Google+ Followers

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Norman Brooks born 19 August 1928

Norman Brooks (August 19, 1928 – September 14, 2006) was a Canadian singer, best known for his ability to sound like Al Jolson.

Singer, songwriter, pianist, actor, born Montreal of Lebanese parents, 19 Aug 1928, died there 14 Sep 2006. Possessing a voice naturally similar to that of Al Jolson, Brooks began his career in his late teens, singing in the Jolson style in Montreal nightclubs, often in duet with his sister Annie (who as Anne Brooks later sang in Canadian and US nightclubs).  

During his career he has returned frequently to Jolson routines, but he also has sung in a more personal style. By the early 1950s he had moved from clubs to theatres - eg, the Seville in Montreal and the Casino Theatre in Toronto. He made two 78s for Canadian Victor at this time.

In 1953 he went to New York where he appeared in nightclubs and recorded some sides for Zodiac, a label established expressly for Brooks. His records "Hello Sunshine" and "YouShouldn’t Have Kissed Me the First Time” were national hits in 1953. His song "A Sky-Blue Shirt and a Rainbow Tie" reached No. 17 in the UK Singles Chart in November 1954.

He was a popular nightclub and TV performer in the USA during the 1950s and 1960s. Billed as The Voice That Lives Again, Brooks was also the first Quebec-born entertainer to play Las Vegas, selling out the Copa Room at The Sands Hotel and Casino for 44 weeks in 1959 - 60.  He also performed frequently in Canadian nightclubs and on CBC TV, and was host for CTV's 'Musical Showcase' in 1966. He appeared in 1975 on Broadway in The Magic of Jolson and subsequently sang and played piano in New York nightclubs and continued to tour. He performed in 1979 at PDA.  

Brooks' other recordings include singles for Zodiac and for RCA's 'X' label, LPs of Jolson material for Spin-O-Rama, Coronet, Diplomat, and Sutton, and LPs of pop songs - some his own - for Verve, Sure, Promenade and Venus (see Kinkle's Encyclopedia of Popular Music and Jazz for details). He sung under the name of Charlie Everett for the Viking Record label. Brooks played Jolson in the The Best Things in Life Are Free (1956) and had dramatic roles in The Block (1963) and Ocean's Eleven (1965). 

In the 1970s and 1980s, when the Jolson style of entertainment fell out of style, Brooks became another forgotten relic of a bygone era. Lung problems forced him to pretty much retire. A heavy smoker, Brooks was 78 when he died of emphysema at the Jean Talon Hospital on Sept. 14.

Not only was another voice of Jolson silenced then, but Norman Brooks was a great talent all his own... 

(Info edited mainly from the Canadian, & Wikipedia)

Monday, 18 August 2014

Johnny Preston born 18 August 1939

Johnny Preston (August 18, 1939 – March 4, 2011) was an American pop singer, who was best known for his international number one hit in 1960, "Running Bear".
Born as John Preston Courville in Port Arthur, Texas, of Cajun ancestry, Preston sang in high school choral contests throughout the state of Texas. After he finished high school he went on to Lamar State College in Beaumont where he formed his first band The Shades in 1957, playing all kinds of music at local dances. They were seen performing at a local club by J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. 
Richardson offered Preston the chance to record a teenage tragedy song he had written, "Running Bear", which they did in Houston, Texas, in 1958. The "Indian" sounds on the record were performed by Richardson and George Jones. The record was released after the Big Bopper's death in the same plane crash that killed Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. It entered the U.S. Hot 100 in October 1959, reaching number one in January 1960 and remaining there for three weeks. It was a transatlantic chart-topper, reaching #1 in the United Kingdom in March 1960. The sales of the record exceeded one million copies, earning Preston his first gold disc. 

Johnny was signed to Mercury records and he left the Shades to go solo. He quickly followed up with another hit called "Cradle of Love," (Billboard #7, UK # 2) and made several other records during the early 1960s that met with modest success. "Cradle of Love" was a hit in both the UK Singles Chart and in Athens, Greece. Preston's "I'm Starting to Go Steady", a song on the flip side of "Feel So Fine", (Billboard #14), was released in June 1960. Preston made appearances on American Bandstand (ABC-TV) and The Milt Grant Show and also The Buddy Deane Show (East Coast, United States). With these hit records Johnny made his first of many visits to England in 1960 on a package show with Conway Twitty and Freddy Cannon.
He went on to record many songs for Mercury which included Charming Billy, Leave My Kitten Alone, I Want a Rock and Roll Guitar, Chief Heartbreak, Feel So Fine, Hearts Of Stone and many more. After Mercury, Preston went on to record for Imperial, ABC, Hallway, and Kapp where his dream came true to record with the great Bob Wills.  
Preston's pioneering contribution to the genre was recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He also performed at Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater in Branson, Missouri. In 2009 and 2010, Preston performed with the Lamar State College (LSCPA)Touring Band at Lamar State College- Port Arthur, in his hometown.
Preston had coronary artery bypass surgery in 2010. He died of heart failure in Beaumont, Texas, on Friday 4 March 2011, at the age of 71, after years of heart-related illnesses. A tribute concert was performed on November 5, 2011, and featured guest artists Gene Bourgeois, Johnny Tillotson, Dickey Lee and Chris Montez along with LSCPS's Touring Band, under the direction of Aaron Horne.(Info edited  fom Wikipedia & Rockabilly Hall of Fame)
Here’s Johnny performing Running Bear on the Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show. December 12, 1959

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Mark Dinning born 17 August 1933

Max Edward Dinning (August 17, 1933 — March 22, 1986) was an American pop music singer. In December 1959, the song "Teen Angel", written by his sister and brother-in-law, Jean and Red Surrey reached No. 1 on the Billboard Charts. Jean and two of her sisters, Virginia and Lucille, comprised the "The Dinning Sisters" , a popular singing trio in the 1940s.  
Max Edward Dinning was born in Manchester, Oklahoma, the youngest of nine children, and was raised on a farm near Nashville, Tennessee after his family relocated from Kansas. Dinning took up the electric guitar at the age of 17. He followed his sisters and pursued a career in country music and, in 1957, record producer Wesley Rose signed him a recording contract as Mark Dinning. 
For three years, he was an unsuccessful recording artist, trying to cultivate a country career with such songs as "Ramblin' Man," "The Streets of Laredo," and "I'm Just a Country Boy." Then his sister Jean and her husband Red Surrey gave him a song they had written, called "Teen Angel".
The lyrics, which told of the death of a teenage girl, were deemed by British radio stations to be too morbid to be aired, but it reached #37 on the UK Singles Chart. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

Dinning had an addiction to alcohol that eventually ended his career. His repeated appearance at performances too intoxicated to perform caused promoters to stop booking him and he faded from public view. Although Dinning never duplicated the success of "Teen Angel", he had three minor hit records in the ensuing years.
Mark Dinning continued performing until his unexpected death at the age of fifty-two. After appearing in a club in Jefferson City, Missouri, on March 21, 1986, Mark had a heart attack while driving home in his car. (Info mainly Wikipedia) 

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Marianne Moylan born 16 August 1932

The Moylan Sisters were a talented American child singing duo from the late 30's and 1940s. Marianne and Peggy Joan Moylan, also known as the Cinderellas of Radio, were very popular singers despite their young age.  
Peggy Joan born 2Oct 1932 & Marianne: 16 July 1930 - 25 July 1992 (other sources give Peggy's birth year as 1934 whilst other sources state her exact date is not known). The girls lived on Madison Street in Sag Harbor and attended the Academy of the Sacred Heart, New York. 
Peggy and Marianne never had any vocal instruction, but were taught harmony by their musically talented father Joseph Moylan, who was an engraver for Bulova watches. 
      Here's "Freckles" taken from the 1941 School Days collection of 78's
The sisters were first featured on the radio program: The Horn and Hardart Children's Hour in 1939, and were soon give their own 15-minute network show at ages 5 and 7. The girls continued to perform through the WWII years, and stopped performing sometime after 1951. 
At the height of their success, they had the #2 most popular show on radio, the first being "The Shadow". 
The sisters appeared in four short films, "The Backyard Broadcast" (1936), "Starlets" (1937) (release #B33-34),
"Toyland Casino" (1938), and "Worlds Fair Junior" (1939) (Release #253-254), all for the Vitaphone Corporation. 
The Moylan's had an amazing blend and uncanny pitch, with nary a trace of adult-like vibrato. They were allowed to SOUND like children, unlike singing show-biz kids to come decades later, in musicals like "Annie".
People who remember the Moylans from their radio show, always seem to remember their Thrivo (dog food) commercial best:
" We feed our doggie thrivo - he's very much alive-o
Full of Pep and Vim
If you want a Peppy pup, you had better hurry up
                                               Buy Thrivo for him."

                                Peggy Joan & Marianne
                with radio presenter Ed McMahon in 1951
As there is virtually no information on the internet about the Moylan Sisters, hopefully this little bio will suffice. As far as I know Peggy Joan is still alive and living in New York State.
(Info mainly from
Here's a rare film of The Moylan Sisters, Peggy Joan and Marianne from 1938. It was taken from a Vitaphone short called "Toyland Casino."

Friday, 15 August 2014

Mike Seeger born 15 August 1933

Mike Seeger (August 15, 1933 – August 7, 2009) was an American folk musician and folklorist. He was a distinctive singer and an accomplished musician who played autoharp, banjo, fiddle, dulcimer, guitar, mouth harp, mandolin, dobro, jaw harp, and pan pipes. Seeger, a half-brother of Pete Seeger, produced more than 30 documentary recordings, and performed in more than 40 other recordings. He desired to make known the caretakers of culture that inspired and taught him.
Seeger was born in New York and grew up in Maryland and Washington D.C. His father, Charles Louis Seeger Jr., was a composer and pioneering ethnomusicologist, investigating both American folk and non-Western music. His mother, Ruth Crawford Seeger, was a composer. His eldest half-brother, Charles Seeger III, was a radio astronomer, and his next older half-brother, John Seeger, taught for years at the Dalton School in Manhattan. His next older half brother was Pete Seeger. His uncle, Alan Seeger, a poet, was killed during the First World
War. His sister Peggy Seeger, also a well-known folk performer, was married for many years to British folk singer Ewan MacColl. His sister, singer Penny Seeger, married John Cohen, a member of Mike's musical group, New Lost City Ramblers. Seeger was a self-taught musician who began playing stringed instruments at the age of 18. He also sang Sacred Harp with Ewan and Calum MacColl. 

The family moved to Washington D.C. in 1936 after his father's appointment to the music division of the Resettlement Administration. While in Washington D.C., Ruth Seeger worked closely with John and Alan Lomax at the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress to preserve and teach American folk music. Ruth Seeger's arrangements and interpretations of American Traditional folk songs in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s are well regarded. 
At about the age of 20, Mike Seeger began collecting songs by traditional musicians on a tape recorder. Folk musicians such as Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, John Jacob Niles, and others were frequent guests in the Seeger home. 
 In 1958 he co-founded the New Lost City Ramblers, an old-time string band in New York City, during the Folk Revival. The other founding members included John Cohen and Tom Paley. Paley later left the group in 1962 and was replaced by Tracy Schwarz. The New Lost City Ramblers directly influenced countless musicians in subsequent years. The Ramblers distinguished themselves by focusing on the traditional playing styles they heard on old 78rpm records of musicians recorded during the 1920s and 1930s. Tracy was also in Mike's other band, Strange Creek Singers. So was Mike's former wife, Alice Gerrard. She was Alice Seeger in that band and sang and played guitar in it. The other people in Strange Creek Singers were bass player and singer Hazel Dickens and banjo player Lamar Grier who didn't sing at all. Mike sang and played guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, autoharp, and harmonica in the band. 
Here's "Black Is The Colour Of My True Love's Hair" from above    out of print LP released in 1972.
Seeger received six Grammy nominations and was the recipient of four grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. His influence on the folk scene was described by Bob Dylan in his autobiography, Chronicles: Volume One. He was a popular presenter and performer at traditional music gatherings such as Breakin' Up Winter.
Eight days before his 76th birthday, Mike Seeger died at his home

in Lexington, Virginia on August 7, 2009, after stopping cancer treatment. (Info Wikipedia)

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Connie Smith born 14 August 1941

Connie Smith (born August 14, 1941) is an American country music artist. Active since 1964, Smith is widely considered to be one of the genre's best female vocalists. She has earned 11 Grammy award nominations, 20 top ten Billboard country singles, and 31 charting albums, three of which have hit number one. On October 21, 2012, Smith became the 12th solo female vocalist and 19th woman to be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Smith was born Constance Meadows on August 14, 1941, in Elkhart, Indiana, but spent her early life first in West Virginia and later in Ohio. She married and became a housewife in the early '60s, singing occasionally on local TV shows around her home in Marietta, Ohio. She was singing near Columbus in August 1963 when country star Bill Anderson heard her and offered his help in getting a contract. She signed to RCA after a few months and recorded several selections in July 1964 with Chet Atkins at the helm. "Once a Day" -- written especially for her by Anderson -- was released as a single in September and hit the top of the country charts, reigning as number one for eight weeks. 

Smith's follow-up, "Then and Only Then," hit number four (even the flip side reached the Top 25), and her Top Ten streak continued unabated until late 1968, including the big hits "If I Talk to Him," "Ain't Had No Lovin'," and "The Hurtin's All Over." Meanwhile, her success began to take a toll; constant appearances on the road, in films, and on The Lawrence Welk Show caused Smith to reconsider her path in the music industry and devote herself to family and religion. Though she didn't quit music entirely, she began to balance chart success with a lighter schedule.  
Though her country hits were rarer than in her mid-'60s heyday, Smith still managed the Top Tens "You and Your Sweet Love" in 1969, "I Never Once Stopped Loving You" the following year, and "Just One Time" in 1971. Her most successful year during the '70s was 1972. She recorded three big hits: the number five "Just What I Am," the number seven "If It Ain't Love (Let's Leave It Alone)," and the number eight "Love Is the Look You're Looking For." 
By 1972, Smith began to incorporate more gospel into her act. With the help of her third husband, evangelist Marshall Haynes, she turned her live show into a traveling gospel road show and signed with Columbia, which permitted her to record more straight gospel songs. Though the material didn't score as well on the charts as her secular singles had, she managed to stay in the Top 20 during much of the '70s.  
After she signed with Monument in 1977, most of her singles dropped out of the Top 40. Though she has not been a commercial force since the '70s, Smith continues to perform with the Grand Ole Opry and in 1998 returned with her first LP in many years, a self-titled effort issued on Warner Bros. The album garnered critical accolades, and Smith next returned with Love Never Fails, a collaborative gospel album recorded with Barbara Fairchild and Sharon White and released by Daywind Records in 2003.
 It would be almost eight years before Smith's next studio offering, the Marty Stuart-produced Long Line of Heartaches (Smith and Stuart have been husband and wife since 1997), which appeared from Sugar Hill Records in 2011.       (Info mainly by  John Bush @ All Music)

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Tony Brent born 13 August 1926

Tony Brent (13 August 1926* — 19 June 1993) was a British traditional pop music singer, most active in the 1950s. He scored seven Top 20 chart hits in the UK over an almost six-year period, starting in January 1953. 
He was born Reginald Hogan Bretagne, and lived at Ebrahim Terrace, Spence Road, Byculla, Bombay, India of Anglo-Indian descent. During the 1950s Brent became a popular UK based vocalist, having relocated there in 1947. Two years after his move, Brent entered and was successful in a talent show held at the Regal Theatre in Kingston. He had sung a version of "Some Enchanted Evening", and this led him on to work with Ambrose and Cyril Stapleton's BBC Showband. 
 Brent's hits were all released on the Columbia label. He enjoyed iconic status in South Asia where his hits topped the music charts on Radio Ceylon. 

Contrary to disinformation spread at the time by his agent, and subsequently repeated by his record company, he had not arrived in England from the USA, nor had he sang with former Glenn Miller accompanist Tex Beneke and his band. 
 In 1952 he made his chart debut with a cover version of one of Sammy Kaye’s last hits, ‘Walkin’ To Missouri’, and began to tour the variety circuit and appear on television. His other chart entries through until 1959 included ‘Make It Soon’, ‘Got You On My Mind’, ‘Cindy, Oh Cindy’, ‘Dark Moon’, ‘The Clouds Will Soon Roll By’, ‘Girl Of My Dreams’ and ‘Why Should I Be Lonely?’. He additionally duetted with Billie Anthony on a recording of the similarly titled ‘I Get So Lonely’. Brent also released two sets of standards, Off Stage and Tony Takes Five. His EPs included Time For Tony and Tony Calls The Tune. He was subsequently overwhelmed by the 60s beat group scene and retreated to the clubs.  

He resumed his travels in 1961, and left the UK to live in Australia. He owned a succession of Indian food restaurants, including the popular “Shalimar” which incorporated a cabaret where he would continue to entertain by singing with the various appearing acts.
Brent died in Sydney, at the age of 66, of a heart attack in June 1993. His ashes were scattered in the Ganges.
*Date given by All Music Guide although others sources give Tony's birthdate as 26 August 1927.
(Info edited from AllMusic & Wikipedia)