Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Johnny Mathis born 30 September 1935

John Royce Mathis (b. September 30, 1935), known popularly as Johnny Mathis, is an American Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter of popular music. Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, who heard over 2000 singers on his show, said: "Johnny Mathis is the best ballad singer in the world."
Mathis was born fourth of seven children in Gilmer, Texas to Clem and Mildred Mathis. The family moved when he was young to San Francisco, California on Post Street, in the famous Fillmore district where he was raised. His father worked for a time in vaudeville, and when he saw the budding talent in his son, the elder Mathis bought an old upright piano for US$25 to encourage his efforts. 
At thirteen, Mathis was taken to Connie Cox, a San Francisco Bay Area voice teacher, who accepted him as a student in exchange for work he would do around her house. He studied with Cox for six years, learning vocal scales and exercises, voice production, classical and operatic skills.He remains one of the few popular singers who has received years of professional voice training that included opera.
At George Washington High School, Mathis was well known, not only for his singing abilities, but also as a star athlete. On the track and field team, he was a high jumper and hurdler, and on the basketball team, he earned four athletic letters. In 1954, Mathis enrolled at San Francisco State University on a scholarship with the intention of becoming an English and physical education teacher. Mathis remains an important part of San Francisco State University's sports history—in 1954 he broke future basketball great Bill Russell's high jump record by jumping 6 ft 5 in (1.96 meters).
He was spotted by Helen Noga, owner of The Black Hawk club, at a jam session and she became his manager. In September 1955, after Noga landed Mathis a job singing weekends at Ann Dee’s 440 Club, she ruthlessly pursued jazz producer George Avakian, who she found out was on vacation in the Bay Area. Avakian came to see him sing, and sent the now famous telegram to Columbia Records: Have found phenomenal 19-year old boy who could go all the way. Send blank contracts.
Mathis now had to decide whether to go to the Olympic tryouts, to which he had been invited, or to keep an appointment in New York to make his first recordings, which were subsequently released in 1956. With his father's advice, Mathis opted for a recording career and the rest is history. 
His first album Johnny Mathis: A New Sound In Popular Song was a slow selling jazz album, but Mathis stayed in New York to play the clubs. His second album was produced by Columbia records vice-president and producer Mitch Miller, who defined the Mathis sound - he preferred him to sing soft, romantic ballads. In late 1956, Mathis recorded two of his most popular songs - "Wonderful! Wonderful!" and "It's Not For Me To Say."

That year MGM signed Mathis to sing the latter song in the 1957 film Lizzie, and shortly afterward he made his second film appearance for 20th Century Fox singing the title song in A Certain Smile -he had small acting roles in both movies as a bar singer. This early cinematic visibility in two successful movies gave him mass exposure. Next was his appearance on the very popular Ed Sullivan Show in 1957 and this helped to seal his stardom. Critics called him the velvet voice.
Johnny’s accomplishments are numerous and varied. He holds many records and has set many precedents in the music industry. In 1958, two years after being signed by Columbia Records, Johnny’s Greatest Hits was released. It began a “Greatest Hits” tradition copied by every record company since then. Johnny’s Greatest Hits went on to become one of the most popular albums of all time and spent an unprecedented 490 continuous weeks (almost ten years) on the Billboard Top Albums Chart. This record has been noted in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Mathis moved away from show tunes and traditional pop into soft rock during the '70s, and found his second number one single, "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late," in 1978. Recorded as a duet with Deniece Williams, the single prompted Mathis to begin trying duets with a variety of partners (including Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight, and Nana Mouskouri), though none of the singles enjoyed the success of the original.

Although he is frequently described as a romantic singer, his vast discography includes jazz, traditional pop, Brazilian and Spanish music, Soul, R&B, soft rock, Broadway, Tin Pan Alley standards, some blues and country songs, and even a few disco tunes for his album Mathis Magic (1979).
Mathis continued to release and sell albums throughout the '90s -- his fifth decade of recording for Columbia -- and beyond, among them 1998's Because You Loved Me: Songs of Diane Warren and 2000's Mathis on Broadway. Mathis followed the Broadway album with 2002's The Christmas Album and 2005's Isn't it Romantic: The Standards Album, both of which found the iconic vocalist in fine form.
In 2008, Mathis released the Walter Afanasieff-produced and arranged A Night to Remember, his first straight-ahead adult contemporary album in over a decade. Let It Be Me: Mathis in Nashville, Mathis' first full-length album of country music, appeared in September of 2010. The album ultimately garnered a Grammy Award nomination for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.
In his free time, Johnny loves to golf. He plays golf almost every day when he’s not traveling and has sung at many golf banquets such as the Ryder Cup. In 1985 and 1986, Johnny hosted his own golf tournament, The Johnny Mathis Seniors PGA Classic which was held in Los Angeles, California.
 Johnny’s other favorite avocation is cooking. He is a gourmet cook who cooks for himself and often others when he’s home or traveling. His mother taught him at an early age how to cook up a storm and do it well. He’s enjoyed doing so all his life. 
Mathis continues to perform but from 2000 onwards has limited his concert engagements to less appearances per year. (edited from Wikipedia & lastfm & allmusic)


Monday, 29 September 2014

Bill Boyd born 29 September 1910

William Lemuel Boyd (September 29, 1910 in Fannin County, Texas – December 7, 1977 in Dallas, Texas) was an American Western style singer and guitarist. 
Boyd was born and raised on a farm near Ladonia in Fannin County, Texas as one of thirteen children. His parents, Lemuel and Molly Jared Boyd, who originally hailed from Tennessee, came to Texas in 1902. During the Great depression, the family moved to Dallas. Bill and his brother Jim (born 1914) tried to survive the hard times by working different odd jobs. Bill joined the Alexanders Daybreakers trio performing at early-morning radio shows. Together with Jim, he appeared on radio in Greenville, Texas and at WRR in Dallas Meanwhile, Jim formed the "Rhythm Aces." In February 1932, Boyd recorded with the "Blue yodeler" Jimmie Rodgers. The same year, he formed the pioneering western swing band "The Cowboy Ramblers". His band consisted of himself on guitar, Jim Boyd on bass, Walter Kirkes on tenor banjo and Art Davis on fiddle.
During the band's history, many of the members also worked simultaneously with the Light Crust Doughboys and Roy Newman's Boys. The Cowboys Ramblers made more than 225 recordings between 1934-1951. The band had their own popular radio show, "The Bill Boyd Ranch House." They made their recording debut for Bluebird Records on August 7, 1934. In 1935, the Cowboy Ramblers had a huge hit with their recording of "Under the Double Eagle" which later became a western swing standard and remained in print for twenty five years. Other classics of the 1930s include "I've Got Those Oklahoma Blues", "Fan It", "Wah Hoo", "Beaumont Rag" and "New Steel Guitar Rag".
The Cowboy Ramblers became major stars on radio and were offered work in Hollywood films and Boyd eventually appeared in six Western films during the 1940s. One of his other hits was "If You'll Come Back", No. 4, Jan. 1941.
After the outbreak of World War II, Boyd joined "The Western Minute Men" promoting the sale of war bonds. During the 1940s, Jim Boyd often led the Cowboy Ramblers when his brother was indisposed. Eventually, Jim formed his own band, the "Men of the West." In the 1950s, the brothers terminated their radio show. Bill Boyd switched to working as an announcer and disc jockey, continuing his longtime association with station WRR. He retired after suffering a stroke in 1973. He died in Dallas on December 7, 1977.
For his contribution to radio, Bill 'Cowboy Rambler' Boyd has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6101 Hollywood Blvd. (Info mainly from Wikipedia)

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Ben E. King born 28 September 1928

Benjamin Earl King (born September 28, 1938), better known as Ben E. King, is an American soul singer. From the groundbreaking orchestrated productions of the Drifters to his own solo hits, Ben E. King was the definition of R&B elegance. King's plaintive baritone had all the passion of gospel, but the settings in which it was displayed were tailored more for his honey smooth phrasing and crisp enunciation, proving for perhaps the first time that R&B could be sophisticated and accessible to straight pop audiences. King's approach influenced countless smooth soul singers in his wake and his records were key forerunners of the Motown sound.
King was born Benjamin Earl Nelson in Henderson, NC, in 1938, and sang with his church choir before the family moved to Harlem in 1947. In junior high, he began performing with a street corner doo wop group called the Four B's, which won second place in an Apollo Theater talent contest. While still in high school, he was offered a chance to join the Moonglows, but was simply too young and inexperienced to stick. He subsequently worked at his father's restaurant as a singing waiter, which led to an invitation to become the baritone singer in a doo wop outfit called the Five Crowns in 1958. The Five Crowns performed several gigs at the Apollo Theater along with the Drifters, whose career had begun to flounder in the years since original lead singer Clyde McPhatter departed. Drifters manager George Treadwell, dissatisfied with the group members' unreliability and lack of success, fired them all in the summer of 1958 and hired the Five Crowns to assume the name of the Drifters (which he owned).
The new Drifters toured for about a year, playing to often hostile audiences who knew they were a completely different group. In early 1959, they went into the studio with producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller to cut their first records. A song Nelson (still performing under his given name) co-wrote called "There Goes My Baby" became his first lead vocal and the lush backing arrangement made highly unorthodox (in fact, virtually unheard-of) use of a string section. "There Goes My Baby" became a massive hit, laying the groundwork for virtually every smooth/uptown soul production that followed. Over the next two years, Nelson sang lead on several other Drifters classics, including "Dance With Me," "This Magic Moment," "Save the Last Dance for Me," and "I Count the Tears."
In 1960, Nelson approached Treadwell about a salary increase and a fairer share of the group's royalties. Treadwell rebuffed him and Nelson quit the group, at this point assuming the more memorable stage name Ben E. King in preparation for a solo career. Remaining on Atlantic, King scored his first solo hit with the stylish, Latin-tinged ballad "Spanish Harlem," a Jerry Leiber/Phil Spector composition that hit the Top Ten in early 1961.

The follow-up, "Stand By Me," a heartfelt ode to friendship and devotion co-written by King, became his signature song and an enduring R&B classic; it was also his biggest hit, topping the R&B charts and reaching the pop Top Five. King scored a few more chart singles through 1963, including velvety smooth pop-soul productions like "Amor," "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)," and the Italian tune "I (Who Have Nothing)." In the post-British Invasion years, King had a rough go of it on the pop charts but continued to score R&B hits. 1967's Southern-fried "What Is Soul?" was one of his last singles for Atco; seeking to revive his commercial fortunes, King departed in 1969.
A 1970 album on Maxwell, Rough Edges, failed to generate much attention, and King was forced to make a living touring the oldies circuit. In 1975, Atlantic president Ahmet Ertegun caught King's act in a Miami lounge and invited him to re-sign with the label. King scored an unlikely comeback smash with the disco track "Supernatural Thing, Part I," which returned him to the top of the R&B charts in 1975 and also reached the pop Top Five. While he was unable to duplicate that single's success, King recorded several more albums for Atlantic up through 1981, and also collaborated with the Average White Band in 1977 on the album Benny & Us. After leaving Atlantic a second time, King toured in a version of the Drifters beginning in 1982.
In 1986, "Stand By Me" was prominently featured in the Rob Reiner film of the same name; re-released as a single, it climbed into the Top Ten all over again. In its wake, King returned to solo recording, issuing a new album every few years all the way up through the '90s. He also guested on recordings by Heaven 17 and Mark Knopfler, among others. King's 1999 album Shades of Blue (on Half Note Records) found him branching out into jazz territory, performing with a big band and guests like Milt Jackson and David "Fathead" Newman. 2006 saw the release of a brand new album, I've Been Around, on True Life Records.
King's latest recording "Heart & Soul" on the CanAm Records label takes a page from The Great American Songbook and features contributions from various jazz greats. JazzTimes heralds King's new release for its emotional and musical impact. The album was released in late 2010.
King toured the United Kingdom, performing at venues in England, Scotland and Wales during 2011. Currently, King is active in his charitable foundation, the Stand By Me Foundation. ((Info from All Music Guide)

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Freddy Quinn born 27 September 1931


Freddy Quinn (born Franz Eugen Helmut Manfred Nidl, 27 September 1931, Niederfladnitz, Austria) is an  Austrian singer and actor whose popularity within the German-speaking world soared in the late 1950s and 1960s. He is often associated with the Schlager scene. 
Quinn was born in Lower Austria and grew up in Vienna. Quinn's Irish family name comes from his Irish born salesman father, Johann Quinn. His mother, Edith Henriette Nidl, was an Austrian journalist. After  his parents' divorce he lived in Morgantown, West Virginia (USA) with his father, but moved back to live with his mother in Vienna who re-married. 
At the end of World War II, as part of a refugee group, Freddy encountered American troops in Bohemia. Due to his fluent English, the 14 year old succeeded in pretending that he is of American nationality. He was subsequently sent in May 1945 with a military transport to the US. On Ellis Island, he learned that his father had already died in 1943 in a car accident. 
The boy was immediately sent back to Europe and, before returned to his mother in Vienna, stranded for a whole year in Antwerp in a children's home, were he learnt to speak French and Dutch. However, having left the landlocked country of Austria over adventurous journeys through Southern Europe and Northern Africa for Germany, he was "discovered" in St. Pauli, Hamburg, singing in bars and was offered his first recording contract in 1954.  Similar to Hans Albers two generations before him, Quinn adopted the persona of the rootless wanderer who goes to sea but longs for a home, family and friends. 
He represented Germany at the Eurovision Song Contest 1956 in Lugano, Switzerland with the atypical song, "So geht das jede Nacht", and he finished in third place. Freddy’s songs however become instant hits in Germany, Austria, Luxemburg,  the Netherlands and Belgium and several other countries.

 His first hit record "Heimweh" (Homesickness) a German version of Dean Martin's "Memories Are Made of This" which ranked #1 in the German charts for five months (1956) sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. Other hits, often with him simply billed as Freddy, followed.
 “La Paloma”,”Junge, komm bald wieder” and “Die Gitarre und das Meer” bring him fame, golden records and many awards.  His 1964 offering "Vergangen, vergessen, vorueber" was another million selling release. He had ten number 1 hits in the German single charts between 1956 and 1966. 
Starting in the late 1950s, Quinn also acted in several movies, again frequently cast as the seafaring loner. Titles include Freddy, die Gitarre und das Meer (1959), Freddy unter fremden Sternen (1959), Freddy und das Lied der Südsee (1962), and Heimweh nach St. Pauli (1963). Subsequently, Quinn also performed on the stage in such diverse roles as Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus, the king in The King and I, and Lord Fancourt Babberly in Charley's Aunt.
Quinn was also an accomplished circus performer who stunned television audiences as a tightrope walker, performing live and without a safety net. On another occasion, which was also televised, he rode a lion inside a circus cage while the lion was balancing atop a moving surface.
His popularity waned in the 1970s, but Quinn continued performing and in 2002 he made his last tour, which ended in the city where he is born : Vienna. He now lives in Hamburg, Germany. (Info edited from Wikipedia & last.fm)
La Paloma - Freddy Quinn from 1961 film Feddy und der Milionär

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Rosalie Hill born 25 September 1910

Rosalie Hill (September 25, 1910* – October 22, 1968) was an American blues musician. (*Other sources give 1911 as birth year, including Mitchell) (Hill’s first name often appears “Rosa Lee,” but she signed her contract with Lomax “Rosalie.”)
Hill was born in Panola County, Mississippi, United States. She was a daughter of Sid Hemphill, the most popular musician in the Senatobia area for years before his death in 1961. A natural musician, Hemphill played violin, guitar, drums, fife, quills, violin, banjo, and harp. He made a living for his family playing music and taught Rosa Lee and her siblings how to play. Rosa Lee started playing guitar at age seven, and by ten, she was playing dances with her family.
 The Hemphills were a musical clan; as Rosa Lee told Mitchell, "Everybody in my family played. My mother, my daddy, my aunties, and my grandpa played, all my cousins and sisters played. The whole Hemphill band played music - all of 'em." Hill played music that was in the tradition of north Mississippi, singing acoustic blues that made use of subtly varied repetition.  
The only two songs she recorded, for Alan Lomax on September 25, 1959, were marked by a desolate, keening intensity, although by all accounts she was a jolly woman. Her song "Bullyin' Well", has been included on a number of releases over the years. But here is "Rolled & Tumbled" taken from album illustrated below. 

Her father died in 1961, after which, as blues researcher George Mitchell noted, most of the very musical Hemphill’s “just didn’t feel like playing no more.
 When blues historian Mitchell recorded Rosa Lee in 1967, she was living outside of Como with her husband, Ruffan Hill, doing their best to subsist from farming. Even though many from the Hemphill clan had given up on music, Rosa Lee still lived near to Jesse Mae Hemphill, her niece (who was then known as Jessie Mae Brooks), and Ada Mae Anderson, her cousin, both of whom were interviewed and recorded by Mitchell on his Mississippi trip.
Pictures like this one of George Mitchell and Rosa Lee Hill in 1967 were recently discovered unpublished and undeveloped in Mitchell’s Florida home. They are featured in the new book “Mississippi Hill Country Blues, 1967.”
Her album, Rosa Lee Hill and Friends, was part of Fat Possum's campaign to reissue the recordings made by George Mitchell.  It included Hill's niece, Jessie Mae Hemphill, as well as Jim Bunkley, Catherine Porter, Will Shade, Essie Mae Brooks, Precious Bryant, and Lottie Kate.
Rosie hung up her guitar for a time, but by the time Mitchell visited in 1967 she was playing again, and recorded for him a barely less spry version of “Rolled and Tumbled.  When Mitchell returned to Mississippi in 1968, Rosa Lee had passed away.   She died in October 1968, in Senatobia, Mississippi.         
(Info edited from various sources mainly George Mitchell liner notes & Wikipedia)

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Chick Willis born 24 September 1934

 Robert "Chick" Willis (September 24, 1934 – December 7, 2013)was an American blues singer and guitarist who performed and recorded from the 1950s to the 2000s. He was also known as “The Stoop Down” Man.”

He was born Robert L. Willis in Cabaniss, County, Georgia, the cousin of Chuck Willis. His family moved to Atlanta when he was six. He served in the military in the early 1950s before working as a chauffeur for Chuck Willis during his heyday. He won a talent show at the Magnolia Ballroom in Atlanta and made his first record  in 1956, with the Ebb Records' single "You're Mine". Initially, he only sang, but learned guitar while touring with his cousin; Guitar Slim was one of his foremost influences. He took on the stage name Chick as a salute to his famous cousin.

After Chuck's death in 1958, Willis played with Elmore James. He also recorded singles such as"Twistin' in the Hospital Ward," cut for Alto in 1962 and more for other labels. His 1972 release, "Stoop Down Baby", was a jukebox hit but secured no radio airplay, due to its sexually explicit content. The song was one he had developed when working at a carnival show, where he would tease passers-by with ribald rhymes. Some of his later recordings reworked the song.

Willis bounced around New York, California, South Carolina, and Mississippi before returning home in 1991 to Morgan County, where he helped establish a blues festival and became a beloved “local character.”

Risqué material remained a staple of Willis's output in recent years. He released 7 albums on Ichiban Records in the 1980s and 1990s, before becoming a journeyman for various labels (Paula, Ifgam, Rockhouse, Deep South, CML, Old School) cutting another 9 albums. A 2008 effort, "The Don of the Blues", was released on the California-based CDS Records imprint. It featured the popular song "Obama". In 2009 he signed with Benevolent Blues and released the terrific “Hit & Run Blues". 

                    Here's "I Won't Give Up" from above album.

In the course of his journeyman career, Willis took the stage at the Old Royal Peacock in Atlanta, backing Jimmy Reed, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke and Big Joe Turner; and played the Apollo with Little Richard and Jackie Wilson. You can glimpse him in “Petey Wheatstraw, the Devil's Son-In-Law,” a blaxploitation flick, and as well as “The Buddy Holly Story.”

Although Chick was a great guitarist and singer he also played drums, keyboards, harmonica and bass. He  had garnered awards and honours from every possible source. A brief sample includes Living Blues Awards’ Best Live Performer of 2006, the award of honorary citizenship of Kansas City, Missouri, and the Jus’ Blues T-Bone Walker Award (twice), Best Down Home Blues Song (2009, 1,2,3,4,5 Shots of Whiskey) and the Lowell Fulson Jus Blues Award (2010). He was also a member of the Blues Hall of Fame.
Chick continued to record and perform across the country and in Europe until mid-2012. He died on December 7, 2013, in Forsyth of complications from lung cancer. He was 79. (Info edited from various sources, mainly Wikipedia)

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Dickey Lee born 21 September 1936

 Royden Dickey Lipscomb (born 21 September 1936), known professionally as Dickey Lee (sometimes misspelled Dickie Lee or Dicky Lee), is an American pop/country singer and songwriter, best known for the 1960s teenage tragedy songs "Patches" and "Laurie (Strange Things Happen)."

Lee made his first recordings in his hometown of Memphis for Tampa Records and Sun Records in 1957-58. He achieved his first chart success in 1962, when his composition "She Thinks I Still Care" was a hit for George Jones (covered by Elvis Presley, Connie Francis, Leon Russell and later Anne Murray as "He Thinks I Still Care").
Later that year, "Patches," written by Barry Mann and Larry Kobler and recorded by Lee for Smash Records, rose to No. 6. The song tells in waltz-time the story of teenage lovers of different social classes whose parents forbid their love. The girl drowns herself in 
the "dirty old river." The singer concludes: "It may not be right, but I'll join you tonight/ Patches I'm coming to you." Because of the teen suicide theme, the song was banned by a number of radio stations. However, it sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

Lee had a No. 14 hit in 1963 with a song he co-wrote, a conventional rocker, "I Saw Linda Yesterday." In 1965, he returned to teen tragedy with "Laurie (Strange Things Happen)," a song related to the urban legends known as the vanishing hitchhiker and Resurrection Mary.

After the 1960s, Lee devoted his efforts to country music performing and song writing. His 1970s country hits as a singer include "Never Ending Song of Love," "Rocky" (another bitter-sweet song, written by Jay Stevens of Springfield, MO - a.k.a. Woody P. Snow), "Angels, Roses, and Rain," and "9,999,999 Tears." He also co-wrote several songs with Bob McDill, including "Someone Like You" (by Emmylou Harris) and "The Door is Always Open" (by several artists, most notably by Dave and Sugar).

He co-wrote the 1994 Tracy Byrd hit "The Keeper of the Stars," and has written or co-written songs for a number of other prominent country artists, including George Strait, Charley Pride, and Reba McEntire.

He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1995. Lee is included as co-writer and singer on singer-songwriter Michael Saxell's 2005 album Wonky Windmill on the song "Two Men".  (Info Wikipedia)