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Monday, 31 August 2015

Todd Rhodes born 31 August 1900


Todd Rhodes (August 31, 1900 – June 4, 1965) was an American pianist and arranger and was an early influence in jazz and later on in R&B.
A talented and consummate musician, Todd Rhodes was a professional jazz veteran of some 26 years standing before he began recording with his own septet in the summer of 1947. Born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, young Todd was raised by his widowed mother in Springfield, Ohio, and studied at the Springfield School Of Music and Pennsylvania's Erie Conservatory Of Music. Upon graduating in 1921 he returned to Springfield to hook up with drummer William McKinney, and he remained with McKinney's bands - notably McKinney's Cotton Pickers - for the next thirteen years. Rhodes was the pianist and one of the main arrangers for McKinney's Cotton Pickers, appearing on most of the band's most important recordings.
Leaving McKinney in late 1934, Rhodes played with various local bands in the Detroit area until he formed his own small unit in late 1943. By late 1946 the Todd Rhodes Orchestra was doing lucrative business at Lee's Sensation Lounge, and it was after seeing them there that Bernard Besman and John Kaplan decided to record the band for their new Sensation label in July 1947. By the end of that year the band had become known as "Todd Rhodes & His Toddlers" and their first four Sensation 78s had been picked up for the local Chicago market and re-released on Bill Putnam's Vitacoustic Records.
 


Understandably, the Rhodes band's music was on the jazzy side of jump and R&B, nevertheless they hit the Billboard R&B charts twice during their heyday; "Blues For The Red Boy", originally released on Sensation in 1947, climbed to #4 in late 1948 when it
was reissued on King, and "Pot Likker" went to #3 the following year with another King reissue of a Sensation cut. The former release reached even greater renown in the early 1950s when a then obscure Cleveland DJ called Alan Freed began using the record as his theme tune, rechristened "Blues For Moondog" to encompass his DJ pseudonym.
From 1951 Todd Rhodes & His Orchestra recorded for Syd Nathan's King Records in Cincinnati - Nathan having purchased the Sensation recordings by this stage - and the band stayed for three years, making their own recordings as well as providing the backing for artists such as Wynonie Harris and Dave Bartholomew. The band, itself, paraded a remarkable sequence of staff vocalists; from the tragic Kitty Stevenson, through Connie Allen and Pinocchio James, to the famous LaVern Baker.
 
 Like many musicians of their generation, however, the rock 'n' roll years were not kind to Todd and his band, and they made their last known recordings at Fortune Records with Andre Williams in the late 1950s. Todd found that he had diabetes, but due to his mistrust of the medical profession it was left untreated and he lost a leg as a result of his neglect in early 1965. Sadly, he never recovered enough to leave Wayne County Hospital, where he died in 1965.  (Bio mainly by Dave Penny @ Black Cat Rockabilly)

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Olive Brown born 30 August 1913

 
Olive Brown (b. 30 August 1913* – 9 May 1982) was an American blues singer whose major influence was Bessie Smith. Her repertoire included numbers associated with Smith and also Ethel Waters. Olive, who led her own bands such as Olive Brown & Her Blues Chasers, was associated with the music scenes in three major cities in the Midwest, and was comfortable not only with blues but with jazz and even early rock & roll.
She was born Olive Jefferson in St. Louis, Missouri 30 August 1913.  Jefferson had yet to turn Brown when, at age five, she sang at a sanctified temple in St. Louis. By then her family, including a mother who played ragtime piano, had relocated to Detroit. Her professional debut was in Motor City clubs in the early '40s, and within several years she had relocated west to the Windy City. Brown maintained an axis of gigging most of her career between Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis. Because of both being born and dying in the latter city, it is there that her name is often listed as a native talent, following Helen Brown alphabetically.
Her connection with Chicago is just as strong, however, and includes the required connections with talent such as the Todd Rhodes Orchestra, Earl Bostic, Cecil Gant, Tiny Bradshaw, Gene Ammons, and even the young soul singer Jackie Wilson.  She was christened “Princess of the blues” in the black press.
 
Here’s Olive Brown with “St. Louis Blues” recorded at a club during the 60’s. 
In the mid-'60s she recorded for the Spivey label, organized by label maestro Victoria Spivey, which allows listeners to sample the colour contrast between guest star Muddy Waters and Olive Brown. In this same period, Brown began nearly a decade living in Canada, but this was hardly an exile from music. The roster at a Colonial Tavern date recorded by the CBC in Toronto promises great things, featuring Brown as vocalist with a band including the marvellous trumpeter Buck Clayton, stalwart pianist Sir Charles Thompson, and basso profundo Tommy Potter. Like many of the radio network's live recordings, this '60s session has never been issued on disc. Her life story was the subject of a CBC program in 1967 and in 1968 she performed with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

A similar fate seems to have been in store for some of Brown's other great moments on tape. Her track entitled "Roll Like a Wheel" received much attention when included on a compilation entitled Don't Freeze on Me: Independent Women's Blues, but was actually never released at the time it was recorded. In the early '70s she returned to St. Louis and began performing on the major riverboat lines. In 1973 she received rave reviews for a boisterous performance at the St. Louis Ragtime Festival. She last appeared at a benefit concert in 1980.

As Mrs Olive Brown Graham, she was president of Black Rose Inc., a manufacturer of costume jewellery.
 
Olive Brown died in hospital on May 9, 1982 in St. Louis, MO from kidney failure after a long illness.
* (other sources give birth year as 1922. 1913 date given by The Blues Encyclopaedia also obit from “The Lakeland Ledger”) (Info mainly edited from AMG) 

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Johnny Paris born 29 August 1940


Johnny Paris (born John Pocisk, 1940, Walbridge, Ohio, died 1 May 2006, Ann Arbor, Michigan) was the founder, leader and saxophonist in the group Johnny and the Hurricanes.  
 
Of Polish descent, Paris was born John M. Pocisk in Walbridge, near Toledo, Ohio in 1940. He listened to modern jazz before the arrival of rock'n'roll and after a brief misadventure with trying to learn the tuba, Johnny adopted the sax.. He chose to model himself on Rudi Pompelli, the saxophonist with Bill Haley and the Comets. 
 
He formed his first band, the Black Cats, later renamed as the Orbits, in Rossford Catholic High School in 1957 and they experimented with rock'n'roll music, sometimes accompanying the rockabilly artist Mack Vickery. In 1959 a vocal group, Fred Kelly and the Parliaments, asked the Orbits to back them on an audition for Talent Inc in Detroit. The partners, Irving Micahnik and Harry Balk, didn't think much of Kelly, but asked Pocisk's group to record instrumentals for their own Twirl label.

As Johnny and the Hurricanes, they recorded "Crossfire" in an disused cinema where, in these primitive times, the sound was bounced around the auditorium to create echo. The single was released nationally by Warwick Records and became a US hit and ranked No. 23 in the U.S. chart in the summer of 1959.  
 
 


They followed with "Red River Rock", an instrumental version of "Red River Valley", on Warwick Records, that became a Top Ten hit on both sides of the Atlantic (No. 5 in the U.S., No. 3 in the UK), and sold over a million copies. The musicians in the band then were Paris on saxophone, Paul Tesluk on a Hammond Chord organ, Dave Yorko on guitar, Butch Mattice on bass, and Bill "Little Bo" Savich on drums. 
 
Reveille Rock and 1960's Beatnik Fly were smaller hits. Like Red River Rock - based on a traditional campfire song of the old frontier - they were overhauls of well-known ditties on which the original melody was easily discernible on a shrill electric organ as prominent as Paris's saxophone. Despite producing some quite adventurous B-sides, the group stuck otherwise to the established strategy of rocking up the likes of When the Saints Go Marching In (as Revival) and the evangelist hymn Bringing in the Sheaves (as Salvation). They chose these songs because they were well recognized and easier to accept with the rock and roll beat.  

Tunes were credited to 'King, Mack' and sometimes one other name, King and Mack were in fact pseudonyms for Harry Balk and Irving Micahnik, the band's managers. In 1960, they recorded the United States Army bugle call, "Reveille", as "Reveille Rock", and turned "Blue Tail Fly" into "Beatnik Fly". Both tunes made the Top 40 achieving number 15 and 25 respectively. The band also recorded "Down Yonder" for Big Top Records. Still in 1960, they recorded "When The Saints Go Marching In" as "Revival", but it ranked in the charts for just one week, and peaked at No. 97. The track fared better in the UK as the B-side of "Rocking Goose", which reached No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart. 

The band developed a following in Europe. In 1962, they played at the Star-Club in Hamburg, where the Beatles, then a little-known band, served as an opening act. Johnny and the Hurricanes cut records until 1965, with "Old Smokie" (their cover of "On Top of Old Smokey"), and an original tune, "Traffic Jam", both on Big Top Records, being their last releases to chart in America.  

Johnny Paris, the only constant member of Johnny and the Hurricanes, continued to tour with his Hurricanes in Europe and United States until his death. Johnny had an uncle (a realtor) in Rossford, Ohio (Johnny's home town) who owned a building on the main street and offered Johnny's first wife (Sharon Venier-Pocisk) space for an antique shop. When not on the road he helped out with the antique shop and vending machine business as payment for the store front for his first wife.

Johnny Paris and his band toured Europe occasionally until the end of 2005. He died on 1 May 2006 at the University Clinic of Ann Arbor, Michigan, of sepsis and pneumonia after a after a splenectomy. He was buried in Calvary Cemetery, Toledo, Ohio.

Paris's second wife and widow, the German journalist and novelist Sonja Reuter Paris, took over his business (Atila Records, Sirius 1 Music and Johnny and the Hurricanes Incorporated) and the rights to his songs and trademarks. Paris claimed that over 300 musicians played in the band in its fifty-year existence.
 
 (Info mainly Wikipedia & The Guardian)

Here’s a clip of Johnny & The Hurricanes live At Sportpaleis Antwerp 15.03,1997

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Tommy Sands born 27 August 1937

 
Tommy Sands (born Thomas Adrian Sands, 27 August 1937, Chicago, Illinois) is an American pop music singer and actor.
Tommy‘s mother was a singer who performed in Art Kassel's band. Growing up he enjoyed music, particularly country music. In 1944 his mother gave him a guitar for Christmas. They moved to Houston, and Tommy spent some time there as a disc jockey as early as age 12. In 1951 he cut his first record and by the following year he had attracted the attention of entrepreneur Colonel Tom Parker, who signed young Tommy to a contract with RCA records. For the next few years he recorded some songs that had little impact.
1957 was a breakthrough year for Tommy Sands. Early that year he was given the title role in a television play called The Singing Idol. He had what would prove to be his biggest hit ever with Teen-Age Crush from that show; it went to number two and made him a very popular figure.
 



In April, while still a teenager, he was featured on the television show This Is Your Life. He signed with Capitol and continued to record songs; his cover of Faron Young's 1953 country hit Goin' Steady began to climb the charts. Tommy Sands, star of The Singing Idol, had become a singing idol.
Meanwhile Colonel Parker had signed another singing sensation who had become prominent nationally in 1956, Elvis Presley. Comparisons between Presley and Sands were inevitable. Both had been managed by Parker, both burst on the scene in grand style, and both went to Hollywood to make movies. For Sands, his first film was a starring vehicle for him titled Sing Boy Sing. He had trained as an actor when he was in school, and did an admirable job in his first film. His recording of the song from that film by the same title would become his third and last top forty tune.
He began to concentrate more on films, appearing in Mardi Gras with Pat Boone and a forgettable film, Love In A Goldfish Bowl. In 1960 he starred in Disney's remake of the Victor Herbert operetta Babes In Toyland, along with popular singer/actress Annette Funicello, and he married pop-sensation-to-be Nancy Sinatra. Tommy also continued with his recording career. The release of "I'll Be Seeing You," marked a new musical direction for Sands. He cut two albums with Nelson Riddle and continued to release singles for a variety of labels, but none in the teen rock format that made him famous. Other film roles came along, including The Longest Day, Ensign Pulver and None But The Brave.
Tommy Sands and Nancy Sinatra were divorced in 1965 and her father, Frank Sinatra, was not inclined to help Sands with his singing career. Sands did another film, The Violent Ones and eventually went into semi-retirement, moving to Hawaii. He opened a nightclub and had a clothing business for a while. He also found time to appear in several episodes of the popular television program Hawaii Five-O.
In later years Tommy Sands made an appearance at a rock-and-roll festival in England in 1990 and ten years later he was featured in the television special Hollywood Rocks The Movies.
Tommy Sands' name does not come up often when there are discussions of the early days of rock-and-roll, and his old songs receive very little play time on oldies radio stations. But that does not diminish the fact that he did a serviceable job with his acting career, drew comparisons to his contemporary Elvis Presley, and was very popular and a prominent figure in the early days of rock-and-roll.  (info mainly from tsimon.com) 

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Betty McQuade born 26 August 1941


Betty McQuade  (26 August 1941 - 26 December 2011) was an Australian Rock 'n' Roll singer, best remembered for her bluesy rendition of 'Midnight Bus' which reached No. 6 on the music charts in Melbourne in 1961.
Born Elizabeth (Betty) Rankin McQuade in Paisley, Scotland on 26 August 1941, Betty's family migrated to Australia and settled in Brisbane when Betty was eight years old. As a teen she appeared in many talent contests and performed in various clubs and music venues around Brisbane. Then in 1956 she won a major competition held at the Brisbane City Hall - she was 15 years of age.
This seemed to have kick started her career and from 1956 through to 1960 she started working in venues around Brisbane such as, Cloudland which was a famous dance venue in that city. It was at Cloudland that she found herself sharing the same stage as Johnny O'Keefe. She also worked at the Brisbane City Hall and other clubs and in fact later the young Bee Gees would be support act for her. It was also around this time that she began to get television appearances.
In 1960 Betty moved to Melbourne in the hope of advancing her singing career and quickly found success as the new lead singer of The Thunderbirds replacing Judy Cannon. In 1961 Betty was signed to Astor Records as part of the company's new policy of signing and promoting local artists.

 


Midnight Bus, recorded in 1961, has been released more than six times. This record is an Australian rock-n-roll classic and is sought after by collectors It was eventually voted in a newspaper's poll The #1 Rock song of the 20th century in Australia!
The runaway success of 'Midnight Bus' led to television appearances on 'Six O'Clock Rock', Teen Scene', 'In Melbourne Tonight' and 'The Go!! Show' and in 1962 she joined The Premiers who provided backing vocals for her fourth and last single with the Astor label, 'Bobby, Bobby, Bobby'.
In 1965 Betty was signed by the Go!! label which re-released 'Midnight Bus' and Betty's 2nd single, 'Blue Train'. On returning to Queensland in 1966 Betty Mc Quade featured at Brisbane and Gold Coast cabarets and night clubs. Betty’s repertoire expanded to include evergreens and ballads to compliment the rock-n-roll.
She retired in 1968 when she returned to Brisbane and married. Her marriage wasn't successful, and she  returned  to playing small clubs and venues but it took a return to Melbourne in 1983 for her to find her "mojo" again! It was April and Betty was headlining the video, "Rockin' at the Arcadia", which also featured The Thunderbirds, Judy Owens and several other artists.
During the 1980s, a resurgence of interest in the first wave of Australian rock 'n' roll saw Betty performing at many rock 'n' roll reunion tours and concerts performing with The Thunderbirds, The Premiers and the Allstars. Betty guested on numerous radio and television shows. She also toured the southern states of Australia with the Allstars and performed on Johnny Chester’s Rock-n-Roll Reunion at Crown Showroom in 2002.
She continued to be a dynamic live performer well into the 2000s and was much admired by the music community. Her last gig was at Seagulls on the Gold Coast on 22nd September 2007. She died in Brisbane on 26 December 2011 after a long illness.
(Info edited from Arts Centre, Melbourne & Toorak Times.)

Here’s Betty McQuade with the Allstars 18th December 2006

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Edythe Baker born 25 August 1899


Edythe  A. Baker (August 25, 1899 – August 15, 1971)** was an American boogie-woogie pianist.
Baker was born in poverty in Girard, Kansas to Asa and Sophronia Baker. After her mother died around 1910 she was sent to Kansas City, Missouri to live, and attended a convent. There she was trained in piano fundamentals, eventually working for a music store. After touring with a vaudeville troupe in 1918, Edythe moved to New York City in 1919. There she made piano rolls (for Aeolian and Duo-Art) between 1919 and 1926; these included ragtime and pop pieces. She worked on Broadway in musicals and performed with vaudeville troupes such as the Ziegfeld Follies. 
In 1926, Baker relocated to England, and recorded twenty two pieces there between 1927 and 1933. She became a star there after appearing in revues in 1927. She married into the banking family of Gerard d'Erlanger in 1928.  While Edythe would not appear on the stage in public again, she was not through with her career, which was simply on hold. With Gerard she traveled the world from time to time. The couple was seen on a few passenger lists, including one returning from Durban, South Africa, in September, 1930.
In late 1931 Edythe went back to the recording studios, for Decca, where she started on a series of 16 sides that are still regarded as fine performances of otherwise average pieces. Mrs. d'Erlanger was successful in maintaining her social status and that of her husband's while playing jazz at some functions as well as the recordings. Her last session was in February 1933, the height of the Great Depression, and little more would be heard from the fingers of Edythe Baker d'Erlanger.
 
 


Trouble had been brewing at home as both Edythe and Gerard - more Gerard according to some reports - had been stepping out from time to time. The childless couple finally divorced in 1934. He soon remarried, but she remained at large. Among those she was often seen with, and commented on in the press, was Edward, Prince of Wales and his younger brother George, the Duke of Kent. The speculation raged in January 1936 when Edward was finally crowned King Edward VIII, still a single man.
The pianist and some companions took a trip to Trinidad in the spring of 1938 on the Simon Bolivar. After that, by 1939 virtually all mentions of Edythe disappeared from the press, and she had settled to a quiet life in London. She was listed in directories from 1936 through 1944 with the same phone number throughout, MAYfair 5852, at two different addresses.
 In August 1945, just at the end of World War II, Edythe sailed back to New York on the George H. Pendleton, and evidently resettled in the United States, likely in New York City for a while. Some sources state that whilst there shebecame a piano teacher in Wurstboro, New York. She made another trip to England in 1958 aboard the United States, and now at nearly 59 years, listed herself as retired.
Little is known about Edythe past that point, she had possibly resettled in Southern California. As it turns out, she had married Maine native Girard S. Brewer in Orange, California, on December 2, 1961. The couple resided there through the time of Edythe’s death, which was on August 15, 1971. Girard Brewer survived her until October of 1978.
Fortunately through the efforts of dedicated piano roll collectors and record restorers she is not totally forgotten. Hopefully her recordings will bring the lovely Ms. Baker the recognition she deserves for her unique style of piano playing and her overall presence in the world of music.
A selection of Baker's piano rolls, recorded by Dave Jasen, were reissued on an album released by Folkways Records in 1983.  
** Previously recorded dates of August 3, 1895 to November 22, 1965, were erroneously applied from another Edythe Baker who was born in Michigan and died in New York.
(Info Wikipedia and ragpiano.com) 

Monday, 24 August 2015

Jimmy Soul born 24 August 1942


Jimmy Soul (August 24, 1942 – June 15, 1988) was an American vocalist. He is best remembered for his 1963 number one hit, "If You Wanna Be Happy."
Born James Louis McCleese in Weldon, North Carolina, he became a preacher at the age of seven and performed gospel music as a teenager. He acquired his performing name, "Soul," from his congregation.
He subsequently toured southern US states as a member of several gospel groups, including the famed Nightingales, wherein Soul was billed as ‘The Wonder Boy’, before discovering a forte for pop and R&B. He became a popular attraction around the Norfolk area of Virginia where he was introduced to songwriter/producer Frank Guida, who guided the career of Gary ‘U.S.’ Bonds.
Guida presented the song ‘Twistin’ Matilda’ to Bonds, who declined to record it. Instead it was given to Jimmy, landing him a #22 hit. It was based on a calypso tune, as were many of Guida’s numbers. Jimmy was more interested in the potential of its flip, the soulful ‘I Can’t Hold Out Any Longer’, but the happy simplicity of ‘Twistin’ Matilda’ easily won the day  A well-crafted follow-up, ‘When Matilda Comes Back’, failed to chart, as did Jimmy’s third single.
 



 Then came ‘If You Wanna Be Happy’, based on the calypso song ‘Ugly Woman’, which went all the way to #1. It sold over one million gramophone records, earning gold disc status. It had two spells in the UK Singles Chart, peaking at #39 (1963) and #68 (1991) respectively.
A swiftly released album maintained the infectious quality with ‘Hands Off’, the soulful ‘I Want To Know If You Love Me’ and ‘When I Get My Car’. Tunes such as ‘You’re Nothing’ showed that Jimmy had the talent to be successful in a range of styles. He followed the hit with the excellent ‘Treat ‘Em Tough’ which only bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100. Further flop singles failed to sustain his career and a spell in Vietnam during which he was wounded ended his moment in the sun.
Later in life, Soul fell into a drug habit, and on January 9, 1986 was sentenced to 4 and a half to 9 years in prison as a second felony offender, convicted of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree. The sentence was affirmed upon appeals on October 26, 1987 and March 22, 1988.
Soul died of a presumably drug related heart attack in new York on June 15, 1988, aged 45. (Info edited from Wikipedia & Ace Records)