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Saturday, 23 July 2016

Gary Stites born 23 July 1940

Gary Stites (born July 23, 1940) is an American pop singer who enjoyed brief success in the late 1950s.
Gary was born on July 23, 1940 in Denver, Colorado. He attended Wheat Ridge High School and worked in his father’s Gulf service station. When he turned 15 his musical career started with the group “The Rocking Rhythm Kings” at the Grubstake Saloon in Denver. The only other local group were “Del Toro & The Rockers”  Some of both band members decided to join together resulting in “Gary Stites & The Satellites”. The group were popular at the local teen dances, sock hops and beer joints.
The local program director at KIMN radio was a friend of record label owner Joe Carlton in New York, and got Gary to sing “Lonely For You” to him over the phone. This resulted in a contract.

Gary recorded for Carlton Records, the same record company that fellow label mate Jack Scott recorded for.  On April 13, 1959 he charted his biggest hit, “Lonely For You”.  The record climbed the Hot 100 to #24 and had a 14 week stay on the pop chart.  “Lonely For You” had an arrangement similar to Conway Twitty’s hit “It's Only Make Believe”. 
His follow-up single, "Starry Eyed", peaked at No. 77 later that same year. It would hit the No. 1 spot in the UK for Michael Holliday. Stites released a full-length album “Lonely For You” issued in mono and stereo editions, on Carlton Records in 1960, but it was his only LP.
In addition to the hit title track, the album contains his minor hits also the flip side of "Lonely for You" ("Shine That Ring") and a cover of Faye Adams' 1953 R&B chart-topper, "Shake a Hand." Stites proves himself adept at teen ballads ("Don't Wanna Say Goodbye"), rockers ("Chicken Shack"), and call-and-response party records ("Hey, Hey"). He is a competent singer with a voice vaguely similar to Johnny Tillotson.
In February of 1960 Gary charted his last Hot 100 record, the old R&B favorite, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”.  It was his highest charting hit since “Lonely For You”, making it to #47 and remaining on the Hot 100 for 9 weeks.  That would be his last record to reach the Hot 100 chart.  There are some artists that you feel are only going to have one hit and that’s it, but Gary Stites was one artist that really should have had a better chart history than that of a One-Hit Wonder
In the sixties, Stites started his own record label, Living Legend, where he produced obscure groups like the Birdwatchers, the Gents Five and Tommy Strand and the Upper Hand, all without success. He dropped out of the music business in the seventies and switched to work in horse racing. Stites wasn’t heard from again until 1998 when his cassette "The Old Racetracker” was recorded under the singular name Cloud, saluting his first love – horse racing.
Collectors with a fondness for the early-'60s "teen sound" will appreciate Stites' well-executed recordings and formulaic songs, but it would be a stretch to argue that he created anything out of the ordinary. The Carlton tapes have been lost, so any reissues of Stites' material will be mastered from vinyl. Buyers beware of a poor-quality "gray market" bootlrg CD, also titled Lonely for You, that contains 30 scratchy disc dubs containing  more or less his complete recorded output.
(Info at first was sparse but I have managed to get a decent amount to edit for this bio after trawling through numerous sources – too many to mention.)

Here’s a rare film clip of Gary Stites singing Starry Eyed from 1959.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Plas Johnson born 21 July 1931

Plas John Johnson Jr. (born July 21, 1931) is an American soul-jazz and hard bop tenor saxophonist, probably most widely known as the tenor saxophone soloist on Henry Mancini’s "The Pink Panther Theme".
Born in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, he and his pianist brother Ray first recorded as the Johnson Brothers in New Orleans in the late 1940s, and Plas then toured with R&B singer Charles Brown. After army service, he moved to Los Angeles and began session recordings as a full-time musician, backing artists such as B.B. King and Johnny Otis as well as scores of other R&B performers. An early supporter was Maxwell Davis, who hired him to take over his own parts so that he could concentrate on producing sessions for the Modern record label.

Recruited by Capitol Records in the mid-1950s, Johnson also played on innumerable records by Peggy Lee, Nat "King" Cole, Glen Gray, Frank Sinatra and others. He remained a leading session player for almost twenty years, averaging two sessions a day and playing everything from movie soundtracks to rock and roll singles, by such artists as Ricky Nelson and Bobby Vee. He played on many of the Beach Boys’ records, and was an integral part of a number of instrumental groups that existed in name only, such as B. Bumble and the Stingers and The Pets.
Maybe you haven’t heard of him, but you certainly have heard him. How about these: Shuffle In the Gravel by Young Jessie; Stranded In The Jungle by The Cadets; Girl Of My Dreams by Jesse Belvin; Searchin’ by The Coasters; Rockin’ Robin by Bobby Day; Bony Moronie by Larry Williams; Teenage Heaven by Eddie Cochran; Say Mama by Gene Vincent; and a myriad of tracks by Duane Eddy, Ernie Fields, The Piltdown Men, Sandy Nelson, The Ernie Freeman Combo, Johnny Otis, The Marketts, The Routers, The Olympics, and Don & Dewey. And that’s just scraping the surface of the output of Plas Johnson, LA session man extraordinaire.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s he was a regular member of Henry Mancini's studio orchestra and in 1963 he recorded the Pink Panther theme. Another solo for a well-known television series was on The Odd Couple's theme music. Johnson was also used by Motown, and played on hits by Marvin Gaye, the Supremes and others. Johnson also played on sessions for Nancy Sinatra.

Johnson can be heard on the 1963 album "Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Jerome Kern Songbook", recorded with the esteemed arranger Nelson Riddle. His sax is also heard on two of the other great Ella Fitzgerald songbooks - The Harold Arlen Songbook and The Johnny Mercer Songbook.
In 1964, Johnson was the featured performer on "Blue Martini" ( Ava Records ), a concept album by John Neel. It was a groundbreaking album, with the saxophone being the lead "voice" surrounded by a full string section. This jazz/classical hybrid contains some of Johnson's best and most innovative playing, with the standout being "Bury Me Blue".
In 1970, he joined the studio band for "The Merv Griffin Show" and also played with a number of jazz and swing bands of the period. He continues to record and perform, particularly at jazz festivals.

Johnson currently performs on silverplated Yamaha tenor saxophone. He uses a very open (150/0 SMS) Berg Larsen goldplated bronze mouthpiece and Rico Plasticover 1.5 or 2 baritone sax reeds, a setup that enables him to produce his very distinctive and instantly recognizable sound.
(Info mainly Wikipedia)

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Sleeoy LaBeef born 20 July 1935

Sleepy LaBeef (b. Thomas Paulsley LaBeff, July 20, 1935, Smackover, Arkansas) is a first-generation American rocker whose music has never lost its edge and unbridled passion. Sleepy performs a wide variety of American Roots music, including country blues, gospel, fifties rock and roll and bluegrass.
Sleepy LaBeef became the ultimate rockabilly survivor, his live performances retaining the same raw power as he approached his eighth decade that they had in the years when he was among the music's pioneers. He was born Thomas Paulsley LaBeff in Smackover, AR. The 6'7" singer has heavily lidded eyes which make him appear half-asleep, hence his nickname. He was raised on a melon farm and grew up hearing both country and blues music. LaBeef moved to Houston at age 18, working at several odd jobs before beginning to sing gospel music on local radio shows. Soon he was working with a band of his own at local bars, and he appeared on the Houston Jamboree and Louisiana Hayride radio programs.

The new rockabilly style fit his blazing voice perfectly, and in the late '50s he recorded about a dozen sides in that style for various labels. His first single, "I'm Through," was released in 1957 on Starday. Sometimes he was billed as Tommy LaBeff or Sleepy LaBeff. LaBeef moved to Nashville in 1964 and soon was signed to Columbia. In the 1960s he recorded mostly straight country music. His sixth single for the label, "Every Day," provided LaBeef with his chart debut in 1968, and after moving to Shelby Singleton's Plantation label in 1969, he hit the Top 20 with his version of "Blackland Farmer," Frankie Miller's heartfelt ode to the soil.

The late '60s also saw the towering baritone's film debut in the bizarre Southern drive-in horror musical The Exotic Ones; LaBeef played a swamp monster.LaBeef moved to Sun Records in the mid-'70s after Singleton acquired that original institution of rockabilly, and there he reconnected with his rockabilly roots. Singles such as "Thunder Road," "There Ain't Much After Taxes," and "Boogie Woogie Country Girl" saw little chart action but helped form the beginnings of the LaBeef legend as his indefatigable touring exposed audiences to his wildman energy.
LaBeef remains more popular in Europe than in the U.S. and appeared at England's Wembley Festival twice. Among his U.S. fans was soul-music historian Peter Guralnick, who saw LaBeef perform in Massachusetts in 1977 and praised his performances in a widely read article. That plus the general revival of rockabilly around 1980 at the hands of such groups as the Stray Cats paved the way for the emergence of Sleepy LaBeef, rockabilly revivalist.
He signed to Rounder in 1981 and released It Ain't What You Eat (It's the Way How You Chew It) in the U.S. and in Europe. The live album Nothin' but the Truth gave CD buyers a taste of the booming vocals and slashing guitar that had made LaBeef a prime club attraction. LaBeef returned to regular recording in the mid-'90s, releasing several more albums on Rounder: Strange Things Happening (1994) and I'll Never Lay My Guitar Down (1996) contained a variety of country and blues tunes and revealed the depth of LaBeef's musical experiences. Four years later, he issued Tomorrow Never Comes, which featured guest vocals from Maria Muldaur.
Compilations of the numerous unissued tracks from earlier in LaBeef's career began to surface in the early 2000s, and by that time Sleepy was nothing less than a rockabilly legend.
Despite having to undergo heart surgery in 2003, LaBeef still maintains an active touring schedule into the twenty-first century. In January 2012, LaBeef traveled to Nashville to record a film a live concert and record in historic RCA Studio B, all produced by noted bassist Dave Pomeroy. A documentary/concert DVD,Sleepy LaBeef Rides Again and soundtrack CD was released on April 22, 2013 by Earwave Records.
As significant as his recording career has been, it is the live Sleepy LaBeef that is important. Today, at 81, Sleepy still performs and plays with such energy that people a third of his age are annihilated when they attempt to keep up with him. LaBeef was the twenty-fifth inductee into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
 (info mainly All Music Guide)

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Cliff Jackson born 19 July 1902

Clifton Luther "Cliff" Jackson (July 19, 1902, Washington, D.C. - May 24, 1970, New York City) was an American jazz stride pianist.
Nick Rongetti (left) and Cliff Jackson (right) on the uprights.
One of the most powerful stride pianists, Cliff Jackson never became all that famous in the jazz world despite his talent. In 1923, he moved to New York, where he played with Lionel Howard's Musical Aces in 1924, and freelanced. Jackson recorded, in 1927, with Bob Fuller and Elmer Snowden, and then formed a big band (the Krazy Kats) that made some exuberant recordings in 1930, including "Horse Feathers" and "The Terror." After that band broke up, Jackson mostly worked as a soloist in New York clubs.

During this time he also accompanied singers such as Viola McCoy, Lena Wilson, Sara Martin, and Clara Smith.  He recorded with Sidney Bechet during 1940-1941; cut some solos and Dixieland sides for Black & White (1944-1945); made three solos for Disc (1945); led a band for a Swingville session (1961); and recorded solo for Black Lion, Ri-Disc, Jazzology, and Master Jazz (1969).

As shown by many of his 1944-1945 solo piano recordings, such as "Limehouse Blues", Cliff Jackson was certainly one of the most powerful stride piano masters. His style was also marked by a very interesting contrapuntal-like bass work. His many left hand techniques are found explained in detail in Riccardo Scivales's method Jazz Piano: The Left Hand (Bedford Hills, New York: Ekay Music, 2005).
Neither forerunner, nor obsolete, he played with a deep respect of harmony and melody, with a great swing. His strong pulse on the left hand can be recognized among thousands, by his way of doubling basses.
As house pianist at Cafe Society from 1943-51 he was a great success; he also toured with Eddie Condon in 1946. He also played with Garvin Bushell (1950), J.C. Higginbotham (1960), and Joe Thomas (1962). Cliff Jackson is also documented in 1966 playing at a festival (on Jazzology) with his wife, Maxine Sullivan.

He died of heart failure in his Bronx home on May 24, 1970, age 67. The previous night, he was performing at the RX Club in New York. (Info mainly edited from Wikipedia & All Music)

Monday, 18 July 2016

Boomer Castleman born 18 July 1945

Owens "Boomer" Castleman (July 18, 1945 – September 1, 2015), better known by his stage name Boomer Castleman, was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. Best known as the co-writer of several songs with Michael Martin Murphey, Castleman also made his mark as a producer, guitar innovator and record-label entrepreneur. 

He was born Owens Boomer Castleman in Farm Branch, Texa in 1945. His musical career began in high school. His first collaborator was the then-unknown John Denver, with whom he toured on the folk circuit. He moved to Los Angeles where he was a regular at Randy Sparks’ Ledbetters folk club. He also formed a band called The Survivors with future Monkees star Michael Nesmith. 

After The Monkees became a sensation in 1966, Castleman teamed up with Michael Martin Murphey (under the guise as Travis Lewis) as the folk-pop duo The Lewis & Clarke Expedition and signed with The Monkees’ label, Colgems Records. They recorded a pop album in 1967 for Colgems, the label that released The Monkees. The band was said to have gotten the deal with Colgems through Murphey's, Castleman's, and bassist John London's associations with Michael Nesmith.  After the Monkees, the duo was the label’s main act in 1967 and managed a US Top 100 single with ‘I Feel Good (I Feel Bad)’, one of their four singles for the label. 

The Monkees recorded the duo’s “(What Am I Doin’) Hangin’ Round” and featured it on three of their TV show’s episodes in 1967-68. Castleman and Murphey co-starred in their own TV pilot titled The Kowboys in 1969, but a series was not put into production. 

Castleman became widely known in instrumental circles for inventing the Palm Pedal in 1968. This device allows guitar players to emulate steel-guitar sounds. It is now marketed as the Bigsby Palm Pedal.

After their breakup as a singing duo, Boomer Castleman and Michael Martin Murphey continued to collaborate as writers. They co-wrote several of the songs on Murphey’s 1972 LP Geronimo’s Cadillac, including “Boy From the Country,” “You Can Only Say So Much” and “Blood Brothers.” 

In 1975, Boomer Castleman scored a mid-sized pop hit with his self-composed “Judy Mae.” Two years later, he co-produced the Meri Wilson novelty hit “Telephone Man,” and cowrote most of the songs on her subsequent album.

He relocated to Nashville in the 1970s. As a guitarist, he has backed Tammy Wynette, David Alan Coe, Linda Ronstadt, Kenny Rogers, George Jones, Johnny Paycheck, George Hamilton IV, Roy Clark, Mel Tillis, Dave Dudley, Big Al Downing, Johnny Rodriguez and Tom Jones, either on stage or in recording sessions. He also recorded as a studio backup vocalist.

As a record producer, Boomer Castleman worked with Ronnie Prophet, Mike Alan Ward, Bobby David, Kim Morrison, Rodney Lay and others. Also in Music City, he formed BNA Records and recorded a 1981 revival of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” for the imprint in 1981. Alan Jackson topped the charts with the song in 1994. Castleman sold BNA to BMG/RCA in 1993. 

Other labels he headed included Legend, DeltaDisc and Amria. His other Nashville solo singles included “Holes in His Hands” and ”Personal Notes.” Personable and outgoing, he continued to perform and tour as an artist even after his cancer diagnosis. He was particularly popular as an entertainer in Texas. 

Boomer Castleman died of cancer in Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday, September 1, 2015, at the age of 70. 

(Info edited from various sources mainly

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Little Jimmy Scott born 17 July 1925

James Victor "Jimmy" Scott (July 17, 1925 – June 12, 2014), also known as "Little" Jimmy Scott, was an American jazz vocalist

famous for his unusually high countertenor voice and his sensitivity on ballads and love songs.
After a series of successes in the 1940s and 1950s, Scott's career faltered by the early 1960s. He slid into obscurity before launching a well-received comeback in the 1990s. His unusual singing voice was due to Kallmann's syndrome, a very rare genetic condition. The condition stunted his growth at four feet eleven inches until, at the age of 37, he grew another eight inches to the height of five feet seven inches. The condition prevented him from reaching puberty, leaving him with a high, undeveloped voice.
One of ten children, James Victor Scott was born in Cleveland, Ohio on July 17, 1925 .He was only 12 years old when he became known as a singer around Cleveland . While in his teens a Comedian saw the potential in Jimmy, he was Tim McCoy from Akron. Whenever Tim got a “gig” around Northeast Ohio, he would take Jimmy along with him on the bill. Jimmy would sing at different clubs, they would sneak him out before the cops arrived, because he was not only under age, but looked even younger than his actual years. Later Jimmy produced the Summer Festivals, a group of talented youngsters, like his friend jazz baritone singer Jimmy Reed and dancer Barbara Taylor that would put on shows all around the area.
Jimmy joined Lionel Hampton’s Band in 1948, where he discovered the vibraphone and the strings, of which Jimmy said “helped him to learn the beauty of the song” and encouraged him to sing. Lionel was a mentor to Jimmy and the one who tagged him with the stage name, “Little Jimmy Scott”, at the time he was 23, only 4’11,” thin, and very young looking. Jimmy said it was a gimmick for Lionel’s show, but it wasn’t too many years later that you started hearing more singers take their cue from Jimmy’s stage name and call themselves Little So & So.

“Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool,” recorded at Scott’s second session with Hampton, gave the singer his first and only chart hit, placing at No. 6 on Billboard’s list of R&B jukebox platters. The labels of some Decca 78s mistakenly credited Irma Curry,
Hampton’s female vocalist at the time, but many fans knew better, especially women, who swooned at Scott’s every deliciously split syllable during his year on the road with Hampton.

Scott’s hit and three other songs were recorded with the Hampton orchestra, along with early Fifties solo sides for the Coral and Brunswick labels. The singer spent long periods away from the microphone. He worked for a time as a hotel shipping clerk and as a caretaker for his ailing father.

Jimmy met Estelle “Caldonia” Young in the early 1940′s; she took Jimmy on her road show as the featured singer. Caldonia became almost a surrogate mother to Jimmy, having lost his own mother at age 13. “Caldonia’s Revue” traveled the southern circuit to the east, they put up their own stages in the rural areas. Caldonia took Jimmy along with her to do a special performance at Gamby’s in Baltimore in 1945, where he met up with his friend Redd Foxx who was also appearing at Gamby’s. They went over to the Royal Theater to see Joe Louis.

Redd and Joe told Jimmy he should be in New York performing instead of traveling around to those small towns.
They convinced him he could make it on his own, the way he sang. So they talked to Ralph Cooper who called up Nipsy Russell, the M.C. at the Baby Grand in Harlem and arranged for Jimmy to get a one week booking. Jimmy sang that one week and they kept him on for 3 more months! Billie Holiday would show up nightly while in town to listen to Jimmy. Doc Pomus was in the audience during that first week and wanted to meet this amazing singer, Jimmy said “sure” and they became fast friends.
Scott and  Doc Pomus friendship lasted over 45 years. Jimmy sang at Doc’s funeral in 1991. It was there that record label owner Seymour Stein heard Jimmy sing and practically signed him on the spot, thus the beginning of Jimmy’s re-emergence as a singer with his Grammy nominated comeback album “All The Way.” At age 67 he began to tour the world, where he was introduced to new appreciative audiences and legions of new young fans. Now, the press refers to him with reverence as the Golden Voice of Jazz, the Legendary Jimmy Scott.
After a long climb, things were really looking up for Jimmy Scott. He established a dedicated international audience through triumphant tours of Europe and Japan and was the featured subject of a Bravo Profiles television special, and of an in-depth biography by award-winning author David Ritz (Faith in Time: The Jazz Life of Jimmy Scott, from Da Capo Press 2002).

In 2012, he joined the 11th annual Independent Music Awards judging panel to assist independent musicians' careers. He died on June 12, 2014, aged 88 in his sleep at his home in Las Vegas, of cardiac arrest.    (Info mainly Blue Note Jazz

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Tony Jackson born 16 July 1938

Tony Jackson (16 July 1938 – 18 August 2003) was an English bass guitar player and singer who was a member of the Searchers who quit the group at the height of their fame.

Anthony Paul Jackson was born in Dingle, Liverpool, Lancashire. After leaving school he went to Walton Technical College to train as an electrician. Jackson was inspired by the skiffle sound of Lonnie Donegan, and then by Buddy Holly and other U.S. rock and rollers. He founded the skiffle group the Martinis.
Nicknamed Black Jake, he joined the guitar duo the Searchers, which had been formed by John McNally and Mike Pender in 1959. The band soon expanded further to a quartet with the addition of the drummer Chris Curtis. Jackson built and learned to play a customised bass guitar. Learning his new job on the four-stringed instrument proved too difficult to permit him to continue singing lead so he made way for a new singer, Johnny Sandon, in 1960.

They played in Liverpool's nightclubs and the beer bars of Hamburg, Germany. Brian Epstein considered signing them but he lost interest after seeing a drunken Jackson fall off the stage at the Cavern Club. Sandon moved on in February 1962 and the band were signed by Pye Records in mid-1963 when the Beatles' success created demand for Liverpudlian acts.
Jackson was lead singer and played bass on the band's first two United Kingdom hits, "Sweets for My Sweet" and "Sugar and Spice", but was not the vocalist on the band's biggest hit "Needles and Pins". He was featured on both "Don't Throw Your Love Away" and "Love Potion No. 9".
In 1964 the band toured the United States, including an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Jackson was unhappy with the band's move away from rock and roll to a softer, more melodic sound and felt that he was not getting appropriate attention. He left the group in July 1964 in some acrimony and immediately moved to London and put together a new band, the Vibrations, which had an organ-based sound instead of the Searchers' guitar based one.
After leaving the Searchers Jackson spent £200 on cosmetic surgery on his nose. He said at the time that he had had a lifelong complex about his nose to the extent that he could not mix socially. The surgery had followed psychiatric treatment. That same year he revealed that his 1960 marriage to Margaret Parry had been effectively over for two years.

The Vibrations toured the UK with the Hollies, Marianne Faithfull and other acts. They released four singles on the Pye Records label but only the first had any success. In 1965 they changed their name to the Tony Jackson Group but the fourth single also failed and Pye dropped them. The band then signed to CBS without improvement and they found that there were few bookings in the UK so they toured southern Europe until even that withered. Disillusioned and out of options, Jackson left the music business.
Jackson took a variety of jobs including Spanish night club manager, entertainments representative, furniture salesman, disc jockey and golf club manager. In the 1980s he tried to establish a Searchers revival band, but was unable to compete effectively with the other two that already existed.
In 1991, Tony Jackson and the Vibrations reformed and an album of Jackson's material after the Searchers was released. The resuscitation of his career was short-lived, however, although he did appear four times with Mike Pender's Searchers between 1992 and 1995. That ended in 1996 when he was convicted of threatening a woman with an air pistol after an argument over a phone booth, and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.
The arthritis in his hands became so bad that he had to abandon even recreational guitar playing. In 2002 he said, "The spirit's willing, but the body's knackered."

Towards the end of his life he suffered from diabetes, heart disease and cirrhosis of the liver from a lifetime of heavy alcohol consumption. Jackson died on 18 August 2003 in a Nottingham hospital, he was 65.  (Info Wikipedia)