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Monday, 26 January 2015

Huey "Piano" Smith born 26 January 1934

Huey "Piano" Smith (born Huey Pierce Smith, January 26, 1934, New Orleans, Louisiana) is an American rhythm and blues pianist whose sound was influential in the development of rock and roll.

His piano playing incorporated the boogie styles of Pete Johnson, Meade Lux Lewis, and Albert Ammons; the jazz style of Jelly Roll Morton; and the piano playing of Fats Domino. At the peak of his game, Smith epitomized New Orleans R&B at its most infectious and rollicking, as showcased on his classic signature tune, 'Don't You Just Know It.

Smith was born in New Orleans' Garden District, and was
influenced by the innovative work of Professor Longhair. He became known for his shuffling right-handed break on the piano that influenced other Southern players.

Smith wrote his first song on the piano, "Roberson Street Boogie" (named after the street where he lived), when he was only eight years old, and performed the tune with a friend. They billed themselves as Slick and Dark. Smith attended McDowell High and Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans. When Smith was fifteen he began working in clubs and recording records with his flamboyant partner, Eddie Jones, who rose to fame as Guitar Slim. When he was eighteen, in 1952, he signed a recording contract with Savoy Records, which released his first known single, "You Made Me Cry". In 1953 Smith recorded with Earl King. 

In 1955, Smith turned 21, and became the piano player with Little Richard's first band for Specialty Records. The same year he also played piano on several studio sessions for other artists such as Lloyd Price.Two of the sessions resulted in hits for Earl King ("Those Lonely Lonely Nights"), and Smiley Lewis ("I Hear You Knocking"). 

In 1957, Smith formed 'Huey 'Piano' Smith and His Clowns' with Bobby Marchan, and signed a long term contract with former Specialty record producer, Johnny Vincent at Ace Records. They hit the Billboard charts with several singles in succession, including "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu". The lyrics were written by John Vincent, and the record sold over one million copies, achieving gold disc status. 

In 1958, Vin Records, a subsidiary of Ace Records, released a popular single "Little Chickee Wah Wah" with Clowns singer Gerri Hall, under the billing of Huey and Jerry. Meanwhile, Ace Records released several more singles from 'Huey "Piano" Smith and His Clowns', including "We Like Birdland", "Well I'll Be John Brown", and "Don't You Know Yockomo." (Later, in 1964, New Zealand artist Dinah Lee took her cover version of this last song to number 1 in both New Zealand & Australia.) 

The Clowns' most famous single, released in 1958, was "Don't You Just Know It" b/w "High Blood Pressure." This hit number 9 on the Billboard Pop chart and number 4 on the Rhythm and Blues chart. It was their second million seller. 

In 1959, Ace Records erased Huey Smith's vocal track from the now classic single Smith composed, arranged and performed entitled "Sea Cruise", and replaced it with a vocal track by white singer Frankie Ford. The tune was a huge hit for Ford. 

Smith left Ace Records for Imperial Records, to record with Fats Domino's noted producer (and fellow Louisianan) Dave Bartholomew, but the national hits did not follow. Instead, Ace Records again overdubbed new vocals by Gerri Hall, Billy Roosevelt and Johnny Williams on another one of Smith's unreleased tracks, to produce the last hit single credited to Huey "Piano" Smith, entitled "Pop-Eye". 

Smith spent part of the '60s recording for Instant and touring not only with the Clowns, but alternate groups the Hueys and the Pitter Pats as well. Unable to return to the charts, he eventually converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses and left the music industry permanently. In 2000, Smith was honored with a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.  (Info mainly edited from Wikipedia)

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Barbara Carroll born 25 January 1925

Barbara Carroll (born Barbara Carole Coppersmith on January 25, 1925 in Worcester, Massachusetts) is a jazz pianist, composer and vocalist who has long been regarded as one of the most fascinating purveyors of swinging jazz piano and rhythmic, expressive vocals.

She began her classical training in piano at age eight, but by high school had decided to become a jazz pianist. She attended the New England Conservatory of Music for a year, but left it as it conflicted with working for bands. In 1947 Leonard Feather dubbed her "the first girl ever to play bebop piano." In the following year her trio, which had Chuck Wayne on guitar and Clyde Lombardi on bass, worked briefly with Benny Goodman. Later Charlie Byrd replaced Wayne with Joe Shulman replacing Lombardi. After Byrd left she decided to have it be a drums, bass, and piano trio.

In the 1950s she did noteworthy solo work as well as work with her trio. She also began to cross-over doing a jazz-waltz and her trio worked on Me and Juliet by Rodgers and Hammerstein. That stated, the end of the decade saw her career ebb. This occurred because of changing musical tastes and personal concerns.

In September 1954 Barbara married Joe Shulman, a member of the trio. The marriage lasted less than three years as he died of a heart-attack in 1957 at 33. She later married former bandleader Bert Block and had a daughter. She decided in 1965 to retire from jazz and devote her time to her family.

        Here's 'S Wonderful from above album. Recorded 1957. 
In 1972 she revived her career due to a renewed interest in her work. In 1975 she was asked by Rita Coolidge to work on a session for A&M. Then in 1978 she toured with Coolidge and Kris Kristofferson. In the following two decades she became known as a cabaret musician.
Her work over the past 50 years has spanned everything from appearances on Broadway with her trio in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Me and Juliet to performances in concert halls, jazz clubs, on major TV shows and festival stages throughout the world. She has performed for President and Mrs. Clinton at the White House and has made more than thirty major label recordings with an array of jazz legends including Art Farmer, Claudio Roditi, Bucky Pizzarelli and John Pizzarelli.
Ms. Carroll, whom many regard as New York’s “first lady of jazz piano,” recently completed a record-breaking run at the famed Bemelmans Bar in the Carlyle Hotel, where she appeared annually for two extended engagements for 24 consecutive years. Now performing nearly every Wednesday at Birdland (with bassist Jay Leonhart and Joe Cocuzzo on drums), Ms. Carroll has returned to the kind of jazz clubs that made her famous in the 1950s.
Her 2005 release of “Live At Birdland,” showcases her extensive repertoire coupled with her intimate knowledge and presentation of jazz piano at its best. She has gained new appreciation in the cabaret world, and continues working to the present. 

In the current decade she’s been awarded a Lifetime Achievement award and the “Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz.”(Info edited from Wikipedia & All about jazz)
Legendary jazz pianist Barbara Carroll at the Algonquin Hotel, May 25, 2008. With bassist Jay Leonhart, she performs her signature closing song, "Old Friends" by Stephen Sondheim.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Peggy DeCastro born 24 January 1921

Peggy DeCastro (b.24, Jan 1921 - 6, March 2004) was the lead singer of the female-sister group DeCastro Sisters. Originally they consisted of Peggy DeCastro (1921–2004), Cherie DeCastro (1922–2010) and Babette DeCastro (1925–1992). When Babette retired in 1958, a cousin, Olgita DeCastro Marino (1931–2000) replaced her and when Peggy later left the group to go solo, Babette re-joined Cherie and Olgita. Peggy eventually returned and Babette once more retired.

The three original DeCastro Sisters—Peggy, Cherie and
were raised in Havana in a family mansion that was seized by Fidel Castro during the Cuban revolution and is now used as the Chinese Embassy. Their mother, Babette Buchanan, was an Chicago-born Ziegfeld Follies showgirl who married the wealthy Cuban aristocrat Juan Fernandez de Castro, owner of a large sugar plantation in the Dominican Republic, where first daughter Peggy was born. De Castro later developed radio and television in Cuba with David Sarnoff, who was often a guest at their home and was also in charge of a planned project under the Batista regime to build a canal through Cuba, which never materialized.

The family moved to New York, where Cherie was born, then to Havana, Cuba, where Babette was born and all three girls were raised. In one of their first public performances as children, they wore white dresses, carried U.S. flags and sang the U.S. National Anthem. They also performed at parties and church socials, singing American ballads.

As teenagers, they imitated the Andrews Sisters and eventually became known as the Andrews Sisters of Cuba. Soon they were playing in Cuban nightclubs billed as the Fernandez-DeCastro Sisters. They came to the United States in 1945 for a tour that began in Miami, went through New York's Radio City Music Hall and finished in California, where they were discovered in a small nightclub called the Club Brazil by famed actress and singer Carmen Miranda. Miranda gave the sisters small roles in her films "Dynamite Wrapped in Glamour" and "Copacabana." The trio's hit recording got them gigs in Las Vegas showrooms.

As their careers took off, their act became more flamboyant and they worked across the country including the Palladium in Hollywood, where they sang with Tito Puente’s band and made their first recordings. In 1946, they provided several of the bird and animal voices for Walt Disney’s animated "Song of the South", including the Oscar-winning "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah".

They appeared on screen with Carmen Miranda and Groucho Marx in the 1947 film Copacabana, the same year that they joined Bob Hope and Cecil B. DeMille on the live premiere broadcast special launching KTLA in Los Angeles, the very first telecast west of the Mississippi. The sisters were introduced by Hope and sang “Babalu,” which was filmed by a Paramount newsreel cameraman and is the only surviving footage of the original three-hour show.

The DeCastro Sisters had just one hit song, the 1955 Sammy Kahn-penned standard "Teach Me Tonight," (#2 in 1955) which has been covered by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Sammy Davis Jr. and Al Jarreau, among others. They also had minor hits with "Boom Boom Boomerang" and "It's Yours". Their recording career actually spanned about 10 years, from the early 50's to about 1962.

Over the years they performed with many industry giants, including Bob Hope and George Burns. In recent years the DeCastro Sisters featured Peggy, Cherie and Lois Denny, who is not related to the sisters but has been a longtime replacement member.

The DeCastro Sisters appeared on most major TV shows including The Ed Sullivan Show and The Perry Como Show. They also made numerous film shorts including Universal's "Swingin’ and Singin’" with Maynard Ferguson and Riot in Rhythm with Harry James. At various times Peggy and Babette took leave from the act and were replaced by a cousin Olgita, so Cherie was the only sister who was part of every appearance and recording that the group ever made. 

In 1997, they were part of KTLA's 50th anniversary broadcast in Los Angeles and headlined at the Hollywood Roosevelt's Cinegrill. Three years later, they were inducted in the Casino Legends Hall of Fame as “Las Vegas Living Legends.“ Cherie continued to perform until shortly before her illness and sang "Teach Me Tonight" on the 2006 PBS special, "Moments To Remember: My Music", which is still periodically shown and is out on DVD.
The original trio included Peggy, Cherie and sister Babette. When Babette left the group to raise a family, she was replaced by cousin Olgita DeCastro. Babette died of cancer in 1992. Olgita died of asthma on February 14, 2000. Peggy retired once from the trio in 1996 when her second husband, California veterinarian John Carricaburu, became ill. He died two years ago. Her first husband, longtime group manager Bob Lilley, also preceded her in death. After Carricaburu died, Cherie traveled to Peggy's then-home in Northern California and successfully got her back into show business. Peggy died at her home in Las Vegas from lung cancer on March 6, 2004 in Las Vegas. Cherie, the only sister to appear on every recording, film, TV and stage appearance, died of pneumonia on March 14, 2010. (Info edited from various sources, mainly Wikipedia)

Friday, 23 January 2015

Joe Dowell born 23 January 1940

Joe Dowell (born January 23, 1940, Bloomington, Illinois) is an American pop singer.

Playing the guitar and writing songs from the age of thirteen, Dowell made his debut in an amateur talent show in the ninth grade, and later attended the University of Illinois. Joe had, what he calls, his "fourteen-and-a-half-minutes of fame," when his first recording session yielded a number one hit, "Wooden Heart", in 1961.
Elvis Presley had included the song, a centuries old German folk tune, on the soundtrack of his film, GI Blues, and it had become a big hit in Europe, but, RCA Victor had failed to release it as a single in the United States. Recorded at the suggestion of country producer Shelby Singleton, Dowell's version, featuring Ray Stevens on organ, became a phenomenal success. The first single to be released on Mercury's Smash subsidiary, "Wooden Heart" reached the top slot on the Billboard charts within ninety days.

"Wooden Heart", the first single released on Smash Records, shot to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961. Joe was a senior at the University of Illinois when "Wooden Heart" topped the charts. In the wake of his success, Dowell wanted to become a songwriter in his own right, but due to contractual obligations, he was required to sing music owned by Smash's parent company, Mercury Records. He had two further hits, "The Bridge of Love" (US #50) and "Little Red Rented Rowboat" (US #23) in 1963.

Dowell was a victim of the music industry's darker side. Although he prided himself on being a "singer-songwriter", he was forced to record inferior material owned by Mercury. Thus, his debut album, Wooden Heart, was a disappointing showcase of cover tunes. When he rebelled against the practice, Dowell's recording contract was dropped.
Dowell went on to record one single for Monument Records and a folk album in the 1960s, and a number of singles and a gospel album for his own Journey label in the 1970s and 1980s. He also recorded a bicentennial EP for the Boy Scouts of America and radio jingles.
The popularity of Dowell's version of "Wooden Heart" allowed him to remain active as an entertainer. Launching a radio commercial production company, he built an extremely successful career as spokesperson for banks and financial institutions across the United States.
Bear Family Records released a CD on Joe Dowell's music, including unreleased recordings.
 (info edited from Wikipedia & AMG)

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Ivor Kirchin born 21 January 1905

Ivor Kirchin (21 January 1905 – 22 January 1997) was a British band leader, and the father of noted composer Basil Kirchin (1927–2005).

Born in London, Ivor Kirchin was the leader, singer, drummer, conductor and business manager for The Kirchin Band, a popular big band formed in the 1930s. The Kirchin Band performed on the Mecca ballroom circuit during the Second World War. There was always plenty of work around the dance hall circuit for the band but there were no recordings until 1954, when George Martin of EMI spotted the talent and arranged the first recording date.

The band billed themselves as 'The Biggest Little Band in the World' because their arrangements made them sound like a larger band that they were: four trumpets, four saxophones, piano, bass

and drums. From the time he was 14 Ivor's son Basil took over the drum stool, and was often featured as a soloist. The band played fast and loud, with a varied repertoire that included standards, mambos and straight-ahead jazz.

In 1946 Basil left to work with Harry Roy, Teddy Foster, Jack Nathan and Ted Heath, while Ivor's band continued to play the Mecca circuit. In 1951 Basil returned to The Kirchin Band, now renamed the Ivor and Basil Kirchin Band, which made its debut on September 8 with a year-long residency at the Edinburgh Fountainbridge Palais, followed in November 1953 by an engagement at the Belfast Plaza Ballroom that extended into the spring of 1954. At the same time, the group also backed singer Ruby Murray during a 13-week series for Radio Luxembourg.

They returned to London in 1954 for a summer residency and an appearance at the 1954 Jazz Jamboree. Unfortunately at this time a serious car accident sidelined Ivor, requiring Basil to take over band leadership and business management for the band, which he soon realized he enjoyed much less than the music. With his father's return to health, the band took on a brassier, more spontaneous sound which proved immensely popular. It was at this time that the band came to the attention of a young 28 year old engineer for Parlophone Records named George Martin, who proceeded to launch a whole new recording career for the band.

 The band continued to enjoy success, with Billy Eckstein and Sarah Vaughan insisting that the Kirchin Band backed them when they toured Britain. Their shows would break attendance records and were featured in Melody Maker polls. By 1955 the band was now recognised as a swing/jazz type band and they were on a Swing Session broadcast on the BBC Light Programme. The show was shared with others and the Kirchin Band played three arrangements by Jimmy Deuchar: "Flying Hickory," "Lester Leaps In" and "Swing Session" and a vocal from Johnny Grant.

At the close of the decade music trends began to move away from big bands toward smaller jazz combos, and soon rock & roll appeared. The Kirchin Band made some attempts to stay relevant with novelty cha-cha and rock and roll numbers, but the end was clearly in sight. By 1967, Ivor Kirchin retired the band.

By the early 1980s, Kirchin settled in Kingston upon Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, near to his son. He died there in 1997, aged 92. (Info from Wikipedia)

Monday, 19 January 2015

Ray Eberle born 19 January 1919

Raymond "Ray" Eberle (born January 19, 1919, Hoosick Falls, New York — died August 25, 1979, Douglasville, Georgia) was a vocalist during the Big Band Era. Eberle sang with the Glenn Miller Orchestra. 

He was born in Hoosick Falls, New York. His father, John A. Eberle, was a local policeman, sign-painter, and publican (tavern-keeper). His elder brother was Big Band singer, Bob Eberly, who sang with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra. Ray started singing in his teens, with no formal training. In 1938, Glenn Miller, who was looking for a male vocalist for his big band, asked Eberly if he had any siblings at home who could sing. Bob said "yes", and Ray was hired on the spot. Eberle recalled walking by a table when his similar looking brother was performing, and being stopped by Miller and invited to audition. Music critics and Miller's musicians were reportedly unhappy with Eberle's vocal style but Miller stuck with him. 

Ray Eberle went on to find success with Miller, deeming the songs for Orchestra Wives, such as the jazz standard "At Last", to be among his favorites as there were songs he could "sink my teeth into, and make a story out of". 

He appeared in the Twentieth Century Fox movies, Sun Valley Serenade (1941) and Orchestra Wives (1942). 

He made several Universal films, including Mister Big, making a cameo appearance as himself. Eberle mostly sang ballads. From 1940-43 he did well on Billboard (magazine)'s "College Poll" for male vocalist. He also appeared on numerous television variety shows in the 1950s and 1960s. 

Ray Eberle sang lead on "Sometime", composed by Glenn Miller in 1939, "Polka Dots and Moonbeams", "At Last", a number 9 chart hit on Billboard in 1942, and "To You", but Miller ran a tight ship and often fired people after one negative incident. Eberle was stuck in traffic one day during a Chicago engagement, and was late for a rehearsal. Miller fired him on the spot, and replaced him in June 1942 with Skip Nelson.  Eberle responded by blasting Miller in a trade paper. An angry Miller retorted with his own version of Eberle's firing.  

                 Here's "Deep Purple" from above 1957 album.

After his departure from Miller, Eberle briefly joined Gene Krupa's band before launching a solo career. He later joined former Miller bandmate Tex Beneke's orchestra in 1970 for a national tour, and reformed his own orchestra later in the decade. 

Ray and his wife, Janet (née Young), had two children, Jan and Laurie Eberle. Janet's daughter Nancy Atchison became Nancy Eberle when she married Ray. He had two sons from his second marriage to Joanne Eberle (née Genthon), Ray Eberle Jr. and John Eberle. He also had a grandson, named Tray. Ray Eberle died of a heart attack in Douglasville, Georgia on August 25, 1979, aged 60.
(Info edited mainly from Wikipedia)

Glenn Miller & His Band perform "At Last" with vocals by Ray Eberle, and Lynn Bari (miming Pat Friday’s vocals.)

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Johnny Bragg born 18 January 1926

The Prisonaires were an African American doo-wop group whose hit "Just Walkin' in the Rain" was released on Sun Records in 1953, while the group was incarcerated in the Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville.  

The group was led by Johnny Bragg, (born John Henry Bragg, 18 January, 1926) who had been a penitentiary inmate since 1943 when, at the age of 17, he was convicted of six charges of rape. 

A native of Nashville, he was blind from the time of his birth in 1926. Quite unexpectedly, he began to see when he was six years old and he grew up a wild child, fighting and killing chickens for sport. When he was 14, he served a month's confinement for riding in a stolen car. His life changed forever in 1943 when he caught his girlfriend with his best friend. The naked girl fought with Bragg and, in order to explain her bruises, she accused Bragg of raping her. Her mother rang the police, who beat him until he signed a confession. Then they paraded rape victims in front of him and six claimed that Bragg had raped them. Meanwhile, Bragg's girlfriend had retracted her statement. 

A singer since childhood, Bragg had joined a prison gospel quintet soon after his incarceration, but after a falling out, Bragg took two of its singers, Ed Thurman and William Stewart, each of whom were doing 99 years for murder, and hooked up with recent penitentiary arrivals John Drue (three years for larceny) and Marcell Sanders (one-to-five for involuntary manslaughter), and the Prisonaires were born. 

They were discovered by radio producer Joe Calloway, who heard them singing while preparing a news broadcast from the prison. Calloway suggested to warden James Edwards that the group be allowed out to perform on the radio. Edwards, a liberal reform-minded warden who saw this as part of his strategy of rehabilitation, agreed. In the meantime, Bragg was busy selling songs to music publisher Red Wortham, who sent a tape of the Prisonaires' radio performance to Jim Bulliet, a minority shareholder in Sun Records.

Bulliet sent the tape to Phillips, and despite his initial reservations (Phillips was not a huge fan of the group's Ink Spots-style close harmony crooning), arranged to have the groups transported under armed guard to Memphis to record. A few weeks later, "Just Walkin' in the Rain" was released and quickly sold 50,000 copies, a small success that was not without long-term ramifications.

"It was the song that put Sun Records on the map, and very likely the item that captured the attention of Elvis Presley as he read about the studio, the label, and painstaking Sam Phillips," the biographer Peter Guralnick wrote in "Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley."
The attendant publicity was more than had been predicted, and soon warden Edwards was allowing the group out on day passes to tour throughout the state of
Tennessee. The band became favorites of the state's governor, Frank Clement, and frequently performed for assembled guests at the governor's mansion.
After breaking from Sun Records in 1954, Bragg renamed his group the Marigolds and recorded Riley's "Rollin' Stone" for the local Excello label. The Latin-flavored tune landed in the Top 10 of Billboard's R&B chart, giving Excello its first significant hit.
The group never had another hit, and within a year they were finished, the result of the rise of rock & roll and Phillips' preoccupation with a young singer from Tupelo, MS, named Presley. Clement pardoned Bragg in 1959, but the singer landed back in prison. In 1961, after Presley was discharged from the Army, he visited Bragg and offered to pay his legal bills, but Bragg declined.
Most of the Prisonaires had no careers outside of the prison with the notable exception of Bragg, who, despite remaining in jail off and on until 1977, recorded some marginal R&B and country for small labels in Nashville. He died on 1 September 2004 of cancer, at the Imperial Manor Convalescent Center in Madison, Tennessee. Stewart died of a drug overdose in a Florida motel in 1959, Sanders died in the late 1960s, Thurman was killed in an accident in 1973 and Drue died of cancer in 1977.

In an interview recounted in a 1999 article about the Prisonaires by John Dougan in American Music, Bragg said that the group was his fondest career memory. "I'm very proud of them, and I miss that. They're all gone now. That's something you can't forget," he said. 
(Info mainly edited from All Music Guide;; and www rocky52net)