Saturday, 14 September 2019

Ray Charles born 13 September 1918

Ray Charles (born Charles Raymond Offenberg; September 13, 1918 – April 6, 2015) was an American musician, singer, songwriter, vocal arranger and conductor who was best known as organizer and leader of the Ray Charles Singers. Over seven decades, Charles worked in radio, TV, movies, records and personal appearances with a stellar lineup including Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Julie Andrews, Jackie Gleason, Gene Kelly, John Denver, Dick Van Dyke, Andy Williams, the Carpenters and the Muppets.

A native of Chicago, he was the grandson of a cantor, studied piano from age 11 and was singing professionally on radio while he was still in high school. Largely self-taught as an arranger, he began writing arrangements for a vocal quartet in 1937 while continuing to perform all kinds of music (from operetta to popular) on Chicago radio stations.

Charles moved in 1942 to New York, where he discovered that his talents were very much in demand. Within days of his arrival he was performing in NBC's legendary Studio 8H, and within weeks he was singing solos and as part of choral groups on some of radio's most celebrated shows: The March of Time, The Kate Smith Hour and The Westinghouse Program.

By the time Charles joined the Navy in 1944, he was performing and/or arranging for 10 live radio shows a week. And upon his return to civilian life in 1946, he remained one of radio's most widely sought-after arrangers, also including stints as a commercial jingle composer and performer. He wrote musical signatures for Chesterfield and 7-Up, and that's his voice on the original "mmm, mmm, good" jingle for Campbell Soups.

Broadway beckoned in 1947. Charles, who had supervised choral work in the musical Finian's Rainbow, conducted the show for nine weeks and also conducted the original cast album on Columbia Records. Other labels, including RCA Victor and Decca, hired Charles to write vocal arrangements and layouts for many of their artists. It was in the late 1940s that Charles began his long association with singer Perry Como, on NBC's Chesterfield Supper Club radio show, which aired three times a week.

When Como moved to CBS television in the fall of 1950, The Ray Charles Singers were an integral part of the ensemble. Como's show ran three times a week through 1955, then became an hour-long variety show that ran on NBC through 1963. The team, including Charles and music director Nick Perito, remained intact when Como's show went to a once-a-month airing for the next four years, and on occasional specials thereafter. It was Charles who penned the upbeat "Letters, We Get Letters" that became a Como tradition.

Coinciding with Charles' work with Como in the early 1950s was a seven-year stint as choral director on NBC's TV version of the long-running radio show Your Hit Parade. His final radio work was as choral director and vocal arranger on NBC's big-budget, Tallulah Bankhead-hosted The Big Show in 1950-51.


It was Como who christened Charles' choral group The Ray Charles Singers. They went on to record some 30 albums, hitting number 3 on the Billboard charts in 1964 with "Love Me With All Your Heart (Cuando Calienta El Sol)" and scoring such other top-40 hits as "Al-Di-La" and "One More Time" in the mid-'60s.

During the 1960s and '70s, the heyday of television variety series and specials, Charles was everywhere. His two Emmy wins, for Music, Lyrics and Special Material, were for The First Nine Months Are the Hardest, which aired on NBC in January 1971, and the NBC sketch-comedy series The Funny Side, from the fall of 1971. He received eight other Emmy nominations, for writing special vocal material, music and lyrics, music direction and arrangements. During the late 1970s, Charles worked on The Muppet Show, creating special material, writing arrangements and producing the vocals for Jim Henson's beloved characters during its last two seasons of production in London.

For the big screen, Charles oversaw choral work on the Barbra Streisand film Funny Lady (1975) and the '40s period drama Racing With the Moon (1984). 

He and his son Jon served as co-musical directors on the syndicated series Sha Na Na (1977-80), on which his daughter Wendy was assistant director.

Charles received the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers' Irwin Kostal Award in 2004 and ASCAP Foundation's Life in Music Award in 2013. His wife Bernice died in 2002 and his daughter Wendy in 2004.

For thirty-two years, 1982 through 2014, Charles was the musical consultant of the Kennedy Centre Honours and for 14 years performed the same function for the "Fourth of July" and "Memorial Day" concerts on PBS.

Charles died of cancer at the age of 96 on April 6, 2015, in Beverly Hills, California. He donated a collection of his personal papers, including his scripts and musical arrangements for the Kennedy Centre Honours galas, to the Great American Songbook Foundation shortly before his death.

(edited from Wikipedia & Variety)

Here's a clip of the Ray Charles Singers and Mitchell Ayers and his Orchestra saluting Harry James' great instrumentals (1960)

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Judy Clay born 12 September 1938

Judy Clay (September 12, 1938 – July 19, 2001) was an American soul and gospel singer, who achieved greatest success as a member of two recording duos in the 1960s.

Judy was born Judith Grace Guions in St Paul, North Carolina, and soon moved to Fayetteville, where she was raised by her grandmother. She started singing in church as a small child. Moving to Brookyn in the early 1950s, she continued her church singing, indeed her choir featured on Sunday night radio.

By her early teens, she had been adopted by Lee Drinkard, of the famous gospel group, the Drinkard Singers. Lee was Cissy Houston's sister and Dionne Warwick's mother - and Judy was soon involved in the group with them, as well as with Dionne's sister Delia, Dee Dee Warwick.

The Drinkard Singers  (who later became better known as The Sweet Inspirations)- released three albums in the 1950s which featured Judy - the Newport Spiritual Stars record in 1954, a live album from the Newport jazz festival and a 1958 studio LP. Judy's voice could raise the roof and stir the soul.

She left the Drinkard Singers in 1960 and made her first solo recording, "More Than You Know", on Ember Records. "Do You Think That's Right" appeared the following year, and while both captured soul music at its most visceral and poignant, neither record caught on at radio or retail, a pattern Clay proved unable to shake for the majority of her career. In 1963, she signed to the Lavette label, teaming with Little Lee for the duet "Everyday Since You've Been Gone," the first of many such collaborations spread across her discography.

This was followed by further singles on Scepter and Stax but with little commercial success, although "You Busted My Mind" later became successful on the UK's Northern soul nightclub circuit.


In 1967, Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records teamed her up with white singer-songwriter Billy Vera to make the United States' first racially integrated duo, and The Sweet Inspirations, to record "Storybook Children”. The record made #20 on the US R&B chart and #54 pop. It was seen as the first interracial duo recording for a major label.

However, Vera has stated that television executives denied them appearances together, believing (wrongly) that Vera and Clay were more than just singing partners, and, to add insult to injury, had the song performed on network TV by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood. Judy was pregnant, at the time, with her first child by her husband, jazz drummer Leo Gatewood.

After another hit duet with Vera, "Country Girl, City Man", which reached #41 R&B and #36 pop, and an album together, she returned to Stax Records. There she had further successes, this time with William Bell. Their recording of "Private Number" reached #17 in the R&B chart and #75 on the U.S. pop chart, and had greater 

success in the UK where it reached #8 on the UK Singles Chart.
A follow-up, "My Baby Specializes", also made the R&B chart, before she returned to Atlantic for one more record with Vera, "Reaching For The Moon" and a final solo hit "Greatest Love" (# 45 R&B in 1970).

Subsequently, she worked as a backing vocalist with Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison, Donny Hathaway and Wilson Pickett. Whenever the Sweet Inspirations needed a temporary replacement Judy was on hand and she also toured South Africa and Liberia with Ray Charles and his Orchestra. She made a fleeting return to the record world in 1979 with "Stayin' Alive", cut live for the small Newark, New Jersey-based LA-DCP label. Ill health then set in.

Judy Clay, Dionne Warwick & Mabel John
Stricken with a brain tumour she returned to gospel music. Shorty after her recovery she vowed never to sing secular music again and sang occasionally with Cissy Houston's gospel choir in Newark, New Jersey. Clay became a licensed evangelist in 1990.

Judy relocated to her hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina, where she spent the rest of her days as Mrs. Judith Gatewood, witnessing her two sons graduate from college and exercising her deep and commanding singing voice only in the choir of her local church.

She died July 19, 2001 in Fayetteville, NC following complications from an auto accident. She was 62 years old. She was survived by two sons, Todd and Leo Gatewood, a brother, Raymond Guions, and her sister, Mrs. Sylvia Shemwell. (Edited from Wikipedia, Guardian, Spectropop & All Music)

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Nelly Omar born 10 September 1911

Nelly Omar (10 September 1911 – 20 December 2013), was an Argentine actress and singer during the Golden Age of Argentine Cinema. She was successful as a tango singer, performing on numerous radio shows and performed canción criolla. She was blacklisted after the ouster of Juan Perón for having sung his anthem and did not work again until the 1970s. From her comeback in 1972, she remained an active performer until her death.

Omar was born Nilda Elvira Vattuone in Bonifacio a small town in the Guaminí subdivision of, Buenos Aires on 10 September 1911.She was the sister of tango singer Nélida, who took the scene name of Nilda Omar, in an interchange of their names. Her father died while she was quite young and the family moved to Buenos Aires, for better work prospects. Nelly began working in a textile factory at age 12. From the age of 13, she dreamed of becoming a pilot and went to flight school. It was there that she met Eva Duarte, who also had aspirations of becoming an aviator.

In 1924, Omar began singing tango professionally. Ignacio Corsini gave her a big break into singing when he heard her and hired her for his radio shows. She sang with the ensemble Cenizas del fogón under the direction of José Luis Suilas.
Between 1932 and 1933, Radio Stentor broadcast duets of Omar and her sister. When she was hired by Radio Belgrano she worked with some of the most famous tango poets, Enrique Cadícamo and Homero Manzi, as well as some of the most famous singers then working, Libertad Lamarque and Agustín Magaldi. Homero Manzi wrote at least three tangos for Omar: Solamente ella, Ninguna and Sur. She had a clear voice with firm phrasing and reached the height of her fame in the 1940s and 1950s.. She also performed in the canción criolla genre, which had been all but forgotten.


In 1946, Omar recorded her first album, accompanied by Francisco Canaro’s orchestra, on the Odeón label. In 1951 she was signed by RCA Victor, and recorded a 78 rpm album with Domingo Farafiotti’s orchestra. In 1955, she travelled to Montevideo, Uruguay and appeared in a stage production and then 

moved to Venezuela for a year, before returning to Argentina. She retired from singing upon her return until her comeback in 1972.

In 1945, Omar sang an anthem, a milonga, Soy La Descamisada, which was created for the political campaign of Juan Perón. She wholeheartedly supported Perón and when he was ousted in 1955, she was blacklisted from the entertainment industry for 17 years. She made only three films prior to 1955, including Canto de amor (1940), directed by Julio Irigoyen, which also starred the singer Carlos Viván. It is believed that all copies of the film were destroyed; however, the Argentine film archives has photographs taken during filming.
Her film career began in 1940. In 1942, she filmed Melodías de América with Eduardo Morera. Though she is not listed in the cast roster, she is documented in a cast photo of the film. In 1951, she dubbed the singing voice of Mecha Ortiz in the film Mi vida por la tuya. She would not make another film for 57 years, but in 2008, she worked on a documentary about tango entitled Café de los maestros under the direction of Miguel Kohan.

In 1972, she staged a singing comeback accompanied by guitarist José Canet, who convinced her to come out of retirement. They did a series of concerts and she began releasing records, appearing regularly on stage. She also wrote two books. In 1986, she was declared Honorary Citizen of the City of Buenos Aires and received the award for Great Performer from the Society of Authors and Composers.

In 2011, Nelly appeared in public for the last time in a sold-out and overcrowded Luna Park Stadium (a typical mega-concert stadium in Buenos Aires).

She died of cardiac arrest on 20 December 2013, aged 102, in her native Buenos Aires. Nelly’s death not only implied a last reference to the Golden Age of Argentine Tango but also for one of the last folklore and popular culture standard-bearers.

(Edited from Wikipedia)

Monday, 9 September 2019

Otis Redding born 9 September 1941

Otis Ray Redding Jr. (September 9, 1941 – December 10, 1967) was an American singer, songwriter, record producer, arranger, and talent scout. He is considered one of the greatest singers in the history of American popular music and a seminal artist in soul music and rhythm and blues. Redding's style of singing gained inspiration from the gospel music that preceded the genre. His singing style influenced many other soul artists of the 1960s.

Redding was born in the small town of Dawson, Georgia. At the
age of 5 he moved with his family to Macon, Georgia. He sang in the choir of the Vineville Baptist Church, and became somewhat of a local celebrity as a teenager after winning a local Sunday night talent show 15 weeks in a row.

At age 18, Redding met 15-year-old Zelma Atwood. She gave birth to their son Dexter in the summer of 1960 and married Redding in August 1961. The story of Redding’s breakthrough is part of soul music mythology. 
In 1960 Redding joined Johnny Jenkins’s Pinetoppers, a local Georgia band, and also served as the group’s driver. When the group travelled to Memphis, Tennessee, to record at the famed Stax studios, Redding sang two songs of his own at the end of the session. One of the two, “These Arms of Mine” (1962), launched his career, attracting both a record label executive (Jim Stewart) and a manager (Phil Walden) who passionately believed in his talent.

Redding’s open-throated singing became the measure of the decade’s great soul artists. Unabashedly emotional, he sang with overwhelming power and irresistible sincerity. “Otis wore his heart on his sleeve,” said Jerry Wexler, whose Atlantic label handled Stax’s distribution, thus bringing Redding to a national market.


The hits came fast and furiously—“I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (to Stop Now)” (1965), “Respect” (1965), “Satisfaction” (1966), “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)” (1966). Otis Redding’s influence extended beyond his gritty vocals. As a composer,
especially with his frequent partner Steve Cropper, he introduced a new sort of rhythm-and-blues line—lean, clean, and steely strong. He arranged his songs as he wrote them, singing horn and rhythm parts to the musicians and, in general, sculpting his total sound. That sound, the Stax signature, would resonate for decades to come. Redding became a de facto leader presiding over a band that would prove as influential as the great rhythm-and-blues aggregations that preceded it, units associated with Ray Charles and James Brown.

The rapport between Redding and his rhythm section—Cropper on guitar, Donald (“Duck”) Dunn on bass, Al Jackson on drums, and Booker T. Jones on keyboards (known collectively as Booker T. and the MG’s)—was extraordinary. Redding proved to be an adept duet partner as well; his hits with label mate Carla Thomas (“Tramp” and “Knock on Wood,” 1967) added to his romantic aura. Later that year, Redding played at the massively influential Monterey Pop Festival, which helped him to break into the white pop music scene.

When the Stax/Volt Revue stormed Europe, Redding led the brigade and was just entering a new phase of popularity when tragedy struck. On December 10, 1967, Redding and most of his backing band, The Bar-Kays were killed when their chartered plane crashed into a Wisconsin lake. Redding was 26 years old. The two remaining members of The Bar-Kays were Ben Cauley and James Alexander. Cauley was the only person aboard Redding's plane to survive the crash; Alexander was on another plane.

Cauley reported that he had been asleep until just seconds before impact, and recalled that upon waking he saw bandmate Phalon Jones look out a window and say, "Oh, no!" Cauley said that he then unbuckled his seat belt, and that was his final recollection before finding himself in the frigid waters of the lake, grasping a seat cushion to keep himself afloat. Redding's body was recovered the next day when the lake was searched. The cause of the crash was never precisely determined.

Ironically, the across-the-board success Redding had sought was
realized only after his death. His most-haunting composition, co-written with Cropper, shot to the top of the charts and became his only number one hit: “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” (1968), a bittersweet lament of indolence and love. The public mourned his passing by playing his records. During 1968 three other Redding songs—“The Happy Song (Dum Dum),” “Amen,” and “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”—hit the charts. He remains a giant of the genre, a much-revered master of straight-ahead soul singing. Redding was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994. He also was a recipient of a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement (1999).

(Edited from Wikipedia & mainly article by David Ritz)

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Peter Sellers born 8 September 1935

Peter Sellers, CBE (born Richard Henry Sellers; 8 September 1925 – 24 July 1980) was an English film actor, comedian and singer. He performed in the BBC Radio comedy series The Goon Show, featured on a number of hit comic songs and became known to a worldwide audience through his many film characterisations, among them Chief Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther series of films.

Born in Portsmouth, Sellers made his stage debut at the Kings Theatre, Southsea, when he was two weeks old. He began accompanying his parents in a variety act that toured the provincial theatres. He first worked as a drummer and toured around England as a member of the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA). He developed his mimicry and improvisational skills during a spell in Ralph Reader's wartime Gang Show entertainment troupe, which toured Britain and the Far East. After the war, Sellers made his radio debut in ShowTime, and eventually became a regular performer on various BBC radio shows.

The Goons (Spike Milligan; Sir Harry Donald Secombe; Peter Sellers; 
Michael Bentine) with Ray Ellington and his band 1952

During the early 1950s, Sellers, along with Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine, took part in the successful radio series The Goon Show, which ended in 1960. Emerging as the star of the series with his repertoire of eccentric characters, Sellers also dominated the Goons’ film projects, including the short subject Let’s Go Crazy (1951) and the feature-length Down Among the Z Men (1952). 

On his own, he played a handful of supporting film roles before his breakthrough appearance as a doltish crook in The Ladykillers (1955). Following the advice of that film’s star, Alec Guinness, Sellers strove to avoid playing the same character twice. He especially enjoyed disappearing into characters much older than himself (The Smallest Show on Earth, 1957; Battle of the Sexes, 1959) and playing multiple roles (The Mouse That Roared, 1959).


Peter Sellers did some of his best work for the Boulting Brothers in the late 1950s and early ’60s, notably his characterization of obstreperous union shop steward Fred Kite in I’m All Right Jack (1959); it was also during this period that he made his feature directorial debut with Mr. Topaze (1961). Many British observers of the period dismissed Sellers as a glorified radio mimic, while Americans lauded him as a genius. One such American was director Stanley Kubrick, who cast Sellers as the treacherous Clare Quilty in Lolita (1962) and in three superbly defined roles in the brilliant “doomsday comedy” Dr. Strangelove (1964). The role that earned him superstar status was the magnificently inept Inspector
Clouseau in The Pink Panther and A Shot in the Dark (both 1964), both directed by Blake Edwards.

The World of Henry Orient (1964) was the first "American" movie that Sellers made and was the official U.S. entry in the Cannes Film Festival. He played a vain and lecherous pianist being chased by two teenagers. But his visit to Hollywood was cut short: he had divorced his first wife, Anne Howe, and married 19-year old Britt Ekland, a rising Swedish film star, in February 1964; and he had the first of his heart attacks in April at the age of 38. 
Upon his recovery, the quality of his films became wildly erratic, his mercurial offscreen temperament reflected by the unevenness of his cinematic output. He would not truly hit his stride again until the mid-1970s, when he repeated the role of Inspector Clouseau in three profitable Pink Panther sequels.

In 1979 he delivered what many consider his finest performance, as the simpleminded gardener Chance in Being There. This Oscar-nominated triumph was followed by one of his worst films, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu (1980). Suffering a series of heart attacks his final “performance” in Trail of the Pink Panther (released posthumously in 1982) was a hodgepodge of outtakes from earlier films.

On 21 July 1980 Sellers arrived in London from Geneva. He checked into the Dorchester hotel, before visiting Golders Green Crematorium for the first time to see the location of his parents' ashes. He had plans to attend a reunion dinner with his Goon Show partners Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe, scheduled for the evening of 22 July. On the day of the dinner, Sellers took lunch in his hotel suite and shortly afterwards collapsed from a heart attack. He was taken to the Middlesex Hospital, London, and died just after midnight on 24 July 1980, aged 54. Sellers had a script for a revival, called The Romance of the Pink Panther, in his possession at the Dorchester Hotel on the day of his death.

Peter Sellers was married four times: to Anne Howe (1951-1964), an English actress with whom he had two children, Michael and Sarah; to Britt Ekland (1964-1969), a Swedish actress with whom he had a daughter, Victoria; to Miranda Quarry (1970-1974), a stepdaughter of an English peer; and to Lynne Frederick, an actress whom he married in 1977 (She turned 26 the day after Sellers died). He fell in and out of love with unexpected impetus: he surprised even himself. Sellers himself said: I seem to marry young people. I never grew up, you see—I'm still the same idiot I was at 18 or 20."

(Edited mainly from Wikipedia & Your Dictionary)

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Johnny Duncan born 7 September 1932

John Franklin Duncan (September 7, 1932 – July 15, 2000) was an American bluegrass and skiffle musician. He became popular in Britain in 1957 with "Last Train to San Fernando", which reached number two in the UK Singles Chart.

Duncan was born in the Windrock coal-mining camp overlooking the town of Oliver Springs, Tennessee. He sang with his local church choir and later with a gospel quartet, In his teens he moved to Texas where he learned guitar and mandolin, and played in a hillbilly trio. He served in the US Air Force, and in 1952 was garrisoned in Cambridgeshire, England, where he met and married Betty Gardner, a local girl. After a brief return to the US, her illness and homesickness brought them back, and he briefly worked on her father's market clothes stall in Huntingdon market while she recovered.

When performing for American servicemen at Bushey, Hertfordshire, in 1956, he was seen by Dickie Bishop, banjoist in Chris Barber's Dixieland jazz band. Barber was looking for a new vocalist to replace Lonnie Donegan, who had started a solo career, and Duncan took over the role for several months before leaving Barber's band in early 1957.

Guided by record producer Denis Preston, Duncan then formed a new band, the Blue Grass Boys, comprising of bassist Jack Fallon, drummer Lennie Hastings, and guitarist Bryan Daly, who was later replaced by top-flight jazz player Denny Wright, a veteran of Donegan's band. The group was christened the Blue Grass Boys, in "honour" of Bill Monroe's group.


Duncan soon gained a recording contract with Columbia and the band began appearing regularly on a new BBC radio show, Saturday Skiffle Club (later Saturday Club). Their first recording was a commercially unsuccessful cover version of Hank Williams' "Kaw-Liga". In 1957 their second release "Last Train To San 
Fernando" perhaps fell into the same railroad category as the earlier skiffle classics "Rock Island Line" and "Freight Train". Despite, or possibly because of, this the British public loved it and sent it almost to the top. The track was arranged by Wright and Fallon, who gave the piece a strong "country" feel in the erroneous belief that San Fernando was in Texas rather than Trinidad.

Duncan briefly became a star in Britain, touring with Wee Willie Harris, Cliff Richard, and American singer Marvin Rainwater, and appearing regularly on BBC radio and the TV show Six-Five Special, produced by Jack Good. 
Duncan had two other entries in the UK Singles Chart in 1957, with "Blue, Blue Heartaches" (#27) and "Footprints in the Snow" (#22). Unfortunately, Duncan was unable to find another substantial hit to consolidate himself as a long term recording artist. Also he never got much recognition in his native US. Despite this the group remained popular in the UK for a long time after interest in his big hit had waned.

Wee Willie Harris - Johnny Duncan - Cliff Richard
Although Duncan continued to record good singles for Columbia over the next three years, he switched recording companies as most artists did after a long absence from the chart- then unlike most other artists- he returned to his original label, Columbia.

Johnny Duncan and the Blue Grass Boys are now regularly classified as participants in the skiffle craze that hit the UK at the end of the 1950s. In fact Johnny Duncan had a much more distinctive sound than any regular skiffler and his choice of material was closer to true 'Hillbilly' country music than was being played in any of London's coffee bars of the day. 
Duncan's style may have owed a lot to the fact that he was an American and could therefore carry a country and western style with more confidence than could most of his British contemporaries.

Duncan lived in the United States in the 1960s; at which time he had separated from Betty before returning to England where he recorded two albums in the 1970s. Following his divorce he toured Australia in 1972, and subsequently emigrated to New South Wales. Later he met his new partner, Heather Walls, and slipped back contentedly into country life. In the last decade, a reassessment of skiffle renewed interest in his work. 

By this time Duncan’s health was fading. Some of his recordings were re-released, and Duncan, enthusiasm rekindled, recorded a few more sides just before he died from cancer on July 15 2000.

(Edited from Wikipedia, www.45rpm & the Guardian)