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Fats Domino – February 26, 1928 – October 24, 2017

One of the true pioneers of R&R. Fats was New Orleans, lived there, and was symbolic of the emergence of Southern R&B. Remember seeing him perform after Katrina, as he lived in the same house in NOLA. He was heartbroken. He was an institution in the City, and I hope they give him a real NOLA Homecoming!

Fats Domino, Architect Of Rock And Roll, Dead At 89

Fats in 1967

Fats Domino, one of the architects of rock ‘n’ roll, died yesterday at 89 years old at his daughter’s suburban New Orleans home. Haydee Ellis, a family friend, confirmed the news to NPR. Mark Bone, chief investigator for the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s office, tells NPR Domino died of natural causes.

In the 1940s, Antoine Domino, Jr. was working at a mattress factory in New Orleans and playing piano at night. Both his waistline and his fanbase were expanding. That’s when a bandleader began calling him “Fats.” From there, it was a cakewalk to his first million-selling record — “The Fat Man.” It was Domino’s first release for Imperial Records, which signed him right off the bandstand.

Producer, songwriter, arranger and bandleader Dave Bartholomew was there. He described the scene in a 1981 interview now housed at the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University. “Fats was rocking the joint,” Bartholomew said. “And he was sweating and playing, he’d put his whole heart and soul in what he was going, and the people was crazy about him — so that was it. We made our first record, ‘The Fat Man,’ and we never turned around.”

Between 1950 and 1963, Fats Domino hit the R&B charts a reported 59 times, and the pop charts a rollicking 63 times. He outsold Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly — combined. Only Elvis Presley moved more records during that stretch, but Presley cited Domino as the early master.

So how did a black man with a fourth-grade education in the Jim-Crow South, the child of Haitian Creole plantation workers and the grandson of a slave, sell more than 65 million records?

Domino could “wah-wah-waaaaah” and “woo-hooo!” like nobody else in the whole wide world — and he made piano triplets ubiquitous in rock ‘n’ roll. “Blueberry Hill,” for example, was not Domino’s own song — it was first published in 1940 and had already been recorded by the likes Glenn Miller, Gene Autry and Louis Armstrong — but Domino’s version in 1956, complete with those right-hand triplets, was unforgettable.

Jon Cleary is a piano player who has devoted most of his life to the New Orleans sound. “The triplets thing,” he says, “that was one of the building blocks of New Orleans R&B. And that’s really the famous Fats Domino groove. Everybody knows that.”

And then there was Dave Bartholomew. He and engineer Cosimo Matassa perfected a rhythm-heavy sound in Matassa’s studio that was the envy of rock ‘n’ roll. “Blueberry Hill” may have been Domino’s biggest hit, but Bartholomew wrote Domino’s favorite: “Blue Monday.”

“Blue Monday” had other levels of meaning in Domino’s career. In the 1950s, the birth of rock ‘n’ roll was hard labor. Social critics called the music vulgar. Jim Crow laws segregated Domino’s audiences, sometimes with only a rope. And the combination of racial tension and teenage hormones at concerts proved violent: bottle throwing, tear gas, stabbings and arrests.

Fats Domino’s biographer, Rick Coleman, says that there was a real disjunction between that era and the work that Domino was producing. “It was not an easy time period, even though the music was beautiful and joyful,” he observes. “It was a hard birth.”

By 1960, Domino’s audience was overwhelmingly white. In South Carolina, the Ku Klux Klan gave his band directions — by the light of a burning cross. The late saxophone player Herbert Hardesty was driving the Domino bus on that occasion.

“So I had to make it tight,” Hardesty recounted. “In about five minutes, I came to Ku Klux Klan. They said, ‘Well, where’s Fats Domino?’ I said, ‘He’s not here.’ They said, ‘What are you guys doing?’ I said, ‘I’m lost, I’m trying to get back to the highway.’ And they were very nice — the Ku Klux Klan treated us very nice!”

The British Invasion sent nearly every American performer tumbling down the charts. And yet longtime confidante Haydee Ellis says that Domino wouldn’t change a note. “He said, ‘When I play,” she explains, “‘I want the people to hear exactly what they’re used to hearing on the record.’ And eventually, that was one of the things that made him reluctant to play, let’s say. He was afraid that he would, you know, mess up a word or whatever.”

Domino toured for many years, but eventually settled into life at his compound in the Lower Ninth Ward, cooking loads of hog’s headcheese for his many friends. Then came Hurricane Katrina — and everybody thought Fats was dead.

“When Katrina came,” Ellis gasps, “Oh, Lord! Fats would say he wanted to leave, but he said, ‘What kind of man would I be if I left my family? They don’t want to leave.'”

The family survived. Domino lived out the post-Katrina years in a suburb of New Orleans with one of his eight children. But his house still stands on Caffin Avenue, in the Lower Ninth Ward, and has been restored in recent years. It’s a reminder of the greatness that the neighborhood once produced, of the golden age of New Orleans music — and of what a fat man can do.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2017 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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Well Wishes for Tower of Power’s Garibaldi and Van Wageningen

Two members of the Tower of Power band were hit by a train this morning, and are hospitalized. Prayers and well wishes for a recovery.

Two members of famed R&B group Tower of Power hit by train

Two members of Tower of Power, a group that has been an R&B institution for nearly 50 years, were hit by a train as they walked across tracks before a performance in their hometown of Oakland, but both survived, their publicist said.

Calling it an “unfortunate accident,” publicist Jeremy Westby said in a statement that drummer David Garibaldi and bass player Marc van Wageningen are “responsive and being treated at a local hospital.”

Garibaldi has been with the group since 1970. Van Wageningen is substituting as bass player.

“We are monitoring their situation directly with the hospital,” band manager Tom Consolo said. “We will update everyone tomorrow but for tonight we ask that you send your prayers.”

Without identifying them, the Oakland Fire Department said that two pedestrians were hit by a passenger train at Jack London Square about 7:30 p.m. Thursday and taken to a hospital.

The accident was near Yoshi’s, a jazz and R&B club where the group had been scheduled to play two shows Thursday night. Both were canceled.

Yoshi’s General Manager Hal Campos told CBS San Francisco Bay Area he called 911 and stayed with the two injured men until help came. They were both unconscious and appeared to have broken bones, Campos said.

“We don’t know if they didn’t hear the train. We don’t know how this tragedy happened but we’re very, very sad about this. The band is emotionally destroyed … all of us worked with them for days now and many years, it’s really sad,” Campos said.

It wasn’t clear why the men were on the tracks, but pedestrians often need to cross them in the area with trains running across and in between streets, including right outside Yoshi’s.

Tower of Power, a band of about a dozen members, most of them horns, has been beloved members of the R&B and pop communities since forming in Oakland in 1968. The group and its rotating cast of musicians have recorded behind many far more famous names including Elton John, Otis Redding, Aerosmith and Santana.

They were also a national TV fixture in the 1980s with frequent appearances on “Late Night With David Letterman.”

Tributes and well wishes were quickly emerging on Twitter, including one from pop star and drummer Sheila E., who tweeted “Pleez pray for my frenz.”

From back in the day….

And live in 2012 –

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2017 in Music, From Way Back When to Now, News

 

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At 90. Chuck Berry Releases First Album in 40 Years

Amazing…

At 90, Chuck Berry to release first new album in four decades

Chuck Berry (Reuters)

Rock ‘n’ roll legend Chuck Berry celebrated his 90th birthday on Tuesday by announcing that his first album of new music in 38 years would be released next year.

Called simply “Chuck,” the album will consist mostly of new, original material recorded and produced by Berry, his record company said.

Berry’s children, Charles Berry Jr. on guitar and Ingrid Berry on harmonica, form part of his backing band on the record. The specific date of the album’s release was not mentioned.

“What an honor to be part of this new music,” Berry Jr. said in a statement. “The St. Louis band, or as dad called us the Blueberry Hill Band, fell right into the groove and followed his lead. These songs cover the spectrum from hard-driving rockers to soulful thought-provoking time capsules of a life’s work.”

Berry said he was dedicating the new album to his wife of 68 years, Themetta. “My darlin’ I’m growing old! I’ve worked on this record for a long time. Now I can hang up my shoes!” the musician said in a statement.

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2016 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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Racism and Rock and Roll

There is no question that Rock and Roll owes it’s roots to black music. And in the 50’s and even early 60’s songs written by black musicians were stolen and made hugely popular with white audiences by segregated radio. It took decades for those black artists to receive compensation for their work. The first Rock Superstar was Elvis Presley, although there were a number of others, including Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis who aspired to the throne. Several of Elvis’ big hits were covers of black musicians music. Bu he also “borrowed” from white musicians. In particular Blue Suede Shoes was a cover of Carl Perkins.

Elvis learned his chops playing with, and befriending black musicians. Because of his “Rockabilly” style, upbringing, and birthplace, a lot of black folks assumed Elvis was a bigot. There is no evidence to support that, although in a racist South, he, like all of the 50’s rock musicians performed with all white bands. The people who actually performed in the Studio recordings however – were a different story.

The Truth About Elvis and the History of Racism in Rock

Racism In Rock

Elvis has long been vilified as the face of racism and cultural appropriation in rock music—but it’s the legacy of the genre (and the truth about Elvis) that merits closer scrutiny.

Rock music’s legacy is conflicted.

It’s a genre that transformed American culture in a way that re-shaped racial dynamics, but it also came to embody them. Music that at one point in the 1950s seemed to herald the deterioration of racial boundaries, gender norms and cultural segregation had, by the 1970s, become re-defined as a white-dominated, male-dominated multi-million dollarindustry. In the years between, rock ‘n’ roll matured into “rock” and the counterculture embraced anti-establishment ideas like integration and women’s rights—without ever really investing in tearing down white supremacy in any real, measurable way. In that, rock’s history with race is sometimes naïve, sometimes willfully ignorant, and sometimes undeniably hypocritical.

“Elvis was a hero to most but he never meant shit to me. See straight up racist that sucker was, simple and plain…”

It’s one of the most well-known and significant lines in hip-hop history. Public Enemy’s high-profile smackdown of white America’s “King of Rock ‘N’ Roll” resonated and reverberated throughout hip-hop nation in a way that even overshadowed the Flavor Flavlyrical gut-punch of John Wayne that completed the infamous couplet. On a certain level, the line was symbolic of hip-hop’s intentional dismantling of America’s white iconography; this was a new generation that wasn’t going to be beholden to your heroes or your standards. We’ve got our own voice, it announced. You will be forced to reckon with that voice.

That line also hit so hard because Elvis Presley’s racism has long been a part of his image and reputation in the black community. His notorious quote (“The only thing Negroes can do for me is buy my records and shine my shoes”), solidified his villainy amongst black people. His is the legacy of cultural appropriation and white privilege—made doubly offensive by the fact that he was so dismissive and contemptuous of the black people from whom he’d stolen rock ‘n’ roll.

But—what if none of that was actually true?

The “shine my shoes” quote came from a 1957 article called “How Negroes Feel About Elvis,” published in a periodical called Sepia. The Ft. Worth-based magazine had been founded by Horace Blackwell, a clothing merchant; but by the mid-’50s had been bought by Jewish-American merchant George Levitan. It was by now white-owned but had a black staff and was still marketed to black readers, a publication superficially in the vein of EBONY but often with a more sensationalist slant.

“Some Negroes are unable to forget that Elvis was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, hometown of the foremost Dixie race baiter, former Congressman Jon Rankin,” read the article. “Others believe a rumored crack by Elvis during a Boston appearance in which he is alleged to have said: ‘The only thing Negroes can do for me is shine my shoes and buy my records.’”

At the time of the article’s publication, Elvis Presley had never been to Boston. It was also alleged that he’d said it on Edward R. Murrow‘s Person to Person TV show—but he hadn’t appeared there either. Louie Robinson, Jet magazine’s associate editor, tried tracing the actual origins of the quote and came up empty. So he tracked down Elvis himself, interviewing the singer in his Jailhouse Rock dressing room in the summer of 1967.

“I never said anything like that,” Elvis said at the time. “And people who know me know I wouldn’t have said it.”

“A lot of people seem to think I started this business,” Elvis continued, regarding his “King of Rock ‘N’ Roll” status and reputation. “But rock ‘n’ roll was here a long time before I came along. Nobody can sing that kind of music like colored people. Let’s face it; I can’t sing it like Fats Domino can. I know that. But I always liked that kind of music.”

“I always wanted to sing like Billy Kenny of the Ink Spots,” Elvis was further quoted as saying in the Jet interview. “I like that high, smooth style.” But Presley acknowledged that his own voice was more in line with the originator of the song that he would cover for his first single. “I never sang like this in my life until I made that first record—‘That’s Alright, Mama.’ I remembered that song because I heard Arthur (Big Boy) Crudup sing it and I thought I would like to try it.”

Presley had grown up on the “black side” of Tupelo, he’d run with the likes of Ike Turner in his early days as a musician and became close friends with B.B. King and eventually James Brown, Cissy Houston and Muhammad Ali. The racism that he’s been branded with because of a phantom quote seems to be a fabrication. But rock’s legacy as a genre pioneered by black people before white artists discovered it, white media re-branded it and white audiences embraced it means that despite Elvis not spouting racist ideas, his legacy is still rooted in racism—even if that racism isn’t directly born of the man himself. He attained his stature because he was not black and in doing so, he opened the doors for a generation of his disciples to reap those same benefits. And when examining the histories of so many of those notables, there is a legacy that is as conflicted as it is confounding.

Not unlike the history of rock itself.

To a generation of long-haired hippies, Elvis came to symbolize the antiquated era of malt shops and sock hops or a rock ‘n’ roller who’d grown up to be a stale old fart, churning out shlock. He may have aided in the white embrace of black music, but he hadn’t sang at the March on Washington like Bob Dylan, nor had he championed Bobby Seale like John Lennon. In the era of pop stars as quasi-revolutionaries, Elvis had become the establishment. The ’60s generation was about change. …Read the Rest Here

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uke1B0FpIZ8

 

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Billy Paul – 1936-2016

Philly R&B Crooner Billy Paul, whose hit single “Me and Mrs Jones” was a huge hit has passed.

Billy Paul, soul singer best known for Me and Mrs Jones, dies

Billy Paul, the soul singer best known for the number one hit and Philadelphia soul classic, Me and Mrs Jones, has died aged 80.

Paul, whose career spanned for more than 60 years, died at his home in Blackwood, New Jersey, his co-manager, Beverly Gay, told Associated Press. Paul, 80, had been diagnosed recently with pancreatic cancer, Gay said.

Known for his beard and large glasses, Paul was one of many singers who found success with the writing and producing team of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, whose Philadelphia International Records also released music by the O’Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, and Lou Rawls.

Martha Reeves, the Motown singer, was among those who paid tribute on social media.

Me and Mrs Jones, which reached number one in the US at the end of 1972 and number 12 in the UK, was an extramarital confession and a characteristic Gamble and Huff production, setting Paul’s thick tenor against a lush and sensuous arrangement. Many fans best remember the moment when Paul’s otherwise subtle vocals jump as they reach the title words, stretching out “Me” and “And” into multiple syllables and repeating “Mrs Jones, Mrs Jones, Mrs Jones.” (Paul himself was married to the same woman for decades).

Paul’s voice made him “one of the great artists to come out of Philly and to be celebrated worldwide”, Gamble and Huff said in a statement late Sunday.

“Our proudest moment with Billy was the recording of the salacious smash Me and Mrs Jones. In our view, it is one of the greatest love songs ever recorded,” they said.

My favorite cover of Paul’s hit song was by the Dramatics in the Old Style of group R&B…

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2016 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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R&B Top Ten April 1968

Just for the fun of it, these R&B bands made it to the National Top Ten in April 1968

9. “I Got the Feelin’,” James Brown and the Famous Flames

8. “Dance to the Music,” Sly and the Family Stone

6. “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” Otis Redding

5. “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone,” Aretha Franklin

 

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2016 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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R&B Lives…Charles Bradley

R&B isn’t quite dead yet!

Charles Bradley on long road to becoming the “screaming eagle of soul”

Success was a long-time coming for singer Charles Bradley, who was born in 1948 but released his debut album just five years ago. His experiences during those 60-plus years make for quite a story — fitting for a soul man strongly influenced by the late James Brown, reports “CBS This Morning: Saturday” co-host Anthony Mason.

Early in his late-blooming career, Bradley’s backing band gave him a nickname: The “screaming eagle of soul.”

The “screaming eagle” got his inspiration from the “Godfather.” Bradley was a teenager in 1962 when his sister took him to the Apollo in Harlem to see James Brown perform.

“That’s what started it ’cause I always liked the blues, but see, James Brown is the one who put rhythm in the blues. And that’s what made it funky,” Bradley said. “And I said, ‘Now that’s what I want to be.'”

But through his first five decades, Bradley drifted between jobs. He worked as a short order cook in Maine, at a hospital for the mentally ill in New York, and much more.

“Jesus, I can’t count because I was like anywhere, anyone was going to give me a job that made me keep going. I hitchhiked to Ketchikan, Alaska,” Bradley said.

Bradley was in his fifties when he finally landed back in Brooklyn. In 2011, he was doing a James Brown tribute show in Essence Bar in Brooklyn when he was spotted by Daptone Records, who paired him with producer Tom Brennick.

“He said, ‘You do James Brown. You’re good at James Brown. Now we want to see you do you,'” Bradley recalled.

Brennick wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.

“Tom kept drilling me and I thought he was one of the evilest persons in this world. And he said, ‘No, you can hit that note’ and I said, ‘Tom you trying to burn my throat out, you know?’ And he said, ‘Charles, do it again.'”

But with that, Bradley gained something he did not know he had.

At age 62, Bradley finally got his break when Daptone released his debut album in 2011. The small Brooklyn label had had success with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings ,who’d also played on the Grammy-winning Amy Winehouse album, “Back to Black.”

The age wasn’t a concern for Neal Sugarman, co-founder of the label. In fact, the reaction surpassed all expectations.

“People were responding to it. And it was – it was amazing,” Sugarman said.

Bradley pours himself into every performance. Last year, he even went on stage the night he lost his beloved mother, which he called the “hardest thing I’ve ever did in my life.”

“If I didn’t, I think I really, truly would have hurt myself. I couldn’t take no more and I was looking anywhere I could go to get this pain out of me,” Bradley said.

He thinks of her, he said, whenever he sings the title track of his new album, a cover of the black Sabbath song, “Changes.”

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2016 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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Otis Clay

Last of the last…

Years ago, when you listened to black radio, and crossed the Mason Dixon Line on the way South – the artists and type of Soul Music you heard was quite different. Singers  like Mrs Jody, Billy Soul Bonds,  Denise LaSalle, Ronnie Lovejoy, and Willie Clayton did’t quite translate in terms of mass popularity, despite singers like Johnnie Taylor and Tyrone Davis becoming very popular.

Otis Clay, Hall Of Fame Rhythm And Blues Singer, Dies At 73

“Otis was the last standard-bearer for deep southern soul music.”

Hall of fame rhythm and blues artist Otis Clay, known as much for his big heart and charitable work in Chicago as for his singing internationally, died Friday. He was 73.

The Mississippi-born Clay – whose gruff, tenor-tinged voice on blues songs such as “Trying to Live My Life Without You” varied from his haunting but hopeful baritone on gospel standards like “When the Gates Swing Open” – died suddenly of a heart attack at 6:30 p.m., said his daughter, Ronda Tankson.

The one-time Grammy nominee had a year of touring planned behind recent records and recognition at May’s 37th Blues Music Awards, manager Miki Mulvehill said. Clay is nominated for Soul-Blues Male Artist and Soul-Blues Album for “This Time for Real,” his collaboration with Billy Price.

“Otis was the last standard-bearer for deep southern soul music, the really gospel-inflected music that was in its heyday in the late ’60s and early and mid ’70s,” Price told The Associated Press on Saturday. “These styles change, and different styles are in the forefront, but Otis was just as strong in the past five years … For that reason, he was an icon for a lot of us who work in this genre.”

European music enthusiasts and record-collectors flock to Clay’s music because of its spare, “unvarnished” style wrought of the 1960s soul scenes in Memphis, Tennessee and Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Price said.

A 2013 Blues Hall of Fame inductee who moved to blues-steeped Chicago in 1957, Clay had just begun planning a gospel tour of the U.S., followed by a summer European tour and, later, the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, Mulvehill said. His latest album is called, “Truth Is.”

But Clay was much more than a talented musician. A resident of Chicago’s West Side, he was an avid humanitarian whose charitable works included assisting development of the Harold Washington Cultural Center.

“Otis was the first one to jump on the ‘Can I help?’ train,” Mulvehill said.

Tankson, a Chicago special education teacher whose pupils include autistic children, said her father gave little thought to what benefit he’d get from performing and held nothing back, even when appearing for her students.

“He sang to them as if they paid and he was on stage,” Tankson said.

Friends and co-workers of Tankson’s, whom Clay had never met, repeatedly asked if he would sing “When the Gates Swing Open” at loved ones’ funerals. “He never let me down on that,” she said, adding that he once delayed a recording-session trip to Memphis to comply.

Clay was born Feb. 11, 1942 in Waxhaw, Mississippi, to a musical and religious family, according to his online biography. After his arrival in Chicago, he joined the Golden Jubilaires, and in 1960 became part of Charles Bridges’ Famous Blue Jay Singers, performing a cappella at schools and hotels.

“We were known as variety singers, or we were billed as (performing) ‘Old Negro Spirituals and Plantation Melodies,'” Clay said in his biography.

His recording debut came in 1965 with the rousing ballad, “Flame in Your Heart.” Four decades later, in 2007, he was nominated for a Grammy for the gospel CD, “Walk a Mile in My Shoes.”

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2016 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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Legend of 50’s Do-Wop, First of the R&B Soul Groups — The Orioles and Diz Russell

Earlington Tilghman created one of the most influential vocal groups of all time when he formed the Vibranairs in Baltimore after World War II. Tilghman was better known as Sonny Til, a charismatic tenor who loved rich arrangements and had a knack for picking (and writing) great material.

After 60 years, this R&B singer’s wife said it was time to retire. Then came his final show.

“I never thought I would be this old,” Diz Russell said.

Sitting on the worn black leather couch in his sunlit Capitol Heights, Md., living room, the 81-year-old singer was surrounded by reminders of a long, busy life . Framed photographs, record covers and concert posters hung below a red sign proclaiming “THE LEGENDARY ORIOLES.” There was a black-and-white portrait of the band members from the 1950s, with a fresh-faced Diz in the middle. Here was a photo of Diz sitting on a committee for longtime mayor Marion Barry — “my buddy,” he said.

But mostly he nodded and smiled behind tinted glasses as his wife of 59 years, Millie Russell, explained the mementos on their wall. The nostalgia-heavy decor of Millie’s careful selection is largely lost on Diz, who became blind from a cataract at age 55.

Since then, Millie, 75, has been watchful. When Diz shuffled out of the room and came back with white foam around his lips, she furrowed her brow. “You didn’t do too good of a job shaving,” she said, getting up to wipe the cream from his chin.

They met backstage at the Howard Theatre, when Millie was 13 and Diz was 19. Millie was in the crowd for a show with Jackie Wilson, and she spotted a jeans-clad fellow on her way out. He told her that he was a singer.

“You don’t look like a singer to me,” she retorted.

Diz responded with a chuckle, “Honey, you better believe it.”

They married four years later, shortly after Diz joined the Orioles, the band widely recognized as the first R&B vocal group and credited with popularizing the musical style in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Although the version of the group that Diz sang with was considered its second generation — after frontman Sonny Til broke away from the original Orioles and started a new combo, tacking on the “Legendary” to distinguish them from the baseball team — he still recalls the band being in hot demand wherever it went, selling out shows in Texas, Michigan and at their home base in Baltimore…

Wife Millie Russell, who has managed the band for 34 years

 

For 34 years, Millie has been Diz’s band manager. For 26, she’s been his eyes. More recently, she’s become his memory.

The diagnosis of early-onset dementia came almost a year ago, although there were signs before then. Sometimes the name of a close friend would draw a blank, or Diz would claim to have misplaced a piece of clothing that he never owned. As bandmates brought their equipment inside for their weekly Friday rehearsals, Diz still held a shaving razor in his left hand as if he’d forgotten to put it down.

When Diz rambles about his past, Millie tends to roll her eyes and swat the air, as if his distorted memories were swarming like flies. But when she vocalizes her disagreement with his version of history, he’s quick to contest.

“I know this,” he said through gritted teeth. “I lived this.”

But Millie doesn’t trust those stories anymore. She winced recalling Diz stumbling on the lyrics to “Baby Please Don’t Go” — one of the group’s greatest hits — while performing at Echostage last November. He skipped the second verse entirely and went straight to the last.

The band kept playing as if it was business as usual, and likely no one in the audience noticed, but for Millie the incident was searing.

“I won’t let him embarrass himself like that,” she said. The band’s 68th-anniversary celebration at Mr. Henry’s restaurant on Capitol Hill was to be Diz’s last major performance before going into “semi-retirement,” a dignified term for a plan to suspend all but the occasional cameo.

After so many decades as her husband’s right hand, Millie admitted that she was also ready for a slower pace. A sense of injustice dogs her view of their relationship.

“You think if it was the woman who needed so much help, the husband would stay?” she said.

“She’s steadfast,” Diz nodded.

“A man is weak,” Millie said. “And I’m tired.”

But the band will stay in Russell hands. After Millie retires as manager, their 52-year-old son, Christopher, will take up the mantle….Read the Rest Here

A very early hit by the group in 1948  –

 

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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#1 in Country Music – Darius Rucker

There has always been a thing line between Southern R&B and Country music. Ray Charles had several hits which crossed over, and his album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, including the his “I Can’r Stop Loving You” is considered by many to be a a classic of the genre.

Darius Rucker, formerly of Southern Rock Band Hootie and the Blowfish has become one of the very big stars of the Country Music genre, with his last 4 albums going Number 1.

His newest release “Southern Style” –

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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Donald “Duck” Dunn

Back in he 60’s, you wanted to make music – you needed a band. There wasn’t any electronic machinery to make appropriate noises at pre-planned intervals. There wa no wizard circuitry to cover up the fact that your lead couldn’t sing…

1970 Pic of Booker T and the MGs. From left to tight Al Jackson, Jr., Booker T. Jones, Donald “Duck” Dunn, and Steve Cropper.

That band for a lot of famous groups either on or associated with the STAX Label was Booker T and the MGs, who individually or as a group backed up just about anyone who was anyone in Southern Rock or Southern R&B for over 20 years. They and the Funk Brothers out of Detroit (the Motown Sound machine) defined not only soul or R&B music – but often played with rock groups. A short list of R&B Greats these guys backed included  Otis ReddingSam & DaveAlbert KingJohnnie TaylorEddie FloydThe Staple SingersWilson Pickett, and Delaney & Bonnie. A session player for the group was Isaac Hayes. Among the groups they influenced were the Beatles.

The distinctive sound of the group came from the Hammond B-3 and later the H-3 Organ, played by Booker T, and Issac Hayes – combined with the tightest base line possible laid down by Donald “Duck” Dunn, who would also play as bass for the The Blues BrothersMuddy WatersFreddie KingAlbert KingNeil YoungJerry Lee LewisEric ClaptonTom PettyCreedence Clearwater RevivalWilson PickettSam & DaveGuy SebastianRod StewartBob DylanRoy BuchananArthur Conley, Stephen Stills, and Eric Clapton.

Dunn used a sunburst Fender Precision bass with a rosewood fretboard and a red pickguard. In 1998, Dunn collaborated with Fender to produce a signature Precision Bass, a candy apple red-colored model based on the late 1950s style, with a gold anodized pickguard, a split-coil humbucking pickup and vintage hardware. The Duck Dunn P-Bass became the basis for a Skyline Series signature bass made by Chicago bass company Lakland a few years later, which is still available.

Booker T and MGs Bassist Dunn Dies

Bass player and songwriter Donald “Duck” Dunn, a member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame band Booker T. and the MGs and the Blues Brothers band, has died in Tokyo. He was 70. Dunn was in Tokyo for a series of shows. News of his death was posted on the Facebook site of his friend and fellow musician Steve Cropper, who was on the same tour. Cropper said Dunn died in his sleep.

A spokeswoman for Tokyo Blue Note, the last venue Dunn played, confirmed he died alone early today. She had no further details. Dunn, who was born in Memphis, Tenn., in 1941, performed on recordings with Eric Clapton, Neil Young, and many others, and specialized in blues, gospel, and soul. He played himself in the 1980 hit movie, The Blues Brothers. He received a lifetime achievement Grammy award in 2007 for his work with Booker T. and the MGs.

No “Green Onions” for this – I think a little “Time is Tight” is in order –

 
 

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Chaka Khan, Chaka Kan, Chaka!

Take a list among black men of age in the early 70’s of the 10 sexiest female R&B vocalists – and you can bet Chaka Khan is at or near the top of the list.

The little woman with the big voice rocked stages around the world, before drugs and alcohol took a toll on her body, looks, and voice.

Chaka is back (looking damn good!) and last night at the newly reopened Howard Theater in DC, she brought down the house!

This is Chaka from the 70’s, with Rufus – doing one of her signature tunes –

This is the “new” and improved version from last night –

A svelte and sexy Chaka brings down the house

Chaka Khan takes crowd at Howard Theatre ‘Through the Fire’

In the middle of her hit “Through the Fire,” R&B powerhouse Chaka Khan stopped to give a personal testimony Saturday night at the Howard Theatre.

“I used to be a bad, bad, bad girl,” the 10-time Grammy winner told the sold-out show. “I used to party back in the day. I’d get off the road, and say to myself, ‘I need a break today.’ And I would leave my two kids with my mother and go AWOL.”

As she partied, Khan said, she carried her cellphone but would not answer it.

“Why wouldn’t you pick up the phone?” someone in the audience yelled at the diva on stage.

“Because,” Khan said, “when you are out there doing that stuff you don’t pick up the phone.”

But one night, “I was so high, I picked up.” Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

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RIP Etta James

Etta James Dead at 73

 Etta James has died at age 73, with her husband and sons by her bedside at a California hospital, her manager says. The legendary R&B chanteuse was reported to be “in pretty bad shape”in recent months; she was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, andcourt documents revealed she was also suffering from dementia. The six-time Grammy winner will forever be best remembered for “At Last,” writes the AP, which reflects on the magnetic and saucy singer—whom it dubs “one of music’s original bad girls.”

“The bad girls … had the look that I liked,” James wrote in her 1995 autobiography. “I wanted to be rare, I wanted to be noticed, I wanted to be exotic as a Cotton Club chorus girl, and I wanted to be obvious as the most flamboyant hooker on the street. I just wanted to be.” And so a 15-year-old James forged her mother’s signature on a note claiming to be 18 and traveled from San Francisco to LA where she recorded “Roll With Me, Henry.” She spent the late ’50s and ’60s touring with big names like Little Richard and Fats Domino, before falling into a heroin addiction that took her two decades to kick. She eventually returned to the stage, but later struggled with her weight and a painkiller addiction. “At Last” was famously played at Barack Obama’s January 2009 inauguration—though James wasn’t altogether pleased.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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Where is the Love?

The love ballad has seemingly left the scene in terms of black music in America. Every day chances that there will be another Bary White,  Teddy Pendergrass, or Luther seem to get dimmer and dimmer – as the assorted wannabes and no-talent noisemakers flood the scene…

An interesting take on why no more “Love” in R&B.

Where is the love in R&B music?

When I was a teenager trying to figure out what the ladies liked, I would turn on the TV on Saturday afternoons to catch “The hippest trip in America.”

I’d close my bedroom door to make sure my younger brother wasn’t watching, and then I’d imitate the latest dance moves on “Soul Train,” the African-American dance show. Standing in front of a mirror, I’d unleash a series of spasmodic dance moves before embarrassing myself too much to continue.

Soul Train’s dancers never had that problem. As the show’s festive theme song played, wiry dancers in tight double-knit pants shimmied across the dance floor. I loved the huge afros, the lapels that were so wide you could land a small plane on them, and the suave “Soul Train” host, Don Cornelius, who signed off each show by declaring, “We wish you love, peace … and sooooulllll!”

But most of all I loved the music on “Soul Train,” especially the slow jams. They had everything — evocative lyrics, head-bopping grooves, soaring string arrangements and a whole lot of talk about love.

Yet when I listen to R&B today, I ask myself the same question Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway posed in their classic 1972 duet: “Where is the Love?”

Listening to black music today is depressing. Songs on today’s urban radio playlists are drained of romance, tenderness and seduction. And it’s not just about the rise of hardcore hip-hop or rappers who denigrate women.

Black people gave the world Motown, Barry White and “Let’s Get It On.” But we don’t make love songs anymore.

Why?

I asked some of the stars who created the popular R&B classics of the late 1960s, ’70s and early ’80s. Their answer: The music changed because blacks lost something essential — something that all Americans, regardless of race, should regret.

“We had so much harmony”

Some of what we lost, they say, was an appreciation of love itself.

Earth Wind & Fire keyboardist and founding member Larry Dunn says a new generation of black R&B artists is more cynical because more come from broken homes and broken communities.

“How are you going to write about love when you don’t know what it is?” asks Dunn, whose new album “N2 The Journey” contains a remake of one of Earth Wind & Fire’s most famous ballads, “Reasons.”

EWF, which gave us 1970s classics such as “After the Love is Gone,” didn’t create songs just to make hits, Dunn says. They also wanted to change lives. The group was known for songs like “Devotion” and “Shining Star” that celebrated love of self and God.

Those sentiments may sound hokey now, but Dunn says EWF could tell their songs had the intended effect. People played EWF love songs at their proms and weddings, and people still write letters of thanks to the group today.

“We had one guy who came up to us before a show and told us that we had helped him get off heroin,” says Dunn, who is as relentlessly upbeat and warm as EWF’s music.

Kenny Gamble brought the same ambition to his sound. Gamble is the co-founder of Philadelphia International Records, known as the Motown of the ’70s. The record label patented “Philly Soul” — tight, sophisticated arrangements with lush strings that formed the backdrop for classic love songs such as Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones” and Teddy Pendergrass’ “Come Go With Me.”

Yet Gamble’s songs were also driven by black pride and self-help. With his co-producer and songwriter Leon Huff, Gamble created social conscience anthems like “Wake Up Everybody” by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes and “Love Train” by The O’Jays.

Both the love songs and those with messages sprang from the same source, the belief that loving one another and your community was important, says Gamble, who still lives in Philadelphia renovating blighted neighborhoods through his nonprofit, Universal Companies.

“We had so much harmony, so much purpose in our music,” he says. “Our whole purpose was the message is in the music, and that message was to love one another and to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Love songs flowered during that era also because black people were more optimistic, music critic Rashod Ollison wrote in an essay on Barry White, the rotund singer with what Ollison described as the “low-as-the-ocean-floor bass voice” who gave us love songs such as “Never Gonna’ Give You Up.”… (more)

In my view the tightest close harmony done in the past 50 years… Ever notice nobody ever tries to cover the old Dells or Harold Melvin songs? That harmony born of 20 or more years singing together is the reason – and you ain’t gettin’ that out of a synthesizer in 15 minutes on the cheap…

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2011 in Black History, Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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Etta James Has Dementia, Lukemia

Etta James ill, family battles over money

Singer Etta James, known best for her iconic recording of “At Last,” is gravely ill, diagnosed with dementia and undergoing treatment for leukemia, according to court documents.

The 72-year-old Woodcrest resident’s illness came to light as part of a civil case in Riverside County Superior Court in which Artis Mills, her husband of 41 years, is seeking control of more than $1 million of James’ money.

Her son Donto James wrote in a court declaration that he does not object to money being released for her health care. But he is asking that it be overseen by a third party, “to avoid present and future family conflict and discrepancies.”

Dr. Elaine James, no relation to the singer, declared in the court documents that the singer has multiple medical conditions, including dementia, an organic brain syndrome and a recent diagnosis of leukemia.

The Beverly Hills doctor said she and other medical staff give James continuous medical care and supervision in the singer’s home in the Woodcrest area, near Riverside.

Dr. James said the singer isn’t able to sign her name and requires assistance with feeding, dressing and hygiene, but does recognize her husband and children. The doctor said James has been admitted to the hospital on occasion but returns home with round-the-clock care.

 

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2011 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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