The definitive modern jazz guitarist, whose bluesy, soulful grit and gospel-tinged singing made him a commercial and critical success.
On March 22, 1943, was born George Benson, ten-time Grammy Award winning jazz and /pop singer, songwriter guitarist who began his professional career at twenty-one, as a jazz guitarist.
Simply one of the greatest guitarists in jazz history, George Benson is an amazingly versatile musician, whose adept skills find him crossing easily between straight-ahead jazz, smooth jazz, and contemporary R&B. Blessed with supreme taste, a beautiful, rounded guitar tone, terrific speed, a marvelous sense of logic in building solos, and, always, an unquenchable urge to swing, Benson's inspirations may have been Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery, but his style is completely his own. Not only can he play lead brilliantly, he is also one of the best rhythm guitarists around, supportive to soloists and a dangerous swinger, particularly in a soul-jazz format. Yet Benson can also sing in a lush, soulful tenor with mannerisms similar to those of Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway, and it is his voice that has proven more marketable to the public than his guitar. Benson is the guitar-playing equivalent of Nat King Cole -- a fantastic pianist whose smooth way with a pop vocal eventually eclipsed his instrumental prowess in the marketplace -- but unlike Cole, Benson has been granted enough time after his fling with the pop charts to reaffirm his jazz guitar credentials, which he still does at his concerts.
Benson actually started out professionally as a singer, performing in nightclubs at eight, recording four sides for RCA's X label in 1954, and forming a rock band at 17 while using a guitar that his stepfather made for him. Exposure to records by Christian, Montgomery and Charlie Parker got him interested in jazz, and by 1962, the teenage Benson was playing in Brother Jack McDuff's band. After forming his own group in 1965, Benson became another of talent scout John Hammond's major discoveries, recording two highly regarded albums of soul-jazz and hard bop for Columbia and turning up on several records by others, including Miles Davis' Miles in the Sky. He switched to Verve in 1967, and, shortly after the death of Montgomery in June 1968, producer Creed Taylor began recording him with larger ensembles on A&M (1968-1969) and big groups and all-star combos on CTI (1971-1976).
While the A&M and CTI albums certainly earned their keep and made Benson a guitar star in the jazz world, the mass market didn't catch on until he began to emphasize vocals after signing with Warner Bros. in 1976. His first album for Warner Bros., Breezin', became a Top Ten hit on the strength of its sole vocal track, "This Masquerade," and this led to a string of hit albums in an R&B-flavored pop mode, culminating with the Quincy Jones-produced Give Me the Night. As the '80s wore on, though, Benson's albums became riddled with commercial formulas and inferior material, with his guitar almost entirely relegated to the background. Perhaps aware of the futility of chasing the charts (after all, "This Masquerade" was a lucky accident), Benson reversed his field late in the '80s to record a fine album of standards, Tenderly, and another with the Basie band, his guitar now featured more prominently. His pop-flavored work also improved noticeably in the '90s. Benson retains the ability to spring surprises on his fans and critics, like his dazzlingly idiomatic TV appearance and subsequent record date with Benny Goodman in 1975 in honor of John Hammond, and his awesome command of the moment at several Playboy Jazz Festivals in the '80s. His latter-day recordings include the 1998 effort Standing Together, 2000's Absolute Benson, 2001's All Blues, and 2004's Irreplaceable. Three songs from 2006's Givin' It Up, recorded with Al Jarreau, were nominated for Grammy Awards in separate categories.
Benson began to see numerous reissues of his catalog material from his years with producer Creed Taylor on Verve, A&M, and CTI, from 2008 on. In 2009, he signed to Concord and released Songs and Stories for the label; he followed it up with his first primarily instrumental album in 35 years entitled Guitar Man in 2011. Two years later, in 2013, Benson released Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King Cole, featuring arrangements by Nelson Riddle and Randy Waldman. Recorded at the age of 70, it was one of Benson's finest albums.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
R&B vocal quartet with a career marked by amazing versatility and perseverance.
On March 19, 1946, was born Ruth Pointer of the Pointer Sisters; originally an r&b vocal quartet with a career marked by amazing versatility and perseverance; later to become a trio.
On January 23, 1948, was born, Anita Pointer, singer, with the Pointer Sisters.
On July 11, 1951, was born Bonnie Pointer of the Pointer Sisters.
On April 11, 2006, June Pointer, the youngest of the four Pointer Sisters who went from teenage Gospel singers to the top of the Pop charts with such hits as 'Fire', 'Slow Hand' and 'I'm So Excited', died of cancer at the age of 52.
The Pointer Sisters were as chameleonic as David Bowie, if not more so. The sibling group backed Grace Slick and Boz Scaggs, made stops at Sesame Street and the Grand Ole Opry, won a country Grammy, and appeared in the movie Car Wash, all before scoring four consecutive Top Ten Billboard Hot 100 hits in the mid-‘80s. From their early ‘70s releases on Blue Thumb through their ‘80s commercial run on Planet and RCA, the Pointers moved through boogie-woogie, bebop, blues, country, funk, disco, soft rock, electro-pop, hard rock, and several other subgenres as if they were all second nature. The sisters covered Willie Dixon, were covered by Elvis Presley, and released 15 Top 40 Hot 100 singles while sustaining a steady presence on the R&B, club, and adult contemporary charts.
Ruth, Anita, Bonnie, and June Pointer grew up in Oakland, California, daughters of a mother and reverend father who encouraged gospel singing and forbade blues and rock & roll. They developed their love for various forms of secular music through visits and slumber parties at the homes of friends, where they could listen to music and watch programs like American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show. The sisters’ public performances were limited to church, but once they were older, Bonnie and June formed a duo and were eventually joined by Anita; they provided background vocals for a number of artists, including Grace Slick, Boz Scaggs, and Sylvester. While performing with Walter Bishop, they caught the eyes and ears of the Atlantic label, who released The Pointer Sisters' first two singles: 1971’s Honey Cone-like “Don’t Try to Take the Fifth” and the following year’s “Destination No More Heartaches.” Neither song charted, but the abundant potential was obvious.
By the end of 1972, the group was a quartet that also featured Ruth. the Pointers left Atlantic for Blue Thumb, where they released five eclectic albums: The Pointer Sisters (1973), That’s a Plenty (1974), Live at the Opera House (1974), Steppin’ (1975), and Having a Party (1977). Among the hit singles from these releases were the empowering “Yes We Can Can” (written by Allen Toussaint), “How Long (Betcha Got a Chick on the Side)” (a Toussaint-flavored song written by Bonnie and Anita with David Rubinson), and “Going Down Slowly” (a grinding take on Toussaint's “Going Down”). The most successful song of all was “Fairtyale,” a Bonnie- and Anita-penned departure into country music that peaked at number 13 on the Hot 100. This enabled the Pointers to perform at the Grand Ole Opry -- as the first African-American vocal group to do so -- and the song also won the 1974 Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. It was covered by Elvis Presley. The same year Having a Party was issued, the popular children’s television program Sesame Street first aired a classic animated segment called Pinball Number Count, which featured vocals the Pointers recorded several years earlier.
Between the release of Having a Party and the end of 1977, June and Bonnie departed from the group, with the latter initiating a solo career. Ruth and Anita signed a deal with producer Richard Perry's Elektra-affiliated Planet label, and June re-joined in time to record Energy (1978), which featured a cover of Sly & the Family Stone's “Everybody Is a Star” and the Toussaint-written “Happiness” (the group’s first single to hit the disco chart) but was otherwise rooted in rock, with interpretations of Steely Dan, Bob Welch-era Fleetwood Mac, and the Doobie Brothers, along with the second released recording -- following a version by Robert Gordon -- of Bruce Springsteen's “Fire,” a song intended for Elvis Presley. the Pointers took it to number two on the Hot 100 chart. The rest of the group’s years with Perry and Planet were extremely successful, culminating with 1983’s Break Out, an album that went multi-platinum due to a string of four state-of-the-art dance-pop singles. “Automatic,” “Jump (For My Love),” a remix of 1982’s “I’m So Excited,” and “Neutron Dance” all peaked in the Hot 100’s Top Ten. The women won two additional Grammys.
During the latter half of the ‘80s and the early ‘90s, The Pointer Sisters released five more albums on RCA, Motown, and SBK. 1985’s Contact, featuring the crossover hit “Dare Me,” was the group’s last album to go platinum. While they did not record any albums after 1993’s Only Sisters Can Do That, they continued to perform on an infrequent basis. Issa, Ruth’s daughter, provided backing vocals on the final album and joined as a full member when June left for health reasons. A victim of lung cancer, June passed away in 2006. The Pointer Sisters, however, continued performing throughout the rest of the decade.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
One of the first politically conscious female rappers, she also became a successful actress.
On March 18, 1970, was born Queen Latifah (Dana Elaine Owens), rapper (1989 - 2002 and 2010 - present), singer (2003 - 2009), songwriter, singer, actress, model, television producer, record producer, comedienne, and talk show host. Her work in music, film, and television has earned her a Golden Globe award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Image Awards, a Grammy Award, six additional Grammy nominations, an Emmy Award nomination and an Academy Award nomination. She most recently hosted her own talk show, The Queen Latifah Show, which was canceled in 2014.
Queen Latifah was certainly not the first female rapper, but she was the first one to become a bona fide star. She had more charisma than her predecessors, and her strong, intelligent, no-nonsense persona made her arguably the first MC who could properly be described as feminist. Her third album, Black Reign, was the first album by a female MC ever to go gold, a commercial breakthrough that paved the way for a talented crew of women rappers to make their own way onto the charts as the '90s progressed. Latifah herself soon branched out into other media, appearing in movies and sitcoms and even hosting her own talk show. Yet even with all the time she spent away from recording, she remained perhaps the most recognizable woman in hip-hop, with a level of respect that bordered on iconic status.
Queen Latifah was born Dana Owens in Newark, NJ, on March 18, 1970; her Muslim cousin gave her the nickname Latifah -- an Arabic word meaning "delicate" or "sensitive" -- when she was eight. As a youngster, she starred in her high school's production of The Wiz, and began rapping in high school with a group called Ladies Fresh, in which she also served as a human beatbox. In college, she adopted the name Queen Latifah and hooked up with Afrika Bambaataa's Native Tongues collective, which sought to bring a more positive, Afrocentric consciousness to hip-hop. She recorded a demo that landed her a record deal with Tommy Boy, and released her first single, "Wrath of My Madness," in 1988; it was followed by "Dance for Me." In 1989, Latifah's full-length debut, All Hail the Queen, was released to strongly favorable reviews, and the classic single "Ladies First" broke her to the hip-hop audience. In addition to tough-minded hip-hop, the album also found Latifah dabbling in R&B, reggae, and house, and duetting with KRS-One and De La Soul. It sold very well, climbing into the Top Ten of the R&B album charts. Latifah quickly started a management company, Flavor Unit Entertainment, and was responsible for discovering Naughty by Nature. Her 1991 sophomore album, the lighter Nature of a Sista, wasn't quite as popular, and when her contract with Tommy Boy was up, the label elected not to re-sign her. Unfortunately, things got worse from there -- she was the victim of a carjacking, and her brother Lance perished in a motorcycle accident.
Latifah emerged with a new sense of purpose and secured a deal with Motown, which issued Black Reign in 1993. Dedicated to her brother, it became her most popular album, eventually going gold; it also featured her biggest hit single, "U.N.I.T.Y.," which hit the R&B Top Ten and won a Grammy for Best Solo Rap Performance. By this point, Latifah had already begun her acting career, appearing in Jungle Fever, House Party 2, and Juice, as well as the TV series The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. In 1993, she was tabbed to co-star in the Fox comedy series Living Single, which ran until 1997; during that period, acting was her primary focus, and she also co-starred as a bank robber in the 1996 film Set It Off. That same year, Latifah was pulled over for speeding and was arrested when a loaded gun and marijuana were discovered in her vehicle; she pled guilty to the charges and was fined.
After Living Single was canceled in 1997, Latifah returned to the recording studio and finally began work on her fourth album. Order in the Court was released in 1998 and found her playing up the R&B elements of her sound in a manner that led some critics to draw comparisons to Missy Elliott; she took more sung vocals, and also duetted with Faith Evans and the Fugees' Pras. The album sold respectably well on the strength of the singles "Bananas (Who You Gonna Call?)" and "Paper." The same year, she appeared in the films Sphere and Living Out Loud, singing several jazz standards in the latter. The Queen Latifah Show, a daytime talk show, debuted in 1999 and ran in syndication until 2001. In November 2002, Latifah ran afoul of the law again; she was pulled over by police and failed a sobriety test, and was placed on three years' probation after pleading guilty to DUI charges. However, this mishap was somewhat overshadowed by her performance in the acclaimed movie musical Chicago, which garnered her Best Supporting Actress nominations from both the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globes.
In 2004, she released The Dana Owens Album, a diverse collection of covers and interpretations -- from Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band's "Hard Times" to Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life" -- that highlighted her singing skills rather than her rapping. Trav'lin' Light followed with a similar format in 2007, ranging from the Pointer Sisters to Shirley Horn, with guest appearances from Joe Sample, George Duke, Erykah Badu, and Jill Scott. During the years between the releases, she acted in several movies, including Taxi, Beauty Shop, Last Holiday, and Hairspray. In 2009, she released the star-studded Persona, a pop-flavored album produced by Cool & Dre.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
The "wicked Pickett," raucous, sensual, was one of the greatest southern soul singers to emerge during the 1960s.
On March 18, 1941, was born Wilson Pickett, US soul singer, (1965 UK No.12 & US No. 21 single 'In The Midnight Hour' plus 15 other US Top 40 singles). Pickett died of a heart attack on 19th Jan 2006 aged 64.
Of the major '60s soul stars, Wilson Pickett was one of the roughest and sweatiest, working up some of the decade's hottest dancefloor grooves on hits like "In the Midnight Hour," "Land of 1000 Dances," "Mustang Sally," and "Funky Broadway." Although he tends to be held in somewhat lower esteem than more versatile talents like Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin, he is often a preferred alternative of fans who like their soul on the rawer side. He also did a good deal to establish the sound of Southern soul with his early hits, which were often written and recorded with the cream of the session musicians in Memphis and Muscle Shoals.
Before establishing himself as a solo artist, Pickett sang with the Falcons, who had a Top Ten R&B hit in 1962 with "I Found a Love." "If You Need Me" (covered by the Rolling Stones) and "It's Too Late" were R&B hits for the singer before he hooked up with Atlantic Records, who sent him to record at Stax in Memphis in 1965. One early result was "In the Midnight Hour," whose chugging horn line, loping funky beats, and impassioned vocals combined into a key transitional performance that brought R&B into the soul age. It was an R&B chart-topper and a substantial pop hit (number 21), though its influence was stronger than that respectable position might indicate: thousands of bands, black and white, covered "In the Midnight Hour" on-stage and record in the 1960s.
Pickett had a flurry of other galvanizing soul hits over the next few years, including "634-5789," "Mustang Sally," and "Funky Broadway," all of which, like "In the Midnight Hour," were frequently adapted by other bands as dance-ready numbers. The king of that hill, though, had to be "Land of 1000 Dances," Pickett's biggest pop hit (number six), a soul anthem of sorts with its roll call of popular dances, and covered by almost as many acts as "Midnight Hour" was.
Pickett didn't confine himself to the environs of Stax for long; soon he was also cutting tracks at Muscle Shoals. He recorded several early songs by Bobby Womack. He used Duane Allman as a session guitarist on a hit cover of the Beatles' "Hey Jude." He cut some hits in Philadelphia with Gamble & Huff productions in the early '70s. He even did a hit version of the Archies' "Sugar, Sugar." The hits kept rolling through the early '70s, including "Don't Knock My Love" and "Get Me Back on Time, Engine Number 9."
One of the corollaries of '60s soul is that if a performer rose to fame with Motown or Atlantic, he or she would produce little of note after leaving the label. Pickett, unfortunately, did not prove an exception to the rule. His last big hit was "Fire and Water," in 1972. He continued to be active on the tour circuit; his most essential music, all from the 1960s and early '70s, was assembled for the superb Rhino double-CD anthology A Man and a Half. It's Harder Now, his first new material in over a decade, followed in 1999. Pickett spent the early part of the 2000s performing, before retiring in late 2004 due to ill health. He passed away on January 19, 2006, following a heart attack.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
One of the great pop vocalists of all time, and a major figure in the development of jazz piano.
On March 17, 1919, was born Nat King Cole, singer, (1955 US No.2 single 'A Blossom Fell', 1957 UK No.2 single 'When I Fall In Love' plus over 20 other US & UK Top 40 singles). Father of singer Natalie Cole. Cole died of lung cancer on February 15th 1965.
For a mild-mannered man whose music was always easy on the ear, Nat King Cole managed to be a figure of considerable controversy during his 30 years as a professional musician. From the late '40s to the mid-'60s, he was a massively successful pop singer who ranked with such contemporaries as Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and Dean Martin. He shared with those peers a career that encompassed hit records, international touring, radio and television shows, and appearances in films. But unlike them, he had not emerged from a background as a band singer in the swing era. Instead, he had spent a decade as a celebrated jazz pianist, leading his own small group. Oddly, that was one source of controversy. For some reason, there seem to be more jazz critics than fans of traditional pop among music journalists, and Cole's transition from jazz to pop during a period when jazz itself was becoming less popular was seen by them as a betrayal. At the same time, as a prominent African-American entertainer during an era of tumultuous change in social relations among the races in the U.S., he sometimes found himself out of favor with different warring sides. His efforts at integration, which included suing hotels that refused to admit him and moving into a previously all-white neighborhood in Los Angeles, earned the enmity of racists; once, he was even physically attacked on-stage in Alabama. But civil rights activists sometimes criticized him for not doing enough for the cause.
Such controversies do not obscure his real talent as a performer, however. The dismay of jazz fans at his abandonment of jazz must be measured against his accomplishments as a jazz musician. An heir of Earl Hines, whom he studied closely as a child in Chicago, Cole was an influence on such followers as Oscar Peterson. And his trio, emerging in the dying days of the swing era, helped lead the way in small-band jazz. The rage felt by jazz fans as he moved primarily to pop singing is not unlike the anger folk music fans felt when Bob Dylan turned to rock in the mid-'60s; in both cases, it was all the more acute because fans felt one of their leaders, not just another musician, was going over to the enemy. Less well remembered, however, are Cole's accomplishments during and after the transition. His rich, husky voice and careful enunciation, and the warmth, intimacy, and good humor of his approach to singing, allowed him to succeed with both ballads and novelties such that he scored over 100 pop chart singles and more than two dozen chart albums over a period of 20 years, enough to rank him behind only Sinatra as the most successful pop singer of his generation.
Nat King Cole was born Nathaniel Adams Coles on Montgomery, AL, on March 17, 1919. (In his early years of music-making, he dispensed with the "s" at the end of his name.) As a black child born to a poor family in the American South at that time, he did not have a birth certificate; his March 17 birthday was recalled because it was also St. Patrick's Day. He listed conflicting years of birth on legal documents during his life; most sources give the year as 1917. (Biographer Daniel Mark Epstein, for his 1999 book Nat King Cole, consulted the 1920 census to determine that the Coles household had a male infant at that time and confirm the birth year as 1919.) Cole's father was a butcher who aspired to the Baptist ministry, and when Cole was four the family moved to Chicago, where his father eventually succeeded in becoming a preacher.
Like his older brother Eddie, who became a bass player, Cole showed an early interest in music. He was taught piano by his mother as a child and later took lessons. Also like his brother, he turned professional early; by his teens, he was leading a band, called either the Royal Dukes or the Rogues of Rhythm, and he dropped out of high school at 15 to go into music full-time. The following year, Eddie, who had been touring with Noble Sissle's band, returned to Chicago and the brothers organized their own sextet. On July 28, 1936, as Eddie Cole's Swingsters, they recorded two singles for Decca Records, Nat King Cole's recording debut. That fall, they were hired to perform in a revival of the all-black Broadway musical revue Shuffle Along. Unlike his brother, Cole remained with the show when it went on tour, in part because his girlfriend, dancer Nadine Robinson, stayed with it as well. The two married in Michigan on January 27, 1937, even though Cole was only 17 years old. The tour made its way around the country, finally closing in Los Angeles in May. Cole and his wife remained there, living at first with her aunt, while Cole sought employment as a musician. He briefly led a big band, then played solo piano in clubs.
While performing at the Café Century during the summer of 1937, Cole was approached by the manager of the Swanee Inn, who invited him to put together a small band to play in the club. With guitarist Oscar Moore and bassist Wesley Prince, the act debuted that fall, drawing upon the children's nursery rhyme ("Old King Cole was a merry old soul...") for the name the King Cole Swingsters, later simply the King Cole Trio. The group gradually built up a following, with Cole emerging as a singer as well as a pianist. By September 1938, they had begun making radio transcriptions, originally not intended for commercial release, though they have since been issued. In 1939 and 1940, they made occasional recordings for small labels while expanding their live performing to include appearances across the country and radio work. In late 1940 they were contracted by Decca. Their 1941 recording of Cole's composition "That Ain't Right" hit number one on Billboard magazine's Harlem Hit Parade (i.e., R&B) chart on January 30, 1943, Cole's first successful record. By that time, Prince had left the group to work for the war effort, replaced by Johnny Miller.
The King Cole Trio's contract with Decca expired before "That Ain't Right" became a hit. Their next single, "All for You," was recorded for the tiny Excelsior label in October 1942. After its initial release, it was purchased by Capitol Records and reissued. On November 20, 1943, it became the group's second number one hit on the Harlem Hit Parade. It also crossed over to the pop chart. With that, Capitol signed Cole directly. The trio's first Capitol session produced both the Cole composition "Straighten Up and Fly Right," which topped the black chart for the first of ten weeks on April 29, 1944, spent six weeks at the top of the folk (i.e., country) chart, and reached the Top Ten of the pop chart, and "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You," which topped the black chart on October 21 and also crossed over to the pop chart.
The trio placed another four titles in the black chart during 1944, and Capitol released its debut album, The King Cole Trio (catalog number BD-8) that fall. The collection of four 78 rpm discs contained eight tracks, only three of them featuring Cole vocals. When Billboard instituted its first album chart on March 24, 1945, The King Cole Trio was ranked at number one, a position it held for 12 weeks. At the same time, big-band swing music was declining in popularity, and many jazz fans were beginning to turn to the emerging style of bebop, a development that, whatever its artistic significance, spelled the end of jazz as a broadly popular style of music.
The King Cole Trio -- and particularly the singer/pianist then known as "King Cole" -- on the other hand, was going in exactly the opposite direction, as its success on records and at clubs and theaters around the country led to appearances in films and on radio. After numerous guest-star stints on Bing Crosby's Kraft Music Hall radio series, the trio, along with pianist Eddy Duchin, was hired to host the show's summer replacement program for 13 weeks beginning May 16, 1946. During that run, on August 17, The King Cole Trio, Vol. 2 (Capitol BD-29), another set of four 78s, hit number one. Over the next five days, the trio recorded two songs that would add to their pop success. Mel Tormé and Robert Wells' "The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)" (better known by its opening line, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire"), recorded August 19, was Cole's first disc to feature strings. "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons," though it only featured the trio, demonstrated that Cole was more than capable of handling a straight romantic ballad, not just the uptempo novelties with which he and the group had succeeded up until this point.
"(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons" became Cole's first number one pop single on December 28, 1946; "The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)" peaked at number three, going on to become a holiday perennial and million seller. While these hits were developing, the trio went from its summer replacement berth to its own network radio series, King Cole Trio Time, a 15-minute Saturday afternoon program that debuted on October 19, 1946, and ran until April 1948. The group's recording schedule during the first half of 1947 was relatively light, but the pace picked up considerably starting in August, in anticipation of the musicians' strike called for January 1, 1948. On August 22, 1947, with an orchestral backing, Cole recorded "Nature Boy," an unusual philosophical ballad. Released March 29, 1948, and credited to "King Cole," it hit number one for the first of eight weeks on May 8, becoming a gold record.
Oscar Moore, the trio's original guitarist, left the group in October 1947 after ten years and was replaced by Irving Ashby. In March 1948, Cole divorced his wife and married singer Marie Ellington. Among the couple's children was Natalie Cole, who became a singer. Bass player Johnny Miller quit the trio in August 1948 and was replaced by Joe Comfort. In February 1949, Cole added percussionist Jack Costanzo to the group, which thereafter was billed as "Nat 'King' Cole & the Trio." As of the spring of 1950, Cole's recordings were being credited simply to "Nat 'King' Cole." On July 8 of that year, his recording of the wistful movie theme "Mona Lisa," featuring a string chart arranged by Nelson Riddle, became Cole's third number one pop hit and gold record.
That September, he traveled to Europe for his first international tour, beginning a pattern that would find him giving concerts almost continually in a combination of top nightclubs in major cities and concert halls around the U.S., with occasional trips to Europe, the Far East, and Latin America and extended stays at Las Vegas casinos. In these appearances, he stood for most of the show, only occasional sitting down to play a number or two at the piano. Ashby and Comfort left in 1951, and an announcement was made that the trio was officially dissolved, but that simply meant that Cole henceforth would be billed as a solo act. In practice, he continued to carry a guitarist, John Collins, and a bassist, Charles Harris, along with Costanzo (until he left in 1953 and was replaced by drummer Lee Young), while often augmenting them with an orchestra.
Cole scored his fourth number one pop hit and gold record with "Too Young," which topped the charts on June 23, 1951. His recording of "Unforgettable" peaked at only number 12 on February 2, 1952, but it went on to become one of his better remembered recordings; in 1991, a version of the song by Natalie Cole with the Nat King Cole recording dubbed onto it became a gold record and won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. With his 1952 LP Penthouse Serenade, Cole showed that he was not yet ready to dispense with his jazz chops entirely. The disc was an instrumental collection that spent one week at number ten in the album chart in October. Meanwhile, he was also looking for new challenges, taking on small acting roles in the films The Blue Gardenia and Small Town Girl and the television drama Song for a Banjo in 1953. His 1953 album Nat King Cole Sings for Two in Love, arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle, was a Top Ten hit in early 1954 that predated similar "concept" albums by Frank Sinatra.
Although Cole did not score a number one hit in 1953 ("Pretend" peaked at number two), his seven chart entries were enough to rank him among the ten most successful singles artists of the year. His five chart singles in 1954, among them the gold-selling Top Ten hit "Answer Me, My Love," allowed him to repeat this ranking the following year, and he did the same thing in 1955 with another eight chart entries, including the Top Ten hits "Darling Je Vous Aime Beaucoup," "A Blossom Fell," and "If I May." Nine more chart entries allowed him to stay among the most successful singles artists in 1956, even though none of them reached the Top Ten, and he maintained his rank for the fifth straight year in 1957, reaching the Top Ten (and the top of the R&B chart) with "Send for Me." Though he managed one more Top Ten hit, "Looking Back," in 1958, the rise of rock & roll diminished his success on the singles chart. Meanwhile, he returned to a jazz approach on his 1957 LP After Midnight, which paired his backup group with jazz musicians Harry "Sweets" Edison, Stuff Smith, Willie Smith, and Juan Tizol. It was a modest commercial success, quickly followed by the ballad album Love Is the Thing, arranged and conducted by Gordon Jenkins, which hit number one for the first of eight weeks on May 27, 1957, and eventually was certified platinum.
Meanwhile, in the fall of 1956, Cole became the first African-American host of a network television series when The Nat "King" Cole Show debuted as a 15-minute weekly program on November 5. The show was expanded to a half-hour in July 1957 and ran until December of that year, though it never attracted a national sponsor that might have made it an ongoing success. Cole attributed advertisers' reticence to racism. He returned to his acting career during 1957, appearing in Istanbul and China Gate, and got his most substantial role in 1958 playing blues musician W.C. Handy in a film biography, St. Louis Blues. His last acting role came in Night of the Quarter Moon in 1959. In 1960, he turned his attention to the theater, putting together a musical revue intended for Broadway. The songs were by Dotty Wayne and Ray Rasch, and the album Cole made of them, Wild Is Love, became his first Top Ten LP in three years. The corresponding stage show, I'm With You, was not as successful, opening what was intended to be a pre-Broadway tour in Denver on October 17, 1960, but closing in Detroit on November 26. Cole, however, salvaged the concept of the show for a stage production he called Sights and Sounds: The Merry World of Nat King Cole, featuring a group of dancers and singers, with which he toured regularly from 1961 to 1964.
Cole returned to the Top Ten of the singles chart for the first time in four years with the country-tinged "Ramblin' Rose" in 1962; his album of the same name also reached the Top Ten and eventually was certified platinum. "Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer" became his last Top Ten hit in the summer of 1963. In December 1964, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Two months later, he died of it at the age of 45.
After his death, Cole continued to appeal to the two almost mutually exclusive audiences that had appreciated him during his life. Jazz fans continued to treasure his recordings of the 1930s and 1940s and to dismiss the non-jazz recordings he had made later. (In 1994, German discographer Klaus Teubig compiled Straighten Up and Fly Right: A Chronology and Discography of Nat "King" Cole, which pointedly cut off in the early '50s.) Pop fans clamored for reissues of Cole's 1950s and '60s music, awarding gold record status to compilations that Capitol continued to assemble, without much worrying about the singer's talent as a piano player. (And, as his recordings fell into the public domain in Europe, where there is a 50-year copyright limit, a spate of low-quality reissues assumed flood levels.) But the ongoing debate was only testament to Cole's ongoing attraction for music lovers, which, in the decades following his untimely end, showed no signs of abating.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Funk trailblazer who upended rock and soul in the '60s and '70s as leader of Sly & the Family Stone.
On March 15, 1944, was born Sly Stone, vocals, guitar, keyboards, Sly and the Family Stone, (1968 UK No.7 & US No.8 single 'Dance To The Music', 1969 US No.1 single 'Everyday People').
James Brown may have invented funk, but Sly Stone perfected it; his alchemical fusion of soul, rock, gospel, and psychedelia rejected stylistic boundaries as much as his explosive backing band the Family Stone ignored racial and gender restrictions, creating a series of euphoric yet politically charged records that proved a massive influence on artists of all musical and cultural backgrounds. Sylvester "Sly Stone" Stewart was born March 15, 1943, in Denton, Texas, and raised primarily in Vallejo, California, where he sang with his family's gospel group. After singing lead with a doo wop group called the Viscaynes, at 16 he recorded the local hit "Long Time Gone," concurrently spinning records for Bay Area radio station KSOL. After studying trumpet, composition, and theory at Vallejo Junior College, in 1964 Stewart signed to local label Autumn Records, where he cut a series of solo singles in addition to serving as a house producer; there he helmed Bobby Freeman's national chart smash "C'mon and Swim" as well as sessions by the Beau Brummels, the Mojo Men, and the Great Society.
In 1966, Stewart formed the group Sly & the Stoners, while his younger brother Freddie led his own band, Freddie & the Stone Souls; soon the siblings merged the two acts, and with bassist Larry Graham, trumpeter Cynthia Robinson, saxophonist Jerry Martini, and drummer Greg Errico, Sly & the Family Stone were born. After issuing their debut single, "I Ain't Got Nobody," on the local Loadstone imprint, the group signed to Epic to release their 1967 debut LP, A Whole New Thing; Dance to the Music followed in 1968, and generated a Top Ten hit with the title cut. Later that year, Sly & the Family Stone topped both the pop and R&B charts with the two-sided smash "Everyday People" b/w "Sing a Simple Song"; and with the classic Stand!, the band's music became increasingly politicized on standouts like the hit title track and "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey." As the group's chief vocalist, songwriter, and producer, Stone pushed the envelope further with each successive release; and with the 1970 chart-topper "Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin," he essentially created the sonic blueprint for the funk and disco that dominated the decade to follow via a percussive groove propelled by Graham's pop-and-slap bassline. Stone also launched his own label, Stone Flower Records, where he wrote and produced sides for other artists, working out sounds and textures that would inform his later work. (The Stone Flower label's output was collected on a 2014 anthology, I'm Just Like You: Sly's Stone Flower 1969-1970.)
However, as the utopian ideals of the '60s gave way to the paranoia and corruption of the '70s, the celebratory sound that once epitomized Sly & the Family Stone gave way to the bleakly unsettling There's a Riot Goin' On, a dark, militant masterpiece that yielded the hits "Family Affair" and "Running Away." Stone's grim world view was due in no small part to his increasing narcotics problem, and he became notorious for arriving late to live gigs or missing shows altogether. Released in 1973, Fresh was Sly & the Family Stone's last truly great album, and after issuing Small Talk the band unraveled, with 1975's High on You credited to Stone alone. As his drug problems and legal battles became public knowledge, efforts like 1976's Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I'm Back and 1979's Back on the Right Track attracted little interest, as did a subsequent tour with George Clinton & the P-Funk All-Stars and a 1983 comeback effort, Ain't But the One Way. After a 1987 single, "Eek-a-Bo-Static," failed to even chart, Stone instead made headlines for a cocaine bust that led to his incarceration. Despite Sly & the Family Stone being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, Stone failed to make a substantial comeback in the '90s, or in the new millennium.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
A fine trumpeter, a terrific arranger and composer, and one of the landmark executives in the history of the music industry.
On March 14, 1933, was born Quincy Jones, the bandleader, musician, and producer who scored the 1978 US No.1 single 'Stuff Like That', has a record 79 Grammy Award nominations. Jones was the producer of the three albums by Michael Jackson, Off The Wall, Bad and Thriller, which has now sold more than 100 million copies worldwide.
In a musical career that has spanned six decades, Quincy Jones has earned his reputation as a renaissance man of American music. Jones has distinguished himself as a bandleader, a solo artist, a sideman, a songwriter, a producer, an arranger, a film composer, and a record label executive, and outside of music, he's also written books, produced major motion pictures, and helped create television series. And a quick look at a few of the artists Jones has worked with suggests the remarkable diversity of his career -- Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Lesley Gore, Michael Jackson, Peggy Lee, Ray Charles, Paul Simon, and Aretha Franklin.
Jones was born in Chicago, Illinois, on March 14, 1933. When he was still a youngster, his family moved to Seattle, WA, and he soon developed an interest in music. In his early teens, Jones began learning the trumpet, and started singing with a local gospel group. By the time he graduated from high school in 1950, Jones had displayed enough promise to win a scholarship to Boston-based music school Schillinger House (which later became known as the Berklee School of Music). After a year at Schillinger, Jones relocated to New York City, where he found work as an arranger, writing charts for Count Basie, Cannonball Adderley, Tommy Dorsey, and Dinah Washington, among others. In 1953, Jones scored his first big break as a performer; he was added to the brass section of Lionel Hampton's orchestra, where he found himself playing alongside jazz legends Art Farmer and Clifford Brown. Three years later, Dizzy Gillespie tapped Jones to play in his band, and later in 1956, when Gillespie was invited to put together a big band of outstanding international musicians, Diz chose Quincy to lead the ensemble. Jones also released his first album under his own name that year, a set for ABC-Paramount appropriately entitled This Is How I Feel About Jazz.
In 1957, Jones moved to Paris in order to study with Nadia Boulanger, an expatriate American composer with a stellar track record in educating composers and bandleaders. During his sojourn in France, Jones took a job with the French record label Barclay, where he produced and arranged sessions for Jacques Brel and Charles Aznavour, as well as traveling American artists, including Billy Eckstine and Sarah Vaughan. Jones' work for Barclay impressed the management at Mercury Records, a American label affiliated with the French imprint, and in 1961, he was named a vice president for Mercury, the first time an African-American had been hired as an upper-level executive by a major U.S. recording company. Jones scored one of his first major pop successes when he produced and arranged "It's My Party" for teenage vocalist Lesley Gore, which marked his first significant step away from jazz into the larger world of popular music. (Jones also freelanced for other labels on the side, including arranging a number of memorable Atlantic sides for Ray Charles.) In 1963, Jones began exploring what would become a fruitful medium for him when he composed his first film score for Sidney Lumet's controversial drama The Pawnbroker; he would go on to write music for 33 feature films, including In Cold Blood, In the Heat of the Night, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, and The Getaway. In 1964, Jones' work with Count Basie led him to arrange and conduct sessions for Frank Sinatra's album It Might as Well Be Swing, recorded in collaboration with Basie and his orchestra; he also worked with Sinatra and Basie again as an arranger for the award-winning Sinatra at the Sands set, and would produce and arrange one of Sinatra's last albums, L.A. Is My Lady, in 1984.
While Jones maintained a busy schedule as a composer, producer, and arranger through the 1960s, he also re-emerged as a recording artist in 1969 with the album Walking in Space, which found Jones recasting his big-band influences within the framework of the budding fusion movement and the influences of contemporary rock, pop, and R&B sounds. The album was a commercial and critical success, and kick started Jones' career as a recording artist. At the same time, he began working more closely with contemporary pop artists, producing sessions for Aretha Franklin and arranging strings for Paul Simon's There Goes Rhymin' Simon, and while Jones continued to work with jazz artists, many hard-and-fast jazz fans began to accuse Jones of turning his back on the genre, though Jones always contended his greatest allegiance was to African-American musical culture rather than any specific style. (Jones did, however, make one major jazz gesture in 1991, when he persuaded Miles Davis to revisit the classic Gil Evans arrangements from Miles Ahead, Sketches of Spain, and Porgy and Bess for that year's Montreux Jazz Festival; Jones coordinated the concert and led the orchestra, and it proved to be one of the last major events for the ailing Davis, who passed on a few months later.)
In 1974, Jones suffered a life-threatening brain aneurysm, and while he made a full recovery, he also made a decision to cut back on his schedule to spend more time with his family. While Jones may have had fewer projects on his plate in the late '70s and early '80s, they tended to be higher profile from this point on; he produced major chart hits for the Brothers Johnson and Rufus & Chaka Khan, and his own albums grew into all-star productions in which Jones orchestrated top players and singers in elaborate pop-R&B confections on sets like Body Heat, Sounds...And Stuff Like That!!, and The Dude. Jones' biggest mainstream success, however, came with his work with Michael Jackson; Jones produced his breakout solo album, Off the Wall, in 1979, and in 1982 they teamed up again for Thriller, which went on to become the biggest-selling album of all time. Jones was also on hand for Thriller's follow-up, 1987's Bad, and the celebrated USA for Africa session which produced the benefit single "We Are the World" (written by Jackson and Lionel Richie), and he produced a rare album in which Jackson narrated the story of the film E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.
Having risen to the heights of the recording industry, in 1985 Jones moved from scoring films to producing them; his first screen project was the screen adaptation of Alice Walker's novel The Color Purple, which was directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Whoopi Goldberg. In 1991 he moved into television production with the situation comedy The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, which gave Will Smith his first starring role. Jones' production company also launched several other successful shows, including In the House and Mad TV. He also produced a massive concert to help commemorate the 1993 inauguration of president Bill Clinton, and at the 1995 Academy Awards won the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, a prize that doubtless found its place beside Quincy's 26 Grammy awards. In 1996 Jones performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival to celebrate his 50th anniversary in the music business. The concert was captured on video and released as a DVD by Eagle Rock. Jones spent the rest of the '90s and first decade of the new century concentrating on his music publishing business and being an "unofficial" cultural ambassador for the United States.
In 2004 he helped to launch the We Are the Future (WAF) project, benefiting children in conflict-inhibited situations all over the globe. The program is the result of a strategic partnership between the Glocal Forum, the Quincy Jones Listen Up Foundation, and Hani Masri, with the support of the World Bank, UN agencies, and corporations. Jones personally lobbied President Barack Obama to create a secretary of the arts position in his cabinet. He also spent considerable time in Brazil, and in 2009 announced his plans for a film about Carnival and some of the nation's musicians and producers. In 2010 Jones released Q: Soul Bossa Nostra through his Qwest imprint, his first album in 15 years. The set featured appearances by popular vocalists Amy Winehouse, Usher, Tyrese, Tevin Campbell, and LL Cool J, among others. Ludacris and Naturally 7 reprised Jones' 1962 hit "Soul Bossa Nova"; the album's lead single/video was a cover of "Strawberry Letter 23" with lead vocals from Akon. In 2013, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a recipient of the Ahmet Ertegun Award.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Powerful, gospel-influenced soul singer, best remembered for her 1967 hit "Hypnotized."
On March 14, 1972, soul singer, Linda Jones, died at age 26 in New York after collapsing into a diabetic coma following a performance at Harlem's Apollo Theatre in new York. Jones scored the 1967 US No.21 single 'Hypnotized'.
R&B singer Linda Jones earned a cult following for her fervent, gospel-influenced style and powerful vocal acrobatics, and she's still celebrated by soul music fans despite her career being cut down prematurely at the age of 27. Linda Jones was born in Newark, New Jersey on December 14, 1944; her family was steeped in gospel music, and at the age of six she began performing with her siblings in a sacred group, the Jones Singers. As a teenager, Jones began performing rhythm & blues music, and cut her first solo record under the name Linda Lane in 1963, a cover of "Lonely Teardrops," but the record sank without a trace.
Linda's fortunes improved when she met George Kerr, a producer and songwriter who had been a member of Little Anthony & the Imperials. The first two singles Kerr produced for Linda Jones (one on Atco, the other on Blue Cat) fared no better, but in 1967 they landed a deal with Loma Records, an R&B imprint of Warner Bros., and her first 45 for the label, "Hypnotized," was a hit, rising to number 21 on the Pop Singles charts and number four on the Rhythm & Blues survey. The single prompted the release of Jones' first album, also called Hypnotized, and Jones' follow-up, "What've I Done (To Make You Mad)," was a Top Ten hit on the R&B charts, but struggled to 61 on the Pop listings, and 1968's "Give My Love a Try" was a greater disappointment, struggling to number 34 R&B and a dismal number 93 on Pop. While "Hypnotized" found Jones taking a relatively subtle approach to her music, her subsequent sides captured her forceful, melismatic style at full strength, and though soul purists (especially Northern soul collectors in the U.K.) treasured her records, she was a bit too much for Top 40 to take, and Jones would never have another major pop hit.
In 1968, Warner Bros. shut down Loma, and briefly bumped Jones up to their flagship label, but after one single, Jones was a free agent again, and she briefly recorded for Neptune Records, an early label run by Philly soul legends Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. In 1971, Jones landed a new deal with Turbo Records, an offshoot of Sylvia Robinson's All Platinum label, and in 1972, Jones enjoyed her greatest success in four years when her forceful, gospel-leaning cover of Jerry Butler's "For Your Precious Love" made its way on the R&B charts, peaking at number 15, and even enjoying some Pop airplay, where it rose to number 72. Sadly, Jones' comeback would be short-lived. Jones, who struggled with diabetes, toured hard in support of "For Your Precious Love," and she was booked to play two shows at New York's famed Apollo Theater on March 14, 1972. After a matinee performance, Jones went to her mother's house in Newark to eat dinner and take a nap before playing her evening show, but when her mother tried to wake her, she discovered Linda had slipped into a diabetic coma; she died shortly afterwards. Turbo released a pair of posthumous albums following Jones' unexpected death, and in 2014, Real Gone Music released The Complete Atco-Loma-Warner Brothers Recordings, bringing together the bulk of her recordings of the '60s.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Motown protégé of the 1970s and '80s whose writing, production, and singing adroitly combined many genres (funk, rock, pop, R&B).
On March 5, 1956, was born Teena Marie (Mary Christine Brockert, March 5, 1956 – December 26, 2010); soulful singer, songwriter and producer who had a string of US hits in the early '80s, including I Need Your Lovin', Square Biz, It Must Be Magic, Portuguese Love, and the 1980 UK No. 6 single 'Behind The Groove'.
No white artist sang R&B more convincingly than Teena Marie, whose big, robust vocals were so black-sounding that when she was starting out, some listeners wondered if she was a light-skinned African-American. Marie grew up in west Los Angeles in a neighborhood that was nicknamed "Venice Harlem" because of its heavy black population. The singer/songwriter/producer was in her early twenties when, around 1977, she landed a job at Motown Records. It was at Motown that she met her mentor and paramour-to-be, Rick James, who ended up doing all of the writing and producing for her debut album of 1979, Wild and Peaceful. That LP, which boasted her hit duet with James, "I'm Just a Sucker for Your Love," didn't show Marie's picture -- so many programmers at black radio just assumed she was black. When her second album, Lady T, came out, much of the R&B world was shocked to see how fair-skinned she was. But to many of the black R&B fans who were eating her music up, it really didn't matter -- the bottom line was she was a first-rate soul singer whose love of black culture ran deep.
By her third album, 1980's gold Irons in the Fire, Marie was doing most of her own writing and producing. That album boasted the major hit "I Need Your Lovin'," and Marie went gold again with her next album, It Must Be Magic (which included the major hit "Square Biz"). It Must Be Magic turned out to be her last album for Motown, which she had a nasty legal battle with. Marie got out of her contract with Motown, and the case ended up with the courts passing what is known as "The Teena Marie Law" -- which states that a label cannot keep an artist under contract without putting out an album by him or her.
Switching to Epic in 1983, Marie recorded her fifth album, Robbery, and had a hit with "Fix It." In 1984, Marie recorded her sixth album, Starchild, and had her biggest pop hit ever with "Lovergirl." Though Marie had often soared to the top of the R&B charts, "Lovergirl" marked the first time she'd done so well in the pop market. Ironically, Marie was a white singer who had enjoyed little exposure outside the R&B market prior to "Lovergirl."
Three more Epic albums followed: 1986's Emerald City, 1988's Naked to the World (which contained her smash hit "Ooh La La La"), and 1990's Ivory. Unfortunately, Marie's popularity had faded considerably by the late '80s, and Epic dropped her. In 1994, the singer released Passion Play on her own Sarai Records label. Ten years later, she signed to Cash Money and released La Doña, featuring assistance from Gerald LeVert, Rick James, and MC Lyte. Sapphire followed two years later. Though both La Doña and Sapphire peaked at number three on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, she switched to Stax for her next album, 2009's Congo Square. On December 26 the following year, Marie died in her sleep at her home in Pasadena, California; she was 54 years of age. Marie's daughter Alia Rose subsequently oversaw the mixing, mastering, and release of Beautiful, an album recorded prior to Marie's passing. It was released through UMe in 2012.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
One of soul music's great survivors, with an influential approach to guitar, songwriting skills that earned many covers, and a trademarked raspy voice.
On March 4, 1944, was born Bobby Womack, soul singer, session guitarist, (1974 US No.10 single 'Lookin' For A Love', and the 1993 UK No.27 single with Lulu 'I'm Back For More'). Womack died at his home in Tarzana, California at age 70 on June 27, 2014.
A veteran who paid his dues for over a decade before getting his shot at solo stardom, Bobby Womack persevered through tragedy and addiction to emerge as one of soul music's great survivors. Able to shine in the spotlight as a singer or behind the scenes as an instrumentalist and songwriter, Womack never got his due from pop audiences, but during the late '60s and much of the '70s, he was a consistent hitmaker on the R&B charts, with a high standard of quality control. His records were quintessential soul, with a bag of tricks learned from the likes of Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, and Sly Stone, all of whom Womack worked closely with at one time or another. Yet often, they also bore the stamp of Womack's own idiosyncratic personality, whether through a lengthy spoken philosophical monologue or a radical reinterpretation of a pop standard. An underrated guitarist, Womack helped pioneer a lean, minimalist approach similar to that of Curtis Mayfield, and was an early influence on the young Jimi Hendrix. Additionally, his songs have been recorded by numerous artists in the realms of both R&B and rock, and the best of them rank as all-time classics.
Bobby Dwayne Womack was born in Cleveland on March 4, 1944. His upbringing was strict and religious, but his father Friendly also encouraged his sons to pursue music as he had (he sang and played guitar in a gospel group). In the early '50s, while still a child, Bobby joined his siblings Cecil, Curtis, Harry, and Friendly Jr. to form the gospel quintet the Womack Brothers. They were chosen to open a local show for the Soul Stirrers in 1953, where Bobby befriended lead singer Sam Cooke; following this break, they toured the country as an opening act for numerous gospel groups. When Cooke formed his own SAR label, he recruited the Womack Brothers with an eye toward transforming them into a crossover R&B act. Learning that his sons were moving into secular music, Friendly Womack threw them out of the house, and Cooke wired them the money to buy a car and drive out to his Los Angeles offices. The Womack Brothers made several recordings for SAR over 1960 and 1961, including a few gospel sides, but Cooke soon convinced them to record R&B and renamed them the Valentinos. In 1962, they scored a Top Ten hit on the R&B charts with "Lookin' for a Love," and Cooke sent them on the road behind James Brown to serve a boot-camp-style musical apprenticeship. Bobby eventually joined Cooke's backing band as guitarist. The Valentinos' 1964 single "It's All Over Now," written by Bobby, was quickly covered by the Rolling Stones with Cooke's blessing; when it became the Stones' first U.K. number one, Womack suddenly found himself a rich man.
Cooke's tragic death in December 1964 left Womack greatly shaken and the Valentinos' career in limbo. Just three months later, Womack married Cooke's widow, Barbara Campbell, which earned him tremendous ill will in the R&B community; many viewed him as a shady opportunist looking to cash in on Cooke's legacy, especially since Campbell was significantly older than Womack. According to Womack, he was initially motivated to look after Campbell in an unstable time, not to tarnish the memory of a beloved mentor. Regardless, Womack found himself unable to get his solo career rolling in the wake of the scandal; singles for Chess ("I Found a True Love") and Him ("Nothing You Can Do") were avoided like the plague despite their quality. The Valentinos cut a couple of singles for Chess in 1966, "What About Me" and "Sweeter Than the Day Before," which also failed to make much of a splash. To make ends meet, Womack became a backing guitarist, first landing a job with Ray Charles; he went on to make a valuable connection in producer Chips Moman, and appeared often at Moman's American Studio in Memphis, as well as nearby Muscle Shoals, Alabama. In the process, Womack appeared on classic recordings by the likes of Joe Tex, King Curtis, and Aretha Franklin (Lady Soul), among others. He recorded singles for Keymen and Atlantic without success, but became one of Wilson Pickett's favorite songwriters, contributing the R&B Top Ten hits "I'm in Love" and "I'm a Midnight Mover" (plus 15 other tunes) to the singer's repertoire.
Womack had been slated to record a solo album for Minit, but had given Pickett most of his best material, which actually wound up getting his name back in the public eye in a positive light. In 1968, he scored the first charting single of his solo career with "What Is This?" and soon hit with a string of inventively reimagined pop covers -- "Fly Me to the Moon," "California Dreamin'," and "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," the former two of which reached the R&B Top 20. A songwriting partnership with engineer Darryl Carter resulted in the R&B hits "It's Gonna Rain," "How I Miss You Baby," and "More Than I Can Stand" over 1969-1970. A series of label absorptions bumped Womack up to United Artists in 1971, which proved to be the home of his greatest solo success; in the meantime, he contributed the ballad "Trust Me" to Janis Joplin's masterpiece Pearl, and the J. Geils Band revived "Lookin' for a Love" for their first hit. He also teamed up with jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo on the LP High Contrast, which debuted Womack's composition "Breezin'" (which, of course, became a smash for George Benson six years later). Most importantly, however, Womack played guitar on Sly & the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On, a masterpiece of darkly psychedelic funk that would have an impact on Womack's own sound and sense of style.
Womack issued his first UA album, Communication, in 1971, which kicked off a string of excellent releases that ran through the first half of the decade. In addition to several of Womack's trademark pop covers, the album also contained the original ballad "That's the Way I Feel About 'Cha," which climbed all the way to number two on the R&B chart and became his long-awaited breakout hit. The 1972 follow-up Understanding spawned Womack's first chart-topper, "Woman's Gotta Have It," co-written with Darryl Carter and stepdaughter Linda (Womack divorced Barbara Campbell in 1970). The follow-up "Harry Hippie," a gently ironic tribute to Womack's brother, also hit the R&B Top Ten. Later that year, Womack scored the blaxploitation flick Across 110th Street; the title cut was later revived in the 1998 Quentin Tarantino film Jackie Brown. Released in 1973, The Facts of Life had an R&B number two hit in a rearrangement of the perennial "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," and the following year's Lookin' for a Love Again found Womack revisiting his Valentinos hit; the re-recorded "Lookin' for a Love" became his second number one R&B single and his only Top Ten hit on the pop charts. Follow-up single "You're Welcome, Stop on By" made the R&B Top Five.
Womack was by this time a seasoned veteran of the rock & roll lifestyle, having befriended the likes of the Rolling Stones, the late Janis Joplin, and Sly Stone. After his brother Harry was murdered by a jealous girlfriend in 1974 (in Bobby's own apartment), the drug usage began to take a more serious turn. Womack scored further R&B Top Ten hits with 1975's "Check It Out" and 1976's "Daylight," the latter of which seemed to indicate a longing for escape from the nonstop partying that often masked serious depression. Despite Womack's new marriage to Regina Banks, the song was a sign that things were coming to a head. Womack pushed UA into letting him do a full album of country music, something he'd always loved but which the label regarded as commercially inadvisable (especially under the title Womack reportedly wanted to use: Step Aside, Charley Pride, Give Another Nigger a Try). They eventually relented, and when BW Goes C&W met with predictably minimal response, UA palmed the increasingly difficult Womack off on Columbia. A pair of albums there failed to recapture his commercial momentum or reinvent him for the disco age, and he moved to Arista for 1979's Roads of Life, which appeared not long after the sudden death of his infant son.
At a low point in his life, Womack took a bit of time off from music to gather himself. He appeared as a guest vocalist on Jazz Crusader Wilton Felder's 1980 solo album, Inherit the Wind, singing the hit title track, and subsequently signed with black entrepreneur Otis Smith's independent Beverly Glen label. His label debut, 1981's The Poet, was a critically acclaimed left-field hit, rejuvenating his career and producing a number three R&B hit with "If You Think You're Lonely Now." Unfortunately, money disputes soured the relationship between Womack and Smith rather quickly. The Poet II was delayed until 1984, and featured several duets with Patti LaBelle, including another number three R&B hit, "Love Has Finally Come at Last." Beverly Glen released a final LP culled from Womack's previous sessions, Someday We'll All Be Free, in 1985, by which time the singer had already broken free and signed with MCA. Another hit with Wilton Felder, "(No Matter How High I Get) I'll Still Be Looking Up to You," appeared that year, and his label debut, So Many Rivers, produced a Top Five R&B hit in "I Wish He Didn't Trust Me So Much." Released in 1986, Womagic reunited Womack with Chips Moman, and he also backed the Rolling Stones on their remake of "Harlem Shuffle." By the following year he'd christened himself The Last Soul Man, which proved to be his final recording for MCA.
In the following years, Womack made high-profile returns to the music business only sporadically. Released in 1994, Resurrection was recorded for Ron Wood's Slide label and featured an array of guest stars including Wood, Keith Richards, Rod Stewart, and Stevie Wonder. In 1999, he fulfilled a longstanding promise to his father (who passed away in 1981) by delivering his first-ever gospel album, Back to My Roots. While he continued to perform throughout the following decade, his guest appearance on the 2010 Gorillaz album Plastic Beach seemed like a return. A couple years later, after being the subject of TV One's Unsung documentary series, he released The Bravest Man in the Universe, a collaboration with the XL label's Richard Russell and Gorillaz's Damon Albarn. However, Womack had experienced a number of health challenges in his latter years, and he died in June 2014 at the age of 70.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Soulful Detroit quartet with immaculate four-part harmonies, lasting almost half a century and giving voice to many of Motown's most enduring songs.
On March 2, 1938, was born Lawrence Payton, vocalists, songwriter, vocal arranger and record producer for the Motown quartet, The Four Tops, (1965 US No.1 single with ‘I Can’t Help Myself’ and a 1967 UK No.6 single with ‘Standing In The Shadows of Love’).
Payton sang lead on the songs "Feel Free"(from the Catfish album), "Until You Love Someone" and "The Girl From Ipanema" from the Four Tops Live! album (from their Motown days) but he was often overshadowed by the more popular Levi Stubbs. He died on June 20, 1997, aged 59, from liver cancer in Southfield, Michigan. One of his sons, Roquel, later went on to sing with the Four Tops.
The Four Tops:
The Four Tops' story is one of longevity and togetherness: these Motown legends teamed up in high school and spent over four decades without a single personnel change. In between, they became one of the top-tier acts on a label with no shortage of talent, ranking with the Temptations and the Supremes as Motown's most consistent hitmakers. Where many other R&B vocal groups spotlighted a tenor-range lead singer, The Four Tops were fronted by deep-voiced Levi Stubbs, who never cut a solo record outside of the group. Stubbs had all the grit of a pleading, wailing, gospel-trained soul belter, but at the same time, the Tops' creamy harmonies were smooth enough for Motown's radio-friendly pop-soul productions. From 1964-1967, The Four Tops recorded some of the Holland-Dozier-Holland team's greatest compositions, including "Reach Out, I'll Be There," "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)," "Standing in the Shadows of Love," "Bernadette," and "Baby I Need Your Loving." The group's fortunes took a downturn when their chief source of material left the label, but they enjoyed a renaissance in the early '70s, which saw them switching to the ABC-Dunhill imprint. Regardless of commercial fortunes, they kept on performing and touring, scoring the occasional comeback hit.
The Four Tops began life in 1953 (some accounts say 1954), when all of the members were attending Detroit-area high schools. Levi Stubbs and Abdul "Duke" Fakir went to Pershing, and met Northern students Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton at a friend's birthday party, where the quartet members first sang together. Sensing an immediate chemistry, they began rehearsing together and dubbed themselves the Four Aims. Payton's cousin Roquel Davis, a budding songwriter who sometimes sang with the group during its early days, helped them get an audition with Chess Records in 1956. Although Chess was more interested in Davis, who went on to become Berry Gordy's songwriting partner, they also signed the Four Aims, who became The Four Tops to avoid confusion with the Ames Brothers. The Four Tops' lone Chess single, "Kiss Me Baby," was an unequivocal flop, and the group moved on to similarly brief stints at Red Top and Riverside. They signed with Columbia in 1960 and were steered in a more upscale supper-club direction, singing jazz and pop standards. This too failed to break them, although they did tour with Billy Eckstine during this period.
In 1963, The Four Tops signed with longtime friend Berry Gordy's new label, specifically the jazz-oriented Workshop subsidiary. They completed a debut LP, to be called Breaking Through, but Gordy scrapped it and switched their style back to R&B, placing them on Motown with the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team. After a full decade in existence, The Four Tops finally notched their first hit in 1964 with "Baby I Need Your Loving," which just missed the pop Top Ten. Early 1965 brought the follow-up ballad hit "Ask the Lonely," and from then on there was no stopping them. "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" went all the way to number one that spring, and the follow-up "It's the Same Old Song" reached the Top Five. The hits continued into 1966, with "Something About You" "Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)," and "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever" all coming in succession. The fall of 1966 brought the group's masterpiece in the form of the virtual soul symphony "Reach Out, I'll Be There"; not only did it become their second number one pop hit, it also wound up ranking as the creative peak of the group's career and one of Motown's finest singles ever. During this period, the Tops also earned a reputation as one of Motown's best live acts, having previously honed their performances for years before hitting the big time.
The Four Tops kicked off 1967 with the dramatic Top Ten smash "Standing in the Shadows of Love," which was followed by the Top Five "Bernadette." "7-Rooms of Gloom" and "You Keep Running Away" reached the Top 20, but toward the end of the year, Holland-Dozier-Holland left Motown over a financial dispute, which didn't bode well for The Four Tops' impressive hit streak. Their next two hits, 1968's "Walk Away Renee" and "If I Were a Carpenter," were both covers of well-known recent songs (by the Left Banke and Tim Hardin, respectively), and while both made the Top 20, they heralded a rough couple of years when top-drawer material was in short supply. They enjoyed a resurgence in 1970 under producer Frank Wilson, who helmed a hit cover of the Tommy Edwards pop standard "It's All in the Game" and a ballad co-written by Smokey Robinson, "Still Water (Love)." the Tops also recorded with the post-Diana Ross Supremes, scoring a duet hit with a cover of "River Deep, Mountain High" in 1971.
When Motown moved its headquarters to Los Angeles in 1972, The Four Tops parted ways with the company, choosing to remain in their hometown of Detroit. They signed with ABC-Dunhill and were teamed with producers/songwriters Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, who did their best to re-create the group's trademark Motown sound. The immediate result was "Keeper of the Castle," The Four Tops' first Top Ten hit in several years. They followed it in early 1973 with "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)," a gold-selling smash that proved to be their final Top Five pop hit. That year they also recorded the theme song to the film Shaft in Africa, "Are You Man Enough." Several more R&B chart hits followed over the next few years, with the last being 1976's "Catfish"; after a final ABC album in 1978, the Tops largely disappeared from sight before resurfacing on Casablanca in 1981. Incredibly, their first single, "When She Was My Girl," went all the way to number one on the R&B charts, just missing the pop Top Ten. The accompanying album, Tonight!, became their last to hit the Top 40.
The Four Tops rejoined Motown in 1983, the year of the company's 25th anniversary, and toured extensively with the Temptations. They also recorded a couple albums of new material that failed to sell well, and wound up leaving Motown amid confusion over proper musical direction. Meanwhile, Levi Stubbs provided the voice for Audrey the man-eating plant in the film version of Little Shop of Horrors. The Four Tops next caught on with Arista, where in 1988 they scored their last Top 40 pop hit, the aptly titled "Indestructible." The Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, and continued to tour the oldies circuit. In 1997, Lawrence Payton passed away due to cancer of the liver, which proved to be the only thing that could break up The Four Tops. After some consideration, the remaining members hired Theo Peoples to take Payton's place on tour.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
One-time King of Calypso and major civil-rights activist whose career took countless twists and turns over seven decades.
On March 1, 1927, was born Harry Belafonte, singer,and civil rights activits who had the 1957 UK No.1 & US No.12 single with ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ and a 1957 UK No.2 & US No.5 with ‘Banana Boat Song’. He also scored over 15 US Top 40 albums, including the 1956 Calypso.
An actor, humanitarian, and the acknowledged "King of Calypso," Harry Belafonte ranked among the most seminal performers of the postwar era. One of the most successful African-American pop stars in history, Belafonte's staggering talent, good looks, and masterful assimilation of folk, jazz, and worldbeat rhythms allowed him to achieve a level of mainstream eminence and crossover popularity virtually unparalleled in the days before the advent of the civil rights movement -- a cultural uprising which he himself helped spearhead.
Harold George Belafonte, Jr., was born March 1, 1927, in Harlem, NY. The son of Caribbean-born immigrants, he returned with his mother to her native Jamaica at the age of eight, remaining there for the next five years. Upon returning to the U.S., Belafonte dropped out of high school to enlist in the U.S. Navy; after his discharge, he resettled in New York City to forge a career as an actor, performing with the American Negro Theatre while studying drama at Erwin Piscator's famed Dramatic Workshop alongside the likes of Marlon Brando and Tony Curtis.
A singing role resulted in a series of cabaret engagements, and eventually Belafonte even opened his own club. Initially, he put his clear, silky voice to work as a straight pop singer, launching his recording career on the Jubilee label in 1949; however, at the dawn of the 1950s he discovered folk music, learning material through the Library of Congress' American folk songs archives while also discovering West Indian music. With guitarist Millard Thomas, Belafonte soon made his debut at the legendary jazz club the Village Vanguard; in 1953, he made his film bow in Bright Road, winning a Tony Award the next year for his work in the Broadway revue John Murray Anderson's Almanac.
With his lead role in Otto Preminger's film adaptation of Oscar Hammerstein's Carmen Jones, Belafonte shot to stardom; after signing to the RCA label, he issued Mark Twain and Other Folk Favorites, which reached the number three slot on the Billboard charts in the early weeks of 1956. His next effort, titled simply Belafonte, reached number one, kick-starting a national craze for calypso music; Calypso, also issued in 1956, topped the charts for a staggering 31 weeks on the strength of hits like "Jamaica Farewell" and the immortal "Banana Boat (Day-O)."
Following the success of 1957's An Evening with Belafonte and its hit "Mary's Boy Child," Belafonte returned to film, using his now considerable clout to realize the controversial film Island in the Sun, in which his character contemplates an affair with a white woman portrayed by Joan Fontaine. Similarly, 1959's Odds Against Tomorrow cast him as a bank robber teamed with a racist accomplice. Also in 1959 he released the LP Belafonte at Carnegie Hall, a recording of a sold-out April performance that spent over three years on the charts; Belafonte Returns to Carnegie Hall followed in 1960 and featured appearances by Odetta, Miriam Makeba, and the Chad Mitchell Trio.
At the turn of the 1960s, Belafonte became television's first black producer; his special Tonight with Harry Belafonte won an Emmy that same year. Although dissatisfied with filmmaking, he continued his prolific album output with 1961's Jump Up Calypso and 1962's The Midnight Special, which featured the first-ever recorded appearance by a young harmonica player named Bob Dylan. As the Beatles and other stars of the British Invasion began to dominate the pop charts, Belafonte's impact as a commercial force diminished; 1964's Belafonte at the Greek Theatre was his last Top 40 effort, and subsequent efforts like 1965's An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba and 1966's In My Quiet Room struggled even to crack the Top 100. 1969's Homeward Bound earned Belafonte his final Billboard chart appearance, although he continued to record. He then made his first film appearance in over a decade in 1970's The Angel Levine and continued to focus on his work as a civil rights activist.
In addition to his continued work in recording (albeit less frequently after leaving RCA in the mid-'70s) and film (1972's Buck and the Preacher and 1974's Uptown Saturday Night), Belafonte spent an increasing amount of the 1970s and 1980s as a tireless humanitarian; most famously, he was a central figure of the USA for Africa effort, singing on the 1985 single "We Are the World." A year later, he replaced Danny Kaye as UNICEF's Goodwill Ambassador. After a long absence from the screen, Belafonte resurfaced in the mid-'90s in a number of film roles, most notably in the reverse-racism drama White Man's Burden and Robert Altman's jazz-era period piece Kansas City. Although at this point Belafonte had stopped recording new music, he kept his name in the news by releasing the occasional live album (including 1997's An Evening with Harry Belafonte & Friends) as well as being an outspoken proponent of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and opponent of the Bush government.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
A neo-soul singer with some of the finest interpretive gifts since the swing era, and an uncompromising innovator who dug deep into experimental R&B.
On February 26, 1971, was born Erykah Badu (Erica Wright) female crooner who had the 1997 hit single 'On & On', and the 2001 hit single with Macy Gray, 'Sweet Baby'.
She grew up listening to '70s soul and '80s hip-hop, but Erykah Badu drew more comparisons to Billie Holiday upon her breakout in 1997, after the release of her first album, Baduizm. The grooves and production on the album are bass-heavy R&B, but Badu's languorous, occasionally tortured vocals and delicate phrasing immediately removed her from the legion of cookie-cutter female R&B singers. A singer/songwriter responsible for all but one of the songs on Baduizm, she found a number 12 hit with her first single, "On & On," which pushed the album to number two on the charts.
Born Erica Wright in Dallas in 1971, Badu attended a school of the arts and was working as a teacher and part-time singer in her hometown when she opened for D'Angelo at a 1994 show. D'Angelo's manager, Kedar Massenburg, was impressed with the performance and hooked her up with the singer to record a cover of the Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell duet "Precious Love." He also signed Badu to his recently formed Kedar Entertainment label, and served as producer for Baduizm, which also starred bassist Ron Carter and members of hip-hop avatars the Roots on several tracks. The first single, "On & On," became a number one R&B hit in early 1997, and Baduizm followed it to the top of the R&B album charts by March. Opening for R&B acts as well as rap's Wu-Tang Clan, Erykah Badu stopped just short of number one on the pop album charts in April. Her Live album followed later in the year.
In 2000 she returned with her highly anticipated second studio album, Mama's Gun, which was co-produced by Badu, James Poyser, Bilal, and Jay Dee and contained the hit single "Bag Lady." Worldwide Underground, a loose affair billed as an EP despite being longer than many full-lengths, was released in 2003. Her next step, 2008's New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War, was a heavy and abstract release featuring collaborations with the members of Sa-Ra and Georgia Anne Muldrow; it reached number two on the Billboard 200 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. New Amerykah, Pt. 2: Return of the Ankh, looser and more playful than Pt. 1, followed in 2010.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
On February 22, 1938, was born Bobby Hendricks; singer with The Drifters who had the 1960 US No.1 & UK No.2 single 'Save The Last Dance For Me'.
Having forged his reputation in two singing groups, the Swallows and the Flyers, Hendricks joined the Drifters in 1958, but left for a solo career the same year. ‘Itchy Twitchy Feeling’, on which he was backed by the Coasters, gave Hendricks a US Top 30 pop hit, but he was unable to secure a consistent profile. He briefly entered the lower regions of the US pop charts in 1960 with ‘Psycho’. Hendricks rejoined the Drifters in 1964, where his subsequent path was obscured by the myriad of changes affecting the act’s turbulent history.
Honey-voiced giants of Doo Wop and vocal R&B noted for a string of hits between '59 and '64.
The history of rhythm and blues is filled with vocal groups whose names -- the Orioles, the Cadillacs, the Crows, the Flamingos, the Moonglows, the Coasters, the Penguins -- are held in reverence by fanatics and devotees. The Drifters are part of an even more exclusive fraternity, as a group that managed to carve out a place for themselves in the R&B firmament and also define that music, not only at its inception as a national chart phenomenon in the early '50s but also in the decade that followed. Their place in history is as complex as their role in it, by virtue of the fact that there are two distinct phases to their music and the continuity of their membership, and their extraordinary longevity -- only the Platters could claim as great a span of years as an active recording unit, though the latter group, due to major differences in the way they were organized, were far more stable in their membership and output. The Drifters can also claim a unique place in popular music history, as a major R&B group founded at the instigation of a record-label chief.
Their story began in early 1953, when Clyde McPhatter, the soaring high-tenor lead singer in the Dominoes, a vocal quintet formed by Billy Ward three years earlier, quit that group. the Dominoes were playing a scheduled gig at the New York club Birdland, one of their first performances without McPhatter, when one of the audience members present asked after the singer backstage. That fan was Ahmet Ertegun, a one-time record collector who had started Atlantic Records in the late '40s; as soon as he learned of McPhatter's having left the Dominoes, he contacted the singer and signed him to Atlantic.
It was Ertegun who gave McPhatter the impetus, as part of his contract, to start a group of his own, which came to be called The Drifters. The origins of the name and credit for thinking of it are obscure, although no one at Atlantic liked "The Drifters" at first, thinking it sounded too country & western -- the explanation sometimes offered by those present was that the members simply drifted in from other groups.
The main source for McPhatter's backing singers was among the ranks of former members of the Mount Lebanon Singers, the gospel group with which McPhatter had sung in the '40s. He went through several attempts at assembling a group that would be acceptable to Ertegun and producer Jerry Wexler, going through as many as a dozen friends and acquaintances, a handful of whom actually made it to formal recording sessions. The initial, unsuccessful lineup, featuring William Anderson, David Baughn, Dave Baldwin (the brother of author James Baldwin), and James Johnson, recorded four songs on June 28, 1953, of which only "Lucille," a McPhatter-authored song, was ever released. In August, a second Drifters lineup was put together, with Gerhart Thrasher, Andrew Thrasher, two very experienced gospel singers on tenor and baritone, respectively, bass singer Willie Ferbee, and Walter Adams on the guitar. From the beginning, the group was unusual among R&B vocal ensembles in that a guitarist was part of their core lineup and the electric guitar central to their arrangements; Jimmy Oliver, who would soon take that spot as his own, also proved to be an important songwriter for The Drifters, especially for tenor Gerhart Thrasher. The new edition of the group cut five numbers on August 9, 1953, one of which was "Money Honey," written by arranger/pianist Jesse Stone. Released within a few weeks, it hit the number one spot on the R&B chart by mid-fall of that year, and it was occasionally cited in later years as the first rock & roll record, and later entered the repertory of Elvis Presley and dozens of lesser talents. The group's career was made after that, at least as long as Clyde McPhatter was singing lead with them.
This success didn't stop the regular lineup changes that would characterize The Drifters' history. By the time The Drifters were enjoying their breakthrough hit, a reconstituted lineup, with bass singer Bill Pinkney and guitarist Jimmy Oliver joining Gerhart Thrasher and Andrew Thrasher, cut their first session. This was the lineup that lasted for the year that followed, and cut "Such a Night," a number two R&B hit, and a second R&B chart-topper with "Honey Love" in early 1954. By that time, the charts and radio play, along with audience sensibilities, had opened up and "Honey Love" also made number 21 on the pop charts late that spring. Not for the last time, it seemed as though The Drifters were headed for big things together, but a key member had developed other ideas by the fall of 1954.
Although he'd been assured of a considerable amount of musical control, McPhatter found that Ertegun and Wexler were, as the producers, always trying to push the group into directions of their own choosing. McPhatter didn't begrudge them their efforts at finding new sounds that might sell records to white as well as black audiences, but he didn't feel like participating. His goal was to cross over to pop audiences as a balladeer, and saw himself as having the potential to become another Nat "King" Cole, or perhaps a black answer to Frank Sinatra or Perry Como. By October of 1954, he had parted company with the group in favor of a solo career that would make him a success for the rest of the 1950s.
Rather than see the group in which they'd invested 18 months of their time go out of existence, Ertegun and Wexler were still interested in recording The Drifters, but that group's internal circumstances were vastly different once McPhatter was gone.
McPhatter had organized The Drifters under the auspices of his own business entity, Drifters Incorporated, so that he would have a share of their earnings, something that he'd been denied in the Dominoes; his own willingness to share those earnings with the other members has never been broached or questioned. He was half-owner of the group with his manager, George Treadwell, a former jazz musician who had masterminded the solo career of his first wife, Sarah Vaughan; when McPhatter left the group, rather than making a provision for the other members and his eventual successor to get his share, he sold out his interest in Drifters Incorporated to Treadwell.
This basically doomed the group to a permanent revolving-door lineup. From that day forward, all of the members of The Drifters were salaried employees, earning as little as $100 a week even into the early '60s, and getting no share of royalties from record sales, no benefits from the concert fees they commanded, nor any claim to the use of the name "The Drifters" if they left, no matter how successful the group became through their efforts. It thus became impossible for the group to hold on to anyone with serious talent or aspirations for a long-term career in music. This made The Drifters, for those present after McPhatter's exit, little more inviting than McPhatter's own tenure with the Dominoes, and he later regretted making the decision, recognizing not only what he had cheated himself of out by not hanging on to his share of the ownership but also what he had done to his fellow musicians.
The immediate problem facing all concerned in 1954, however, was finding a replacement for Clyde McPhatter, and some would argue that they never did. David Baughn, who had sung with a very early version of The Drifters, came in as a temporary replacement, singing at one recording session and serving as lead vocalist for six months' worth of live engagements (which was how the group generated most of its income). Baughn's singing was good enough, but the group sounded like an imitation of the McPhatter-era Drifters, and Atlantic declined to release any of these sides at the time, possibly due to their potential to interfere with McPhatter's solo releases, which were selling well. The label didn't know whether to shoot for an entirely new sound or to try to find a replacement who sounded like the former lead singer who, by 1956, was a major R&B star in his own right. Additionally, Baughn soon demonstrated an erratic personality, sufficiently unnerving to force Treadwell to recruit a second lead vocalist in Bobby Hendricks, who had previously sung with the Five Crowns and the Swallows. Attempts were made to record this lineup, and even bass singer Bill Pinkney was cut doing a lead vocal, but none of it was considered acceptable.
The lineup itself began to shift as Baughn quit, but the group soldiered on, drawing good crowds at their shows based on the quality of their earlier recordings. In 1955, however, they auditioned a young man who approached the group after a show in Cleveland. Johnny Moore had been a member of a group called the Hornets, who had done a little bit of recording without making any more than a local reputation for themselves. He sounded enough like McPhatter, however, with his pleasing high tenor, and was offered a spot in The Drifters the next day. Moore would prove to be a mainstay of the group in two different decades.
The Drifters resumed recording in September of 1955, with Nesuhi Ertegun and songwriter Jerry Leiber producing and with Moore singing lead. The result was a number one R&B chart single, "Adorable," which went a long way toward establishing their post-Clyde McPhatter reputation. This proved to be one of the very few major chart records they would enjoy during this era, however -- The Drifters were still absent from the top of the pop charts, where the real money and huge sales figures lay. Their records during the late '50s were overlooked by most young white listeners, despite the presence of future rock & roll standards such as "Ruby Baby" in their output.
Dion would enjoy a much bigger hit with the latter song in the early '60s, but it was an important recording for The Drifters, marking their introduction to the talents of songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who would later take over the job of producing the group. The Drifters' lineup was also stabilized for the first time in over a year. The original Drifters now entered their "silver age" behind Moore's cool high tenor, ably supported by the bass singing (and occasional lead spot) from Bill Pinkney and Bobby Hendricks' tenor. "I Gotta Get Myself a Woman," written by Jesse Stone and cut during the summer of 1956, brought the group a number 11 R&B hit and the group's fortunes once again seemed to be on a consistent upswing.
As it turned out, the black record-buying public wasn't prepared to fully accept a new Drifters, without McPhatter -- black audiences practically worshipped the singer, who commanded a passionate loyalty that anticipated the future success of Sam Cooke. Additionally, the music was changing -- white teenagers were now a much bigger part of the market than they had been in 1953-54, and Atlantic set its sights on that potentially much richer vein of listeners.
The end of 1956 saw the release of the first album by group, entitled Clyde McPhatter & the Drifters. Such was the popularity of McPhatter at the time, and the tracks that he'd done with The Drifters, versus their recent work, that those 14 songs rated inclusion on an LP well over a year after his exit from the lineup in an effort to sell the music once more to his fans -- in that regard, Atlantic was very forward-looking; very few labels in 1956 were releasing LPs aimed at black R&B listeners (apart from Elvis Presley's albums, very little white rock & roll made an impression on the album charts).
Late 1956 was also the point when the consequences of The Drifters' business organization caught up with the group. Their recent hits had led to more bookings than at any time since 1954, which was good for Treadwell and his partners, but difficult for the members, who were still working on straight salary and, by Bill Pinkney's estimation, very low salaries. He approached Treadwell for a new arrangement, or at least more money for the group members, and he was fired. His dismissal drove fellow founding member Andrew Thrasher out of the lineup as well, and out of music altogether. Pinkney and ex-Drifter Bobby Hendricks became the core of a new Atlantic group called the Flyers, who released one single that failed to attract much attention.
The new Drifters lineup was filled by bass singer Jimmy Ricks and then, more permanently, by Tom Evans, late of the Dominoes, and baritone Charlie Hughes. The group's fortunes now took a new turn as Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller began producing their sessions in late 1956 -- unfortunately, their arrival on the scene coincided with Johnny Moore's receiving his draft notice in early 1957. The group was (no joke intended) adrift once again, in terms of its sound and lineup. Bobby Hendricks was brought back in, and Jimmy Millender took over the baritone chores, but there wasn't a lot of good material that came from those sessions. For a time, in the absence of an ability to create a successful Drifters sound, it seemed as though Atlantic was trying to turn them into another version of the Coasters, doing light-hearted versions of pop standards. In a way, this was understandable -- black listeners held this era's Drifters at arm's length, while white teenagers were dominating the pop charts and they seemed, at least potentially, open to new records by anyone, so Atlantic decided to cater to them, hoping for a breakthrough.
By late 1958, Hendricks had announced his exit, and even guitarist Jimmy Oliver, who had managed to get several of his songs recorded during his four-year tenure with the group and was an unheralded mainstay of their sound, finally quit. The remaining members, such as they were, were working as hard as ever and wanted more money and, when Treadwell refused their request, they all walked out (or were fired en masse).
Treadwell was about to find himself without a group and faced with upcoming engagements to fulfill at the Apollo Theater in New York. He spotted his way out of this impasse at the Apollo, way down on a bill on May 30, 1958 on which the about-to-be-fired Drifters were headlining. the Five Crowns, or the Crowns, as they were then known, had been a fixture in Harlem for most of the 1950s, predating The Drifters without ever making a mark as a recording act, and enjoying precious little reputation as performers.
Treadwell approached their manager, Lover Patterson, explaining that he was dumping the existing Drifters and needed a new group to fulfill their performing obligations. Patterson agreed and the group followed suit, and all of the individual members' contracts, except for that of one of the group's two baritones, were sold to Treadwell. In later years, this kind of arrangement would become a little more familiar in the business -- the Grass Roots essentially evolved this way, as did the performing version of the group Steam -- but it was unusual in those days, and difficult to pull off, and mostly served to keep Treadwell from ending up in court.
The new Drifters lineup consisted of Charlie Thomas on lead, baritone Benjamin Earl Nelson, later known as Ben E. King, Dock Green (who had held the Crowns together) (baritone), and Elsbeary Hobbs singing bass. They did as they were required under the agreement and, for ten months, worked in the shadow of the old group, playing live gigs characterized by the awkwardness of performing the old songs as though they were their own, to mostly black audiences who knew that these weren't The Drifters. Atlantic still hoped to profit from the group, however, and a second Drifters LP, Rockin' & Driftin', was released in late 1958, comprised entirely of single tracks recorded by the 1955-58 lineup. Ironically, in all of their 19-year history with Atlantic Records, The Drifters, in any incarnation, never recorded an actual "album" session; every one of their LPs was compiled from existing single tracks and B-sides and, except for the first album, all have a mix-and-match element to the memberships and, especially, the singers represented.
The group still had a recording contract with Atlantic Records and, despite the fact that the old Drifters' recent releases had done little business, the label decided to try once more with the new lineup and get a record out. On March 6, 1959, they went into the studio with Leiber & Stoller producing, to cut four songs. Charlie Thomas was supposed to sing lead but he developed mic-fright in the studio, and so Nelson was deputized for "There Goes My Baby," which he had co-written, along with "Hey Senorita," and "Oh My Love." "There Goes My Baby," co-written by Nelson and orchestrated by Stan Applebaum, was as much a landmark in the history of R&B and soul as "Money Honey" had been six years earlier. At the time, nobody present was sure of what they had because it sounded so chaotic, strange, and complicated -- no one had ever used a string section, much less one recorded as prominently as this one was, on an R&B record, and no R&B record up until that time had ever dared sound so complex, overlaying Latin percussion, violins, and a fiercely passionate performance by the singer. It not only didn't sound anything like the old Drifters, but it didn't sound like anything else that had ever been heard on a commercial recording before. And it was a complete mess in the eyes of some observers, including Jerry Wexler, who said the song sounded like a radio picking up two different stations at once.
"There Goes My Baby" peaked at number two, their biggest hit to that date on the pop charts and their biggest seller up to that time, winning over both R&B and pop audiences and transforming the group and its image. Moreover, it marked the group's first impact on audiences overseas -- the earlier Drifters, for all of their impact on rock & roll, never got a record released in Europe, but this new group and their sound would soon find a very important mass audience in England. The group seemed headed for a huge future when the problem of their business set-up came into play again. They'd cut other songs at that same session, including "Baltimore," which sounded like an update of the Cadillacs' "Speedo," but the strings-percussion-echo timbres of "There Goes My Baby," hung around long melodic lines, became The Drifters' trademark sound for the ten years that followed.
This seemed to be a new lease on life to the group, and then more troubles arose from within, owing to the way The Drifters were organized as a business. Ben Nelson wasn't happy working for $100 a week; not with the hundreds of miles of travel between some shows, and as many as six days of shows each week. He was so poor working for the group that he felt compelled to sell off his share of the songwriting on "There Goes My Baby," Accounts differ as to precisely what happened on this issue -- some say that he sold the share off to Treadwell and his accountant, while Jerry Wexler claims that he accepted a document from the singer assigning him the copyright, in exchange for $200; Wexler held on to the document, and gave it back to the singer once the song was a hit so he could tear it up.
After approaching Treadwell for more money and being turned down, Nelson saw that there was no future as a member of The Drifters and announced his exit almost as soon as it came time to cut a follow-up. At the same moment, Lover Patterson played his trump card, a separate contract that he'd signed with the singer, as a solo artist, dated before Treadwell's offer. It all could have ended up in court but luckily for the singer and fans of The Drifters, cooler heads prevailed. He remained with Atlantic Records on their Atco subsidiary as a solo artist, and agreed to record with the group until a suitable replacement could be found, singing on "Dance With Me," "This Magic Moment," "I Count the Tears," and "Save the Last Dance for Me," the latter their only number one hit, among other songs, through the spring of 1960. By the time his exit had been arranged, Nelson had changed his name to the more memorable Ben E. King, which was how he emerged in his own right.
The post-1959 Drifters (which also included guitarist Billy Davis) are usually thought of as the "Ben E. King Drifters," but the reality was that King had left the group by the end of that same year. King's first successor was Johnny Williams, who exited suddenly in late 1960, but The Drifters quickly found a replacement in Rudy Lewis. An ex-member of the Clara Ward Singers, Lewis was the singer on "Some Kind of Wonderful," "Up on the Roof" (a Top Five hit), "Please Stay," "What to Do," and "On Broadway" (a Top Ten hit), among numerous other classic tracks by the group. Lewis, tragically, wasn't the longest lasting of the group's lead vocalists but his tenure with the group, following King's, arguably constituted the second half of a second golden age in their history.
Whoever was involved on a particular record, this lineup of the group was once again at a peak of influence in those years. "There Goes My Baby" anticipated the shift to a more pop-oriented brand of soul music, embraced by Sam Cooke and, even more so, by Berry Gordy at his fledgling Motown label. Indeed, the sound of "There Goes My Baby" was practically the prototype for Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' landmark single "Way Over There." Others also learned from them, most notably a young producer named Phil Spector, who was working at Atlantic as a session guitarist in the early '60s and ran with the sound he heard in Stan Applebaum's arrangements, expanding it into something new and turning it into his own trademark, imprinted on the work of a dozen top recording acts. And it was during the recording of his own "Please Stay" by the group that Burt Bacharach first encountered a vocalist named Dionne Warwick, who was part of the backing trio for The Drifters.
Between 1960 and 1964, The Drifters achieved a level of stability that was unprecedented in their history, and it was matched by their success. Not that they didn't make mistakes -- they turned down "This Diamond Ring," and Atlantic never released their version of "Only in America," both of which became huge hits, in the hands of Gary Lewis & the Playboys and Jay & the Americans, respectively. Still, luck was with them even as essential personnel around them moved on -- in late 1963, as Leiber & Stoller shifted their attention to their own record label, Red Bird, The Drifters got a new producer in Bert Berns, a songwriter with a feel for commercial soul music. "Vaya Con Dios," from their first session with the new producer (and which reflected his love of Latin themes), was a moderate pop chart hit. And in the spring of 1964, with Leiber & Stoller no longer writing the way they had been, the group was offered a new song by composers Art Resnick and Kenny Young, called "Under the Boardwalk."
It was scheduled for recording on May 21 of 1964. Then, on the night of May 20, just hours before the recording session, Rudy Lewis was found dead in his apartment under circumstances that are still in dispute -- the police suspected a drug overdose, but people who knew Lewis insisted that his only vice was binge-eating, and that he had choked to death. Without any time to reschedule the session, Johnny Moore, who had rejoined the group as second tenor in early 1963, stepped into the breach. Moore, who had previously held the thankless task of leading the late-'50s Drifters, achieved a special magnificence at that session singing "Under the Boardwalk," which became the group's last Top Ten hit in 1964, peaking at number four. He became the longest lasting of The Drifters' various lead singers, lasting into the 1970s and beyond their time as a serious recording act.
By late 1964, Berns was moving on to other projects including the early releases of his new independent label, Bang Records, and the group found itself working with producer Tom Dowd in what were very unproductive sessions. They still had lots of bookings, and enough hits behind them to remain a thoroughly established act, but by that time the whole notion of soul music was changing around them, due in some measure to a vast array of other acts associated with Atlantic Records, including Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Don Covay. The Drifters were never able to make the jump comfortably to this harder brand of soul music, and the loss of Berns as a producer after 1965 seemed to seal their fate. Their own sessions began to show a lack of urgency and organization, exemplified by the fact that one of the very best tracks of Moore's era, "In the Park," was left unfinished (without the group recorded behind him) and in the can for years. The death of George Treadwell in 1967 removed another layer of impetus behind The Drifters' continuation as a going concern.
They continued recording for Atlantic with a succession of producers until 1972. By that time, the company itself was part of a huge corporate conglomerate, far removed from its origins -- Led Zeppelin, Yes, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer were the stars of the Atlantic roster then, and scarcely anyone at the company except Ertegun and Wexler likely even remembered who The Drifters were or how they'd started. Johnny Moore still sang lead, but there were no more hits after the mid-'60s. They tried altering their sound to mainstream adult pop, cutting old-style standards in an effort to capture older listeners. As the hits faded away and the bookings dried up, the group broke up yet again -- in the end, Johnny Moore was the only recognizable Drifter and he did most of the singing on the records as well.
The 1970s saw a proliferation of acts trading on the Drifters name as the rock & roll revival suddenly made the group's classic repertory profitable again. Founding member Bill Pinkney led a group sometimes called "the Original Drifters" while Charlie Thomas led another version and Johnny Moore kept the fully authorized group under the auspices of Treadwell's widow Faye.
The result was a series of lawsuits that ultimately saw the various claimants divide different territories within the United States between them, while the Faye Treadwell-authorized group, led by Johnny Moore, moved to England, where they enjoyed a Top Ten hit in 1972 ("Come on Over to My Place"), falling under the influence of the Roger Cook/Roger Greenaway songwriting team. This incarnation of the group, no longer signed to Atlantic after 1972, was signed to Bell Records. The British-based version of The Drifters became a dance-disco outfit for a time in the late '70s, virtually irrelevant to the group's history, while Pinkney and Thomas maintained contact with The Drifters' roots, and even Jimmy Ricks, who was only in the group for a few months, turned up at some point leading a combo using the name. Ben E. King even returned to the lineup for a tour in the late '80s.
In the 1990s, after decades of conflicting and contradictory claims, a new court ruling determined that Faye Treadwell owned the trademark of The Drifters' name. The death of Johnny Moore in the 1990s brought the end of the era in the group's history, though Bill Pinkney -- the last active original member from the early '50s -- continued to front a group of Drifters up until his death on July 4th, 2007. The late '80s and early '90s also saw a full revival of the group's entire catalog; for decades, from the 1960s through the 1980s, fans and collectors in America had to content themselves with a single LP, the 1968 Golden Hits album, consisting of a selection of the group's early-'60s hits -- none of the McPhatter-era cuts were around, nor were any other tracks from the '60s era. A pair of Rhino Records-inspired double-CD/LP sets helped break this log-jam in the late '80s, and Rhino's 1996 triple-CD set Rockin' & Driftin': The Drifters Box opened the floodgates of their history. That same year, Sequel Records in England issued seven CDs devoted to the group's history, and more recently Collectables Records has been busy re-releasing the group's classic albums on CD.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
#DukeofEarl | #ThisDayinSoulMusicHistory
Singer, dancer, songwriter and actress; who showed early signs that she would become an entertainer.
On October 29, 1945, was born Melba Moore; singer, dancer, songwriter and actress; who showed early signs that she would become an entertainer.
There were early signs that Melba Moore would become an entertainer. The most obvious motivation was her mother, Bonnie Davis, who was also a successful singer. Witnessing the success that her mother endured, Moore knew the entertainment industry would not escape her. The world of performing arts was formally introduced to her by way of dance lessons at the age of four. Moore's mother impressed upon her that "if you don't touch people's hearts, it doesn't mean anything." Her stepfather would also become an instrumental figure in the development of her early career.
All her siblings were musically inclined. Melba's interest was dance. However, her stepfather insisted that she learn the piano. Against her will, she conceded -- and to her benefit. She gained much admiration for the blues and jazz pianists. Upon graduating from college, she became a music teacher, which she found very fulfilling. Nonetheless, Moore's affinity for the entertainment industry persisted.
Her stepfather, also a musician, gave her invaluable advice and guidance. He sensed his stepdaughter's irresistible urge to be in the entertainment industry, so he began to show her the ropes. The results landed Moore jobs singing jingles and background vocals. She hit it big when she joined the cast of the Broadway musical Hair. One day while working in the studio, a barefoot gentleman asked her if she wanted to be in the play. Moore accepted and eventually won the lead role. It was the first time in history that a black actress replaced a white actress (Diane Keaton) for the lead role on Broadway. That followed with another Broadway hit, Purlie, which earned her a Tony Award and rave reviews.
That success was followed by appearances in film, television, and recording ventures. In 1975, she married Charles Huggins. The two formed Hush Productions and began seeking out R&B artists that they could manage and produce, the most famous being Freddie Jackson, whose presence at Hush Production was primarily due in part to Moore. In the same year "I Am His Lady" was released on Buddah (Billboard number 82, six weeks); it was Moore's first single to hit the charts. It would be seven years and 12 singles later before she would claim her first Top Ten single. In 1982 the New York City native cracked the Billboard R&B charts at number five with the dance/club track "Love's Comin' at Ya."
Moore's next ten releases spawned four Top 20 and two Top Ten singles: "Livin' for Your Love" and "Love the One I'm With" (duet with Kashif), respectively peaked at six and five. The single to follow the latter was "A Little Bit More" (a duet with Jackson). The year was 1986, and it was Moore's first number one song but not her last. Also released in the same year, "Falling" claimed the top spot on the charts. Thereafter, Moore released seven more singles. Two were Top 20 hits and three were Top Ten hits, including the black national anthem "Lift Every Voice and Sing" (Billboard number ten).
All the splendor that Moore relished would soon come to a halt. Her husband of 15 years abruptly divorced the songstress without any prior warning. In spite of the personal and professional hardships that resulted from this unforeseen misfortune, Moore was able to rebound. In 1996 she released Happy Together, her first album in six years. And in 1998 she began touring the country with her one-woman autobiographical musical Sweet Songs of the Soul. She is honorably one of the top singers the R&B world has ever known and this can be supported by her admirable chart activity, which dates back to 1975. In 2003 she was featured in the film The Fighting Temptations, and in 2009 she released an album of duets with R&B singer Phil Perry, The Gift of Love, on Shanachie Records.
Melba is currently working on a new album; which she will call Forever Moore. Based on two early song releases from the album, "Just Dance," and "What Can I Do to Survive," the album seems destined to reach the upper-echelons of the charts.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
The first group to score hits with the songwriting and production team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff and instrumental in the rise of Philadelphia soul.
On October 29, 1939, was born Eugene 'Bird' Daughtry (1939 - 1994); lead singer of the Intruders.
As the first group to score hits with the songwriting and production team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the Intruders played a major role in the rise of Philadelphia soul, but are sometimes lost in the shuffle amid better-known acts like the O'Jays or Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. the Intruders were originally formed as a doo wop group in 1960, and sang around Philadelphia for several years. Lead singer Sam "Little Sonny" Brown, Eugene "Bird" Daughtry, Phil Terry, and Robert "Big Sonny" Edwards signed with Gamble and Huff's fledgling Gamble label in 1966. They scored a Top 20 R&B hit that year with "(We'll Be) United," and followed it up a year later with "Together," as well as their first album, The Intruders Are Together. 1968, though, was the Intruders' breakthrough year: "Cowboys to Girls," a template for what would become Philly soul's trademark sound, topped the R&B charts and climbed to number six on the pop side, giving the group their biggest hit. The follow-up, "(Love Is Like A) Baseball Game," was their only other Top 40 pop hit, and the accompanying LP, Cowboys to Girls, wound up their most popular.
Gamble and Huff's success with the Intruders helped convince Columbia to grant them the money to launch Philadelphia International, which became the most successful soul label of the early '70s. The Intruders, meanwhile, were undergoing some internal turmoil; when they resurfaced on the 1970 Gamble LP When We Get Married, lead singer "Little Sonny" Brown had been replaced by nightclub singer Bobby Starr (born Robert Ferguson). The title cut, a Dreamlovers cover, was a hit on the R&B charts, as was the follow-up, "(Win, Place or Show) She's a Winner." Starr's tenure with the group was short-lived; Brown returned for the 1973 LP Save the Children, which spawned the Intruders' last two big hits, "I'll Always Love My Mama" and "I Wanna Know Your Name." For the 1974 follow-up, Energy of Love, the Intruders were switched from the Gamble imprint to the Philly International subsidiary TSOP; however, it was less successful than the quartet's previous releases, and they disbanded in 1975. Eugene Daughtry formed a new lineup in 1984 (without any other original members); they recorded an album titled Who Do You Love? for the U.K. imprint Streetwave before disbanding once again. Daughtry passed away in 1994 after a bout with cancer, while Brown unfortunately committed suicide following years of drug and alcohol problems. Bobby Starr, meanwhile, continued to lead another version of the group that features no other original Intruders.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Trumpeter who was strongly influenced by Miles Daivs' early fusion period.
On October 26, 1940, was born Eddie Henderson; trumpeter who was strongly influenced by Miles Daivs' early fusion period.
Eddie Henderson was one of the few trumpeters who was strongly influenced by Miles Davis' work of his early fusion period. He grew up in San Francisco, studied trumpet at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, but was trained to be a doctor when he permanently chose music. Henderson worked with John Handy, Tyrone Washington, and Joe Henderson, in addition to his own group. He gained some recognition for his work with the Herbie Hancock Sextet (1970-1973), although his own records (which utilized electronics) tended to be commercial. After Hancock broke up his group,Henderson worked with Art Blakey and Mike Nock, recorded with Charles Earland, and later, in the 1970s, led a rock-oriented group. In the '90s, he returned to playing acoustic hard bop (touring with Billy Harper in 1991) while also working as a psychiatrist.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Notoriously freaky bassist who gave P-Funk its grimy bottom, also had an astronomical set of spaced-out solo LPs.
On October 26, 1951, was born Bootsy Collins; notoriously freaky bassist who gave P-Funk its grimy bottom and also had an astronomical set of spaced-out albums.
Bootsy Collins is one of the all-time great funk and R&B bassists, besides being a consummate character. Born in Detroit, Collins formed the Pacesetters during the '60s, a unit that not only included vocalist Philippe Wynne (later of Spinners fame), but also George Clinton as a sideman. Collins and Clinton soon established a lifelong personal and musical friendship, and Collins and his comrades became part of the JB's, James Brown's backing band, from 1969 to 1971.
Collins' inspired, clever progressions and patterns were a vital part of such records as "Get Up, I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine." The group became the House Guests after departing the JB's, until Collins joined Clinton's Parliament/Funkadelic empire in 1971. He co-wrote "Tear the Roof Off the Sucker" with Clinton and Jerome Brailey and established himself so effectively that Clinton urged him to form his own band. Bootsy's Rubber Band emerged in 1976, a spirited ensemble that included Collins' brother Phelps ("Catfish"), as well as fellow James Brown bandmembers Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker, Joel Johnson, Gary Cooper, Rick Gardner, and Richard Griffiths. (Collins also featured his alter egos "Bootzilla" and "Casper, the Friendly Ghost" as part of the stage act.)
Their debut LP, Stretchin' Out in Bootsy's Rubber Band, and their second release, Ahh...The Name Is Bootsy, Baby! equalled anything issued during Clinton's peak period for idiomatic diversity, clever, bizarre humor, and outrageous lyrics. Both Ahh... and the third LP, Bootsy? Player of the Year, earned gold records and made it into the Top 20 on the pop charts. The single "Bootzilla" was his lone R&B chart topper in 1978, although "The Pinocchio Theory" also made the Top Ten.
Collins recorded as both a solo artist and with The Rubber Band in the '80s. He also did some special projects, such as a 1984 collaboration with Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads -- using the name Bonzo Goes to Washington -- that produced "5 Minutes (C-C-C-Club Mix)," featuring Ronald Reagan declaring nuclear war on the Soviet Union over a skittering rhythm track. In 1988, he returned on Columbia with the appropriately named What's Bootsy Doin'? In 1989, Bootsy was a member of the Bootzilla Orchestra on Malcolm McLaren's album Waltz Dancing. One year later, he became a featured guitarist and bassist with the dance music trio Deee-Lite, signed with 4th and Broadway, and also toured England with a group co-led by Parker and Wesley.
Bootsy's New Rubber Band released Blasters of the Universe in 1994, and Fresh Outta 'P' University followed four years later. Numerous Collins live shows and reissues appeared as the 21st century opened, and in 2006, the bassist actually released a Christmas album, Christmas Is 4 Ever, on Shout Records. In 2011, a conceptual album, The Funk Capital of the World, landed, featuring everyone from Ice Cube to Samuel L. Jackson on the guest list.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Singer, producer and leader of the '60s and '70s Philadelphia soul group, Brenda & the Tabulations.
On October 24, 1945, was born Brenda J. Payton (1945 - 2002); singer, producer and leader of the '60s and '70s Philadelphia soul group, Brenda & the Tabulations.
Among the better Philadelphia soul groups of the '60s and '70s, Brenda & the Tabulations made some fine heartache ballads, particularly "Dry Your Eyes" and "Right on the Tip of My Tongue." The original lineup was lead singer Brenda Payton, Jerry Jones, Eddie Jackson, and Maurice Coates. Bernard Murphy joined in 1969. They became a trio in 1970, featuring Payton, Pat Mercer, and Deborah Martin. "Dry Your Eyes" was their biggest hit, reaching number eight on the R&B chart and number 20 pop in 1967. They continued recording for Dionn until 1969, then Top & Bottom from 1970 to 1973, followed by stints with Epic and Chocolate City. "Right on the Tip of My Tongue" returned them to prominence in 1971, peaking at number ten R&B, and the follow-up, "A Part Of You," was number 14 that same year. The group enjoyed some sporadic success on the disco circuit in the late '70s with the LP I Keep Coming Back for More. The single "Let's Go All the Way (Down)" attracted some international and club interest.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Soul singer who blended the full-bodied sound of Southern soul with the smooth sheen of the urban North.
On October 24, 1944, was born Bettye Swann; soul singer who blended the full-bodied sound of Southern soul with the smooth sheen of the urban North.
Best known for her 1967 R&B chart-topper "Make Me Yours," Southern soul chanteuse Bettye Swann was born Betty Jean Champion in Shreveport, Louisiana on October 24, 1944. She first surfaced during the early 1960s as a member of the Fawns before mounting a solo career in 1964 with the Carolyn Franklin-penned "Don't Wait Too Long," the first of a series of Arthur Wright-produced singles for the independent Los Angeles label Money. "The Man That Said No" and "The Heartache Is Gone" followed in 1965, and two years later, Swann returned with the gorgeous "Make Me Yours," which also served as the title for her first full-length LP. 1967 saw the release of three more Money singles -- "Fall in Love With Me," "Don't Look Back," and "I Think I'm Falling in Love" -- while the next year heralded a leap to major label Capitol for "My Heart Is Closed for the Season." The follow-up, "Don't Touch Me," was the first single released from Swann's second long-player, The Soul View Now; Don't You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me? followed in 1969, highlighted by the minor hit "Little Things Mean a Lot." After a one-off single for Fame, 1971's "I'm Just Living a Lie," Swann landed at Atlantic; her label debut, "Victim of a Foolish Heart," cracked the R&B Top 20 in 1972, and was revived over three decades later by blue-eyed soul upstart Joss Stone. Her next Atlantic effort, "I'd Rather Go Blind," was notable in large part for its B-side, a reading of Merle Haggard's "Today I Started Loving You Again," that proved Swann a superb interpreter of country-soul -- 1973's "Yours Until Tomorrow" was backed by another Nashville cover, this time Tammy Wynette's "Til I Get It Right." In 1974, she made a return to the lower rungs of the Billboard Hot 100 with "The Boy Next Door" -- the flip side, "Kiss My Love Goodbye," found Swann operating firmly in Philly soul territory, its slick, urbane production courtesy of the Young Professionals team of LeBaron Taylor, Phil Hurtt, and Tony Bell. With 1975's "All the Way In or All the Way Out" she again enjoyed minor chart success, but subsequent recording sessions are undocumented, and Swann eventually faded from sight.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Jazz singer who has shown versatility in doing anthems, scat, improvised works, pop, and originals.
On October 23, 1956, was born Dianne Reeves; jazz singer who has shown versatility in doing anthems, scat, improvised works, pop, and originals.
Dianne Reeves has been one of the top singers in jazz ever since the late '80s. A logical successor to Dinah Washington and Carmen McRae (although even she can't reach the impossible heights of Ella and Sarah Vaughan), Reeves is a superior interpreter of lyrics and a skilled scat singer. She was a talented vocalist with an attractive voice even as a teenager when she sang and recorded with her high school band. She was encouraged by Clark Terry, who had her perform with him while she was a college student at the University of Colorado.
There have been many times when Reeves has explored music beyond jazz. She did session work in Los Angeles starting in 1976, toured with Caldera, worked with Sergio Mendes in 1981, and toured with Harry Belafonte between 1983 and 1986. Reeves began recording as a leader in 1982 and became a regular at major jazz festivals. Her earlier recordings tended to be quite eclectic and many of her live performances have included original, African-inspired folk music (which is often autobiographical), world music, and pop.
After signing with Blue Note in 1987, however, and particularly since 1994, Reeves has found her place in jazz, recording several classic albums along the way, most notably I Remember, The Grand Encounter, The Calling: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan, and A Little Moonlight. In 2005, she appeared onscreen singing '50s standards in the George Clooney film Good Night, And Good Luck. When You Know was released in 2008. Reeves left Blue Note in 2009. After touring and an extended break, she eventually signed with Concord and began working on a new record produced by Terri Lynne Carrington. The pair enlisted an all-star cast including Esperanza Spalding, Sheila E, Robert Glasper, and George Duke (who passed away shortly after the album was completed). Beautiful Life was released just in time for Valentine's Day, 2014.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Trumpet virtuoso and bop revolutionary whose desire to innovate helped invent and define the musical vocabulary for an entire genre. Also instrumental in the evolution of a genre of music that would eventually be called "salsa".
On October 21, 1917, was born Dizzy Gillespie (1917 - 1993); one of the greatest jazz trumpeter of all time and one of the key founders of Afro-Cuban (Latin) jazz which would eventually evolve into what is now known as "salsa", adding Chano Pozo's conga to his orchestra in 1947 and using complex poly-rhythms early on.
Dizzy Gillespie's contributions to jazz were huge. One of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time (some would say the best), Gillespie was such a complex player that his contemporaries ended up copying Miles Davis and Fats Navarro instead, and it was not until Jon Faddis' emergence in the 1970s that Dizzy's style was successfully recreated. Somehow, Gillespie could make any "wrong" note fit, and harmonically he was ahead of everyone in the 1940s, including Charlie Parker. Unlike Bird, Dizzy was an enthusiastic teacher who wrote down his musical innovations and was eager to explain them to the next generation, thereby insuring that bebop would eventually become the foundation of jazz.
Dizzy Gillespie was also one of the key founders of Afro-Cuban (or Latin) jazz, adding Chano Pozo's conga to his orchestra in 1947, and utilizing complex poly-rhythms early on. The leader of two of the finest big bands in jazz history, Gillespie differed from many in the bop generation by being a masterful showman who could make his music seem both accessible and fun to the audience. With his puffed-out cheeks, bent trumpet (which occurred by accident in the early '50s when a dancer tripped over his horn), and quick wit, Dizzy was a colorful figure to watch. A natural comedian, Gillespie was also a superb scat singer and occasionally played Latin percussion for the fun of it, but it was his trumpet playing and leadership abilities that made him into a jazz giant.
The youngest of nine children, John Birks Gillespie taught himself trombone and then switched to trumpet when he was 12. He grew up in poverty, won a scholarship to an agricultural school (Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina), and then in 1935 dropped out of school to look for work as a musician. Inspired and initially greatly influenced by Roy Eldridge, Gillespie (who soon gained the nickname of "Dizzy") joined Frankie Fairfax's band in Philadelphia. In 1937, he became a member of Teddy Hill's orchestra in a spot formerly filled by Eldridge. Dizzy made his recording debut on Hill's rendition of "King Porter Stomp" and during his short period with the band toured Europe. After freelancing for a year, Gillespie joined Cab Calloway's orchestra (1939-1941), recording frequently with the popular bandleader and taking many short solos that trace his development; "Pickin' the Cabbage" finds Dizzy starting to emerge from Eldridge's shadow. However, Calloway did not care for Gillespie's constant chance-taking, calling his solos "Chinese music." After an incident in 1941 when a spitball was mischievously thrown at Calloway (he accused Gillespie but the culprit was actually Jonah Jones), Dizzy was fired.
By then, Gillespie had already met Charlie Parker, who confirmed the validity of his musical search. During 1941-1943, Dizzy passed through many bands including those led by Ella Fitzgerald, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, Charlie Barnet, Fess Williams, Les Hite, Claude Hopkins, Lucky Millinder (with whom he recorded in 1942), and even Duke Ellington (for four weeks). Gillespie also contributed several advanced arrangements to such bands as Benny Carter, Jimmy Dorsey, and Woody Herman; the latter advised him to give up his trumpet playing and stick to full-time arranging.
Dizzy ignored the advice, jammed at Minton's Playhouse and Monroe's Uptown House where he tried out his new ideas, and in late 1942 joined Earl Hines' big band. Charlie Parker was hired on tenor and the sadly unrecorded orchestra was the first orchestra to explore early bebop. By then, Gillespie had his style together and he wrote his most famous composition "A Night in Tunisia." When Hines' singer Billy Eckstine went on his own and formed a new bop big band, Diz and Bird (along with Sarah Vaughan) were among the members. Gillespie stayed long enough to record a few numbers with Eckstine in 1944 (most noticeably "Opus X" and "Blowing the Blues Away"). That year he also participated in a pair of Coleman Hawkins-led sessions that are often thought of as the first full-fledged bebop dates, highlighted by Dizzy's composition "Woody'n You."
1945 was the breakthrough year. Dizzy Gillespie, who had led earlier bands on 52nd Street, finally teamed up with Charlie Parker on records. Their recordings of such numbers as "Salt Peanuts," "'Shaw Nuff," "Groovin' High," and "Hot House" confused swing fans who had never heard the advanced music as it was evolving; and Dizzy's rendition of "I Can't Get Started" completely reworked the former Bunny Berigan hit. It would take two years for the often frantic but ultimately logical new style to start catching on as the mainstream of jazz. Gillespie led an unsuccessful big band in 1945 (a Southern tour finished it), and late in the year he traveled with Parker to the West Coast to play a lengthy gig at Billy Berg's club in L.A. Unfortunately, the audiences were not enthusiastic (other than local musicians) and Dizzy (without Parker) soon returned to New York.
The following year, Dizzy Gillespie put together a successful and influential orchestra which survived for nearly four memorable years. "Manteca" became a standard, the exciting "Things to Come" was futuristic, and "Cubana Be/Cubana Bop" featured Chano Pozo. With such sidemen as the future original members of the Modern Jazz Quartet (Milt Jackson, John Lewis, Ray Brown, and Kenny Clarke), James Moody, J.J. Johnson, Yusef Lateef, and even a young John Coltrane, Gillespie's big band was a breeding ground for the new music. Dizzy's beret, goatee, and "bop glasses" helped make him a symbol of the music and its most popular figure. During 1948-1949, nearly every former swing band was trying to play bop, and for a brief period the major record companies tried very hard to turn the music into a fad.
By 1950, the fad had ended and Gillespie was forced, due to economic pressures, to break up his groundbreaking orchestra. He had occasional (and always exciting) reunions with Charlie Parker (including a fabled Massey Hall concert in 1953) up until Bird's death in 1955, toured with Jazz at the Philharmonic (where he had opportunities to "battle" the combative Roy Eldridge), headed all-star recording sessions (using Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, and Sonny Stitt on some dates), and led combos that for a time in 1951 also featured Coltrane and Milt Jackson. In 1956, Gillespie was authorized to form a big band and play a tour overseas sponsored by the State Department. It was so successful that more traveling followed, including extensive tours to the Near East, Europe, and South America, and the band survived up to 1958. Among the young sidemen were Lee Morgan, Joe Gordon, Melba Liston, Al Grey, Billy Mitchell, Benny Golson, Ernie Henry, and Wynton Kelly; Quincy Jones (along with Golson and Liston) contributed some of the arrangements. After the orchestra broke up, Gillespie went back to leading small groups, featuring such sidemen in the 1960s as Junior Mance, Leo Wright, Lalo Schifrin, James Moody, and Kenny Barron. He retained his popularity, occasionally headed specially assembled big bands, and was a fixture at jazz festivals. In the early '70s, Gillespie toured with the Giants of Jazz and around that time his trumpet playing began to fade, a gradual decline that would make most of his '80s work quite erratic. However, Dizzy remained a world traveler, an inspiration and teacher to younger players, and during his last couple of years he was the leader of the United Nation Orchestra (featuring Paquito D'Rivera and Arturo Sandoval). He was active up until early 1992.
Dizzy Gillespie's career was very well documented from 1945 on, particularly on Musicraft, Dial, and RCA in the 1940s; Verve in the 1950s; Philips and Limelight in the 1960s; and Pablo in later years.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
A hardy, throaty and soulful vocalist who chews on every lyric, infusing them with emotional sentiments
On October 19, 1960, was born Jennifer Holliday; a hardy, throaty and soulful vocalist who chews on every lyric, infusing them with emotional sentiments.
Jennifer Holliday gained national recognition when she had the lead in the Broadway musical Your Arm's Too Short to Box with God. Her performance led to her star-making performance in Dreamgirls, an adaptation of The Supremes' saga. The show featured her show-stealing take on "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," which became a hit single in 1982. That led her to a career in pop music, although she never recaptured her initial success. She returned to the stage in 1985, appearing in Sing, Mahalia, Sing; she continued to release pop music albums while starring on Broadway. In either setting, she's a hardy, throaty, soul belter who chews on every lyric, infusing them with emotional statements.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
Early disco chart-topper from South Florida with 1974's "Rock Your Baby."
On October 19, 1944, was born George McCrae; early disco charting vocalist from South Florida.
Along with wife Gwen McCrae, Miami-based artist George McCrae was a prime mover on the early disco front with his own R&B chart-topper "Rock Your Baby" in 1974. Born in 1944 in West Palm Beach, he formed his own vocal group in the early '60s, which eventually included his future wife Gwen. They soon began working as a duo, and when Gwen found success as a solo act, George eventually became her manager as well as backing vocalist.
With disco kings Harry Casey and Richard Finch of KC & the Sunshine Band producing and writing his output on Henry Stone's T.K. label, McCrae found a hit on his first try with "Rock Your Baby," originally intended as a single for Gwen. It topped charts around the world, and he rapidly returned with the double-sided hit "I Can't Leave You Alone"/"I Get Lifted," but fads being fickle, McCrae's fortunes slipped as the decade progressed. Although he continued recording during the '80s and '90s, he only charted in England with 1984's "One Step Closer (To Love)." After a long absence from recording and releasing material, he returned in 2009 with Time for a Change.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
One third os the sweet ballad-oriented Philly soul trio that sailed to the of the charts with "La-La (Means I Love You)" and "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)"
On October 19, 1947, was born Wilbert Hart; one third os the sweet ballad-oriented Philly soul trio that sailed to the of the charts with "La-La (Means I Love You)" and "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)."
The Delfonics were one of the first groups to sing in the sleek, soulful style that became popularized (thanks to producer Thom Bell) as the "Philadelphia sound." A vocal trio made up of brothers William and Wilbert Hart and high school friend Randy Cain, The Delfonics roots go back to doo wop singing at school dances in the early '60s. They were well-known in the Philly area for their supple, airtight harmonic talent, which brought them to the attention of record producers, eventually landing them a contract with Cameo-Parkway. While their early records brought them little if any notice, it did bring them to the attention of producer/arranger Thom Bell, who signed the band to his soon-to-be influential soul label Philly Groove. Right from the start this was a perfect match as the band released the classic "La La Means I Love You" in 1968, a song that began a string of hits lasting into the mid-'70s.
The sound that Bell created for The Delfonics was the antithesis of the soul sound that came from Stax in Memphis and Muscle Shoals in Alabama. He sandpapered away the grit, lightened up on the backbeat, brought in string sections, and created a smooth, airy sound. Critics enamored of the soul singing of Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding accused Bell and his groups of creating aural wallpaper, but the reality was that Bell and The Delfonics were setting the stage for a different kind of groove where subtlety and nuance reigned.
The hits slowed for The Delfonics in the mid-'70s, and in 1971 Randy Cain quit the band and was replaced by Major Harris. A few more minor hits followed but Harris left the band for a solo career in 1975, effectively finishing The Delfonics. Multiple versions of the group toured, and one even released an album, Return, in 1981.
In the late '90s, the William Hart, Major Harris, and Frank Washington (of the Futures) version of The Delfonics appeared on Ghostface Killah's "After the Smoke Has Cleared." (The group had long been a frequent source of sampled material for hip-hop artists.) The band also played a significant musical role in Quentin Tarantino's film Jackie Brown. Tarantino, a '70s pop culture obsessive, used "La La (Means I Love You)" and their best single, "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)," as a way of underscoring the relationship between actors Pam Grier and Robert Forster. In the film, Forster's character is so struck by the music (and Grier's character), he goes out and buys a Delfonics' Greatest Hits cassette the following day. Near the end of the decade, the William Hart-led version of the group released Forever New on the revived Volt label. Multiple forms of the group continued to exist through the 2000s. Composer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Adrian Younge -- notable for his soundtrack to the 2009 blaxploitation comedy Black Dynamite, as well as Venice Dawn's Something About April -- sought William Hart to record an album-length project in which the singer was front and center. Hart obliged, and Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics was released on Wax Poetics in 2013.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
El Caobo &