Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Mervin Shiner born 20 February 1921

Mervin James Shiner (February 20th, 1921 (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania) is a Country singer and guitar player (mostly Honky-Tonk style). Like so many talented country performers, Shiner never got the breaks to make the big time.

Martin guitars have held a special place in Merv's heart ever since his father bought him his first one in 1937. What a sacrifice it was in the middle of the Depression for Merv's father to purchase his 16-year-old son a Martin guitar for $37.50 so he could pursue his dreams of being a musician. He and his mom began singing on the radio every Sunday night out of WEST in Easton. The duo known as "Mervin Shiner and his Mother" sang country and gospel songs for the program "Western Roundup." The mother and son duo soon gained widespread popularity in Pennsyvania .

For a period during high school, Mervin hitchhiked to Easton once a week to perform an additional 15-minute program by himself. Back then, country was considered 'hick' and known as hillbilly music. Following his high school graduation Mervin headed for Hollywood, intent upon continuing his career in the entertainment world. He sang and played in several shows then moved back east where he remained busy singing weekly radio spots on WEST and WSAN in Allentown. He even became a part of a local cowboy band, the Circle J. Range Riders from Quakertown. Mervin 
recalled. The Range Riders played with Roy Rogers and was the Dorney Park house band.

After a successful audition in 1949, Mervin and his mother sang on a television program called the "Hometown Frolic" out of WATV in Newark, N.J. As a result Mervin came to the attention of Vaughn Horton, a famous songwriter, who helped the young singer secure a Decca recording contract. His songs made the Top 10, including "Why Don't You Haul Off and Love Me," "Little Liza Lou," "Anticipation Blues," "An Old Christmas Card," "I Overlooked an Orchid" and "If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time." Some fans called him "the singer with a tear in his voice," perhaps a trait he gained from his mother's advice that he should always, "Sing the way the song makes you feel."


But it was the children’s song “Peter Cottontail” that really opened all the doors for Mervin. "Peter Cottontail" was hoppin' on the airwaves by Easter 1950 and Mervin soon was singing the Opry with Hank Williams and Minnie Pearl and went on to sing with or 
write songs for Dolly Parton and Charlie Pride.

After recording "Cottontail," Shiner went on to become immensely popular below the Mason-Dixon line as a standard on the Nashville circuit. Much of his career was spent touring the United States and living in Nashville. Shiner has recorded with the famous gospel quartet, the Jordanaires, and was even the star attraction of the Camel Caravan. He recorded for various labeles throughout his career including Coral, RCA Victor, Coffee House, MGM, Little Darlin' and Cetron and used the name Mervin, Merv or Murv Shiner.

During the 70’s Shiner lived in Tampa, Florida and worked booking bands until he "retired". He stopped performing regularly in 2004 but during 2014 at the age of 93 he performed most of his favourite songs at a Homecoming Anniversary concert in Bethlehem captivating his audience with precious memories and anecdotal stories which he weaved throughout his 18-song set. With a musical career that has spanned more than seven decades, much of it spent in Nashville, he had lots to draw from.

As of 2016 Shiner was still singing and playing his Martin Guitar.

(Edited from Country Picker & Decca album liner notes)

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Johnny Dunn born 19 February 1897

Johnny Dunn (February 19, 1897 – August 20, 1937) was an American traditional jazz trumpeter and vaudeville performer.

Before Louis Armstrong arrived in New York in 1924, Johnny Dunn was considered the top cornetist in the city. His staccato style, double-time effects and utilization of wah-wah mutes gave him notoriety for a time.

Dunn had attended Fisk University in Nashville and had a solo act in Memphis before being discovered by W.C. Handy. He joined Handy's band in 1917 and during the next three years became known for his feature on "Sergeant Dunn's Bugle Call Blues" (which later became the basis for "Bugle Call Rag"). A pioneer with plunger mutes, Dunn's double-time breaks, with their inflexible and jerky rhythms, had a direct link to military bands.

He recorded with Mamie Smith in 1920-1921, leaving in the latter year to lead his own Original Jazz Hounds. From 1921-1923, the cornetist recorded frequently, both with his own group and backing singer Edith Wilson.

He joined Will Vodery's Plantation Orchestra in 1922, visiting Europe with the revue Dover to Dixie the following year. However, the Chicago musicians were much farther advanced than Dunn and once Louis Armstrong began influencing brassmen with his swinging, legato solos for Fletcher Henderson, Dunn was instantly out of date.


After visiting Europe again (this time with the Blackbirds of 1926 show), Dunn briefly led his own big band and then in 1928 made his finest recordings, four numbers with Jelly Roll Morton and two with both James P. Johnson and Fats Waller on pianos.

Strangely enough, he never recorded again, moving permanently to Europe, where he played with Noble Sissle in Paris, worked with his own group (the New Yorkers) mostly in Holland, and was largely forgotten before his early death. Dunn died of tuberculosis aged 40 in Paris, France in August 1937

Dunn was among the best of the musicians playing in the immediate pre-jazz years and he influenced many of his contemporaries. Overshadowed though he was by the arrival of Louis Armstrong, Dunn was still an able and gifted player, showing subtle power and using complex patterns that never descended into mere showmanship. His stylistic roots became outmoded during the 30s but his decision to remain in Europe and his early death meant that his reputation never suffered, except, perhaps, by neglect, and today he can be recognized as having been a highly accomplished trumpeter.

(Edited from Wikipedia All About Jazz & AllMusic)

Alto saxophonist Lex van Spall and drummer Bobby 't Sas led a band called "The Chocolate Kiddies" in Holland in the early 1930's. For this film they had guest artists Johnny Dunn, the famous American trumpeter and trombonist Jake Green who also recorded with Bessie Smith. The tenor saxophonist is Jascha Trabsky who later had a famous record shop in The Hague.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Little Caesar born 18 February 1928

Little Caesar (February 18, 1928 *– June 12, 1994*) was an African American Blues and R&B singer and actor who is always confused with the entirely different guy who was the lead singer of Little Caesar & the Romans, the doo wop group who had a 1961 hit with "Those Oldies But Goodies."

Harry 'Little' Caesar was born into a family of steelworkers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His mother died when he was only nine months old, leaving his father to care for two older brothers and a sister. When he was three years old, his family moved to Youngstown, Ohio, and it was here that the young Harry grew up. To help his family, Harry kept odd jobs in construction and the steel mill throughout his teens.

At 13 “Little Caesar” worked at a railroad company while attending Covington Grade school. During his High School days he worked evenings shining shoes to help his father. He also began singing at the Tabernacle Baptist Church of Youngstown. It was around this time he joined the local Wolf Gang and became known as Kid Wolf, but before he could get into too much trouble he had to enlist.   
In the 40’s he formed a gospel group during his hitch in the Army. After his discharge in May 1950 he moved to Oakland, California, where joined the Calvary Gospel Quartet which proved to be the beginning of his professional music career.

He began working with the Peter Rabbit Trio and Que Martyn. He scored an R&B hit in 1952 for Los Angeles entrepreneur John Dolphin's Recorded in Hollywood label with the novelty "Goodbye Baby."  Little Caesar had a bent for slightly morbid, even slightly ghoulish material. Though other 
records tend not to be as oddball, there are more frequent than usual
allusions to ghosts, death, violence, and depression than is customary for the genre.

Little Caesar might not have been nearly as outrageous in these departments as Screamin' Jay Hawkins was, but he nonetheless qualifies as a vague ancestor of sorts to that rock & roll madman, his more eccentric qualities amplified by his rather gloomy vocal delivery and the eerie lo-fi production of some of his records. For that reason, he is a little more interesting than the usual obscure '50s R&B vocalist of average talents, though he did his share of fairly straightforward jump blues and ballads, too.


Although most of his records were cut in the early 50's (usually for the Recorded in Hollywood label), He also recorded four as a member of the Bay Area R&B vocal group the Turbans, as well as seven in 1960 for the Downey label in a notably deepened, more weather-beaten vocal timbre and more pronounced rock & roll-influenced feel.

His career out of music was if anything, more interesting than his career in music. His acting debut was in 1969 on an episode of Diahann Carroll's TV series JULIA, as Herb the Handy(man). 
He became known for his low, gravelly voice and under-his-breath delivery. He also appeared in many small rolls on TV series during the 70's & 80's including LA Law, MacGyver, Hill Street Blues, Good Times, Room 222, and many others. He appeared in many films notably A Few Good Men (1992), The Longest Yard (1974) and Bird on a Wire (1990).

He died age 66, on June 12, 1994 in Los Angeles County, California, due to complications from diabetes. 

(Edited from Ace Records, Wikipedia, AllMusic,  IMDb.) 

*Some sources also give birth date as 28th and day of death as 14th

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Dalida born 17 February 1933

Iolanda Cristina Gigliotti (17 January 1933 – 3 May 1987), professionally known as Dalida, was a Franco-Italian singer and actress who performed and recorded in more than 10 languages including: Arabic, Italian, Greek, German, French, English, Japanese, Hebrew, Dutch and Spanish. She received 55 gold records and was the first singer to receive a diamond disc. A 30-year career (she debuted in 1956 and recorded her last album in 1986, a few months before her death) and her death led to an iconic image as a tragic diva and renowned singer.

She was born Yolande Gigliotti, the daughter of Italian parents living in Cairo. She attended a religious school and studied stenography, by the time she was 17, however, she had blossomed into a beautiful young woman, and began entering talent and beauty competitions. In 1954, the same year that she won the title of Miss Egypt, she made her first screen appearance in an Egyptian production entitled Sigarah Wa Kas, directed by Niazi Mostafa. She began using the name "Dalila," owing to her resemblance to Hedy Lamarr in the costume epic Samson and Delilah, and this was later in France altered to Dalida.

She left Egypt in 1955 to pursue a screen career in Paris. Dalida was cast in the film Le Masque de Toutankhamen, directed by Marco de Gastyne, but much more important to her career was a short singing stint that she took on in Paris. She accepted an offer to sing in the intermission between acts at a club, La Villa d'Este, where she was spotted by Bruno Coquatrix, a producer at the Olympia Theatre, the largest performing venue in the city and also by radio producer Lucien Morisse.


The two took her under their wing, Coquatrix introducing her to the French public, while Morisse later married her. Record producer Eddie Barclay, a former jazz pianist, signed Dalida to a contract with his own Barclay label, and her second single, "Bambino" became a huge hit in 1956. The following year, she was awarded a gold record for a million sales of the single in Europe.

 Her later hits included "Gondolier" (1957), "Come Prima 'Tu Me Donnes'" (1958), "Les Gitans" (1958), "Ciao Ciao Bambina" (1959), "Les Enfants du Piree" (1960), and "La Danse de Zorba" (1965), the latter a vocal version of the dance from the movie Zorba the Greek. From 1960 onward, her brother, billed simply as Orlando, oversaw her recordings as producer, and could take some credit for securing her continued success in the 1960s and beyond.

With the advent of the rock & roll era in the early '60s, Dalida adapted successfully to the new music, her recordings making use of a band with more of a beat, as she took on new material, including French versions of songs by the Drifters, the Kingston Trio and others. By 1964, she'd sold an extraordinary 30 million records worldwide, though all of those sales were in the non-English speaking world, from the Middle East to Germany.

Dalida went through several transitions in image -- from dark hair and makeup and elegant gowns in the mid-'50s  into a striking blonde in revealing outfits and shorter skirts in the 1960s and beyond, so much so that it was difficult to believe that she was the same performer. She maintained a screen career as well, appearing in over a dozen movies in France and Italy from 1955 through the end of the 1960s.

A heavy performing schedule, coupled with an unsettled romantic life, took their toll. The singer's life took a sudden dark turn when her then-current lover Luigi Tenco, a singer, killed himself at the 1967 San Remo Festival after failing to qualify for a spot on the program. Dalida, who found the body, made the first of several suicide attempts soon after. Following her recovery, she restarted her career in a slightly different direction, recording more serious and thoughtful songs.

Her ex-husband Lucien Morisse took his own life sometime after her attempt at suicide in the wake of Tenco's death. Dalida's later involvement marriage to a man identified as the Count of St. Germain, who turned out not to be a count only added to the picture of a personal life in turmoil and seemed to make her that much more alluring to her admirers. In the midst of this, she won the Oscar Mondial du Disque (World Oscar of Recording), a French award for her "Gigi L'Amoroso," beating out competitors that included Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night."  Dalida's career in the 1980s had slowed somewhat as she entered her fifties, looking at least a decade younger but no longer doing 200 engagements a year as she had in her prime.

In 1986, she returned to her native Egypt to make a film, The Sixth Day, with director Youssef Chahine,  in which she gave what the critics felt was a superb acting performance. She continued to make Paris her home, where she remained a huge concert draw during her final decade.

On May 3, 1987, Dalida was found dead of an overdose of barbiturates, an apparent suicide at the age of 54. She left behind a note which read, "La vie m'est insupportable... Pardonnez-moi." ("Life is unbearable for me... Forgive me.") Dalida is buried at the Montmartre Cemetery.

(Mainly edited from a Bruce Eder bio @ AllMusic)

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Patty Andrews born 16 February 1918

Patty Andrews (born February 16, 1918, Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.—died January 30, 2013, Los Angeles, California) was an American singer and entertainer best known as part of the Andrews Sisters musical trio. The sisters racked up 19 gold records, scores of top 10 singles and record sales that tallied close to 100 million.

Patty Andrews was born the youngest of three surviving children to immigrant parents—their father, Peter, was from Greece, and their mother, Olga, was from Norway. As a child, she took up singing with her elder sisters, LaVerne and Maxene. Patty, a soprano singer, was given the lead parts, and her sisters sang harmony. The trio performed around Minneapolis before joining Larry Rich’s troupe on the vaudeville circuit in the early 1930s.

After their vaudeville run ended in 1932, the sisters continued to perform. While in New York City in 1937, they made their first recordings as part of Leon Belasco’s band. While there, the sisters came to the attention of record executive Jack Kapp. He quickly signed them to Decca Records, and they released their first single, “Why Talk About Love,” in 1937. Though “Why Talk About Love” proved to be a poor seller, the sisters’ second single, an English version of the Yiddish song “Bei mir bist du schoen” (1937; “To Me You’re Beautiful”), was a major hit.

The Andrews Sisters continued to gain popularity in the following years, releasing such hit songs as “Hold Tight, Hold Tight” (1938), “I’ll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time” (1940), and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” (1941). They made regular appearances on the radio and collaborated with stars, including Bing Crosby, and with such popular acts as the Glenn Miller Orchestra. In 1940 the sisters signed with Universal Pictures, appearing in movies with Abbott and Costello, among others.

After the United States entered World War II, they began performing for the troops, including travelling overseas with the USO (United Service Organizations) in 1945. Although they had gained much of their popularity before the war, the sisters were best remembered for their upbeat patriotic spirit during this time. Hit songs from the war era included “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (with Anyone Else but Me)”(1942) and “Rum and Coca-Cola” (1944). The sisters were known for the diversity of their songs, which incorporated a wide range of styles—from boogie-woogie and swing to calypso—and cultural backgrounds.


In 1949 Patty began edging toward a solo career, recording “I Can Dream, Can’t I?” and, the following year, “I Wanna Be Loved,” with her sisters performing backup rather than harmony. She went on to release several solo works with Decca. By 1954 Patty had left Decca Records and focused on solo work exclusively. However, 
she rejoined her sisters in 1956, and the trio made frequent appearances in nightclubs and on television, continuing until LaVerne was forced to retire because of poor health. After LaVerne’s death in 1967, Patty and Maxene joined up with singer Joyce de Young to continue the trio, but they disbanded for good in 1968. By this time, the sisters had released some 600 songs, of which more than 100 had made the charts.

In 1973, Patty and Maxene enjoyed a resurgence of popularity following Bette Midler's nostalgic hit version of the girls' signature song "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy." As a result, the two starred together on Broadway a year later (March 1974) in the WWII musical "Over Here" which ran for 10 months, was the hit of the season. The sisters got into a bitter money dispute with the producers and with each other, leading to the show’s closing in January 1975 and the cancellation of plans for a national tour. After that, the sisters pursued solo careers into the 1990s. They never reconciled and were still estranged when Maxene Andrews died in 1995.

Patty continued to perform as a solo artist into the 1990s. Wally Weschler, her husband of 60 years, died on August 28, 2010, at the age of 88. After his death, Patty was reunited with many of her friends. However she began to suffer from the effects of dementia and lived out her final days in hospice care at her adopted home. She died of the effects of advanced age with much of her massive recorded legacy remaining in print.

(Edited from IMDb and mainly a bio by Alison Eldridge @

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Lucy Reed born 14 February 1921

Lucy Reed (January 14, 1921 – July 1, 1998) was an American jazz singer, noted on the Chicago jazz scene in the 1950s.

Lucy Reed was an appealing but little known jazz vocalist who performed around Chicago in the '50s. The cool-toned Reed, who appreciated cool school singers like Chris Connor and June Christy, lived in different parts of the Midwest -- she was born Lucille Reed in Marshfield, Wisconsin in 1921 went to high school in St. Paul, MN in the late '30s/early '40s and lived in Milwaukee, WI, Iron City, MI and Duluth, MN in the '40s before living in Chicago in the '50s.

While attending high school in St. Paul, Minnesota, Reed began singing with a girls' quartet formed by her singing teacher, Celeste
Burns. Reed later married a jazz drummer, Joey DeRidder and listened to early Garroway shows and developed a real taste for jazz. When her husband, was killed over Germany during the war, she went back to Iron City still listening attentively and still very much concerned with music and with what musicians could teach her. Then after two years of that exile she was booked into a Milwaukee club then to Duluth.

When Woody Herman's big band played Duluth during 1949, Reed was hired for some of his local gigs -- after that, she was a featured singer on some of Charlie Ventura's Midwestern shows. Based in Chicago in the '50s, Reed was regularly accompanied by bassist Johnny Frigo (who had been with the Soft Winds) and pianist Dick Marx at a club called the Lei Aloha.


In 1951 she was chosen to represent Chicago in the Miss Television contest—she was regarded as a fine prospect by bookers and record people as the beautiful girl who had charmed listeners at the Chicago Streamliner and other local clubs during the early Fifties.

Her taste and musicianship were of such imaginative flexibility that she surpassed a many other nightclub singers more generously gifted by nature. Her skillful phrasing, based on her tender care for lyrics and her subtle beat, made her a singer of quiet distinction. She was noted as a singer who may have possessed too much innate “feel” for lyrics and honesty in delivery ever to have had a hit record, but who nevertheless won many enthusiastic listeners with her records.

Reed didn't do very much recording, although she briefly recorded for Fantasy. Sessions in New York in 1955 and Chicago in 1957 resulted in her debut LP for Fantasy, This Is Lucy Reed. The 1957 session employed Marx and Frigo, while the 1955 date employed the great pianist, Bill Evans -- regrettably, Evans didn't solo at all. Jeri Southern used to name her as her favourite singer.

Both of her vinyl albums are highly priced collectibles. She was a highly acclaimed artist around the Chicago area and never gained the recognition she deserved. Although she performed infrequently, in her prime she played some of the most prestigious clubs and showrooms, including Mister Kelly’s in Chicago and the Village Vanguard in New York.

Like many women in Jazz, Reed ultimately decided to devote most of her energies to her growing family rather than to her career. After her marriage to Serge Seymour in 1957, she often turned down opportunities that might have increased her fame. From here her internet trail goes cold and it’s not until 1988 that her name appears on the web as being a guest artist on the “Jack Hubble Jazz Show.” She then records a great album in the 90s, called "Basic Reeding" (with Herb Ellis and Ray Brown) which again shows her artistry.

Lucy Reed died in her North Side home in Chicago July 1, 1998, aged 77. 

In 2017, Fresh records issued a double CD of all her recordings from 1950 to 1957.

(Edited from Chicago Tribune, Wikipedia, Fresh Sound Records & AllMusic) (Some sources give birth year as 1924)

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Tennessee Ernie Ford born 13 February 1919

Ernest Jennings Ford (February 13, 1919 – October 17, 1991), known professionally as Tennessee Ernie Ford, was an American recording artist and television host who enjoyed success in the country and Western, pop, and gospel musical genres. Noted for
 his rich bass-baritone voice and down-home humor, he is remembered for his hit recordings of "The Shotgun Boogie" and "Sixteen Tons".

As a child, Ford was musically inclined, singing in school choirs and playing trombone in the school band. By 1937, working as an announcer at Bristol’s WOAI, he went on to study at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Following America's entry into World War II with the attack on Pearl Harbour, Ford enlisted in the United States Army in early 1942 and was assigned to the U.S. Army Air Corps, which kept him stateside, serving in Alabama and later in California, where he was posted to a bombardier school. His talent wasn't dormant during this period, and he was able to participate in various special services entertainment programs.

After the war, Ford -- who had married while serving in the military -- moved his family to San Bernardino, CA, and took a DJ job on a local radio station. Pasadena’s KXLA. His comical Tennessee Ernie character (“bless your pea-pickin’ little heart...”) caught the ear of disc jockey-TV host Cliffie Stone, who made Ford a regular cast member of Los Angeles’s Hometown Jamboree country music television and radio shows.

Cliffie Stone, Tennessee Ernie, Nudie Cohn, and Merle Travis

In 1947 he also made the acquaintance of Cliffie Stone, a musician, announcer, and producer who was rapidly becoming one of the most influential figures in country music on the West Coast. Initially, Ford appeared on Stone's Hometown Jamboree, which started on radio and moved to television later in the 1940s, and in 1948 Stone brought him to Capitol Records, the beginning of a relationship that would last for 40 years, covering the rest of the singer's life.

Ford began cutting typically hot California country-boogie and novelty records that were driven as much by his big, warm voice as by the guitar stylings of Merle Travis and the idiosyncratic steel guitar wizardry of Speedy West. Five singles had been released by late 1949, including "Tennessee Border" and "Smokey Mountain Boogie" (both Top Ten) and his first number one single, "Mule Train." He first guested on the Grand Ole Opry in 1950, and in 1953 he became the first country singer to appear at London’s prestigious Palladium. Soon NBC hired him to MC the television game show the Kollege of Musical Knowledge, and also to host his own weekday program.


Ford had two Top Ten country hits in 1955 with "The Ballad of Davy Crockett ,” but it was “Sixteen Tons,” with sales topping four million copies that cemented Ford’s place as one of America’s top
entertainers. Due partly to this hit, Ford Motor Company recruited Ford to host a prime-time NBC variety program, The Ford Show 

(1956–1961). He also made numerous guest appearances on I Love Lucy and other TV shows and became a fixture on television for the next decade (moving to daytime television by 1961).

For all of his occasionally risqué lyrics and humor, Ford also had a seriously religious side to his work and persona, and his voice was ideally suited to big arrangements of traditional hymns. His first gospel album, Hymns (1956), became the first religious album to go gold, while his second gospel album, Great Gospel 
Songs, earned him a Grammy. He was immensely popular as the 1960s commenced and remained a popular fixture on television for most of that decade, and his recordings were as ambitious as they were successful.

Ford remained active through the 1970s with numerous television specials and guest appearances. He participated in a 1973 Hometown Jamboree reunion at Los Angeles’s Palladium and recorded for Capitol until 1977.  

While it never affected his professional work, nor was it ever publicized (for fear of how it would impact his career), Ford battled all his life with a drinking problem, something which ultimately undermined his health. In October, 1991, he collapsed after leaving a White House dinner and died at an area hospital a few days later, exactly one year to the day after being elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

At the time of his death he remained a much-loved figure far beyond the boundaries of the country music audience.  (Edited from Country Music hall of Fame, AllMusic, Wikipedia & IMDb)