Rock & Roll Heaven

Jean Shepard Joins the Heavenly Opry Choir

Jean Shepard.jpg

Submitted by Don Graham

Country legend Jean Shepard has passed away at the age of 82. Shepard's first chart appearance was in 1953 as a duet partner with Ferlin Husky on "A Dear John Letter" and its sequel, "Forgive Me John." Shepard and Husky toured the country following their hit singles. In 1955, she had her first solo Top Ten single, "A Satisfied Mind," which was backed by the number 13 hit "Take Possession." Later in the year, she had another Top Ten hit with "Beautiful Lies"/"I Thought of You." Her streak of hit singles led to an invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry in 1956. That same year, she joined Red Foley's Ozark Jubilee and recorded Songs of a Love Affair, arguably the first concept album in country music history. Its 12 songs depict a marriage torn apart by a love affair. 

For nearly ten years after the release of "Beautiful Lies,"

Shepard wasn't able to get a song into the Top Ten. In fact, she had only two Top 40 hits during that period -- "I Want to Go Where No One Knows Me" (#18, 1958) and "Have Heart, Will Love" (#30, 1959). She continued to record and tour -- she was even named the Top Female Singer of 1959 by CashBox -- but nothing was breaking through to the record-buying public. This was primarily because she was a hardcore honky tonk singer in a time that country-pop was ruling the charts. In 1963, her husband Hawkshaw Hawkins died in the same plane crash that killed Patsy Cline. The following year, she returned to the Top Ten with "Second Fiddle (To an Old Guitar)." The song began a string of hits for Shepard.

Guy Clark: Heartbroke

Guy Clark.jpg

Submitted by Don Graham

The music world has lost another giant and a personal favourite of mine, singer/songwriter/luthier Guy Clark. Guy Clark was a songwriter’s songwriter, simple country chords and melodies but lyrics that escaped all labels except for damn fine. Guy Charles Clark a Texas native who migrated to Nashville in 1971 marched to his own drummer .

Probably the best-known of Clark's numerous great works is "Desperados Waiting For a Train," made  popular by Jerry Jeff Walker in the 1970s and The Highwaymen in the 1980s. The song showcased Clark's narrative gifts, telling about an old man's life as seen through the eyes of his young companion.

Clark was born in Monahans, Texas where his grandmother ran a boarding house, and moved to Rockport on the Gulf Coast, where his father had his own law practice.
He worked summers in Rockport at the shipyard and didn’t start playing guitar until he was well into his teens. Clark moved to Houston in the 1960s, working various jobs during the day, including a time as art director for a couple of local T.V. stations..

At night he hit the coffeehouse/folk scene that was populated with folks like Townes Van Zandt and Mickey Newbury.

Clark hadn't made a record but his songs caught the ear of Jerry Jeff Walker, another singer-songwriter who would soon become one of Clark's earliest supporters.

Don Francks (1932 – 2016) Hanging with the Jazz Don!

Don Francks.jpg

Submitted by Bill King

I used to bust Don’s chops and remind him – he danced with Fred Astaire. I’d play YouTube clips from Finian's Rainbow just to watch Francks dance and sing, “How Are Things in Glocca Morra,” then say – you can retire now – you were it; so hip and handsome and there you are in Panavision.

I met Francks in a waiting room at Mt. Sinai Hospital October 1972 – my partner Kristine was just steps and moments away from pushing big life outward - son Jesse. Francks was dressed in First Nation colors and sporting a big smile. We sat and chatted and began talking music. He was a jazz guy – be-bop hipster who spoke like a landlocked Greenpeace activist. Save the planet – save the children and play jazz flute.

I brought a notebook to record that very special moment. He asked to borrow it – removed a few colored felt pens and began drawing - then inscribed something about long-life and earth wishes for young Jesse. I was walking a fine line between hippie and indecision – never considering I’d crossed over, yet still looking the part and a bit suspect.

Through the years we’d occasionally cross paths – then late 1980’s Don called and tells me how much he likes the Jazz Report Magazine, at the time a jazz newsletter and could he contribute. He lent us photos from his hot jazz days, recalled bandstand episodes; addressed the record industry in not so complimentary words and sang the praises of the forgotten art of “hippterisim.”

The Magic of George Martin

George Martin.jpg

Submitted by Pat Blythe

The news spread rapid fire. On March 8, 2016 "we" had lost another one. Announced by a "tweet" from Ringo Starr. (The word "tweet" makes it sounds almost insignificant, even trivial) However, there is nothing insignificant about Sir George Martin, or his passing....quietly, at home, in his sleep. Survived by Judy, his second wife of almost 50 years, and a proud father to four children, Alexis, Gregory, Lucie and Giles.

A private man. A distinguished man. A learned man. A man of many quiet talents who has left us a legacy of beautiful songs and exquisite moments. A man who "heard" what we did not.

A giant in the world of music, Sir George Martin towered above everyone. A note, a nuance, a sound....from sheer simplicity to the most complex, he worked his magic not only for the Beatles, but for countless others including Kate Bush, Robin Gibb, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Peter Sellers, Shirley Bassey, Sophia Loren, Elton John... The list is endless. Numerous titles follow his name....producer, musician (oboe and piano), arranger, conductor, composer. I'll include "magician".

Maurice White of Earth Wind and Fire Gone at 74

Maurice White.jpg

Submitted by Michael Williams

Maurice White (December 19, 1941 – February 4, 2016) was an American singer-songwriter, musician, record producer, arranger and bandleader. He was the founder of the band Earth, Wind & Fire. He was also the older brother of current Earth, Wind & Fire member Verdine White, and former member Fred White.

To say Maurice White and Earth, Wind and Fire ruled the soundtrack of my life is nothing compared to Maurice White’s musical influence on the world!

Maurice and I met on the EWF “Touch the World Tour” in Buffalo, NY, the performance was amazing, the interview was like going to heaven, church and school all at the same time.

I have always been a fan from the beginning, so my words fail me to write a eulogy for a man who changed the way we heard, thought about and celebrated with and made music.

Maurice gave us music as medicine, uplifting the spirit and soul in the process.

I never knew Maurice White,but I knew his friends, songwriters and Canadian Collaborators, William D. Smith of Motherload who composed “I need you” for his solo record and David Foster “After the love is gone”, In the Stone and basically joined the band.

I defer to David Foster who says it so much better than I, please watch this clip, as he describes Maurice White and what he meant to him…and all of us.

Remember Maurice White as one of the greatest American musicians ever!

Glenn Frey Heartache Tonight

Glenn Frey.jpg

Submitted by Don Graham

Singer/songwriter and guitarist Glenn Frey, a founding member of the legendary classic rock band the Eagles, died on January 18, 2016 of complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis, and pneumonia. The colitis and pneumonia were a result of the reaction to the meds he took for the rheumatoid arthritis for 15 years. He was 67 years old.

The band posted on their official website “It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our comrade, Eagles founder Glenn Frey, in New York City.The Frey family would like to thank everyone who joined Glenn to fight this fight and hoped and prayed for his recovery. Words can neither describe our sorrow, nor our love and respect for all that he has given to us, his family, the music community & millions of fans worldwide.

Frey had been ill and in December of 2015 the Eagles postponed their appearance at the Kennedy Center Honors due to Frey’s illness. At the time the statement from the band said Frey “has had a recurrence of previous intestinal issues, which will require major surgery and a lengthy recovery period.”  The Eagles will be honored in the 2016 ceremony.

Scott Weiland: tributes paid to Stone Temple Pilots singer who has died at 48

Scott Weiland.jpg

Story Credit www.bbc.com

Temple Pilots, following his death while on tour in Minnesota. Slash, with whom Weiland performed in rock supergroup Velvet Revolver, wrote on Twitterthat it was "a sad day".

"RIP Scott Weiland," said Dave Kushner, another Velvet Revolver member.

Tom Vitorino, Weiland's manager, confirmed the singer's death at the age of 48 on Thursday night, saying he had "passed away in his sleep".

A statement on Instagram said Weiland had died "while on a tour stop in Bloomington, Minnesota, with his band The Wildabouts".

TMZ reported the singer's body was discovered on his tour bus outside a motel, near the venue where the band was due to play.

Actress Juliette Lewis was one of the first to pay tribute to the singer following news of his death: "Sad to hear about Scott Weiland passing. He was a once of a kind epic force onstage. Thoughts are w[ith] his family," she tweeted.

Rock band Wheatus, best known for the hit single Teenage Dirtbag, tweeted: "We opened for @STPBand in 2000. I watched them side stage and Scott Weiland destroyed me, he was the real thing. Seeing him changed me forever."

Godspeed Ron Hynes

Ron Hynes.jpg

Submitted by Don Graham

Ron Hynes “The Man of a Thousands Songs” and the voice of Newfoundland and Labrador has died. He was 64 years old. His family confirmed  he died shortly after 6 p.m. on November 20, 2015. while receiving treatment at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland. Hynes wrote many classic tunes but he is best known for his song “Sonny's Dream”,  a beautiful song about a mother losing her son to the sea. Written in 1976, “Sonny’s Dream” has been covered by artists such as Emmy Lou Harris, Stan Rogers, Valdy, Great Big Sea and John McDermott.

In July 2012, Ron Hynes was diagnosed with throat cancer and in August of that same year he performed to a sold-out crowd  at the Mile One Centre in St. John's. That was to be his last performance before undergoing cancer treatment. For this concert he was reunited with his old band, The Wonderful Grand Band. His cancer went into remission the following year and he went  back out on tour.

Musical friends and fans lit up social media with stories and personal memories of the iconic songwriter/ performer, some of them saying it was fitting that the city was plunged into darkness by a power failure as news broke about his death."The lights went out downtown," tweeted comedian Mark Critch, a fellow Newfoundlander. "St. John's is dark tonight and so it should be."

Great Big Sea’s singer-songwriter Alan Doyle described Hynes online as his "musical hero'' and "The greatest songwriter I ever met.''

P.F. Sloan Songwriter Gone At 70

P.F. Sloan.jpg

Submitted by Don Graham

Songwriter P.F. Sloan has passed away in his Los Angeles home after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 70 years old. Sloan was never a household name but his songs were played in households around the world. “Secret Agent Man” by Johnny Rivers and the anthem that propelled Barry MacGuire to eternal fame “ Eve Of Destruction”. It is still relevant especially today with the insanity in Paris. Sloan is also responsible for hits by The Turtles "You Baby" and "Let Me Be", Herman’s Hermits "A Must to Avoid" and "Hold On!" and “Take Me For What I'm Worth" by The Searchers. With musical partner Steve Barri he also had hits like “Where Were You When I Needed You?” by The Grassroots.

It has been said that because of the line "You're old enough to kill, but not for votin'", "Eve of Destruction" was instrumental in the changing of the twenty-sixth amendment to the United States Constitution, changing the voting age from 21 to 18 in 1971.

Sloan was also a session guitarist, working with such well-known backing musicians as drummer Hal Blaine, guitarist Tommy Tedesco, bassist Joe Osborn, and bassist/keyboardist Larry Knechtel, among others. While working on a song with Barry McGuire, Sloan created and played a guitar intro for a new song by John Phillip scalled "California Dreamin'". The track was used for the hit version by Phillips' group the Mamas & the Papas. Sloan played the lead guitar tracks on most of the songs he wrote, including the famous riff in "Secret Agent Man."

Three Dog Night singer Cory Wells dies at age 74

Cory Wells.jpg

Courtesy of NBC News

Cory Wells, one of the founding members of 1970s hitmakers Three Dog Night, has died at age 74. The death of Wells — one of the group's three lead singers — was announced on the band's official website.

Longtime bandmate Danny Hutton said that Wells died "unexpectedly" Tuesday in Dunkirk, New York. He said that Wells had been performing with the group until developing severe back pain in September. "Cory was an incredible singer, a great performer, he could sing anything," Hutton said in a statement. "Cory was like a brother in so many ways... I am in shock at this sudden loss."

Three Dog Night formed in the late 1960s and racked up 21 consecutive Top 40 hits, including "Joy to the World" and "One."

Wells — born Emil Lewandowski on Feb. 2, 1941 in Buffalo — joined the Air Force directly out of high school. He formed a band while in the service and went on to play with other groups in his hometown after leaving the military.

He met Hutton — then a solo artist — after both were invited to tour with Sonny and Cher. Three Dog Night — named after a story about Australian aborigines in the cold outback seeking warmth — was formed after that tour. Various iterations of the group have stayed on the road performing for 40 years. The band said that in addition to music, Wells was passionate about fishing — filming several episodes of "The American Sportsman" and participating in charity fishing tournaments around the country.

News of Wells' death prompted tributes from the world of music and far beyond.

Syndicate content