Thursday, 31 January 2019

Roosevelt Sykes born 31 January 1906

Roosevelt Sykes (January 31, 1906 – July 17, 1983) was an American blues musician, also known as "The Honeydripper".

Sykes was born in Elmar, Arkansas, and grew up near Helena. At age 15, he went on the road playing piano in a barrelhouse style of blues. Like many bluesmen of his time, he travelled around playing to all-male audiences in sawmill, turpentine and levee camps along the Mississippi River, gathering a repertoire of raw, sexually explicit material. His wanderings eventually brought him to St. Louis, Missouri, where he met St. Louis Jimmy Oden, the writer of the blues standard "Goin' Down Slow".

In 1929 he was spotted by a talent scout and sent to New York City to record for Okeh Records. His first release was "44 Blues" which became a blues standard and his signature song. He soon began recording for different labels under various names, including Easy Papa Johnson, Dobby Bragg, and Willie Kelly (for Victor Records from 1930 to 1933).

During this period he befriended another blues musician, the singer Charlie "Specks" McFadden, and accompanied him on half of the McFadden's recordings. After he and Oden moved to Chicago, Sykes found his first period of fame when he signed a contract with Decca Records in 1934. In 1943, he signed with Bluebird Records and recorded with the Honeydrippers,. scoring a pair of R&B hits in 1945 (covers of Cecil Gant's "I Wonder" and Joe Liggins' "The Honeydripper").


The following year, he scored one more national chart item for the parent Victor logo, the lowdown blues "Sunny Road." He also often toured and recorded with singer St. Louis Jimmy Oden, the originator of the classic "Going Down Slow."Sykes and Oden continued their musical friendship into the 1960s.

In Chicago, Sykes began to display an increasing urbanity in his songwriting, using an eight-bar blues pop gospel structure instead of the traditional twelve-bar blues. Despite the growing urbanity of his style, he gradually became less competitive in the post–World War II music scene. After his contract with RCA Victor expired, he recorded for smaller labels, such as United, until his opportunities ran out in the mid-1950s.

Sykes left Chicago in 1954 for New Orleans as electric blues was taking over the Chicago blues clubs. When he returned to recording in the 1960s, it was for labels such as Delmark, Bluesville, Storyville and Folkways, which were documenting the quickly passing blues history. He lived out his final years in New Orleans, where he died from a heart attack on July 17, 1983.

Sykes had a long career, spanning the pre-war and post-war eras. His pounding piano boogies and risqué lyrics characterize his contributions to the blues. He was responsible for influential blues songs such as "44 Blues", "Driving Wheel", and "Night Time Is the Right Time".

He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Gennett Records Walk of Fame in 2011.
(edited from Wikipedia & AllMusic)

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Bernie Leighton born 30 January 1921

Bernie Leighton (January 30, 1921 – September 16, 1994) was an American jazz pianist. He was a very active studio musician and a sideman to many great stars.

Bernie Leighton was born in West Haven, Connecticut, as Delroy Lazeroff.  He studied piano privately with Samuel Yaffe from 1926 to 1930, Florence Morrison from 1930 to 1937 in Connecticut, and with Bruce Simonds from 1937 to 1941 at the Yale School of Music in new Haven. He graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree.

His amateur performing experience included a three year stint from 1934 to 1937 throughout Connecticut with Harry Berman and Sy Dyers. He moved to New York City in 1938 where he adopted the
professional name Bernie Leighton while working with Red Stanley, Enric Madriguera and the Milt Herth Trio.  

He also played with Bud Freeman, Leo Reisman, Raymond Scott (1940) and Benny Goodman (1940-41) before serving in the Army. Following his discharge, he found much work as a studio sideman, with Dave Tough (1946), Billie Holiday (1949), Neal Hefti (1951), Goodman again, Artie Shaw (1953), John Serry, Sr. (1956), James Moody (1963) and Bob Wilber (1969).


Although he never became that well-known, the value of Bernie Leighton's playing was well-known to his fellow musicians. As a leader he recorded six titles for Keynote in 1946, four for Mecury in 1950, an album for Columbia in 1950, four swing titles for Brunswick in 1951, mood music LPs for Disneyland and Capitol
(both in 1957). He also recorded for Cameo and EmArcy. His instrumental cover of Connie Francis' "Don't Break The Heart That Loves You" on the Colpix label in 1962 reached #101 on Billboard's listing. He also recorded a Duke Ellington tribute for Monmouth/Evergreen (1974).

Leighton did a tour with Tony Bennett in 1972-73. He is known for his work on the films Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) in which he also has a cameo role, Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) and New York Stories (1989).

He died on September 16, 1994 in Coconut Creek, Florida.

(Info scarce but edited from Wikipedia, IMDb  & People In Jazz.)

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Felice Taylor born 29 January 1944

Felice Taylor (born Florain Corella Flanagan, January 29, 1944 – June 12, 2017) was an American soul and pop singer, best known for her recordings in the late 1960s.

Born in Richmond, California, United States, Taylor began singing with her sisters Norma and Darlene Flanagan in a trio, The Sweets, who only recorded one single, "The Richest Girl", for the Valiant label in 1965.


Taylor's first solo recording in 1966, "Think About Me" on the Groovy label, was credited to Florain Taylor. Her greatest success came after signing for Bob Keane's Mustang label, a subsidiary of Bronco Records. There she was teamed with the songwriters and record producers, Barry White and Paul Politi, who co-wrote "It 
May Be Winter Outside (But in My Heart It's Spring)", a minor hit reaching No. 42 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 44 on the R&B chart in early 1967, and its follow-up "I'm Under the Influence of Love". A third single, "I Feel Love Comin' On", also written and produced by White and Politi was not released in the US, but reached No. 11 in the UK Singles Chart, when leased to President Records later in 1967.

She visited the UK and appeared at the Saville Theatre in London in the series of Sunday evening concerts put on by Brian Epstein.

After leaving Bronco, Taylor recorded for Kent Records, and later in the UK with Eddy Grant and Derv Gordon of the Equals. In 1973, White's protégées Love Unlimited recorded new versions of "It May Be Winter Outside" and "Under the Influence of Love" and Barry White recorded "I Feel Love Comin' On" on The Love Unlimited Orchestra's top ten album Rhapsody in White.

Sing Me A Love Song however, is one that got away. Penned by Richie Adams and Irwin Levine, it was recorded but never released until much later. Taylor herself seems not to have recorded after the early 1970s.

She was married to Johnny B Taylor and had four children.

She died in June 2017, aged 73. She was interred at the Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California.  (Edited mainly from Wikipedia)

Monday, 28 January 2019

Phil Flowers born 28 February 1934

Phil Flowers (28 January 1934 - 22 January 2001) was a Washington area singer and composer who performed in the United States and abroad since the 1950's. He was sometimes described as "The Black Elvis" and "Skip Manning."

Phil Flowers was primarily a soul singer, but he has recorded in a wide variety of styles: rock ’n’ roll, gospel, R&B, blues, ballads and sixties pop. Rock and roll fans will remember him most of all for his frantic rocker “No Kissin’ At the Hop” from 1958. Although he never had a national hit, Flowers managed to sustain a career in music for four decades.

Born Philip James Flowers on a small farm in Longwood County, North Carolina, Flowers was taught how to pick a guitar by his father, Phil senior. By the time he was fourteen, Phil decided that picking a guitar was a lot easier than picking cotton, so he joined a travelling combo that played in his town. Phil played with various groups until he got a letter from Uncle Sam and was enlisted into the U.S. Air Force. During his service he starred with the successful “Tops in Blue” Air Force show and played camps all around the country.

After his return to civilian life, Phil began singing professionally in the Washington D.C. area. He made his first record for the Hollywood label in 1956, “Honey Chile” (not the Fats Domino number). The other side was performed by a different artist. Two more releases on Hollywood followed before Phil was signed by Mercury in 1958. Only one single was issued, on the Wing subsidiary, “No Kissin’ At the Hop”/“Walking At Night” (Wing 2100).


Both sides were written by Phil himself, in partnership with Cindy Davis, a pseudonym for Kay Adelman, whose husband Ben Adelman ran the Empire label between 1959 and 1962. Phil would have two releases on Empire in 1960, “Sadie From Haiti” and “Ham ’n’ Eggs”. The latter record was credited to the pseudonym “Skip Manning”. The Adelmans formed a joint publishing venture with Phil Flowers and Lillian Claiborne, called Lil-Phil-Ben.

The Wing single failed to catch on and Mercury did not release any further recordings by Phil. There followed a long period of label-hopping, with releases on United Artists, Empire, Honey, Sway, Domino, Josie, Almanac and Columbia. During the early 1960s Flowers recorded mostly twist and other dance records, as well as a gospel album in 1963. After the dance crazes went out of fashion in the Beatles era, he switched to soul music.

In the 1960s, Flowers had a great band, the nucleus of which consisted of Melvin Lee (guitar), Willie Melvin (bass), Harold Blair (sax) and T.N.T. Tribble (drums). Tribble is credited on several of Phil’s recordings and he also recorded in his own right.

Things finally began to happen for Flowers in late 1967. His second Dot single, “Cry On My Shoulder”, sold well on the East Coast and Phil was invited to sing on the nationally televised Dick Clark Show. An album for Dot ("Our Man In Washington”) was well received. 

In 1968, Flowers performed at the White House, during the Johnson administration. That same year, at the request of the mayor of Washington, D.C., Flowers and his backing group (The Flower Shop) were dispatched to sing in neighbourhoods where riots had broken out after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

From 1969 until 1973 Flowers recorded for A&M, Bell and Epic.
His covers of “Like A Rolling Stone”and “Every Day I Have To Cry” (A&M, 1970) were also released in the UK, his first releases there. He appeared in Las Vegas and was a regular at Washington hotels and clubs, often performing with his siblings and children as backup singers. Much of his repertoire consisted of self-composed songs (Phil was a prolific songwriter) and he did impressions of a wide range of other singers, including Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. In the late 1970s he was the lead singer of the rock group Jebediah, with whom he recorded an album of Jagger-Richards compositions for Epic in 1978. 

During the later years of his life, Phil performed mostly on cruise ships, as well as in Bermuda, Saudi Arabia, Puerto Rico and some European countries.

Phil Flowers died of cancer in 2001, six days before his 67th birthday. He collapsed at his home in Gaithersburg, Maryland and was taken to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, where he died the next day.

( Edited from Black cat Rockabilly Europe)

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Bobby "Blue" Bland born 27 January 1930

Robert Calvin Bland (né Robert Calvin Brooks; January 27, 1930 – June 23, 2013), known professionally as Bobby "Blue" Bland, was an American blues singer. Bland developed a sound that mixed gospel with the blues and R&B. He was sometimes referred to as the "Lion of the Blues" and as the "Sinatra of the Blues".

Bland was born Robert Calvin Brooks in the small town of Barretville, Tennessee. His father, I.J. Brooks, abandoned the family not long after Robert's birth. Robert later acquired the name "Bland" from his stepfather, Leroy Bridgeforth, who was also called Leroy Bland. With his mother, Bland moved to Memphis in 1947, where he started singing with local gospel groups, including the Miniatures.

In his late teens he hung out in the city with King, the pianist Rosco Gordon and the singer Johnny Ace, an informal musical gang known as the Beale Streeters. Bland released his first single for Duke in 1955. In 1956 he began touring on the chitlin' circuit with Junior Parker in a revue called Blues Consolidated, initially doubling as Parker's valet and driver. He began recording for Duke with the bandleader Bill Harvey and the arranger Joe Scott, asserting his characteristic vocal style and, with Harvey and Scott, beginning to craft the melodic big-band blues singles for which he became famous, often accompanied by the guitarist Wayne Bennett. Unlike many blues musicians, Bland played no instrument.


Melodic big-band blues singles, including "Farther Up the Road" (1957) and "Little Boy Blue" (1958) reached the US R&B Top 10, but Bobby's craft was most clearly heard on a series of early 1960s releases including "Cry Cry Cry", "I Pity The Fool" and the sparkling "Turn On Your Love Light", which became a much-covered standard. Despite credits to the contrary, many such classic works were written by Joe Scott, the artist's bandleader and arranger.

Some of Bland's best work, done under Scott's direction in 1960-63, appeared on the albums Two Steps from the Blues, Here's the Man... and Call on Me, such as the ferocious homily Yield Not to Temptation, the joyous Turn on Your Love Light and a virtuoso reading of the blues standard (Call It) Stormy Monday, featuring a guitar line by Wayne Bennett that has become a blues guitarists' set piece. Occasionally, saccharine songs and lush orchestrations would move Bland rather more than two steps from the blues, but his admirers endured his straying and waited for him to find his way back with poised renderings of strong material such as Blind Man and Black Night.

Bland's records mostly sold on the R&B market and he had 23 Top Ten hits on the Billboard R&B charts and in the 1996 Top R&B book by Joel Whitburn, Bland was rated the #13 all-time best selling artist.

Financial pressures forced the singer to cut his touring band and in 1968 the group broke up. He suffered from depression and became increasingly dependent on alcohol. He stopped drinking in 1971; his record company Duke was sold by owner Don Robey to the larger ABC Records group. This resulted in several successful and critically acclaimed contemporary blues/soul albums including the later "follow-up" in 1977 Reflections in Blue, were all recorded in Los Angeles and featured many of the city's top sessionmen at the time.

Subsequent attempts at adding a disco/Barry White flavour were mostly unsuccessful. In 1985, Bland was signed by Malaco Records, specialists in traditional Southern black music for whom he made a series of albums while continuing to tour and appear at concerts with fellow blues singer B. B. King. The two had collaborated for two albums in the 1970s. Despite occasional age-related ill-health, Bland continues to record new albums for Malaco, perform occasional tours alone, with guitarist/producer Angelo Earl and also with B.B. King, plus appearances at blues and soul festivals worldwide.

Bland continued performing until shortly before his death. He died on June 23, 2013, at his home in Germantown, Tennessee, a suburb of Memphis, after what family members described as "an ongoing illness". He was 83.

Bland was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1981, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2012. He received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame described him as "second in stature only to B.B. King as a product of Memphis's Beale Street blues scene"

(Edited from Wikipedia & The Guardian)

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Stephane Grappelli born 26 January 1908

Stéphane Grappelli (26 January 1908 – 1 December 1997) was a French jazz violinist who founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France with guitarist Django Reinhardt. It was one of the first (and arguably the most famous) of all-string jazz bands.

Grappelli was born in Paris, France to Italian parents: his father, marquess Ernesto Grappelli was born in Alatri (Lazio). His mother died when he was four and his father left to fight in World War I. As a result he was sent to an orphanage. Grappelli started his musical career busking on the streets of Paris and Montmartre with a violin. He began playing the violin at age 12, and attended the Conservatoire de Paris studying music theory, between 1924 and 1928.

He continued to busk on the side until he gained fame in Paris as a violin virtuoso. He also worked as a silent film pianist while at the conservatory and played the saxophone and accordion. He called his piano "My Other Love" and released an album of solo piano of the same name. His early fame came playing with the Quintette du Hot Club de France with Django Reinhardt, which disbanded in 1939 due to World War II. In 1940, a little known jazz pianist by the name of George Shearing made his debut as a sideman in Grappelli's band.


After the war he appeared on hundreds of recordings including sessions with Duke Ellington, jazz pianists Oscar Peterson, Michel Petrucciani and Claude Bolling, jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, jazz violinist Stuff Smith, Indian classical violinist L. Subramaniam, 
vibraphonist Gary Burton, pop singer Paul Simon, mandolin player David Grisman, classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin, orchestral conductor André Previn, guitar player Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar player Joe Pass, cello player Yo Yo Ma and many others.

He also collaborated extensively with the British guitarist and graphic designer Diz Disley, recording 13 record albums with him and his trio, and with now renowned British guitarist Martin Taylor. In the 1980s he gave several concerts with the young British cellist Julian Lloyd Webber.

Grappelli made a cameo appearance in the 1978 film King of the Gypsies, along with noted mandolinist David Grisman. Three years later they performed together in concert, which was recorded live and released to critical acclaim. Grappelli's music is played very quietly, almost inaudibly, on Pink Floyd's album Wish You Were Here. The violinist was not credited, according to Roger Waters, in order to avoid "a bit of an insult". A remastered version with Grappelli's contribution fully audible can be found on the 2011 editions of Wish You Were Here.

In January 1994, he celebrated his 86th birthday in concert with Stanley Black at London's Barbican Hall. He made records with several backing groups, played duets with Gary Burton, Earl Hines, Martial Solal, Jean-Luc Pony and many other leading jazzmen. He also ventured into other areas of music and, in addition to the duets with Menuhin, he has recorded with the western swing fiddler, Vassar Clements.

At ease with a repertoire based upon his early career successes, Grappelli's flowing style steadily matured over the years and the occasional uncertainties of his early work with Reinhardt are long forgotten. 

Perhaps at odd moments in his later years he seemed to be coasting, yet some of his recorded performances are very good while several of those from the mid- and late 70s are amongst the most distinguished in the history of jazz violin.

Of particular merit are Parisian Thoroughfare, recorded with the rhythm section of Roland Hanna, George Mraz and Mel Lewis, and a set recorded at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London in 1973 when he was backed by Disley and Len Skeat. Grappelli's late flowering helped to prompt appreciation of the old tradition of jazz violin playing.

In the 1980s he gave several concerts with British cellist Julian Lloyd Webber. Although sometimes confined to a wheelchair, he continued concert touring into the mid-1990s.

Among his many honours, Grappelli received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as the Ordre National de la Legion d'honneur, France's highest civilian honour. He was also inducted into the Downbeat Jazz Hall of Fame.

Stephan Grappelli died  in Paris on December 1, 1997 after undergoing a hernia operation. He is buried in the city's Père Lachaise Cemetery.

 (Compiled and edited from Wikipedia & Verve Music Group)

Here’s a clip of Stephane Grappelli at the  Warsaw Jazz Festival in 1991 with McCoy Tyner, piano; Jean-Philippe Viret, bass; Mark Fosset, guitar.

Friday, 25 January 2019

Ziggy Talent born 25 January 1912

Ziggy Talent (January 25, 1912 - June 25, 1997) ** was a saxophonist and novelty vocalist who performed with Vaughn Monroe's big band from 1940 to 1953. On stage he'd often go on with just the band's rhythm section while Monroe and the rest of the orchestra would take a break.

Zigmund Talent was born in Boston, Mass. As a child he sang in choirs and in school glee clubs. His voice he claims, has always been strange, always "high, without touching the beauty of a soprano--sort of a cross between milk and sour cream, like buttermilk."

Though you'd never suspect it, zany Ziggy was a bashful child. Once, at a Sunday family gathering, the kind that are part of New England tradition, the elder Talents called upon their young prodigy to sing. Ziggy obliged, he says, but "from behind the door in the next room, where nobody could see. I was only ten, so I guess I can be excused."

Zany Ziggy explains "The Telephone No Ring"
 to an impatient Vaughn as he monopolizes
the only available telephone backstage.
It was at this time that Ziggy got his first saxophone. His brother, Leo, a musician, was playing in a three-piece outfit at a Boston hotel. Leo brought Ziggy along to see the show. "I brought my kazoo with me," reminisces Ziggy, "and while they were doing a number I kazooed along with them. One of the patrons heard me, was curious, and asked Leo about me. Leo told him I was just his kid brother and that I was practicing to be a saxophonist."

Ziggy had no idea at the moment that he would become a saxophonist. But next day, Leo, who had by then become convinced that it might be a good idea, went out and rented an instrument and hired a teacher for his kid brother. "So," cracks Ziggy, "I got a big kazoo with keys, for the small one."

He put his odd, high-pitched and reedy singing voice to good use on several goofy songs over the years, both with Monroe and on his own, including 'Sam, You Made The Pants Too Long', 'The Maharajah of Magador', 'Josephine, Please No Lean On The Bell', and 'Please Say Goodnight To The Guy, Irene'.


"You wouldn't call it singing. You wouldn't call it a voice. It's a freak. It's God's gift to no man." That's how Ziggy answers you when you ask him about his voice. And he's not kidding. Talent knows well enough that he's no Sinatra, Como, or for that matter, Monroe.  Ziggy may not be a crooner, but his following is almost as fanatic as theirs.

Ziggy recorded on Bluebird then RCA Victor with Vaughn Monroe up to 1950 and by himself 1949 – 1950. He then moved to Decca from 1950 – 1955.  In 1962 Ziggy released  an "updated" version of The Maharajah of Magador on ABC Paramount records, but it never quite reached the "Top 100".
And that dear friends is where Ziggy’s trail goes cold. I cannot find any more information regarding Ziggy’s life until June 25, 1997 when he died in Nassau, New York, USA.

**Many sources give January as Ziggy’s birthday, but IMDb give June. They also they spell his name as Ziggie. and his place of birth as Manchester, New Hampshire, USA, (I am unable to confirm which information is correct, so have gone with majority until other confirmed info available)

(Edited from various sources mainly

Ziggy Talent, accompanied by Vaughn Monroe & His Orchestra, performs the novelty number "I Can't Dance (I Got Ants in My Pants)" from the MGM film "Meet the People" (1944).

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Tuts Washington born 24 January 1921

Isidore "Tuts" Washington (January 24, 1907 – August 5, 1984) was an American blues pianist from New Orleans, Louisiana who was a primary influence on later Crescent City players spanning from Professor Longhair and Allen Toussaint to Fats Domino.

He began teaching himself piano at the age of ten; inspired by the 
itinerant New Orleans musician Joseph Louis "Red" Cayou, Washington amassed a vast repertoire of songs by memorizing performances by area brass bands, then quickly returning home to develop his own renditions.

Recognized as something of a prodigy, Washington -- also known as "Papa Yellow" -- was already the superior of most local barrelhouse pianists by his teen years, and he regularly sat in with prominent Dixieland and society bands; his style brought together an eclectic mix of ragtime, jazz, and blues textures, and despite a general reliance on instrumentals, he was also known to pull the occasionally bawdy vocal number out of his bag of tricks.

After World War II, Washington joined Smiley Lewis in a trio with drummer Herman Seals. Prior to the 1952 breakup, they cut some of the landmark New Orleans R&B sides of the period for Imperial, among them "Tee-Nah-Nah," "The Bells Are Ringing," and "Dirty People."

However, for the most part, Washington considered recording of little consequence, content instead in his standing as the consensus choice as the French Quarter's champion pianist; as a result, he regularly rejected offers to cut solo sides, and in 1950 set out to conquer new territories, relocating to St. Louis to join the Tab Smith Orchestra.

                     Here's "Tee-Nah-Nah" from above album.


He was back in New Orleans by the end of the decade, performing in restaurants in the French Quarter in clubs such as Tipitina's and at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. He signed on with the Clyde Kerr Orchestra and added a new pop-oriented dimension to his playing for the sake of tourists. 

He also frequently played on the Mississippi River on the Delta Queen whilst continuing to perform at various musical landmarks in New Orleans such as the Court of Two Sisters Restaurant in the French Quarter, and the piano bar at the Caribbean Room of the Pontchartrain Hotel.

Tuts Washington was a piano playing institution in New Orleans and he is frequently cited as one of the major influences on Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, James Booker, Dr. John, and Allen Toussaint, all of whom respected Washington and acknowledged his contribution to their styles.

He avoided recording for most of his career, but he released the solo piano album New Orleans Piano Professor for Rounder in 1983. A live recording by Washington, Live at Tipitina's '78, was released by Night Train International Records in 1998.

Washington died on August 5, 1984, after having a heart attack while performing at the World's Fair in New Orleans.

(Compiled and edited from Wikipedia, AllMusic, the Blues