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Monday, 2 February 2009

Bob Day (The Allisons) born 1942

The Allisons were an English pop duo consisting of: Bob Day (born Bernard Colin Day, 2 February 1941, Trowbridge, Wiltshire)  and John Alford (born Brian Henry John Alford, 31 December 1939, London). They were marketed as being brothers, using the same surname of Allison.
 
The Allisons held similarities to American duo the Kalin Twins of a few years earlier. They harmonised their voices beautifully, had one enormous smash hit, and then struggled to get recognition for much else. Perhaps it was being so successful too quickly that ultimately proved to be a handicap by raising expectations too high.
 
Although Brian Alford had been singing in the choir of Saint Dionis Church in Parsons Green, Fulham, since an early age, it wasn't until around 1956 that it occurred to him that he might be good enough to become a professional. By 1958, Brian and a fellow member of the Shadows, John White formed a duet- calling themselves the 'Shadows Brothers'. The gigs they did were mostly unpaid, but they longed to try their talents in the burgeoning coffee bars of London. However, parental approval for taking themselves to Soho to do this was not forthcoming.
 
In January 1959 John White decided to quit, and Brian Alford carried on as a soloist until August when he began a new partnership with Colin Day- somebody he sang with in the church choir. At this point the act was renamed "The Allisons". They each adopted a new name- Brian became John Allison and Colin became Bob Allison. This they thought would strengthen their professional image as "brothers".
 
They entered a national talent competition co-sponsored by the pop newspaper DISC and a tape recorder manufacturer. They reached the finals at the ATV studio in Wembley despite a roster of 600 entries, and went on to win- then being invited to sing on Bert Weedon's TV programme "Lucky Dip" that same day. They also won a record test and taped several of the songs that John had previously written earlier during 1957 and 1958. These were submitted to Fontana Records in the hope of obtaining a full recording contract. Fontana were impressed and selected "Are You Sure" for submission to the UK heats to decide Britain's entry to the Eurovision song contest.
 
Despite having turned professional less than a month earlier, the Allisons won the British heats and narrowly missed the top spot in the actual contest in Cannes. However, despite their near miss, the record became a massive hit all over Europe eclipsing the other entries and reached the UK #1 spot in all the major versions of the chart, including NME which was regarded widely as the most definitive at the time.
 
Sadly, the Allisons' follow ups to "Are You Sure" largely went unnoticed by record buyers. Doubtless, the Allisons were poorly prepared for the highly commercial world they had entered and management disputes, poor promotion and naivety took their toll. They achieved only two further minor chart placings in the UK.
 
As the sixties progressed the pair eventually decided to split up and leave foreground pop music. At first, John turned to full time songwriting but the yearn to perform became too great and he soon found himself keeping the Allisons name alive whenever he could. He and Bob would reunite occasionally for short tours, but during the 1970s and 1980s John teamed up with other "brothers"- notably Mike "Allison" and Tony "Allison".
 
Ultimately, the Allisons, in common with many of the musicians whose popularity peaked in the 1960s have found themselves in great demand again. Although now 50 years have elapsed since he first felt compelled to sing, John Allison is still at it- and "Are You Sure" is still going strong. John and Bob now reunite regularly and they still harmonise their voices beautifully. (edited from www.45-rpm,org.uk)

Monday, 5 January 2009

Lenny Dee born 1923

Lenny Dee, born Leonard George DeStoppelaire, (January 5, 1923 - February 12, 2006) was a virtuoso organist who played many styles of music. His record albums were among the most popular of easy listening and space age pop organists of the 1950s through the early 1970s. His signature hit, Plantation Boogie, charted as a Top 20 hit in 1955. He also had a gold record with 1970's Spinning Wheel.
 
Born in Chicago, Illinois in 1923, Dee was an only child (though it is sometimes erroneously reported that he was one of eleven or twelve children). As a child, he sang in his church's choir; he also played ukulele and accordion. As a teenager, he turned playing the accordion into a profession, which he continued until he was drafted into the Navy during World War II in 1943.
 
Upon his return from service, Dee spent his Navy earnings on a Hammond Model A organ, one of the earliest of its kind. With money from the G.I. Bill, he received instruction in organ at the Chicago Conservatory of Music. Afterwards, he began playing hotels and night clubs in the south in the late 1940s to some degree of success, but very little fame and no record contracts.
 
It was not until the early 1950s that Dee was signed up to Decca after country singer Red Foley heard him playing at the Plantation Inn in Nashville, Tennessee, and thought Dee's country flavor would be a good contrast to the label's then prominent jazz organist, Ethel Smith.
 
Dee made good, and his original composition, Plantation Boogie charted at #18 in 1955. Dee re-recorded the hit on numerous albums, and was often imitated, even plagiarized, but never duplicated.
 
Dee ventured into recording albums for Decca starting in 1954 with his first LP, Dee-lightful. Part of Dee's charm was his albums' zany covers featuring Dee in various situations, and titles with puns that usually included his name, such as Dee-Lirious, Dee-Licious, and Dee-Most! His recording featured organ with other instruments. He was nearly always backed by percussion; depending on the song, he also recorded with guitar; bass; a backup chorus; strings; horns such as saxophones, trombones, trumpets; and even the banjo.
 
When Dee married his wife, Hendrica, in 1960, the couple settled down in Sarasota, Florida, which would become the base of Lenny's operations for the rest of his career. They had five children; his oldest son, Lenny Jr., played drums with his father.
 
Despite his contract with Decca, Lenny Dee's first love was live performance. In 1967, after performing regularly in hotel lounges at St. Petersburg Beach like the Dolphin Beach Resort, Dee started a night club named Lenny Dee's Dolphin Den. He later opened Lenny Dee's King's Inn, a few miles away. His supper club format—with dinner, drinks and his musical and his comedy routines—was popular with local fans and visitors from around the world. The club's menu included the "One Pound Pork Chop," along with other selections.
 
His routine included corny jokes and wild hat and costume routines that Dee was noted for. A lover of animals, Dee often included his pet dogs (particularly one black poodle he owned named "Miss Muffett") in his routine, with the dogs barking along with some of his numbers.
 
His television credits include appearances on Toast of the Town with Ed Sullivan, The Tonight Show with Jack Paar, The Lawrence Welk Show, and later Nashville Now. Dee even had his own show in the mid-50s on WFLA-TV in Tampa, Florida called Ladies' Day with Lenny Dee; it enjoyed a brief run.
 
Dee continued recording into the '70s, adding a background orchestra in the late '60s as many other easy listening performers were doing at the time. By the late '70s, Dee was in less demand. After recording 56 albums, he was finally dropped from the MCA label, along with many other easy listening artists.
 
Dee spent the rest of his career at his night clubs and on tour, but the demand for his music continued to decline. In 1999, Dee played on a series of cruise ship tours. He retired in 2003. He passed away on February 12, 2006. (info Wikipedia)