Google+ Followers

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Wilf Carter born 18 December 1904

Wilf Carter (December 18, 1904 - December 5, 1996), also known as Montana Slim, was a Canadian country music singer, songwriter, guitarist, and yodeller. Widely acknowledged as the father of Canadian country music, Carter was Canada's first country music star, inspiring a generation of young Canadian performers. 

Wilfred Arthur Charles Carter was born in Port Hilford, Nova Scotia, Canada. One of nine children, Carter began working odd jobs by the age of eight in Canning, Nova Scotia. He began singing after seeing a travelling Swiss performer named "The Yodelling Fool" in Canning. Carter left home at the age of 15 after a falling out with his father, who was a Baptist minister. 

In 1923, after working as a lumberjack and singing with hobos in boxcars, Carter moved west to Calgary, Alberta, where he found work as a cowboy. He made extra money singing and playing his guitar at dances, performing for tourist parties, travelling in the Canadian Rockies. It was during this time that he developed his own yodelling style, sometimes called an "echo yodel" or a "three-in-one."

Carter performed his first radio broadcast on CFCN in 1930. Soon after, he was heard locally on CFAC and nationally on the CRBC. Two years later, he was entertaining tourists as a trail rider for the Canadian Pacific Railway, who promoted horseback excursions into the Canadian Rockies. Carter soon became very popular in the region.

In 1933, Carter began recording for RCA Victor in Montreal. His first 78 recording, which included "My Swiss Moonlight Lullaby" and "The Capture of Albert Johnson," was the first hit record by a Canadian country music performer. Carter's popularity grew steadily. In 1933, he was hired as an entertainer on the maiden voyage of the British ship S.S. Empress. On his way to the ship, he stopped off in Montreal and recorded two songs he had just written: "My Swiss Moonlight Lullaby" and "The Capture of Albert Johnson." The record became a best-seller within a year. That same year, Carter also wrote and recorded "Pete Knight, The King of the Cowboys," which also became a hit.
(Here's "Pete Knight the King of the Cowboys" from above album)  

In 1935, Carter moved to New York City, where he performed on WABC radio. He also hosted a CBS country music radio program until 1937. During this time, someone tagged him with the name "Montana Slim," and the name stuck. In 1937, Carter returned to
Alberta, where he purchased a ranch. He continued to appear on both American and Canadian radio shows, as well as perform live concerts.

In 1940, Carter seriously injured his back in a car accident in Montana. He was unable to perform for much of the decade, but his popularity was sustained by the periodic release of new recordings. He sold his ranch in 1949 and moved his family to a 180-acre (0.73 km2) farm in New Jersey. In 1952, he moved again, this time to Orlando, Florida, where he opened the Wilf Carter Motor Lodge, a venture that lasted only two years.

In 1949, Carter resumed live performances with tours in Canada and the United States. In 1950, he attracted over 50,000 people during a week at the Canadian National Exhibition bandstand in Toronto. In 1953, Wilf Carter started touring with his own show called, The Family Show with the Folks You Know. His daughters, Carol and Sheila, worked with him as dancers and back-up singers. In 1964, Carter performed for the first time at the Calgary Stampede. He also became one of the most requested guests on the TV show hosted by Canadian country singer Tommy Hunter.

Wilf Carter recorded over 40 original and compilation LP records for RCA and its affiliates, including Nuggets of the Golden West, Christmas in Canada, Songs of the Rail and Range, Songs of Australia, Wilf Carter Sings Jimmie Rogers, and Let's Go Back to the Bible. In 1983 he rerecorded many of his most popular songs for Fifty Golden Years.

In 1971, Wilf Carter was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 1979, he served as the grand marshal at the Calgary Stampede, and in 1981, he toured with his contemporary, Hank Snow. He was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 1984, and the following year, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Juno Awards Hall of Fame. A video documentary was released in 2000, called The Last Round-up: The Wilf Carter Story, which examined Carter's distinguished career.

In 1988, Carter recorded his last album, What Ever Happened to All Those Years. In 1991, at age 86, he made his last concert tour, appropriately called The Last Round-up Tour, with shows throughout Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Manitoba. He retired the following year, due to his loss of hearing. Wilf Carter died in 1996 in Scottsdale, Arizona at the age of 91. (Info from Wikipedia)

(A segment about Wilf Carter (1904-1996) from part one of the 1992 documentary about Canadian Country Music "Country Gold". Narrated by Peter Gzowski.Broadcast February 1, 1992.)

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Johnny Olenn born 16 December 1936

Johnny Olenn was born on December 16, 1936 in San Antonio, Texas, USA. 

Born John Olenn McCord, he started his career in the early fifties, playing steel guitar in the band of Eddie Dugosh and the Ah-Ha Boys in San Antonio, Texas. In 1954 he got his own band together called The Jokers and in 1955 he cut his first two 45 rpm records for the San Antonio based TNT label.
In 1956 when he moved to Las Vegas, Nevada and was playing at the Hacienda hotel, he got a proposal to perform in the 1956 rock 'n' roll movie "The Girl Can't Help It" and he also got a recording contract with Liberty records that same year. On this label he cut one 45 rpm record and one album called "Just Rollin' With Johnny Olenn". 


Then in 1957 he left Liberty records to sign up with Buck Ram's Antler, Dee-Gee and Personality labels, for which he cut several 45 rpm records. He also performed that year in the Warner Brothers movie "Born Reckless". After that it became quiet around Johnny Olenn on the record scene, while however, he kept performing in Las Vegas, hotel lounges and in Bakersfield, California.
In 1983 Mac Records traced and contacted him and persuaded him to make his first European performance ever and this happened on October 13th 1984 in Aulnoye/Aymeries in France. His success was tremendous and that same month he cut his first 45 rpm record for Mac Records on Mac - 124 and this would become the beginning of a new recording career. 

He returned to Europe in March 1986, to do three concerts again; One on March 21st in Bristol, England. On March 22nd, in Aulnoye/Aymeries in France he appered in the same show with Johnny Carroll and Judy Lindsey. On March 29th in Eindhoven, Holland where he appeared in a show with Sonny Burgess. This visit to Europe resulted again in a new 45 rpm record release for Mac Records on Mac - 128. 

Johnny Olenn again returned to Europe in 1987 to perform on June 6th in Lummen - Belgium where he also appeared on the same show with Mickey Hawks and on June 13th in Amsterdam, Holland. During this latest tour, plans were made to cut an album for Mac Records, but this time the recording session would take place in Las Vegas, Nevada with Johnny's own band. 
He gradually cut back on performing and became involved in a financial investment company. Today, he is retired but does make the personal appearances when called upon.. He has recently has both hips replaced and this has limited his mobility on stage. Indeed at Hemsby, he sat on a stool and sang but the beat was obviously getting to him as he still moved around as much as possible. The voice is still totally intact. (Info edited from


        From The 1958 Movie "Born Reckless"

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Wesley Tuttle born 13 December 1917

Wesley Tuttle (Dec. 13, 1917* - Sep. 29, 2003) was an American Country Musician who played an important role in the development of country music in California. He was among the first country singers signed to Capitol Records. (*other sources Dec.30)

 Born Wesley LeRoy Tuttle in Lamar, Colorado, on December 13, 1917, he gained an early exposure to phonograph records in the cafe where his parents worked. The Tuttles moved to San Fernando, California, just before Wesley's fifth birthday, and there he learned to play the ukulele and also began an interest in singing and performing. By the age of 8 he had lost the middle three fingers of his left hand in an accident at his father's butcher shop, which forced him to chord his ukulele and play the guitar with his right hand. He later received a radio as a gift and took an interest in Jimmie Rodegers who inspired Tuttle to learn how to yodel while recovering from his accident. At the age of 12 he could play guitar, sing, and yodel with enough talent to earn a spot on Radio Station KNX in Los Angeles, California. 

In the early 1930s he was heard by country musician Stuart Hamblen, who invited Tuttle to appear on his radio show, 'The Family Album,' which was the most popular country music program in Southern California at the time. The exposure from Hamblen's show, earned Tuttle other radio and film work, such as performing Dopey's yodel in the Walt Disney film "Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs." His success prompted him to quit high school and pursue a more promising music career. 

In 1939, Tuttle moved to Dayton, Ohio, and worked at Radio Station WLW in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he married his first wife and later met Merle Travis. He later returned to California after a dispute with Radio Station WLW, resuming radio work and meeting country musician Johnny Bond. Later with Bond's help, he joined the 'Jimmy Wakely Trio' and, in 1944, backed Tex Ritter on the recording session that produced the hit 'Jealous Heart.' 

The success of 'Jealous Heart' led to a contract with Capitol Records, where he cut his first sessions in 1944. He later brought in Merle Travis and recorded several chart-topping hits including, 'With Tears In My Eyes' in 1945, and 'Detour' in 1946. The demands of Tuttle's career contributed to the breakup of his marriage, and in 1946 he married Marilyn Meyers, who became his duet partner. As Wesley & Marilyn Tuttle, the couple made Tuttle's final chart hit, 'Never,' in 1954.  Tuttle's other recordings include, 'I Know It's Wrong,' 'To Little Too Late,' 'When You Don't Cry (You Cry Alone),' and 'I've Loved You Too Long To Forget.'

He also appeared in a number of western films starring Jimmy Wakely, Charles Starrett, and Tex Ritter, including, Frontier Lawn" (1944), "Riders Of The Dawn" (1945), "Song Of The Sierras" (1946), "Arizona Trail" (1943), "Oklahoma Raiders" (1944), "Songs Of The Range" (1944), "Terror Trail" (1946), "Rainbow Over The Rockies" (1947), and "Night Rider" (1962).

In the 1950s Tuttle worked as a writer and host on the country music television program 'Town Hall Party,' but he quit television and canceled his contract with Capitol in 1957 after converting to Christianity. He enrolled in a Christian college to become a minister, and in 1959 made his first gospel album for the Sacred Record Label. He later served as Sacred Record's musical director from 1957 to 1970, and recorded a number of religious albums, with and without his wife, Marilyn
Eyesight problems forced Tuttle into retirement in the 1970s. Tuttle died from heart failure on September 29, 2003, Los Angeles, California, USA at the age of 85. (Info mainly from

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Benny Spellman born 11 December 1931

Benny Spellman (December 11, 1931 – June 3, 2011) was an American R&B singer, best known for his 1961 hits "LipstickTraces (On A Cigarette)," and the original version of "Fortune Teller", written by Allen Toussaint (as Naomi Neville). 

 Mr. Spellman was born in Pensacola, Fla. He attended Southern University in Baton Rouge on a football scholarship; at Southern, he also began singing.
Back in Pensacola in 1959, Mr. Spellman encountered New Orleans R&B band Huey Smith & the Clowns. The band’s vehicle had broken down; Mr. Spellman offered to drive them back to New Orleans. He elected to remain there after falling in with the burgeoning rhythm & blues community cantered around the Dew Drop Inn. 

He became one of the many artists to give voice to producer/songwriter Allen Toussaint’s voluminous 1960s output. In 1962, Minit Records released a 45 rpm single with Mr. Spellman singing “Lipstick Traces” on the A-side and “Fortune Teller” on the B-side. Both songs were written by Toussaint under the pseudonym “Naomi Neville.” “Lipstick Traces,” with Irma Thomas on backing vocals, proved to be Mr. Spellman’s most significant national hit, reaching No. 28 on Billboard’s R&B chart. He also contributed backing vocals to Ernie K-Doe’s smash recording of another Toussaint song, “Mother-in-Law.”

Given his limited national exposure, Mr. Spellman worked the Gulf Coast and local circuit, performing at parties, dances and whatever gigs came up. “I wasn’t making that big money like K-Doe,” Mr. Spellman once said. “I’d play three gigs (in one night) to make more money.” Indicative of the enduring nature of his recordings, many artists would later cover songs originally recorded by Mr. Spellman. The O’Jays, Ringo Starr and Alex Chilton all later did “Lipstick Traces.” 

The Rolling Stones and The Who each did versions of “Fortune Teller.” “Raising Sand,” the Grammy-winning, million-selling 2007 collaboration between Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, contained a spooky version of “Fortune Teller.” After the market for New Orleans rhythm & blues dried up in the late 1960s, Mr. Spellman largely retired from the music business. He worked for many years at a beer distributorship. 

He suffered a stroke some years ago and was unable to attend an August 2009 ceremony at Ernie K-Doe’s Mother-in-Law Lounge inducting him into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. At the time, he resided in an assisted living facility in Pensacola. Spellman died of respiratory failure in June 2011, at the age of 79.   (Info mainly edited from an article by Keith Spira @

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Don Charles born 10 December 1933

Don Charles (10 December 1933 – 4 December 2005) was a popular English ballad singer, and record producer, and later in his life, a writer of a self-help book. He is best known for his recordings of "Walk With Me My Angel" and "Bring Your Love to Me". He also produced several of The Tornados' tracks including "Space Walk" and "Goodbye Joe". The latter title referred his original mentor and producer, Joe Meek. Meek regarded Charles highly. "You are my only legit artist", Meek once informed Charles. "All the others are yugga-dugs". Standing at 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m), and weighing around seventeen stone (108 kilograms, 238 pounds), Charles stood out in more ways than one from his fellow performers.

He was born Walter Stanley Scuffham in Kingston upon Hull, East Yorkshire, England. His father died when the youngster was aged four, and using his childhood nickname of Don he later adopted his stepfather's surname, becoming for a while Don Bennett.
He spent ten years in the Royal Navy, leaving at 25 years old with ambitions to become a professional singer. By 1960, after settling in London, he was signed to Parlophone by George Martin who produced his debut single, "Paintbox Lover". His stay with the label was short-lived, and he was signed by Joe Meek to Decca in 1961. He was renamed Don Charles to avoid potential confusion with Tony Bennett, and released his biggest seller "Walk With Me My Angel" in January 1962. Written by Geoff Goddard, and produced by Meek, the single just made the Top 40 in the UK Singles Chart.

Not that he knew it at the time, but lack of further chart activity, would leave Charles with the one-hit wonder tag. He appeared on several teen based television programmes, and released a cover version of Ben E. King's hit "The Hermit of Misty Mountain" in 1962, and the country music influenced novelty "It's My Way of Loving You" the same year.

Ill fortune followed when the BBC refused to play his 1963 follow-up "Angel of Love". This was because of the 'death song' styled lyric, "Everyone has an angel of love/Way up in the heavens above". This, combined with the all-pervading appearance of The Beatles, dealt a hammer blow to his career. The hastily released "Heart's Ice Cold" failed to find any buyers, and when Meek fell out with Decca, he took Charles with him to HMV.

Charles released seven singles for HMV between 1963 and 1966, which included "Tower Tall", "Big Talk from a Little Man" (written by Alan Klein) and "Dream on Little Dreamer", but commercial success continued to elude him. In 1965, Charles produced The Tornados' numbers, "Space Walk" and "Goodbye Joe". In an unusual move Charles returned to Parlophone in 1967, and released the Northern soul favourite, "Bring Your Love to Me", and several other unsuccessful singles.

He then retired from the music industry, except for a brief return using a derivation of his birth name as Sgt. Will Scuffham, releasing in 1970 on MCA UK "And They All Came Marching Home" and "Lili Marleen". He had been encouraged to release a pseudo-military pop song after his friend Rolf Harris had a success with "Two Little Boys". At that time he also jointly bought a nightclub in Malta with Rolf Harris. When that venture fell flat, Charles became a used car salesman and, in 1989, he penned a successful book based upon his experiences, entitled How to Buy a Used Car (And Save Money).

Charles was a keen and gifted amateur photographer and undertook a large number of portraits of local people, both famous and not so well known in the Primrose Hill area, where he lived in the 1960s and 1970s.

Four times married with five daughters, Charles died in December 2005, in Herstmonceux, East Sussex, less than a week away from his 72nd birthday. (Info edited from Wikipedia)

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Vern Williams born 9 December 1936

Vern Williams (born Delbert Lavern Williams, December 9, 1930 – June 6, 2006) is is one of the great unheralded masters of bluegrass music, a mandolin virtuoso who was a star in California throughout the 1960s,'70s, and '80s, and an influence on an entire generation of players and bands out there, but who is little known beyond the confines of the Golden State. His relative handful of recordings, either as a member of Vern & Ray in the '60s for Starday or leading the Vern Williams Band in the '70s, don't begin to indicate his importance to bluegrass music. 

Vern Williams grew up on a farm in rural Newton County, AR, part of a musical family in which both his parents and his six siblings, as well as most of his uncles, all played instruments, as well as singing at church. His first instrument was the guitar, and he played it until he was 17 years old and ordered his first mandolin from Sears. Williams' strongest influence was the music he heard over the radio, most notably the Grand Ole Opry and the songs of the Stanley Brothers and the Carter Family. But far and away the biggest source of inspiration in his early life was Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys, whom Williams listened to from the early '40s onward.
Following two years in the U.S. Marine Corps, ending in 1954, Williams moved to California. He lived in Stockton and earned his living in meat-packing plant, but in 1959 he returned to music after he met fiddle player Ray Park, a fellow Arkansan who'd moved west. The duo, known as Vern & Ray, thrived in California and became known as one of the best bluegrass outfits in the region, and they got a contract with Nashville-based Starday Records in the early '60s.

Vern & Ray, whose talents were augmented by banjo man Luther Riley and guitarist Clyde Williamson, cut four songs for Starday for a 1962 extended-play single release. This record was popular among bluegrass aficionados, but didn't sell, and the group found little opportunity to perform in Nashville, where traditional bluegrass outfits were usually kept at arm's length. They recorded a handful of additional sides before disbanding in 1974, and their later history was collected on the album Sounds from the Ozarks.

The young Jerry Garcia played banjo with Vern and Ray several times before he gained fame with the Grateful Dead. 

After the breakup of Vern and Ray in 1974, Mr Williams formed the Vern Williams Band with his son, Delbert, and young banjo player Keith Little, who later went on to play with Ricky Skaggs. The Vern Williams Band also was the backup band for country music star Rose Maddox in her last decade of performing before her death in 1998. 

Here's "Roll On Buddy" from above album.   Although one can usually take a title like "Traditional Bluegrass" with a grain of salt, Vern Williams means what he says. Amazingly, most of the tracks included on Traditional Bluegrass were recorded live at bluegrass festivals and live on the radio in 1982 and 1984.

The group continued to perform to enthusiastic crowds at colleges, festivals, and clubs in and around California, but as the '80s wore on, their bookings gradually slowed, and their performances became less frequent. Finally, in 1986, the Vern Williams Band ceased to exist. Keith Little later joined the Country Gentlemen. 

A videography about Vern was produced in 2004 and can be viewed at the International Bluegrass Music Museum (IBMM) in Owensboro, Kentucky. His recordings are widely available. Vern's last performance was as a guest on Open Road’s Lucky Drive, recorded in 2005.

 Vern died June 6, 2006 at Mark Twain St. Joseph's Hospital in San Andreas (Calaveras County) of pneumonia.
Vern’s impact on bluegrass music, especially in California, cannot be overstated. He made several seminal bluegrass recordings, was recognized by the State of California by official acknowledgement and tribute in 1987 and by official commendation in 2001, received the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Award of Merit, and was the first to be awarded an Honorary Lifetime Membership in the California Bluegrass Association. His song arrangements continue to be used by numerous bluegrass artists. (Info edited from itunes & Wikipedia)

Rose Maddox joins the Vern Williams Band in this video from the 1992 Grass Valley Bluegrass Festival. Keith Little was not available to play banjo that day. Video by Barry Brower.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Jimmy Smith born 8 December 1928

James Oscar "Jimmy" Smith (December 8, 1928 – February 8, 2005) was an American jazz musician who achieved the rare distinction of releasing a series of instrumental jazz albums that often charted on Billboard. Smith helped popularize the Hammond B-3 electric organ, creating an indelible link between sixties soul and jazz improvisation.

James Oscar Smith was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania on December 8, 1928 (some sources cite his birth year as 1925). Smith's father was a musician and entertainer, and young Jimmy joined his song-and-dance act when he was six years old. By the time he was 12, Smith was an accomplished stride piano player who won local talent contests, but when his father began having problems with his knee and gave up performing to work as a plasterer, Jimmy quit school after eighth grade and began working odd jobs to help support the family. At 15, Smith joined the Navy, and when he returned home, he attended music school on the GI Bill, studying at the Hamilton School of Music and the Ornstein School, both based in Philadelphia. 

In 1951, Smith began playing with several R&B acts in Philadelphia while working with his father during the day, but after hearing pioneering organ player Wild Bill Davis, Smith was inspired to switch instruments. Smith bought a Hammond B-3 organ and set up a practice space in a warehouse where he and his father were working; Smith refined the rudiments of his style over the next year (informed more closely by horn players than other keyboard artists, and employing innovative use of the bass pedals and drawbars), and he began playing Philadelphia clubs in 1955. 

In early 1956, Smith made his New York debut at the legendary Harlem nightspot Small's Paradise, and Smith was soon spotted by Alfred Lion, who ran the well-respected jazz label Blue Note Records. Lion signed Smith to a record deal, and between popular early albums such as The Incredible Jimmy Smith at Club Baby Grand and The Champ and legendary appearances at New York's Birdland and the Newport Jazz Festival, Smith became the hottest new name in jazz. 

A prolific recording artist, Smith recorded more than 30 albums for Blue Note between 1956 and 1963, collaborating with the likes of Kenny Burrell, Stanley Turrentine, and Jackie McLean, and in 1963, Smith signed a new record deal with Verve. Smith's first album for Verve, Bashin': The Unpredictable Jimmy Smith, was a critical and commercial success, and the track "Walk on the Wild Side" became a minor hit.  

Smith maintained his busy performing and recording schedule throughout the 1960s, and in 1966 he cut a pair of celebrated album with guitarist Wes Montgomery. In 1972, Smith's contract with Verve expired, and tired of his demanding tour schedule, he and his wife opened a supper club in California's San Fernando Valley. Smith performed regularly at the club, but it went out of business after only a few years. Smith continued to record regularly for a variety of labels, but his days as a star appeared to be over. 

However, in the late '80s, Smith began recording for the Milestone label, cutting several well-reviewed albums that reminded jazz fans Smith was still a master at his instrument, as did a number of live performances with fellow organ virtuoso Joey DeFrancesco. In 1987, producer Quincy Jones invited Smith to play on the sessions for Michael Jackson's album Bad. And Smith found a new generation of fans when hip-hop DJs began sampling Smith's funky organ grooves; the Beastie Boys famously used Smith's "Root Down (And Get It)" for their song "Root Down," and other Smith performances became the basis for tracks by Nas, Gang Starr, Kool G Rap, and DJ Shadow. 

In 1995, Smith returned to Verve Records for the album Damn!, and on 2001's Dot Com Blues, Smith teamed up with a variety of blues and R&B stars, including Etta James, B.B. King, Keb' Mo', and Dr. John. In 2004, Smith was honoured as a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts; that same year, Smith relocated from Los Angeles to Scottsdale, Arizona. Several months after settling in Scottsdale, Smith's wife succumbed to cancer, and while he continued to perform and record, Jimmy Smith was found dead in his home less than a year later, on February 8, 2005. He was deemed to have died in his sleep of natural causes.
His final album, Legacy, was released several months after his passing. (Info mainly from All Music)