Sunday, 31 May 2015

Jimmy Shirley born 31 May 1913

Jimmy Shirley (born James Arthur Shirley, May 31, 1913, Union, SC - December 03, 1989, New York, NY) was primarily a talented swing guitarist; Shirley also played traditional New Orleans jazz through early bop. He was one of the early electric guitar players and was one of the first to use the vibrola attached to his guitar for a unique sound.

Jimmy Shirley never achieved much fame (except among fellow musicians) despite his long career and obvious talents. He grew up in Cleveland, Ohio where he was taught guitar by his father.

Shirley worked in Cincinnati with J. Frank Terry and Hal Draper (1934-36) and had his own group before moving to New York. Shirley was a part of the Clarence Profit Trio (1937-41), with whom he made his recording debut. In 1941 he recorded with Artie Shaw’s Orchestra.

After a period with Ella Fitzgerald (1942-43), Shirley played on and off with Herman Chittison (1944-54) and led his own bands in addition to working with Phil Moore and lesser-known names. In the mid 1940s Shirley played and recorded with Coleman Hawkins, Edmond Hall, Art Hodes, James P. Johnson, Billy Kyle and many others. He played in most of the idioms of his time from New Orleans jazz to early bebop.

Jimmy recorded three times as leader. At Blue Note in the 1940s he recorded six or seven tracks of which only Jimmy's Blues made it to release as Blue Note 530 on 78 RPM 

In the late 1940s into the 1950s Jimmy Shirley recorded more blues than jazz, recording with singers like Wynonie Harris, Jimmy Rushing, Screamin Jay Hawkins and Little Willie John. He also accompanied several female singers during this period, most notably Rose Murphy and Barbara Lea. He began doubling on electric bass with Buddy Tate (1967).

During 1975 whilst in Europe Jimmy recorded the album China Boy on Black & Blue 33081.  (Info mainly Classic Jazz Guitar & All Music Guide)

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Bobby Sherwood born 30 May

Robert J. Sherwood, Jr. (May 30, 1914 in Indianapolis, Indiana – January 23, 1981 Auburn, Massachusetts), known professionally as Bobby Sherwood, was a trumpet player, bandleader, actor and composer, most active during the 1940s and '50s.

He was born in Indianapolis, IN, into a performing family; he made his own debut as a performer while still a child, as part of his parents' vaudeville act. He manifested a strong musical interest as a boy and gravitated to the guitar, and at age 22 was good enough to succeed Eddie Lang as the guitarist in Bing Crosby's act.

From 1933 until 1942, while working for Crosby, he resided in Hollywood and filled out the rest of his time as a studio musician in MGM's music department, as well as leading Eddie Cantor's band on the latter's radio show. He briefly played with Artie Shaw as well; additionally, he was part of the circle of musicians surrounding the young Judy Garland's early career, by virtue of his
being married at the time to Garland's sister, the former Dorothy Virginia Gumm (aka Jimmy), and ended up leading the band on some of Garland's Decca sessions.
Lightning struck for Sherwood early in 1942 when he formed his own band, which included in its ranks the likes of Dave Pell, Flip Phillips, and Fritz Becker, in Los Angeles, and which was among the first groups signed by the newly founded Capitol Records label. The group hit with their first release, "The Elk's Parade," which sold a million copies.

At the time, the group also had a singer, Kitty Kallen, who sang on their record of "Moonlight Becomes You," but Kallen was only with the group a short time before she left to embark on a solo career. Sherwood was able to tour the country on the strength of the hit, but the recording ban imposed by the American Federation of Musicians cut off his successful debut before he could follow it up, and it would be a year before he could issue another single.
Sherwood's performing work also extended to acting, but it was music that sustained him for most of the '40s, and as late as 1947 he was still leading a big band. His Capitol contract ended after the '40s, and in 1950 he cut some sides for Mercury that failed to chart. Sherwood's last recordings were credited to "Bobby Sherwood -- One Man Band" on the Coral label in 1954, but by that time acting was taking up an ever-increasing part of his work, including a starring role (as Ned Galvin) in Columbia Pictures' screen version of Pal Joey (1957).
Towards the end of the 50s he again tried his hand at band leading, forming a small group and later a big band to work in hotels and casinos in Las Vegas and other gambling resorts. He spent much of the remainder of his career working as a very popular radio DJ in the Los Angeles area.
Surprisingly Sherwood died in obscurity in Auburn, Massachusetts on January 23, 1981 after a long battle with cancer. (Info mainly from AllMusic)

Here's a clip from the 1948 movie "Campus Sleuth".
Saturday matinee B-movie mystery genre.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Myrna Smith born 28 May 1941

Myrna Yvonne Smith (May 28, 1941 – December 24, 2010) was an American songwriter and singer, who co-wrote many of the songs for Carl Wilson's 1981 solo album Carl Wilson, as well as a few of the songs on his 1983 solo album Youngblood. She was also a member of the Sweet Inspirations, which previously served as Elvis Presley's backing group.
Smith became a high school English teacher in South Brunswick, New Jersey in the 1960s, while she also pursued her singing career. The lead singer of her group, The Sweet Inspirations, was Cissy Houston, the mother of Whitney Houston.
The Sweet Inspirations had evolved from the Gospelaires group, whose members had included Myrna’s cousins Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, Doris Troy and Judy Guions (later Judy Clay). The group were in demand for session work with many great artists, including Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett and the Drifters. Myrna replaced Dee Dee in 1965 after she left to pursue a solo career, and Estelle Brown also joined around the same time. Dionne and Doris were replaced by Cissy Houston and Sylvia Shemwell, respectively.

Clockwise from top. Sylvia Shemwell, Cissy Houston, Myrna Smith and Estelle Brown.

In 1967, the group was signed to Atlantic as the Sweet Inspirations. Their first release was a cover of “Why (Am I Treated So Bad)” and it was a top 40 hit on the R&B charts. The groups’ most successful song was “Sweet Inspiration”, which was cut during a two-day session at American Sound in Memphis in August 1967. The track hit number five on the R&B chart and was a top 20 pop hit.

The Sweet Inspirations continued to work as sessions singers during this period, appearing on classic cuts by artists as diverse as Aretha Franklin (“Chain of Fools”), Dusty Springfield (“Son of a Preacher Man”), Van Morrison (“Brown Eyed Girl”) and Jimi Hendrix (“Burning of the Midnight Lamp”).
In 1969, Myrna began her eight-year association with Elvis Presley when the Sweet Inspirations were chosen as his opening act and backing singers for his engagement at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. The Sweet Inspirations appeared with Elvis in more than 1,000 concerts and featured in the concert movies “That’s the Way It Is” and “Elvis On Tour”, as well as the television specials “Aloha from Hawaii” and “Elvis in Concert.” Myrna was married to Elvis Presley's high school friend, Jerry

Schilling from 1982 to 1987.
Myrna was still making records with the Sweet Inspirations during her period with Elvis, but with limited commercial success. However, following Elvis’ tragic death, they did back Frankie Valli on his number one single “Grease.” They also toured with the Bee Gees and released the disco album “Hot Butterfly” in this period, but with the record achieving limited success the group decided to break up.
After years apart, the Sweet Inspirations reformed in 1994 and continued to perform up until 2010. The Elvis association in particular assured them regular work, including touring with the “Elvis: The Concert” show, which features Elvis on screen and his original backing band playing live.
In 2005, the Sweet Inspirations released “In The Right Place”, which was their first solo recording in 25 years. The 15-track album featured a number of new songs and a great new recording of their biggest hit “Sweet Inspiration.” Myrna was joined on “In the Right Place” by Estelle Brown, Sylvia Shemwell and Portia Griffin.
While performing on the 'Elvis: The Concert' European tour in March 2010, Myrna developed pneumonia which eventually led to kidney failure and a stroke. She died on December 24, 2010, in Canoga Park, California, after an illness, at the age of 69.
Myrna was a great soul singer whose voice was featured on some of the finest records of the second half of the 20th century. She was also an important part of Elvis’ stage act and, by all accounts, a warm and friendly person.

Estelle Brown, along with Portia Griffin made the difficult decision to replace Myrna with LA based singer Kelly Jones; as of March 2011, The Sweet Inspirations are continuing to perform backup vocals with Elvis: The Concert and continue to do many concerts worldwide with Elvis Presley Enterprises' first ever "Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist", Shawn Klush, sometimes as a duo and other times as a trio.  (Info edited from Wikipedia & Claasicpopicons) 

World's Greatest Elvis Show, St David's Hall, Cardiff, 1 Sep 2009

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Junior Parker born 27 May 1932

Junior Parker, also known as Little Junior Parker or "Mr Blues" (May 27, 1932 –November 18, 1971) was a successful and influential Memphis blues singer and musician. He is best remembered for his unique voice which has been described as "honeyed," and "velvet-smooth". He was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001.
Junior Parker was born in West Memphis, Arkansas as Herman Parker, Jr. He sang in gospel groups as a child, and played on the various blues circuits beginning in his teenage years. His biggest influence as a harmonica player was Sonny Boy Williamson, with whom he worked before moving on to work for Howlin' Wolf in 1949. Around 1950 he was a member of Memphis's ad hoc group, the Beale Streeters, with Bobby 'Blue' Bland and B.B. King.

Little Jr. Parker, standing (far left), Bobby 'Blue' Bland, kneeling (far left),  Pat Hare, standing (far right). South Carolina, 1952.

In 1951 he formed his own band, the Blue Flames, with guitarist Auburn 'Pat' Hare. Parker was discovered in 1952 by Ike Turner, who signed him to Modern Records. He put out one single on this record label, "You're My Angel." This brought him to the attention of Sam Phillips, and he and his band signed onto Sun Records in 1953. There they produced three successful songs: "Feelin' Good" (which reached # 5 on the Billboard R&B charts), "Love My Baby," and "Mystery Train" ,with Floyd Murphy (Matt "Guitar" Murphy's brother) on guitar, later covered by Elvis Presley.For Presley's version of "Mystery Train", Scotty Moore borrowed the guitar riff from Parker's "Love My Baby".

Later in 1953, Parker toured with Bobby Bland and Johnny Ace, and also joined Duke Records. Parker and Bland headed the highly successful Blues Consolidated Revue, which became a staple part of the southern blues circuit. He continued to have a string of hits on the R&B chart, including the smooth "Next Time You See Me"; re-makes of Roosevelt Sykes' songs, "Sweet Home Chicago" and "Driving Wheel"; Guitar Slim's "The Things That I Used to Do"; Don Robey's "Mother-in-Law Blues"; and his own "Stand by Me."


Little Junior Parker, Elvis Presley, Bobby Blue Bland at the WDIA Goodwill Revue December 7, 1957.

His success was limited after he left the Duke label in 1966. He recorded for various labels, including Mercury, Blue Rock, Minit, and Capitol.

Parker died on November 18, 1971, aged 39, in Blue Island, IL during surgery for a brain tumor. (info Wikipedia)
Before he passed he sailed into the 1970's in promising fashion cutting a pair of terrific albums; You Don't Have To Be Black To Love The Blues circa 1970/1971 for Groove Merchant and I Tell Stories Sad And True for United Artists which was released in 1972. 

Monday, 25 May 2015

Tom T. Hall born 25 May 1936

Thomas "Tom T." Hall (born May 25, 1936 in Olive Hill, Kentucky) is a retired American country music songwriter, singer, novelist, and short-story writer. He has written 11 No. 1 hit songs, with 26 more that reached the Top 10, including the No. 1 international pop crossover smash "Harper Valley PTA" and the hit "I Love", which reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. He became known to fans as "The Storyteller," thanks to his storytelling skills in his song writing.
As a teenager, Hall organized a band called the Kentucky Travelers that performed before movies for a travelling theatre. During a stint in the Army, Hall performed over the Armed Forces Radio Network and wrote comic songs about Army experiences. His early career included being a radio announcer at WRON, a local radio station in Ronceverte, West Virginia. Hall was also an announcer at WSPZ, which later became WVRC Radio in Spencer, West Virginia in the 1960s.

Hall's big song writing break came in 1963, when country singer Jimmy C. Newman recorded his song, "DJ for a Day." Soon, Hall moved to Nashville, arriving in 1964 with $46 and a guitar; within months he had songs climbing the charts. Hall has been nicknamed "The Storyteller," and he has written songs for dozens of country stars, including Johnny Cash, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, Alan Jackson, and Bobby Bare.
One of his earliest successful song writing ventures, "Harper Valley PTA," was recorded in 1968 by Jeannie C. Riley, hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard Country Music Chart a week apart, sold over six million copies, and won both a Grammy Award and CMA award. The song would go on to inspire a motion picture and television program of the same name. Hall himself has recorded this song, on his album The Definitive Collection.

Hall's recording career took off after Riley's rendition of the song, releasing a number of hits from the late 1960s through the early 80s. Some of Hall's biggest hits include "A Week in a Country Jail," "(Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine," "I Love," "Country Is," "The Year Clayton Delaney Died," "I Like Beer," "Faster Horses (the Cowboy and the Poet)", and many others. He is also noted for his children-oriented songs, including "Sneaky Snake" and "I Care," the latter of which hit No. 1 on the country charts in 1975.
Hall won the Grammy Award for Best Album Notes in 1973 for the notes he wrote for his album Tom T. Hall's Greatest Hits. He was nominated for, but did not win, the same award in 1976 for his album Greatest Hits Volume 2. He has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1971. He also hosted the syndicated country music TV show Pop! Goes the Country from 1980-1982.
After 1986, Hall retired from recording, although artists continued to record his songs. In 1996, he delivered Songs From Sopchoppy, his first album in ten years.

Hall was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in 2011.(Info mainly edited from Wikipedia) 

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Prince Buster born 24 May 1938

Prince Buster (born Cecil Bustamente Campbell OD 24 May 1938, Kingston, Jamaica), is a Jamaican singer-songwriter and producer. He is regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of ska and rocksteady music. The records he released in the 1960s influenced and shaped the course of Jamaican contemporary music and created a legacy of work that later reggae and ska artists would draw upon.
Cecil Bustamente Campbell was born on 28 May 1938 in Kingston Jamaica. His father worked on the railroads and had named him after a statesman he had admired , a Jamaican Labour Party Leader called Alexandra Bustamente. As a youth he soon became interested in boxing and spent many hours sparring in local gyms. He had much promise as a boxer and won a good number of his fights. He also became interested in music which lead to him playing in a band. He worked as an apprentice moulder in Kingston by day.
In 1961 he became a security man for Clement "Coxsone" Dodd who owned the Downbeat sound system, working with him on the open-air concerts.  The “Trojan" Duke Reid and Sir Coxsone were battling it out in the sound system competitions. Buster did some DJ work with Coxone and took part in many fights that competition between sound systems and their devoted fans "rude boys" would bring.  This fighting on numerous occasions earned him the title' Prince', to which few would dispute.
By 1962 after recording himself on the Starlite label, Prince Buster released a production of the Folkes Brothers "Oh Carolina" which was backed by Count Ossie's drummers. Shortly followed a hit by Eric Morris with "Humpty Dumpty". These records were released on Emil Shalit's Melodisc record company which he formed in the 1940's.
Due to the growth of Jamaican music and the new R & B sound, Shalit saw the need for a new label to concentrate on the new sound, the Blue Beat record label was born in 1960. For the first few years it enjoyed a monopoly in the U.K until the launch of Island records in 1962. The new sound that developed into Ska was sometimes referred to as Blue Beat because it mostly appeared on that label. Prince Buster either produced or recorded hundreds of records over the coming years.
Buster was an instant success and his records sold well, he eventually even had his own record shop on the corner of Charles Street and Luke Lane which he would call Buster's Record Shack.  His house band took the name of Buster’s All Stars and was undoubtedly the same session musicians that were used by the other producers at that time. His early material was distinct from other music of that period, having an up tempo style with highly charged horny ska riffs dominated by cymbals. The Mods in Britain became very much interested in Buster's tracks and as they were on general release on the Blue Beat label, songs such as One Step Beyond, Madness, and Al Capone became big hits. Al Capone was the first Jamaican recorded song to enter the U.K top 20.

To change with the times Blue Beat was phased out and the more modern sounding FAB & Rainbow/Dice labels came out. Around 1970 the Prince Buster label was formed to try to revive the Melodisc group. Unfortunately, Prince Buster began to ease off with his recordings to concentrate on his juke-box business, and in 1977 Shalit wound up the organization.
 Prince Buster toured Europe & Britain regularly between 1962 and 1967 and appeared on the popular TV show Ready Steady Go in 1964, having just broken all records with a sell-out concert at Brixton Town Hall. He also toured the USA in 1967 with great success.
In the early seventies he played a cameo role in Perry Henzell's definitive account of the Jamaican music industry "The Harder They Come". In the late seventies and early eighties he became an inspiration to the Two Tone bands.
Prince Buster is today living in Miami, Florida, USA, concentrating on his extensive business interests. (Info mainly edited from Ska2Soul)

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Artie Shaw born 23 May 1910

Artie Shaw (born Arthur Jacob Arshawsky*; May 23, 1910 –

December 30, 2004) was an American clarinetist, composer, and bandleader. Also an author, Shaw wrote both fiction and non-fiction.
Artie Shaw was one of the most enigmatic, daring and adventurous bandleaders of the swing-era. An intellectual, he hated public life and the music industry. Over the course of his short career he formed ten orchestras and disbanding most of them after only a few months. He also married eight times, his wives including movie stars Ava Gardner and Lana Turner. 
Raised in Connecticut, Shaw took up the saxophone at an early age and began playing professionally when he was only 14. He left home at 15 for a job in Kentucky. The position never materialized and he was forced to play with traveling orchestras in order to get home. At age 16 he switched to the clarinet and went to Cleveland, where he spent three years playing in local groups, including that of Austin Wylie. 
In 1929 Shaw joined Irving Aaronson's Commanders. While traveling the country with the band he discovered the works of contemporary avant-garde classical composers whose influence

would later surface in his own music. When the Commanders arrived for a gig in New York, Shaw decided to remain. There he freelanced with many of the top artists of the day, including Vincent Lopez, Red Nichols, and Teddy Wilson. He also briefly spent time with Fred Rich's orchestra and toured with Roger Wolfe Kahn. 
In 1934 Shaw became disillusioned with the music industry and quit for the first of what would be many times. He bought a farm in Pennsylvania and tried his hand at being a writer. He soon returned to New York and took up studio work again. He was one of the most successful studio musicians in the city when in 1935 he was asked to lead a small group during intermissions at a swing concert held by the Imperial Theater. He put together an unusual outfit consisting of a string quartet, a rhythm section minus piano, and his clarinet. 
Shaw's unique combination was wildly received by the audience. He was offered financial backing to form his own orchestra, and in 1936 he debut his first dance band, which featured a Dixieland approach and a string quartet. The new group made some impressive recordings but couldn't compete with the brassier swing orchestras of the day, so Shaw disbanded it the following year and formed a more conventional big band.  
His new outfit was a huge success, featuring such musicians as Georgie Auld, Buddy Rich, Tony Pastor, and Jerry Gray. Vocalists included Billie Holiday, Kitty Kallen, Peg LaCentra, and Helen Forrest. In September of 1938 Shaw collapsed on stage due to exhaustion. He was also absent from the band in the summer of 1939 due to illness. Upon his return to good health he announced he was quitting the business again but was talked out of it by Gray and Pastor. He didn't stay long however. He left in November and moved to Mexico. 

Shaw returned to the U.S. two months later and formed a 32-piece studio orchestra which recorded several songs, including his famous version of ''Frenesi.'' Later in the year, he formed a new band of his own that included the now famous Gramercy Five. Ray Conniff arranged for the new group and Anita Boyer sang. Shaw again grew restless and disbanded his new outfit in early 1941. He formed another group in the fall of that year. Vocalists included Bonnie Lake, Paula Kelly and Fredda Gibson (later to become Georgia Gibbs). He also disbanded this group soon after starting it, in January of 1942.

In April Shaw joined the Navy. After going through boot camp and serving two months on a minesweeper he was put in charge of a service band. He shaped up the group and took it on a tour of Pacific combat zones, often playing in dangerous and primitive conditions. The strain of such an endeavor soon got to him, however, and he was medically discharged in November 1943. 
By fall of 1944 Shaw's health had recovered and he formed a new civilian band, which included Conniff, Barney Kessel, Roy Eldridge, and Dodo Marmarosa. Imogene Lynn provided vocals. By 1947 he had quit that group and taken up the study of classical clarinet, for which he performed and recorded an album. In 1949 Shaw formed a bop orchestra. He again quit the music industry in 1951 and retired to a farm, where he wrote his autobiography. 
In 1954 he returned briefly to music with a new Gramercy Five, but by the end of the year Artie Shaw had packed up his clarinet for the last time. He spent the rest of his life doing various concerns: writing and working briefly as a film distributor and a gun expert. He moved to Spain in 1955, to Connecticut in 1960, and to Southern California in 1973. In the 1980s he formed a new orchestra for special performances, though he did not play in it himself. The 1985 film documentary Time Is All You've Got traced his career in some detail. Shaw suffered from ill health the last few years of his life. He passed away on December 30, 2004. 

*Artie Shaw's middle name is often given as Jacob, a fact he said was inaccurate. He claimed he had no middle name. (Thanks to Artie Shaw's personal assistant, Larry Rose, for this information.) (info from

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Marcie Blane born 21 May 1944

Marcie Blane (born Marcia Blank, May 21, 1944, Brooklyn, New York) is an American singer who recorded pop music. The Seville record label issued a demo performed by the high school student as a favor for a friend. The song was "Bobby's Girl", which was followed by "What Does a Girl Do" and several other singles.

Released on Seville records in the fall of 1962, "Bobby's Girl" made #2 on the Cash Box chart and #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was later recorded for the German market in their language. It sold over one million copies by 1963, and was awarded a gold disc. In the United Kingdom the song was covered by Susan Maughan who had the hit. "What Does A Girl Do?", the follow-up single, rose to #82 on the Hot 100 list in early 1963, and was Blane's only other appearance on any Billboard chart.
Seville kept Marcie's releases flowing thick and fast through 1963, but "Little Miss Fool", "You Gave My Number To Billy" and "Why Can't I Get A Guy" all failed to catch on, and her position as the nation's top-selling female singer was soon taken by Little Peggy March and Lesley Gore. But by now she had higher things than the fickleness of fans on her mind, having recently enrolled as a fulltime music major at Queens College, the alma mater of Paul Simon, Carole King and Marvin Hamlisch, to name just a few. Marcie did find time, though, to visit the UK, where she performed on TV's Thank Your Lucky Stars.
Marcie's only release of 1964 was "Bobby Did", a song co-written by the then unknown Neil Diamond. 1965's "She'll Break The String" marked the end of her recording career. It transpires the whole experience had not been one Marcie had enjoyed. She loved music, and always had, but cared not for the record business. She had continued making records because she was contractually obliged to do so, but had elected against promoting them, focusing instead on her education and family life.
After graduating from Queens College, Marcie got married, had two children, and went on to enjoy a whole new career working in education.  Around 1965 Marcie retired from the music business and, as of the early 1990's, was a music and arts educator in New York.
 "The music business was impossible for me to deal with," Marcie revealed in a rare interview in 1988. "Everything changed. I felt very isolated and very lonely. I decided not to continue. I couldn't. It was too difficult. I didn't feel comfortable in front of a lot of people, with everyone making a fuss. I didn't have the sense of myself that I needed. It's taken all these years to be able to enjoy what there was."   (Info edited mainly from  Spectropop & Wikipedia)