[EDITOR’S NOTE: There is no “Interesting Stuff” this week to make room for Peter’s end-of-year Toes Up. I.S. will return next Saturday.]
You never know who you’re going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter’s not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By – or, better, that TGB needed his column – which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.
Because of my age, and I imagine that of most readers of this column, the musicians I like are getting on in years. So much so that too many of them are dying. Alas, this will only continue.
This year so many musicians who should be noted have died that I’ve had to spilt Toes Up into two parts. This is the first, the second is here.
STEVE PRESTWICH was the drummer and main songwriter for the iconic rock group, Cold Chisel, one of the hardest working and most successful bands in Australian music history. The Chisels were at their peak from around 1978 to about 1984, and pretty much blew everyone else off the stage during that period.
Steve was diagnosed with a brain tumour only days before his death. He didn’t regain consciousness from surgery. This is a song he wrote called Flame Trees. It’s sung by Jimmy Barnes, the singer for the Chisels and the other members kept Jimmy in check for this song and he’s produced a restrained version, something for which he’s not noted. (Age 56)
Not a good year for drummers. JOE MORELLO was a jazz drummer best known for his work in the Dave Brubeck Quartet when this group was at the height of its powers and popularity.
Joe was a classically trained violinist who had many concert appearances under his belt while still a teenager. He said that he gave up the violin after hearing Jascha Heifetz play and realising that he could never play that well.
He switched to percussion and his teacher suggested he concentrate on jazz rather than classical work. In his later life, he taught drumming and published books and instructional videos. Here’s Joe with the Dave Brubeck Quartet and Bru’s Boogie Woogie. (82)
PINETOP PERKINS, or Joseph William Perkins to his mum and dad, was born in Mississippi and performed with such luminaries as Muddy Waters, Robert Nighthawk, B.B. King, Sonny Boy Williamson, Earl Hooker and many others. He also taught Ike Turner how to play boogie woogie piano.
Pinetop started his musical career as a guitarist but after injuring tendons in his arm in a fight with a choir girl (those choir girls are tough in Arkansas), he switched to piano. He continued performing throughout his life, indeed, he had several concerts scheduled at the time of his death.
He received a Grammy for best traditional blues album in 2008 making him the oldest Grammy recipient ever. Pinetop had a brief appearance in The Blues Brothers film. He was only 97 when he died. Here is Pinetop with Blues After Hours.
JERRY LIEBER along with Mike Stoller wrote hits for just about everyone in the fifties and sixties. That’s Jerry on the right with Mike on the left and some little known singer in the middle for whom they wrote a bunch of great songs.
Their first successful song was Hound Dog for Big Mama Thornton. This was even more successful later for Elvis.
The partnership was nearly cut short as Mike was on the ship Andrea Doria that was struck by another causing severe damage and considerable loss of life. The Stollers were among those saved and were greeted at the dock by Jerry who told them, quite excitedly, that Elvis had recorded the song.
Over the years, more than 500 of their tunes made the charts. I could fill a column just listing them.
One of the rare songs Jerry wrote without Mike is Spanish Harlem. He had the assistance of Phil Spector on that one. This is the famous version by Ben E King. Fortunately, Ben is still with us. (78)
JOSEF SUK was a Czech violinist and conductor. He also played the viola. He was gifted from the beginning and made his concert debut at age 11. He had a great love for chamber music and often appeared with the Smetana Quartet and the Prague Quartet.
Later he formed his own group, the Suk Trio. He was the grandson of the composer of the same name and the great grandson of Antonín Dvorák. Josef plays the third movement of Brahms’ Violin Sonata No 2 in A maj Op 100, with Julius Katchen playing piano. (81)
GENE McDANIELS was born in Kansas City but grew up in Omaha. He started out singing in a gospel choir but developed a love of jazz. Besides being a gifted singer, he was also proficient on the saxophone and trumpet.
After singing in jazz clubs, he got a recording contract where he mostly sang pop songs but with an edge, with considerable jazz influences. Gene had a bunch of hits in the late fifties and early sixties and any of these would be worth including, but I’ve gone for Tower of Strength. (76)
CHARLIE LOUVIN was half of the Louvin Brothers. His brother died in 1965 when a drunken driver hit his car. Charlie continued as a solo artist right up until he died.
The Louvins were a huge influence on country rock musicians, particularly Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. The Everly Brothers had also obviously listened closely to them. Here are the Louvin Brothers with Cash on the Barrelhead. (83)
CARL GARDNER (being carried in the photo) was the tenor singer for the DooWop group, The Robins. When that group dissolved, he and a fellow Robin formed The Coasters. Carl was the lead singer on their most famous hits, Youngblood, Down in Mexico, Yakety Yak, Charlie Brown, Little Egypt, Poison Ivy and on and on.
The last of the original group alive, he kept the Coasters name going into the 21st Century until throat cancer stopped his voice. He was replaced in the group by his son, Carl Jnr. This is Carl singing lead in one of those big hits by The Coasters, Yakety Yak. (84)
The Atlanta Rhythm Section started life as the Candymen, Roy Orbison’s backing group. They next became the house band for the recording company, Studio One, and they pretty much backed everyone who recorded there, the cream of southern rock & roll and soul musicians.
From there, they morphed into a rock band in their own right. RONNIE HAMMOND was the vocalist for the group and here he is singing Georgia Rhythm with the group. (60)
GERRY RAFFERTY was a Scottish singer and songwriter who initially earned money from busking and singing in a band with Billy Connolly. He came to notice in the band, Stealers Wheel, who had a hit with Stuck in the Middle With You.
On going solo he cut an album called “City to City” that contained the huge selling song Baker Street. Later albums were moderate successes but nothing approached the popularity of his first hit. He was a little too fond of the demon drink. Here is Baker Street. (63)
MARGARET WHITING was destined for music. Her father was a songwriter, he wrote The Good Ship Lollipop, Ain’t We Got Fun and many more. Johnny Mercer was a friend of the family and when her dad died unexpectedly, he took care of the young Margaret.
He knew what a fine singer she was and when he founded Capital Records, he signed her as one of its original artists. She wasn’t quite the success they hoped but she sang some fine songs – the original version of Baby It’s Cold Outside (with Johnny), It Might as Well be Spring, Time After Time and others. (86)
GEORGE SHEARING was born in London, the ninth child in the family. He was born blind. He was a bright kid and was offered several scholarships but opted to play piano in a local pub as it offered more money.
He emigrated to the United States in his 20s where his mixture of classical and bebop piano playing became popular with listeners and musicians alike. This mixture continued throughout his life and he was equally at home on the classical stage and in jazz clubs. He’s probably best known outside these milieux as the composer of Lullaby of Birdland. (91)
HARVEY JAMES was an Australian rock guitarist and a member of several iconic Oz bands – Mississippi, Ariel and most famously in these parts, Sherbet. Most of the members of Mississippi went on to form the even more famous, Little River Band – however, Harvey went in a different direction, “progressive rock” with Ariel. He later joined Sherbet after their original lead guitarist left. The Sherbs were at the time (mid seventies) this country’s biggest band. (58)
DON KIRSHNER was a music publisher and record and television producer. From this column’s point of view, he was most famous for selecting the men for, and putting on the TV program, The Monkees.
Later, when that group got a bit stroppy, he created The Archies, a cartoon series with session musicians playing the music. He wanted a group “that didn’t talk back.” Early in his career he published the works of songwriters such as Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Neil Sedaka, Barry Mann and others. (86)
JOHN BARRY was a composer and songwriter who won five Oscars, four Grammys and wrote the scores for eleven James Bond films (amongst many others). John Barry Prendergast was born in York, England where his father owned a chain of cinemas in the north.
Young John became obsessed by films. His mother was a concert pianist and she taught him piano. He later played as a jazz musician and backed many pop artists in the fifties and sixties until the film work came along. There’s a lot more to his life but little space left. (77)
GARY MOORE was an Irish guitarist best known for his time in the group Thin Lizzy. He was also an accomplished blues guitarist and has shared the stage with B.B. King, Albert King, George Harrison and many others. He died of a heart attack while on holiday in Spain aged 58.
EDDIE SERRATO was the drummer for the group ? and the Mysterians (generally pronounced Question Mark and the Mysterians). He played on the hit 96 Tears, a number one song in the sixties that was later hugely influential in the grunge/underground scene. (65)
SUZE ROTOLO wasn’t a musician; however, she was the muse for the most important songwriter of the second half of the 20th century, Bob Dylan. You can see her on the cover of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.”
Bob was influenced by her politics early in his career and wrote songs about her that appeared on the Freewheelin’, “Times They are a’Changin’” and “Another Side” albums. She later became an artist and remained a political activist all her life. (67)
ROBERT TEAR was a Welsh tenor and conductor who began his career singing in the chorus of the Welsh National Opera. Boy, I bet that chorus sounded great.
He made a career of performing in works by contemporary British composers, particularly Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippett as well as Elgar, Vaughan-Williams and Butterworth. He also sang roles from as diverse a bunch of composers as Berg, Offenbach, Bach, Monteverdi, Stravinsky, Mozart and Messiaen among a bunch of others. (72)
This really is a bad year for drummers. PAUL MOTIAN was one of the finest jazz drummers around. He first came to notice when was the stick man for the Bill Evans Trio. Later he worked with Keith Jarrett, Thelonious Monk, Stan Getz, Oscar Pettiford, Coleman Hawkins and many others.
He really liked playing and he didn’t restrict himself to jazz as he also backed Arlo Guthrie and appeared at the Woodstock festival with anyone who needed a drummer. (80)
GLADYS HORTON was the lead singer for The Marvelettes who topped the charts around the world with the song, Please Mr Postman. The Beatles thought so much of the song that they recorded it for their second album.
The Marvelettes won a competition in Detroit, the prize for which was a recording contract for Motown. The song they recorded was the one mentioned. Gladys is on the right in the photo. (65)
JEAN DINNING was a songwriter and singer who appeared with her two sisters as the Dinning Sisters in the thirties and forties. Jean wrote a song that became a huge hit for her younger brother Mark that was one of those angst songs that were big around the turn of the fifties into the sixties, Teen Angel. (86)
OWSLEY STANLEY made LSD for the San Francisco groups in the sixties, particularly the Grateful Dead. He managed the Dead for a while producing and recording their live shows. Some of these were turned into official live recordings.
He emigrated to far north Queensland in Australia in 1980 as he feared the imminent ice age. Boy, was he wrong on that one. He was killed in a car accident during a storm near Cairns. (76)
HUGH MARTIN was a songwriter who composed such songs as The Trolley Song, The Boy Next Door and other tunes from the musical “Meet Me in St Louis.” He also wrote Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and many others. (96)
MARV TARPLIN was the guitarist for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. He co-wrote one of their best songs, Tracks of my Tears, as well as several other of their hits.
Marv started his professional life backing the Primettes who later became the Supremes. This brought him to the notice of Smokey who lured him away to form his group. He stayed with the Miracles for about as long as Smokey did and later wrote, with Smokey, songs for such artists as Marvin Gaye , the Temptations and the Four Tops. (70)
BERT JANSCH was a Scottish guitarist and a founder member of the group Pentangle. He was a leading figure in the folk revival in Britain in the sixties and was a respected guitarist whose playing influenced a generation of folk and rock musicians. (67)
PETE RUGOLO, or Pietro to his folks, was born in Italy but his family went to America when he was five years old. He started his music career playing piano and French horn. He studied composition and gained a masters degree in music.
During the war he was in the army band along with Paul Desmond. Afterwards, he joined Stan Kenton’s band as an arranger as well as a performer. He arranged many hits for jazz and pop artists in the fifties and sixties and also worked on film musicals. (95)
SENA JURINAC was a soprano who had a long time association with both Glyndebourne and Covent Garden. She was born Srebrenka Jurinac in what was then Yugoslavia and made her debut singing Mimi in La Bohème with the Zagreb Opera at age 21.
She later joined the Vienna Opera and from there she went to Britain where she had her greatest success. She spent the last 30 years giving master classes in Vienna and London. (90)
BOB FLANIGAN sang lead tenor for the group The Four Freshmen. He also played trombone and bass. The other members also played various instruments so, unlike most of their ilk, they were self sufficient in supplying their own backing music. Bob is second from the left in the photo. (84)