In Memoriam 2018: Music

There was no bigger loss in the music world than the death of ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin at age 76. Born in Memphis and raised in Detroit, Aretha originally sang Gospel at her father Rev. C.L. Franklin’s revivals. She signed on with Columbia Records, who tried to pigeonhole her with safe Easy Listening standards. Moving over to Atlantic Records in 1966, Aretha began recording at Muscle Shoals for producer Jerry Wexler, and belted out R&B hit after hit: the raucous “Respect”, “Baby I Love You”, “Natural Woman”, “Chain of Fools”, “Since You’ve Been Gone”, “Think”, “Spanish Harlem”, “Until You Come Back to Me”. Hitting a slump in the mid-70’s, Aretha came back strong with 80’s successes “Jump To It”, “Freeway of Love”, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who”, and duets with Eurythmics (“Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves”) and George Michael (‘I Knew You Were Waiting for Me”). The word “icon” gets tossed around all too frequently these days, but Aretha Franklin was a true pop icon, with a booming voice that will not be silenced as long as there are fans of music around.

Aretha with Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy (and The Blues Brothers)

Rock’n’roll lost some true pioneers this past year. D.J. Fontana (87) played drums in a band called The Blue Moon Boys with guitarist Scotty Moore, bassist Bill Black, and a young singer named Elvis Presley. Fontana spent 14 years as Elvis’s drummer, laying down the beats on classics “Heartbreak Hotel”, “Hound Dog”, and so many others. Nokie Edwards (82) was the innovative lead guitarist for instrumental group The Ventures, whose hits include “Walk Don’t Run” (on which Edwards played bass) and “Theme from Hawaii 5-0”. Matt “Guitar” Murphy (88) joined Howlin’ Wolf’s band in 1948, and was a sideman for blues legends Memphis Slim and James Cotton before hitting it big later in life as a member of The Blues Brothers.

Roy Clark  (85) was a multi-talented instrumentalist who had a #1 hit singing the melancholic “Yesterday, When I Was Young”, as well as co-hosting the long-running country music program HEE HAW. Singer Marty Balin (76) soared to fame with Jefferson Airplane (and later incarnation Jefferson Starship). Ray Thomas (76) of The Moody Blues sang and played flute, notably on the group’s “Nights in White Satin”, which was a hit in two different decades. Cranberries lead vocalist Delores O’Riordan (46) died far too soon. Hugh Masekela (78) brought the sounds of South Africa to America, wowing the hippie crowd at the ’67 Monterrey Pop Festival with his trumpeting prowess, and scoring a #1 hit with “Grazing in the Grass”. Dennis Edwards (74) lent his soulful singing to such Temptations hits as “Cloud Nine”, “I Can’t Get Next to You”, “Psychedelic Shack”, “Ball of Confusion”, and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” during the Motown group’s most creative period.

DJ Avicci (top); crooner Vic Damone (bottom)

Techno artist/DJ Avicii  had a huge following; his life was tragically cut short at age 28 by suicide due to mental health issues. On the other side of the spectrum, singer Vic Damone lived to the ripe old age of 89; the popular crooner counted a #1 hit (1949’s “You’re Breaking My Heart”) among his many Top Ten tunes, and was regularly featured on TV, in movies, and Las Vegas. Other voices stilled by death include France’s Charles Aznavour (94), Scott Boyer of Cowboy (70), Cajun legend Vin Bruce (87), Big Band vocalist Don Cherry (94), Buzz Clifford (75, “Baby Sittin’ Boogie”), Gospel’s Del Delker (93), Jimmy Farrar of Molly Hatchet (67), rockabilly’s Billy Hancock (71), country’s Freddie Hart (91, “Easy Loving”, “My Hang Up is You”), Mike Harrison of Spooky Tooth (72), Edwin Hawkins (74, who had a surprise hit with the Gospel tune “Oh, Happy Day”), Scott Hutchinson (36, Frightened Rabbit), Hawaiian superstar Ed Kenney (85), Leah LeBelle (34, AMERICAN IDOL runner-up), Dean Lima of LFO (41), Reggae’s Trevor McNaughton (77), Tom Netherton (70, THE LAWRENCE WELK SHOW), death metal’s Frank “Killjoy” Pucci (48), Tom Rapp (70, Pearls Before Swine), bluegrass star Randy Scruggs (64), Gayle Shepherd of the Shepherd Sisters (81, “Alone”), soulful Lowrell Simon (75), Daryle Singletary (46, “I Let Her Lie”, “Too Much Fun”, “Amen Kind of Love”), Mark E. Smith of The Fall (60), jazz legend Nancy Wilson (81), Lari White (52, “That’s My Baby”, “Now I Know”), Tony Joe White (75, “Polk Salad Annie”), and Betty Willis (76).

Funk Brothers Wah Wah Watson (top), Eddie Willis (bottom)

If there’s a rock’n’roll heaven, you know they’ve got a hell of a band with the additions of guitarists Tim Calvert (52, Nevermore), Eddie Clark (67, Motorhead), Ed King (68, Strawberry Alarm Clock , Lynnrd Skynnrd), Danny Kirwan (68, Fleetwood Mac), Glenn Schwartz (78, Pacific Gas & Electric), Wah Wah Watson (67) and Eddie Willis (82) of The Funk Brothers, Fred Weiland (75, The Strangers), and Todd Youth (47, Danzig); bassists Max Bennett (90, LA Express, Wrecking Crew), Mars Cowling (72, Pat Travers Band), Alan Longmuir (70, Bay City Rollers), Craig McGregor (68, Foghat), Jim Rodford (76, Argent, The Kinks); keyboard wizard Roy Webb (70, Lanny Kravitz, Suzy Quatro); sax players Ace Cannon (84, Bill Black’s Combo) and Charles Neville (79, The Neville Brothers); drummers Mickey Jones (76, The First Edition, who later enjoyed an acting career), Nick Knox (60, The Cramps), Vinnie Paul (54, Pantera), Jabo Starks (79, James Brown’s Famous Flames), Pat Torpey (64, Mr. Big), Charlie Quintana (56, Social Distortion); multi-instrumentalist Maartin Allcock (61, Fairport Convention, Jethro Tull); and cellist Hugh McDowell of ELO (65).

Blues giant Otis Rush

On the blues side of town, legendary singer/guitarist Otis Rush (83) wrote and recorded such now-standards as “Double Trouble” and “All Your Loving”. Denise LaSalle (78) had mainstream success with the hit “Trapped By A Thing Called Love”. Big Jay McNeely (91) honked his badass saxophone on countless blues records. Maurice Reedus (65) played his sax on Cleveland street corners, so well a documentary was made about him (THE SAX MAN). Little Sammy Davis (89) blew his harp for blues lovers for over seventy years, while Lazy Lester (85) did it for sixty. Guitarist Preston Shannon (70) backed Shirley Brown before striking out on his own, while Floyd Miles (74) played with Clarence Carter and Gregg Allman. And we must give a tip of our porkpie hats to Louisiana’s Jewel Records owner Stan Lewis (91), who released hits from Lowell Fulsom (“Reconsider Baby”), Dale Hawkins (“Suzie-Q”), and John Fred & His Playboy Band (“Judy in Disguise”), and Arkansas’s Sunshine Sonny Payne (92), who hosted the seminal “King Biscuit Time” on radio’s KFFA for over fifty years!

Jazz greats Sonny Fortune (top), Cecil Taylor (bottom)

Jazz buffs are mourning the losses of Big Bill Bissonnette (81, trombone), Shelly Cohen (84, clarinetist and assistant music director for Johnny Carson’s TONIGHT SHOW), Nathan Davis (81, sax), Bill Hughes (87, trombonist for Count Basie), Sonny Fortune (79, sax), Coco Schumann (93, guitarist and Holocaust survivor), Tommy Smith (81, Canadian pianist), Cecil Taylor (89, avant-garde pianist), and Bill Watruss (79, trombone). Producer and songwriter Rich Hall (85) was known as “The Father of Muscle Shoals”. Harvey Schmidt (88) composed the long-running musical “The Fantasticks”; Carol Hall (82) wrote the music and lyrics for “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”. Kenny O’Dell (73) wrote country classics “Behind Closed Doors” and “Mama He’s Crazy”. Scott English (81) wrote rock hits “Bend Me Shape Me”, “Help Me Girl”, and Barry Manilow’s “Mandy”.

Gary Burden’s cover for The Doors’ “Morrison Hotel”

In the studio, engineer Geoff Emerick (72) worked with The Beatles beginning with 1966’s “Revolver”. Jimmy Robinson (67) engineered recordings for Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, and Led Zeppelin. David Bianco (64) produced albums by Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Mick Jagger, and many other artists. Gary Burden (84) created iconic album covers for Steppenwolf, The Doors, CSNY, Joni Mitchell, and most notably Neil Young. Peter Simon (71) was a noted rock photographer closely associated with The Grateful Dead. Joe Jackson (89) was patriarch of the musical Jackson family.

Barbara Cope served the music industry in her own way during the heyday of psychedelic hard rock. Barbara was a famed groupie known as “The Dallas Butter Queen” (use your imagination!). She was ‘friendly’ with Hendrix, Zeppelin, David Cassidy (whaaat!), Joe Cocker, and other luminaries, and was immortalized in the Rolling Stones song “Rip This Joint”:

Leaving the rock scene behind in 1972, Barbara sold her vast collection of rock memorabilia to make ends meet, keeping her private memories instead. She died in a house fire on January 14 in East Dallas at age 67, gone but not forgotten. Rock’n’roll forever, Barbara!

Tomorrow: Pop Culture 

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Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, Again: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love (Phillies Records 1963)

Like last week’s “Christmas Wrapping”, the song “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home” made it’s debut on a compilation album, 1963’s “A Christmas Gift to You from Phil Spector”:

The label’s head honcho, ‘Wall of Sound’ producer Phil Spector (we won’t get into his later sordid life – it’s Christmas!), originally wanted his then-wife Ronnie to sing the Elle Greenwich/Jeff Barry (the duo responsible for rock classics like “Be My Baby”, “Da Doo Ron Ron”, “Leader of the Pack”, “Hanky Panky”, and “River Deep – Mountain High”) penned tune. But Ronnie couldn’t give Phil quite what he wanted, so backup singer Darlene Love of The Blossoms was called in – and nailed it!

Darlene Love in the studio with Phil Spector, 1963

Darlene Love sang background vocals on many of the era’s hits (Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett’s “The Monster Mash”, The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”, Johnny Rivers’ “Poor Side of Town”, Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life”), and sang lead on the #1 smash “He’s a Rebel” under the name The Crystals (who were actually The Blossoms). After taking a break from performing in the 70’s, she returned to the spotlight, singing in clubs and on tour, and from 1986-2014, sang her Christmas classic annually on David Letterman’s show:

Darlene also has acted, appearing as Danny Glover’s wife in the LETHAL WEAPON movies, starred on Broadway, and was featured in the 2013 rock doc 20 FEET FROM STARDOM. So now that you know more than you ever wanted to know about “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and Darlene Love – enjoy! And Merry Christmas!

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree: “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses (ZE Records 1981)

Tis the season for Christmas music, and today we have New Wave rockers The Waitresses with their peppy little classic “Christmas Wrapping”:

The song first appeared on a ZE Records compilation album called “A Christmas Album” featuring artists like Suicide and Was (Not Was).  Since it’s release, it’s become a Yuletide standard on Classic Rock Radio, featured in movies and ads, and covered by the likes of The Donnas, Kylie Minogue, Spice Girls, Bella Thorne, and the cast of GLEE. The Waitresses had another hit that still gets plenty of airplay, “I Know What Boys Like”:

The band was formed by Akron, Ohio’s Chris Butler, formerly of the punk group Tin Huey, and included the late Patty Donahue on lead vocals, Mars Williams (sax), Dan Klayman (keyboards), Dave Hofstra (bass), Ariel Warner (backup vocals), and ex-Television drummer Billy Ficca. The Waitresses also  recorded the theme to the ahead-of-it’s-time sitcom SQUARE PEGS before breaking up in 1984:

Though short lived, The Waitresses left us with a catchy, danceable Christmas classic that’ll be around for years to come.

“Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas/Couldn’t miss this one this year”!

One Hit Wonders #23: “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass (Epic Records 1972)

You couldn’t go into any bar, pub, or tavern in my fishing port hometown of New Bedford, MA for literally decades without someone playing Looking Glass’s #1 hit from 1972, “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” on the jukebox – usually more than once a night!:

(And yes, that’s future country legend Kenny Rogers doing the introduction!)

The song/story of a barmaid in love with a sailor she can never truly have, because as he says “my life, my lover, my lady, is the sea” resonated with us locals, as I’m sure it did in every “harbor town” where barmaids work “layin’ whiskey down” to hard working seafaring men (not to mention that fact that it made a helluva great slow-dancing tune as closing time neared – ah, those were the days, my friends!).

The band Looking Glass was from New Brunswick, New Jersey, and consisted of Elliot Lurie (lead singer, guitar), Larry Gronsky (keyboards), Pieter Sweval (bass), and Jeff Grob (drums). While “Brandy” was a smashing success, their self-titled debut album only made it to #113 on the Billboard LP charts. A follow-up LP, SUBAWAY SERANADE, did worse, though it did yield a minor hit in “Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne”, which crawled up to #33. After Lurie left the group disbanded, with Sweval and Grob forming the late 70’s glam-metal band Starz, who had some small success in 1977 with “Cherry Baby”:

Elliot Lurie, who wrote “Brandy”, had a brief solo career before moving to Hollywood and becoming a music supervisor for both films (THE SURE THING, ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE, ALIEN 3, A NIGHT AT THE ROXBURY, SPANGLISH) and television (CLUELESS, NASH BRIDGES, LIZZIE MCGUIRE, THE 4400). But for most of us, he’ll be forever immortalized as the man who gave voice to a girl who “wears a braided chain, made of finest silver from the North of Spain”, and who, “at night, when the bars close down,..walks through a silent town, and loves a man who’s not around”….

Yesterday, When We Were Young: A Brief Tribute to Roy Clark


It seems like we’ve lost an old friend, one who was welcomed into homes across America for decades. Roy Clark, Country Music’s King of Strings, adept on guitar, banjo, and mandolin, and one of TV’s most Familiar Faces thanks to his 14 year gig as co-host of HEE HAW, passed away yesterday at age 85. Clark was born in Virginia on April 15, 1933, and picked up his first guitar at age 14. He was a two-time National Banjo Champion by age 15, and made his Grand Ole Opry debut at 17. Roy joined Jimmy Dean’s band in the early 50’s, but was fired for his chronic tardiness. He then began playing backup for rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson.

When Dean got a guest host spot on THE TONIGHT SHOW, he brought his old bandmate Roy on, and Clark’s expert playing, coupled with his unassuming, warm personality, tore the house down. Soon Roy was all over the small screen: variety shows like Jackie Gleason and Flip Wilson, sitcoms like THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES (as the Clampett’s bumpkin Cousin Roy), LOVE AMERICAN STYLE, THE ODD COUPLE ,THE MUPPET SHOW. But it was HEE HAW, which he cohosted with Buck Owens, that skyrocketed his popularity. Between the corny down home humor and classic country music, the show was a phenomenon, debuting in 1969 and running continuously until 1993. All the genre’s biggest stars performed, and Roy was a large part of it’s success.

Roy Clark sold out concerts around the world, and he was a huge draw in both Vegas and Branson, MO. When I heard the news he died, I immediately thought of his most-loved song, the poignant “Yesterday, When I Was Young”, which topped the charts in 1969. It’s one of the most bittersweet ballads ever, originally written in French by Charles Aznavour, and serves as a fitting tribute to Roy Clark:

God bless ya’ll, Roy.

One Hit Wonders #22: “Heartbeat – It’s A Lovebeat” by The DeFranco Family (20th Century Records 1973)


Now that I’ve got horror movies out of my system (at least for a minute!), let’s switch gears to the saccharine sweet DeFranco Family, Canada’s answer to the Osmond Brothers, The Partridge Family, and The Jackson 5, who scored a #1 hit in 1973 with the bubblegum-pop “Heartbeat – It’s A Lovebeat”:

Siblings Benny, Marisa, Nino, Merlina, and Tony DeFranco had been making music together all their lives before a demo tape earned them a contract with 20th Century Records. 13-year-old lead singer Tony was groomed to be the Next Big Teen Idol, and his face was plastered all over the covers of teen magazines of the era: Tiger Beat, 16, Fave!, ad nauseam. The DeFranco’s popularity was brief however, as disco began taking over the airwaves, not to mention Tony hitting puberty and his liltingly light voice changing! The family became a Vegas lounge act for a couple of years before quietly leaving the music scene altogether.

And whatever became of would-be teen idol Tony? Well, he seems to have done well for himself, as he’s now a successful Southern California real estate agent with Southeby’s International Realty . Whadda ya know – a ‘teen idol’ story with a happy ending!

Tony DeFranco today – lookin’ good, Tony!

Halloween Havoc! Extra: Boris & Bela Do THE MONSTER MASH!

Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s 1962 hit “The Monster Mash” was not only a graveyard smash, but has become an annual Halloween tradition here on Cracked Rear Viewer. This season, I’ve picked out a Monster Mash-Up of clips starring Universal Horror icons Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi set to Pickett’s groovy ghoulie tune. Break out your dancing shoes and get ready to Do The Mash with Boris and Bela:

Have a Happy HORRORween, Dear Readers!