Monday, 26 May 2014

George Formby born 26 May 1904


George Formby, OBE (26 May 1904 – 6 March 1961), was a British actor, singer-songwriter and comedian. He sang light, comical songs, usually playing the ukulele or banjolele. He was a major star of stage and screen in the 1930s and '40s, when Formby became the UK's highest-paid entertainer. His songs such as "When I'm Cleaning Windows" were particularly popular during the Second World War (1939–45).
Formby was born at 3 Westminster Street, Wigan, Lancashire, as George Hoy Booth, the eldest of seven surviving children (four girls and three boys). His father (James Booth) was George Formby, Sr. (1875-1921) one of the great music hall comedians of his day, fully the equal of his son's later success. His father, not wishing him even to watch his performances, moved the family to Atherton Road in Hindley (near Wigan) and it was from there that Formby was apprenticed as a jockey when he was seven and rode his first professional race at ten when he weighed under four stone (56 pounds, 25.4 kg).
On the death of his father in 1921, Formby abandoned his career as a jockey and started his own music hall career using his father's material. He originally called himself George Hoy (George Hoy was also his maternal grandfather's name, who originally came from Newmarket, Suffolk, a famous horseracing town and whose family were involved in racehorse training). In 1924 he married dancer Beryl Ingham, who managed his career (and it is said his personal life to an intolerable degree) until her death in 1960. He allegedly took up the ukulele, for which he was later famous, as a hobby; he first played it on stage for a bet.
Formby endeared himself to his audiences with his cheeky Lancashire humour and folksy north of England persona. In film and on stage, he generally adopted the character of an honest, good-hearted but accident-prone innocent who used the phrases: "It's turned out nice again!" as an opening line and "Ooh, mother!" when escaping from trouble.
What made him stand out, however, was his unique and often mimicked musical style. He sang comic songs, full of double entendre, to his own accompaniment on the banjolele, for which he developed a catchy musical syncopated style which became his trademark. Some of his best-known songs were written by Noel Gay. Some of his songs were considered too rude for broadcasting. His 1937 song, "With my little stick of Blackpool Rock" was banned by the BBC because of the lyrics.
His best-known song, "Leaning on a Lamp-post" was written by Noel Gay. He recorded two more Noel Gay songs, "The Left-Hand Side of Egypt" and "Who Are You A-Shoving Of?" Over two hundred of the songs he performed, many of which were recorded, were written by Fred Cliffe and Harry Gifford, either in collaboration or separately, and Formby was included in the credits of a number of them, including "When I'm Cleaning Windows". 

Some of his songs were considered too rude for broadcasting. His 1937 song, "With My Little Stick Of Blackpool Rock" was banned by the BBC because of its suggestive lyrics. Formby's songs are rife with sly humour, as in "Mr Wu's A Window Cleaner Now" where Formby is about to sing "ladies' knickers" and suddenly changes it to "ladies' garters"; and in 1940's "On the Wigan Boat Express," in which a lady passenger "was feeling shocks in her signal box." Formby's cheerful, innocent demeanour and nasal, high-pitched Lancashire accent neutralised the shock value of the lyrics.
He made his first successful record (he had been making records as early as 1926) in 1932 with the Jack Hylton Band, and his first sound film Boots! Boots! in 1934 (Formby had appeared in a sole silent film in 1915). The film was successful and he signed a contract to make a further 11 with Associated Talking Pictures, earned him a then-astronomical income of £100,000 per year. A subsequent contract with Columbia Pictures earned him a further £500,000.
Between 1934 and 1945 Formby was the top box-office attraction in British cinema. He appeared in the 1937 Royal Variety Show, and entertained troops with ENSA in Europe and North Africa during World War II. He received an OBE in 1946. He had received a Stalin Prize in 1944, prompted by the popularity of his films in the USSR. His most popular film, and still regarded as probably his best, is the espionage comedy Let George Do It, in which he is a member of a concert party, takes the wrong ship by mistake during a blackout, and finds himself in Norway (mistaking Bergen for Blackpool) as a secret agent. A dream sequence in which he punches Hitler on the nose and addresses him as a "windbag" is one of the most enduring moments in film comedy.
Formby suffered his first heart attack in 1952. His wife Beryl died of leukaemia on 24 December 1960 and he planned to marry Pat Howson, a 36-year-old schoolteacher, in the spring of 1961. However he had a second heart attack before then and died in hospital on 6 March 1961. His funeral was held in St. Charles' Church in Aigburth, Liverpool and an estimated 100,000 mourners lined the route as his coffin was driven to Warrington Cemetery, where he was buried in the Booth family grave.

Pat Howson was well provided-for in Formby's will, but when she died soon afterwards, it was believed that the fortune was jinxed.
On 15 September 2007 a bronze statue of Formby was unveiled in his home town of Wigan, Lancashire, in the town's Grand Arcade Shopping Centre. (Info Wikipedia)

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Donnie Elbert born 25 May 1936


Donnie Elbert (May 25, 1936 — January 26, 1989) was an American soul singer who had a prolific career from the mid 1950s to the late 1970s. His US hits included "Where Did Our Love Go?" (1972), and his reputation as a Northern soul artist in the UK was secured by "A Little Piece of Leather", a performance highlighting his powerful falsetto voice.
Elbert was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, but when aged three his family relocated to Buffalo, New York. He learned to play guitar and piano as a child, and in 1955 formed a doo-wop group, the Vibraharps, with friend Danny Cannon. Elbert acted as the group's guitarist, songwriter, arranger, and background vocalist, making his recording debut on their single "Walk Beside Me".
He left the group in 1957 for a solo career, and recorded a demonstration record that earned him a recording contract with the King label's DeLuxe subsidiary. His solo debut "What Can I Do?" reached #12 in the U.S. R&B chart, and he followed it up with the less successful "Believe It or Not" and "Have I Sinned?", which became a regional hit in Pittsburgh.
He continued to release singles on DeLuxe, but with little commercial success, and also played New York's Apollo Theater and toured the chitlin' circuit of African-American owned nightclubs. After completing an album, The Sensational Donnie Elbert Sings, he left DeLuxe in 1959, joining first Red Top Records, where in 1960 he recorded "Someday (You'll Want Me to Want You)", and then Vee-Jay Records, where he had another regional hit with "Will You Ever Be Mine?," which reportedly sold 250,000 copies in the Philadelphia area but failed to take off nationwide.
His career was also interrupted by a spell in the US Army, from which he was discharged in 1961. He then recorded singles for several labels, including Parkway, Cub and Checker, but with little success. However, although the 1965 Gateway label release of "A Little Piece of Leather" failed to chart in the US, the record became a #27 pop hit when released on the Sue label in the UK several years later in 1972, and remains a Northern soul favorite.
Elbert relocated to the UK in 1966, where he married. There, he recorded "In Between Heartaches" for Atco Records in 1968, a cover version of The Supremes' hit "Where Did Our Love Go?". and an album of Otis Redding cover versions, Tribute To A King. His 1969 Deram release "Without You" had a rocksteady rhythm, and went to the top of the Jamaican charts. He returned to the US the same year, and had his first US chart hit in over a decade with the Rare Bullet label release "Can't Get Over Losing You," which reached #26 on the Billboard R&B chart. Following the success of that record, "Where Did Our Love Go?" was released on the All Platinum label, and became his biggest hit, reaching #15 on the US pop charts, #6 on the R&B charts, and (in 1972) #8 in the UK. Its follow-up "Sweet Baby" reached #30 on the R&B chart in early 1972.


Elbert then signed with Avco-Embassy, where he entered the recording studio with the successful production team of Hugo & Luigi. Although his cover of The Four Tops' "I Can't Help Myself" reached #14 on the R&B chart, Elbert balked at the label's insistence that he record material associated with Motown. He returned to All Platinum and had a run of minor R&B hits, but left after he claimed authorship of Shirley & Company's R&B chart-topper "Shame Shame Shame" which was credited to label owner Sylvia Robinson. For 1975's "You Keep Me Crying (With Your Lying)," Elbert finally formed his own label, and "I Got to Get Myself Together," appeared on an imprint bearing his surname, but it was among his final recordings.
By the mid 1980s Elbert had retired from performing, and became director of A&R for Polygram's Canadian division. He suffered a massive stroke and died in 1989, at the age of 52. (Info Wikipedia)

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Herbie Fields born 24 May 1924

Herbie Fields (May 24, 1919 in Asbury Park, New Jersey (or possibly -Elizabeth) – September 17, 1958 in Miami, Florida) was a jazz musician. He attended New York's famed Juilliard School of Music (1936–1938) and served in the U.S. Army from 1941–1943.
Whilst at Elizabeth NJ High school symphony orchestra, Herbie played clarinet. In March 1936 he won first prize of week's engagement at Roxy Theater in NYC for alto performance on Fred Allen amateur radio show also got his first professional job small group roadhouse dates Atlantic coast. He played with Bobby Day as saxman and vocalist in 1938. During a jam session in 1939 ("in a Harlem basement"), Roy Eldridge asked fields if he would mind playing with Leonard Ware's quintet. During 1940 Herbie played with Slam Stewart then joined Raymond Scott's quintet in Chicago until his draft in 1941.
Fields led a band at Fort Dix while in the Army, but didn't record until 1944 when he cut two sides for Bob Thiele's Signature label. Over the next year and a half he recorded for Savoy; notably, he shared a date with Rubberlegs Williams that featured teenaged Miles Davis' recording debut. Fields replaced Earl Bostic, as alto saxophonist in Lionel Hampton's band. Fields was fluent in a variety of reed instruments, from clarinet to baritone saxophone. In 1945, he won Esquire magazine's New Star Award on the Alto Sax. In 1946, RCA Victor signed Fields as leader of his own big band, a format that was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain in the Post-War period.
Neal Hefti was one of his sidemen along with Bill Evans, Eddie Bert, Bernie Glow, Manny Albam, Al Klink (formally with Glenn Miller), Marty Napoleon and Serge Chaloff. "Dardanella" was his biggest hit. The band was a commercial failure—as were many big bands of the day.
In 1949-1950, he formed his Septet featuring Frank Rosolino on trombone, Jimmy Nottingham on trumpet, Jim Aton on bass, Bill Evans on piano and Tiny Kahn on drums. The band was based in Chicago and backed numerous stage shows, and frequently had Lurlean Hunter on vocals. In the summer of 1950 Fields' group accompanied Billie Holiday on a successful three-month tour of East Coast venues, including the Apollo Theater in Harlem and the Howard Theater in Washington.
In 1953, saxophonist Herbie Fields released "Harlem Nocturne" as a single, then becoming one of the first popular jazz versions. And not long after that came a raft of cover versions by virtually every sax player in the R & B business. According to one source, there may be as many as 500 versions, making it one of the most covered songs in history.  

Fields gravitated toward an R& B conception in the fifties, and was disgruntled about his lack of success. Vibist Terry Gibbs noted: We played opposite a nine-piece band led by Herbie Fields at Birdland. He was a good tenor player but not in the bebop style. He was more of a "honker" and played what they called rhythm and blues. He did that very well but he wasn't a Birdland-style attraction.'"
And pianist Bill Evans recalled: "In some ways he had been a forerunner of rock `n' roll. He was wiggling, jerking. Rock n' roll came, brought millions of dollars, but nothing for Herbie Fields.'"
His recording activity in the fifties was sporadic, and ranged from a few more big band sides, honking jukebox tunes (for Parrot), bop-tinged small groups, and finally a reeds and strings session released after his death by Fraternity. He lived in Miami, and had owned a restaurant there, the Rancher, in North Miami. He had a trio, himself, Skeets McLane and Cookie Norwood that played at the Rancher.
Depressed over his relative inactivity Fields died following an overdose of sleeping pills at his home in Miami on September 17, 1958 aged 39. In a note addressed to his mother he wrote that he was "despondent over financial and domestic troubles", and ended 'I have completed my mission in life."
(Info various mainly Wikipedia)

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Eric Delaney born 22 May 1924

Eric Delaney (22 May 1924 – 14 July 2011) was an English drummer and bandleader, popular in the 1950s and early 1960s.
Delaney was born in Acton, London. When he was 18 months old, his mother bought him his first drum for sixpence in Woolworths. At 10, billed as Britain’s youngest drummer, he was leading his first band in a variety show at the Troquette, Elephant and Castle.
Aged 16, he won the Best Swing Drummer award and later joined the Bert Ambrose Octet which featured George Shearing on piano. The main Ambrose band was resident in London’s West End while the octet played the variety theatres, and when war broke out George Shearing, being blind, had no problem getting around in the blackout and would escort the young drummer home at night.
Called up at 18, Delaney played in an RAF band for the duration and, listening to a Geraldo broadcast one night, was heard to say: “Marvellous band, I’m going to play with Gerry one day”. Four years later he auditioned for the band, but Geraldo himself was away in America at the time, and Robert Farnon was standing in for him. Nerve-racked at the prospect of playing for the great Farnon, Delaney could hardly believe his ears when he was asked if he would like to stay on for the band’s broadcast that evening. “Yes please” was his reply, and following the broadcast he was given the job.
It was during his eight years with Geraldo that Delaney began using two bass drums with tom-toms on top. One day, finding some timpani in the studio, he began playing them with his wire brushes. The trombonist Don Lusher, who was in the band at the time, liked the sound he made, and gave Delaney the idea that was to make his name. “I’ll play the timps with brushes,” Delaney declared, “no one has ever done that before.”

Delaney left Geraldo in 1954, formed his own band and recorded Oranges and Lemons featuring the timps, which became a first-time hit for the only British band on the American-owned Mercury Label. Other hits followed, including Roamin’ in the Gloamin’ and Delaney’s Delight. He later signed with the new Pye Records label. He made three Royal Variety Show appearances, the first in 1956.
Alan Roper was hired as arranger for the line-up of five trumpets and four saxophones, three tenors and a baritone, reflecting Delaney’s admiration for Woody Herman.
Delaney was a born showman and now the ideas came thick and fast with a different stage setting for every number. For Hornpipe Boogie there was a big ship with cannon that went off; the drum rostrum was on a revolve with flashing lights so that the audience could see the two bass drums. Eric specialised in up-tempo dance hall music, often carrying a rock n' roll label but closer in spirit to that of Geraldo and Joe Loss. In 1959, with the arrival of Bill Hayley and rock and roll, Delaney decided to downsize to a six-piece band which included Tony Fisher, Alan Skidmore, Kenny Salmon and later Steve Gray and Jim Lawless.
 The Eric Delaney Band released this version of "Manhattan Spiritual" in 1962, it did not make the UK charts, the version by Reg Owen was UK hit in 1959. Below is the B Side "Down Home."
As with many similar artists, the music he performed became less popular after The Beatles entered the musical scene. He remained active touring in the UK, notably in holiday resorts, nonetheless. In the 1980s he led a small band at Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach, gaining a big following with his revolving drums. In 1998 he moved to Benidorm where he became a nightly attraction playing at the Talk of the Town into the early hours of the morning, when many of the other cabaret performers would stay on to watch him. He returned to Britain in 2006 and continued entertaining audiences and inspiring a new generation of musicians.
Delaney was held in high regard by his musical peers, including top American drummer Louie Bellson who he recorded with in 1967 on an album entitled Repercussion. Originally released in high quality stereo on the Studio2Stereo label, it was re-released on the Vocalion label in 2011.
Eric Delaney died peacefully in his sleep on July 14 aged 87. He was married three times and is survived by his daughters, Hannah, Donna and Kindah, and son, Tony.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Fats Waller born 21 May 1904

Thomas Wright "Fats" Waller (May 21, 1904 – December 15, 1943) was an influential jazz pianist, organist, composer, singer, and comedic entertainer, whose innovations to the Harlem stride style laid the groundwork for modern jazz piano, and whose best-known compositions, "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Honeysuckle Rose", were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame
posthumously, in 1984 and 1999.
Thomas Wright Waller was the youngest of eleven children (five survived childhood) born to Adeline Locket Waller and Reverend Edward Martin Waller in New York City. He started playing the piano when he was six and graduated to the organ of his father's church four years later. His mother instructed him as a youth. At the age of fourteen he was playing the organ at Harlem's Lincoln Theater and within twelve months he had composed his first rag. Waller's first piano solos ("Muscle Shoals Blues" and "Birmingham Blues") were recorded in October 1922 when he was 18 years old. He was the prize pupil, and later friend and colleague, of stride pianist James P. Johnson.
Overcoming opposition from his clergyman father, Waller became a professional pianist at 15, working in cabarets and theaters. In 1918 he won a talent contest playing Johnson's "Carolina Shout", a song he learned from watching a player piano play it.
Waller ultimately became one of the most popular performers of his era, finding critical and commercial success in his homeland and in Europe. He was also a prolific songwriter and many songs he wrote or co-wrote are still popular, such as "Honeysuckle Rose", "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Squeeze Me". Fellow pianist and composer Oscar Levant dubbed Waller "the black Horowitz". Waller is believed to have composed many novelty tunes in the 1920s and 1930s and sold them for relatively small sums, the attributions of which, on becoming widely known, went only to a later composer and lyricist.
Standards alternatively and sometimes controversially attributed to Waller include "I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Baby". Biographer Barry Singer conjectured that this jazz classic was written by Waller and lyricist Andy Razaf, and provides a description of the sale given by Waller to the NY Post in 1929—for $500, to a white songwriter, ultimately for use in a financially successful show (consistent with Jimmy McHugh's contributions first to Harry Delmar’s Revels, 1927, and then to Blackbirds, 1928). He further supports the conjecture, noting that early handwritten manuscripts in the Dana Library Institute of Jazz Studies of “Spreadin’ Rhythm Around” (Jimmy McHugh ©1935) are in Waller's hand.
Anecdotally, there is an account that when near death from cancer in the early 1970s, Razaf whispered the favorite of all his lyrics as being the chorus of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” Jazz historian P.S. Machlin comments that the Singer conjecture has "considerable [historical] justification". Waller's son Maurice wrote in his 1977 biography of his father that Fats had once complained on hearing the song, and came from upstairs to admonish him never to play it in his hearing because he'd had to sell it when he needed money. Maurice Waller's biography similarly notes his father's objections to hearing "On the Sunny Side of the Street" playing on the radio. Waller recorded "I Can't Give You…" in 1938, playing the tune but making fun of the lyrics; the recording was with Adelaide Hall who had introduced the song to the world at Les Ambassadeurs Club in New York in 1928.
The anonymous sleeve notes on the 1960 RCA Victor album Handful of Keys state that Waller copyrighted over 400 new songs, many of which co-written with his closest collaborator Andy Razaf. Razaf described his partner as "the soul of melody... a man who made the piano sing... both big in body and in mind... known for his generosity... a bubbling bundle of joy". Gene Sedric, a clarinetist who played with Waller on some of his 1930s recordings, is quoted in these same sleeve notes recalling Waller's recording technique with considerable admiration: "Fats was the most relaxed man I ever saw in a studio, and so he made everybody else relaxed. After a balance had been taken, we'd just need one take to make a side, unless it was a kind of difficult number."
Waller played with many performers, from Nat Shilkret (on Victor 21298-A) and Gene Austin, to Erskine Tate, Fletcher Henderson, McKinney's Cotton Pickers and Adelaide Hall, but his greatest success came with his own five- or six-piece combo, "Fats Waller and his Rhythm".
His playing once put him at risk of injury. Waller was kidnapped in Chicago leaving a performance in 1926. Four men bundled him into a car and took him to the Hawthorne Inn, owned by Al Capone. Waller was ordered inside the building, and found a party in full swing. Gun to his back, he was pushed towards a piano, and told to play. A terrified Waller realized he was the "surprise guest" at Capone's birthday party, and took comfort that the gangsters did not intend to kill him. It is rumored that Waller stayed at the Hawthorne Inn for three days and left very drunk, extremely tired, and had earned thousands of dollars in cash from Capone and other party-goers as tips.
In 1926, Waller began his recording association with Victor Records, his principal record company for the rest of his life, with the organ solos "St. Louis Blues" and his own composition, "Lenox Avenue Blues". Although he recorded with various groups, including Morris's Hot Babes (1927), Fats Waller's Buddies (1929) (one of the earliest interracial groups to record), and McKinney's Cotton Pickers (1929), his most important contribution to the Harlem stride piano tradition was a series of solo recordings of his own compositions: "Handful of Keys", "Smashing Thirds", "Numb Fumblin'", and "Valentine Stomp" (1929). After sessions with Ted Lewis (1931), Jack Teagarden (1931) and Billy Banks' Rhythmakers (1932), he began in May 1934 the voluminous series of recordings with a small band known as Fats Waller and his Rhythm. This six-piece group usually included Herman Autrey (sometimes replaced by Bill Coleman or John "Bugs" Hamilton), Gene Sedric or Rudy Powell, and Al Casey.
Waller wrote "Squeeze Me" (1919), "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now", "Ain't Misbehavin'" (1929), "Blue Turning Grey Over You", "I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling" (1929), "Honeysuckle Rose" (1929) and "Jitterbug Waltz" (1942). He collaborated with the Tin Pan Alley lyricist Andy Razaf. He composed stride piano display pieces such as "Handful of Keys", "Valentine Stomp" and "Viper's Drag". 

He enjoyed success touring the United Kingdom and Ireland in the 1930s. He appeared in one of the first BBC television broadcasts. While in Britain, Waller also recorded a number of songs for EMI on their Compton Theatre organ located in their Abbey Road Studios in St John's Wood. He appeared in several feature films and short subject films, most notably Stormy Weather in 1943, which was released July 21, just months before his death. For the hit Broadway show Hot Chocolates, he and Razaf wrote "(What Did I Do to Be So) Black and Blue" (1929), which became a hit for Ethel Waters and Louis Armstrong.
Waller performed Bach organ pieces for small groups on occasion. Waller influenced many pre-bop jazz pianists; Count Basie and Erroll Garner have both reanimated his hit songs (notably, "Ain't Misbehavin'"). In addition to his playing, Waller was known for his many quips during his performances.
Between 1926 and the end of 1927, Waller recorded a series of pipe organ solo records. These represent the first time syncopated jazz compositions were performed on a full-sized church organ.
Waller contracted pneumonia and died on a cross-country train trip near Kansas City, Missouri, on December 15, 1943.
His final recording session was with an interracial group in Detroit, Michigan, that included white trumpeter Don Hirleman. Waller was returning to New York City from Los Angeles, after the smash success of Stormy Weather, and after a successful engagement at the Zanzibar Room, during which he had fallen ill. Coincidentally, as the train with the body of Waller stopped in Kansas City, so stopped a train with his dear friend Louis Armstrong on board.
More than 4,000 people attended his funeral in Harlem, which prompted Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., who delivered the eulogy, to say that Fats Waller “always played to a packed house.”  Afterwards he was cremated and his ashes were scattered, from an airplane piloted by an unidentified World War I black aviator, over Harlem. (Info edited from Wikipedia)
Fats Waller - Ain't Misbehavin' with Lena Horne, dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, drummer Zutty Singleton, bassist Slam Stewart, Trumpeter Benny Carter in "Stormy Weather" (1943) by Andrew L. Stone, for Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.


Monday, 19 May 2014

Mickey Newbury born 19 May 1940

Mickey Newbury (May 19, 1940 - September 29, 2002) was an American  songwriter  for Acuff-Rose Music, a critically acclaimed recording artist, and a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Born Milton Slim Newbury, Jr. in Houston, Texas. As a teenager, Mickey Newbury sang tenor in a moderately successful vocal group called The Embers. The group opened for several famous performers, such as Sam Cooke and Johnny Cash. Although Mickey tried to make a living off of his music by singing in clubs, he put his musical career on hold at age 19 when he joined the Air Force. After four years in the military, Mickey again set his sights on making a living as a songwriter. Before long, he moved to Nashville and signed to the prestigious publishing company Acuff-Rose Music.
For a time, he was one of the most influential creative minds in Nashville and it's arguable that he was the first real "outlaw" of the outlaw country movement of the 1970s. Ralph Emery referred to him as the first "hippie-cowboy" and along with Johnny Cash and Roger Miller, he was one of the first to rebel against the conventions of the Nashville music society. After being disappointed by the production methods used by Felton Jarvis on his debut album, Mickey got himself released from his contract with RCA and signed the first offer he received to comply with his condition that he could either produce his own albums or hire a producer of his choice.
He went on to record three musically revolutionary albums in Wayne Moss's garage-turned-studio just outside of Nashville. The influence of the production methods can be heard in the albums Waylon Jennings went on to record in the 1970s (with instrumentation highly unconventional for country music) and his poetically sophisticated style of songwriting was highly influential on Kris Kristofferson.It was Newbury who convinced Roger Miller to record Kristofferson's "Me & Bobby McGee", which went on to launch Kristofferson as country music's top songwriter. Newbury is also responsible for getting Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark to move to Nashville and pursue careers as songwriters. However, he had no desire to cash-in on the Outlaw movement.
In 1974, he moved to a house on the McKenzie River in Oregon with his wife, Susan, and new born son, Chris, where they welcomed three more children over the years. He recorded several albums throughout the 1970s for Elektra and ABC/Hickory, all of them critically praised, but financially unsuccessful.

In 1980, he was given the distinction of being the youngest songwriter ever inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Although he spent much of the 1980s retired from performing and recording music, he returned both to recording and touring in the late 1980s before he died following a prolonged battle with pulmonary fibrosis on September 29, 2002, aged 62.
Newbury wrote many songs that would be recorded by singers and songwriters such as Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Bill Monroe, Johnny Rodriguez, Hank Snow, Ray Charles, Tony Rice, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tammy Wynette, Ray Price, Don Gibson, Brenda Lee, Charlie Rich, Lynn Anderson, David Allan Coe, Sammi Smith, Joan Baez, Tom Jones, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, John Denver, Kenny Rogers, Steve Von Till, B.B. King, Linda Ronstadt, Dax Riggs and Bobby "Blue" Bland, among many others.

Although his songs have been recorded by hundreds of performers from a wide variety of musical genres, he is most remembered for his creation of "An American Trilogy", a medley that was recorded by many, including symphony orchestras, and Elvis Presley.
He simultaneously had four Top 10 singles on four different charts in the late 60s. Eddy Arnold had a No. 1 Country hit with "Here Comes the Rain, Baby", Andy Williams had a No. 4 Easy Listening hit with "Sweet Memories", and Kenny Rogers and the First Edition had a No. 5 Pop/Rock hit with "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)". The group also recorded the Newbury penned "Sunshine".
Shortly before his death, Newbury was interviewed by John Kruth, who was writing a biography on Townes Van Zandt, where he stated "How many people have listened to my songs and thought, 'He must have a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a pistol in the other'. Well, I don't. I write my sadness." (Info from Wikipedia)

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Charles Trenet born 18 May 1913

Charles Trenet (born Louis Charles Auguste Claude Trenet, 18 May 1913, Narbonne, France – 19 February 2001, Créteil, France) was a French singer and songwriter, most famous for his recordings from the late 1930s until the mid-1950s, though his career continued through the 1990s. In an era in which it was exceptional for a singer to write his or her own material, Trenet wrote prolifically and declined to record any but his own songs.  

The popular composer-performer of “La mer” and nearly 1,000 other songs, Charles Trenet is the figurehead of present-day chansonniers. A performing legend on a par with Piaf, Chevalier and Sablon, Charles Trenet, the self-styled ‘clown’ of French cabaret, was also an entertainer whose larger-than-life antics masked a broader polymathy and unflagging professional dynamism. Born in Narbonne, in Aude, South-Western France, on 18 May 1913 he always had, first and foremost, a talent for words. He was also given from an early age to vocal improvising and at kindergarten, when asked by his nanny what he was singing about, is said to have replied ‘Je chante ce que j’invente’.
In 1922, following his parents’ divorce, Charles moved with his brother Antoine to Perpignan, where their father was a practising lawyer, and at fifteen, spurred on by the Catalan poet Bausil, he published his first verses. Through this genial but eccentric man-of-letters, who also edited and published the sporting chronicle Le Coq Catalan, Trenet rubbed shoulders with such prominent avant-garde figures as Giono, Giraudoux, Mauriac, Maurois, Saint-Exupéry and the painter Fons Godail, a noted cabaret set-designer under whose influence the young Charles was to exhibit, in 1927, various examples of his own work. In 1928 he joined his mother and step-father (former silent-screen set-designer Benno Vigny) in Berlin and there aspired, at least briefly, to become a film-director! His father had hoped he would become an architect, but the artistically-inclined Charles devoted himself instead to writing his first novel: Dodo Manières.
In 1930 Trenet moved to Paris where he worked as a graphic artist at Pathé’s Joinville film studios and, quickly settling in the capital frequented the nightspots of Montmartre and Montparnasse (notably Le Boeuf sur le Toit). Billed as ‘Le fou chantant’ (the singing clown), he soon rose to cabaret stardom, while his associates in intellectual circles included fellow-writers Antonin Artaud, Jean Cocteau and his literary mentor and hero Max Jacob (1876-1944).
During 1933 Trenet’s song-writing and performing duo with his partner, the Swiss-born lyricist-composer Johnny Hess (1915-1983) took off – with a little help from Josephine Baker – and with Hess he went on to co-write many successes, including “Rendez-vous sous la pluie” (1935) and the 1936 Grand Prix du Disque-winner “Vous qui passez sans me voir”. As ‘Charles et Johnny’ the pair recorded for Pathé and made regular cabaret appearances until both were drafted into French military service, in 1936.
Taking his lead from Mireille and Sablon and other revitalisers of the chanson, by mid-decade Trenet was in the vanguard of composer-performers who, inspired by the recently imported transatlantic idiom, had re-channelled Jazz into Swing. His musical gifts were complemented from the outset by an inordinate, if sometimes unequal, poetical instinct. The author of three novels and copious reams of verse (in style at first surréaliste, in emulation of Max Jacob), the songs he wrote from the late-1930s onwards enshrined in some measure the spirit of the age. Like Prévert and few others, he skilfully distilled nostalgia both musically and verbally with amazing economy.
Signed by Columbia, in 1937 Trenet made his first solo commercial recordings: Fleur bleue coupled with Je chante (this last, one of several Trenet collaborations with Paul Misraki), the virtual anthem which was to become the title of his first film Je chante (1938), which also featured La vie qui va). Written during his military service, Y a d’la joie became his greatest hit to date and led to an invitation to write and appear in two films, of which La route enchantée (1938 – this included Grand Prix-winning ‘Boum!’) was the most successful. In 1943, with more limited success, he returned to the screen (as co-writer with Jacques Prévert) in Adieu, Léonard and spent the rest of World WarII in maintaining French morale with his songs, most significantly “Douce France” (1943).
In 1945 Trenet moved to the USA where for several years he worked mainly as a writer.
Many of his recordings were issued in the States and although none made the popular charts Top 30 several enjoyed wide circulation and assured Trenet a circle of ardent admirers. By 1952 he was again domiciled in his native France, but made regular return trips to the USA and Canada. Energetic and dynamic at every public appearance (‘Je suis né poète, je mourrai athlète’ was the oft-quoted motto which he joked would one day be his epitaph), he continued a rigorous performing schedule in France until his official retirement in 1975.
 Not yet content to withdraw from the limelight, however, by the end of the decade he had embarked on a series of farewell tours in Canada. In 1978 he published his memoirs, jointly with his mother (who died shortly afterwards) and until the late 1980s he made further tours of Europe and Canada. In 1993 he appeared in a BBC radio tribute, in London. Awarded the Légion d’Honneur in 1989 he was later variously created a commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and Président of the French Ministry of Culture’s Commission for Song.
Never wanting in creative energy, in 1992 and 1995 Trenet published new collections of songs and during November 1999 gave three concerts in Paris where, apparently undaunted in spirit if weakened physically by a series of strokes, he sang at a Charles Aznavour concert in 2000. On 18 February 2001, aged 87 years, he died in a hospital near Paris and the following day was hailed by French President Jacques Chirac as ‘a great artist, poet and national institution.’ (Info from Peter Dempsey, 2004)