Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Svend Asmussen born 28 February 1916

Svend Asmussen (28 February 1916 – 7 February 2017) was a jazz violinist from Denmark, known as "The Fiddling Viking". A Swing style virtuoso, he played and recorded with many of the greats of Jazz, including Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Stephane Grappelli. He played publicly until 2010 when he had a blood clot, his career having spanned eight decades.
Asmussen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, raised in a musical family, and started taking violin lessons at the age of 7. At age 16 he first heard recordings by jazz violin great Joe Venuti and began to emulate his style. He started working professionally as a violinist, vibraphonist, and singer at age 17, leaving his formal training behind for good. Early in his career he worked in Denmark and on cruise ships with artists such as THE Mills Brothers, Josephine Baker and Fats Waller. 

Asmussen later was greatly influenced by Stuff Smith, whom he met in Denmark. Asmussen played with Valdemar Eiberg and Kjeld Bonfils during World War II, during which time jazz had moved to the underground and served as a form of political protest. 
 In the late 1950s, Asmussen formed the trio Swe-Danes with singer Alice Babs and guitarist Ulrik Neumann. The group became very
popular in Scandinavia for their music hall style entertainment and also toured the United States. Asmussen also worked with Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, and Duke Ellington. Asmussen was invited by Ellington to play on his Jazz Violin Session recording in 1963 with Stéphane Grappelli and Ray Nance. 

In 1966 Asmussen appeared alongside Grappelli, Stuff Smith, and Jean-Luc Ponty in a jazz Violin Summit in Switzerland that was issued as a live recording. He made an appearance at the 1967 Monterey Jazz Festival, which included a celebrated violin summit with him, Ray Nance and Jean-Luc Ponty. In 1969 he guested on "Snakes in a Hole," an album by the jazz-rock band Made in Sweden. He was still active playing violin at the age of 94. He turned 100 in February 2016. A few weeks before Asmussen would have turned 101, on 7 February 2017, he died peacefully in his sleep. 

 Asmussen's collection of jazz music, photographs, posters and other material is held in the jazz collections at the University Library of Southern Denmark. Asmussen's son, Claus Asmussen, is a guitar player in Denmark and a former member of the band Shu-Bi-Dua.  (Edited mainly from Wikipedia)

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Mildred Bailey born 27 February 1901

Mildred Bailey (February 27, 1907 – December 12, 1951) was a popular and influential American jazz singer during the 1930s, known as "Mrs. Swing". Her number one hits were "Please Be Kind", "Darn That Dream", and "Says My Heart".

Born as Mildred Rinker in Tekoa, Washington, Bailey retained the last name of her first husband, Ted Bailey, when she moved to Seattle to bolster her singing career. With the help of her second husband, Benny Stafford, she became an established blues and jazz singer on the West Coast. According to Gary Giddins' book on Bing in 1925 Mildred secured work for her brother, Al Rinker, and his partner Bing Crosby. Giddins further states that Crosby first heard of Louis Armstrong and other Chicago black jazz records from Bailey's own record collection. 

In Summer 1929, whilst touring California, some members of the Whiteman were involved in a serious car accident in which one died and Joe Venuti was seriously injured. To cheer the band up, Mildred held a ‘home brew’ party for them and which Whiteman attended. Hearing her sing (at the behest of brother Al), the famous man was immediately struck by Mildred’s blossoming talent and invited her to a radio session two days later. The response from the public to her featured song, "Moanin’ Low", was overwhelming and she was duly signed, becoming the first featured female vocalist with a national band. 

Crosby helped Bailey in turn by introducing her to Paul Whiteman. She sang with Paul Whiteman's band from 1929 to 1933 (Whiteman had a popular radio program and when Bailey debuted with her version of "Moaning Low" in 1929, public reaction was immediate, although she did not start recording with Whiteman until late 1931). 

Her first two records were as uncredited vocalist for an Eddie Lang Orchestra session in 1929 ("What Kind O' Man Is You?", an obscure Hoagy Carmichael song that was only issued in the UK) and a 1930 recording of "I Like To Do Things For You" for Frankie Trumbauer. She was Whiteman's popular female vocalist through 1932 (recording in a smooth crooning style), when she left the band due to salary disagreements. She then recorded a series of records for Brunswick in 1933 (accompanied by The Dorsey Brothers), as well an all-star session with Benny Goodman's studio band in 1934 that featured Coleman Hawkins. 

In 1932 Bailey debuted “Ol’ Rockin’ Chair’s Got Me” on a Chicago-based live broadcast of Whiteman’s weekly Old Gold radio show, and the tune sparked a public response that was immediate and overwhelming. A studio recording of the tune became such a huge hit that Bailey was ever after known as the “Rockin’ Chair Lady.” The record also made significant jazz history as “the first recording by a 'girl singer' with a big band, an innovation that would set the pattern for the swing era.”  

In the mid 1930s, she recorded with her third husband Red Norvo. A dynamic couple, they earned the nicknames "Mr. and Mrs. Swing". During this period (1936-1939) Norvo recorded for Brunswick (with Bailey as primary vocalist) and Bailey recorded her own set of recordings for Vocalion, often with Norvo's band.
Some of her recordings instead featured members of Count Basie's band. Despite her divorce from Norvo, she and Red would continue to record together until 1945. Suffering from diabetes and depression, she only made a few recordings following World War II. 
Jazz vocal collectors have always considered Bailey one of the best vocalists of her era (refer to many Downbeat polls and articles in Downbeat and many other jazz publications), Despite being a big woman, Bailey had a sweet, rather small yet very expressive voice, and quite a light, unique swinging vocal style (refer to many recordings). Many of her records were considered among the best versions recorded. 

Despite all of her success, superstardom eluded Bailey. She blamed her plumpness, but others claimed it was her temper and sharp tongue as well as the bitterness she carried with her towards better-looking female vocalists whom she thought less talented. She claimed her obesity was glandular, but many of her friends felt it had more to do with her great love of eating. 

Bailey continued recording until the mid-1940s, when health problems forced her to retire. Plagued by a combination of diabetes, heart trouble and hardening of the arteries, she was near death and broke until she was rescued by composer Jimmy Van Heusen, who arranged to split her medical bills with Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. She recovered well-enough to begin performing again, but her health problems eventually took their toll, and she died, penniless in Poughkeepsie, on December 12, 1951, aged 44, of heart failure,  chiefly due to her diabetes. Bailey's ashes were scattered.  

Red Norvo outlived Mildred by nearly half a century, dying in April 1999, a week after his 91st birthday.    (Info edited mainly from Wikipedia, Solid & Jasmine Records)

Monday, 26 February 2018

Betty Hutton born 26 February 1921

Betty Hutton (born Elizabeth June Thornburg; February 26, 1921 – March 12, 2007) was an American stage, film, and television actress, comedian, dancer, and singer.  

Betty Hutton was born Elizabeth June Thornburg on February 26, 1921, in Battle Creek, Michigan. Two years later Betty's father decided that the family way of life wasn't for him, so he left (he committed suicide 16 years later). Having to fend for themselves, Mrs. Thornburg moved the family to Detroit to find work in the numerous auto factories there, but times were hard and she decided to take advantage of Prohibition and opened a small tavern, at the time called a speakeasy. The police were always looking for those types of operation, both big and small, and when they detected one, they swooped in and closed it down. Mrs. Thornburg was no different from the other owners, they simply moved elsewhere. Poverty was a constant companion. In addition to that, Mrs. Thornburg was an alcoholic. 

At nine years old Betty began singing publicly for the first time in a school production. Realizing the voice Betty had, her mother took her around Detroit to have her sing to any group that would listen. This was a small way of getting some money for the poor family. When she was 13 Betty got a few singing jobs with local bands in the area. Thinking she was good enough to make the big time, she left for New York two years later to try a professional career. Unfortunately, it didn't work out and Betty headed back to Detroit. 

In 1937, Betty was hired by Vincent Lopez who had a popular band that appeared on the local radio. Later, she would return to New York and it was here that her career took off. Betty found herself on Broadway in 1940, and it was only a matter of time before her career took off to bigger heights. The following year she left New York for Hollywood, where she was to find new life in films. She was signed by Paramount Pictures and made her debut, at 21, in The Fleet's In (1942), along with Eddie Bracken, William Holden and Dorothy Lamour. Reviews were better than expected, with critics looking favourably
upon her work. She had previously appeared in a few musical shorts, which no doubt helped her in her first feature film. She made one more musical in 1942 and two more in 1943. 

In 1944 she tried to break away from musicals and try her hand in a screwball comedy, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1943). She proved - to herself, the public and the critics - that she was marketable outside musicals. In subsequent films Betty was able to show her comedic side as well as her singing. In 1948 she appeared in her first big box-office bomb, Dream Girl (1948), which was ripped to shreds by critics, as was Betty's acting, and the movie flopped at the box office. It wasn't long before Betty became unhappy with her career. In truth she had the acting talent, but the parts she got weren't the types to showcase that. Though she did appear in three well received films later, Red, Hot and Blue (1949), Annie Get Your Gun (1950) and The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), her career was winding down. 

Later, after filming Somebody Loves Me (1952), Betty was all but finished. She had married 'Charles O'Curran' that year and he wanted to direct her in an upcoming film. Paramount didn't like the idea and the temper tantrum-prone Betty walked out of her contract and movies. She did concentrate on the relatively new medium of television and the stage, but she never recovered her previous form. Her final film was a minor one, Spring Reunion (1957). Her TV series, The Betty Hutton Show (1959), didn't fare too well at all.  

As her career faded, Hutton fell victim to her private demons and fiscal woes. She abused sleeping pills along with other drugs for a long time. In 1967, she declared insolvency, having spent the $9 million to $10 million that she’d brought in during her heyday. Several years after, she had a mental breakdown, afterwards spending time in a treatment facility. Together with assistance from Father Peter Maguire, Hutton was able to turn her life around. Also around now, she became a drama teacher at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island. 

After Maguire’s passing in 1996, Hutton moved to Palm Springs, California, hoping to make up along with her three daughters who lived in the state. Wed four times, Hutton had two kids, Sweets and Lindsay, with her first husband, Ted Briskin. “My husbands all fell in love with Betty Hutton,” the famed blonde bombshell once said, in accordance with The New York Times. “None of them fell in love with me.” 

Betty lived in quiet retirement in Palm Springs, California until her death from complications from colon cancer on March 11, 2007, at the age of 86. There was a modest, private service to mark her passing, which her daughters failed to attend. Despite her attempts, Hutton hadn’t had the opportunity to mend the rift between her and her children. 

(Compiled mainly from a bio by Denny Jackson @ IMDb & Wikipedia)

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Tiny Parham born 25 February 1900

Hartzell Strathdene "Tiny" Parham (February 25, 1900 – April 4, 1943) was a Canadian-born American jazz bandleader and pianist of African-American descent. Some musicians are only known to specialized record collectors and music historians. Tiny Parham is one of those, now almost forgotten bandleaders from the 1920s that never became known to the public.

Parham was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada but grew up in Kansas City. He worked as a pianist at The Eblon Theatre being mentored by the ragtime pianist and composer James Scott. Parham developed as a skilled versatile bandleader, who toured through Mexico, Canada, Hawaii and Cuba and later with territory bands in the South-western United States before moving to Chicago in 1926. Here he played in venues like the Merry Garden Ballroom, The Lincoln Tavern and the Savoy Ballroom, great names in jazz. 

He is best remembered for the recordings he made in Chicago between 1927 and 1930 for Victor Records, as an accompanist for Johnny Dodds and several female blues singers as well as with his own band.  Most of the musicians Parham played with are not well known in their own right, though cornetist Punch Miller, banjoist Papa Charlie Jackson, saxophone player Junie Cobb and bassist Milt Hinton are exceptions. 

His entire recorded output for Victor is highly collected and appreciated as prime examples of late 1920s jazz. His style of jazz was comparable to the sophisticated style of Jelly Roll Morton. Parham favoured the violin and a number of his records have surprisingly sophisticated violin solos, along with the typical upfront tuba, horns and reeds. Parham wrote most, if not all, of his own material.
Parham's arrangements were often atmospheric, and such numbers as "The Head-Hunter's Dream," "Jogo Rhythm," "Blue Melody Blues," "Blue Island Blues," "Washboard Wiggles," and "Dixieland Doin's" were particularly memorable.

In 1930, like Jelly Roll Morton, Henry "Red" Allen, and King Oliver, Victor chose not to renew Parham's contact. After 1930, Parham found work in theatre houses, especially as an organist. He also played in a Chicago roller-skating rink in 1939 and 1940, which was the year he made his last three recordings.  
Parham died during a show on April 4, 1943 while in a dressing room at the Kilbourn Hotel in Milwaukee.

The cartoonist R. Crumb included a drawing of Parham in his classic 1982 collection of trading cards and later book "Early Jazz Greats". Parham was the only non-American born so included. The book also includes a bonus cd which has a Parham track. 
(Info compiled and edited from various sources, mainly from Wikipedia & Keep It Swinging Blog)

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Pat Kirkwood born 24 February 1921

Pat Kirkwood (24 February 1921 – 25 December 2007) was a British stage actress, singer and dancer who appeared in numerous performances of dramas, cabaret, revues, music hall, variety and pantomimes. She also performed on radio, television and films. She was the first woman to have her own television series on the BBC.
Patricia Kirkwood was born, the daughter of a shipping clerk, in Pendleton, about three miles from Manchester's city centre, in 1921. Whilst on holiday with her parents in the Isle of Man, she took part in a talent contest and as a result, was asked to sing on the BBC's Children's Hour. In 1936, she played variety at the Hippodrome, Salford where she was billed as "The Schoolgirl Songstress". The following year, she played Dandini in Cinderella in a West End pantomime.
Kirkwood's potential was obvious to all: she could act, dance and sing; she spoke well; and she had a gorgeous figure. She appeared with success in the films Save A Little Sunshine (1937) and Me And My Pal (1938) and made her first record, "Hurry Home".

Her first prominent role was in 1939, alongside George Formby in his horse-racing comedy Come On, George!  The comedy duo Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch were happy to allow Kirkwood to sing, look lovely and shine in their film of Band Waggon (1940). It led to her being described as Britain's Betty Grable but she hated references to her million-pound legs, "It did make me cross. They are simply things to walk around on. I never thought anything more of them than that."

 In 1939, Kirkwood opened to tremendous reviews in the revue Black Velvet at the London Hippodrome; in the show she introduced British audiences to Cole Porter's "My Heart Belongs To Daddy She was the queen of a new universe in the London Palladium extravaganza Top Of The World in 1940, with Tommy Trinder and the Crazy Gang. Kirkwood worked hard during the war. She was involved in making films, records, personal appearances and with her own radio series, A Date With Pat Kirkwood. She also appeared before George VI at a Command Performance at Windsor Castle.


In 1944, she was offered a contract, allegedly worth 250,000, with MGM in Hollywood. She and her mother flew to America shortly after the war ended and she appeared alongside Van Johnson in the romantic No Leave, No Love, (1946) directed by Charles Martin. She sang three songs in the film including "Love on a Greyhound Bus". The poor reviews plus the strict diet and fitness regime of the studio led to a breakdown and an attempted suicide, and she returned home.
Kirkwood had a West End hit with Starlight Roof in 1947 and some record success with one of its songs, "Make Mine Allegro". She appeared in Coward's 1950 musical Ace Of Clubs, but it was an old-fashioned operetta that was lucky to make 250 performances. Encouraged by Coward, she also played a successful season at the Desert Inn, Las Vegas. She had further West End success in Leonard Bernstein's Wonderful Town (1955) with Shani Wallis and a musical comedy, Chrysanthemum (1958), which co-starred her then husband Hubert Gregg.
There was much unwanted publicity when it was suggested that Kirkwood had had an affair with the Duke of Edinburgh. She had met him in 1948 and reporters had seen them dancing and having breakfast. She totally denied any impropriety but said, "He was so full of life and energy. I suspect he felt trapped and rarely got a chance to be himself. I think I got off on the right foot because I made him laugh."

She became the first female to have her own television series with The Pat Kirkwood Show in 1954 and also appeared in various TV plays. In Our Marie (1953) she played the music hall star Marie Lloyd; she also appeared in Pygmalion (1956) and The Great Little Tilley (1956) as another music hall star, Vesta Tilley, which was directed by Hubert Gregg and subsequently became the film After The Ball (1957). In 1953, she was reunited with George Formby on the panel of What's My Line but was seen on screen feeding Formby questions to ask the contestants.
In the 1960s, Kirkwood and Gregg moved to Portugal and she told reporters, "I never play my old records or look at my cuttings. I've retired." She was to write her autobiography, The Time Of My Life, in 1999.

Kirkwood made several stage appearances in the 1970s, often in pantomime, and she had success in a revival of Pal Joey at the Edinburgh Festival in 1976 and touring in The Cabinet Minister with Dulcie Gray and Michael Denison in 1978. She married for the fourth time in 1981 to Peter Knight  and settled down to a life in Yorkshire. Occasionally, she performed her one woman show, An Evening With Pat Kirkwood, and appeared in revivals of Noël Coward and Cole Porter's works.

Her last public appearance was in Noel/Cole: Let's Do It at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 1994. Earlier that year she had been a subject of This Is Your Life, when she was surprised by Michael Aspel at London's Prince of Wales Theatre.

Kirkwood was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. There was a family history of the disease as her mother Norah had suffered from the same illness. She died at Kitwood House nursing home in Ilkley, West Yorkshire on Christmas Day 2007, aged 86.

(Compiled and edited mainly from an article by Spencer Leigh for The Independent) 

Glamorous West End star of the 1940s and 1950s, Pat Kirkwood, also frequently lit up our TV screens. Here she is strutting her stuff on a live television performance of 5 March 1960.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Andres Segovia born 21 February 1893

Andrés Segovia Torres, (21 February 1893 – 2 June 1987) known as Andrés Segovia, was a virtuoso Spanish classical guitarist from Linares, Spain. He could be considered as one of the fathers of the modern movement of the classical guitar because he is the guitarist that introduced the current classical guitar to large audiences. Many professional classical guitarists today are students of Segovia, or
students of his students.

Andrés Segovia, Marquis of Salobreia, was born near Jaen, Granada, Spain. He became a guitarist against the double opposition of his parents. First, they opposed his learning the guitar and got him cello and piano teachers instead. When he persisted in teaching himself guitar, they opposed his becoming a musician. He sought a guitar teacher at the Granada Institute of Music when he studied there, but found none, so continued learning the instrument on his own. 

He made his debut at the Centro Artística in Granada at the age of 15. He played so skilfully that he was urged to become a professional soloist. He played in Madrid in 1912, at the Paris Conservatory in 1915, and in Barcelona in 1916, and made a wildly successful tour of South America in 1919. He made his formal debut in Paris on April 7, 1924, in a program which included a new work written for him by Albert Roussel, named Segovia. It was the first of many works which were written for him by distinguished composers, enriching the instrument's repertory as Segovia had elevated its artistic potential. His U.S. debut was at Town Hall, New York, on January 8, 1928.  

Being self-taught, his technique was unique. It was, in fact, superior to that which was being taught at the time, and extended the flexibility and expressive possibilities of the instrument. The main difference was in the method of using the right hand for strumming and picking the strings: Segovia's method paid much attention to the means of attack: whether hard parts of the fingers, fleshy parts, or the nails were used; other subtleties that affected the dynamics of the instrument; and an economy of motion that allowed longer and more sustained playing. 
There were classical guitarists before him, and distinguished ones even when he appeared, but it was not an instrument that was regarded as a serious vehicle for classical music. Segovia personally changed that, and not by accident. No doubt affected by his parents' attitude toward his chosen career, he had a driving desire to make it so. He wrote numerous transcriptions of older music for lute and for the Spanish vihuela. He transcribed music of Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Chopin, Handel, and others. He commissioned works by Castelnuovo-Tedesco (notably the great suite Platero and I), Falla, Turina, Tansman, Villa-Lobos, Torroba, Ponce, and Rodrigo, whose Fantasia para un gentilhombre was written for him. 
 Here is " Preludio en Mi Mayor" by Ponce from above album 
His reinstatement of the guitar as a solo instrument was sealed by his becoming one of the great teachers of music history. He established guitar schools or courses at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana, Siena, Santiago de Compostela, and the University of California in Berkeley. His students included Alirio Diaz, Oscar Ghilia, and John Williams. 
Segovia became one of the great names in classical music, whose mere name was enough to sell out houses worldwide. He received numerous awards and honours during his lifetime, including the Grand Cross of Isabela and Alfonso, the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society of London, and many honorary degrees. The house where he was born had a commemorative plaque attached to it in 1969 proclaiming him the "leading son of the city." King Juan Carlos of Spain ennobled him as the Marquis of Salobreia in 1981, and in the same year a Segovia International Guitar Competition was established in his honour. He continued to give recitals and concerts until an advanced age, and had the rare opportunity, in 1984, of playing at a gala concert honouring the 75th anniversary of his professional debut.

 He died in Madrid of a heart attack  June 2, 1987, at the age of 94. He is buried at Casa Museo de Linares, in Andalusia.  (Mainly edited from an All Music bio by Joseph Stevenson)

Monday, 19 February 2018

Sam Myers born 19 February 1936

Samuel Joseph Myers (February 19, 1936 – July 17, 2006) was an American blues musician and songwriter. He was an accompanist on dozens of recordings by blues artists over five decades. He began his career as a drummer for Elmore James but was most famous as a blues vocalist and blues harp player. For nearly two decades he was the featured vocalist for Anson Funderburgh & the Rockets.

Myers was born in Laurel, Mississippi. He acquired juvenile cataracts at age seven and was left legally blind for the rest of his life, despite corrective surgery. He could make out shapes and shadows, but could not read print at all; he was taught Braille. 
He acquired an interest in music while a schoolboy in Jackson, Mississippi, and became skilled enough at playing the trumpet and drums that he received a nondegree scholarship from the American Conservatory of Music (formerly the American Conservatory School of Music) in Chicago. Myers attended school by day and at night frequented the nightclubs of the South Side.

There he met and was sitting in with Jimmy Rogers, Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Little Walter, Hound Dog Taylor, Robert Lockwood, Jr., and Elmore James. Myers played drums with Elmore James on a fairly steady basis from 1952 until James's death, in 1963, and is credited on many of James's historic recordings for Chess Records. In 1956, Myers wrote and recorded what was to be his most famous single, "Sleeping in the Ground", a song that has been covered by Blind Faith, Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, and many other blues artists.


From the early 1960s until 1986, Myers worked clubs in and around Jackson and across the South in the (formerly) racially segregated string of venues known as the Chitlin' circuit. He also toured the world with Sylvia Embry. From 1979 to 1982, Myers fronted the Mississippi Delta Blues Band and recorded for the TJ label out of Palo Alto, California.
In 1986, Myers met Anson Funderburgh, from Plano, Texas, and joined his band, The Rockets. Myers toured all over the U.S. and the world with The Rockets, enjoying a partnership that endured until the time of his death. Myers and The Rockets collectively won nine W. C. Handy Awards, including three "Band of the Year" awards and the 2004 award for Best Traditional Album of the Year.
In January 2000, Myers was inducted into the Farish Street Walk of Fame in Jackson, Mississippi, an honour he shares with Dorothy Moore and Sonny Boy Williamson II. 

In 2005, Myers was nominated for Traditional Blues Album of the Year for his record, Coming From The Old School. Myers was diagnosed with cancer in February 2005, but he toured as a solo artist, in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, with the Swedish band, Bloosblasters. The following year, the University Press of Mississippi published Myers' autobiography titled Sam Myers: The Blues is My Story. Writer Jeff Horton, whose work has appeared in Blues Revue and Southwest Blues, chronicled Myers' history and delved into his memories of life on the road.

In 2006, just months before Myers died, the Governor of Mississippi presented Myers with the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, and was named state Blues Ambassador by the Mississippi Arts Commission.

Sam passed away while at home on July 17, 2006, following his release from the hospital after throat cancer surgery. He was making good progress with his recovery, and his death was totally unexpected. He was laid to rest next to his parents, Ollie and Celeste Myers, near Meridian, Mississippi.             (Edited mainly from Wikipedia)