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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Manfred Mann born 21 October 1940

Manfred Mann (born Manfred Sepse Lubowitz, 21 October 1940, Johannesburg, Transvaal, Union of South Africa) is a keyboard player best known as a founding member and namesake of Manfred Mann, Manfred Mann Chapter Three and Manfred Mann's Earth Band.
Lubowitz studied music at the University of the Witwatersrand, and worked as a jazz pianist at a number of clubs in Johannesburg. Between 1959 and 1961 he and his childhood friend Saul Ozynski recorded two albums as the Vikings – South Africa's first rock and roll band.
Strongly opposed to the apartheid system in his native South Africa, Lubowitz moved to the United Kingdom in 1961 and began to write for "Jazz News" under the pseudonym Manfred Manne (after jazz drummer Shelly Manne), which was soon shortened to Manfred Mann. The next year he met drummer and keyboard player Mike Hugg at Clacton Butlins Holiday Camp and together they formed a large blues-jazz band called the Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers and with Paul Jones on vocals and harmonica and Mike Vickers on alto and clarinet and Dave Richmond on bass, dropped jazz for R&B.
They changed their name to Manfred Mann at the suggestion of the label's record producer, John Burgess after the group signed with His Master's Voice in March 1963. An immediate success on the rapidly expanding R&B club circuit, they made their first single, “Why Should We Not?” in July, 1963.   Their third release “5-4-3-2-1”, in January1964, coincided with Richmond’s replacement by Tom McGuinness; its gimmicky pop qualities made it the theme tune of British television’s Ready Steady Go! And a big hit. Thereafter Manfred Mann’s A-Sides – e.g. “Do Wah Diddy”, “Pretty Flamingo” stuck to a strong pop formula and from 1964 to 1969 they had a succession of hit records.
After various personnel changes the group split in 1969 and Mann immediately formed another outfit with Mike Hugg, Manfred Mann Chapter Three, an experimental jazz rock band. They disbanded after two albums, but Mann formed a new outfit in 1971, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, which still record and perform to this day. Their well-known hits include the No. 1 "Blinded by the Light", "Runner", which peaked at No. 22 and "Davy's On The Road Again".
Mann has also released solo projects under "Manfred Mann's Plain Music" and "Manfred Mann '06."
Manfred Mann used various keyboard instruments through his career, but he is especially famous for his solo performance on Minimoog synthesizer. His keyboard parts are often improvised, inspired by jazz.
Nowadays Manfred is still gigging with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and have dates coming up in Europe. He divides his time between London and Helsingborg, Sweden, where his partner, Jeannette, lives. His new album Lone Arranger, has just been released in the U.K.. (Info various mainly Wikipedia)

Manfred Mann performing Mighty Quinn on the Dutch music television series Moef Ga-Ga in 1968. Introduced by host Willem van Kooten (aka Joost den Draaier). Manfred Mann, Mike d'Abo, Mike Hugg, Tom McGuinness, Klaus Voorman.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Wanda Jackson born 20 October 1937

Wanda Lavonne Jackson (born October 20, 1937) is an American singer and guitarist who had success in the mid-1950s and 60s as one of the first popular female rockabilly singers and a pioneering rock and roll artist. She is known to many as the First Lady (or Queen) of Rockabilly.
Wanda Jean Jackson was born in Maud, Oklahoma, a small town about fifty miles southeast of Oklahoma City. Her father Tom played piano in bar bands and worked whatever odd jobs he could find during the Depression. In 1941 he loaded up the family and headed for California and a better way of life. The family settled in Bakersfield. Wanda first learned to sing in a church gospel choir. Her father bought her her first guitar, gave her lessons, and encouraged her to play piano as well. In addition, he took her to see such acts as Tex Williams, Spade Cooley, and Bob Wills, which left a lasting impression on her young mind. Tom moved the family back to Oklahoma City when Wanda was 12 years old.
While attending high school in 1952, Wanda won a talent show at a local radio station. Her prize was a daily fifteen-minute radio program on KLPR. The program, soon upped to 30 minutes, lasted throughout Jackson's high school years. Hank Thompson, the country music star who lived in Oklahoma City, happened to hear her on the radio one day and invited her to audition for his band, the Brazos Valley Boys. She was soon singing with Thompson and his band on weekends.  Jackson recorded several songs with the Brazos Valley Boys, including 1954's "You Can't Have My Love," a duet with Thompson's bandleader, Billy Gray. The song, on the Decca label, became a national hit (#8 Country), and Jackson's career was off and running. Wanting to sign with Capitol, Thompson's label, Wanda was turned down as being too young. So she signed with Decca instead though still being in high school. She recorded another fourteen songs for Decca during the next two years, most of them country love songs.
Jackson first toured in 1955 and 1956, a few months after graduating from high school, with the "Ozark Jubilee," a country tour through the south. The tour featured many well-known musicians, including a young Elvis Presley, who had not yet become a national sensation. The two hit it off almost immediately. Jackson says it was Presley, along with her father, who encouraged her to sing rockabilly.
In 1956, Jackson finally signed with Capitol. Her first recording session for Capitol took place in Los Angeles in June 1956. She recorded "I Gotta Know" (#20 Country), which starts out with a slow fiddle waltz but abruptly cuts loose into some very hot rock & roll, with Wanda hiccoughing and shrieking like a rockabilly pro. Each time the song shifts back to the country waltz, Wanda whines, "If our love's the real thing, where's my wedding ring?"
               Here's "Slippin' and Slidin' from above album.
Her recording career bounced back and forth between country and rockabilly; she did this by often putting one song in each style on either side of a single. Jackson cut the rockabilly hit "Fujiyama Mama" in 1958, which became a major success in Japan. Her version of "Let's Have a Party," which Elvis had cut earlier, was a U.S. Top 40 pop hit for her in 1960, after which she began calling her band the Party Timers. A year later, she was back in the country Top Ten with "Right or Wrong" and "In the Middle of a Heartache." In 1966, she hit the U.S. Top 20 with "The Box It Came In" and "Tears Will Be the Chaser for the Wine." Jackson's popularity continued through the end of the decade.
Jackson toured regularly, was twice nominated for a Grammy, and was a big attraction in Las Vegas from the mid-'50s into the '70s. She married IBM programmer Wendell Goodman in 1961, and instead of quitting the business -- as many women singers had done at the time -- Goodman gave up his job in order to manage his wife's career. He also packaged Jackson's syndicated TV show, Music Village.
 In 1971, Jackson and her husband discovered Christianity, which she says saved their marriage. She released one gospel album on Capitol in 1972, Praise the Lord, before shifting to the Myrrh label for three more gospel albums. In 1977, she switched again, this time to Word Records, and released another two.

In the early 1980s, Jackson was invited to Europe to play rockabilly and country festivals and to record. She's since been back numerous times. More recently, American country artists Pam Tillis, Jann Browne, and Rosie Flores have acknowledged Jackson as a major influence. In 1995, Flores released a rockabilly album, Rockabilly Filly, and invited Jackson, her long-time idol, to sing two duets on it with her. 

Jackson embarked on a major U.S. tour with Flores later that year. It was her first secular tour in this country since the '70s, not to mention her first time back in a nightclub atmosphere. In 2009 she returned to her roots once again with I Remember Elvis, a tribute to her old friend and touring partner.
Jackson appeared on the BBC's Hootenanny at the end of 2010, performing her version of "Let's Have a Party" and a cover of the Amy Winehouse song "You Know I'm No Good" with Jools Holland and his orchestra. The following year, after Winehouse's death, she took part in an Amy Winehouse tribute performance with Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings at the VH1 Divas Live 2011.
Wanda released her thirty-first studio album Unfinished Business (2012) on Sugar Hill Records. The album goes back to her rockabilly and country roots and was produced by Americana singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle. As of the 2000s she lives in Oklahoma City. (Info mainly

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Emile Ford born 16 October 1937


Emile Ford (born Emile Sweetman, 16 October 1937, Castries, Saint Lucia, West Indies is a musician and singer, who was popular in the United Kingdom in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Ford was the son of a government official and an opera-singing mother. When Emile arrived in Britain from Nassau in the Bahamas, where he grew up, his main ambition was to become an engineer, and it was through engineering that he would gain a brief but very successful career in Pop music.
He was educated at the Paddington Technical College in London. It was during this time that Ford taught himself to play a number of musical instruments. These included the guitar, piano, violin, bass guitar and drums. His innate interest in music was fostered by his mother and perhaps derived in part in his synesthesia: he perceived sound as colours and patterns.
He had invented a novel sound system that he claimed gave his music a consistently high quality despite the fact that he wasn't really a singer. Emile would insist on using his own equipment for performances rather than that usually offered by the theatres in which he played. Despite the fact that Emile claims that his success was largely because of his sound equipment, there is no doubt that he is also an extremely skilled and versatile musician.  
Ford first entered show business at the age of twenty, and made his first public appearance at The Buttery, Kensington. This was immediately followed by appearances at (on a rota basis) The Breadbasket, Fitzroy Square; The Roebuck, corner of Tottenham Court Road and Warren Street tube station; The Macabre, Soho; and Chiquita’s, near Regent Street (then the Show Business Agents coffee bar). Ford's first appearance with a backing group was at the Athenaeum Ballroom in Muswell Hill.
After winning the Soho Fair talent contest in July 1959 sponsored by the Pye record company, Emile and his group were given a chance to record. His group, the Checkmates, consisted of his two step-brothers George and Dave, Ken Street, Pete Carter, Les Hart, Alan Hawkshaw, and John Cuffley. They made a version of 'What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For' which was originally destined to be a 'B' side. Fortunately, Pye were shrewd enough to issue this as the 'A' side and the disc took Emile all the way to a UK #1 at the end of 1959 and stayed there for six weeks. The track remains as having the longest question ever asked by a chart topping disc in the UK. Ford was also the first black British artist to sell one million copies of a 7" single.
His TV appearances in 1958 included outings on The Music Shop, the Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson Show, Oh, Boy!, and Six-Five Special. In 1959 the band appeared on the TV programme Sunday Serenade, which ran for six weeks. (Photo of Emile with Pete Best and Paul McCartney)
In January 1960, Ford signed a two year employment management contract with Leslie Grade. Emile managed to squeeze a few more hits from his patented sound system before having to return to engineering. He married his first wife in Blackpool in 1965, although she divorced him three years later.
He faded from the scene somewhat during the latter part of the sixties because he made his home in Scandinavia. However he continued marketing his sound system in the UK and used it in the production of other artists with which he became involved. He made several albums throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Most of his albums included new versions of "What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?".
In the early 60's and in the decades since, has worked exclusively behind the scenes, undertaking stage work from time to time as well as selling his own unique sound equipment (EF Quantum Sound) whenever the opportunity arises.
When last heard of, he was living in California after residing in Scandinavia for several years. (Info mainly edited from wikipedia &

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Steve Conway born 12 October 1920

Steve Conway (12 October,1920 – 19 April,1952) One of the finest British ballad singers of his generation, Steve Conway’s death at an early age robbed the musical world of a first-class talent that was only just coming into bloom.
Even though his career was a comparatively short one, Conway made a considerable impact with a voice as unique as Bing Crosby, Al Bowlly and Al Jolson. His mellow voice had a wonderful and effortless range. His smooth yet thrilling voice was warm, rich and relaxed with perfect pitch and depth.
 A native of London, Steve Conway was born Walter James Groom in Bethnal Green, East London on 12 October 1920. Throughout his life friends and family called him Jimmy. he was born into a very poor family, his father, Walter Groom being a labourer. As a child, his life was blighted by illness. A severe attack of rheumatic fever left him with the weak heart, which was to dog him for the rest of his life. Despite this debilitating handicap, young Steve was determined to make his way in music.
When the Second World War broke out Conway wanted to enlist but failed the medical. He began to make his name as a singer. The venues for which he was engaged were far from glamorous, but years spent performing in bars, clubs and ballrooms established his reputation as a rising talent. It was during his mid-teens that he
reached one of the crucial turning points of his life, when he met a local East End girl called Lilian Butcher, who worked in a textile factory near his home. Lilian was to become the great love of his life. She was the woman who inspired profound devotion in him and infused his singing with such romantic power. They married in 1941.
During the war, Lilian worked in a munitions factory, but Jimmy had a shock when he tried to enlist for military service. He was declared unfit due to a heart condition, a legacy of childhood rheumatic fever, which had damaged his coronary valves. Unfortunately, Jimmy was never told to seek treatment, a failure that would ultimately have disastrous consequences for him.
Success at local amateur talent contests led to evening dances and concerts. While appearing at the Trocadero. Elephant and castle in 1944 he was heard by composer and music-publisher Reg Morgan who offered to manage him.
1945 was a key year in Steve’s rise to the top of the tree. He made his broadcasting debut on the Variety bandbox Show and was a guest singer with Ambrose and Lew Stone. The composer, arranger and conductor Peter Yorke, was impressed with his singing and invited him to appear in a regular series of programmes with his concert orchestra. He acted as a mentor to Conway and was to play a part in his subsequent recording career.

Steve signed with the UK Columbia label in 1945 and made nearly one hundred sides for the company over the following six years. He could sing almost anything to great effect. No sooner than Steve Conway had begun to realise his dream of stardom, his health began to deteriorate. He toured the large UK variety circuit, but found the hours on the road hard to endure. He was a strong, determined character who kept going for as long as he could, but in the end he was forced to admit defeat. A collapse on stage in December 1951 effectively signalled the end of his working life.
The last few months of Steve Conway’s life were spent going in and out of hospital as his heart condition became progressively more serious. In the spring of 1952 he was admitted for surgery to Guys Hospital in London, where he died on 19 April, only six months short of his thirty-second birthday.
He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium on the 25th April following a service at 2:30PM. A congregation of about 100 attended which included bandleaders, vocalists, musicians, recording executives, music publishers, song writers, artistes, agents, managers and reporters. Amongst the many wreaths from fans and stars alike was one from his daughter and was in the shape of a miniature chair inscribed "Daddy's Little Girl", a poignant memory of his hit song.
What was so remarkable about Conway’s all-too-brief spell of fame was that he had no musical training whatsoever. He never sang in a school or church choir as a youth; nor did he ever learn to read music. But he always had an extraordinary, natural ear for music, which meant that he could repeat the notes of a tune to perfection after just one hearing. When he had seen a musical for the first time, he could hum the entire score immediately afterwards. This ability was combined with his instinctive gifts both for interpreting a melody and for bringing sincerity to a lyric, all factors that made him such a compelling singer.
Given a longer life span it is highly probable that a singer of his quality would have gone on to become an international star. His abrupt and premature end was a cruel injustice, which denied his reputation the lasting greatness that his talent deserved. As it was, his contribution to the music of post-war Britain was enormous. He is one of those artists who will always be remembered with immense pleasure by those who appreciate first-rate music.  With mournful appropriateness, the last song that Steve Conway recorded was entitled With All My Heart and Soul. It was a sad twist of fate that the man who made romance the enriching central theme of his life, both on and off the stage, should have died of damaged heart.
(Info edited from Tony Watts & The Independent article “Ode to Steve Conway “and various sources )

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Billie Anthony born 11 October 1932

Billie Anthony (born Philomena McGeachie Levy in Glasgow on 11 October 1932 — 5 January 1991) was a Scottish female singer.    
Her mother Lily was a talented dancer and her father, a song and dance man, and stage manager at the Glasgow Empire. Her godmother was the legendary Gracie Fields. Although her parents divorced when she was very small (precisely eighteen days after her birth) she spent her entire childhood in and around the theatre, and wanted a career on the stage as a dancer. At first her mother was against her going into show business, so on leaving school she reluctantly agreed to train as a dressmaker, but her obsession with the theatre proved too powerful.  
In 1946, when still only fourteen, she ran away from home and joined the chorus of a touring show as one of "May Moxon’s Young Ladies". Five years later she met Peter Elliott, who was part of a famous show business family called The Musical Elliotts. They developed an instant friendship and, due to their mutual love of dancing, decided on the formation of their own double act. As Phil and Peter Elliott, they successfully toured variety theatres as "The Debonair Dancers - Four Educated Feet". They toured continuously throughout 1952 but, in 1953, were compelled to abandon their act when Peter was called up to do his national service with the Royal Air Force. 

During their time on the variety circuit they had met and become friends with singer Tony Brent, who had several hit records to his name. It was Brent who first recognised Levy’s vocal potential and, acting on his advice, she decided to go solo in an effort to try to make a living as a singer while Elliott was away. Brent introduced her to his own manager, Don Agness, and he arranged for her to do a trial recording. Then in October 1953, after months of voice training and with her name changed to Billie Anthony, she recorded and released her first single for Columbia Records called "I’d Rather Take My Time" coupled with "Things Go Wrong". However it flopped. 
On February 20, 1954 Anthony and Elliott eventually got married. However, the marriage did not last as they realised that their lives were no longer going in the same direction. By the time Elliott had completed his service in the R.A.F., Anthony had attained quite a high level of popularity as a vocalist, and Elliott decided that he wanted to explore other possibilities. Thus, they went their separate ways, and eventually divorced in the early 1960s.
January 1954 saw the release of her second record, "Ricochet", followed in March by, "Bell Bottom Blues", both of which did well for Alma Cogan, Teresa Brewer and Joan Regan. Both sides of her next release "Cross Over The Bridge" and "I Get So Lonely" were recorded in April as duets with Tony Brent. 

Her sixth record release in October finally made the charts. The song was "This Ole House". Several other singers recorded the same song, including Alma Cogan and Joan Regan, but it was Rosemary Clooney who jockeyed with Anthony for the highest chart position. Clooney, in the charts for eighteen weeks, finally won the battle for the coveted number one spot both in the UK and America. Anthony reached No. 4 in the UK and remained in the singles chart for sixteen weeks. (Photo of Billie inbetween Ann Shelton and Alma Cogan)
With the success of "This Ole House", she became known as "Britain’s Blonde Bombshell". However, although she looked terrific, and had a good voice, no other record of hers ever made the UK chart, leaving her with the unfortunate one hit wonder tag. Her two follow up discs, "Teach Me Tonight" and "No More", went almost unnoticed.      
In January 1955 Stuart Hamblin, the American country & western singer-songwriter and composer of "This Ole House", came to London and, because he was so impressed with Anthony’s version of his song, met her and presented her with the choice of another number from the material he had not yet published. She chose "Shake The Hand Of A Stranger", a song that most people consider to be the best of her career. Recorded and released in April, it failed to take off. Every song she recorded after that seemed to eclipse the preceding one but, although they sold in sizeable numbers, songs such as "Boom Boom Boomerang", "Ten Little Kisses" and "The Old Piano Rag" did not take Billie back to the charts. (Photo of Billie with DJ Pete Murray)
During 1955 she toured relentlessly up and down the country, and while appearing in a jazz concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall,
she was visited in her dressing room by Gene Kelly who had been in the audience. He discussed ideas regarding a part for her in a film musical, but his ideas eventually proved to be without foundation, and a movie part was never offered.      
1955 to 1957 were Anthony's busiest years. Due to ever increasing demand her fan club was formed, and besides touring she made regular radio and television appearances, not only in Britain but also on the continent. The greater part of 1957 was spent on the road with Harry Secombe in the variety show 'Rocking The Town'. Billie spent a hectic eight weeks in the early part of 1958, entertaining the forces in Cyprus, Malta and North Africa. After returning to London she spent the remainder of the year touring in variety, doing one night stands and the occasional service camp dates. This similar routine of one night stands continued throughout 1959, interrupted only by a summer season at the Great Yarmouth's Regal Theatre with Hughie Green's 'Double Your Money' show.
By 1960 her recording career which had been slowly declining, ground to a halt after six and a half years. "A Handful of Gold" coupled with "Sure Fire Love", released in January 1960 were Anthony's last offerings. 
She eventually withdrew from show business, and with the birth of her daughter Jessica in 1968, she decided to concentrate on full time motherhood. From then on she chose to live quietly in the north London area of Hornsey. 
In early 1991, Anthony lost consciousness after suffering a series of strokes and never recovered. She died in London’s Whittington Hospital on 5 January, 1991, at the age of fifty eight. Following her funeral service her ashes were returned to Glasgow where they were scattered on the river Kelvin.
(Info Wikipedia)

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Alan Breeze born 9 October 1909

Alan Louis Breeze (9 October 1909 – 15 January 1980) was an English singer of the British dance band era and regular entertainer on the post-war BBC radio programme the Billy Cotton Band Show. 

Alan was born in the East End of London. He was commonly known as the "man with the sunshine in his voice ". But not many people know that whilst he could literally sing anything from opera to a tongue twisting comedy pop song with perfect diction, he in fact, could hardly speak being afflicted by the most terrible stammer.

His father, Louis Breeze, was a concert & oratorio singer & a member of the famous D'Oyly Carte Opera Company.    His mother, Isobel, was a teacher with the old London County Council & the family included two older brothers & a sister.  

At the beginning of his career, Alan sang in working men's clubs, restaurants & even theatre queues!  Eventually, he started dubbing at film studios, recording songs for actors who couldn't sing & it was during one session that he met a band leader called Billy Cotton. Although he didn’t know it at the time, this meeting was to change his life & make him one of the best known & best loved big band singers of the 20th Century.  

He joined the Billy Cotton Band show in 1931 after Bill was agonising with his Musical Director over the problem of choosing a male singer for the band. The vast spectrum of music covered by Big Bands in those days meant that they simply couldn't find one person to perform this task and the band couldn't afford to hire three male singers. 

Whilst Bill was discussing this with his MD, Alan happened to stop by chance, outside The West End Theatre where Bill was appearing and began busking to the waiting theatre queue to earn his bus fare home to the East End. Bill shouted in exasperation, “What I need is someone like that geezer singing outside " . The conversation stopped as they scrambled to open the dressing room window and look below. 
There, was an emaciated young man with glasses, singing his heart out and weighing at most, 8 stone. When he finished, Bill whistled down and shouted " Hey you! ..... You down there with the glasses”.  Bill called him in for an audition and afterwards he said to Alan, “O.K. son, I'm going to give you a week’s trial ". Alan replied “Oh.......0h.....Oh .... Oh “and Bill, getting bored, took that as an O.K.!  

Alan Breeze often laughed and said he remained on a week’s trial for the next 40 years. He never had a contract with Bill throughout the whole of their association and never missed a show. He stayed with the band until the end of 1969. During that period, Alan became one of the most popular vocalists of the time, entertaining audiences on radio, television & in theatres all around the country.  In these days of nostalgia, his recordings are still regularly heard on the radio & it was this ongoing popularity that prompted his daughter Olivia to present a tribute show “The Breeze and I” to Alan's life & career with the Billy Cotton Band. 
 Alan was highly adept at using different accents. Seen above with Kathie Kay, who sadly passed away in 2005, he was classically trained but swapped it for a life of variety. Sadly, when he grew older, his contract was terminated by Bill Cotton junior who was Head of Light Entertainment. It was a sad parting for Alan and Billy senior who allegedly went their separate ways in tears. The background dancing girls in the above photo were known as The Silhouettes. 

Alan met his wife Rene, a dancer, in the 1930s and they had three daughters, Olivia, Melodie and Michele. They moved to the Buck in 1958 partly to provide an opportunity for their son Graham to became a farmer. Tragically he was killed four years later in a tractor accident just before his 21st birthday.  Alan owned The Buck Inn and farm from 1958 to 1975. 

When not singing with the Cotton Band, Alan was host of the delightful Flixton Buck Inn on the borders of Norfolk and Suffolk. East Anglia’s very own corner of the West End. Not only was Alan a famous landlord, but his pub was full of stars. Household names who were his friends and perhaps appearing up the road at Great Yarmouth and staying with their mate. 

 Behind the bar Alan and Rene were the hosts with the most and their pub became one of the best loved watering holes in the area. They made sure everybody got the same “Breezy” welcome. From dustmen to famous singers and comedians, everyone got the same warm welcome. Where else could you sit next to Russ Conway or share a laugh with Harry Secombe?   After 16 years at the Buck they decided to retire and moved to Hingham in Norfolk.    


Alan died on Jan 15, 1980, at the West Norwich Hospital, Norfolk. 

(Info edited from various sources including Memory Lane, Wikipedia)