Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July 17: Legendary jazz singer "Lady Day" Billie Holiday died on this date in 1950...

... she was 43 years-old.

Billie Holiday's vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. Music critic John Bush wrote that Holiday "changed the art of American pop vocals forever."

Billie Holiday co-wrote several jazz standards; "God Bless the Child," "Don't Explain," "Fine and Mellow," and "Lady Sings the Blues." She also became famous for singing "Easy Living," "Good Morning Heartache," and "Strange Fruit," a protest song which became one of her standards and was made famous with her 1939 recording. "God Bless the Child" became Holiday's most popular record, selling over a million copies, ranked number 3 on Billboard's year-end top songs of 1941.

Eleanora Fagan at 2 years-old

Billie Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to her mother Sarah Julia "Sadie" Fagan (née Harris), and musician Clarence Halliday (Holiday). With no support from her parents, Eleanora stayed with her older married half sister, Eva Miller, who lived in Baltimore.

Eleanora frequently skipped school and her truancy resulted in her being brought before the juvenile court when she was not yet 10. She was sent to The House of the Good Shepherd, a Catholic reform school. After nine months she was returned to her mother who opened a restaurant called the East Side Grill, where she and Eleanora worked long hours. By the age of 11, Eleanora had dropped out of school.

Her mother caught a neighbor raping Eleanora. Officials placed her in the House of the Good Shepherd in protective custody as a state witness in the rape case. Eleanora was released in February 1927, and she and her mother began working at a brothel. During this time, Eleanora first heard the records of Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith.

Eleanora began to perform the songs she learned while working in the brothel. In order to live, Sadie became a prostitute in New York at the age of 14.

Eleanora took her stage name from Billie Dove, an actress she admired, and the musician Clarence Holiday, her probable father. At the outset of her career, she spelled her last name Halliday, the birth-surname of her father, but eventually changed it to Holiday, his performing name. The young singer teamed up with a neighbor, tenor sax player Kenneth Hollan. From 1929 to 1931, they were a team, performing at clubs such as the Grey Dawn, Pod's and Jerry's, and the Brooklyn Elks' Club.

(Continued below video and Amazon portals ...)

(Press album cover for direct link to the entire Amazon Website):

Lady Day: The Master Takes & Singles

As her reputation grew, Holiday played at many clubs, including Mexico's and The Alhambra Bar and Grill where Charles Linton, a vocalist who later worked with Chick Webb, first met her. It was also during this period that she connected with her father Clarence Holiday, who was playing with Fletcher Henderson's band.

By the end of 1932 at the age of 17, Billie Holiday replaced the singer Monette Moore at a club called Covan's on West 132nd Street. The producer John Hammond, first heard Holiday in early 1933. Hammond arranged for Holiday to make her recording debut, at age 18, in November 1933 with Benny Goodman, singing two songs: "Your Mother's Son-In-Law" and "Riffin' the Scotch."

Holiday returned to the studio in 1935 with Goodman and a group led by pianist Teddy Wilson. Their first collaboration included "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," and "Miss Brown To You." She began recording under her own name a year later, producing a series of extraordinary performances with groups comprising the swing era's finest musicians.

In 1935, Billie Holiday had a small role as a woman being abused by her lover in Duke Ellington's short Symphony in Black: A Rhapsody of Negro Life. In her scene, she sang the song "Saddest Tale."

Holiday was signed to Brunswick Records by John Hammond to record current pop tunes with Teddy Wilson in the new "swing" style for the growing jukebox trade. They were given free rein to improvise the material.

Holiday's improvisation of the melody line to fit the emotion was revolutionary. With their arrangements, Wilson and Holiday took pedestrian pop tunes, such as "Twenty-Four Hours a Day" and "Yankee Doodle Never Went To Town," and turned them into jazz classics.

Teddy Wilson, one of the most influential jazz pianists from the swing era, accompanied Holiday more than any other musician. Holiday's early successes were released under the band name "Teddy Wilson & his Orchestra." At the time, she was in her early to late 20s.

Most of Holiday's recordings with Wilson or under her own name during the 1930s and early 1940s are regarded as important parts of the jazz vocal library. He and Holiday have 95 recordings together.
In July 1936, Holiday began releasing sides under her own name, released under the band name "Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra." Most noteworthy, the popular jazz standard "Summertime," sold well and was listed on the available pop charts at the time at number 12, the first time the jazz standard charted under any artist.

On March 27, 1948, Holiday played Carnegie Hall to a sold-out crowd; a major accomplishment for any artist, especially a black artist of the segregated period of American history. She sang 32 songs that night. Holiday's last song to chart was "Lover Man" in 1945.

By the 1950s, Holiday's drug abuse, drinking, and relationships with abusive men caused her health to deteriorate. Her later recordings showed the effects of declining health on her voice, as it grew coarse and no longer projected its former vibrancy.

On November 10, 1956, Holiday performed two more concerts before packed audiences at Carnegie Hall, Live recordings of the second Carnegie Hall concert were released on a Verve/HMV album in the UK in late 1961 called The Essential Billie Holiday.

Suffering from liver and heart disease, Billie Holiday died in the Metropolitan Hospital, New York, on Friday, July 17, 1959, in the bed in which she had been arrested for illegal possession of narcotics the previous month.


Monday, July 16, 2012

July 16: The Queen of Country Music, Kitty Wells died on this date in 2012...

... born on  August 30, 1919, she was 92-years-old when she passed away after suffering a stroke.


Kitty Wells was born Ellen Muriel Deason in 1919 in Nashville, Tennessee, one of the few country singers born in Nashville. She began singing as a child, learning guitar from her father. As a teenager, she sang with her sisters, who performed under the name the Deason Sisters on a local radio station beginning in 1936.

At the age of 18 she married Johnnie Wright, a cabinet-maker who aspired to country-music stardom. Wells sang with Wright and his sister Louise Wright; the three toured as Johnnie Right and the Harmony Girls. Soon Wright met Jack Anglin, who married Louise and became part of the band, which became known first as the Tennessee Hillbillies and then the Tennessee Mountain Boys.

Wright and Wells performed as a duo; it was at this time she adopted "Kitty Wells" as her stage name. When Anglin returned from the Army, he and Wright formed the Johnnie & Jack duo.

Wells would tour with the pair, occasionally performing backup vocals. On "Louisiana Hayride," she performed with her husband's duo. Wells, however, did not sing on their records until signing with RCA Victor in 1949 releasing some of her first singles, including "Death At The Bar" and "Don't Wait For The Last Minute To Pray,” neither of which charted.

While these early records gained some notice, promoters still weren't keen on promoting female singers, and therefore Wells was dropped from the label in 1950. In 1952, Paul Cohen, an executive at Decca Records, approached Wells to record "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” Wells was disenchanted with her career prospects and was considering retirement, but agreed to the session because of the $125 union scale recording payment.

"It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" was an answer song to Hank Thompson's No. 1 smash, "The Wild Side of Life,” and its lyrical treatment of seductive, wayward women. Wells' single retorted, "It's a shame that all the blame is on us women." The record's message was controversial at the time, and was banned by many radio stations. It was also temporarily banned from the Grand Ole Opry.

Nevertheless, it took off during the summer of 1952, and sold more than 800,000 copies in its initial release. It became the first single by a female singer to peak at No. 1 in the eight-year history of the country music chart, where it remained for six weeks.

Because of her major breakthrough, Wells received a membership to the Grand Ole Opry, which had originally banned the single. Kitty’s Top 10 hits continued until the mid-1960s, inspiring a long list of female country singers who came to prominence in the 1960s.

Wells ranks as the sixth most successful female vocalist in the history of Billboard's country charts, according to historian Joel Whitburn's book The Top 40 Country Hits, behind Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire, Tammy Wynette, and Tanya Tucker.

In 1976, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 1991, she became the third country music artist, after Roy Acuff and Hank Williams, and the eighth woman to receive the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Wells' accomplishments earned her the nickname The Queen of Country Music.

For more about Kitty Wells, visit her Website at -


July 16: Jon Lord - Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Paice, Ashton & Lord, The Artwoods and Flower Pot Men - died on this date in 2012....

... he died on July 16, 2012.
Jon Lord D.M., was a composer, pianist and Hammond organ player known for his pioneering work in fusing rock and classical or baroque forms, especially with Deep Purple, besides Whitesnake, Paice, Ashton & Lord, The Artwoods and Flower Pot Men.

Jonathan Douglas "Jon" Lord was born in Leicester, England. He studied classical piano from the age of five, and those influences are a recurring trademark in his work. His influences range from Bach (a constant connection in his music and his keyboard improvisation) to Medieval popular music.

Lord absorbed the blues sounds that played a key part in his rock career, principally the raw sounds of the great American blues organists Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and "Brother" Jack McDuff, and the stage showmanship of Jerry Lee Lewis. The jazz-blues organ sounds coming from those musicians in the 1950s and 1960s, using the trademark blues-organ sound of the Hammond organ were seminal influences. Lord has also stated that he was heavily influenced by the organ-based progressive rock played by Vanilla Fudge after seeing them perform in the UK in 1967.

In 1968, Lord founded Deep Purple, where he was virtually the leader of the band until 1970. In addition, Lord wrote the organ riff on "Child in Time.” He and drummer Ian Paice were the only constant band members during the band's existence from 1968 to 1976 and from when they reformed in 1984 until Lord's retirement from Deep Purple in 2002.

In 1997, he created perhaps his most personal work to date, Pictured Within, released in 1998. Lord's mother Miriam had died in August 1995 and the album his sense of grief. Recorded largely in the city of Cologne, the album's themes are Elgarian and alpine. Lord signed to Virgin Classics to release it, and perhaps saw it as the first stage in his eventual departure from Purple to embark on a low-key and altogether more gentle solo career.

Lord also collaborated on a number of projects. For example, Lord was a neighbour to former Beatle, George Harrison, and played piano on Harrison's posthumously released Brainwashed album in 2002.

Lord released his solo album To Notice Such Things in March 2010. Titled after the main work — a six movement suite for solo flute, piano and string orchestra — the album was inspired by, and is dedicated to the memory of Jon's close friend Sir John Mortimer, the English barrister, dramatist, screenwriter, author and creator of British television series "Rumpole of The Bailey,” who died in January 2009.

On its first day of release, the album entered Amazon’s Movers And Shakers index, nestling at no. 12 at the end of the day. Six days later it entered the UK's official classical chart at no. 4.

On November 11, 2010, Lord was made an Honorary Fellow of Stevenson College, Edinburgh. In July 2011, he was granted an honorary Doctor of Music degree by his home town's University of Leicester.

Among his many upcoming projects, Jon Lord has been commissioned to compose a concerto for Hammond organ and orchestra and with special parts for tympani. The piece will be premiered with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra with Tom Vissgren on tympani in Oslo, Norway in the Spring of 2012. With Vladimir Ashkenazy and Josef Suk, Lord was one of three artistic sponsors of Toccata Classics.

Up until July 2012, Lord had been working on material with recently formed rock supergroup WhoCares, also featuring singer Ian Gillan from Deep Purple, guitarist Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath, second guitarist Mikko Lindström from HIM, bassist Jason Newsted formerly from Metallica and drummer Nicko McBrain from Iron Maiden.

Lord died on July 16, 2012 after suffering a pulmonary embolism. He had been suffering from pancreatic cancer and was surrounded by his family at the London Clinic.


For more about Jon, visit his Website at -


Saturday, July 14, 2012

July 14: Romanian pop recording artist Mădălina Manole died on her 43rd birthday...

... born in 1967, she died on July 14, 2010.


Magdalena-Anca Mircea, better known by her stage name Mădălina Manole, was born in a mountain region in the town of Vălenii de Munte in Rumania. She was inspired to be a singer by her mother, who sang folk music, and also took guitar lessons.

After graduating from the Băneasa School of Air Traffic Controllers, Mădălina Manole worked in this field for four years. In her free time, she also sang, and formed a group with Ştefania Ghiţă called Alfa şi Beta, that participated at the shows of Cenaclul Flacăra. Manole became the youngest member to participate in the circle festivities (Cenaclului Serbările Scânteii Tineretului.) During that period, she also worked with Victor Socaciu and Roșu și Negru.

Between 1982 and 1985 the folk singer attended the art school called Şcoala Populara de Arta, as part of the group that had mentored Mihaela Runceanu and Ionel Tudor. In late 1980 Dan Ştefan had her record his song, "Pentru noi nu poate fi alt cer" ("For Us There Cannot Be Another Heaven,") which was featured in the movie Nelu.

In 1988, Mădălina Manole met Şerban Georgescu and the two artists began working together. That year, she also participated in the music festival called Mamaia (Festivalul de Muzică Uşoară Mamaia) with the song "A Sentimental Man" ("Un Om Sentimental") composed by Diaconescu. The song finished fourth, and began the collaboration which had a major role in her career as a singer.

Beginning in 1990, Manole gave recitals in different regions of Romania, and a year later a Georgescu song entitled "Lovely Girl" (Fată Dragă) gained radio popularity, becoming the composition that would represent her career. She signed a management contract with Electrecord.

Her first album was released in 1991 by this company. Manole began to perform on stage, performing internationally to the Romanian diaspora located in the United States, Austria, Belgium and Germany. Manole recorded a new album in 1993 entitled So what? (Ei și ce?) It contained eight folk-rock pieces, most of which were created by Georgescu. The album was very successful in Romania, and radio station Radio Contact called Mădălina the "best pop artist.”

In 1997, she released the album Smooth, Smooth Mădălina ("Lină, lină Mădălină"), and Mădălina Manole became the first pop artist to interpret authentic Romanian folklore in an original way, with a folk orchestra led by the late Dorel Manea.

In 1997, she created the Cultural Association of Mădălina Manole (Asociaţia Culturală Mădălina Manole) to promote cultural and humanitarian pursuits. With Octavian Ursulescu in 1997, Manole presented the anniversary edition of the International Festival Golden Stag of the Braşov Theatre.

Mădălina Manole was chosen by Procter & Gamble International to use her image to launch a cosmetic product in Romania. She was nicknamed girl with hair of fire, alluding to the hair colour with which she appeared in the spotlight. In 2000, she obtained awards for best performer and best pop female voice of the year of Romania and Radio Awards and Music Industry Awards in Romania. Also in 2000, the album Sweetest of All (Dulce de Tot) was rated the best pop album by Radio România Actualităţi.

On February 19, 2010, she released her 9th album,"09 Mădălina Manole.” While working on her album, Mădălina Manole fell ill due to accumulated fatigue.

Mădălina was found dead by her husband, Petru) Mircea, at their house in the early morning of July 14, 2010, her 43rd birthday, after an apparent suicide. While still under investigation, she allegedly caused her own death by drinking nearly half a litre of Carbofuran.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July 3: Actor, comedian and singer, Andy Griffith died on this date in 2012 ...

... born on June 1 1926, he was 86-years-old when he passed away.  
He'll always be "Opie's Dad," but there's been a great deal more to Andy Griffith's entertainment career than Mayberry...

Andy Samuel Griffith who was born in Mount Airy, North Carolina (often mentioned on The Andy Griffith Show) in 1926. In addition to comedic and dramatic acting, he is director, producer, Grammy Award-winning Southern-gospel singer, and writer.

His first big break came when he stared in the films A Face in the Crowd and No Time for Sargeants. He's made many other movies, but he is perhaps best known for his television shows, the 1960-68 situation comedy, The Andy Griffith Show between 1960-68, and in the 1986-95 legal drama, Matlock. Griffith was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 9, 2005.

Griffith developed his interest in music from his mother. His father instilled a sense of humor from old family stories. He was a shy student, but once he found a way to make his peers laugh, he began to come into his own.

As a student at Mount Airy High School, Griffith cultivated an interest in the arts, and he participated in the school's drama program. A growing love of music, particularly swing, would change his life. Ed Mickey, a minister at Grace Moravian Church, who led the brass band and taught Andy to sing and play the trombone. Mickey nurtured Griffith's talent throughout high school until graduation in 1944.
Griffith was offered a role in The Lost Colony, a play still performed today on historic Roanoke Island.

He began college studying to be a preacher, but he changed his major to music and became a part of the school's Carolina Play Makers. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and graduated with a bachelor of music degree in 1949.

At UNC he was president of the UNC Men's Glee Club and a member of the Alpha Rho Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, America's oldest fraternity for men in music.

Griffith in A Face in the Crowd with Patricia Neal
Griffith sang as part of some of his acting roles, most notably in A Face In The Crowd and in many episodes of both The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock. In addition to his recordings of comic monologues in the 1950s, he made an album of upbeat country and gospel tunes during the run of The Andy Griffith Show, which included a version of the show's theme sung by Griffith under the title "The Fishin' Hole."

In recent years, he has recorded successful albums of classic Christian hymns for Sparrow Records. His most successful was the 1996 release I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns, which was certified platinum by the RIAA.

In 2008, Griffith appeared in country singer Brad Paisley's music video "Waitin' on a Woman."

(Continued below video and Amazon portals ...)

(Press album cover for direct link to the entire Amazon Website):

Wit & Wisdom of Andy GriffithBound for the Promised Land


Beginning in 1960, Griffith starred as Sheriff Andy Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show. The show took place in the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina, where Taylor, a widower, was the sheriff and town sage. From 1960 to 1965, the show co-starred character actor and comedian—and Griffith's longtime friend—Don Knotts in the role of Deputy Barney Fife, Taylor's best friend and partner. The show also starred child actor Ron Howard who played Taylor's only child, Opie Taylor.

The show was an immediate hit. Although Griffith never received a writing credit for the show, he worked on the development of every script. While Knotts was frequently lauded and won multiple Emmy Awards for his comedic performances - (as did Frances Bavier for her role as Aunt bea in 1967 - Griffith was never nominated for an Emmy Award during the show's run.

After leaving his still-popular show in 1968, and starting his own production company (Andy Griffith Enterprises) in 1972, Griffith starred in less-successful television series such as The Headmaster, The New Andy Griffith Show, Adams of Eagle Lake, Salvage 1, and The Yeagers.

After spending time in rehabilitation for leg paralysis from Guillain–Barré syndrome in 1986, Griffith returned to television as the title character, Ben Matlock, in the legal drama Matlock on NBC and ABC. Matlock was a country lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, who was known for his Southern drawl and for always winning his cases.


Griffith's friendship with Ron Howard began in 1960, when they guest-starred in the episode of Danny Thomas' show, Make Room For Daddy. That led to the creation of The Andy Griffith Show that same year. For eight seasons they shared a unique father-son relationship on the set. They guest-starred together in its spin-off series, Mayberry R.F.D., in an episode where Griffith's character married his long-time girlfriend.

Griffith made a surprise appearance as the ghost of Andy Taylor when Howard hosted Saturday Night Live in 1982.


July 3: Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors, died on this date in 1971...

... he was 27-years-old when he passed away.  Morrison was found in a Paris apartment bathtub where he was pronouced dead.  

Poet and singer, James Douglas "Jim" Morrison remains one of the most popular and influential singers/writers in rock history and The Doors' remain a staple of classic rock radio stations. Morrison was ranked number 47 on Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Singers of All Time" and is widely regarded as one of the most iconic frontmen in rock music history.
James Douglas Morrison was born in Melbourne, Florida in 1943, and was the son of future Admiral George Stephen Morrison. With his father in the United States Navy, Morrison's family moved often. After stints at St. Petersburg Junior College, and Florida State University (FSU) In January 1964, Morrison moved to Los Angeles, California, to attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Morrison completed his undergraduate degree at UCLA's film school and the Theater Arts department of the College of Fine Arts in 1965.

(Continued below video and Amazon portal ...)

HIGHLY Recommended (Press album covers for direct links to Amazon):

Wilderness: The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison, Volume 1The Jim Morrison ScrapbookThe American Night: The Writings of Jim Morrison, Vol. 2Spirit of Jim Morrison Poster Print, 36x24Morrison, Jim - Final 24: His Final HoursVol. 2-Lost Interview Tapes-Jim MorrisonThe Doors Collection (Collector's Edition)The Doors - Live in Europe 1968

In 1965, after graduating from UCLA, Morrison led a bohemian lifestyle in Venice Beach. Morrison and fellow UCLA student Ray Manzarek were the first two members of The Doors. Shortly thereafter, drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger joined. Krieger auditioned at Densmore's recommendation and was then added to the lineup.

The Doors took their name from the title of Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception (a reference to the "unlocking" of "doors of perception" through psychedelic drug use.)

Although Morrison is credited with writing many of the Doors' songs,  Krieger also made significant lyrical contributions, writing or co-writing some of the group's biggest hits, including "Light My Fire," "Love Me Two Times," "Love Her Madly" and "Touch Me."

The Doors achieved national recognition after signing with Elektra Records in 1967. The single "Light My Fire" eventually reached number one on the Billboard Pop Singles chart.

(Continued below video ...)

The Doors appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, a popular Sunday night variety series that had introduced The Beatles and Elvis Presley to the nation. Ed Sullivan requested two songs from The Doors for the show, "People Are Strange," and "Light My Fire."

The censors insisted that they change the lyrics of "Light My Fire" from "Girl we couldn't get much higher" to "Girl we couldn't get much better"; this was reportedly due to what could be perceived as a reference to drugs in the original lyric. Giving assurances of compliance to Sullivan, Morrison then proceeded to sing the song with the original lyrics anyway. He later said that he had simply forgotten to make the change.

This so infuriated Sullivan that he refused to shake their hands after their performance and told Morrison they would never play The Ed Sullivan Show again. Morrison retorted, "Who cares, we already did."