Wednesday, December 26, 2012

December 26: Soul and R&B singer Fontella Bass - "Rescue Me" - died on this date in 2012...


... she died  at a St. Louis hospice of complications from a heart attack suffered in early December. Bass had also suffered a series of strokes over the past seven years. Born on July 3, 1840, she was 72-years-old when she died.

Fontella Bass was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of gospel singer Martha Bass who was a member of the Clara Ward Singers. At five years old, Fontella accompanied her grandmother's singing on the piano at funeral services; she sang in her church's choir at six years old and by the time she was nine she was accompanying her mother on tours.

Fontella continued touring with her mother until the age of sixteen. As a teenager, Bass was attracted by more secular music. Throughout high school she began singing R&B songs at local contests and fairs. At seventeen, she started her professional career working at the Showboat Club near Chain of Rocks, Missouri.

In 1961, she auditioned on a dare for the Leon Claxton carnival show and was hired to play piano and sing in the chorus for two weeks, making $175 per week for the two weeks. She wanted to go on tour with Claxton but her mother refused and according to Bass "... she literally dragged me off the train." It was during this brief stint with Claxton that she was heard by vocalist Little Milton and his bandleader Oliver Sain who hired her to back Little Milton on piano for concerts and recording.

Bass originally only played piano with the band, but one night she was asked to sing in an emergency, and was soon given her own featured vocal spot in the show. Milton and Sain eventually split up and Bass went with Sain; he also recruited male singer Bobby McClure and the group became known as "The Oliver Sain Soul Revue featuring Fontella and Bobby McClure."

With the help of Bob Lyons, the manager of St. Louis station KATZ, Bass recorded several songs released through Bobbin Records and produced by Ike Turner. She saw no notable success outside her home town. It was also during this period she met and subsequently married the noted jazz trumpeter Lester Bowie.

Two years later she quit the Milton band and moved to Chicago after a dispute with Oliver Sain. She auditioned for Chess Records, who immediately signed her as a recording artist. Her first works with the label were several duets with Bobby McClure, who had also been signed to the label. Released early in 1965, their recording "Don't Mess Up a Good Thing" found immediate success, reaching the top five at R&B radio and peaking at #33 at pop. In 1979 the song was covered by Ry Cooder with Chaka Khan on Cooder's album Bop 'Til You Drop.


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Rescue MeVery Best of

Bass and McClure followed their early success with "You'll Miss Me (When I'm Gone)" that summer, a song that had mild success, reaching the Top 30 on the R&B chart.

When Bass returned to the studio, she recorded an original composition with an aggressive rhythm section; backing musicians on the track included drummer Maurice White (later the leader of Earth, Wind, & Fire), bassist Louis Satterfield and tenor saxophonist Gene Barge, with the young Minnie Riperton among the background singers.

The song "Rescue Me" shot up the charts in the fall and winter of 1965. After a month-long run at the top of the R&B charts, the song reached #4 at the pop charts and gave Chess its first million-selling single since Chuck Berry a decade earlier. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

Bass followed with "Recovery," which did moderately well, peaking at #13  and #37 on the R&B and pop charts in early 1966. The same year brought two more R&B hits, "I Can't Rest" (backed with "I Surrender)" and "You'll Never Know." H
er only album with Chess Records, The New Look, sold reasonably well, but Bass soon became disillusioned with Chess and decided to leave the label after only two years, in 1967. By her own account, she was cheated out of her royalties for "Rescue Me" which she had co-written with pianist Raynard Miner.

Fed up with the mainstream music scene, she and husband Lester Bowie left America and moved to Paris in 1969, where she recorded two albums in 1970 with the Art Ensemble of Chicago – Art Ensemble of Chicago with Fontella Bass and Les Stances a Sophie; the soundtrack from the French movie of the same title. "Theme De YoYo" to remain an underground cult classic ever since.

Even with the success of "Rescue Me" it was many years and much litigation before Bass would be credited with her share of the songwriting and the royalties.

The next few years found Bass at a number of different labels, but saw no notable successes. After her second album, Free, flopped in 1972, Bass retired from music and concentrated on raising her four children. She returned occasionally, being featured as a background vocalist on several recordings, including those by Bowie.

In 1990 she recorded a gospel album with her mother and brother David Peaston, called Promises: A Family Portrait of Faith. Also during the 1990s she hosted a short-lived Chicago radio talk show, released several gospel records on independent labels; through old friend Hamiet Bluett, she was invited to perform three tracks on the World Saxophone Quartet album Breath of Life.

Fontella is a member of the St. Louis Walk of Fame.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 22: Iron Butterfly bassist Lee Dorman, died on this date in 2012...

... born on September 15, 1942, he was 70-years-old when he died.

Lee Dorman, the bassist for psychedelic rock band Iron Butterfly, died on December 22, 2012 at age 70. Douglas Lee Dorman was born in September 15, 1942 and had been living in Laguna Nigel, a coastal city in Southern California, when he died.

Iron Butterfly was formed and rose to prominence in the late 1960s. Its second album, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," sold more than 30 million copies, according to the band's website. The title track's distinctive notes have been featured in numerous films and TV shows including "The Simpsons," "That `70s Show" and in the series finale of "Rescue Me."

Dorman was found dead in a vehicle. Foul play was not suspected. He has suffered from heart problems for some time and has ended his music career.  Dorman may have been on his way to a doctor's appointment when he died.


Lee was a producer, song writer and arranger. For over 30 years, Dorman had been the driving force of Iron Butterfly. He discovered the rock groups Blues Image (of "Ride, Captain, Ride" fame) and Black Oak Arkansas and successfully engineered recording contracts for both bands on the ATCO label (a subsidiary of Atlantic Records). He also co-produced the first Black Oak album, called Black Oak Arkansas. After touring with Iron Butterfly for 7 years, he created the progressive rock band Captain Beyond.

Known for being ahead of its time with its jazz-rock influences in multi-time signatures, the group today, still has a cult following throughout the world and even has three "unofficial" websites ... one of which is Japanese. Lee, who has had a major influence on bass players for the past 30 years, has also produced, written and arranged the music for a Harley Davidson promotional video. He had been working on his autobiography, a cookbook, and involved with the VH1 production "Where Are They Now?" segment on Iron Butterfly, and co-producing Iron Butterfly's Spring 1997 European Tour Video, to be released in the near future.

For more on Iron Butterfly, visit their Website at -

Sunday, December 16, 2012

December 16: Nicolette Larson - "Lotta Love" – died on this date in 1997…

… born on July 17, 1952, she died as a result of complications arising from cerebral edema and liver failure.

Nicolette Larson was born on July 17, 1952 in Helena, Montana. Larson attended the University of Missouri for three semesters and also waitressed and did office jobs before giving in to the pursuit of a musical career she'd dreamed of since singing along to the radio as a child.

Larson eventually settled in San Francisco where she worked in a record store; her volunteer work as support staff for the Golden Gate Country Bluegrass Festival brought encouragement for her vocal ambitions and she began performing in Bay Area showcases, eventually making her professional debut opening for Eric Andersen at a club in Vancouver, B.C.

In 1975 Larson auditioned for Hoyt Axton who was producing Commander Cody with the result that Larson also performed with "Hoyt Axton and The Bananna Band" during their gig opening for Joan Baez on the 1975 "Diamonds and Rust" tour and earned her first recording credit on the 1975 Commander Cody album Tales From the Ozone: Larson would also provide background vocals for Commander Cody albums in 1977 and 1978.

Other early session singing credits for Larson were for Hoyt Axton and Guy Clark in 1976 and in 1977 for Mary Kay Place, Rodney Crowell, Billy Joe Shaver, Jesse Colin Young, Jesse Winchester and Gary Stewart.

She is perhaps best known for her work in the late 1970s with Neil Young, as well as her 1978 cover of Young's "Lotta Love.” The song, her debut single, was a Number One Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks hit and No. 8 pop hit that year. It was followed by four more Adult Contemporary hits, two of which were also minor pop hits.

Larson's work with Emmylou Harris — the 1977 album Luxury Liner prominently showcased Larson on the cut "Hello Stranger" — led to her meeting Harris' associate and friend Linda Ronstadt who became friends with Larson.

With close pal Linda Ronstadt
In the spring of 1977 Larson was at Ronstadt's Malibu home when neighbor Neil Young phoned to ask Ronstadt if she could recommend a female vocal accompanist, and Ronstadt suggested Larson. The following week Ronstadt and Larson cut their vocals for Young's American Stars 'n Bars album at Young's La Honda ranch — the two women were billed on the album as "the Bullets."

By 1985, she shifted her focus to country music, charting six times on the Hot Country Singles (now Hot Country Songs) charts. Her only Top 40 country hit was "That's How You Know When Love's Right,” a duet with Steve Wariner.

Her daughter - Elsie May Larson-Kunkel - is also a recording artist. 


Monday, December 10, 2012

Dec 10: Kenny Dino- "Your Ma Said You Cried in Your Sleep Last Night" – died on this date in 2009…

… he died of a heart attack while driving on a Florida highway. Born on July 12, 1939, he was 70-years-old when he passed away.

A native of Astoria in Queens, NY, Kenneth J. Diono‘s family moved to suburban Hicksville, Long Island, in 1955. He spent seven summers on his grandfather's farm. Enlisting in the U.S. Navy in 1957, Dino spent several months stationed in Iceland. While there, he succumbed to friends' urging and entered a music talent competition. Singing an Elvis Presley tune, he placed second in the contest.

He continued to sing while stationed in Maine, Florida, and Texas. Forming a band with five Mexican-American vocalists, Dino spent three years touring throughout Texas and Louisiana. A semi-regular performer at the San Antonio Blues Club, he often jammed with a young Doug Sahm.

Back in New York, Dino signed with the Dot label. The association was short-lived, however. When the label found that Dino was not the "new" Pat Boone as it had hoped, it severed the contract. Switching to Columbia, Dino continued to struggle.

An intended album was not released, while Dino turned down an invitation to form a duo with Paul Simon, who was using the name Jerry Landis. Although he recorded several demos for Elvis Presley, including "Good Luck Charm," Columbia was unsure whether to market him as an Elvis-like rocker or a Roy Orbison-esque balladeer and forced him to turn down an opportunity to record "Suspicious Minds." The song became a chart-topping hit for Terry Stafford 13 months later.

Dino's only hit was "Your Ma Said You Cried in Your Sleep Last Night", a #24 U.S. Pop hit in 1961. Robert Plant later covered this tune on his 1990 release, Manic Nirvana.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December 5: Jazz legend, Dave Brubeck, died on this date in 2012...


... he died one day before his 92nd birthday.

Jazz pianist David Warren "Dave" Brubeck who was born in 1920, has written a number of jazz standards, including "In Your Own Sweet Way" and "The Duke." He did not write the song The Dave Brucbeck Quartet is best known for, "Take Five." The piece, which is in 5/4 time and has endured as a jazz classic on the top-selling jazz album of all time, Time Out, was the creation of his long-time musical partner, alto saxophonist Paul Desmond.

Brubeck was born in Concord, California. His father was a cattle rancher, his mother, who had studied piano in England and hoped to become a concert pianist, taught piano. Brubeck took lessons from his mother, but didn't plan on a career in music like his two older brothers, Henry and Howard.

Instead, Dave planned on becoming a rancher like his dad and enrolled in the College of the Pacific (now the University of the Pacific) studying veterinary science. He did poorly, and transferred to the music conservatory, but was nearly expelled when it was discovered he could not read music. A few professors came to his defense, and he was allowed to stay as long as he promised never to teach piano.

After graduating in 1942, Brubeck was drafted into the army and served overseas in George Patton's Third Army. He was spared from service in the Battle of the Bulge when he volunteered to play piano at a Red Cross show; he was such a hit he was ordered to form a band. Thus he created one of the U.S. armed forces' first racially integrated bands, "The Wolfpack." He met Paul Desmond in early 1944 while in the Army.

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Time Out -50th Anniversary (2 CD/1 DVD Legacy Edition)Legacy of a LegendJazz Impressions of New YorkAt Carnegie HallFor All TimeThe Definitive Dave Brubeck on Fantasy, Concord Jazz and Telarc

After his enlistment was up Dave returned to college this time attending Mills College and studying under Darius Milhaud, who encouraged him to study fugue and orchestration, but not classical piano.

After completing his studies, Brubeck helped to establish Berkeley, California's Fantasy Records. He worked with an octet and a trio that included Cal Tjader and Ron Crotty. Highly experimental, the trio was often joined by Paul Desmond.

Brubeck organized The Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951, with Desmond on saxophone. They played at San Francisco's Black Hawk nightclub and gained great popularity touring college campuses, and recorded albums including  Jazz at Oberlin, Jazz at College of the Pacific both in 1953, and in the following year, Brubeck's debut on Columbia Records, Jazz Goes to College. That same year, Brubeck, whose music is known for employing unusual time signatures, and superimposing contrasting rhythms, meters, and tonalities, he was featured on the cover of Time magazine, the second jazz musician to be so honored. The first was Louis Armstrong on February 21, 1949.

In 1996, he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2006, Brubeck was awarded the University of Notre Dame's Laetare Medal, the oldest and most prestigious honor given to American Catholics, during the University's commencement. He performed "Travellin' Blues" for the graduating class of 2006.

Brubeck founded the Brubeck Institute with his wife Iola at their alma mater, the University of the Pacific in 2000. What began as a special archive, consisting of the personal document collection of the Brubeck's has since expanded to provide fellowships and educational opportunities in jazz for students.

Brubeck was inducted into the California Hall of Fame on December 10, 2008, and, on December 6, 2009 - his 89th birthday- he became a Kennedy Center Honoree for exhibiting excellence in performance arts. On September 20, 2009, at Monterey Jazz Festival, Brubeck was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree (D.Mus. honoris causa) from Berklee College of Music.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

December 4: William "Liam" Clancy with The Clancy Brothers died on this date in 2009...

....He died at the age of 74 from pulmonary fibrosis.

Liam, known as William or Willie when he was a child was born in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, Ireland. One of 11 children, he was the youngest and last surviving member of the group, considered by many as Ireland's first pop stars. Liam was regarded as the group's most powerful vocalist, and Bob Dylan once called him the greatest ballad singer ever. He also played guitar and concertina.

The Clancy Brothers recorded 55 albums, and appeared in front of sold-out audiences at Carnegie Hall, New York and the Royal Albert Hall, London. They were best known for their work with Tommy Makem, recording dozens of albums together as The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. They were a primary influence on a young Bob Dylan and on many other emerging artists.

Press links below to view You Tube videos:

-- "Whistling Gypsy Rover" (with Tommy Makem)
-- "Oro Se Do Bheatha Bhaile" (with Tommy Makem)
For more about Liam, visit his Website at -


The Clancy Brothers & Tommy MakemIn Person At Carnegie Hall Vinyl LP