lead singer Connee Boswell.

In 1932, her mother died from a heart attack. At one point worked as a lookout at a bordello and also with a Mafia-affiliated numbers runner. When the authorities caught up with her, she was first placed in an orphanage then the New York Training School for Girls in Hudson, New York, a state reformatory.

She made her singing debut at 17 on November 21, 1934 at the Apollo Theater. in Harlem, New York. She pulled in a weekly audience at the Apollo and won the opportunity to compete in one of the earliest of its famous "Amateur Nights." She had originally intended to go on stage and dance but, intimidated by the Edwards Sisters, a local dance duo, she decided to sing Connee Boswell's "Judy" and "The Object of My Affection. She won the $25.00 first prize.

In January 1935, Fitzgerald won the chance to perform for a week with the Tiny Bradshaw band at the Harlem Opera House where she met drummer and bandleader Chick Webb. She began singing regularly with Webb's Orchestra through 1935 at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom. Fitzgerald recorded several hit songs with them, including "Love and Kisses" and "(If You Can't Sing It) You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)."

But it was her 1938 version of the nursery rhyme, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," a song she co-wrote, that brought her wide public acclaim.

Chick Webb died on June 16, 1939, and his band was renamed "Ella Fitzgerald and her Famous Orchestra" with Ella taking on the role of bandleader. Fitzgerald recorded nearly 150 sides during her time with the orchestra.

In 1942, Fitzgerald left the band to begin a solo career. She had several popular hits while recording with such artists as the Ink Spots, Louis Jordan, and the Delta Rhythm Boys on the Decca label.


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Pure Ella

With the demise of the Swing era and the decline of the great touring big bands, a major change in jazz music occurred. The advent of bebop led to new developments in Fitzgerald's vocal style, influenced by her work with Dizzy Gillespie's big band.

It was in this period that Fitzgerald started including scat singing as a major part of her performance repertoire. While singing with Gillespie, Fitzgerald said, "I just tried to do [with my voice] what I heard the horns in the band doing."

Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook, released in 1956, was the first of eight multi-album Songbook sets Fitzgerald would record for Verve Records between 1956 to 1964 after leaving Decca. Fitzgerald's song selections ranged from standards to rarities and represented an attempt by Fitzgerald to cross over into a non-jazz audience.

Fitzgerald had a number of famous jazz musicians and soloists as sidemen over her long career. The trumpeters Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie, the guitarist Herb Ellis, and the pianists Tommy Flanagan, Oscar Peterson, Lou Levy, Paul Smith, Jimmy Rowles, and Ellis Larkins all worked with Ella mostly in live, small group settings.
Ella Fitzgerald is considered a top interpreter of the Great American Songbook. Over a recording career that lasted 59 years, she was the winner of 13 Grammy Awards including one for Lifetime Achievement in 1967.

Other major awards and honors she received during her career were the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Medal of Honor Award, National Medal of Art, first Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award, named "Ella" in her honor, Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

June 13: R&B singer Clyde McPhatter - "Lover, Please" & "It's a Lovers Question" - died on this date in 1972 ...

He was 39-years old when he died from a heart attack.

McPhatter was born in Durham, NC, on November 15, 1932. The McPhatters moved to New York City in late 1950. He came one of the most widely imitated R&B singer of the 1950s and 1960s, making him a key figure in the shaping of Doo-wop and R&B.

McPhatter was lead tenor for a gospel group he formed as a teenager called The Mount Lebanon Singers, before joining Billy Ward and His Dominoes whom Ward recruited after McPhatter won "Amateur Night" at the Apollo Theater. Clyde later became one of the founders of The Drifters before going solo, leaving a legacy of over 22 years of recording history.

The Dominoes signed with King Records in 1950 and recorded the chart-topping, "Sixty Minute Man" with McPhatter singing the lead vocals. That song was the biggest R&B hit of 1951 and the first by a Black group to cross over from the R&B to the pop charts.

McPhatter stayed with the group for three years singing such hits as"Have Mercy Baby," "The Bells," "I'd Be Satisfied." However, Ward had his name as top billing and collected all of the profits while McPhatter wasn't earning enough to live on from the small amount of money that Ward paid him. Finally, in early 1953, McPhatter decided to quit.
Atlantic Records approached him with an offer to record his own group, eventually named, the Drifters. As the leader of the Drifters that McPhatter racked up a number of hits beginning with "Money Honey," which became the biggest R&B hit of 1954, "Such a Night," "Honey Love," "White Christmas," and "What'cha Gonna Do." McPhatter had already made a decision to leave the Drifters as he saw himself moving toward a solo career. His voice was so dominant that it took five years for the Drifters to recover after he left.

In 1955, McPhatter recorded a duet for Atlantic Records with Ruth Brown on "Love Has Joined Us Together," which made number 8 on the R&B charts, and in August of that year he recorded "Seven Days," which became a number 2 R&B hit in 1956. In 1956 he scored with "Treasure of Love," which was his first solo chart-topper on the R&B and the pop charts. "Just to Hold My Hand" made the Top 10 on the R&B charts and "Long Lonely Nights" made the pop Top 30 in 1957.
Clyde with Billy Ward and His Dominoes

In 1956, Atlantic released his singles as Clyde McPhatter & the Drifters. McPhatter saw his biggest hit on Atlantic in 1958 with "A Lover's Question," which was a top 10 smash on the pop charts and a #1 seller on the R&B listings. He had three more chart singles in 1959, none of which broke the Top 10.

He left Atlantic that year after one last hit, "Lovey Dovey" and had some minor hits in "I Told Myself a Lie" and "Think Me a Kiss" in 1960. He moved to Mercury Records and his career picked up again with the Top 10 single, "Ta Ta," which was followed by the smash Top 10 pop single in 1962 with "Lover Please." It seemed that McPhatter was back on top. However, behind the scenes, McPhatter was dealing with alcoholism and unreliability and his career started to spiral down.

Over the next few years, he recorded for several smaller labels but was unable to get a hit or keep his performing career going. Eventually, Clyde moved to England in the early '60s and found work in British clubs for a few years until the same personal problems began to haunt him.

HIGHLY Recommended (Links to Amazon):

Clyde Mcfatter & Drifters / Rockin & DriftinClyde McPhatter - Greatest HitsA Lover's Question (Single/LP Version)

Lover Please: The Complete MGM & Mercury Singles

(... continued)
He returned to the U.S. in the early '70s, and signed with Decca Records. He recorded the album, Welcome Home, which was his final attempt at a comeback. McPhatter who suffered professionally and personally from alcoholism, depression, and personal problems died from a fatal heart attack in New York in 1972.