Saturday, 30 April 2016

Mabel Scott born 30 April 1915


Mabel Scott (30 April 1915, Richmond, Virginia – 19 July 2000, Los Angeles), was an American gospel music and R&B vocalist.
One of the least regarded, but arguably the most talented of the many female pianist/vocalists who inhabited the West Coast during the 1940s, Mabel Scott was beautiful, elegant and classically trained, with a strong voice suitable for torchy ballads as well as up-tempo jump novelties. And she was married, albeit briefly, to one of the major stars of 1940s black music. Small wonder, then, that she was not more commercially successful during her recording career - or more well-known today than she is.
Born the youngest of three children in Richmond, Virginia, Mabel Bernice Scott's family moved to New York City when she was just six. She started piano lessons the following year and began singing at The Metropolitan Baptist Church, going on to form her own female gospel group, The Song Cycles. Turning to secular entertainment, Mabel Scott made her professional debut at the age of 17, working at the Cotton Club in Harlem with the Cab Calloway Orchestra and the Nicholas Brothers.
She moved from New York City to Cleveland in 1936 and the following year toured Europe, making both her first film appearance and recording debut in England when she recorded two sessions for Parlophone in London in early 1938 with her regular piano accompanist, Bob Mosely. A huge success, the pair returned to Europe, reportedly from 1940 through to 1942, only returning to the US when the war situation escalated and upon their return moved their base of operations to the West Coast. Mosely went on to join Jack McVea's first band and Scott briefly joined the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra.

By 1943, Mabel was headlining at Central Avenue's famous Club Alabam in a revue emceed by the young Wynonie Harris, and she spent some time in the mid 1940s as the female vocalist with Lorenzo Flennoy's band. By the early post war years, Mabel's star had risen again sufficiently to enable her to resume her recording career for a one-off session for Hub Records, and she joined Leon Rene's Exclusive label in 1947, hitting the Billboard R&B charts the following year with her recordings of Elevator Boogie (#6) and Boogie Woogie Santa Claus (#12). The former recording featured the piano of another Exclusive label artist, Charles Brown, who toured with Mabel in 1948, at the height of their success, and married her the following year, divorcing in 1951.

In 1950, Mabel, with a couple of all star backing bands, made two fine sessions for King Records in New York City, but sadly none of the recordings were lucrative hits and she left the Cincinnati-based label to record in the early 1950s for Coral, Brunswick and Parrot, making her final recordings with Les Welch's Jazz Band during a tour of Australia for Festival Records in August 1955. An abusive relationship with her second husband persuaded Mabel to turn to the church for comfort, whereupon she retired from secular music in the late 1950s to sing once again for the Almighty. She was given a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1995. She passed away in relative obscurity in her adopted home of Los Angeles on 19th July 2000.
(Info mainly from Dave Penny @ Black Cat Rockabilly)

Monday, 25 April 2016

Wizz Jones born 25 April 1939

Raymond Ronald Jones (born 25 April 1939, Thornton Heath, Croydon, Surrey) better-known as Wizz Jones is an English acoustic guitarist, singer and songwriter. He has been performing since the late 1950s and recording from 1965 to the present. He has worked with many of the notable guitarists of the English folk music revival, such as John Renbourn and Bert Jansch.
Jones became infatuated with the bohemian image of Woody Guthrie and Jack Kerouac and grew his hair long. His mother had started calling him Wizzy after the Beano comic strip character "Wizzy the Wuz" because at the age of nine Raymond was a budding musician. The nickname stuck throughout his school years and when he formed his first band, "The Wranglers", in 1957 the name became permanent. Bert Jansch later said, "I think he's the most underrated guitarist ever." In the early 1960s he went busking in Paris, France, and there mixed in an artistic circle that included Rod Stewart, Alex Campbell, Clive Palmer (Incredible String Band) and Ralph McTell. After a couple of years travelling throughout Europe and North Africa he returned to England and married his longtime girlfriend Sandy to raise a family.
In 1965, his only single was released: Bob Dylan's "Ballad of Hollis Brown". By this time the skiffle boom was over but one of the stars of that movement, Chas McDevitt, used Jones' guitar-playing on five albums in 1965 and 1966. Another musician on those sessions was the bluegrass banjo-player, Pete Stanley. In 1966, Jones and Stanley released an album, Sixteen Tons of Bluegrass, but this partnership broke down in 1967, as Jones then turned solo.

           Here's " "When I Leave Berlin" from above album .

Lazy Farmer is the 1975 album by British folk rock group Lazy Farmer. This short-lived group consisted of pioneer British Folk musician Wizz Jones, his wife Sandy Jones, John Bidwell and Jake Walton.

Jones started to become a singer-songwriter. His first solo album was Wizz Jones in 1969. Up to 1988, ten solo albums followed and he played on Ralph McTell's single "Easy" in 1974. Steve Tilston was also guided by Jones, through the early stages of his career. Jones was once described as having 'a right hand worthy of Broonzy', referring to the Blues Guitarist Big Bill Broonzy. Most of his recordings from this period are long out of print. 

A brief excursion as a member of the traditional folk band Lazy Farmer in 1975 produced an album that was reissued in 2006. Jones has always maintained a high level of popularity in Germany, since the mid–1970s, and he stills tours mainland Europe every year. The early 1990s were a quiet period. He almost disappeared from public view.
When in the mid-1990s he appeared on the Bert Jansch television documentary Acoustic Routes, there was renewed interest in his work. In 2001, he led John Renbourn and other members of Pentangle on the album Lucky The Man. In 2007, The Legendary Me and When I Leave Berlin were reissued on CD by the Sunbeam record label.
On 30 May 2012, Bruce Springsteen opened the sold-out Wrecking Ball concert at Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany, with Jones's song, "When I Leave Berlin".

In 2015, Jones toured with John Renbourn, playing a mixture of solo and duo material, before Renbourn died in March that year. (Info Wikipedia)

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Robert Knight born 24 April 1945

Robert Knight (born Robert Peebles April 24, 1945) is an American singer best known for the 1967 recording of the song "Everlasting Love" which endures among the finest soul records of its era.
Born in Franklin, Tennessee, Knight made his professional vocal debut with the Paramounts, a quintet consisting of school friends he formed with schoolmates in 1959. They signed to Dot Records in 1960, and  recorded "Free Me" in 1961, a US R&B hit produced by Noel Ball. 

It was Ball who had come up with the stage name Robert Knight, and released a couple of solo singles on him. When a series of follow-up efforts failed, the Paramounts dissolved, which prompted Dot to file a breach of contract lawsuit. The subsequent legal wranglings effectively shelved Knight's musical aspirations for close to five years, during which time he studied chemistry at Tennessee State University. There he also formed a new vocal trio, the Fairlanes -- while performing with the group, Knight was spotted by songwriters/producers Buzz Cason and Fred Foster, who signed him as a solo act to their fledgling record label Rising Sons.

Buzz was equally impressed, and began working with Gayden, writing material for Knight's upcoming sessions. Putting lyrics to a few riffs that Mac had been playing around with for years, they came up with Rising Sons' breakthrough song, Everlasting Love, which spent 11 weeks on the charts, climbing to #13 Pop in the fall of 1967. No matter what you may think of the song, it has some kind of universal appeal, and has been a hit in four different decades. 

In 1968, the British group Love Affair topped the U.K. charts with their cover of the song, keeping Knight's original stuck in the lower reaches of the Top 40 -- back home, he scored a pair of minor pop hits with "Blessed Are the Lonely" and "Isn't It Lonely Together," and in 1973 reached the British Top Ten with "Love on a Mountain Top" also written by Cason and Gayden, while the re-issued "Everlasting Love" went even higher in the UK the following year, reaching the Top 20. His final UK chart record was "Better Get Ready For Love" which reached #53 in May 1974. 

He toured the UK in 1974 to great acclaim, and re-pressings of Everlasting Love and My Rainbow Valley hit the charts over there as well. Upon returning to Nashville, however, he discovered that things hadn't changed here in the States, and the few singles he cut for Private Stock in the late seventies went nowhere.  

Knight nevertheless shifted his focus away from music in the decades to follow, continuing his career in chemical research for Vanderbilt University as a chemical lab technician, a chemistry teacher, and a member of the grounds crew.

He continues to occasionally perform and record. "Everlasting Love" remains a perennial, with hit cover versions by Carl Carlton, Rex Smith/Rachel Sweet, and Gloria Estefan. (Info edited from Wikipedia & AMG)

This is a clip of Robert Knight performing Love on a mountain top on Top of the pops on January 3rd 1974. The edition does not exist in the BBC archives.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Janet Blair born 23 April 1921

Janet Blair (April 23, 1921 – February 19, 2007) was a big band singer who went on to become a popular American film and television actress. 

Born Martha Janet Lafferty in Altoona, Pennsylvania (she took her acting surname from Blair County, Pennsylvania), Blair was the daughter of musically oriented parents, Mr. and Mrs. Fred B. Lafferty. Her father led the choir and sang solos in his church, and her mother played both piano and organ. She had a brother, Fred Jr., and a sister, Louise. Raised in the public school system, she sang in the church choir during her youth and adolescence. The inspiration and talent were evident enough for her to pursue singing as a career by the time she graduated.

At age 18, she was a lead vocalist with Hal Kemp's band at the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles. Whilst singing with Kemp's outfit, Janet met and, subsequently, married the band's pianist, Lou Busch, a respected musician, songwriter, and, later, ragtime recording artist.

A Columbia Pictures talent scout caught her behind the microphone and spotted fine potential in the pretty-as-a-picture songstress. The death of Kemp in a car accident in December of 1940 and the band's eventual break-up signaled a life-changing course of events. She signed up with Columbia, for up to $100 a week, and moved to Los Angeles while her husband found work as a studio musician. Janet made an immediate impression in her debut film as the feisty kid sister of Joan Blondell and Binnie Barnes in Three Girls About Town (1941) and also dallied about in the movies, Two Yanks in Trinidad (1942) and The Boss Said 'No' (1942), until her big break in the movies arrived.  

Usually appearing in a frothy musical or light comedy, she was seeded second, however, to another redhead, Rita Hayworth, when it came to Columbia's dispensing out musical leads. Janet, nevertheless, continued promisingly paired up with George Raft in the mob-oriented tune-fest, Broadway (1942); alongside Don Ameche in the musical, Something to Shout About (1943); and opposite Cary Grant in the comedy-fantasy, Once Upon a Time (1944). She played second lead to Ms. Hayworth in Tonight and Every Night (1945) and was right in her element when asked to co-star with bandleaders Jimmy Dorsey and Tommy Dorsey in their biopic, The Fabulous Dorseys (1947).  

During World War II she appeared as the pin-up girl in the March 1944 issue of Yank Magazine. In the late 1940s, Blair had star billing in the crime drama I Love Trouble as well as in The Fuller Brush Man, a comedy with Red Skelton, but was dropped by Columbia and did not return to pictures for several years. 

A new decade brought about a new career direction. Putting together a successful nightclub act, she was spotted by composer Richard Rodgers and made a sparkling name for herself within a short time. Rodgers & Hammerstein's "South Pacific", starring Mary Martin, was the hit of the Broadway season and Janet dutifully took on the lead role of "Ensign Nellie Forbush" when the show went on tour in 1950. She gave a yeoman performance -- over 1,200 in all -- within a three-year period. 

Following this success, she made her Broadway debut in the musical, "A Girl Can Tell," in 1953. She went on for decades, appearing in such tuneful vehicles as "Anything Goes," "Bells Are Ringing," "Annie Get Your Gun," "Mame," and "Follies." Her career, however, took second place after marrying second husband, producer/director Nick Mayo in 1953, and raising their two children, Amanda and Andrew.
During 1959 Blair recorded an album of standards entitled Flame Out! for the Dico label. Here's "They Can't Take That Away From Me." 

Janet met Nick Mayo when he stage-managed "South Pacific" and went on to co-own and operate Valley Music Theatre in Woodland Hills, California, during the mid-1960s. There, she played "Maria" in "The Sound of Music" and "Peter Pan" opposite Vincent Price's "Dr. Hook," among others. Her second marriage lasted until the late '60s. TV's "Golden Age" proved to be a viable medium for her. She also returned to films on occasion. 

After her second divorce, Janet laid off touring in musicals and settled in Hollywood to raise her two teenage children while looking for TV work. She found a steady paycheck paired up with Henry Fonda on the sitcom, The Smith Family (1971), playing another of her patented loyal wives. She also found scattered work on such TV shows as Marcus Welby, M.D. (1969), Switch (1975), Fantasy Island (1977), and The Love Boat (1977). Her last guest showing was on the Murder, She Wrote (1984) episode, Murder, She Wrote: Who Killed J.B. Fletcher? (1991). Janet died at age 85 in Santa Monica, California, after developing pneumonia.

(Info edited from Wikipedia & IMDB bio)
Janet Blair sings "To Me" from the 1947 film "The Fabulous Dorseys". This video contains both scenes of her singing the song.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Mel Carter born 22 April 1943

Mel Carter (born April 22, 1943*, Cincinnati, Ohio) is an American singer and actor. He is best known for his 1965 million selling recording, "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me". 

Mel Carter began his career in Cincinnati at the age of four when his grandmother held him up to the microphone in a penny arcade recording booth. As it turned out, it was 25 cents well-spent; the unpolished performance had an unmistakable element of raw talent etched into those crude grooves. From that point on, music proved to be Mel's destiny, as his career produced one hit single after another.  

The now legendary Quincy Jones first discovered Mel and signed him to record his debut pop session on Mercury Records, which expertly showcased Mel's passionate vocals and immediately began turning heads in the recording industry. But it was not until Sam Cooke signed Mel to Derby Records that he had his first hit single, "When A Boy Falls In Love," which climbed the charts in England as well as in the United States and reached the number one position on the West Coast. 

By the time he reached his commercial peak with Imperial Records in the middle of the decade, he was specializing in pop ballads. His biggest success was the Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hit, "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me," which reached Number 8, in 1965. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. This led to an offer to tour with the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars. Mel shared the bill with other up and coming performers of the day, including Sonny and Cher, Tom Jones and other popular English and American recording artists. 

He had a couple of other Top 40 entries over the next year, "Band of Gold" and "All of a Sudden My Heart Sings", as well as a few other easy listening sellers.
As further proof of his immense versatility, Mel also enjoyed success as a stage performer. A highlight in his career was playing Sportin' Life in a concert of "Porgy and Bess" accompanied by the late perfectionist (and seven-time Academy Award winner) John Green, who conducted the San Diego Symphony Orchestra with an 80-voice choir. Mel received four standing ovations for his performance. 
Continually expanding his horizons, Mel co-produced his 1985 album, "Willing," which won him a Grammy nomination for "Best Male Gospel Performance. That same year brought him brilliant reviews and awards including "L.A. Weekly's" La Wee and an NAACP Image Award nomination for Best Performance in a Musical as a result of his starring role in "Glitter Palace."
Mel continued to nourish his love for appearing before a live audience, starting the 90's off with a series of successful tours. Standing room only engagements at Trump Castle, London's Royal Albert Hall, Taj Mahal and Merv Griffin's Resort Casino Hotel in Atlantic City as well as a tour-de-force performance in "Fly Blackbird Revisited" proved that Mel's appeal was both timeless and universal. In addition to his singing career, Mel Carter is also known and respected as an accomplished actor, with a long list of film and television credits.

He has established himself as a modern day renaissance man who has proven that real and genuine talent will always find an audience, regardless of the current trends, radio formats or fashions. Throughout the course of his career, Mel has re-defined the term "multi talented" and truly established himself as a legend in pop music. 

Carter has recently released a new album called Mel Carter Continues where he takes you on a musical journey through Ballads, R&B and big band numbers.
(Info various mainly edited from mel-carter .com) (* other sources give Mel’s birth year as 1939)

Here’s a Hullabaloo performance. Feb 28, 1966

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Edna Savage born 21 April 1936

Edna Savage (21 April 1936 - 31 December 2000) was a traditional pop singer in the United Kingdom who achieved massive success in the 1950s. Soon after pop charts came into vogue the soft-voiced songbird was up there at the top and had the world at her feet.
She was born in Broadbent Avenue, Warrington, Cheshire, England. She had two sisters, both older. Her father was a landscape gardener, her mother an amateur singer.
She left school at age 15 (common in the UK in those days). At first she trained as a telephone operator, but after a few bands had her sing for them locally, she quit the telephone job to sing professionally. She always told her friends at Richard Fairclough Secondary School she was going to be a star and after dates at the Bell Hall, the Liberal Club, the Parr Hall, the Baths Hall and the Ritz Cinema she was catapulted to fame.
Her trademark was a choker - a piece of velvet ribbon around her neck with a brooch. Among her mentors was Eric Pepperall, the veteran Warrington bandleader, who set her on course for recording success.
She auditioned twice for the BBC before making her first radio broadcast, in 1954 with Alan Ainsworth and The BBC Northern Variety Orchestra. In one of her early television appearances she sang alongside Glen Mason, another rising talent.


She recorded a number of records, only one of which charted, "Arrivederci Darling" in 1956, which made it to #19 in the UK Singles Chart.

In the 1956 film 'It's Great to be Young' she dubbed the voiceover for Dorothy Bromiley. Ruby Murray sang the number in the opening credits. In 1957 she participated in the UK qualifying heat for the Eurovision Song Contest.
Ever the optimist, Edna survived four marriages and divorces, Terry Dene the Rock and Roll singer, Reg Rose a garage proprietor, Douglas Wilkes guitarist with the 'Shondells'.   They had twin daughters, Allison and Samantha and lastly Dennis Plowright her pianist.
Edna toured military bases with a CSE show but from the mid-60s onwards her career slipped away. She continued working until the birth of her twins in 1972. Over the years she never lost her sense of humour despite all her troubles, setbacks and illness.

Edna died in Ormskirk Hospital on 31st December 2000, back in her own home county, at the age of 64.
(Info edited mainly from Wikipedia & the Guardian Series &

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Lionel Hampton born 20 April 1908

Lionel Leo Hampton (April 20, 1908 – August 31, 2002) was an American jazz  vibraphonist, pianist, percussionist, bandleader  and actor.  
One of the all-time great jazz musicians, Lionel Hampton first achieved fame as a member of Benny Goodman's orchestra in the 1930s. Though he also played drums and piano, Hampton is most celebrated for his innovative vibraphone work. Red Norvo introduced the instrument to jazz audiences in the 1920s, but it was Hampton who popularized the sound of what had once been considered only a novelty instrument and turned it into a jazz staple. 

Hampton was born in Louisville, Kentucky. After losing his father in WWI, he and his mother settled in Chicago, where Hampton began his professional career as a drummer for local bands. During that time he became friends with saxophonist Les Hite. Hite eventually moved to Los Angeles to form his own orchestra and sent for Hampton in 1927. Hampton moved to the West Coast but Hite was slow to organize, so Hampton began to work with local groups, including Paul Howard's Quality Serenaders, with whom he made his first recording in 1929. 

In 1930 Hite finally got organized. Hite's orchestra often accompanied Louis Armstrong on recordings during the early 1930s, offering a great deal of exposure to the young Hampton. It was during this time that he switched to the vibraphone and began to make a name for himself. 

(L to R)  Barnett Tommy Dorsey,  Goodman, Armstrong,  Hampton

In 1936 Hampton formed his own group and began an engagement at the Paradise Cafe in Los Angeles. Benny Goodman heard him perform and signed him on as a member of his quartet, breaking what had then been a colour barrier in jazz music. Hampton later worked with Goodman's full orchestra. He became quite popular during his stay with Goodman, performing on many of Goodman's key recordings in the late 1930s. 

Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Lionel Hampton

In 1940 Hampton left Goodman to form his own successful orchestra. Band members at various times included Milt Buckner, Illinois Jacquet, Dexter Gordon, and Earl Bostic. Joe Williams and Dinah Washington were vocalists. The group recorded for the Victor, Decca, and Verve labels before disbanding in 1946, falling victim, like so many other orchestras, to the country's changing tastes and the collapse of the big band industry.

Hampton continued leading groups of various sizes, including a new orchestra, up through the 1990s, often playing for presidents and acting as goodwill ambassador for the United States. In 1978 he formed his own record label, Who's Who in Jazz. During the 1980s Hampton worked with the University of Idaho's music program. The university named its jazz festival and music school after him. In 1992, he was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. In 1997 sadness struck when a fire destroyed his New York apartment and much of his music memorabilia.  

Despite strokes and the ravages of age, Lionel Hampton remained a vital force into the 1990s. In January 2001, a vibraphone he had played for 15 years was put into the National Museum of American History. On August 31, 2002, at age 94, Lionel Hampton suffered major heart failure and passed away. (Info edited  mainly from Parabrisas)

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Ruby Johnson born 19 April 1936

Ruby Johnson (19 April 1936 – 4 July 1999) was an American soul singer, best known for her recordings on the Volt label in the late 1960s.

She was born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and was raised in the Jewish faith. She sang, with her eight brothers and sisters, in the Temple Beth-El choir. After completing high school, she moved to Virginia Beach where she worked as a waitress and began singing rhythm and blues with local bands, before spending two years with Samuel Latham and the Rhythm Makers. She then moved to Washington DC in the late 1950s, and joined Ambrose and the Showstoppers, the house band at the Spa nightclub.

Amazed by her contralto vocal style, the local entrepreneur Never Duncan Jnr became Johnson's manager and hooked her up with Dicky Williams, a musician and producer she knew from her days at Virginia Beach. In 1960, Ruby Johnson cut her debut single, "Calling All Boys", for the Philadelphia-based V-Tone label. Subsequently, her manager launched NEBS Records and issued a succession of Johnson 45s ("Here I Go Again", "Worried Mind", "Nobody Cares") which the disc-jockey Al Bell turned into regional hits on the Washington DC station WLOK.
When her local supporter, disc jockey Al Bell, began working for Stax Records in Memphis in 1965, he won her a contract with the label. There, she recorded a handful of classic soul records with the writing and production team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter, and backing musicians including Steve Cropper, "Duck" Dunn and Al Jackson. These were issued on the Stax subsidiary label, Volt. They included "I’ll Run Your Hurt Away", which reached #31 on the Billboard R&B chart in 1966, and "If I Ever Needed Love", both tracks which became staples of subsequent soul compilations, such as those by Dave Godin.

 Porter said that Ruby had something very special, that all of the sadness and other emotions in her life came through in her voice and in her styling of a song. Hayes and Porter never quite wrote the hit song to match Johnson's supreme, tearful delivery and propel her into the limelight. Indeed, a lot of Johnson's Stax sessions remained in the vaults until 1993. Never Duncan Jnr organised a few more recordings ("I Can't Do It" was issued by the Capacity label in 1968) but, after a few more years singing in nightclubs, Ruby Johnson quit the music business in 1974. 

 She worked in government posts, and eventually became the director of Foster Grandparents, a federal programme helping handicapped children relate to older generations. She also returned to worship and sing at the Temple Beth-El near her home in Lanham, Maryland.
Her new-found cult status in the Nineties puzzled her slightly but she did admit to missing the old days at Stax and on stage. "Every time I see some of those big shows, I long for it sometimes, I really do. I enjoyed what I was doing."

A compilation CD, including many previously unissued tracks, was issued on CD by Ace Records in 1993. 

Ruby died in Lanham, Maryland 4 July 1999, aged 63. (Info various mainly Wikipedia)