My Blog List

Thursday, April 30, 2015

"Z," I TOLD YOU SO!


Today, we complete the "A" to "Z" Blog Challenge. What a long strange trip it's been, to quote the Grateful Dead's song lyric. I started out on a journey to remember some of the people who made contributions to Rock and Roll. Some contributions were expansive and significant. Others were seemingly small but their significance were much larger.
Today is "Z" day. I could have blogged about Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Warren Zevon, Frank Zappa or even Zager and Evans. However, I think I will close out my series of blogs by making a plea for the arts.
I grew up listening to music, all kinds of music. In the 60 plus years that I've been circling around the Sun on this great blue marble hurtling through space, I've come to really appreciate the genius, the hard work and the creativity that it takes to create something that so resonates with the spirit and leaves such a lasting impression. I have come to appreciate the paths that my favorite artists and bands have walked to create their unique sound and to achieve their level of greatness.
I hope that through these blog posts I have been able to evoke some pleasant memories for you. I suspect that many of you are like me, in that when you hear a particular old song it brings you back to a time in your life that gave that song some significance. For example, when I hear "Sweet Home Alabama" I'm back at a U.S. Air Force Base in England sitting in a snack bar enjoying a deluxe grilled cheese sandwich. When I hear Chicago's "Colour My World" I'm at my high school prom dancing with my girlfriend who has been my beloved wife for 43 years.
I hope that you continue to listen to the songs of your life. Maybe someday you'll hear a song and before you know it you're somewhere back in time re-living a memory. May all such time travel be pleasant for you. Thank you for accompanying me on my journey through time!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"Y" AM I STILL WRITING?


We have arrived at the letter "Y" in the "A" to "Z" Blog Challenge. This exercise in writing commitment has been kind of fun for me. I have learned some things along the way as I hope you have.


I present for your consideration today THE YARDBIRDS. The Yardbirds were formed in southwest London in May 1963. From the outset the band has experienced frequent personnel changes. 
The original members consisted of Keith Relf, Vocals/Harmonica, Paul Samwell Smith, Bass Guitar/Backing vocals, Chris Dreja, Rhythm Guitar/Bass Guitar, Jim McCarty, Drums/Vocal, and Tom Topham, Lead Guitar. Both Keith and Paul were members of the Metropolitan Blues Quartet before joining the remaining founding members of the Yardbirds. The band took it's name from the slang name for hobo's who would hang around railroad yards and a reference to jazz saxophonist Charlie "Yardbird" Parker. 
The yardbirds is credited with beginning the careers of three of Rock and Roll's greatest and most respected guitar players, Jimmie Page, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. In Rolling Stones list of the top 100 guitarists Clapton is ranked 2nd, Page is ranked 3rd and Beck is ranked 5th.
In October 1963 Topham left the band and was replaced by Eric Clapton. It was after Clapton joined the band when the band broke through and signed with EMI Columbia. They recorded three singles that received air play, the most successful was "For Your Love" that sold over a million copies, going gold.
Clapton became frustrated with the "three minute" song format. He was interested in more than commercial success and abruptly left the band in March 1965. He recommended a session guitarist, Jimmy Page, to replace him. Jimmy was concerned about his health and liked the regular paycheck of his session gig so he turned down the offer but recommended Jeff Beck who did agree to replace Clapton. Beck played his first gig with the Yardbirds two days after Clapton left.
In June 1966 Samwell Smith left the group to become a record producer. Jimmy Page joined the band as it's bass guitar player until Dreja became proficient enough to take over from Page. Page and Beck played tandem lead guitar. Unfortunately there are no known recordings of the Beck-Page tandem lead guitars in action.
In October 1966 Beck was fired from the band for not showing up for gigs, his hot temper and his perfectionism. The band continued on as a quartet with Page handling the lead guitar duties alone.
The band continued until July 1968 when the band broke up. The news release said that Page wanted to pursue solo recording work. It wasn't too long after this break up that Page joined up with Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones and formed Led Zeppelin. You may have heard of them!
The Yardbirds, particularly Beck and Page, are credited with introducing guitar effects like feedback fuzztone effects, wah-wah pedals, and using a cello bow across the strings of a guitar. These innovations are the beginning of the explosion of guitar effects that have occurred since.
Page, Clapton and Beck continue to entertain audiences with their guitar mastery to this day.  The Yardbirds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.   

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"X"-TRA, "X"-TRA, "X"-IT THE "X" BLOG!



     Are you confused by the title of my "X" Day Blog post? Try as I might, I could not locate even one band or artist whose name begins with the letter "X" to post on today, "X" day at the "A" to "Z" Blog Challenge. 
     Properly written the title would read Extra, Extra, Exit the "X" Blog."  I have nothing to write about other than the fact that I have nothing to write about. Still confused? "X" Day will do that to you. Hopefully I'll have better luck tomorrow!

"W" DAY AT THE "A" to "Z"!


There are a ton of artists whose name begins with "W." The problem is that I haven't heard about most of them. As I like to stray from the well beaten path, I do so again today. My subject has earned several Grammy Awards but not so much for his musical excellence but more for recording other people's music.


I present for your amusement and information Alfred Matthew "Weird Al" Yankovic. Weird Al made a name for himself recording parodies of other artists hit songs.
Al was born on October 23, 1959, in Downey, CA. Al's father was Nicholas Louis Yankovic. His mother was Mary Elizabeth Yankovic. Al was a nerd through his school years. He was his high school class Valedictorian. He attended California Polytechnic State University where he earned a degree in Architecture.
Al's introduction began on October 22, 1965, when he started taking accordion lessons at a local music school. It seems that a door to door salesman offered the Yankovic's a chance for Al to learn to play the Guitar or the Accordion. They chose the accordion because there was already a famous accordion player named Frankie Yankovic and because they believed that the accordion would revolutionize Rock and Roll. 
Al was influenced to perform song parodies by early masters of that art form, Tom Lehrer, Alan Sherman, Stan Freberg and Spike Jones. Also, in 1976 Dr. Demento spoke at Al's school. Dr. Demento was a nationally syndicated DJ who played song parodies and novelty songs. Young  Al gave Dr. D a tape of his original songs at the school when the good doctor spoke. Dr. D played it on his radios show and Weird Al was discovered.
During his time in college Weird Al had his own radio show. His schoolmates called him weird so he called his on-air persona "Weird Al" and he has be Weird Al ever since.
Al has done parodies of many artists songs. Al always spoke to the artist he parodied and got their permission before he released the parody of their songs. In interviews Al has said most consider Al doing a parody of their songs to be a sign that they had achieved success as an artist. There have been a few artists who have denied permission to parody their songs and Al has honored their denial.
Some notable song parodies are Nirvana's "Smells like Teen Spirit (Smells Like Nirvana); Michael Jackson's Bad (I'm Fat) and Beat It (Eat It); Dire Straits Money for Nothing (Money for nothing/Beverly Hillbillies). 
Weird Al has used the same back-up band musicians since his first tour. He keeps busy with recording albums and touring around the country and the world performing his songs and song parodies to the amusements of fans young and old. Al has a reputation of keeping his shows and record family friendly.  
You might say that Weird Al Yankovic is the comic relief of the Rock and Roll world. We can all use a laugh now and then!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

BLOG IN "V" AT THE "A" TO "Z"!



It occurs to me that a sub-theme of my posts this month is writing about lesser known artists. Some of these artists though lesser known made a significant impact upon the music scene.


Today's artist is Stanley Robert Vinton, Bobby Vinton. Bobby was an only child born on April 16, 1935, in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. His father was a popular bandleader, Stanley Vinton. His mother was Dorothy Vinton. Stanley Sr. changed his real surname, Vintula, to Vinton. Bobby's parents encouraged his interest in music by paying him his 25 cent allowance after he practiced the clarinet.
Bobby formed his first band at age 16 years. He would play at clubs around the Pittsburgh, PA, area. The money he earned helped pay his way through college. Bobby attended Duquesne University and earned a degree in Music Composition. While at Duquesne U. Bobby became proficient in all the band instruments, Piano, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, drums and oboe. Another thing, Bobby, at his father's suggestion, began using his middle name to avoid his band being confused with his dad's band.
Bobby's band recorded two albums and several singles for Epic Records. These records did not sell well. Epic was about to drop Bobby's contract when he found a song in the company's reject pile. The song became Bobby's first number one hit, Roses Are Red. Bobby promoted the song himself by having a copy of the record along with a dozen roses delivered to every local DJ. 
Song hits kept coming for Bobby. In 1963 another number one song, Blue Velvet was released. Twenty years David Lynch used the song's title for his cult-hit movie of the same name. In 1964 there were two more number one hits, Mr. Lonely and There I've Said it Again. "Mr. Lonely" was written years before while Bobby was a chaplains assistant in the U.S. Army. "There I've Said it Again" became the last U.S. number one song before the British Invasion.
The hits stopped coming until the 1970's. Three songs were in the Top 40's, Every Day of My Life, My Melody of Love and Sealed with a Kiss
Bobby hosted a half hour variety show on Canadian T.V. called "The Bobby Vinton Show". The show ran from 1975 through 1978. Bobby also co-starred in two John Wayne movies, Big Jake and The Train Robbers.
Bobby married Dolores Dobbins on December 12, 1962. They have five children and make their home in Englewood, FL. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

CAN 'U' SEE ME ON 'U' DAY?



Today is "U" day at the "A" to "Z" Blog Challenge. The band that I have chosen to write about is a real flash in the pan. It had several hits in rapid succession and then faded away.


The band I speak of is Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. Gary Puckett was born in Hibbing, Minnesota, and grew up in Yakima, WA, which is near Union Gap, Idaho. 
Gary began playing guitar in his teens. After graduating from high school he attended college in San Diego, CA. Gary quit college and joined a number of local bands before finally joining The Outcasts, a local hard rock group. The Outcasts toured the northwest in 1966 and recorded a couple of singles which did not do well.   
The bands name was changed to The Union Gap in 1967 with the members wearing Union Soldier uniforms as a gimmick. The band recorded a demo and was signed by Columbia Records.
Gary and the Union Gap had a number of single hits that all went gold. Their first hit was Woman, Woman. This was followed by Young Girl then Lady Willpower, and then Over You and Don't Give in to Him. These hits were written by the songwriting team of Jimmy Pane and Jim Glaser. 
Gary and the band wanted to write their own songs and refused to record any more of the Pane Glaser authored songs. 
The band had their last hit, This Girl is a Woman Now in 1969. The band disbanded in 1971.

Puckett worked sporadically playing the "oldies circuit" from time to time. However, he has not come close to duplicating the success 1967 thru 1969.

IT'S TIME TO "T" IT UP!



Today is "T" day at the "A" to "Z" Blog Challenge. I was unable to post yesterday due to being otherwise engaged with doctor appointments and other stuff that could not be put off. So here is my "T" day blog post.
This artist had a lot of struggles on his way to stardom. His music, however, has left an indelible mark on Rock and Roll. This artist is James Vernon Taylor, also known as Sweet Baby James!


James was born in Boston, MA, on March 12, 1948. His father, Dr. Isaac Taylor, was a doctor at the same hospital, Massachusetts General. His mother, Gertrude, studied singing at the MA Conservatory of Music.
The Taylors moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, when James was three years old. James grew up in Chapel Hill. James first learned to play the cello and switched to playing guitar in 1960. James developed his own unique finger-picking style.
The Taylor's summered at Martha's Vineyard where he met an aspiring guitarist Danny Kortchmar. James and Danny listened to and played blues and folk music together. James and Danny played in coffeehouses around the Vineyard during the summer of 1963.
James struggled with depression and signed himself in to a Massachusetts hospital for treatment. He was there for nine months and obtained his high school diploma while hospitalized. James siblings also suffered with depression and were similarly hospitalized for treatment.
James moved to New York City and lived with Kortchmar. They formed a group called The Flying Machine. This group did not achieve much success. During his time in New York James became addicted to heroin. Jame's life cycled downward to the point that he ran out of money and had to call his father for help. His father drove him from New York to Chappel Hill where James was treated for his addiction.
James moved to London, England, in 1967 where he signed with the newly formed Apple Record, the Beatles record company. James recorded his first album in London. This record was noted by a London music critic to be a breath of fresh air, however, the album did not sell very well. During the recording of this album, James relapsed back into drug addiction.
  In 1969 James recorded his first commercially successful album, Sweet Baby James. James had a mega-hit from this album the classic Fire and Rain. This album sold over 3 million copies in the U.S. alone. His next album, Mudslide Slim and the Blue Horizon, with another mega-hit, the Carole King song You've Got a Friend was released in April 1971. 

James has recorded many albums since, each with it's own hit singles. James has struggled with depression and drug addiction from time to time. James has been married and divorced and married again as is not that unusual in the music business. Despite the storms of his life, James continues to make new music, perform at concerts and support mostly liberal causes. James has become a master musician, songwriter and singer and has earned his place in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame to which he was inducted in 2000.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

WEDNESDAY HODGEPODGE "S" DAY BLOG


     Today is Wednesday and as usual it's time for the Wednesday Hodgepodge. It is also "S" day at the "A" to "Z" Blog Challenge. It is really challenging trying to publish a blog a day every day except Sunday. The Hodgepodge just adds to that challenge. It's a challenge gladly accepted. Thank you Joyce my fellow "A" to "Z" blogger and mistress of the Wednesday Hodgepodge for this week's edition!

1. Have you ever had to wear a uniform? If yes, tell us more. Did you love it or hate it?
     I wore a uniform when I played Little League baseball. I wore a uniform as a Boy Scout. I wore a uniform for the eight years I was in the U.S. Air Force. I wore a uniform for thirty years as a police officer. So yes I have worn a uniform! 

2. April 22nd is Earth Day. What is one thing you do personally to be a good steward of planet Earth?
    SWMBO and I recycle. 

3. Brown rice, quinoa, or couscous...your healthy grain of choice? How often are one of the three on your menu at home?  Given a choice between white rice, brown rice, wild rice, and fried rice which would you go for? 
     SWMBO and I have recently begun using Quinoa. We do like it. It is very comparable to brown rice which we also use. My choice from the list above would be fried rice.

4. In your opinion, who has the best job ever?
     Anyone who has a job that they absolutely love and are passionate about. It will be something different for each person. Mine was police work! Now it's being a husband and grandfather.

5. What's a situation in your life currently requiring patience? 
     I respectfully decline to answer on advice of counsel because my answer may tend to incriminate me!

6.  Do you live your life around days of the week? Explain.
      Not really... Sunday is the most important day, it sets the tone for the rest of the week. I wouldn't say that I live my life around any particular day however.

7. In a nod to the A to Z challenge happening around town this month, what 'R word' best describes your April? 
    Resolved! I am resolved to complete the Challenge and perhaps blog two or three times per week from May first onward.

8. Insert your own random thought here.
My theme for the “A” to “Z” Blog Challenge is a trip down Rock and Roll Memory Lane. I’ve been writing about the lives and music of artist whose name begins with the letter of the day. Today is “S” day. My subject is Steven Georgiou. You may know him better as Cat Stevens. 


Cat Stevens was born in London, England on July 21, 1948. As a boy he taught himself to play the piano. With the popularity of the Beatles he convinced his father to buy him a guitar which he also taught himself to play. He immediately began writing songs. Stevens liked drawing and had a talent for art. He took classes in Art School and became a fairly good artist. Music was his calling, however, and he began playing in the various coffee houses in London. 
In 1969 he contracted tuberculosis and came close to death. Months in the hospital followed by a year convalescence caused him to explore aspects of life and spiritualism. He studied Yoga, Meditation and Metaphysics.
Cat Stevens had two albums that defined his career. Tea for the Tillerman  and Teaser and the Fireboat. Both these albums contained the songs which gave Stevens a measure of commercial success…Wild World, Father and Son, Peace Train, Morning has Broken and Moon Shadow.
In 1977 Cat Stevens converted to Islam taking the name Yusuf Islam. At the time he gave up the music business. He sold all his guitars and used the royalties from his music for philanthropic muslim causes. 
Stevens was one of the few muslims who condemned the attacks on the United States. 

Cat Stevens/ Yusuf Islam began performing again in 2007. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. 




Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"R" YOU READY FOR "R" DAY?



I have always been a fan of music, all kinds of music. It has been enjoyable for me to research the different artists and groups and learn something about them that I didn't know before. A few consistent facts emerge in their lives and how the achieved success: (1) All the artists that I have written about were people who were very passionate about their craft of music; (2) All the artists had to work very, very hard to learn their craft; (3) All the artists took significant risks to pursue their passion.


Todays artist is no different. He was passionate about music from his boyhood years until the day of his death. Ladies and Gentlemen I now present to you Mr. Otis Redding Jr.
Otis was born on September 9, 1941 in Dawson, Georgia. His father, Otis Redding Sr, was a Gospel Singer, Sharecropper and a part time Preacher. His mom, Fannie Redding, was a stay at home mom. 
Otis Jr. sang in the church choir as a young boy. During this time he learned how to play guitar and piano. He took singing lessons and drum lessons from the age of ten years old. In high school Otis earned six dollars per week singing gospel songs on Macon, Georgia, radio station WIBB. Otis was passionate about singing. His influences were Little Richard and Sam Cooke, two of the best known artist of that day. 
Otis Redding Jr. spent his early years touring throughout the south playing only black venues. The south was segregated during those days with the restrictive Jim Crow laws still in effect.
In October 1962 Otis released his first single, “These Arms of Mine.” This was his most successful record to date selling over 800,000 copies. “These Arms of Mine” was included in his first album, Pain in My Heart which was released on January 1, 1964. This album peaked at number 20 on the Billboard Top 100 Albums. 
Otis was a remarkable singer as well as songwriter. One song that he sang, putting his remarkable spin on was Try a Little Tenderness. This same song was recorded by Frank Sinatra and later by Three Dog Night. Otis’ version gives Sinatra’s version a run for its money. His songwriting talent is demonstrated with the song Respect. This song was a huge hit for Aretha Franklin.
In 1967 Otis closed out the second day of the Monterey Pop Festival. Some notable stars who witnessed his performance and were largely impressed are Booker T and the MG’s who were his backing band, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. Janis Joplin said the Otis Redding showed her how to let go and give a song everything she had from deep within her.
In early December 1967 Otis recorded his greatest hit song Sitting on the Dock of the Bay. On December 9, 1967, Otis and his band played three shows in Cleveland, OH. They had to be in Madison, Wisconsin, the next day so they all flew on a chartered plane. Four miles outside of Madison the plane crashed into Lake Monona killing all on board except one passenger. Otis Redding’s body was recovered from the lake the next day.

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay was released in January 1968 and became the first posthumous number one record in music history. Otis Redding Jr. was only 26 years old when he died. Imagine what he might have accomplished had he lived a normal span of life. Otis Redding was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. He was known as “The King of Soul.” He left us way too early! 

Monday, April 20, 2015

"Q" THE "A" TO "Z" BLOG POST!



Those of you who are "Trekkies," that is, fans of Star Trek, get the visual above. Those of you who are not Trekkies let me explain. The photo depicts the actor John DeLancie who portrayed an omnipotent, god-like, impish character on the television series Star Trek The Next Generation, named "Q." Today being "Q" Day in the A to Z Blog Challenge I thought it appropriate. 

I am not a particular fan of the artist that is the subject of my "Q" Day blog post. I do like some of their song hits but I really didn't listen to them. So why am I writing about them, you ask? Simply because there are not a lot of popular or famous bands or solo artists who has a name beginning with the letter "Q" to choose from. This band is probably the most famous. The band I speak of is QUEEN.


Queen got their start back in 1968. Brian May, a student at Imperial College in London, joined with Tim Staffel, a student at Ealing Art College. They advertised for a drummer on the college bulletin board. Roger Taylor answered the call and passed his audition and was added to the band. The name of the band was "Smile." An acquaintance of Staffel at Ealing Art College, Farrokh Bulsara, became a fan of Smile.
Later,Staffel left the band to join a band named Humpy Bong. Farrokh, better known as "Freddie" joined May and Taylor and changed the name of the band to "Queen." In 1971 they added bass guitarist, John Deacon to the group and this became the lineup that we know as Queen. 
Queen released their self named album in July 1973. The leading single from this album is "Keep Yourself Alive" which was composed by Brian May. Freddie, being an art student designed the band's logo which resembled a royal coat of arms. Queen's first album went gold in the U.K. and the U.S.


Queen's second album, Queen II, wasn't as well received  or critically acclaimed. Although some critics opined that this album displayed the bands musical virtuosity, others panned the album as having been over-produced.
Queen's unique sound started to come together with their third album, "Sheer Hear Attack." Brian May came late in the process of recording this album. In May 1974, Brian May collapsed during a show in New York He was diagnosed with hepatitis. "Killer Queen" was the lead single from this album. 
Queen struck gold with their fourth album, named after a classic Marx Brothers movie, "A Night at the Races." This album included what is considered by some to be Queen's greatest hit, "Bohemian Rhapsody." Another song from that album that did very well is "You're My Best Friend." This song was written by bassist, John Deacon. 
I can't end this blog post without mentioning in impact that Queen has had in the area of sporting events worldwide. They wrote two songs that were released as one. The first song has become a staple in sports arena's around the world. "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions" ring out from the stands at football, soccer, hockey and other games. 

Sadly, on November 23, 1991, Freddy Mercury died from bronchial pneumonia, a complication from AIDs. Queen had more hits than the few mentioned in this post. Queens music will hold a special place in the pantheon of rock and roll music. Queen holds an honored place in the pantheon of great rock and roll groups. They are worth a listen.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

"P" DAY AT THE A to Z BLOG CHALLENGE!



I hope you have learned a few things during our trip down Rock and Roll memory lane. I know I certainly have. Today being “P” day it would be too predictable to write about “The King” Elvis. I opted to go another way. Today’s subject for the A to Z Blog Challenge is another not so well known artist but he was one of my favorites as a young boy growing up. 


May I present to you Mr. Gene Pitney! Gene Pitney was a singer/songwriter, a musician, and a sound engineer. He was born on February 17, 1940, in Hartford, Connecticut. He grew up in Connecticut having moved to different towns. Gene was drawn to Country Blues and Doo Wop music. He sang with a Doo Wop group while in high school.
In 1961, Gene signed a contract with Musicor Records. His first notable hit was the title song, “A Town Without Pity,” a movie of the same name starring Kirk Douglas. The song received a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Song.” Unfortunately the song lost to “Moon River” by Andy Williams. Gene did get to perform the song at the 1962 Academy Awards Show.
Gene had a hit with another song, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, that was also a title to a movie. “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” starring John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. The song never made it to the movie soundtrack due to a dispute between Famous Music and Paramount Pictures.
Gene wrote several songs that were hits for other artists, “He’s a Rebel” by the Chrystals; “Today’s Teardrops” by Roy Orbison; “Rubber Ball” by Bobby Vee; and “Hello Marylou” by Rick Nelson. 
Gene Pitney also had worldwide appeal. He recorded songs in Italian, Spanish and German.  He also cemented his appeal with British audiences with his recording of another Bacharach-David song, “Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa.” Gene also came in second place a couple of times at the Sanremo Music Festival in Italy. Gene’s voice was favorably compared by some of the older Italians who heard Gene’s performances to the voice of the famous Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso. 
In 1964 Gene had to more hits, “It Hurts to Be in Love” and “I’m Gonna Be Strong.” After these two hits most of Gene’s success was in the European and Australian markets.  
Gene continued to tour, primarily oversea’s, from the 1970’s through 2006. He performed his last show on September 5, 2006, in Cardiff, Wales, UK. He was found dead from a heart attack in his hotel room the next morning.

Gene Pitney may not be as well know as other American artists but Gene Pitney had a voice that was powerful enough to compete with the best of them. Like I said, I am still a fan! 

Friday, April 17, 2015

"O" WHAT A DAY BLOG POST


Our trip down Rock and Roll would not be complete without a look at the subject of today's A to Z Blog Challenge blog post. This singer/songwriter was painfully shy and did not put himself out there to be admired and was amazed that people held him in such high esteem. He also had a three or four octave vocal range, depending on who you were talking to. The point is the man could sing.


Who am I talking about? I am talking about the extraordinarily talented Roy Kelton Orbison! Roy was born on April 23, 1936, in Vernon, TX. Roy's dad, Orbie Lee, was an oil well driller and a car mechanic. Roy's mom, Nadine, was a nurse. When Roy was six his father bought him his first guitar. By the age of seven Roy knew that music would be his life.
If you've seen photographs of Roy Orbison you can't miss seeing the iconic thick black framed glasses. All the Orbison kids suffered from poor eyesight. Roy wore thick glasses from his youth. The tinted glasses of later years helped Roy contend with stage fright. Roy lacked confidence and presented himself to be a polite, shy and self effacing individual.
In Wink High School Roy formed a band with some classmates called "The Wink Westerners." They played country standards and Glenn Miller songs at local honky tonks. After high school Roy attended North Texas State College to study geology so he could get a job in the oil industry if the music thing didn't work out. In college he formed another band called the "Teen Kings." His geology grades began to fall because of the conflict between studying, working in the oil fields and playing music at night. He transferred to a community college to prepare to become a teacher.
The Teen Kings were eventually signed by Sun Records at the urging of Johnny Cash who heard the Teen Kings play as his opening act. Sun Records also had Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis as clients at the time. The Teen Kings first hit song was "Ooby Dooby." It's a song about a dance. Interesting factoid - a Sun Records record producer once told Roy that he would never make it as a singer of ballads. 
Roy married his girlfriend Claudette Frady in 1957. Roy wrote a song about Claudette called "Claudette" which was recorded by the Everly Brothers on the "B" side of "All I Have to do is Dream."
In the 60's Roy became a professional songwriter working for Acuf-Rose Music for a little while. He then met songwriter Joe Melson. Roy and Joe wrote several of the songs that made Roy's career.
Roy Orbison's music was able to tap into the angst of the frailty of young love. "Only the Lonely" proclaims that only a lonly person can relate to losing a girlfriend to someone new. "Running Scared" tells of how it might feel to be the new boyfriend afraid that the old boyfriend will return and win your now girlfriend's heart anew. It was while recording this song that Roy let his voice go and hit a high note that few singers today have been able to duplicate.
Roy Orbison and Joe Melson went their separate ways after a year or so. Roy connected with another songwriter, Rick Dees, who co-wrote several more songs with Roy. One notable song is "It's Over." The title tells the story of the song.  Roy shows his command of the higher octaves in this immensely popular song. 
        Orbison's greatest hit was written with Dees, "Oh Pretty Woman" which tells the story of a young man's attraction to a lovely lady walking by on the street. The conversation that goes on in his head is the song's lyrics. The guitar riff that begins the song is unique and readily identifiable as soon as you hear the first few notes.
Roy Orbison's career ebbed and flowed throughout the years. His career was having it's greatest resurgence at the time of his death in 1988 at the age of 52 years. Shortly before his death he had teamed up with George Harrison, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Bob Dylan forming a band called The Traveling Wilbury's. Fortunately Roy lived long enough to experience being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. 

Roy Orbison's songs have been covered by other artists such as Van Halen, K.D. Lang, and Don McLean to name a few. His music is timeless! His singing is unique and unmatched to this day. Definitely one of my favorites.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

"M" AND "N" BLOG POST, TWO IN ONE!



Yesterday was "M" day on the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I did not post an "M" blog post so I am going to combine yesterday and today's "N" blog into one post.
We take another detour off the beaten path for the group portion of the blog post. This group came out of the folk music scene and consisted of two men and two women. This "M" group came to be known as The Mama's and the Papa's.


The Mama's and the Papa's were formed in 1965 by husband and wife John and Michelle Phillips. John and Michelle added Denny Doherty and Cass Elliot from the folk group, the Mugwumps. John was the leading songwriter. Denny and Cass were the vocal leads depending on the song. Michelle provided backing vocals and harmonies.
After forming up, the band went to the Virgin Islands to rehearse and develop their sound. After returning to New York the band was invited to audition for Dunhill Records in L.A. They made the trip, auditioned and were signed to a contract for two albums per year for ten years. Unfortunately for the record company the group did not last ten years, disbanding in 1968.
The band's tenure was marked by Michelle being unfaithful to John. Reportedly she had affairs with a member of the Byrds and later with Denny Doherty. Michaelle was tossed from the band for her indiscretions but later rejoined because her replacement did not possess the same charisma as she did.
The band released five studio albums. Some of their hits include "Go Where You Wanna Go;" "California Dreamin';" "Monday, Monday;" (Their Greatest Hit); "I Saw Her Again;" "Words of Love;" and "Creeque Alley." Creeque Alley is a song-biography about the formation and early history of the band. 
Although their time was brief they did make an impact. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1968.


My "N" solo artist is in my humble opinion the finest female rock and roll lead vocalist of all time...Stephanie Lynn "Stevie" Nicks. Stevie was born on May 26, 1948, in Phoenix, AZ. Stevie's dad is Jess Nicks the president of Greyhound Armour-Dial. Her mom, Barbara was a homemaker. Stevie sang duets with her paternal grandfather, a struggling Country and Western singer, at four years old. 
Stevie met her musical soul mate, Lindsey Buckingham, in high school. Both Stevie and Lindsey attended San Jose State University in California. Stevie studied Speech Communication with a view towards becoming an English teacher. Both Stevie and Lindsey dropped out of school and moved to L.A. to pursue a music career.
Between 1972 and 1974 Stevie and Lindsey lived together with a number of people. Stevie worked different odd jobs to support them and to work on her music. It was during this period that Stevie wrote two of her greatest hits "Rhiannon" and "Landslide."
In 1975 lightning struck and both she and Lindsey joined Fleetwood Mac. The rest, as they say is history. Stevie Nicks helped make Fleetwood Mac the hit making juggernaut that it became. Stevie contributed "Rhiannon" and "Landslide" to the first album she recorded with Fleetwood Mac, the self titled "Fleetwood Mac."
By the time they started working on their second album with Fleetwood Mac, Stevie's and Lindsey's personal relationship deteriorated to the point of bitterness bordering on hatred. The best selling album was called   Rumours." 
Throughout her years with Fleetwood Mac, Stevie worked on several solo projects that became big hits. Her records and awards are too many to list in a short blog post, but they are very many and very impressive.
Stevie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Fleetwood Mac in 1998. Stevie also has done a wonderful job addressing the needs of this country's wounded warriors. She has contributed her time visiting with wounded servicemen and their families and gave of her fortune for the same reason. She gives wounded servicemen I-Pods containing music that she personally selects and she personally autographs them.

I have been a fan of Stevie Nicks since she joined Fleetwood Mac. I still am and will always be! Rock n Stevie!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

HODGEPODGE "L"


     Today being Wednesday means that it's time for another Wednesday Hodgepodge. Thank you Joyce for another fun set of posers. I urge you all to join in and participate. You'll be surprised how much fun it is and what you'll learn about yourself as we get to know a little about you.

1. Speaking of April 15th...what's the most 'taxing' thing you've done recently?
     Doing all that needs to get done this time of year AND keep up with the A to Z Blog Challenge.

2. When did you last take a taxi somewhere and where was that somewhere?
     I cannot remember the last time that I was in a taxi cab.

3. What's something you can do today that you couldn't do a year ago?
     I could not say I'm 61 years old. I could not say I've been retired for three years.

4. How often is chicken (in some form or fashion) on your menu at home? Which of the following would you most like to see on your table tonight...a chicken salad sandwich, your mom's fried chicken, a Chick-fil-A meal, Cracker Barrel's chicken n' dumplings, a roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings, or 'hold the chicken, I'm a vegetarian'...?
      We usually have chicken once or twice per week. I would love to have the roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings.

5. What was your favorite television program when you were a kid? What characters do you remember the most?
       I liked "The Rifleman" starring Chuck Connors in the title role. I remember the grizzled old town sheriff, Micah Torrance who was best friends with the title character, Lucas McCain. I can still catch it on reruns.
 
6. What was the last piece of 'art' you made?
     I colored a picture in a coloring book, Curious George, I think. 

7. What frustrates you most about the Internet?
      Sites loading painfully slow or not at all!

8.  Insert your own random thought here.
      Today is "L" day at the "A" to "Z" Blogging Challenge. My theme is Rock and Roll groups and solo artists over the years. Today I wrote about Lesley Gore of "It's My Party" fame and the group Lynyrd Skynyrd. 
     Lesley Gore sadly died from lung cancer this past February. In 1977 several members of Lynyrd Skynyrd died in a plane crash. The remaining members were seriously injured. However, like the Phoenix of mythology the band rose from the ashes when the surviving members reformed the band in 1987. They have been rocking on ever since.
     On a personal note, my beloved SWMBO will be having surgery on her knee this morning. So, if you are so disposed we would appreciate your prayers on her behalf. Thanks in advance!




Tuesday, April 14, 2015

IT'S BEEN AN "L" OF A DAY!




Today we take a little detour off the beaten path on our Rock and Roll journey. Submitted for your consideration is the tale of little Lesley Sue Goldstein. Her professional name is of course Lesley Gore. Lesley was a petite beauty with a giant voice. Her records were produced by Quincy Jones...the same guy who produced Michael Jackson years later.


Lesley was born in Brooklyn, NY, on May 2, 1946. Her parents were Ronny and Leo Goldstein. Leo owned Peter Pan, a manufacturer of children's swimwear and underwear. Leo later became a leading brand licensing agent in the apparel industry. Lesley grew up in Tenafly, NJ.
While Leslie was 16 years old and in High School she recorded her first big hit "It's My Party" a story song about a teenaged girl's birthday party and seeing her boyfriend, Johnny, two-timing her with that Jezebel, Judy. Lesley's next hit was a sequel to the first, "Judy's Turn to Cry" where Johnny comes to his senses and comes back to Leslie. Teen aged angst at it's best. This was fairly racy stuff for the early 1960's. 
Lesley's other hits included a kind of declaration of independence song, "You Don't Own Me" where she fires the first shot of the feminist movement, although she didn't know it at the time. 
Lesley also sang about loving a boy even though she knows that he's cheating on her. "Maybe I Know" pledged her love to the two-timer notwithstanding his unfaithfulness.
Lesley had other hits like the optimistic "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" which has become a cliche to describe "pie in the sky, unrealistic expectations." 
Lesley continues to sing and record. She also wrote songs and was Oscar nominated for one of the songs she wrote for the movie 1980 Fame, "Out Here on My Own." 
In her later years Lesley became an activist and promoted the LGBT community. Leslie died of Lung Cancer on February 16th of this year. Lesley Gore did not have very many hits, but those that she did have were significant to a young boy growing up in the 1960's.


My group for this blog post comes from the south. This band was formed in 1968 in Jacksonville, FL, first under the name "My Back Yard," then as "The Noble Five" but you know them as "Lynyrd Skynyrd." The band's name was a mocking tribute to their High School Physical Education teacher, Mr. Leonard Skinner. Skinner had a notorious reputation of enforcing the school's policy against long hair.
By 1970 the band became the top band in the Jacksonville area. Between 1970 and 1972 the band toured throughout the south honing their skills, sometimes headlining their shows and other times opening for nationally known acts.
Their first album, "Lynyrd Skynyrd", was released in August 1973 and contained the hits "A Simple Man" and "Freebird" the band's most requested song.
The band developed a nationwide following greatly expanding their fan base when they toured with the Who on their Quadrophenia Tour.
The band released their second album in 1974. This album contained the hit "Sweet Home Alabama," a song supposedly made in response to Neil Young's "Southern Man." Despite these competing songs there was no animosity between the band and Neil Young. In fact they were fans of each other's music and were good friends.
Throughout 1975 to 1977, the band continued to tour and release records. Their most notable songs being "That Smell," a cautionary tail of the perils of drug addiction which members struggled with from time to time, and "What's Your Name?" a song about life on the road.
In 1977 the band had just finished playing in Greenville, South Carolina. They boarded a chartered plane enroute to Baton Rouge, LA. The plane developed engine trouble, ran out of gas and crashed in Gillsburg, Mississippi. Both pilots and several members of the band, including their lead singer, Ronnie Van Zandt, were killed. Those that survived had serious injuries. The band disbanded after the crash.

Everyone thought that they had heard the last from Lynyrd Skynyrd. However, in 1987 the surviving members reformed the band and breathed new life into the group. Ronnie's younger brother, Johnny Van Zandt assumed the lead singer role. The band literally rose up from the ashes and are still rocking today being true to the music that they are famous for. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

OK,HERE IS MY "K" DAY BLOG POST!


We continue our journey through the Rock and Roll alphabet with a brief stop at the letter "K." This morning I'll be sharing a couple of my favorite performers.
The first is a female singer/songwriter who made one of the best and most classic albums of my teenage years. Her real name is Carol Joan Klein. You know her better as Carole King.  


Carole was born on February 9, 1942, in New York City. She grew up in the Bronx section of the city. Her mother, Eugenia, was a schoolteacher and her father, Sidney, was a firefighter. Carol learned to play the piano at age four and has been playing ever since.
During Carole's high school years Carole changed her name to Carole King and was friends with Paul Simon with whom she made demo records at $25.00 a session. 
Carole attended Queens College where she met her first husband, Gerry Goffin. Gerry became Carole's songwriting partner. They wrote songs for Dimension Records owned by Don Kirshner. Their songwriting credits include "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" recorded by the Shirelles; "Chains" covered by the Beatles; "Loco-Motion" recorded by Little Eva; "Up On the Roof" recorded by the Drifters; and "I'm Into Something Good" covered by Herman's Hermits.  King and Goffin divorced in 1968.
Carole had her greatest success as a performer in the 1970's. She released one of the most classic albums of the era in 1971 - Tapestry. This was her breakthrough record. Afterwards she released a series of gold records; "Carole King Music (1972), Rhymes and Reasons (1972), Fantasy (1973), and "Wrap Around Joy (1974). During this time she became acquainted with James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. They often played on each other's records and supplied backing vocals. Carole wrote James Taylor's hit "You've Got a Friend." 
Carole has been recognized as one of the best songwriters of her generation and has received many accolades throughout her career.

My "K" band is the midwest's contribution to Rock and Roll history Kansas.  Kansas originated in the 1970's in Topeka, KS, far away from the music industry's centers of activity in New York or Los Angeles. The band is a mish mash of members from progressive rock bands that were playing in the area at the time, specifically,"The Reasons Why" and "White Clover." 

Kansas went through three iterations of the band before they hit upon a combination that produced their unique sound. This third iteration that lasted from 1973-1982 consisted of Phil Ehart, Drums; Dave Hope, Bass Guitar/Vocals; Kerry Livgren, Guitars/ Keyboards/Synthesizers/Vocals; Robby Steinhardt, Violin/Vocals; Steve Walsh, Keyboards/Synthesizers/Percussion/Vocals; and Rich Williams, Guitars. 
It was during this time that the band was signed by Don Kirshner. It was during this time that the band released, in my humble opinion, its two best albums "LEFTOVERTURE" and "POINT OF KNOW RETURN." These two albums produced their best selling single hits "Carry On My Wayward Son" and "Dust in the Wind." 
The band went on the road touring with such bands as Queen and Aerosmith. They perfected their craft by touring and opening for these bands, and others. They rose to headline their own tours in the largest venues available.

Songwriting duties were shared by Kerry Livgren and Steve Walsh with Livgren doing the lion's share of the songwriting. Livgren wrote "Dust in the Wind" almost by accident. He was at home and doing some guitar fingerpicking exercises when his wife walked by and told him that what he was playing sounded nice and would make a wonderful hit song. As it turned out, she was right.
As with most successful bands, people left for one reason or another. Other people replaced them and so the cycle continued. Kansas was not immune to this cycle. At one point they disbanded and later reformed. Some iteration of Kansas is still playing these days with Phil Ehart and Rich Williams, the longest tenured members of the group. 
Their music was as unique as it was great!