Sunday, 26 November 2017

Davy Graham born 26 November 1940

David Michael Gordon "Davey" Graham (originally spelled Davy Graham) (26 November 1940 – 15 December 2008) was a British guitarist and one of the most influential figures in the 1960s British folk revival. He never achieved – or sought – fame and fortune, but his influence as one of Britain's most brilliant and innovative acoustic guitarists runs deep through many musical genres. 

David Michael Gordon Graham was born in Leicester on 26 November 1940, the mixed-race son of a Scots Gaelic singer from the Isle of Skye and a Guyanese mother. Brought up in London's Notting Hill area, he initially learned harmonica and piano, but took up the guitar when he was 12 and – taught by Oliver Hunt – became adept on classical guitar by the time he was 16, when he also became obsessed by the hits of Lonnie Donegan. He left school in 1958 to go busking in Paris, and listened intently to music wherever he could find it – from Rambling Jack Elliott to Big Bill Broonzy, Snooks Eaglin, Miles Davis and Charles Mingus. 

He quickly developed his own unique finger style and came to wider attention in June 1959, when he was featured playing a complex and demanding arrangement of the standard Cry Me A River in a Ken Russell BBC TV documentary, Guitar Craze.  

Graham secured a residency at Nick's Diner in Fulham, had a cameo role in the film The Servant and expanded his musical horizons with trips to Italy, Greece and Tangier, where he sat in with local musicians in the Arab quarter, adapting their techniques into his own playing. This ultimately resulted in his developing the DADGAD modal guitar tuning system, which enabled him to create a richer sound and opened up a broader range of melodic possibilities that subsequently provided a new blueprint for folk guitarists everywhere. 

In 1961 Alexis Korner arranged a session with him at the London home of the recording engineer Bill Leader, resulting in the collaborative EP, 3/4AD, released the following year by Topic Records. It included Anji, written for his girlfriend of the time.
                             Here’s “Anji” from above EP

His first LP, The Guitar Player, was released on the Golden Guinea label the following year, though its repertoire of standards was scarcely representative of the original ideas he was now exploring. These came to fruition in 1965 with the release of the Decca LP Folk, Blues & Beyond, which merged traditional melodies such as Seven Gypsies with jazz and what would now be called 'world music' in a style that came to be dubbed "folk baroque". 

Hot on its heels came the even more daring Folk Roots, New Routes, an experimental record still talked of in hushed tones in British folk music circles, setting the traditional Sussex songs of Shirley Collins to bold modern jazz accompaniments. Sales were low, but it was critically acclaimed; and its influence resonated around the folk scene and far beyond. Later groups such as Pentangle took direct inspiration from this concerted refusal to recognise musical barriers.  

With a sight defect dating from a childhood accident, Graham was awkward in company: impeccably polite yet disconcertingly distant. He married the American singer Holly Gwinn, with whom he made two albums and had two daughters before she returned to America in 1974 without him.  

By then Graham was addicted to heroin – in a deliberate attempt, according to some of his contemporaries, to ape his jazz heroes – and he slowly slipped from the public gaze.  

Graham briefly returned to attention with The Complete Guitarist LP (1977), which blended classical with Irish and Renaissance music, and made sporadic live appearances. 

He continued to travel and investigate music from different parts of the world, mastering the Arabic oud and Indian sarod instruments and studying a variety of different languages – even returning to his father's Scottish roots to learn Gaelic. He also undertook charity work, with a particular interest in helping people suffering from depression.  

He was the subject of a 2005 BBC Radio documentary, Whatever Happened to Davy Graham ? and in 2006 featured in the BBC Four documentary Folk Britannia. His final album, Broken Biscuits, consisted of originals and new arrangements of traditional songs from around the world.
Graham was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2008 and died on 15 December of that year.

Guitarist Davy Graham playing Cry Me A River, as captured in a 1959 BBC documentary directed by Ken Russell on the rise in popularity of the guitar in Britain.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Percy Sledge born 25 November 1940

Percy Tyrone Sledge (November 25, 1940 – April 14, 2015) was an American R&B, soul and gospel singer. 

Sledge was born on November 25, 1940, in Leighton, Alabama. He worked in a series of agricultural jobs in the fields in Leighton before taking a job as an orderly at Colbert County Hospital in Sheffield, Alabama. Through the mid-1960s, he toured the Southeast with the Esquires Combo on weekends, while working at the hospital during the week. A former patient and mutual friend of Sledge and record producer Quin Ivy introduced the two. An audition followed, and Sledge was signed to a recording contract. 

"When a Man Loves a Woman" was Sledge's first song recorded under the contract, and was released in March 1966.According to Sledge, the inspiration for the song came when his girlfriend left him for a modelling career after he was laid off from a construction job in late 1965, and, because bassist Calvin Lewis and organist Andrew Wright helped him with the song, he gave all the songwriting credits to them.

Ivy released the single independently and quickly licensed it to Atlantic Records, who quickly bought out Sledge's contract. "When a Man Loves a Woman" became a huge hit in the summer of 1966, topping both the pop and R&B charts. It was quickly followed that year by two Top Ten R&B hits, "Warm and Tender Love" and "It Tears Me Up," which were both in the vein of his first hit. Although few of his subsequent singles were hits -- only "Take Time to Know Her" reached the R&B Top Ten in 1968 -- many of the songs, which were often written by Dan Penn and/or Oldham, were acknowledged as classics among soul aficionados. 

Sledge's soulful voice was perfect for the series of soul ballads produced by Ivy and Marlin Greene, which rock critic Dave Marsh called "emotional classics for romantics of all ages". Sledge sang the ballad with wrenching, convincing anguish and passion. In fact he sang all of his songs that way, delivering them in a powerful rush where he quickly changed from soulful belting to quavering, tearful pleas. It was a voice that made him one of the key figures of deep Southern soul.

Sledge recorded at Muscle Shoals studios in Alabama, where he frequently sang songs written by Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn. Not only did he sing deep soul, but Sledge was among the pioneers of country-soul, singing songs by Charlie Rich and Kris Kristofferson in a gritty, passionate style. During the '70s, his commercial success faded away, but Sledge continued to tour and record into the '90s.  

Despite his strong reputation among deep soul fans, Sledge's sales had declined considerably by the early '70s, and he headed out on the club circuit in America and England. In 1974, he left Atlantic for Capricorn Records, where he returned to the R&B Top 20 with "I'll Be Your Everything." During the 1970s he became an international concert favourite throughout the world, especially in the Netherlands, Germany, and on the African continent; he averaged 100 concerts a year in South Africa. 

Over the next two decades he continued to tour, and in the late '80s "When a Man Loves a Woman" experienced resurgence in popularity, due to its inclusion in movie soundtracks and in television commercials. Following its appearance in a 1987 Levi's commercial in the U.K., the single was re-released and climbed to number two. 

Two years later, he won the Rhythm and Blues Foundation's Career Achievement Award. Sledge was able to turn this revived popularity into a successful career by touring constantly; playing over 100 shows a year into the '90s. 

In 1994, Saul Davis and Barry Goldberg produced Sledge's album, Blue Night, for Philippe Le Bras' Sky Ranch label and Virgin Records. It featured Bobby Womack, Steve Cropper, and Mick Taylor among others Blue Night received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album, Vocal or Instrumental, and in 1996 it won the W.C. Handy Award for best soul or blues album.

After the turn of the millennium he returned with Shining Through the Rain in 2004. The following year, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  

Percy Sledge died of liver cancer at his home in Baton Rouge on April 14, 2015, at the age of 74. His interment was in Baton Rouge's Heavenly Gates Cemetery. (Compiled and edited from All Music & Wikipedia)

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Manuel de Falla born 23 November 1876

Manuel de Falla,  (born November 23, 1876, Cádiz, Spain—died November 14, 1946, Alta Gracia, Argentina), the most distinguished Spanish composer of the early 20th century. In his music he achieved a fusion of poetry, asceticism, and ardour that represents the spirit of Spain at its purest. 

Falla took piano lessons from his mother and later went to Madrid to continue the piano and to study composition with Felipe Pedrell, who inspired him with his own enthusiasm for 16th-century Spanish church music, folk music, and native opera, or zarzuela. In 1905 Falla won two prizes, one for piano playing and the other for a national opera, La vida breve (first performed in Nice, France, 1913). 

In 1907 he moved to Paris, where he met Claude Debussy, Paul Dukas, and Maurice Ravel (whose orchestration influenced his own) and published his first piano pieces and songs. In 1914 he returned to Madrid, where he wrote the music for a ballet, El amor brujo (Love, the Magician; Madrid, 1915), remarkable for its distillation of Andalusian folk music.  
Falla followed this with El corregidor y la molinera (Madrid, 1917), which Diaghilev persuaded him to rescore for a ballet by Léonide Massine called El sombrero de tres picos (The Three-Cornered Hat; London, 1919). Noches en los jardines de España (Nights in the Gardens of Spain; Madrid, 1916), a suite of three impressions for piano and orchestra, evoked the Andalusian atmosphere through erotic and suggestive orchestration. All these works established Falla internationally as the leading Spanish composer. 
          Here's the Ritual Fire Dance from El Amor Brujo

Falla then retired to Granada, where in 1922 he organized a cante hondo festival and composed a puppet opera, El retablo de Maese Pedro. Like the subsequent Harpsichord Concerto (1926), containing echoes of Domenico Scarlatti, the Retablo shows Falla much influenced by Igor Stravinsky. Falla’s style was then Neoclassical instead of Romantic, still essentially Spanish, but Castilian rather than Andalusian. After 1926 he wrote little, living first in Mallorca and, from 1939, in Argentina following Francisco Franco's victory in the Spanish Civil War.  

In Argentina Falla worked on Atlántida (The orchestration of the piece remained incomplete at his death and was completed posthumously by Ernesto Halffter.) He also premiered his Suite Homenajes in Buenos Aires in November 1939. In 1940, he was named a Knight of the Order of King Alfonso X of Castile. Franco's government offered him a large pension if he would return to Spain, but he refused. 

Falla did spend some time teaching in exile. Among his notable pupils was composer Rosa García Ascot. His health began to decline and he moved to a house in the mountains where he was tended by his sister María del Carmen de Falla (1882-1971). He died of cardiac arrest on 14 November 1946 in Alta Gracia, in the Argentine province of Córdoba. 

In 1947 his remains were brought back to Spain and entombed in the cathedral at Cádiz. One of the lasting honours to his memory is the Manuel de Falla Chair of Music in the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at Complutense University of Madrid. His image appeared on Spanish currency notes for some years. Manuel de Falla never married and had no children  (Compiled and edited from & Wikipedia)

Monday, 20 November 2017

June Christy born 20 November 1925

June Christy (born Shirley Luster; November 20, 1925 – June 21, 1990) was an American singer, known for her work in the cool jazz genre and for her silky smooth vocals. Her success as a singer began with The Stan Kenton Orchestra. She pursued a solo career from 1954 and is best known for her debut album Something Cool. After her death, she was hailed as "one of the finest and most neglected singers of her time." 

Shirley Luster was born in Springfield, Illinois. She moved with her parents Steve and Marie (née Crain) Luster to Decatur, Illinois, when she was three years old. She began to sing with the Decatur-based Bill Oetzel Orchestra at thirteen. While attending Decatur High School she appeared with various bands. After high school she moved to Chicago, changed her name to Sharon Leslie, and sang with a group led by Boyd Raeburn. Later she joined Benny Strong's band. In 1944, Strong's band moved to New York City at the same time Christy was quarantined in Chicago with scarlet fever. 

In 1945, after hearing that Anita O'Day had left Stan Kenton's Orchestra, she auditioned and was chosen for the role as a vocalist. During this time, she changed her name once again, becoming June Christy.

Her voice produced successful hits such as "Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy," the million-selling "Tampico" in 1945, and "How High the Moon". "Tampico" was Kenton's biggest-selling record. When the Kenton Band temporarily disbanded in 1948, she sang in nightclubs for a short time, and reunited with the band two years later. Christy appeared as guest vocalist on some of Kenton's albums. 

From 1947, she started to work on her own records, primarily with arranger and bandleader Pete Rugolo. In 1954, she released a 10" LP entitled Something Cool, recorded with Rugolo and his orchestra, a gathering of notable Los Angeles jazz musicians that included her husband, multi-instrumentalist Bob Cooper and alto saxophonist Bud Shank. Something Cool was re-released as a 12" LP in 1955 with additional selections, and then entirely rerecorded in stereo in 1960 with different personnel. Christy would later say that the album was "the only thing I've recorded that I'm not unhappy with." Something Cool was also important in launching the vocal cool movement of the 1950s, and it hit the Top 20 Charts, as did her third album, The Misty Miss Christy. 

In the 1950s and 1960s, Christy appeared on a number of television programs. She also appeared on the first sponsored jazz concert on television, The Timex All-Star Jazz Show I (December 30, 1957), which also featured Louis Armstrong, Carmen McRae, Duke Ellington and Gene Krupa. 

Christy embarked on dozens of concert tours, playing in Europe, South Africa, Australia and Japan. She toured to such an extent that eventually it began taking a toll on her marriage. She began to pull back from touring in the early 1960s.

Christy semi-retired from the music business in 1969, in part due to her battle with alcoholism. In 1972, she sang at the Newport Jazz Festival in New York City, where she was reunited with the Kenton Orchestra. She also performed at a handful of jazz festivals during the late 1970s and 1980s, playing with a band of all-star West Coast jazz musicians led by Shorty Rogers, as well as taking part in a number of world tours.

Christy returned to the recording studio in 1977 to record her final solo LP, Impromptu. She recorded an interview in 1987 for a Paul Cacia produced album called "The Alumni Tribute to Stan Kenton" on the Happy Hour label. A number of other Kenton alumni (Shorty Rogers, Lee Konitz, Jack Sheldon, among them) interspersed their tunes with reminiscences of the man and the years on the road.

Christy toured one final time in 1988, again with Shorty Rogers. Her final performance was sharing the stage with Chet Baker. 

Christy died at her home in Sherman Oaks, California of kidney failure on June 21, 1990, at the age of 64. Her remains were cremated and scattered off the coast of Marina Del Rey.  

Christy was married to Bob Cooper. In 1954, she gave birth to a daughter, Shay Christy Cooper (September 1, 1954–February 21, 2014). She had one brother Jack A. Luster (1920-2013).

(Info compiled and edited from Wikipedia)

Here's a clip of June from 1950

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Jamie Coe born 19 November 1935

Jamie Coe (born George Colovas, 19 November 1935, Dearborn, Michigan - 27 January 2007, near Garden City, Michigan) was a musician and entertainer who fronted the Gigolos, the most popular rock-oriented band in Detroit.  
A top draw in rock 'n' roll circles during the Elvis era, Jamie Coe drew the interest of several record companies over the years without ever quite achieving the big breakthrough his talents merited. Born to Greek parents in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Coe got his first break when Marilyn Bond*, a young music promoter from Garden City, spotted him performing at a teen dance in Dearborn in late 1958. She took him into a local studio and cut some demos and also got him a spot on a local TV show in Flint, Michigan. 

He was then going by the name of George Cole and the Marquis. When "A Cavalcade of Stars", a package tour featuring Bobby Darin and other chart acts came through Detroit in early 1959, Bond inveigled local boy Cole an opening spot. Suitably impressed, Darin invited Cole and his young manager to his hotel after the show and offered him a recording contract, changing his name to the snappier sounding Jamie Coe during the course of the discussions.

Darin was dabbling in record production as a hedge against future career failure (he had already recorded "Mack the Knife", but it had not yet been released at that time). Together with a New York song publisher, Joe Csida of Trinity Music, Darin decided to launch his own label, Addison Records, with Coe as its principal artist. The Bobby Darin composition "Summertime Symphony" (which sounds almost as much like "Sweet Little Sixteen" as "Surfin' USA") was the first of Coe's two 45s for the new label. The second was "Schoolday Blues" (Addison 15003), released in October 1959. Both of Jamie's Addison singles were issued in the UK on Parlophone. 

By late 1959. Darin's career was red-hot with "Mack the Knife", and he told Coe regretfully that he was too busy to give him enough attention as a manager. Addison Records turned out to be a short-lived affair, with only six releases. 
Marilyn Bond resumed her activities as Coe's manager and got him signed to ABC-Paramount. Four ABC singles were released in 1960-61, the last one of which, "How Low Is Low"/"Little Dear, Little Darling" got a British release on HMV POP 991. Jamie's next stop was at Bigtop Records in New York City, where his records were produced by Del Shannon's manager, Harry Balk. In 1963, Coe's revival of Sanford Clark's 1956 hit "The Fool", stalled just outside the US Hot 100 in the Bubbling Under section. It was his last UK release, on London HLX 9713.  

A fixture on Detroit's budding rock scene in the early 1960s, Jamie Coe & the Gigolos were a sharp-dressed band with a tightly choreographed show. Performing at area teen clubs and nightspots such as Dearborn's Club Gay Haven, Coe and his band played their own regional hits like "The Fool" and "Black & Blue" among slick cover versions of rock 'n' roll standards. 

There were further releases on the Detroit label Enterprise in 1964-65, but by then the Beatles had come along and spoiled it for Jamie and a lot of his contemporaries. But no matter, they still loved him in Detroit.

Coe owned two clubs, Jamie's (in Garden City, Michigan) and Jammers (in Livonia, MI) and performed each Wednesday night at the latter, with his group the Gigolos. Jamie died Saturday morning in Livonia after he had a heart attack while driving home from his nightclub, Jamie's, in Garden City, January 27, 2007. He had performed earlier during the night but wasn't feeling well, family members said.
The CD "A Long Time Ago" (Legends of Music, 29 tracks) is an almost complete overview of Jamie's recorded output. 

* Marilyn Bond is the co-author of the book "The Birth of the Detroit Sound, 1940-1964" (Arcadia Publishing, Chicago, 2002). (Info compiled mainly from Black Cat Rockabilly)

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Johnny Mercer born 18 November 1909

John Herndon Mercer (November 18, 1909 – June 25, 1976) was an American lyricist, songwriter and singer. He was also a record label executive, who co-founded Capitol Records with music industry businessman Buddy DeSylva and Glenn E. Wallichs.

He was born John Herndon Mercer on November 18, 1909 into an old Southern family in Savannah, Georgia. His father was a wealthy attorney with a flourishing real estate business, and young John was sent to a fashionable prep school, the Woodbury Forrest School in Virginia. However, when he was 17, his father's business collapsed, and his father found himself a million dollars in debt. Rather than declare bankruptcy, his father dedicated the rest of his life to paying off that debt, and suddenly young John Mercer, no longer able to go on to college, was on his way to New York City, hoping to make good as an actor.
 Acting, however, was not to be Mercer's destiny. He got a few bit parts, and took other jobs to survive, including a stint as a Wall Street runner, but his first small break came in 1930 when a song for which he had written the lyric was sung on Broadway in The Garrick Gaieties of 1930. In 1932, he won a singing contest and landed a job as singer with the Paul Whiteman Band. Whiteman introduced him to Hoagy Carmichael, and soon Mercer and Carmichael had a hit with "Lazybones" (1933). Composers quickly discovered his talent, and his career as a lyricist took off.
 In 1933, he moved to Hollywood, where he began writing songs for the movies. Meanwhile, his singing career continued to grow. He sang duets with people like Jack Teagarden and Bing Crosby. In 1938 and 1939, he was a singer with the Benny Goodman Band, and by the early 1940s he was popular enough to have his own radio show, Johnny Mercer's Music Shop.
 In 1942, together with fellow songwriter (and film producer) Buddy De Sylva and businessman Glen Wallichs, he founded Capitol Records and became Capitol's first President and chief talent scout. Soon, he had signed up such performers as Stan Kenton, Nat "King" Cole, Jo Stafford, and Margaret Whiting, and by 1946 Capitol was responsible for one sixth of all records sold in the U.S.

 In 1946, he teamed up with Harold Arlen to write the Broadway musical St. Louis Woman. The show was not a success, but it included such classic songs as "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home", "I Wonder What Became Of Me", "I Had Myself A True Love", "Come Rain Or Come Shine".

Arlen and Mercer
In that same year, he won his first Academy Award, for "On The Atchison, Topeka, And Santa Fe"(music by Harry Warren), sung by Judy Garland in The Harvey Girls.
 His second Oscar came for "In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening" (music by Hoagy Carmichael), which Bing Crosby and
Jane Wyman sang in the 1951 film Here Comes the Groom. Also in 1951, he wrote the score, both words and music, for the successful Broadway musical Top Banana.
 In 1954, he wrote the lyrics to Gene De Paul's music for the classic Hollywood musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. In 1956, he and De Paul teamed up again to turn out the score for the hit Broadway musical Li'l Abner, which included "Jubilation T. Cornpone".
 His father had died in 1940, having succeeded in paying off $700,000 of the million he owed. In 1955, Mercer sold his share in Capitol records and, finally able to do so, surprised his father's creditors by using $300,000 of the proceeds to pay off the remainder of the debt.
 In 1961, he wrote "Moon River" (music by Henry Mancini) for the film Breakfast at Tiffany's, winning his third Academy Award. And the next year, he became the first songwriter to win a fourth Oscar, this time for the title song to the 1962 film Days of Wine and Roses (music again by Mancini).
 He was the founding president of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, where his outstanding business skills were tremendously valuable in getting the organization off to a sound start. He also initiated planning, together with Oscar Brand for a Songwriters Hall of Fame archive and museum.
 Mercer wrote hit songs in four different decades, from the 1930s through the 1960s. His lyrics combine a keen appreciation of American colloquialisms with a profoundly poetic sensibility. At their best, they have a richness and emotional complexity that is simply amazing.
 While working on a new musical in London with Andre Previn, Mercer learned that the headaches he had been having were due to a brain tumour. Planning ahead, he arranged for his friend Sammy Cahn to take over as president of the National Academy of Popular Music (the parent organization of the Songwriters Hall of Fame).

After receiving a diagnosis of brain cancer, Mercer underwent surgery, from which he never fully recovered.

He died June 25, 1976, and is buried in the family plot in Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah. (Info mainly compiled from Songwriters Hall of Fame)