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Saturday, 3 October 2015

Koo Nimo born 3 October 1934

Koo Nimo (born Kwabena Boa-Amponsem on 3 October 1934, baptized Daniel Amponsah) is a leading folk musician of Palm wine music or Highlife music from Ghana.
Born in the village of Foase, in the Atwima District of the Ashanti Region in Ghana, West Africa, he worked in various jobs in science and medical-related field while maintaining his interest in music. Apart from his early exposure to music by his parents and playing in local groups, Nimo also studied classical guitar style, harmony and counterpoint, among others, at various times, to enhance his musical appreciation.
Although a great consumer of jazz music — from Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Wes Montgomery and Count Basie to Antonio Carlos Jobim, Lorendo Almeida and Thelonius Monk, Nimo is said to have drawn inspiration first from Ghanaian guitarist, Kwabena Onyina.
In 1957, when the former British colony of the Gold Coast became the independent country of Ghana, Koo Nimo first received national acclaim through the formation of the Addadam Agofomma ensemble.
Many of his songs tell traditional stories and are sung in the language Twi. Along with one or two guitars and vocals, the traditional Ashanti palmwine ensemble consists of traditional instruments of West Africa.

This single, recorded at Ghana Film studios, and released on the Ghana Film label was probably released in 1974. The A side ‘Koo Nimo Ne Gyasi’ is a tribute to Koo Nimo’s first wife who passed away on September 27, 1973 The B side ‘Kofi Gemfi III’ is a tribute to a Mr. Kofi Gemfi, a friend who Koo Nimo greatly admired.
In 1979, in recognition of his services to Ghanaian music as performer, teacher and administrator, Koo Nimo was elected President of MUSIGA (the Musicians' Union of Ghana). His countrymen appreciated not only his music, but his love of and respect for tradition.
In 1985 Koo Nimo was appointed interim chairman of COSGA, the Copyright Society of Ghana, More recently he has been made an honorary life member of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, along with such distinguished names as Professor J.H.K. Nketia and John Collins.
In 1990, eight of Koo's songs were released as a compact disk entitled Osabarima. This was the first work by a Ghanaian artist to be put on CD in the words of High Fidelity Magazine (September 1990, 103). In February 1991, in recognition of his services to music and to his country, Koo received the prestigious Asanteman award from the Asantehene. In March, he received the Flagstar Award from ECRAG (Entertainment Critics and Reviewers Association of Ghana). In 1991, he was invited to serve on the National Folklore Board of Trustees.
He has over 100 songs to his credit and among the few albums released are Ashanti Ballads (1968); Osabarima (1990, re-issued 2000)  and Tete Wobi Ka (2000).  Nimo’s music has been described as “A pulsating mix of melodious and intoxicating guitar patterns, harmonious vocals, and mesmerising percussion.
In January 1992, at Columbia University, New York, USA, Andrew L. Kaye presented his dissertation entitled "Koo Nimo and his circle: A Ghanaian Musician in Ethnomusicological Perspective" and was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy degree for his work.
His retirement from the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, as the chief laboratory technician in 1994 has enabled him to concentrate on his achievements.
In March 1997, the Ghana government celebrated the fortieth anniversary of independence by awarding gold medals to forty of its distinguished citizens, one of whom was Koo Nimo. This was in recognition of his efforts to preserve traditional culture. In the next month he received the Konkoma Award for his contribution to Ghanaian Highlife Music.

 In 1998, he was employed as a Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Washington in Seattle, USA, for two years, before taking a similar position at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. As of 2006, Koo Nimo has moved back to Ghana and is currently living in Kumasi. (Info various mainly Wikipedia)

Friday, 2 October 2015

Jean Vallée born 2 October 1941


Jean Vallée (born Paul Goeders in Verviers on 2 October 1941 – 12 March 2014, Clermont-sur-Berwinne) was a Belgian song writer and performer. Vallée was made Knight in the Order of the Crown by HM Albert II in 1999.
Back in 1966, known as Paul Goeders, his real name, the singer won the prestigious French Chanson Award at the Spa Festival in Belgium. This would launch the career of Jean Vallée. He recorded his very first album in 1969.
 In 1970, he was selected to represented Belgium at the Eurovision Song Contest held in Amsterdam with the song Viens l’oublier, ranking 8th overall. In 1971 he penned one of most famous songs of the Greek diva Nana Mouskouri, entitled La vague (The Wave) which became one of his biggest hits.
In 1978, Jean Vallée was once more selected to represent Belgium at the Eurovision Song Contest. In Paris, he ranked 2nd with L’amour ça fait chanter la vie right behind the Israeli entry. When Israel became the clear winners during the voting, most of the Arabic stations ended their transmission of the contest. Jordanian TV finished the show with a photo of a bunch of daffodils on screen, later announcing that the Belgian entry was the actual winner.
In 1980, Jean Vallée performed the role of Javert in Les Misérables, by famous French director Robert Hossein. The musical gathered more than 500,000 spectators. In 1999, the singer was made a Knight of the Belgian Order of the Crown by King Albert II of the Belgians.
In 2008, he presented a show in tribute to his elder compatriot Jacques Brel. Sharing his time between France and Belgium, Jean Vallée kept performing until the very end. Here’s “Clopin Clopant” from a Readers Digest compilation “Souvenez – Vous! Circa 2009.

His health had deteriorated since December 2013, one of his last public appearances during a concert of his good friend 1973 Eurovision winner Anne-Marie David. He had returned from Paris to  his home country in his last days to die.

He died on March 12, 2014 in Clermont-sur-Berwinne, Belgium. According to the report of his death, Jean died of Cancer. (Info edited from Wikipedia &

Here is a clip of the Belgian entry at the 1978 Eurovision Song Contest. Jean Vallée - "L'amour ça fait chanter la vie" ("Love makes life sing")

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Skeets McDonald born 1 October 1915

Enos William McDonald (October 1, 1915–March 31, 1968), better known as Skeets McDonald, was an American country and rockabilly musician popular during the 1950s and 60s. Best known for the Slim Willet-penned song "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes", McDonald was a devoted honky tonk singer and songwriter whose work helped to bridge the gap between country and rock and roll.
McDonald was born on October 1, 1915 in Greenway, Arkansas. He was the youngest of his parents' seven children; his gained his nickname for calling mosquitoes "skeets" as a child. When his older brother moved to Detroit, Michigan the early 1930s, McDonald followed; and joined his first band, the Lonesome Cowboys, in 1935. He later formed his own band and played local clubs and on radio in Flint and Pontiac.
McDonald was drafted in 1943 and was stationed in North Africa and the Far East during World War II, earning a Bronze Star. On discharge, he returned to radio and television work in Dearborn, Michigan. He made his first recordings for Fortune Records in 1950 with Johnnie White and his Rough Riders, and cut records for London and Mercury Records as Skeets Saunders.
In 1951, McDonald moved to Los Angeles, California, where he became a regular on Cliffie Stone's Hometown Jamboree and later appeared on Town Hall Party. He was soon signed by Capitol Records, which viewed him as its answer to Columbia Records' Lefty Frizzell and demanded he continue releasing country songs rather than the rockabilly sound he experimented with since the war. He recorded more than 80 numbers for the label, including his 1952 smash country hit, "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes" (No. 1 for 18 weeks).

In the late 1950s, he appeared on Ozark Jubilee and continued recording for Capitol; his last release for the label was the album, The Country's Best.
McDonald signed with Columbia in 1959 and spent the decade there, recording some excellent West Coast hillbilly, as well as some forays into the rockabilly. He employed young guitar-whiz Eddie Cochran to back him in the studio for "You Oughta See Grandma Rock" and "Heart Breaking Mama". Although they made little impact on the charts at the time, they are now considered rockabilly classics.
He scored several hits on the Billboard country chart, including "This Old Heart" (1960, No. 21), "Call Me Mr. Brown" (1963, No. 9), "Big Chief Buffalo Nickel (Desert Blues)" (1966, No. 29), and "Mabel" (1967, No. 28). He also appeared on the Grand Ole Opry and the Big D Jamboree in Dallas, Texas. His songs included "I'll Make Believe", "Big Family Trouble", "I Need Your Love" and "The Echo of Your Footsteps". In 1964, he released the album Call Me Skeets!.
McDonald made several film appearances, including Saddle Pals with Johnny Mack Brown, Ma and Pa Kettle Go To Town (1950), The Glenn Miller Story (1954) and Hud (1963), singing "Driftwood on the River" with Janet McBride.
In later years, McDonald moved his style more towards rock and roll; but refused to move far from the tear jerking songs which made his name. When told by reviewers he "belonged to another age," he took it as a compliment to his dedication. He continued to sing until he died from a heart attack on March 31, 1968 in Inglewood, Los Angeles. (Info mainly Wikipedia)

Skeets McDonald plays his classic country tune "What a Lonesome Life it's Been" in a rare televised performance from 1959.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Nancy Ames born 30 September 1937

Nancy Ames (born September 30th 1937 as Nancy Hamilton Alfaro) is an American folk singer and songwriter. She regularly appeared on the American version of the television series  “That Was the Week That Was”

She was born in Washington, DC. She is the granddaughter of Ricardo Joaquín Alfaro (1882–1971), who served as President of Panama from 1931 to 1932. The daughter of a physician, she grew up in Washington. She attended Holton Arms College and Bennett College, both of them for girls. By 1964 she was married to Romanian hypnotist Triaian Boyer. By 1968, they had divorced. After the divorce with Boyer, she got married to jay Riviere, a golf course designer, whom she also later divorced.  

Her performing career included the Broadway stage, television, recordings, supper clubs and concerts. 

Her “on camera” television years included starring on NBC TV’s “That Was the Week That Was” as the show’s singing and acting signature “TW3 Girl”,12 years as a guest headliner on Ed Sullivan, Hollywood Palace and the gamut of star-hosted Variety Shows until the late 70’s.
A folk singer with a partially Latin repertoire, she was signed to Liberty Records; her first album was entitled Cu Cu Rru Cu Cu La Paloma.  She broke the top 100 twice in 1966; "He Wore the Green Beret," her answer song to Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler's "Ballad of the Green Berets," hit number 89, and later in the year "Cry Softly" also placed in the charts.  

She recorded thirteen albums and co-wrote, with Mason Williams, the theme to The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1967). Also with Williams wrote the 1960s novelty classic ‘Cinderella Rockefella’, which has been covered by many artists including Jennifer Warnes, but is best remembered as a cover by the husband and wife duo Esther and Abi Ofarim. This version reached number one in Britain, Germany and all over the continent. 
Since 1972, she has lived in Houston, Texas, where she headlined her own television show, "The Nancy Ames Show", for five years on the NBC affiliate station. She performed live concerts throughout the world until 1987. 

She and her husband, Danny Ward, run an event-planning company, Ward & Ames Special Events; and she and her daughter, Nancy Riviere, have a jewellery company, Alfaro Designs, that sells the jewellery she designs based on wine motifs. In 2002, she started her wine-related jewellery company Alfaro, A Nancy Ames Collection, for wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs. She is also a  Chevalier in La Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. 
She is also a renowned gastronome winning Food & Wine Magazine’s top culinary award, Co-Founder of The Plumeria Society of America and a gardener specializing in orchids and tropical plants.  (Info edited from Wikipedia, IMDB & ward&

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Billy Strange born 29 September 1936


William Everett "Billy" Strange (September 29, 1930 – February 22, 2012) was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and actor. He was a session musician with the famed Wrecking Crew, and

was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum as a member of The Wrecking Crew in 2007.
Billy Strange was born in Long Beach, California on September 29, 1930. Started performing with his mother and father, cowboy entertainers George and Billie Strange, on radio as a young boy and won a yodelling contest.  He initially learned the trumpet; however his asthmatic condition impeded his playing ability. At the age of fourteen, his parents bought him a guitar. He had toured Texas with his father and when he returned home to the West Coast, he established himself as a regular presence on television. A separation from music led him to a period as a truck driver and stunt man, but his love for harmony lured him back with an emphasis on the country genre. 

He initially worked as a country guitarist, backing Spade Cooley, Roy Rogers, The Sons of the Pioneers, Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant in the 1950s. He also served a stint in Count Basie’s band. During the 1960s, he became a part of the famed stable of session musicians known as "The Wrecking Crew". He teamed up with Mac Davis to write several hit songs for Elvis Presley, including "A Little Less Conversation", the theme from Charro!, and "Memories". Strange also composed the musical soundtrack for two of Presley's films Live a Little, Love a Little and The Trouble with Girls. He also wrote "Limbo Rock" that was recorded by The Champs and Chubby Checker. 
Strange recorded many cover versions of James Bond movie themes for GNP Crescendo Records and provided the instrumental backing and arrangement for Nancy Sinatra's non-soundtrack version of "You Only Live Twice" as well as Nancy and Frank Sinatra's "Somethin' Stupid". He was recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame for his pioneering contribution to the genre. 
Strange played guitar on numerous Beach Boys hits, including "Sloop John B" and the Pet Sounds album. He also played guitar for Nancy Sinatra, Jan & Dean, The Ventures, Willie Nelson, The Everly Brothers, Wanda Jackson, Randy Newman, and Nat King Cole, among others. One of his most famous performances is on Nancy Sinatra's version of "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)". 
In the 1970s, Strange settled in Nashville to open a publishing company for the Sinatra family. He arranged and conducted all of Nancy Sinatra's Reprise albums as well as Nancy Sinatra's and Lee Hazlewood's 1972 RCA Records release, Nancy & Lee Again and their 2003 album, Nancy & Lee 3. He also arranged the 1981 Sinatra and Mel Tillis album, Mel & Nancy. He arranged and conducted for Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Duane Eddy, and Elvis Presley. One of his most famous arrangements was "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" for Nancy Sinatra. Strange also performed the vocals for Steve McQueen in Baby the Rain Must Fall.

Heard on the soundtracks of many Disney features, Strange played themes for such TV shows as "The Munsters" (1964), "Batman" (1966) and "Have Gun – Will Travel" (1957). He is the guitarist heard on the theme to "The Munsters". He sang his own composition, "The Ballad of Bunny and Claude", in the Merrie Melodies Bunny And Claude (We Rob Carrot Patches) (1968) and The Great Carrot-Train Robbery (1969). 
Strange was married to singer and actress Joan O'Brien from 1954 to 1955. They had a son, Russell Glen Strange, born on October 4, 1955. He was also married to Betty Jo Conrad (son: Jerry Strange) from 1960 to 1978. They had a daughter together, Kelly Kimberly Strange, born on November 11, 1964.

Strange was married to Country singer Jeanne Black in his final years. After a brief illness he died on February 22, 2012, aged 81. (Info edited from various sources, mainly Wikipedia) 

Billy Strange -The amazing Man with the guitar - interview - part 1 & 2

Monday, 28 September 2015

Koko Taylor born 28 September 1928

Koko Taylor (September 28, 1928 – June 3, 2009) was an American blues musician, popularly known as the "Queen of the Blues." She was known primarily for her rough, powerful vocals and traditional blues stylings.

Born Cora Walton in Shelby County, Tennessee, Taylor was the daughter of a sharecropper. Taylor often worked in the fields with her father and five brothers and sisters, and received her nickname "Koko" because of her love of chocolate. 

Like many modern era blues singers, Taylor began by singing gospel music in the church, but picked up her love of the blues after hearing artists like Memphis Minnie and Bessie Smith on the radio. 

She left Memphis for Chicago, Illinois in 1952 with her husband, truck driver Robert "Pops" Taylor. In the late 1950s she began singing in Chicago blues clubs. She was spotted by Willie Dixon in 1962, and this led to wider performances and her first recording contract.  


In 1965, Taylor was signed by Chess Records where she recorded "Wang Dang Doodle," a song written by Dixon and recorded by Howlin' Wolf five years earlier. The song became a hit, reaching number four on the R&B charts in 1966, and selling a million copies. Taylor recorded several versions of "Wang Dang Doodle" over the years, including a live version at the 1967 American Folk Blues Festival with harmonica player Little Walter and guitarist Hound Dog Taylor. Taylor subsequently recorded more material, both original and covers, but never repeated that initial chart success. 

National touring in the late 1960s and early 1970s improved her fan base, and she became accessible to a wider record-buying public when she signed with Alligator Records in 1975. Taylor became one of the first Chicago blues performer to cross over to a white audience, and as she moved further outside of the Chicago area to perform, her popularity grew even larger.  

An appearance at the 1972 Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival was captured by a live compilation album released by Atlantic Records, introducing a national audience to Taylor's talents. 

She recorded nine albums for Alligator, 8 of which were Grammy-nominated, and came to dominate the female blues singer ranks, winning twenty five W. C. Handy Awards (more than any other artist). After her recovery from a near-fatal car crash in 1989, the 1990s found Taylor in films such as Blues Brothers 2000 and Wild at Heart, and she opened a blues club on Division Street in Chicago in 1994, but it closed in 1999. 

Taylor overcame poverty, tragedy, and physical infirmity to become one of the most popular blues singers in the world, male or female. Her dynamic live performances and recordings have influenced countless young musicians, including artists like Bonnie Raitt, Shemekia Copeland, and Susan Tedeschi.In the years prior to her death; she performed over 70 concerts a year and resided just south of Chicago in Country Club Hills, Illinois. 

In 2008, the Internal Revenue Service said that Taylor owed $400,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest. Her tax problems concerned 1998, 2000 and 2001; for those years combined, her adjusted gross income was $949,000. 

Taylor died on June 3, 2009, after complications from surgery for gastrointestinal bleeding on May 19, 2009. Her final performance was at the Blues Music Awards, on May 7, 2009. (Info edited from & Wikipedia)

    Koko Taylor and her band in Montreal, 1980.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Bernard Miles born 27 September 1920

Bernard James Miles, Baron Miles of Blackfriars, CBE (27 September 1907 – 14 June 1991) was an English character actor, writer and director. He opened the Mermaid Theatre in London in 1959, the first new theatre opened in the City of London since the 17th century. 

Miles was born in Uxbridge, Middlesex and attended Bishopshalt School in Hillingdon. His father and mother were, respectively, a farm labourer and a cook.

Miles completed his education at Pembroke College, Oxford and then entered the theatre in the 1930s. He also soon began appearing in films and featured prominently in patriotic cinema during the Second World War, including classics such as In Which We Serve and One of Our Aircraft Is Missing. He also had an uncredited role in The First of the Few (released in the US as Spitfire). 

His typical persona as an actor was as a countryman, with a strong accent typical of the Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire counties. He was also, after Robert Newton, the actor most associated with the part of Long John Silver, which he played in a British TV version of Treasure Island, and in an annual performance at the Mermaid commencing in the winter of 1961-62.  

Actors in the annual theatrical productions included Spike Milligan as Ben Gunn, and, in the 1968 production, Barry Humphries as Long John Silver. It was Miles who, impressed by the talent of John Antrobus, originally commissioned him to write a play of some sort. This led to Antrobus collaborating with Milligan to produce a one-act play called The Bed Sitting Room, which was later adapted to a longer play, and staged by Miles at The Mermaid on 31 January 1963, with both critical and commercial success. 

He had a pleasant rolling bass-baritone voice that worked well in theatre and film, as well as being much in demand for voice-overs. As a performer, he was most well known for a series of comic monologues, often given in a rural dialect. These were recorded and sold as record albums, which were quite popular. Some of his comic monologues are currently available on 

Miles was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1953, was knighted in 1969, and was created a life peer as Baron Miles, of Blackfriars in the City of London on 7 February 1979. He was only the second British actor ever to be given a peerage (the first was Laurence Olivier). 

Miles's written works include The British Theatre (1947), God's Brainwave (1972) and Favourite Tales from Shakespeare (1972). In 1981, he co-authored the book Curtain Calls with J.C. Trewin. 

He died in Knaresborough, Yorkshire on 14 June 1991 aged 83. 

His daughters are the actress Sally Miles and the artist Bridget Miles. His son John Miles was a Grand Prix driver in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the Lotus team.(Info Wikipedia)