Thursday, 28 February 2013

Don Helms born 28 February 1927

Don Helms (February 28, 1927 - August 11, 2008) was a steel guitarist best known as the steel guitar player and last surviving member of Hank Williams' Drifting Cowboys group.

Donald Hugh Helms was born Feb. 28, 1927, in New Brockton, Alabam. He got his first steel guitar when he was 15, and by 18 he was playing with Williams in juke joints around the south. After serving in the army during World War II, Helms re-joined the Drifting Cowboys when Williams became a star on the Grand Ole Opry in 1949.

Helms played with Williams on and off for about decade, from 1943 until 1953 when Hank Williams died from just
living too fast at the age of 29 on New Year's Day, in Canton, Ohio. Helms is featured on over a hundred Hank Williams recordings -- actually 104 to be exact. His steel guitar sound added a heart breaking mournfulness to many of Williams' ballads, songs like “Your Cheatin' Heart,” “I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and “Cold, Cold Heart,” but Helms could also add a touch of playfulness on up-tempo tracks such as “Jambalaya” and "Hey, Good Lookin'."

Bill Lloyd, the curator of stringed instruments at the Country
Music Hall of Fame and Museum, said of Helms: “After the great tunes and Hank’s mournful voice, the next thing you think about in those songs is the steel guitar. It is the quintessential honky-tonk steel sound — tuneful, aggressive, full of attitude.” Lloyd also credits Helms' sound as a major influence in shifting the sound of country music away from the hillbilly string-band sound popular in the 1930s and toward the more modern electric style that became prominent in the 1940s.

Helms played a double-neck 1948 Gibson Console Grande steel guitar, which lacked the foot pedals found on a more modern pedal steel guitar, which did not come into prominence in country music until after Hank Williams' death in 1953.

    Here's a 1953 recording of "Swing Shift Bounce" taken from above album.

After Williams' death, Helms stayed in demand as a session player and went onto play on dozens of classic recordings such as Patsy Cline's “Walkin' After Midnight,” Lefty Frizzell's “Long Black Veil,” Ernest Tubb's “Letters Have No Arms,” and Stonewall Jackson's "Waterloo." Helms recorded with most every great Country-Western star of the day, including Ray Price, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Webb Pierce, Ferlin Husky, Chet Atkins, Cal Smith, the Wilburn Brothers, and Jim Reeves. According to legend, Helms wrote Brenda Lee's first number one hit “Fool Number One” in exchange for getting Loretta Lynn a recording contract with Decca Records.

In the late 1950s Don played on several early Johnny Cash recordings on Columbia Records, "The Fabulous Johnny Cash", "Now, There Was a Song!" and "Hymns by Johnny Cash". During the mid-1960s Helms played in the Wilburn Brothers backup band, The Nashville Tennesseans. He later played behind Hank Williams' daughter Jett Williams.

Don Helms played for Hank Williams Jr. in addition to his
ad, and wrote "The Ballad of Hank Williams" which he performed with Hank Jr. on The Pressure Is On LP Released in 1981. In the tune Don jokingly refers to being fired by both elder Hanks. He also performed with Jett Williams, Hank

Sr.'s daughter. In recent years, Helms continued to provide his signature steel guitar sound on sessions with artists Rascal Flatts, Bon Jovi, Martina McBride, Taylor Swift, and Kid Rock.

His last four known sessions were (in order) with Mark David and The Nightly Lights on November 15, 2007, Joey Allcorn's album All Alone Again in early 2008 followed by sessions with Teresa Street and then what is believed to be his final ever session with Vince Gill recording unfinished Hank Williams Sr. tracks. 

Don Helms also wrote a book of reminiscences of his time playing in the Drifting Cowboys titled Settin' the Woods on Fire -- Confessions of Hank's Steel Guitar Player, published in 2005.

Mr. Helms was a regular performer at steel guitar
conventions and concerts, where he could galvanize listeners with a few signature chords from country’s music’s most cherished hits. “Don would look out over the audience as the lights dimmed,” said Paul Hemphill, the author of “Lovesick Blues,” a biography of Hank Williams. “Then he’d say, ‘Now, close your eyes and think of Hank.’ ”

Helms died aged 81, on August 11, 2008 in Nashville, Tennessee from complications of heart surgery and diabetes.(Info edited from Wikipedia & 


Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Winifred Atwell born 27 February 1914

Winifred Atwell (27 February 1914 **– 28 February 1983) was a pianist who enjoyed great popularity in Britain and other countries (including Australia) from the 1950s with a series of boogie woogie and ragtime hits.

Atwell was born in Tunapuna in Trinidad and Tobago as Una Winifred Atwell. She and her parents lived in Jubilee Street. Her family owned a pharmacy, and she trained as a druggist, and was expected to join the family business, Winifred, however, had played the piano since a young age, and
achieved considerable popularity locally.

She left Trinidad in the early 1940s and travelled to the United States to study with Alexander Borovsky and in 1946 moved to London, where she had gained a place at the Royal Academy of Music. She became the first female pianist to be awarded the Academy's highest grading for musicianship. To support her studies, she played rags at London clubs and theatres. These modest beginnings in variety would one day see her topping the bill at the London Palladium.

She attracted attention with an unscheduled appearance at the Casino Theatre, where she substituted for an ill star. She caught the eye of entrepreneur Bernard Delfont, who put her
on a long-term contract. She released three discs which were well received. The third, "Jezebel," scurried to the top of the best seller lists. It was her fourth disc that catapulted her to huge popularity in the UK. A fiendishly complex arrangement called "Cross Hands Boogie" was released to show her virtuoso rhythmic technique, but it was the "B" side, a 1900s tune written by George Botsford called "Black and White Rag," that was to become a radio standard. Atwell was championed by popular disc jockey Jack Jackson, who introduced her to Decca promotions manager Hugh Mendl who launched his career as a staff producer at Decca producing Atwell's recordings.

"Black And White Rag" started a craze for her honky-tonk style of playing. The rag was recorded in an unusual fashion, with technicians having "de-tuned" a concert grand for the occasion. (Contrary to popular legend, it was not recorded on a "honky tonk" piano at all.) The exuberant bell-like sound of the record was Atwell's ticket to popular success. In austere, post-war England, her brilliant playing and effusive presentation a made her the nation's favourite instrumentalist.

Winifred Atwell's husband, former stage comedian Lew Levisohn, was vital in shaping her career as a variety star. The two had met in 1946, and married soon after. They were inseparable up to Levisohn's death in Hong Kong in December 1977; they had no children. He had cannily made the choice, for stage purposes, of her playing first a concert grand, then a beaten up old upright piano. The latter was purchased from a Battersea junk shop for fifty shillings. This became famous as Winifred Atwell's "other 
piano". It would later feature all over the world, from Las Vegas to the Sydney Opera House, travelling over half a million miles by air throughout Winifred Atwell's concert career. While contributing to a posthumous BBC radio appreciation of Atwell's career, Richard Stilgoe revealed that he was now the owner of the famous "other piano".

When Winifred Atwell first came to Britain, she initially earned only a few pounds a week. By the mid-fifties, this had shot up to over $10,000. By 1952, her popularity had spread internationally. Her hands were insured with Lloyds of London for a quarter of a million dollars (the policy stipulating that she was never to wash dishes). She signed a record contract with Decca Records, and her sales were soon 30,000 discs a week. She was by far the biggest selling pianist of her time. She is the only holder of two gold and two silver discs for piano music in Britain, and was the first black artist in the UK to sell a million records. Millions of copies of her sheet music were sold, and she went on to record her best-known hits, such as Let's Have a Party, "Flirtation Waltz", Poor People of Paris (which reached number one in the charts in 1956), Britannia Rag and Jubilee Rag. Her signature "Black and White Rag" became famous again in the 1970s as the theme of the highly popular BBC snooker programme "Pot Black", which also enjoyed great popularity in Australia when screened on the ABC network.

She had her own series in Britain (1956-57) and on Australian television in 1960-1961. Her brilliant career earned her a fortune, and would have extended further to the U.S. but for issues of race. Her breakthrough appearance was to have been on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956, but on arrival in
America she was confronted with problems of selling the show in the south with a British-sounding black woman. The appearance was never recorded. (Photo showing Winnie with Alma Cogan & Harry Secombe)

In 1955 Winifred Atwell arrived in Australia and was greeted as an international celebrity. She was paid $5,000 a week (the equivalent of around $50,000 today), making her the highest paid star from a Commonwealth country to visit Australia up to that time. Her enormous popularity in Australia led to her settling in Sydney in the 1970s. She
became an Australian citizen two years before her death.

Winifred Atwell also created headlines in the 1960s with her spectacular dieting (slimming from sixteen to twelve stone on what would today be called a protein diet). One of her gifts to British show business was discovering Matt Monro.

Winifred Atwell suffered a stroke in 1980. She officially retired on The Mike Walsh Show, then Australia's then highest rating television variety program, in 1981. The only public performances from this point were as organist in her parish church at Narrabean. She categorically stated on the Mike Walsh show that she would retire and not return as a 
public performer, but that she had an excellent career. Her last TV performance was a medley of Black and White Rag and Twelfth Street rag, before being given a standing ovation and awarded a bouquet.

In 1983 following a fire that destroyed her Narrabeen home, she suffered a heart attack and died while staying with friends in Seaforth. She is buried beside husband Lew Levisohn in South Gundarimba Private Cemetery in Northern New South Wales, just outside Lismore. (info edited from Wikipedia)

**There is some uncertainty over her date and year of birth. Many sources suggest 27 February 1914, but there is a strong suggestion that her birthday was 27 April. Most sources give her year of birth as 1914, but her gravestone states that she died at the age of 73, suggesting that she was born in 1910.

Five Finger Boogie is one of Winifred's own compositions and here she is playing it in a film clip from 1953.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Fats Domino born 26 February 1928

Antoine Dominique "Fats" Domino (born February 26, 1928 in New Orleans, Louisiana) is a classic R&B and rock and roll pianist and singer-songwriter.

As a child his brother-in-law, who was twenty years his senior, taught him to play the piano.Fats, also sang.. The first language he learned to speak was French. He first performed in public at age 10.  At fourteen he left school  and worked days in a factory  so he could perform at local nightclubs. He continued with music into the 40's and was heard by Dave Bartholomew, who would become his writing partner on
many of Fats' hit songs. Fats joined the Dave Bartholomew Band in the mid-40's. He was influenced by Albert Ammons and Fats Waller, among others.

He signed a contract with Imperial in 1949 and at his first recording session he made sure that he recorded the traditional Hey La Bas. "La Bas" was originally a voodoo god of luck, was identified with St. Peter in French-Catholic Louisiana and finally became La Bas. The record indicated a coming together of many years of New Orleans history and musical influence. It was not, however, his first record to be released. A song about drugs called The Fat Man was cleaned up a bit for his first commercial release, and it reached the R&B chart in 1950. According to some reports, the song was a million seller. The Fat Man also became a nickname for Fats Domino. Another
song that made the R&B chart for him, Every Night About This Time, used a piano triplet for which Fats was to become famous. It showed how his music had been influenced by that of Little Willie Littlefield. Fats had another R&B hit with "Goin' Home" in 1952.

Fats Domino exploded onto the rock-and-roll scene in 1955 when his song, "Ain't That A Shame," was covered by white recording artist Pat Boone. Boone's version went to number one, and Domino's version on Imperial went to number ten. The song established both artists as stars. Fats could be heard in the background on the records of other
artists, such as Joe Turner and Lloyd Price. He continued to write songs with Dave Bartholomew, many of which became hits. In 1956 he put five songs in the top forty, including "I'm In Love Again" and Fats' rendition of a song that had reached number one for Glenn Miller in 1940, "Blueberry Hill". The latter went to number two and was Domino's highest charting record ever.

Fats Domino was very popular. In 1957 he appeared in a movie that many consider to be the best rock-and-roll film ever made, The Girl Can't Help It, singing his hit "Blue Monday."


Another Fats Domino hit, "I'm Walkin'," was covered by Ricky Nelson in 1957 and helped to launch the teenage singing sensation's career. Other top ten songs followed in the late 50's for Domino: "Whole Lotta Loving," " I Want To Walk You Home," and "Be My Guest". The last song had a curious origin -- a teenager had been told by his father to get a job or get out of the house, so he wrote "Be My Guest" and waited in line for a chance to pass it on to Fats Domino. He was able to do so, and heard from Domino's agent some time later; thus was begun the songwriting career of Tommy Boyce.

Fats Domino had his final top ten song in 1960 with Walking To New Orleans. He recorded some old Hank Williams songs such as "Jambalaya [On The Bayou]" and "You Win Again" and he did old standards such as "Red Sails In The Sunset,"
which was his final top forty song, in 1963. In 1968, he even did a cover of the Beatles' "Lady Madonna".

He also made some more films along the way, including Shake, Rattle and Roll, The Big Beat, and Jamboree. Fats played Las Vegas frequently, and at the Royal Festival Hall in London in the 80's. He had to leave a tour of Great Britain in the 90's due to health problems.

When Hurricane Katrina was approaching New Orleans in August 2005, Dianna Chenevert encouraged Fats to evacuate, but he chose to stay at home with his family, partly because of
his wife's poor health. Unfortunately his house was in an area that was heavily flooded. The Domino family were rescued and then taken to a Baton Rouge shelter. "We've lost everything", Domino said, according to the Post.By January 2006, work to gut and repair Domino's home and office had begun. For the meantime, the Domino family is residing in Harvey, Louisiana.

Domino returned to stage on May 19, 2007, at Tipitina's at New Orleans, performing to a full house. A foundation has been formed and a show is being planned for Domino and the restoration of his home, where he intends to return someday. "I like it down there" he said in a February 2006 CBS News interview. In recent years, however, Domino has largely stayed out of the spotlight. He attended a 2009 benefit concert to watch such other musical legends as Little Richard and B.B. King perform, but he stayed off the stage. In October 2012, Domino was featured in season 3 of the television series Treme, playing himself.

 Fats awards have been many, including Grammy's Lifetime Achievement and Hall Of Fame Awards. Fats Domino took his place in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 1986. (info edited mainly from history of

Monday, 25 February 2013

Faron Young born 25 February 1932

Faron Young (February 25, 1932 – December 10, 1996) was an American country music singer and songwriter from the early 1950s into the mid-1980s and one of its most colorful stars. Hits including "If You Ain't Lovin' (You Ain't Livin')" and "Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young" marked him as a honky tonk singer in sound and personal style; and his chart-topping singles "Hello Walls" and "It's Four in the Morning" showed his versatility as a vocalist. Known as the Hillbilly Heartthrob, and following a movie role, the Singing Sheriff, Young's singles reliably charted for more than 30 years.

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on February 25, 1932, Faron Young was the youngest of six children. He grew up on a dairy farm his family operated outside the city and began singing at an early age. He performed at the local Optimist Club and was discovered by Webb Pierce, who brought him to star on the Louisiana Hayride on KWKH-AM radio in 1951. He graduated from Fair Park High School that year and attended Centenary College of Louisiana.

Young recorded in Shreveport, but his first releases were on Philadelphia’s Gotham Records. By February 1952, he was signed to Capitol Records, where he recorded for the next ten years. His first Capitol single appeared that spring. That same
year, he was invited to perform regularly on the Grand Ole Opry.

Young moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and recorded his first chart hit, "Goin’ Steady", in October 1952, but his career was sidetracked when he was drafted into the US Army the following month. The song hit the Billboard country charts while Young was in basic training. It peaked at No. 2, and the US Army Band took the young singer to replace Eddie Fisher on tours—its first country music singer—just as "If You Ain’t Lovin’" was hitting the charts. He was discharged in November 1954.

From 1954 to 1962, Young recorded many honky tonk classics for Capitol, including the first hit version of Don Gibson’s "Sweet Dreams". Most famous was "Hello Walls," a 1961 crossover hit for Young written by Willie Nelson. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.


During the mid-1950s, Young starred in four low-budget movies: Hidden Guns, Daniel Boone, Trail Blazer, Raiders of Old California and Country Music Holiday. He appeared as himself in cameo roles and performances in later country music movies and was a frequent guest on television shows throughout his career, including ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee. His band, the Country Deputies, was one of country music's top bands and they toured for many years. He invested in real estate along Nashville's Music Row in the 1960s and, in 1963, co-founded, with Preston Temple, the trade magazine, Music City News.Faron left the Grand Ole Opry in 1965, deciding that it was more profitable for him to tour as a solo artist instead of being restricted to the Opry. Following his departure, Young began to explore a number of different business ventures.

The same year, Young switched to Mercury Records and drifted musically, but by the end of the decade he had recaptured much of his fire with hits including "Wine Me Up". Faron left the Grand Ole Opry in 1965, deciding that it was more profitable for him to tour as a solo artist.By the end of the decade, he began to return to honky tonk, most notably with the hit "Wine Me Up," which reached number two upon its summer 1969 release.

Released in 1971, waltz-time ballad "It's Four In The
Morning" written by Jerry Chesnut was one of Young’s finest records and his last number one hit, also becoming his only major success in the United Kingdom, where it peaked at No. 3 on the pop charts. By the mid-1970s his records were becoming overshadowed by his behavior, making headlines in 1972 when he was charged with assault for spanking a girl in the audience at a concert in Clarksburg, West Virginia, who he claimed spat on him, and for other later incidents. In the mid-70s, Young was the spokesman for BC Powder.

Young signed with MCA Records in 1979 but the association lasted only two years. Nashville independent label Step One signed him in 1988 where he recorded into the early 1990s (including a duet album with Ray Price), then withdrew from public view. During the '90s, Young was stricken with a debilitating emphysema. Depressed by his poor health, he shot himself on December 9, 1996, and passed away the next day. Though he was underappreciated toward the end of his career, Faron Young was a groundbreaking vocalist during the '50s, and he remains one of the finest honky tonkers of his time.
(Info edited from CMT & Wikipedia)

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Michel Legrand born 24 February 1932

Michel Legrand (born February 24, 1932 in Paris) is a French musical composer, arranger, conductor, and pianist of Armenian descent.

Legrand has composed more than two hundred film and television scores, several musicals, and made well over a hundred albums. He has won three Oscars (out of 13 nominations), five Grammys, and has been nominated for an Emmy. He was twenty-two when his first album, I Love Paris, became one of the best-selling instrumental albums ever released. He is a virtuoso jazz and classical pianist and an accomplished arranger and conductor who performs with
orchestras all over the world. He studied music at the Paris Conservatoire from 1943-50 (ages 11-20), working with, among others, Nadia Boulanger, the teacher also of many other composers, including Aaron Copland and Philip Glass. Legrand graduated with top honors as both a composer and a pianist.

In the early 1950s, Legrand was one of the first Europeans to work with jazz innovators such as Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz. His jazz-oriented projects, though infrequent, have been almost uniformly outstanding. While on a visit to the U.S. in 1958, Legrand collaborated with such musicians as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Phil Woods, Ben Webster, Hank Jones, and Art Farmer in an album of inventive orchestrations of jazz standards titled Legrand
Jazz. The following year, back in Paris with bassist Guy Pedersen and percussionist Gus Wallez, he recorded an album of Paris-themed songs arranged for jazz piano trio, titled Paris Jazz Piano.

Nearly a decade later he recorded At Shelly's Manne-Hole (1968), a live trio session with bassist Ray Brown and drummer Shelly Manne, in which four of the compositions were improvised on the spot. Legrand also provided an odd scat vocal on "My Funny Valentine." After another decade had elapsed, Legrand returned to jazz and collaboration with Phil Woods on Jazz Le Grand (1979) and After the Rain (1982); then he collaborated with violinist Stephane Grappelli on an album in 1992. Not as well received as his earlier work was a 1994 album for LaserLight titled Michel Plays Legrand.

    Here's "Windmills Of Your Mind" from above album.


More recently, in 2002, he recorded a masterful solo jazz piano album reworking fourteen of his classic songs, Michel Legrand by Michel Legrand. His jazz piano style is virtuosic and eclectic, drawing upon such influences as Art Tatum, Erroll Garner, Oscar Peterson, and Bill Evans.

During various periods of creative work, Legrand became a conductor for orchestras in St. Petersburg, Vancouver, Montreal, Atlanta, and Denver. He recorded more than one hundred albums with international musical stars (spanning the genres of jazz, variety, and classical) and worked with such diverse musicians as Phil Woods, Ray Charles, Perry Como, Neil Diamond, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Lena Horne, James Ingram, Jack Jones, Kiri te Kanawa, Frankie Laine, Tereza Kesovija, Johnny Mathis, Jessye Norman, Diana Ross, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Sarah
Vaughan, Shirley Bassey and Asia's Songbird Regine Velasquez.

Legrand is known principally as a composer of innovative music for films, composing film scores (about two hundred to date) for directors Jean-Luc Godard, Richard Brooks, Claude Lelouch, Clint Eastwood, Robert Altman, and many others. Legrand himself appears and performs in Agnès Varda's French New Wave classic, Cleo from 5 to 7 (1961). After his songs appeared in Jacques Demy's films The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and The Young Girls of Rochefort (1966), Legrand became famous worldwide. Les Parapluies de Cherbourg was a sung-through musical in which all the dialogue was set to music, a revolutionary concept at the time.

Hollywood soon became interested in Legrand after Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, bombarding him with requests to compose music for films. Having begun to collaborate with Hollywood, Legrand continued to work there for many years. Among his best-known scores are those for The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), which features the hit song The Windmills of Your Mind, and Summer of '42 (1971), which features another hit song, "The Summer Knows." Legrand also wrote the score for Orson Welles's last-completed film, F for Fake (1974).

Currently, Legrand divides his time between America and France

(info edited from Wikipedia)

There are lots of video clips of Michel but I have chosen this little gem. Nana Mouskouri & Michel Legrand - Duo - Quand On S''Aime - Octobre 1965
E.Marnay / M.Legrand. Rediffusion Télé Mélody

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Buck Griffin born 23 February 1923

 Albert C. "Buck" Griffin (February 23, 1923 – February 14, 2009) was an American country musician and songwriter. He was a popular performer live and on radio, though he never scored a hit on record, and was compared to Hank Williams and Conway Twitty.

Albert C. Griffin was born on February 23, 1923, in Corsicana, TX, and raised in Oklahoma and Missouri; he inherited the nickname Buck from his father. He took up the guitar around age 12 and formed his first band with three
other boys a couple of years later, with Griffin singing most of the lead parts at dances and school assemblies. Music had to take second place to earning a living, and Griffin made his digging pipeline ditches in Kansas. Eventually he made his way to the oil fields and became a driller, and it was life in the oil fields and time spent at the surrounding honky tonks that pulled Griffin back into music. He began playing nightly and eventually got a program of his own (as Chuck Wyman, a name owned by the station) on WKY.

The early '50s looked like a promising period for a new generation of country singers — what's more, the death of Hank Williams on New Year's Day 1953 had left a huge gap in country music that was waiting to be filled. Griffin looked like the man to fill it. He came out of the honky tonks much as Williams had, and his songs had a direct simplicity of expression and a complexity in their execution that recalled Williams at his best. He had a strong voice and a charismatic
persona, wrote songs, was building a serious local following, and seemed to be haunted by none of the personal demons that had blighted Williams' later life.

Griffin came to the attention of Joe Leonard, the owner of a radio station in Gainesville, TX, who had acquired the Lin Records label and saw an opportunity to make the singer/songwriter a star and both of them some money. He signed Griffin and recorded him at Dallas radio station WFAA in early 1954. His earliest sides, "It Don't Make No Nevermind" and "Meadowlark Boogie," were both hybrids of hillbilly and Western swing that failed to click. A series of follow-up sessions in September of that year yielded some more advanced sides and sounds that fell, 

similarly, on deaf ears as far as radio stations were concerned. On stage, by contrast, he was as popular as ever and appeared on the same bills with the likes of Red Foley and Marty Robbins.

There were some great records, too. "Bawlin' and Squallin'" mixed the best elements of honky tonk and Western swing effortlessly (members of Bob Wills' band played on this side and the rest of that session), with a breezy delivery that rural rock & roll fans, at least, should have loved. And "Let's Elope Baby" should have been a mainstream country classic.

MGM was looking to get in on the rock & roll boom and apparently saw Griffin as a potential rockabilly crossover star, in the manner of his Lin Records stablemate Andy Starr or future MGM rock & roller/country star Conway Twitty. Some of Griffin's songs did, indeed, have a hard, almost rockabilly-type edge. But he was too Southern in his sound and the sensibilities of his lyrics to find much appeal outside of the rural South, and many of the songs he was doing during this period were too serious for the kids he was supposed to be aiming at.

The MGM deal ended in the early '60s, after which Griffin cut songs for the Holiday Inn label, none of which sold. He was almost out of the music business by 1963, making ends meet by selling Bibles. He continued to write and publish songs into the late '60s, and recorded occasionally.  From
1965 Griffin worked as a Driller in the Kansas and Oklahoma oilfields as well as becoming a licensed pilot, owning several airplanes. He was a major force behind the building of an airstrip south of Hoisington, Kansas. He still wrote and published songs and occasionally recorded. In the 1970s his chronic asthma became a barrier to performing. He died of complications to emphysema on February 14, 2009 in Sayre, Oklahoma. (INFO edited from All Music & Wikipedia)

Friday, 22 February 2013

Guy Mitchell born 22 February 1927

Guy Mitchell, born Albert George Cernik (February 22, 1927 – July 1, 1999) was an American pop singer, successful in his homeland, the U.K. and Australia. As an international recording star of the 1950s he achieved record sales in excess of 44 million units and this included six million-selling singles.

In the fall of 1957, Mitchell starred in his own ABC variety
show, The Guy Mitchell Show. He also appeared as George Romack on the 1961 NBC western detective series Whispering Smith, with World War II hero Audie Murphy in the leading role.

Born of Croatian immigrants, in Detroit, Michigan, at the age of eleven he was signed by Warner Brothers Pictures, to be groomed as a child star, and he also performed on the radio on Station KFWB in Los Angeles, California. After leaving school, he worked as a saddlemaker, but supplemented his income by singing whenever he could. At this point in his life, Dude Martin, who had a country music broadcast in San Francisco, noticed him and hired him to perform with his band.

He served in the United States Navy for two years, and after leaving the service became a singer with Carmen Cavallaro's big band. In 1947 he made recordings for Decca with Cavallaro's band, but had to leave due to food poisoning. He
eventually went to New York City, and made records for King Records under the name Al Grant (one in particular, "Cabaret", appeared in the Variety magazine charts). He won on the radio show Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts in 1949 as a soloist.

Mitch Miller, who was in charge of talent at Columbia Records, noticed Cernik in 1950, and he joined Columbia and got his new stage name at Miller's urging: Miller is supposed to have said, "my name is 'Mitchell' and you seem a nice 'guy', so we'll call you Guy Mitchell". Bob Merrill wrote a string of top hits for Mitchell.

In the 1950s and 1960s he acted in movies as well as singing. He starred with Rhonda Fleming,  Gene Barry, Agnes
Moorehead and Teresa Brewer in "Those Redheads From Seattle" (1953), a comedy about the Gold Rush, and with Rosemary Clooney and Jack Carson in "Red Garters" (1954), a musical western spoof, and appeared in "The Wild Westerners" (1962). He also sang in the Braemor Rooms, Churchtown, Dublin, Ireland.

His first hit was "My Heart Cries for You" (1951). Though he is a pre-rock pop singer, many of his songs have a decided rock beat to them, including "Heartaches by the Number", "Rock-a-Billy", "The Same Old Me" and his biggest hit, "Singing the Blues", which was number one for 10 weeks in 1956.


After being dropped from Columbia Records in 1962, Mitchell recorded sporadically for several labels and was a regular performer on the nostalgia circuit. By the mid-1970s, America’s one-time “Prince of Pop” had decided to go into semi-retirement concentrating on his ranching and love for the 'great outdoors'. The 1980s heralded a renaissance for the singer when an appearance on a television tribute to Mitch Miller spurred a new album.

In the early eighties Guy Mitchell appeared on a tribute television special devoted to the life and times of Mitch Miller who had been so much a part of his career. His well received performance on the show led to a return to the performing life and he was especially received in a number of concert dates in Western Europe. This renewed interest also sparked a barrage of re-releases of many of his earlier recordings for Columbia Records. From then on through the nineteen nineties Guy Mitchell traveled to Australia, New
Zealand, England, Ireland, and a number of venues in the U.S. He became a mainstay in demand at hotels and casinos in Las Vegas.

In 1997, he was diagnosed as having Leukemia and started a course of treatment. The decade however closed on a very sad note when the much-loved singer, aged 72, passed away in a Las Vegas hospital after complications following surgery.

In 2007, to commemorate his musical legacy and what would have been his 80th birthday, the English division of SonyBMG released The Essential Collection CD.His song "Heartaches by the Number" was part of the soundtrack of the game Fallout: New Vegas. (Info mainly Wikipedia)

Here's a clip of Guy Mitchell with She Wears Red Feathers. One of the many hit records that Guy Mitchell enjoyed in the 1950s. The Columbia single made No.19 in the USA Billboard charts, and was a massive No.1 in the UK NME charts. It remains one of Guy's best remembered recordings, and was always a highlight of his stage and TV performances for the rest of his life. Notice the four guys dressed as cockney pearly kings. It's top American vocal group, The Hi-Lo's.