Sunday, 22 September 2019

LeRoy Holmes born 22 September 1913

Alvin LeRoy Holmes (September 22, 1913 – July 27, 1986) was an American songwriter, composer, arranger, orchestra conductor and record producer.

Holmes graduated from Hollywood High School, studied music at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and the Juilliard School in New York, before working with a number of bandleaders during the 1930s and early 1940s. These included Ernst Toch, Vincent Lopez, and Harry James, for whose band, he wrote "The Mole" and arranged  “I Cried for You” and “Crazy Rhythm.”

After serving as a pilot and flying instructor, a lieutenant in the US Navy during the Second World War, he moved to Hollywood, 
where he was hired by MGM Music Studios as a house arranger and conductor.

In 1950, he relocated to New York and continued as a record producer for MGM, and later moved to United Artists. During his time with MGM he formed a recording orchestra that produced a series of albums that sold well. Holmes also backed numerous vocalists, including Judy Garland, Art Lund, Helen Forrest, Dinah Shore and Nelson Eddy.


In 1954 made what is possibly his best known recording, a version of the theme to the film The High and the Mighty. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. The song is known for its distinctive accompanying whistling, which was provided by Fred Lowery. His other popular-song and instrumental compositions include "Prince Charming", "Sahara", "One Stop Boogie", "Pennsylvania Turnpike", "B-19", and "The New Dixieland Parade".

Holmes provided the orchestration for Tommy Edwards epic 1958 hit "It's All In The Game", and tried rock and R&B with his backing to the Impalas "Sorry (I Ran All the Way Home)". Holmes also wrote the theme song to the television series International Detective.

He moved to United Artists Records in the early 1960s, where he contributed to many compilations of movie themes, released albums under his own name, Most notable of these were a solid collection of Morricone tunes from spaghetti Westerns, For a Few Dollars More, and several LPs featuring some wonderful soft pop 
Holes with Connie Francis
arrangements of movie themes, including the space age pop favorite, "Mah-nah Mah-nah."

Whilst at UA he backed a succession of singers, notably Connie Francis, Gloria Lynne, Shirley Bassey and Puerto Rican singers like Tito Rodríguez and Chucho Avellanet. In addition, he produced albums for a number of United Artists acts, including the Briarwood Singers. He also worked on the music for the 1977 film The Chicken Chronicles.

Holmes died from heart problems at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California at the age of 72.

(Mainly edited from Wikipedia)

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Ward Swingle born 21 September 1927

Ward Lamar Swingle (September 21, 1927 – January 19, 2015) was an American vocalist and jazz musician and the founding father of the Swingle Singers, the a cappella group that blended jazz rhythms with baroque and classical music in a distinctive, easy-listening style.

Ward Lemar Swingle was born on September 21 1927 in Mobile, Alabama, where, he once said, the sounds of New Orleans float along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. He took to the piano from an early age and with his older brother, Ira, played lunchtime concerts in the school cafeteria, garnering sufficient popularity to be elected as president and vice-president respectively of their student council. By the time he left school Ward, Ira and one of their sisters, Nina, were touring with the Ted Fio Rito Orchestra.

He studied music at the Cincinnati Conservatory, where he met his future wife, a French-born violinist, , Françoise Demorest and won a Fulbright scholarship to pursue his musical studies in postwar Paris, taking lessons there with the celebrated pianist Walter Gieseking. Soon he was working as a rehearsal pianist for Roland Petit’s Ballet de Paris at a time whe n Petit was exploring jazz rhythms in his choreography.

Swingle’s first singing work – his voice was a mellifluous tenor - was with Blossom Dearie’s Les Blue Stars, a French vocal group whose members included Christiane Legrande, the sister of Michel Legrande, the composer. From there he joined Mimi Perrin’s Les Double Six, which won acclaim for its electronic treatment of jazz standards.


As Perrin’s health deteriorated in the early 1960s, Swingle, Legrande and other members of the group began singing privately, experimenting with jazzed-up Bach arrangements with the aim of improving their collective vocal agility. By 1962 the eight-member group was performing in public as Les Swingle Singers. Their 
concerts proved to be great hits with audiences, especially in Britain, and their early recordings won five Grammy awards.

By the early 1970s Swingle felt that he had exhausted the repertoire possibilities with his Parisian singers. He also wanted to experiment with other techniques, including closed-mic singing. Crossing the Channel in 1973 he set up Swingle II, or the New Swingle Singers. The traditional swing music remained, but listeners were now regaled with jazz renditions from a wider selection of musical traditions, ranging from baroque to big band. 
As well as looking forward, the Swingle Singers now also began looking into music’s back catalogue, releasing a disc of madrigals with a jazz twist in 1974.

Britain proved to be fertile ground. There were invitations to music festivals around the country as well as plentiful radio work. In 1982, for example, the Swingle Singers appeared in a televised concert from St Paul’s Cathedral performing the sacred music of Duke Ellington with Tony Bennett, Phyllis Hyman and McHenry Boatwright.

After recording the Berio Sinfonia under the baton of Pierre Boulez in 1984, Ward Swingle stepped back from frontline singing to return to the United States. He remained the group’s musical adviser, while also running vocal workshops and publishing his many musical arrangements. He was often invited to share the 
techniques that he had developed for the Swingle Singers with established groups, such as the Stockholm Chamber Choir and the BBC Northern Singers.

In March 1994, Swingle and his wife moved back to France, where he continued his work in arranging, composing and guest conducting. In 1997 he wrote an autobiography and treatise entitled Swingle Singing, in which he defined 'Swingle Singing' techniques with illustrations from his arrangements and compositions.

On February 20, 2004, Swingle was named "Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres" (Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters) by the French Minister of Culture and Information.

Today the Swingle Singers, now a seven-member ensemble, continue to push the boundaries of vocal music while also making recordings for television programmes and films, including Sex and the City. Around 70 alumni keep in touch regularly, many of them gathering to celebrate Ward Swingle’s 80th birthday in 2007, when the Berio was heard once again at the Proms.

In December 2014 Ward and Françoise moved to England to live with their daughter Rebecca. Swingle died in his sleep at the age of 87 in Eastbourne, England, on 19 January 2015. Françoise Swingle died in 2017.

(Compiled and edited from Wikipedia & The Guardian)

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Helen Carter born 19 September 1927

Helen Myrl Carter (Jones) (September 19, 1927 – June 2, 1998) was an American country music singer. The eldest daughter of Maybelle Carter, she performed with her mother and her younger sisters, June Carter and Anita Carter, as a member of Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, a pioneering all female country/folk music group. After the death of A.P. Carter in 1960, the group became known as The Carter Family.

The Carter Family (clockwise), A.P. Carter, (Sara and A.P.’s daughter) Janette Carter, Ezra Carter, Sara Dougherty Carter, Maybelle Addington Carter, (Ezra and Maybelle’s children) June, Anita and Helen Carter.

The original Carter Family band, which helped kick-start the country-music record industry in 1927, was begun by A. P. Carter, a railroad worker and farmer from Maces Springs, Va.; his wife, Sara, and Sara's cousin, Maybelle. The band grew with the occasional addition of Maybelle's children, including Helen.

L-R: June, Maybelle, Anita, Helen (sitting).
The family band lasted from 1927 to 1943, and it was of inestimable importance to American music. It disseminated traditional songs, established a widely imitated small-group sound and built a set of templates that country, bluegrass and folk musicians would draw upon -- the mountain hymn, the love ballad, the cowboy tune and so on.

In 1943 Sara quit singing for good, and Maybelle started a new band, Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, with her daughters as permanent members. Helen was 12 when she was introduced to the world over the airwaves of XET in Monterrey, Mexico, and in her teen-age years became the most dependable musician of her mother's band, playing accordion, guitar and autoharp.

It was a successful band, featured on ''The Old Dominion Barn Dance,'' a radio show based in Richmond, Va., in 1946; later it moved to the ''Tennessee Barn Dance,'' on Knoxville's WNOX. In 1950 the band joined the Grand Ole Opry on WSM in Nashville, and did some recording as a trio for Columbia records.

In 1950 Helen married Glenn Jones of Baxley, Georgia. After the family's move to the Nashville area, they lived in Madison, Hendersonville and Dickson, Tennessee. They had four sons (Kenneth Burton, Glenn Daniel, David Lawrence, and Kevin Carter Jones) and six grandchildren. They tragically lost their son, Kenny, as the result of an auto accident, at 16 years old. At the time, Kenny had recently been signed as a recording artist for Monument Records.


Helen pursued a solo career apart from the family. She recorded for a number of historically important independent labels such as Tennessee, Republic, Starday and Hickory. She had releases on major labels such as Columbia and Okeh as well. She recorded 
duets with such acts as The Willis Brothers, Johnny Bond, famed Grand Olde Opry announcer Grant Turner, and Wiley Barkdull. In the 1960s, Helen teamed with Dolores "Tootsie" Dinning (of the 
Dinning Sisters) to form a short-lived group called the Blondettes that recorded for MGM. While many of Carter's solo recordings were favourites with loyal fans and always welcomed by concert goers, they did not have a great deal of commercial success. One likely reason for Helen's limited success as a solo artist may have been competition for radio air play with other members of her famous clan.

Throughout the recording career of the Carter Sisters & Mother Maybelle, much of the time, all four group members had individual recording contracts as well. Though each had her own style, it is of note that all members of the Carter Sisters & Mother Maybelle group often sang and played on one another's solo recordings.Therefore, it was not unusual for the members' solo recordings to sound a lot like the group recordings.

Another possible reason for Helen Carter's limited success with her solo recordings may simply have been that she was ahead of her time in terms of what the conservative country music establishment was willing to accept. The 1950s was an era in which barriers were being broken by the likes of Kitty Wells. Yet, some of Helen's self-penned lyrics may have been deemed a bit risqué.

Helen Carter was a songwriter as well, writing ''Poor Old Heartsick Me,'' a hit for the singer Margie Bowes in 1959. In the 1960's and 70's, she often appeared on radio and television not as a member of a working group but simply as a member of the famous clan. For example, she appeared on television with her sister June and Mr. Cash. Helen had a professional career in music that spanned 60 years and recorded for such labels as Liberty, Columbia, MGM and RCA Victor.

She died on June 2, 1998 at the Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in Nashville, Tenn. She was 70 and lived in Dickson, Tenn. She had been hospitalized for gastrointestinal problems that began over a year ago.

(Edited from Wikipedia &New York Times)

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Gabriella Ferri born 18 September 1942

Gabriella Ferri (18 September 1942 – 3 April 2004) was an Italian pop-folk singer and actor. Her career was one of the richest and most varied of Italian music, although many remember only the great interpreter of dialect songs.

Gabriella was born Maria Gabriella Ferri in the Roman quarter
Testaccio. Her father, Vittorio, was a merchant for sweets and a lover of traditional Roman folk songs. One day Gabriella met Luisa De Santis and the two girls became close friends. They both enjoyed singing and formed a duo Luisa & Gabriella, singers of Roman folk songs.

In 1963 during a performance in the Intra’s Derby Club in Milan, they were noted by Walter Guertler, who gave them a recoding deal and helped them release their first single “Joly.” After a tv appearance in Mike Boingiomo’s Show, the single sold over 500.000 copies. It was followed by other singles with minor success. After which the duo decided to quit.

Gabriella continued her career as a solo artist and released her first album in 1966. She toured through Canada with other folk artists. In 1968 she was signed by ABC and released an unsuccessful single. However the b side “Ti regalo gli occhi miei” which was also recorded in Spanish  as “Le regalo mis ojos,”, sold over one million copies in South America. During her career, she also performed Neapolitan and Latin American pieces.

In 1969 she signed with RCA Italy and participated in the San Remo festival together with Stevie Wonder. She sang “Se Tu ragazzo mio.” But the song was eliminated in the first round. She never sang in the festival again. However the song became a reasonable commercial success and was followed by the album “Gabriella Ferri.” With this record she innovated traditional Italian folk music into a modern style. One of her biggest hits was "Sempre" ("Always").


During the 1970s, she not only performed as a singer but also starred in several popular TV shows. In 1981 she released the album “Gabriella” containing mostly of songs written by Paolo Conte after which she moved to America, but by 1987 she returned to Italy where she appeared in more TV shows.

In the second half of the 1990’s she had her last relevant appearances: first the Tenco Prize, in Sanremo, then a concert in front of thousands of people in Rome, at Villa Celimontana. In 1997 she released a personal album “Ritomo al futuro” but by this time she was suffering from severe depression and disappeared from the public eye. However the album “Canti DiVersi” released in 2000 was considered her spiritual legacy as it contained a collection of classic songs with influence from jazz, tango and calypso.

She died in Corchiano, province of Viterbo, after falling from a third-floor balcony in an apparent suicide. Family members dispute this, saying she may have fallen ill after taking anti-depression medication and lost her balance.

(Edited from Wikipedia and Europopmusic)

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Jack McDuff born 17 September 1926

Eugene McDuff (September 17, 1926 – January 23, 2001), known professionally as "Brother" Jack McDuff or "Captain" Jack McDuff, was a marvelous bandleader and organist as well as capable arranger, having one of the funkiest, most soulful styles of all time on the Hammond B-3. His rock-solid basslines and blues-
drenched solos are balanced by clever, almost pianistic melodies and interesting progressions and phrases.

He was most prominent during the hard bop and soul jazz era of the 1960s, often performing with an organ trio. He is also credited with giving guitarist George Benson his first break. He appeared on more than 60 albums during his career.

Born Eugene McDuffy in Champaign, Illinois, McDuff began playing bass, appearing in Joe Farrell's group. Encouraged by Willis Jackson in whose band he also played bass in the late 1950s, McDuff moved to the organ and began to attract the attention of Prestige while still with 
Jackson's group. McDuff soon became a bandleader, leading groups featuring a young George Benson on guitar, Red Holloway on tenor saxophone and Joe Dukes on drums.

McDuff recorded many classic albums on Prestige, including his debut solo Brother Jack in 1960; The Honeydripper (1961), with tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest and guitarist Grant Green; Brother Jack Meets The Boss (1962), featuring Gene Ammons; Screamin’ (1962), with alto saxophonist Leo Wright and guitarist Kenny Burrell; and Brother Jack McDuff Live! (1963), featuring Holloway and Benson, which includes his biggest hit, "Rock Candy".


After his tenure at Prestige, McDuff joined the Atlantic label for a brief period, and in the 1970s he recorded for Blue Note. To Seek a New Home (1970) was recorded in England with a line-up featuring blues shouter Jimmy Witherspoon and some of Britain's top jazz musicians of the day, including Terry Smith on guitar and Dick Morrissey on tenor saxophone.

Decreasing interest in jazz and blues during the late 1970s and 1980s meant that many jazz musicians went through a lean time. But in 1988, with The Re-Entry, recorded for the Muse label, McDuff once again began a successful period of recordings, initially for Muse, then on the Concord Jazz label in 1991. George Benson appeared on his 1992 Colour Me Blue album.

McDuff spent most of his career in Chicago and New York City and also travelled internationally. He met his wife, Kathy McDuff, while playing at the Artists' Quarter in Minneapolis and moved to Minnesota in 1990. He continued to play at Artists' Quarter, now located in St. Paul, as well as the Dakota Bar & Grill in St. Paul.

Despite health problems, McDuff continued working and recording throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and he toured Japan with Atsuko Hashimoto in 2000. "Captain" Jack McDuff, as he later became known, died of heart failure at his home in Minneapolis, Minnesota, while convalescing from a series of small strokes he had suffered during previous months. He was 74.

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Jack McDuff among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.

(Edited mainly from Wikipedia)

Brother Jack McDuff - organ; Red Holloway - tenor sax; George Benson - guitar; Joe Dukes - drums. Festival gig in France.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Al Casey born 15 September 1915

Albert Aloysius Casey (September 15, 1915 – September 11, 2005) known professionally as Al Casey, was a jazz guitarist who was a member of Fats Waller's band during the 1930s and early 1940s. During his career, Casey worked with Louis Armstrong, Chu Berry, Coleman Hawkins, Lionel Hampton, Billie Holiday, Billy Kyle, Frankie Newton, Clarence Profit, Art Tatum, and Teddy Wilson.

Al Casey towers alongside the finest acoustic guitarists of the
swing era, boasting a subtly powerful presence that flourished in intimate musical contexts. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Casey was a child prodigy who first adopted the violin, briefly moving to the ukulele before zeroing in on the guitar, which he studied at New York City's DeWitt Clinton High School. He joined Fats Waller while in his mid-teens, recommended to the legendary pianist by his uncles, who met Waller while on tour with their gospel group the Southern Singers.

Waller insisted Casey remain in school and earn his diploma before he could join the group full-time, but the guitarist was a fixture of recording sessions from the early '30s onward, and even joined Waller on tour during extended holiday breaks. Casey remained with the group until Waller's 1943 death, appearing on more than 200 classic swing sides; the famous blues number "Buck Jumpin'" took shape after Casey appeared late to a gig, prompting Waller to single him out on-stage and invite him to play a solo. The result was so electrifying that it was later captured in the studio.


           Live recording, WNEW broadcast, NYC, May 31, 1947.

Casey also recorded with trumpeter Louis Armstrong, singer Billie Holiday, vibist Lionel Hampton, and pianist Teddy Wilson, even joining the latter's short-lived big band in 1939. After Waller's passing, he played with pianist Clarence Profit's trio before assembling his own trio, which headlined New York's Onyx Club for close to a year before moving to the Down Beat. Around this time Casey moved to the electric guitar, and in both 1944 and 1945 he was named the instrument's top player in Esquire magazine's annual jazz poll; he spent much of the decade to follow as a gun-for-hire, capped off by a four-year collaboration with R&B saxophonist King Curtis initiated in 1957.

Casey briefly retired from music in 1961, working in a Xerox copy shop before returning to performing, recording sessions in support of singer Helen Humes and pianist Jay McShann. After another extended period of retirement, he resurfaced in 1981 with the Harlem Jazz and Blues Band, which toured the world with success until the middle Nineties. A small band drawn from the group and led by Casey was resident at the Louisianan Community Bar and Grill from 1992 to 1997. He also cut his first headlining date, signing to the Jazzpoint label for A Tribute to "Fats" in 1994.

After a long battle with colon cancer, Casey died at the Dewitt Rehabilitation Centre, Manhattan on September 11, 2005, just days short of his 90th birthday. He had been hospitalized for about a year.

(Edited mainly from All Music)  (*There is some debate over Casey’s date of birth as a census record indicates he could have been born some time in 1917.) Also not to be confused with Al Casey, the session guitarist, rockabilly artist,& Duane Eddy collaborator.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Ray Charles born 13 September 1918

Ray Charles (born Charles Raymond Offenberg; September 13, 1918 – April 6, 2015) was an American musician, singer, songwriter, vocal arranger and conductor who was best known as organizer and leader of the Ray Charles Singers. Over seven decades, Charles worked in radio, TV, movies, records and personal appearances with a stellar lineup including Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Julie Andrews, Jackie Gleason, Gene Kelly, John Denver, Dick Van Dyke, Andy Williams, the Carpenters and the Muppets.

A native of Chicago, he was the grandson of a cantor, studied piano from age 11 and was singing professionally on radio while he was still in high school. Largely self-taught as an arranger, he began writing arrangements for a vocal quartet in 1937 while continuing to perform all kinds of music (from operetta to popular) on Chicago radio stations.

Charles moved in 1942 to New York, where he discovered that his talents were very much in demand. Within days of his arrival he was performing in NBC's legendary Studio 8H, and within weeks he was singing solos and as part of choral groups on some of radio's most celebrated shows: The March of Time, The Kate Smith Hour and The Westinghouse Program.

By the time Charles joined the Navy in 1944, he was performing and/or arranging for 10 live radio shows a week. And upon his return to civilian life in 1946, he remained one of radio's most widely sought-after arrangers, also including stints as a commercial jingle composer and performer. He wrote musical signatures for Chesterfield and 7-Up, and that's his voice on the original "mmm, mmm, good" jingle for Campbell Soups.

Broadway beckoned in 1947. Charles, who had supervised choral work in the musical Finian's Rainbow, conducted the show for nine weeks and also conducted the original cast album on Columbia Records. Other labels, including RCA Victor and Decca, hired Charles to write vocal arrangements and layouts for many of their artists. It was in the late 1940s that Charles began his long association with singer Perry Como, on NBC's Chesterfield Supper Club radio show, which aired three times a week.

When Como moved to CBS television in the fall of 1950, The Ray Charles Singers were an integral part of the ensemble. Como's show ran three times a week through 1955, then became an hour-long variety show that ran on NBC through 1963. The team, including Charles and music director Nick Perito, remained intact when Como's show went to a once-a-month airing for the next four years, and on occasional specials thereafter. It was Charles who penned the upbeat "Letters, We Get Letters" that became a Como tradition.

Coinciding with Charles' work with Como in the early 1950s was a seven-year stint as choral director on NBC's TV version of the long-running radio show Your Hit Parade. His final radio work was as choral director and vocal arranger on NBC's big-budget, Tallulah Bankhead-hosted The Big Show in 1950-51.


It was Como who christened Charles' choral group The Ray Charles Singers. They went on to record some 30 albums, hitting number 3 on the Billboard charts in 1964 with "Love Me With All Your Heart (Cuando Calienta El Sol)" and scoring such other top-40 hits as "Al-Di-La" and "One More Time" in the mid-'60s.

During the 1960s and '70s, the heyday of television variety series and specials, Charles was everywhere. His two Emmy wins, for Music, Lyrics and Special Material, were for The First Nine Months Are the Hardest, which aired on NBC in January 1971, and the NBC sketch-comedy series The Funny Side, from the fall of 1971. He received eight other Emmy nominations, for writing special vocal material, music and lyrics, music direction and arrangements. During the late 1970s, Charles worked on The Muppet Show, creating special material, writing arrangements and producing the vocals for Jim Henson's beloved characters during its last two seasons of production in London.

For the big screen, Charles oversaw choral work on the Barbra Streisand film Funny Lady (1975) and the '40s period drama Racing With the Moon (1984). 

He and his son Jon served as co-musical directors on the syndicated series Sha Na Na (1977-80), on which his daughter Wendy was assistant director.

Charles received the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers' Irwin Kostal Award in 2004 and ASCAP Foundation's Life in Music Award in 2013. His wife Bernice died in 2002 and his daughter Wendy in 2004.

For thirty-two years, 1982 through 2014, Charles was the musical consultant of the Kennedy Centre Honours and for 14 years performed the same function for the "Fourth of July" and "Memorial Day" concerts on PBS.

Charles died of cancer at the age of 96 on April 6, 2015, in Beverly Hills, California. He donated a collection of his personal papers, including his scripts and musical arrangements for the Kennedy Centre Honours galas, to the Great American Songbook Foundation shortly before his death.

(edited from Wikipedia & Variety)

Here's a clip of the Ray Charles Singers and Mitchell Ayers and his Orchestra saluting Harry James' great instrumentals (1960)