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Thursday, 21 May 2015

Marcie Blane born 21 May 1944

Marcie Blane (born Marcia Blank, May 21, 1944, Brooklyn, New York) is an American singer who recorded pop music. The Seville record label issued a demo performed by the high school student as a favor for a friend. The song was "Bobby's Girl", which was followed by "What Does a Girl Do" and several other singles.

Released on Seville records in the fall of 1962, "Bobby's Girl" made #2 on the Cash Box chart and #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was later recorded for the German market in their language. It sold over one million copies by 1963, and was awarded a gold disc. In the United Kingdom the song was covered by Susan Maughan who had the hit. "What Does A Girl Do?", the follow-up single, rose to #82 on the Hot 100 list in early 1963, and was Blane's only other appearance on any Billboard chart.
Seville kept Marcie's releases flowing thick and fast through 1963, but "Little Miss Fool", "You Gave My Number To Billy" and "Why Can't I Get A Guy" all failed to catch on, and her position as the nation's top-selling female singer was soon taken by Little Peggy March and Lesley Gore. But by now she had higher things than the fickleness of fans on her mind, having recently enrolled as a fulltime music major at Queens College, the alma mater of Paul Simon, Carole King and Marvin Hamlisch, to name just a few. Marcie did find time, though, to visit the UK, where she performed on TV's Thank Your Lucky Stars.
Marcie's only release of 1964 was "Bobby Did", a song co-written by the then unknown Neil Diamond. 1965's "She'll Break The String" marked the end of her recording career. It transpires the whole experience had not been one Marcie had enjoyed. She loved music, and always had, but cared not for the record business. She had continued making records because she was contractually obliged to do so, but had elected against promoting them, focusing instead on her education and family life.
After graduating from Queens College, Marcie got married, had two children, and went on to enjoy a whole new career working in education.  Around 1965 Marcie retired from the music business and, as of the early 1990's, was a music and arts educator in New York.
 "The music business was impossible for me to deal with," Marcie revealed in a rare interview in 1988. "Everything changed. I felt very isolated and very lonely. I decided not to continue. I couldn't. It was too difficult. I didn't feel comfortable in front of a lot of people, with everyone making a fuss. I didn't have the sense of myself that I needed. It's taken all these years to be able to enjoy what there was."   (Info edited mainly from  Spectropop & Wikipedia)

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Bob Florence born 20 May 1932

Bob Florence (May 20, 1932 – May 15, 2008) was an American jazz arranger and pianist. As a long-time staff arranger for Liberty Records, Bob Florence wrote some of the most innovative and challenging charts in post-war jazz -- in many respects a man out of time, he possessed a particular brilliance for large-ensemble arrangements in the tradition of Duke Ellington, although the commercial vogue for big-band jazz had long since passed.

Born May 30, 1932, in Los Angeles, Florence was a child prodigy who took his first piano lesson at the age of three. His mother played the piano for silent movies during the 1920s. His teacher discovered that the youngster had perfect pitch, the immediate ability to discern the pitch of any given note. At 7 he gave his first recital and was on a course for a career in classical music.
He abandoned classical studies in favour of jazz and pop while attending Los Angeles City College, assembling a band with classmates and future studio aces Tommy Tedesco, Herb Geller, and Dennis Budimir. At a friend's suggestion, Florence shifted the group's practices to the Hollywood Musician's Union local rehearsal hall, launching a weekly session that quickly drew myriad players from across the Southern California jazz scene, all vying for a spot in the line-up.
Upon graduating, Florence signed on with guitarist Alvino Rey,

followed by stints arranging for bandleaders Harry James and Les Brown. In 1958 he led his first session for Era, Meet the Bob Florence Trio, followed a year later by his first big-band date, The Name Band. From 1959 to 1964 Florence collaborated with Si Zentner, arranging the trombonist's 1960 smash "Up a Lazy River" -- the single was the last commercial gasp of the big-band era, a shift further underscored the following year when Florence and Zentner backed space age pop maestro Martin Denny on the classic Exotica Suite.
The commercial and creative success of the Zentner and Denny sessions convinced Liberty A&R director Dave Pell to hire Florence for a full-time staff gig, and in the years to follow he arranged numerous recordings for the label, spanning from vocalist Vic Dana to West Coast jazz great Bud Shank to bossa nova giant Sergio Mendes.
Even the most pop-oriented dates benefited greatly from Florence's uncommonly luminous and intricate arrangements, and in 1964 he was given the chance to record his own LP, the acclaimed Here and Now!, which won praise from Thelonious Monk during a "blindfold test" interview published in Down Beat. Pet Project, a collection of songs popularized by singer Petula Clark, followed in 1967. Florence supplemented his studio work with arrangements for Dean Martin and Red Skelton's television variety shows, and Hollywood dominated even more of his focus in the decade to follow.
Throughout his career, Florence worked as an arranger for Louie Bellson, Stan Kenton, Buddy Rich, Count Basie and Doc Severinsen.
He spent the first half of the '70s serving as the musical director for singer Vikki Carr, a position he later held for Julie Andrews as well. But Florence never turned his back completely on jazz, and in 1978 he signed to the Trend label to release the album Live at Concerts by the Sea, the first in a series of critically heralded contemporary big-band efforts.
              Here's "Geezerhood" from above  2009 album. 

Over the years the group (dubbed the Limited Edition in 1982) served as a launching pad for a number of first-call L.A. session players, and in 2000 the LP Serendipity 18 won the Grammy for Best Jazz Performance by a Large Ensemble. Florence died May 15, 2008; two weeks shy of his 76th birthday at Barlow Respiratory Hospital in Los Angeles after a lengthy bout of pneumonia.
 (Info mainly from All Music)

           Invitation & On Green Dolphin Street

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Johnny Alf born 19 May 1929

Alfredo Jos da Silva (May 19, 1929 – March 4, 2010), popularly known as Johnny Alf, was a Brazilian pianist, singer and composer. Though he was not widely known outside Brazil and enjoyed mass popularity only intermittently in his homeland, Mr. Alf, born Alfredo José da Silva, is highly regarded among Brazilian musicians and musicologists. The writer Ruy Castro, the author of several authoritative books on Brazilian popular music, has called him “the true father of the bossa nova.”
Mr. Alf was a contemporary of Antônio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto and others who would make the bossa nova a worldwide phenomenon, but he began his career earlier and spent the mid-1950s playing on what was known as Bottle Alley, a street in Copacabana full of bars and nightclubs. His younger admirers would sneak into those clubs to listen to him play and study his technique and improvisational style.
Alfredo José da Silva was born in the Vila Isabel neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro, a hotbed of samba, on May 19, 1929. His father was a corporal in the Brazilian Army, his mother a housekeeper. He began studying the piano at age 9, focusing on the classical repertory. But his love of American movies pushed him toward jazz and away from the classics, a shift on which he later reflected in an amusing composition called “Seu Chopin, Desculpe” (“Pardon Me, Chopin”).
Mr. Alf started playing professionally at 14, when he was given his Americanized stage name. He helped found a Frank Sinatra fan club in Rio and also admired George Gershwin and Cole Porter. But his biggest influence, as both pianist and singer, was probably Nat King Cole, whose smooth vocal delivery, gentle touch and sophisticated chords meshed with Mr. Alf’s quiet, even timid, personality.
“I always played in my own style,” Mr. Alf said in an interview with the Brazilian daily Folha de São Paulo. “I had the idea of joining Brazilian music with jazz. I try to bring everything together to achieve an agreeable result.” Alf's reputation for pioneering a new sound earned him two other nicknames: Genialf and Senhor Modernidade – Mr Modernity.
At its best, Mr. Alf’s music had a light and airy feeling that expressed the optimism and joie de vivre that Brazilians think of as among their defining national traits. It was reflected not just in the title of his best-known song, “Eu e a Brisa” (“Me and the Breeze”) but also in hits like “Ilusão à Toa” (“Carefree Illusion”) and “Céu e Mar” (“Sky and Sea”), as well as “O Tempo e o Vento” (“Time and the Wind”) and “Rapaz de Bem” (“Well-Intentioned Guy”), a two-sided success released as a 78 r.p.m. single in 1955 and now widely regarded as the first glimmering of bossa nova on record. 

   Here's   "Bossa Só" from above 1964 album.      

But Mr. Alf eventually tired of the glitz of Rio and moved to São Paulo in the mid-1960s to take a job teaching in a conservatory. After that, while continuing to perform regularly, he recorded only sporadically. In 1990 he recorded “Olhos Negros” (“Black Eyes”), a widely praised CD dominated by duets with a second generation of admirers, including Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Chico Buarque and Gal Costa.  

Over his career, he recorded nine albums and appeared on nearly fifty others. He died in 2010, aged 80, from prostate cancer.
After his death, the lyrics to one of his best-known songs – Eu e a Brisa (Me and the Breeze) – were read out in the Brazilian senate. 

“From him I learned all of the modern harmonies that Brazilian music began to use in the bossa nova, samba-jazz and instrumental songs,” (Quote from pianist and arranger João Donato).
“He opened the doors for us with his way of playing piano, with its jazz influence. When my generation arrived, he had already planted the seeds.”(Quote from guitarist and composer Carlos Lyra)            (Info edited from various sources mainly New York Times obit.)

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Paul Quinchette born 17 May 1916

Paul Quinichette (17 May 1916 - 25 May 1983) was a jazz tenor saxophone musician. He was known as the Vice President or Vice Prez for his uncanny emulation of the breathy style of Lester Young, who was known as Prez. Young called him “Lady Q”, (a term not exactly meant at as a compliment.) With a nice smoky tone, Quinichette worked with many great musicians, and played on some of the earliest tribute albums. If he is somewhat forgotten today, it may because the tenor style he followed is currently out of favour. That fact does not lessen his music, some of which is remarkable. 

Paul Quinichette grew up in Denver and started young with the saxophone, and attended Tennessee State College as a music major. Beginning on alto and clarinet, he switched to tenor as he began to get work with R&B bands. After getting experience with Nat Towles, Lloyd Sherock, and Ernie Fields, Quinichette was featured with Jay McShann during 1942-1944. He played on the West Coast with Johnny Otis (1945-1947), travelled to New York with Louis Jordan, and performed with Lucky Millinder (1948-1949), Red Allen, and Hot Lips Page. He moved to New York around 1946. 
His big break came in 1953, when he was hired by Count Basie … to play solos in the style of Lester Young. He played this role exceptionally, to the point of copying Young’s mannerisms. It earned him a contract with Emarcy Records, a series of fine albums (including one with Lester himself) and a certain level of fame, albeit minor. Three of his recordings were directly on a Basie theme as; “For Basie,” “Basie Reunion,” and “Like Basie.” 
When he wasn’t “playing Lester”, Quinichette had an agreeably gruff tone, which served him well on his ’57 effort “Cattin’ with Quinichette and Coltrane.” Though this is considered his best effort, sadly, this disc would be among his last; as hard-bop became the dominant style, Quinichette found it increasingly difficult to ply his trade.  
                  Here's "This Can't be Love" from above album.  
He left jazz entirely in the late Fifties, working in New York as an electrical contractor. In 1977 he attempted a comeback, producing a few more albums; and spent some time playing with pianist Jay McShann. But poor health forced him to retire again, and he died in New York City, 1983. His music is worthy of more attention - he may not have been innovative, but was always entertaining.
(Info various mainly jazzimprov & AMG)

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Dorothy Jones born 16 May 1934

Dorothy Jones (May 16, 1934 - Dec 15, 2010) was a founding member of the Cookies, an American R&B girl group in the 1950s to 1960s. Members of the original line-up would later become The Raelettes, the backing vocalists for Ray Charles.  

Dorothy Jones, was born in South Carolina, but as a child moved to Brooklyn. At seven she joined the choir of the First Baptist Church in Coney Island. She continued singing, drifted into backup session work, and later  brought Brooklyn friends Earl-Jean McCrea and Margaret Ross into the business. McCrea born in North Carolina, moved at the age two to Brooklyn, finished high school and was working as an IBM operator when Jones brought her into the record business. They Recorded for Lamp Records in 1954. Together they became the Cookies making their debut at The Apollo Theatre on Amateur Night, winning the contest. There they were spotted by an Jesse Stone of Atlantic Records, who brought them to the label for vocal sessions in 1955.

One of the sessions produced In Paradise, a 1956 hit that went to number 9 on the R&B charts. Robertson was replaced in 1956 by Margie Hendricks (Hendrix). The group was introduced to Ray Charles through their session work for Atlantic Records. After backing him and other Atlantic Records artists, McCrea and Hendricks helped form The Raelettes in 1958. Pat Lyles was a Raelette, but never a Cookie.

In 1961, a new version of the Cookies emerged in New York, with Dorothy Jones joining newcomers "Earl-Jean" McCrea (Darlene's younger sister) and another of Dorothy's cousins, Margaret Ross. Jones also recorded one solo recording for Columbia in 1961. This trio had the greatest success as the Cookies, under their own name, as backing vocals for other artists, including Neil Sedaka's hit songs "Breaking Up is Hard to Do", "The Dreamer" and "Bad Girl"; and recording demos for Aldon Music, under the direction of Carole King and Gerry Goffin. They provided the backup vocals for the Little Eva hit song, "The Loco-Motion", as well as her follow-up hit "Let's Turkey Trot", both from 1962. They scored their biggest hit in 1963 with the song "Don't Say Nothin' Bad (About My Baby)", which reached #3 on the Billboard R&B chart and #7 on the Billboard Pop chart. 


A 1962 hit, "Chains", was later recorded by The Beatles. Earl-Jean McCrea left the group in 1965 after two solo singles, which included the first recording of the Goffin/King song, "I'm Into Something Good".

As the British Invasion hit the American shores, hits started drying up for the girl groups and, even though they released several recordings under pseudonyms, mostly with Margaret Ross on lead, hey never managed another hit. Their alter egos on recordings were The Palisades (Chairman), The Stepping Stones (Philips), The Cinderellas (Dimension) and The Honey Bees (Fontana).

 In April 1967 they released their last record, produced by The Tokens. Darlene McCrea returned to replace her sister for this recording after which the group broke up.

At that point, Dorothy focused her attention on her growing family.  She moved to Columbus in 1970, where she and her husband brought up their twelve children.  In 1997, several surviving members of the group appeared on Fordham University's WFUV "Group Harmony Review" program to discuss their career.  Dorothy and two others resumed performing again as The Cookies and continued up until she was forced to retire due to poor health. 

Dorothy Jones died on Christmas Day, 2010, in Columbus, Ohio from Alzheimer's Disease. She was 76.

Margaret Ross, now Margaret Williams, tours today as The Cookies with new back-up singers. She also performs with Barbara Harris and The Toys occasionally. (Info edited mainly from Wikipedia and History Of Rock)

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Mike Preston born 14 May 1938

Michael Preston (born 14 May 1938, Hackney, London, England) is an international film and television actor, sometimes credited as Mike Preston. 
Mike was born as Jack Davis in Clapton, East London in 1925 and from the word go, was a keen sportsman. As a young lad he played soccer for Hackney in the English Schools Shield and, according to a school pal of the time, “swam like a fish, played cricket and football, boxed for the school and town, was to the forefront at Athletics and was no slouch at lessons". Added to this he was a member of the local Glyn Road Church Choir where he was a boy soprano. It was whilst serving with the Irish Guards however that his boxing skills came to the forefront. In a career lasting 78 bouts Mike (or rather Jack) lost only 8 fights on a decision. The remaining 70 he won, one on a decision and the remainder as knockouts. Prior to his army service he had won an A.B.A. Divisional Championship.  

After leaving school his first job was delivering agency pictures to newspaper offices in Fleet Street. From that he graduated to dark-room work becoming a skilled photographic printer. After demob he returned to Civvy Street and took a course as a trainee cameraman where he became a qualified cartoon cameraman, which entailed animating artist's drawings for television commercials. He also took his first steps on the road to the recording studio by taking singing lessons. But - as quoted on the liner notes to one of his EPs - ballad singers such as he were falling out of favour with the young rock and stars taking centre stage in the record buyers eyes. 

However Mike persevered, and when Decca offered him a
recording contract in 1958 he cut his first two sides, “A House A
Car and A Wedding Ring", a composition by Jerry Lordan a singer and songwriter who, in a couple of years time, would have the composing credits to one of Britain's biggest instrumental hits of the day, The Shadows “Apache". The B-side was "My Lucky Love", and together these two singles were also issued by Decca's London label in the States where it was named as "a best bet" in the Variety trade paper. It was reputedly selling 25,000 copies a day, but I think that might be more of a publicity statement than actual fact. It peaked in Billboard's charts at No.93 on December 1. 
On the strength of this Mike still in his day job flew out to America for two weeks of radio and TV appearances - making about fifty of them in that short space of time. Mike's follow up record was a cover of an old Ink Spots favourite from the '40s,"Whispering Grass". Another song to have later success for other than Mike was his third release, "Dirty Old Town", but "Mr Blue" was the song that did it. It was a Number One hit in America for The Fleetwoods, a boy and two girls group who'd already had a Number One over there and some success in Britain with “Come Softly To Me" - but they fell by the wayside. 

He had three Top 40 hits in the UK Singles Chart, before immigrating to Australia where he worked as a nightclub singer. He then became a host on television, and then an actor. He was a guest host on In Melbourne Tonight in 1968. His first ongoing starring role on television in was in the long-running police drama series Homicide as Sen. Det. Bob Delaney from 1972-1973. He later had a recurring role in the soap opera Bellbird as Fr. John Kramer between 1974-1976. He later took a lead role in prison-based soap opera Punishment (1981) but this series was short-lived. 
Preston also acted in films. His first feature film was Surabaya Conspiracy (1969); other film roles included playing Pappagallo in the 1981 hit Mad Max 2, his best-known role, and Jared-Syn in the 1983 science fiction B movie, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn. 
Later he had an ongoing role in Hot Pursuit as Alec Shaw in 1984. He has also starred in many television movies and made guest appearances on television series including The A-Team, Airwolf, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Alien Nation, Ellen, and Highlander: The Series. (Info edited from Vocallion liner notes & Wikipedia)

Mike Preston before his Mad Max 2 days, singing on the Australian TV music program "Hit Scene", June 1970.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Ritchie Valens born 13 May 1941

Ritchie Valens (Richard Steven Valenzuela; May 13, 1941 – February 3, 1959) was an American singer, songwriter and guitarist.   

A rock and roll pioneer and a forefather of the Chicano rock movement, Valens' professional career lasted only eight months. During this time, however, he scored several hits, most notably "La Bamba", was a Chicano rock song that became a hit, making Valens a pioneer of the Spanish-speaking rock and roll movement.

Rock Musician, Singer. Born Richard Steven Valenzuela in a largely Hispanic community north of Los Angeles known as the San Fernando Valley, his father was a devotee of flamenco music and blues and instilled his love of music to Ritchie. At the age of eleven he started playing guitar and took it with him everywhere. 

During lunchtime at school he would practice or entertain his friends with his music. When he entered High School he was already an
accomplished musician and played often at school assemblies and after school parties. He was in a variety of bands and in his junior year he joined a local California Rock n Roll band called the “Silhouettes” and they quickly became local stars.

At a January 1958 'rent party' held in an American Legion Hall, the band was taped by a part time talent scout who worked for Bob Keane, the owner of Keen Records. Keane was looking for talent for his new label Del Fi Records and after hearing the tape, Keane decided he wanted to hear more of Ritchie so he auditioned him in Los Angeles. The audition went very well and shortly afterward Ritchie Valen’s first single 'Come On Lets Go' was released in the summer of 1958. 

The single did well and he released two more singles: 'Donna' for his high school sweetheart and 'La Bamba' which was reworking of a traditional Mexican folk song. Both singles became enormous hits and began moving towards the top ten and his record sold a half million copies.

A completely self-taught musician, Valens was an accomplished singer and guitarist. At his appearances he often improvised new lyrics and added new riffs to popular songs while he was playing. This is an aspect of his music that is, sadly, not heard in his commercial studio recordings. Due to his high-energy performances, Valens earned the nickname “The Little Richard of the Valley”.

In late January 1959 Ritchie Valens joined Buddy Holly,
J.P. "The 
Big Bopper" Richardson and “Dion and the Belmonts” for the 'Winter Dance Party' which was a tour of the upper Midwest. On February 2, 1959 the 'Winter Dance Party' arrived in Clear Lake, Iowa to play a dance at the Surf Ball Room. Due to a broken heater on the bus that they had been travelling on Buddy Holly arranged to fly to North Dakota in a leased four seat Beechcraft Bonanza airplane for himself and the band members, Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup.  

Jennings gave his seat up to Richardson, who was running a fever and had trouble fitting his stocky frame comfortably into the bus seats. When Ritchie heard of Buddy's intended flight, he tried to convince Allsup to give up his seat. Tommy didn't want to but finally agreed to flip a coin to decide who would go, provided he could use The Big Bopper's new sleeping bag if he lost. The Big Bopper agreed. Allsup flipped the coin, and Ritchie called "heads". "Heads" it was. Valens won the seat...and Allsup won the rest of his life.

The three stars arrived at the airport about 12.40 a.m. and were met by their 21-year-old pilot, Roger Peterson, and Jerry Dwyer the owner of the plane. It was a little before 1 a.m. when the single engine aircraft took off in a blinding snow storm. Peterson was inexperienced and was actually not supposed to fly under conditions requiring navigation by instruments, but did not see the special advisories concerning poor visibility. Peterson probably became confused in reading the unfamiliar gyroscope and may not have realised he was descending and not ascending. Just minutes after take-off, the plane plunged into the ground.

The wreckage was spotted at approximately 9:35 a.m. the next morning when a worried Dwyer decided to investigate, after not having heard from the airport of destination. Holly and Valens lay twenty feet from the plane while The Big Bopper was thrown forty feet away. Ritchie Valens was just 17 years old. February 3rd, 1959 would become known years later, in a song called 'American Pie' by Don McClean as "The Day The Music Died".

Valens only had about two albums worth of material in the can, as well as some lo-fi live tapes of a gig at a local junior high, before his death; undoubtedly some or many of these were demos or unfinished tracks. In the wake of his death, several further singles were issued, only two of which - "That's My Little Suzie" and "Little Girl" - were minor chart hits. Three albums - 'Ritchie Valens', 'Ritchie' and 'Ritchie Valens In Concert At Pacoima Junior High' - were released from sessions recorded for Del-Fi and at a performance for Valens' classmates.
Ritchie Valens was only seventeen when he died, his legacy was based primarily on "Donna" and "La Bamba." popular with teenagers. At the time of his death, his hard rocking style was being phased out in favour of teen idols like Fabian and Frankie Avalon. Valens image as an  early Latino rocker has lasted and inspired Los Lobos, Freddy Fender, The Midnighters, Trini Lopez and Sunny and the Sunglows. La Bamba became the model for the Isley Brothers' 1961 hit "Twist and Shout." Valens also inspired the Rascals, Bob Dylan and R.E.M.  His untrained voice and guitar style was a basis for the garage band revolution of the early 1960s.

 In 1987, he was the subject of the successful movie "La Bamba" and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1990. Ritchie Valens was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.       (Info edited from numerous sources)

Ritchie Valens preforming Ooh My Head on The Chuck Berry Movie Go Johnny Go! 1958