Friday, 31 October 2014

Anita Kerr born 31 October 1927

Anita Kerr (born Anita Jean Grilli on October 31, 1927, in Memphis, Tennessee) is an American singer, composer and music producer.  
Anita Kerr was the vocal embodiment of the "Nashville Sound" which dominated country music throughout the mid-'50s and '60s. Along with the Jordanaires, her group, the Anita Kerr Singers, were the seminal backing vocal unit of the era, and it is estimated that at their early-'60s peak, they graced fully one-quarter of all of the records coming out of Nashville's studios.

Kerr was born Anita Jean Grilli on Halloween 1927 in Memphis, TN; her mother hosted a local radio program there, and by the age of four, Anita herself was taking piano lessons. In her early teens, she formed her own girl group, the Grilli Sisters,  which soon became a fixture on her mother's radio show. At age 14, she was hired as the station's staff pianist. In 1948, Kerr left Memphis and began playing piano on the club circuit. The following year, she formed the Anita Kerr Singers, which also featured alto Dottie Dillard, tenor Gil Wright, and baritone Louis Nunley. After gaining some fame on regional radio, NBC hired the Singers for the program Sunday Down South, with Kerr brought aboard as chorus director.  (Photo above of Anita's first vocal group, "The Grilli Sisters." Anita, Sofia Grilli, Dot Elliotte, and Marie Watts.)
In 1951, the group signed to Decca Records and began their career as a studio backing unit. Five years later, the Singers made their first appearance on the New York-based Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts television program and quickly became featured players, splitting their time between the broadcast and their session work. In the mid-'50s, Kerr joined forces with Chet Atkins, then the head of RCA Records' country division and the creator of the pop-centric "Nashville Sound," which employed vocal choruses as a means of smoothing over country music's rougher edges.  

The Anita Kerr Singers appeared on literally hundreds of the era's most prominent recordings, including releases from Jim Reeves, Roy Orbison, Floyd Cramer, Dottie West, Hank Snow, Eddy Arnold, and Lorne Greene; even pop singers like Perry Como and Brook Benton enlisted Kerr's talents. She also produced Skeeter Davis' End of the World album, making Kerr one of the very first women to oversee a Nashville recording. (Photo of Anita with  Roger Carroll)
After touring Europe in 1964, she moved to California the next year to focus her energies on freelance production and songwriting, even as two of the Singers' LPs, We Dig Mancini and Southland Favorites, were winning Grammy awards (in the Vocal Group and Gospel categories, respectively). In the later years of the decade, Kerr teamed with poet Rod McKuen for a series of mood-music records, titled The Sea, The Earth, and The Sky, for which the Singers were renamed the San Sebastian Strings and Singers. At the same time, the group were featured weekly on the Smothers Brothers' sketch comedy program.
By the 1970s, Kerr produced a number of easy listening records before moving to her second husband Alex Grob's native Switzerland to compose music for films. She returned to Nashville on a regular basis, performing and producing a number of Christian albums for Word.  Receives ASCAP award in 1975 which reads “ASCAP salutes our member Anita Kerr. A lady of class and a first class musician for her significant contributions to the birth and development of the Nashville sound.” In 1978, she reunited with Atkins for one last RCA country album.
Releases “In The Soul” on GAIA Records featuring the poetry of Walt Whitman in 1988. She narrates, composes the music, performs various electronic instruments, and records the album in her home studio.
Receives NARAS Governors Award in 1992 which reads “In recognition of your outstanding contribution to American music.”
Anita lives in Geneva, Switzerland. Still writes in her home studio, performs occasionally, but mainly enjoys time with her two daughters and five grandchildren. (info mainly from All Music Guide)

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Clifford Brown born 30 October 1930

Clifford Brown (October 30, 1930 – June 26, 1956), aka "Brownie," was an influential and highly rated American jazz trumpeter. He died aged 25, leaving behind only four years' worth of recordings. Nonetheless, he had a considerable influence on later jazz trumpet players, including Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan, Booker Little, Freddie Hubbard, Valery Ponomarev, and Wynton Marsalis.
He won the Down Beat critics' poll for the 'New Star of the Year' in 1954; he was inducted into the Down Beat 'Jazz Hall of Fame' in 1972 in the critics' poll. Arturo Sandoval described him as "one of what we call the mandatory trumpet players" who was "one of the greatest trumpet players of all time". 

Brown was born in Wilmington, Delaware. After briefly attending Delaware State University and Maryland State College (University of Maryland, Eastern Shore), he moved into playing music professionally, where he quickly became one of the most highly regarded trumpeters in jazz.

His style was influenced by Fats Navarro, sharing Navarro's virtuosic technique and brilliance of invention. His sound was warm and round, and notably consistent across the full range of the instrument. He could articulate every note, even at the high tempos which seemed to present no difficulty to him; this served to enhance the impression of his speed of execution. His sense of harmony was highly developed, enabling him to deliver bold statements through complex harmonic progressions (chord changes), and embodying the linear, "algebraic" terms of bebop harmony. As well as his up-tempo prowess, he could express himself deeply in a ballad performance. It is said that he played each set as though it would be his last. 

                        Here's "Stardust" from above album.

Jazz historian Neil Tesser, author of The Playboy Guide To Jazz,

wrote of him:

"Clifford Brown could play with a speed and precision that challenged, and at times eclipsed even the virtuosity of his own idols ... But even more than that, Clifford became known for a brain-boggling capacity to improvise long, complex and stunningly well-constructed solos." He performed with Chris Powell, Tadd Dameron, Lionel Hampton, and Art Blakey before forming his own group with Max Roach. The Clifford Brown & Max Roach Quintet was a high water mark of the hard bop style. The group's pianist, Richie Powell (younger brother of Bud), contributed original compositions, as did Brown himself. The partnership of Brown's trumpet with Harold Land's tenor saxophone made for a very strong front line. Teddy Edwards briefly replaced Land before Sonny Rollins took over for the remainder of the group's existence. In their hands the bebop vernacular reached a peak of inventiveness.

The clean-living Brown has been cited as perhaps breaking the influence of heroin on the jazz world, a model established by Charlie Parker. Clifford stayed away from drugs and was not fond of alcohol; his only vices were chess and doughnuts. Rollins said of him: "Clifford was a profound influence on my personal life. He showed me that it was possible to live a good, clean life and still be a good jazz musician.
Roach described him as "one of the rare complete individuals ever born ... a sweet, beautiful [person]".

In June 1956, Brown and Richie Powell were being driven from Philadelphia to Chicago by Powell's wife Nancy for the band's next appearance. While driving on a rainy night on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, west of Bedford, she lost control of the car and it went off the road. All three were killed in the resulting crash. He is buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery, in Wilmington, Delaware.

Clifford, at 25, was at the beginning of showing capabilities parallel only to those of Charlie Parker. There was nothing he would stop at to make each performance sound as if it were his last. But there will never be an ending performance for him, because his constant desire was to make every musical moment one of sincere warmth and beauty; this lives on forever. This would be a better world today if we had more people who believed in what Clifford Brown stood for as a man and a musician. Jazz will always be grateful for his few precious moments.
Clifford Brown was in the jazz circles considered to be probably the greatest trumpet player who ever lived. ~Herb Alpert

(info mainly Wikipedia)

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Neal Hefti born 29 October 1922

Neal Hefti (October 29, 1922 – October 11, 2008) was an American jazz trumpeter, composer, tune writer, and arranger.
Hefti was born in Hastings, Nebraska, the son of a travelling salesman and a piano teacher. He took up trumpet at the age of 11, as the Depression was biting hard on the family's finances. He discovered jazz through his brother John's collection of Duke Ellington records, and began playing in local bands to bring in money for the household.

Living close to Omaha, the young Hefti was inspired by visits there by some of the leading swing bands of the day. He heard trumpeters such as Dizzy Gillespie (with Cab Calloway), Harry Edison and Buck Clayton (with Basie).

He began writing arrangements for singers while still at school, although his sight-reading was not good enough to hold down his early professional jobs for long. But by 1942 he was working in New York with the successful Charlie Barnet. There, his vivid arrangement of Barnet's popular Skyliner theme hinted at his potential, and led to a move to Los Angeles with the orchestra of the trumpeter Charlie Spivak.

In 1944, on the recommendation of bassist Chubby Jackson, Hefti joined Herman's First Herd. This was a fast-blossoming outfit, offering more idiomatic variety and more dedicated enthusiasm than he had so far encountered, since Herman had a broad grasp of jazz swing, classical music, pop songs, and the beginnings of bop - with the pianist Burns, who joined at the same time as Hefti, saxophonist Flip Phillips and trombonist Bill Harris, a particularly shrewd appreciator of the new idiom.

Gillespie's bop-infused big band became their model. Hefti's five-trumpet part for Caldonia was a stylistic breakthrough, and its vibrant sound soon attracted
composer Igor Stravinsky to write a jazz-themed classical piece, Ebony Concerto, for the band. A cooperative at first, the band came under Herman's ownership from 1945, and - along with Charlie Barnet's group - became one of the few white big bands regularly to play black venues, a testament to its dynamism and grasp of the fundamentals, rather than the mannerisms, of jazz.  

In October 1945, Hefti married the band's singer Frances Wayne. The following year the couple left Herman, with Hefti leaving a raft of innovative material in the band's book, including the enduringly popular Apple Honey. Hefti then freelanced for drummer Buddy Rich, saxophonist Charlie Ventura and trumpeter Harry James. In 1947, sax genius Charlie Parker, having heard a studio-orchestra performance of Hefti's Cuban-tinged Repetition, transformed it from a generic Latin smoocher into a piece of real substance.

From 1950 on, the arranger was crucial to revitalising Basie's orchestra, in a period in which the big bands were suffering financially and sounding musically dated. Starting with the up-tempo Little Pony, for the saxophonist Wardell Gray, Hefti wrote a stream of scintillating works for the Basie orchestra over the next decade. Miles Davis, rarely hasty with compliments, remarked in 1955 that the arranger's presence was a significant reason why the Basie band of that era sounded as good as it did. Hefti produced, as well as arranged, the music on the Grammy-award winning The Atomic Mr Basie, and the 11 songs are among the greatest classics of late-period big-band swing, including Splanky, The Kid from Red Bank and Hefti's dedication to his daughter, L'il Darlin'.

Hefti was playing trumpet less as his writing career developed, and though he briefly led a group to perform his own work from 1952, by the decade's end he had virtually given up the instrument.

He headed the A&R department at Reprise Records in the 1960s, arranging and conducting the album Sinatra- Basie: A Historical Musical First. His own 1962 album Jazz Pops - featuring some of the Basie classics - was nominated for a Grammy, but his jazz work was almost entirely superseded by his accomplished, and often very imaginative, movie-studio achievements. Hefti also enjoyed substantial commercial success.  

He wrote the tongue-in-cheek, unerringly focused theme for the mid-60s Batman TV show, which became a US chart hit for the Marketts and a Grammy-award winner. Movies he worked on included Boeing Boeing and How to Murder Your Wife (both 1965), Barefoot in the Park (1967) and The Odd Couple (1968).   

Following his wife's death in 1978, Hefti gradually withdrew from active music making. In later years he concentrated on "taking care of my copyrights". Hefti died of throat cancer on October 11, 2008, at his home in Toluca Lake, California, at the age of 85. He subsequently was interred at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery. His grave can be found at the Court of Remembrance.  The epitaph on the front of the crypt reads "Forever In Tune". (info mainly from The Guardian)

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Cleo Laine born 28 October 1927

Dame Cleo Laine DBE, (born Clementina Dinah Campbell on 28 October 1927 in Southall, Middlesex, England) is a jazz vocalist and stage actress. She was known as the "Queen of Jazz" in her singing prime.
Famed singer and stage actress Cleo Laine was born Clementina Dinah Campbell on October 28, 1927, in Southall, Middlesex, England. Born to a Jamaican father and an English mother, Laine began taking vocal and dance lessons as a teenager, and dropped out of school at the age of 14 to begin her quest to find a singing career. In 1951, she joined the Johnny Dankworth Seven, a well-known jazz band, as their singer, and changed her name to the more stage-ready "Cleo Laine."
Cleo Laine sang with the Johnny Dankworth Seven for seven years, building quite a following along the way. Her most dedicated follower might have been Dankwork himself, as the two married in 1958—the same year that Laine took her first stage role, in Flesh to a Tiger. That year also marked the beginning of a friendship with Ella Fitzgerald, which would last a lifetime. Tiger led to other stage performances, including Valmouth (1959), A Time to Laugh (1962) and Showboat (1971).
During this period she had two major recording successes. You'll Answer to Me reached the British Top 10 while Laine was 'prima donna' in the 1961 Edinburgh Festival production of Kurt Weill's opera/ballet The Seven Deadly Sins. By 1964, Laine had become a full-time solo performer, and her albums Shakespeare and All That Jazz and Live at the London Palladium made her a critical darling (the London Times even went so far as to dub her "the best singer in the world").
Other important recordings during that time were duet albums with Ray Charles (Porgy and Bess) and Mel Tormé (see Nothing Without You), as well as Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire which won Laine a classical Grammy nomination.
The 1970s, however, would really find Laine's star rising, as her 1972 New York concert—her first—brought the critics out in droves, and she debuted at Carnegie Hall in 1973. Her show at the famed New York venue was recorded and released as Live at Carnegie Hall, which earned Laine her first Grammy Award nomination.
Two Carnegie follow-up albums soon appeared, Return to Carnegie and Cleo at Carnegie: The 10th Anniversary Concert, with the latter earning Laine the 1983 Grammy for best female jazz vocalist.
Laine rounded out the 1970s with a wholly different kind of honour: In 1979, she received an Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II for her services to music, and in 1997, her status was elevated to dame commander of the British Empire. 
Laine also garnered more acting accolades during this time, including a Theatre World Award and a Tony Award nomination for her work in the Broadway musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1985). In 1989, she was back in the spotlight with her critically acclaimed role as the witch in Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods, staged in Los Angeles, California, where, two years later, she would receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the U.S. recording industry.
In May 1992 Laine appeared with Frank Sinatra for a week of concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, London. She told a reporter in 2007: "I was very impressed with his singing; to me he sounded even better in those concerts than he did on the records. It was a real thrill to be part of his show."
Laine published her autobiography, Cleo, in 1994, and followed it three years later with You Can Sing If You Want To. She continued to perform with her husband of 52 years, Sir John Dankworth, until his death in 2010. (Info mainly

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Al Casey born 26 October 1936

Alvin Wayne Casey (October 26, 1936 – September 17, 2006) was an American guitarist. He was mainly noted for his work as a session musician, but also released his own records and scored three Billboard Hot 100 hits in the United States. His contribution to the rockabilly genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Al Casey was born in Long Beach, California, but he was raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where his family moved in 1938. He grew up with Sanford Clark and together they developed an interest in popular music. Clark sang in school productions, while Casey took guitar and piano lessons. By the time he reached seventeen, he was already a veteran of the Phoenix music scene.. As a member of the Sunset Riders, he was featured on radio (The Arizona Hayride) and television as well as playing on the first Viv sessions for Lee Hazlewood, then a disc jockey at KCKY in Coolidge, Arizona.
Hazlewood was looking for someone to record his composition "The Fool". It was Casey who introduced Lee to Sanford Clark, Al's lifelong friend. Backing Clark on the session were Al (who came up with a guitar riff based on Hubert Sumlin's lick on "Smokestack Lightning" by Howlin' Wolf) and his guitarist wife Corky. The rhythm section consisted of bassist Jimmy Wilcox and drummer Connie Conway, who jointly owned the tiny MCI label. So great was Casey's contribution that he received label credit ("Al Casey, guitar"), a rare feat for a sideman, then and now. The original MCI single of Sanford Clark's "The Fool" attracted little attention, but after it was reissued on Dot in July 1956, it soon reached the Billboard Top 10, peaking at # 7. 
Casey played most stringed instruments, including the piano. He played on countless Phoenix sessions in 1956 and 1957. Casey cut several instrumental singles, then paired with another local, Jody Reynolds, and cut "Endless Sleep," which also landed on national charts. He was also part of the backup for Duane Eddy's recordings, playing bass, piano, and rhythm guitar. Casey wrote (and performed) one of Eddy's earliest hits, "Ramrod" (1958), as well as co-writing another Eddy hit, "Forty Miles of Bad Road" (1959). (Press photo of Johnny Reminger, Duane Eddy & Al Casey)
Casey began working with his own ensemble, The Al Casey Combo, in the early 1960s. With this group he scored three instrumental hits: "Cookin" (U.S. #92, 1962), "Jivin' Around" (U.S. #71, 1962), and "Surfin' Hootenanny" (U.S. #48, 1963), recorded with Hazlewood.
The "Surfin' Hootenanny" album featured Al mimicking the styles of Dick Dale, The Ventures, and Duane Eddy. Drummer Hal Blaine and organist Leon Russell played on many of these recordings; the backup vocal group, named as The K-C-Ettes, were in fact The Blossoms.
While still in Phoenix, Casey continued to record occasional instrumentals under his own name, as well as with his wife, singer Corky Casey, but none of them hit with listeners. Instead, Casey went on the road with Corky as part of a folk-music act, the Raintree County Singers. The group recorded one album on Bob Shad's Time Records. Casey's solo career petered out when the small independent label he recorded for, Stacy Records, folded in 1964. Later he was a featured guitarist on the "Exotic Guitars" series of albums on the Ranwood Records label.
As a member of The Wrecking Crew, he worked as a session musician for artists such as The Beach Boys, Phil Spector, Elvis Presley, Glen Campbell, The Association, The Monkees, Johnny Cash, Eddy Arnold, Simon & Garfunkel, The 5th Dimension, Harry Nilsson, The Partridge Family, Frank Sinatra, and Nancy Sinatra on "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'". He also played as a member of the band on The Dean Martin Show.  Although Casey also opened a guitar shop in Hollywood from 1966 – 1970, he eventually decided to return to Phoenix in the early 1980s where he raised the quality of any gig he played and began a long running teaching career at Ziggie's Music. 

He continued recording into the 1990s, including an LP release, Sidewinder, for Bear Family Records, in that decade . In 2001, he played guitar, dobro, mandolin, and banjo on Al Beasley's A Rainbow in the Clouds album, recorded live at the Kerr Cultural Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. Casey spent his later years teaching and playing locally, often with Jody Reynolds. In 2001 he came to the UK with Sanford Clark and they appeared with great success at the Hemsby Rock'n'Roll Weekend in Norfolk. Casey, along with many of his fellow studio musicians, is featured in the documentary film The Wrecking Crew.
       Casey died on September 17, 2006 in Phoenix, Arizona.
       (Info edited from various sources including Wikipedia)

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Jeanne Black born 25 October 1937

Jeanne Black (born October 25, 1937) was an American country singer.
Born Gloria Jeanne Black in Pomona, California on October 25, 1937, she and younger sister Janie were discovered by Country singer, bassist/bandleader, record producer, music publisher Cliffie Stone and hired to appear on his weekly TV show Hometown Jamboree on KTLA-TV Pasadena in 1956, where they remained until the show's cancellation in 1959. 
Following this, she sang in Nevada, in Las Vegas and Tahoe and had also married guitarist Billy Strange (who would later make a name for himself by working with everybody from Elvis Presley to the Beach Boys).
In 1960 Black became a contract artist of Capitol Records. She recorded a few sides with her sister as Jeanne & Janie but released her first single on that label "He'll Have to Stay," as an answer song to Jim Reeves' "He'll Have to Go." "He'll Have to Stay" was written by Audrey Allison, Charles Randolph Grean (as Charles Grean) and Joe Allison.


"He'll Have to Stay" eventually appeared on the charts, and climbed until it reached its peak position at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960. It also became a top ten country hit at #6, #11 on the Billboard R&B singles chart, making "He'll Have to Stay" a crossover hit. It also charted on the British chart at #41 that same year. It sold over a million copies, guaranteeing it a "gold record" 
She charted two more hits in 1960 on the Hot 100.  Her follow-up to "He'll Have to Stay” charted on July 25, 1960 "Lisa" became a #43 hit record, remaining on the Hot 100 for 9 weeks.  On December 26, 1960 she charted “Oh, How I Miss You Tonight."  The single became a #63 hit and became her last Billboard Hot 100 record.

However, "He'll Have to Stay" would also be Jeanne Black's only major hit, as she was unable to duplicate its success. Other following singles -- "Lisa" (#43 pop) and (#63 pop) were only minor hits. Despite the other charting singles, Black was unable to repeat the success of the single, and remains a one-hit wonder. She eventually retired from active recording and performing, but helped with her husband Billy Strange's website. They remained married until his death in 2012.
(Info edited from mainly & Wikipedia)