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Sunday, 20 May 2018

Jimmy Blythe born 20 May 1901


   Jimmy Blythe (May 20, 1901 – June 14, 1931) was an influential American jazz and boogie-woogie pianist. Considering how many fine recording sessions he was on in Chicago in the 1920s (particularly with Johnny Dodds), it is surprising how little is known about the mysterious Jimmy Blythe. 

James Blythe was born to Richard Blythe and his wife Rena in South Keene, Kentucky, just southwest of Lexington in 1901. His exact date of birth is disputed. His parents were sharecroppers. James was the youngest of five surviving siblings out of a total of eleven born to the couple. Before 1910 the Blythe family moved to Lexington where his mother was working as a servant. Later Jimmy jobbed as a janitor or day labourer. There is nothing known whether he received a piano training in Lexington. It seems plausible that he simply learnt to play the piano by observing other ragtime pianists and trying to imitate their style. 

It seems most likely that Jimmy came to Chicago in the late 1910s, where he lived together with one of his sisters. Blythe hooked up with ragtime and blues pianist Clarence M. Jones, who became his piano teacher and already had some ragtime song successes to his name. Little else is known about his time in Chicago from 1919 to 1922. Probably Jimmy Blythe was also exposed to a number of fine pianists and band musicians and had played in a few public venues. 

His breakthrough came in 1922 when Blythe was hired by the Columbia Music Roll Company (and then for Capital when the company was reorganized in 1924). Together with his friend Clarence M. Johnson he produced hundreds of commercial piano rolls. 
 
 
                                  

In April 1924 Blythe started to cut sides for Paramount Records. His first track Chicago Stomp had the rolling walking bass pattern throughout. Unlike other early boogie-woogie recordings Blythe's Chicago Stomp is generally considered to be the first full length boogie-woogie recording. 



During the next years Blythe led his "Blythe's Sinful Five" and recorded with a variety of his own ensembles including Blythe's Washboard Band, Jimmy Blythe and his Ragamuffins, Blythe's Owls, The Dixie Four and The Midnight Rounders. Blythe also played on sessions with Jimmy Bertrand's "Washboard Wizards", and two fine piano duets each with W. E. "Buddy" Burton and Charlie Clark. With his groups or other artists he also cut sides for Vocalion Records, Okeh Records and Gennett. 

In addition he accompanied a number of singers such as Sodarisa Miller and Gertrude "Ma" Rainey. Another pianist he met around 1924 was Janice. She became his girlfriend near the end of the year. Both of them indicated that they were married, however, so the circumstances are unclear. The couple never had children. 

Singer Alex Robinson was Jimmy's most frequent partner. Jimmy and Alex were playing from time to time on Chicago radio station in 1926 and 1927. Blythe's biggest hit was Mecca Flat Blues, recorded in May 1926. 

There are indications that he also performed live on Chicago South Side. He was considered to be relatively quiet for an active musician. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why about his appearances are known only so little. Blythe used at least a couple of different pseudonyms for his work including Duke Owens and George Jefferson. 

In 1930, Blythe substantially decreased his recording activity, appearing on two sides of Robinson's group, Knights of Rest. He was living with his sister and her husband when Blythe contracted meningitis. Blythe died on June 14, 1931 at age 30 

He is considered to have been an influential jazz pianist and one of the first boogie-woogie stylists. Today his role in the beginnings of boogie-woogie is no longer challenged. Blythe's Chicago Stomp can be regarded as an important contribution to the maturation of boogie-woogie before Clarence "Pinetop" Smith or Meade "Lux" Lewis made their first recordings and long before boogie-woogie became publicly associated with Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Meade "Lux" Lewis, Jimmy Yancey and Clarence "Pinetop" Smith. Jimmy Blythe is also acknowledged as an influence by Clarence "Pinetop" Smith and Albert Ammons (Mecca Flat Blues). 

 (Info edited mainly from The History of Boogie Woogie Piano 1900-1950)

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Betty Carter born 16 May 1929


Betty Carter (born Lillie Mae Jones; May 16, 1929 – September 26, 1998) was an American jazz singer known for her improvisational technique, scatting and other complex musical abilities that demonstrated her vocal talent and imaginative interpretation of lyrics and melodies. Vocalist Carmen McRae once remarked: "There's really only one jazz singer—only one: Betty Carter." 

Carter studied piano at the Detroit Conservatory of Music in her native Michigan. At age 16 she began singing in Detroit jazz clubs, and after 1946 she worked in black bars and theatres in the Midwest, at first under the name Lorene Carter. 

Influenced by the improvisational nature of bebop and inspired by vocalists Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan, Carter strove to create a style of her own. Lionel Hampton asked Carter to join his band in 1948; however, her insistence on improvising annoyed Hampton and prompted him to fire her seven times in two and a half years.
 
Carter left Hampton’s band for good in 1951 and performed around the country in such jazz clubs as Harlem’s Apollo Theatre and the Vanguard in New York, the Showboat in Philadelphia, and Blues Alley in Washington, D.C., with such jazz artists as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker, and Thelonious Monk. 

 
                             

In 1961 Ms. Carter recorded what has become a classic album, ''Ray Charles and Betty Carter,'' with Mr. Charles; it features the pair singing astringent duets including a famous version of ''Baby, It's Cold Outside.'' Ms. Carter worked with Mr. Charles from 1960 to 1963, the year she toured Japan with Sonny Rollins and recorded an orchestral album for Atco Records. 

Through the 1960's Ms. Carter struggled with her career, recording with Roulette Records in the late 1960's, during which the avant-garde and pop music rendered some artists identified with an older style commercially irrelevant. Carter put her career on hold to get married. Her marriage did not last, however, and she returned to the stage in 1969 backed by a small acoustic ensemble consisting of piano, drums, and bass. In 1971 she released her first album on her own label, Bet-Car Productions.

Beginning in the 1970s, Carter performed on the college circuit and conducted several jazz workshops. After appearing at Carnegie Hall as part of the Newport Jazz Festival in 1977 and 1978, she went on concert tours throughout the United States and Europe. Her solo albums include Betty Carter (1953), Out There (1958), The Modern Sound of Betty Carter (1960), The Audience with Betty Carter (1979).

In 1988 Ms. Carter began a relationship with Verve Records that included the reissue of the Bet-Car label along with the recording of a series of new albums. That same year she released ''Look What I Got!,'' which won a Grammy, and in 1994 she recorded an album, ''Feed the Fire,'' with the pianist Geri Allen, the bassist Dave Holland and the drummer Jack DeJohnette. 


Also during the 1980's Ms. Carter, finally recognized for her innovations, became a concert draw internationally. She recorded duets with Carmen McRae, and she kept turning out well-rounded musicians, having trained them in her trio. Included in the alumni from the 1980's and the 1990's were the pianists Cyrus Chestnut, Benny Green, Stephen Scott, Marc Cary, Darrell Grant and Travis Shook. And her choice of drummers was extraordinary, having hired Greg Hutchinson, Clarence Penn, Winard Harper, Troy Davis and Lewis Nash.

Determined to encourage an interest in jazz among younger people, in April 1993 Carter initiated a program she called Jazz Ahead, an annual event at which 20 young jazz musicians spend a week training and composing with her. In 1997 she was awarded a National Medal of Arts by U.S. President Bill Clinton.  

Carter continued to perform, tour, and record, as well as search for new talent until she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the summer of 1998. She died on September 26, 1998, at the age of 69, and was later cremated.

(Info compiled and edited from Wikipedia, Britannica.com & NY Times obit)  
 
Here's a 1990 performance of "Droppin' Things"
 

Monday, 14 May 2018

Norman Luboff born 14 May 1917


Norman Luboff (May 14, 1917 - September 22, 1987) was an American music arranger, music publisher, and choir director. 

Norman Luboff was born Norman Kador Luboff in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Julius Luboff, an insurance salesperson, and Rose (maiden name unknown). Even though his parents discouraged him from entering the field of music, Norman was happily surrounded with music throughout his childhood and adolescence, enjoying his family’s amateur vocal harmonizing and his membership in his high school’s orchestra and choir.
 
Foreshadowing events to come, he even organized a small choir of his teenage peers whom he taught by rote to sing in four-part harmony. However, he did not consider music as a profession until 1935, after entering Chicago’s Central Y.M.C.A. College (later renamed Roosevelt University), from which he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in music in 1939. He did graduate work with the noted composer Leo Sowerby while singing and writing for some of the best radio programs in Chicago.  

In the mid-1940s, he moved to New York City to continue his career. With a call from Hollywood to be choral director of The Railroad Hour, a radio weekly starring Gordan McRae, Mr. Luboff entered a period of enormous artistic growth and accomplishment, including the scoring of many television programs and more than eighty motion pictures. He also recorded with America's most noted artists, including Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford, and Doris Day. 

In 1950, he established Walton Music Corporation, to publish his music. Luboff provided a vehicle for composers in Sweden to have their works available in the United States, including Egil Hovland and Waldemar Åhlén. Walton Music exists today as a major choral music publisher under the guidance of Luboff's widow, Gunilla Marcus-Luboff, a former Swedish television producer. 
 
 
                            

The first incarnation of the Norman Luboff Choir was formed during the mid-1950s. The Choir became one of the leading choral groups in the world, recording a wide variety of music on more than seventy-five LPs and touring yearly from 1963 to 1987 with titles including Calypso Holiday, Broadway!, Songs of the Cowboy (which won a Grammy for Best Performance By A Chorus in 1960) and Songs of the Caribbean.  Although their recording career came to a halt during the late 1960s, they continued touring until Luboff's death. 

As an educator, Mr. Luboff was in much demand, guest conducting all-state, clinic, and festival choirs of every description in the United States and abroad. In September of 1987, he died of lung cancer at his home in Bynum, North Carolina at the age of 70. The Norman Luboff Collection was donated to the Music Division of the United States Library of Congress in 1993 by his widow. 


Although a true professional in the choral world, Norman Luboff never lost his empathy for the musical layman. Two generations of choral directors have been profoundly influenced by his work. Millions of people continue to be magically touched by his wonderful legacy.
 
(Info edited from Wikipedia & www.singers.com & www. anb.com)


Sunday, 13 May 2018

Ginny Simms born 13 May 1913


Virginia Ellen Simms (May 13, 1913 – April 4, 1994) was an American popular singer and film actress. Simms sang with big bands and labelled with Dinah Shore, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Jo Stafford, and others. She also worked as an MGM and Universal film actress and appeared in 11 movies from 1939 to 1951, when she retired. 

Born Simms or Sims in San Antonio, Texas, Simms attended Fresno High School and Fresno State Teachers College, where she studied piano. She originally considered studying to become a concert pianist but enrolled instead at Fresno State Teachers College. While there, she began performing in campus productions, singing with sorority sisters and even forming a popular campus vocal trio. Shortly afterward, she struck out on her own to establish a solo singing career, and by 1932 she had her own program on a local radio station.  

In 1932, she became band vocalist for the Tom Gerun band in San Francisco, working together with other vocalists, including a young Tony Martin and Woody Herman. In 1934, she joined the Kay Kyser Orchestra, where she received her first national exposure, appearing on radio shows with Kyser. She also made three movies with Kyser: That’s Right You’re Wrong (1939) You'll Find Out (1940) and Playmates (1941). On April 6, 1941, Simms and Kyser also co-starred in Niagara to Reno on CBS radio's Silver Theatre. She nearly married Kyser but left his orchestra in September 1941 to do her own radio show. In the late 1930s, she decided to change her first name from Virginia to Ginny as she is still remembered today. 

Simms recorded extensively with Kay Kyser from 1935 -1941, also as "Ginny Simms and Her Orchestra." The new billing also gave her a chance to record for a new label, Vocalion. As a matter of fact, Ginny Simms' Orchestra on those sides is actually Kay Kyser's Orchestra, a fact confirmed by surviving members of the band in interviews with researcher Steve Beasley. With her increasing popularity, her records sold in the millions. She was dubbed the "official sweetheart" of more than a 100 college fraternities. She continued recording for several labels including Brunswick, Sunbeam, Okeh, Vocalion, Columbia, V-Disc, ARA (American Recording Artists), Sonora and TOPS until December 1960.
 
 
                               

She starred in several more movies, including: Here We Go Again (1942) as Jean Gildersleeve, with Edgar Bergen, Charlie McCarthy, and Jim Jordan & Marian Jordan (from Fibber McGee & Molly); Hit the Ice (1943) as Marcia Manning, with Abbott & Costello; Broadway Rhythm (1944) as Helen Hoyt, with George Murphy; and Cole Porter’s Night and Day (1946) as Carole Hill, with Cary Grant and Alexis Smith. 
Like many stars, Simms was active in entertaining troops during World War II. After the war ended, she continued to help servicemen. In 1947, a radio station's newsletter noted: "Now she is helping provide new homes for them. Ginny is sponsoring the construction of 450 homes for vets in Los Angeles.”

In 1951, Simms hosted a local television show on KTTV, channel 11, in Los Angeles which featured dance bands and talent from army, navy, marine, and air force bases around Southern California.. She acted in her last film, Disc Jockey also in 1951 and left Hollywood soon after. She eventually retired form recording as well and went on to manage a travel agency and also became interested in interior decorating. She also was involved in real estate with third husband Donald Eastvold. 

On June 5, 1993, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to her.  Ginny Simms died of a heart attack at the Desert Hospital in Palm Springs on April 4, 1994, aged 80, and is interred in Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California.


Simms was married three times, first (July 28, 1945 to March 1951) to Hyatt Hotels founder Hyatt von Dehn, with whom she had two sons: David (born in July 1946) and Conrad (born December 27, 1949). Her second marriage (June 27, 1951 to June, 1953) was to Bob Calhoun, and her third to former attorney general of the U.S. state of Washington Don Eastvold from June 22, 1962, until her death, by which time she had also become known as Virginia E. Eastvold.

(Compiled and edited from various sources mainly Wikipedia)
 

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Walter Wanderley born 12 May 1932


Walter Wanderley (born Walter Jose Wanderley Mendonça, 12 May 1932 – 4 September 1986) was a Brazilian organist and pianist, best known for his lounge and bossa nova music and for his instrumental version of the song Summer Samba which became a worldwide hit. With 46 recorded solo albums in his entire career, both in Brazil and the U.S., he reached number 26 on the Billboard pop charts in September 1966, opening a large pathway of success only menaced by himself and his complex character. 

Wanderley was born in Recife, Brazil. At five, he was already playing the piano. At 12, he attended the Licee of Arts for a year of theory classes, later studying harmony and arranging. Beginning his professional career while still in Recife, a most lively city with a vibrant cultural life, he worked every night either at the piano or at the organ. At 26, in 1958, he moved to São Paulo and immediately became an active player in nightclubs such as the Claridge, the Captain's Bar, and Oásis. Wanderley's first recording was in August 1959 for Odeon, with Carlos Lyra's "Lobo Bobo."

Backing his wife, Brazilian singer Isaurinha Garcia (with whom he had a daughter, Monica), he recorded for the second time one month later. At that time, he was Garcia's accompanist and arranger. He would record another six LPs accompanying Garcia and another 19 solo albums in Brazil for several labels; he was left out of some of the credits because of his contract with Philips. Wanderley became known on the artistic scene for recording young artists, like Marcos Valle, Tom Jobim, João Donato, and others, until then with no expression out of the
little nightclubs in which they performed on a nightly basis. But as the tunes and arrangements were fun to dance to, the albums sold very well.

Wanderley began an association with singer Claudette Soares in 1963, as an arranger and accompanist. His marriage was broken at this period. He also recorded for several renowned Brazilian singers in that time, among them Dóris Monteiro and Geraldo Vandré. It was when Tony Bennett saw Wanderley during a Brazilian tour and was taken by his playing. He urged Wanderley to move to the U.S. and, he himself talked about him to Verve Records producer Creed Taylor, also giving Taylor some of Wanderley's albums. After some insistence, Taylor sent contracts for Wanderley and his trio to record a single.  
 
 
                             

So in 1966, they recorded brothers Marcos and Paulo Sérgio Valle's "Samba de Verão" ("Summer Samba"). It was an instant success, with radio stations playing it four or five times per hour. In that same year, the LP Rain Forest came out, also selling very well and was certified platinum (one million units sold) in two years. The trio accompanied Astrud Gilberto on her A Certain Smile, a Certain Sadness album, also in 1966. He would record six more solo LPs or singles for Verve until the next year, and ten more in his career in the U.S. He always sold well and had a full performing schedule, in which local presentations at the San Francisco area were interspersed with some tours to Mexico. 

Wanderley was known for his distinctive staccato stuttering style and mastery of the Hammond B-3 organ and on later recordings and during live concerts a L Series Hammond. His later career was blighted by alcoholism and he died in relative obscurity of cancer in 1986 in San Francisco, California, aged 54. (Info edited from Wikipedia & AllMusic)

 

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Wayne Cochran born 10 May 1939


Talvin Wayne Cochran (May 10, 1939 – November 21, 2017) was an American soul singer, known for his outlandish outfits and white pompadour hairstyle. He was sometimes referred to as The White Knight of Soul. Cochran is best known today for writing the song "Last Kiss", which he performed with the C.C. Riders. 

Talvin Wayne Cochran was born on May 10, 1939, in Thomaston, Georgia, to Talvin A. Cochran, a cotton mill worker, and the former Mini Lee Starley, who came from a farming family. 

Influenced by the country and rhythm and blues music he heard on the radio, Cochran fronted his first band - a group called the Rockin' Capris - as a teenager, and eventually left high school to pursue music as a full-time career. He relocated to Macon, Georgia, where he befriended the soul singer Otis Redding and played bass guitar on Redding's early recording of "Shout Bamalama" and its B-side, "Fat Girl." 


He cut his first record, "My Little Girl," on Scottie in 1959. Cochran cut two singles for Gala in the early '60s  ("Funny 
Feeling" and "Liza Jane") before moving on to Confederate ("Linda Lu") and the Aire label ("Cindy Marie"). Cochran’s song “The Coo” earned a deal with King Records. He obviously loved cutting songs titled with women's names and the trend continued with "Little Orphan Annie." 
 

Wayne & Otis Redding

Cochran became close friends with King label-mate James Brown, whose stage show and road band influenced his own performing style and inspired him to assemble his own soul revue, the C. C. Riders, which occasionally featured as many as 14 musicians plus two female backing vocalists, the Sheer Delights. 
 
 
                              


Although his single recordings for King (including "Goin' Back To Miami", a song which became a signature tune for the singer) were not commercially successful beyond local markets in the south, Cochran's energetic performances, rigorous touring schedule and appearances on television talk shows such as The Jackie Gleason Show helped to make the C. C. Riders a popular attraction. In the mid-1960s, Cochran made Las Vegas his base of operations and played residencies at several hotels, casinos and theatres. During this time, he met and befriended Elvis Presley, from whom he borrowed elements for his own Las Vegas period, adopting jump suits similar to his wardrobe. 

Cochran recorded an album for Chess Records entitled Wayne Cochran! in 1967, which featured the blue-eyed soul and rhythm and blues style he had perfected on the road with his revue, but backed by session musicians for most of the cuts instead of his touring band. This was followed by a return to King and two further LPs, Alive & Well & Living... In A Bitch of A World and the instrumental High & Ridin', both in 1970.  

These albums saw the C. C. Riders' guitarist and musical director, Charles Brent, take an important creative role, and featured a jazz-influenced sound comparable to the Chicago Transit Authority or Blood, Sweat & Tears. Cochran also recorded a "live" album (actually a "live in the studio" record) for King sometime between 1967 and 1969, although this was only released in 2014, included in an Ace Records compilation, Goin' Back To Miami: The Soul Sides 1965-1970. Cochran recorded a final album, Cochran, for Epic Records in 1972. 

All the singing -- at the top of his lungs -- along with the usual musical excesses reduced his once-mighty voice to a fraction of what it was. By the time he started appearing on national television shows, the Wayne Cochran that thrilled throngs in Southern pits and Midwest holes was all show, the voice practically gone, so he ratcheted up the live shows with as much gloss as he could. 

Significant singles included a remake of Bob & Earl's "Harlem Shuffle," which bubbled onto the pop singles chart, and "Sleepless Nights." Cochran went through years of turmoil before becoming a born-again Christian and pastor; he started a ministry in 1981. He had a Miami reunion with the C.C. Riders on July 26, 2001 and on August 1, 2001 in Hollywood, Florida.  


He died after suffering from cancer in November 2017 in Miramar, Florida at 78 years of age. At the time of his death, he was three decades deep into serving as an evangelical minister in the Miami area.    (Compiled and edited mainly from Wikipedia & AllMusic)

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Fernandel born 8 May 1903


Fernand Joseph Désiré Contandin (8 May 1903 – 26 February 1971), better known as Fernandel, was a French actor, singer and comedian whose visual trademarks were comic facial contortions and a wide, toothy grin.

Fernandel came from a modest background and achieved success through hard work and incredible good fortune. His real name was Fernand Joseph Désiré Contandin and he was born in Marseille on 8th May 1903. Both of his parents had a passion for the music hall and would often perform, in an amateur capacity, comedy and musical numbers at concerts, although his father was an accountant by trade. Immediately after he left school, the young Fernand was given a job in a bank, but soon managed to get himself fired. 

 It was not long before Fernandel started to forge a career as a performer, appearing in café-concerts as a comic singer. To make ends meet, he found work doing odd jobs around Marseille. In 1925, aged 22, he married Henriette Manse, the sister of his best friend. They would have three children: Josette, Janine and Franck. Fernand was so attentive to his wife that his mother-in-law referred to him in amusement as Fernand d'elle. The term so appealed to the young comic that he decided to adopt it as his stage name, Fernandel. 

 After his military service in 1926, Fernandel quickly resumed his precarious career in comic theatre. In 1928, he went to Paris and made his mark at the Bobino, in a performance that led him to win a series of contracts that rapidly established him as a music hall comic. Watching one of Fernandel's shows was Marc Allégret, a film director who, impressed by what he saw, offered him his first screen roles in a series of comedy shorts and then his first part in a feature film. 

His appearance in Le Blanc et le noir (1930; “White and Black”) initiated a 40-year motion-picture career that included more than 100 films, seven of which were directed by the French master of comedy drama Marcel Pagnol. He became France's top comic actor. He was perhaps best loved for his portrayal of the irascible Italian village priest at war with the town's Communist mayor in the Don Camillo series of motion pictures. His horse-like teeth became part of his trademark. In several of his comedies, Fernandel was able to put his vocal talents to good use, and many of the numbers he sang in these films were released as hit records, including Barnabé and Ignace. 
 
 
                             

He also appeared in Italian and American films. His first Hollywood motion picture was 1956's Around the World in 80 Days in which he played David Niven's coachman. His popular performance in that film led to his starring with Bob Hope and Anita Ekberg in the 1958 comedy Paris Holiday. 

In addition to acting, Fernandel also directed or co-produced several of his own films. His profile was raised in Britain by the 60s TV advertisements for Dubonnet in which he would say "Do 'Ave A Dubonnet" 

By the 1960s, Fernandel's career was on the decline and virtually all of the films he appeared in throughout his last decade were of low quality and ill-received, shunned by both the critics and the cinema-going public. It was whilst filming Don Camillo et les contestataires in 1970 that the comic actor succumbed tolung cancer that would force him into an immediate retirement at the age of 66. After a long and exhausting period of medical treatment, he died from a heart attack on 28th February 1971, in his Paris apartment. He is buried in the Cimetière de Passy, Paris, France. 

Fernandel was a unique talent, a man with an unerring ability to make people laugh, loved by people of all ages throughout the world. He was publicly recognised for his work, receiving such honours as the Knight of the Legion of Honour (in 1953) and the Grand prix de l'Académie du disque for his narration of Les Lettres de mon moulin (in 1968). 

He had two daughters, Josette (1926) and Janine (1930), and son Franck (1935). His son, known as Franck Fernandel, became an actor and a singer. Franck acted alongside his father in two films, Gilles Grangier's L'âge ingrat and Georges Bianchi's En avant la musique. 

(Info various sources including Wikipedia)