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Friday, 31 March 2017

Red Norvo born 31 March 1908


Red Norvo (March 31, 1908 – April 6, 1999) was one of jazz's early vibraphonists, known as "Mr. Swing". He helped establish the xylophone, marimba and later the vibraphone as viable jazz instruments. His major recordings were "Dance of the Octopus", "Bughouse", "Knockin' on Wood", "Congo Blues", and "Hole in the Wall".  


Red Norvo was born Kenneth Norville in Beardstown, Illinois. The story goes that he sold his pet pony to help pay for his first marimba. Norvo's career began in Chicago with a band called "The Collegians", in 1925. He played with many other bands, including an all-marimba band on the vaudeville circuit, and the bands of Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, Charlie Barnet, and Woody Herman. Norvo recorded with Mildred Bailey (his wife), Billie Holiday, Dinah Shore and Frank Sinatra, among others. Together, Red and Mildred were known as "Mr. and Mrs. Swing." He also appeared in the film Screaming Mimi (1958), playing himself.  

In 1933 he recorded two sessions for Brunswick under his own name. The first "Knockin' On Wood" and "Hole In The Wall" pleased Brunswick's recording director Jack Kapp and he was booked for another session. This time, Kapp was out of town and Norvo went ahead and recorded two of the earliest, most modern pieces of chamber jazz yet recorded; Bix Beiderbecke's "In A Mist" and Norvo's own "Dance Of The Octopus", accompanied by Benny Goodman in a rare performance playing a bass clarinet, Dick McDonough on guitar and Artie Bernstein on slap bass. Kapp was outraged when he heard them and tore up Norvo's contract and threw him out. (Interestingly, this modern record remained in print all through the 1930s!)  
 
 
                              
 
Here’s a red hot jazz classic by Red Norvo and featuring many great jazz artists such as Bunny Berigan and Gene Krupa to name a few. Recorded Jan. 25, 1935. 

Norvo recorded 8 modern swing sides for Columbia in 1934–1935, and 15 sides of Decca and their short-lived Champion label series in 1936 (strangely enough, Jack Kapp ran Decca, so they must've patched things up by then).  

Starting in 1936 through 1942, Norvo formed a Swing Orchestra and recorded for ARC first on their Brunswick label, then Vocalion and finally Columbia, after CBS bought out the ARC company. Featuring the brilliant arrangements of Eddie Sauter and often featuring Mildred Bailey as vocalist, this series of recordings were among the more sophisticated and elegant swing records of the era. 

In 1938, Red Norvo and His Orchestra reached number one with their recordings of "Please Be Kind", which was number one for two weeks, and "Says My Heart", with lead vocals by Mildred Bailey, which was number one for four weeks on the pop charts, reaching number one during the week of June 18, 1938.  

In June 1945, while a member of the Benny Goodman Sextet, he recorded a session for Comet records using a Sextet which featured members of the Goodman group and also Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. He said: "Bird and Diz were dirty words for musicians of my generation. But jazz had always gone through changes and in 1945 we were in the middle of another one. Bird and Diz were saying new things in an exciting way. I had a free hand so I gambled".   

In 1949, while trying to find work near home on the West Coast and running into difficulties with large groups, Norvo formed a trio with the novel combination of vibes, guitar, and bass. When the original guitarist and bassist quit (Mundell Lowe and Red Kelly), he brought in two previously little-known players. Tal Farlow became one of the most important of the post-War generation of guitarists, in part because the demands of the trio led him to explore new levels of both speed and harmonic richness on the instrument. Farlow left the group in 1953 and guitarist Jimmy Raney took his place. Charles Mingus's prominence as a bass player increased through this group, though its repertoire did not reflect the major career he would develop as a composer. Mingus left in 1951 and Red Mitchell replaced him. The Norvo, Farlow and Mingus trio recorded two LPs for Savoy.  

In 1959 Norvo's group played concerts in Australia with Frank Sinatra; Blue Note released these recordings in 1997. Red Norvo and his group also made several appearances on The Dinah Shore Chevy Show in the late 1950s and early '60s.  

Norvo recorded and toured throughout his career until a stroke in the mid-1980s forced him into retirement (although he developed hearing problems long before his stroke). He died at a convalescent home in Santa Monica, California at the age of 91. (info from Wikipedia)


Thursday, 30 March 2017

Jay Traynor born 30 March 1943


John "Jay" Traynor (March 30, 1943 – January 2, 2014) was an American singer.

Traynor was a star-struck youth who wanted to break into the music business the first time he saw a rock & roll group perform at his high school when he was 15. It took a little bit of time, but his dream started coming together in an inauspicious way when he took up singing in the subway with a group of like-minded pals who called themselves  the Ab Tones. Mickey & Sylvia, who ran a production company and had already made a name for themselves with the single "Love Is Strange" in 1957, expressed interest in the fledgling singers, but a recording deal never materialized. Traynor dropped out of the Ab Tones.  

After settling in Brooklyn, Traynor lucked into his first professional gig sometime during the late '50s. The Mystics' lead vocalist had quit, and Traynor won the spot not only on the strength of his voice, but also because he could fit into the lead singer's costume. Traynor was the third lead vocalist of the Mystics, singing falsetto on "The White Cliffs of Dover", and lead on "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and "Blue Star".  

He was riding high, enjoying his first professional bus tour along the East Coast, which was orchestrated by the influential Alan Freed, until a misunderstanding put the breaks on his career. The Mystics' manager fired Traynor after he caught the singer going through his desk. Traynor contended that he was looking for a publicity photo of the group to pass along to a friend, but the manager fired him anyway.
 
 
                            


Traynor didn't stay down long. He soon got an invitation from Sandy Yaguda, who was putting a group together in New York with help from Kenny Rosenberg. Traynor became part of the Harbor Lites, which later evolved into Jay & the Americans. Traynor  sang lead on the group's first hit, "She Cried," which was followed up by the album She Cried. All recordings were produced by Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, who produced numerous artists and wrote many hits for Elvis Presley, the Drifters, the Coasters, and many more. 

Traynor left the Americans, releasing solo records, including "I Rise, I Fall" on the Coral label in 1964. His name on the label was denoted as "JAY ... formerly of Jay & the Americans". Later in the 1960s, he released "Up & Over", produced by Dennis Lambert for Don Costa Productions. The song became a big hit with the UK "Northern Soul" underground dance clubs.  

Traynor was replaced in the Americans by David Blatt, who agreed to perform under the stage name Jay Black. After working for Woodstock Ventures, the company that put on the "Woodstock" festival, Traynor began a career working behind the scenes with such 1970s acts as Mountain, West, Bruce & Laing, The Who, Ten Years After, Yes, and gospel singer Mylon LeFevre.

In 1977, Traynor moved to Albany, New York, near his roots in Greenville and worked at WNYT as a studio camera operator. He then performed with cover bands (George and "Friends"), jazz trios, and finally as the singer with the Joey Thomas Big Band, where his love for Frank Sinatra's music began. The Big Band put out a few CDs with Traynor, including Live On WAMC & The Sinatra Show. In 2006, Traynor received a call from Jay Siegel, and he toured with Jay Siegel's Tokens for the remainder of his life.

 
Traynor died of liver cancer at a hospital in Tampa, Florida on January 2, 2014; he was 70 years old. (Info edited from All Music & Wikipedia)

 

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Camille Howard born 29 March 1914

 

Camille Howard (March 29, 1914 – March 10, 1993) was an American rhythm and blues pianist and singer, who first came to prominence in Roy Milton's Solid Senders in the 1940s. Her most successful recordings included "R. M. Blues" (as Milton's pianist, 1945), "Thrill Me" (as singer with Milton, 1947), and her own "X-Temporaneous Boogie" (1948). 
 
She was born in Galveston, Texas, the daughter of Cecilia (née Hines) and Samuel Browning. Her birth was registered as Deasy Browning, but she grew up using the name Camille Agnes Browning. She learned piano and, during her teens, was a member of a local group, the Cotton Tavern Trio. By 1935 she was performing as a club musician in Galveston, as Camille Browning. 
 
In the early 1940s, as Camille Howard, she moved from Texas to California. By 1943, she became a member of the Roy Milton Trio, who recorded for Lionel Hampton's Hamp-Tone label in 1945. Milton's group then expanded to become a six- or seven-piece band, the Solid Senders, and they were signed by Art Rupe's Juke Box label, which later became Specialty Records. Howard's piano featured on singer and drummer Milton's first hit, "R. M. Blues", recorded in December 1945, on which "she plays seemingly unending, florid melodies with her right hand." The record reached number 2 on the Billboard R&B chart, and number 20 on the pop chart, in early 1946.
 

                              

The record was the first of many R&B hits for Milton on the Juke Box and Specialty labels. Following its success, Howard also made her first recordings under her own name for the small Pan-American label in 1946. She stayed with Milton's Solid Senders, and was the featured piano player on all their hits through the late 1940s and early 1950s. She was the vocalist on their number 5 R&B hit in 1947, "Thrill Me". 
 
After the success of "Thrill Me", Rupe began promoting her as a solo artist, and she had her first hit under her own name in 1948 with "X-Temporaneous Boogie", which reached number 7 on the R&B chart, and sold close to a quarter of a million copies. The track, a "roaring instrumental" in her characteristic "two-fisted thundering boogie style", was recorded with Milton and bassist Dallas Bartley, and was improvised at the end of her first recording session as leader, late on December 31, 1947; the following day, a ban on recordings imposed by the American Federation of Musicians came into effect.
She continued to play in Milton's band, and Milton was also a member of her Trio for recordings; they may have been married. Her own trio included Winston Williams (bass) and Walter Murden (drums), but she also performed occasionally with Milton, and toured with Jimmy Witherspoon, Little Willie Littlefield, Joe Liggins and others.

As well as continuing to record with Milton, Howard had 14 singles released under her own name by Specialty between 1948 and 1952, including both "storming boogies and sultry ballads". Her R&B chart hits included "You Don't Love Me" (1948), "Fiesta in Old Mexico" (1949), and "Money Blues (If You Ain't Got No Money, I Ain't Got No Use For You)" (1951).She also recorded with Witherspoon, Lillie Greenwood, and others. 
Her decision to leave Specialty in 1953, on the eve of the explosion of rock'n'roll, and sign for Federal, resulted in lower sales but a profile that was still high enough for her to found her own nightclub in Los Angeles (although she left the label shortly afterwards). She made her final recordings for Vee-Jay in 1956 and that year toured with Roy Brown, Little Willie John, The 5 Royales, and Joe Tex, but she had no more hits. 


She retired from the music business shortly afterwards. In a twist of irony, the music she presaged, rock'n'roll, would end her career (although her strong religious faith was also a contributory factor), and in later life she was was unwilling to talk about her career in secular music. She died in Los Angeles in 1993, aged 78. (Info mainly Wikipedia).

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Maurice Winnick born 28 March 1902


Maurice Winnick (28 March 1902 – 26 May 1962) was an English musician and dance band leader.  

b. 28 March 1902, Manchester, Lancashire, England, d. 26 May 1962, England. A child prodigy, Winnick studied violin at the Manchester College of Music before taking a job in a cinema orchestra, playing for silent films. While still in his teens, he led a band on a transatlantic liner and around this time also studied saxophone. In 1928 he formed a small dance band he took into Manchester’s Plaza and worked with artists such as the male soprano, Frank Colman.  

Winnick moved to Nottingham to take charge of the city’s Palais band, until then directed by Jan Ralfini but from the early 30s he was playing in London. He worked at prestigious venues such as the Hammersmith Palais de Danse, the Carlton Hotel, Ciro’s Club, the Casino Club, the San Marco Restaurant (where his singer was Sam Costa), and the Mayfair Hotel. With Costa, he had a popular recording success with ‘A Little Bit Independent’.  

Winnick unashamedly modelled his band’s style upon that of Guy Lombardo. Indeed, he used Lombardo’s charts with the full co-operation of both Guy and his arranger brother, Carmen Lombardo. Winnick’s theme tune at this time was ‘The Sweetest Music This Side Of Heaven’, a number from the Lombardo book the title of which summed up his place in the world of British dance band music.
 
 
                              

Winnick made several broadcasts with his band, including some shows direct from the San Marco. He occasionally worked on the Continent, including a summer engagement in 1938 at the Yacht Club in Deauville. The club was operated by French ex-boxer Georges Carpentier and Winnick’s orchestra shared the stand with a gypsy band that included guitarist Joseph Reinhardt, brother of Django Reinhardt. In the spring of 1939 Winnick began another top London hotel job, this time at Park Lane’s Dorchester Hotel where he took over from Harry Roy.  

During this period, Winnick was employing some of the best available musical talent, including Ted Heath, trumpeter Bill Shakespeare and American saxophonist Don Barrigo. For his radio shows, Winnick also hired top-flight singers, including Al Bowlly and Dorothy Carless. For the Dorchester job, Winnick had been obliged to cut the band down to 11 players but he chafed at the restrictions of this and quit after a year. Meanwhile, he had been continuing a successful recording career, making dance band records for several labels including Regal, Panachord and Edison Bell Winner. He continued to hire first-class talent for both playing and backroom skills, notably trombonist Don Lusher and arranger Robert Farnon.
 

Winnick and his wife boarding a train, bound for the coast and then New York, at Waterloo Station, London, January 19th 1949.
During World War II, Winnick retained his popularity and also toured Europe and the Middle East with ENSA, playing for the troops. He and his band appeared in some films in the 30s, including Gay Love (1934), which featured popular British entertainer Florence Desmond and the American vaudevillian, Sophie Tucker. Owing in great part to his espousing of the Lombardo style, Winnick became rather more distinctive than many of his contemporaries on the British dance band scene. 


After the war, Winnick disbanded but although his band leading days were over, he remained in show business, becoming a band contractor and producer in radio and television. He was behind the hugely popular BBC radio shows, Twenty Questions, which he imported from America, and Ignorance Is Bliss. In 1951 he acquired on behalf of the BBC the television rights for the popular American show, What’s My Line? 

In 1954 Winnick was part of the Kemsley-Winnick consortium,
which won the initial ITV weekend contracts for the Midlands and the North of England. But shortly after the award of the contracts, the consortium lost its primary financial backer, Lord Kemsley, resulting in its collapse.

However, Winnick did make it to commercial television in a way, as he produced at least two of their many early game shows: Two for the Money (1956-7) and I've Got a Secret (1956) with regular panellists Jon Pertwee, Catherine Boyle, Dick Bentley and Zoe Gail, both series based on US formats. 
He died after a long illness 26 May 1962 in Westminster, London, England, aged 60.   (Info mainly from All Music)
 

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Vic Schoen born 26 March 1916


Victor "Vic" Schoen (March 26, 1916 – January 5, 2000) was an American bandleader, arranger, and composer whose career spanned from the 1930s until his death in 2000.
 
He furnished music for some of the most successful persons in show business including Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Les Brown, Woody Herman, Gene Krupa, George Shearing, Jimmie Lunceford, Ray McKinley, Benny Carter, Louis Prima, Russ Morgan, Guy Lombardo, Carmen Cavallaro, Carmen Miranda, Gordon Jenkins, Joe Venuti, Victor Young, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, and his own The Vic Schoen Orchestra. 


Bob Hope, Vic Schoen, and Bing Crosby
Vic Schoen was one of busiest arranger/conductors in popular music from the late '30s through the '60s. Although never as acclaimed as contemporaries Nelson Riddle or Gordon Jenkins, he amassed an extraordinary record of successes working with Dinah Shore, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Ethel Merman, Andy Williams, and, most notably, the Andrews Sisters, his name and work attached to dozens of hit records and most of their biggest successes.  


Yvette and Vic Schoen circa 1942
Vic Schoen was born in Brooklyn, New York. He is one of the very few composer-arrangers who was self-taught. Early in his life, he learned to play trumpet and would bring music into his high school classes, which annoyed his teachers. He eventually dropped out of high school and started playing in nightclubs in New York City and in the bands of Leon Belasco, Gene Kardos, and Billy Swanson. He also learned how to write big band arrangements at this time by "trial and error".Schoen also wrote many of Count Basie's earlier arrangements in the mid-1930s.  

Fate played its hand in Schoen's career when he was hired by bandleader Leon Belasco to work with a young trio called the Andrews Sisters. He helped get them the radio appearance that led to an audition and recording contract with Decca Records late in 1937, and played on their all-important second recording session, which yielded "Bei Mir Bist du Schon," the first hit for the trio, in early 1938.
 
 
                             

Although the Andrews Sisters would occasionally record with established bands and, particularly in their later years at Decca, with Gordon Jenkins, Schoen became the arranger and conductor they most often worked with, he forming his own orchestra in 1938 and backing them on stage and on screen, as well as in the studio, for the next decade. Schoen, whose own self-taught approach to arranging probably made him compatible with the Andrews sisters -- none of whom could read music, became their closest creative partner, and was an essential part of the trio's sound during their biggest years. Even on songs that he didn't appreciate, such as "Beer Barrel Polka," his arrangements were successful, while on numbers like "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," which captured his interest, Schoen was downright inspired, even ascending to brilliance.  

His record of success with the Andrews Sisters quickly established Schoen as a much sought-after arranger and conductor, and the '40s were extremely busy years for him, occasionally with other singers, including Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Shore, Dick Haymes, Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby (including his hit "Don't Fence Me In"), but primarily with the Andrews Sisters. He remained associated with the trio until the end of the decade, when a combination of shifting personal relationships and changes in the public's musical taste led to his resignation.  

He moved on to arranging for Patti Page, the Weavers, Andy Williams, Pat Boone, and other major artists of the '50s, and also became an arranger for television. He also occasionally returned to work with the Andrews' at Capitol Records during the mid-'50s, even as he moved between labels for his own recordings, cutting pop instrumental albums for Decca, Kapp, and Liberty Records, and "space age" pop music for RCA, as well as a pair of bossa nova albums on the Mainstream label. 


Vic and Sally,
Schoen was married four times:Yvette Agnes Gowdy (1943–48) Kay Starr (1953) Marion Hutton (1954–87) and Sally-Jan Calbeck (1994–2000) 

After Schoen's wife Marion Hutton died in 1987, he married Sally-Jan Calbeck, an artist from Los Angeles. She moved to Seattle and after two years, they decided to move back to Los Angeles, finally settling in Corona del Mar. He participated in the Los Angeles musical scene and also attended ASMAC meetings.

Schoen died of pneumonia in Corona del Mar, California, in 2000.

(Info edited from All Music & Wikipedia)


Sunday, 19 March 2017

Michael Cox born 19 March 1940


Michael James Cox (born 19 March 1940) is a British-born former pop singer and actor. As Michael Cox, he had a top ten hit on the UK singles chart in 1960 with "Angela Jones", produced by Joe
Meek. He later worked as an actor, and in TV in New Zealand, using both his full name and the name Michael James. 

He was born in Liverpool. After his four younger sisters wrote to ABC TV demanding that he be given a chance to audition for the pop show Oh Boy!, he was quickly signed up by producer Jack Good, and made his first appearance on the show in April 1959 singing Ricky Nelson's "Never Be Anyone Else But You".Good won him a recording deal with Decca Records, and his first single, "Teenage Love", was written by Marty Wilde and featured Joe Brown on guitar. However, neither it nor its follow-up "Too Hot To Handle" were hits. 
 
 
 
 
 Cox continued to appear on TV, in Good's new show Boy Meets Girls, and Good recommended him to record producer Joe Meek, who at the time was setting up his own label, Triumph. His first record for Triumph was "Angela Jones", a song written by John D. Loudermilk which was a hit in the US for Johnny Ferguson. Cox's version of the song, produced by Meek, rose to #7 on the UK singles chart in June 1960, but its sales were reportedly hampered by the inability of Meek's small and newly formed record company to meet demand for it. The Triumph label collapsed, and Cox's follow-up, the similar-sounding "Along Came Caroline", also produced by Meek and co-written by Cox under the pseudonym Michael Steele, was released by the HMV label; it reached #41 on the chart and was Cox's only other hit. 

Cox toured Scandinavia to some degree of success, he was particularly popular in both Denmark & Sweden, and was backed by one of Joe Meek's regular bands. (This was either The Outlaws, who later featured guitarist Richie Blackmore, or The Checkmates - there seems to be some confusion as to who actually got the gig.) But his notoriety abroad could not be matched back in the UK and despite moving to His Master's Voice and reaching No.41 with "Along Came Caroline" just 2 months before his visit to Bridgwater, his days as a pop star were numbered. ("Along Came Caroline" incidentally was a blatant re-write of "Angela Jones" - so much so that the character appears in the song's lyrics.) Cox also recorded for both Pye & Parlophone but with little success, consequently during the mid-60's he eventually abandoned his singing career to concentrate on acting. 


In 1966 he appeared opposite Wilfred Brambell & Sid James in the  James Bond spoof "Where The Bullets Fly" as a character called Lt. Guyfawkewife.  He started making appearances in the US, eventually emigrating there, before moving on to live in New Zealand. There, he continued to work on TV, credited as Michael James.

 
Today he still plays the cabaret circuit and has also acted in several minor film productions. (Info edited mainly from Wikipedia)
 

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Wilson Pickett born 18 March 1941


Wilson Pickett (March 18, 1941 – January 19, 2006) was an American R&B, soul and rock and roll singer and songwriter. A major figure in the development of American soul music, Pickett recorded over 50 songs which made the US R&B charts, many of which crossed over to the Billboard Hot 100. Among his best-known hits are "In the Midnight Hour" (which he co-wrote), "Land of 1,000 Dances", "Mustang Sally", and "Funky Broadway". 

Born in Prattville, Ala., Mr. Pickett was one of 11 children; he told interviewers that he had suffered an abusive childhood. As a teenager he moved to Detroit, where he formed a gospel band, the Violinaires that performed in local churches. But his chance at pop fame emerged in 1961, when he was invited to join the Falcons, an R & B act that had already scored a Top 20 hit, "You're So Fine." 

While the Falcons enjoyed modest success, Mr. Pickett struck out on his own, recording the song "If You Need Me." His performance hit the market at roughly the same time the soul singer Solomon Burke released his own version. Still, both treatments sold well, and Mr. Pickett soon had a contract with Atlantic Records who sent him to record at Stax in Memphis in 1965.  
 
 
                            

 
One early result was "In the Midnight Hour," whose chugging horn line, loping funky beats, and impassioned vocals combined into a key transitional performance that brought R&B into the soul age. It was an R&B chart-topper and a substantial pop hit (number 21), though its influence was stronger than that respectable position might indicate: thousands of bands, black and white, covered "In the Midnight Hour" on-stage and record in the 1960s.
 
Most of his songs were recorded in Memphis or Muscle Shoals, Ala., which at the time were the hotbeds of soul recording activity in the South. His sidemen included Southern musicians like the guitarist Steve Cropper (who co-wrote "Midnight Hour" and other

songs with Mr. Pickett) and, later, the guitarist Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers.

He soon found himself with the nickname "Wicked Pickett" -- which has been described as a reference both to his screaming delivery and to his offstage behaviour. 
 
Pickett had a flurry of other galvanizing soul hits over the next few years, including "634-5789," "Mustang Sally," and "Funky Broadway," all of which, like "In the Midnight Hour," were frequently adapted by other bands as dance-ready numbers. The king of that hill, though, had to be "Land of 1000 Dances," Pickett's biggest pop hit (number six), a soul anthem of sorts with its roll call of popular dances, and covered by almost as many acts as "Midnight Hour" was. He also earned a reputation as one of music's most compelling live performers, delivering stage shows in which he mixed gospel-tinged solemnity with funk stylings that evoked James Brown. 
 
Pickett didn't confine himself to the environs of Stax for long; soon he was also cutting tracks at Muscle Shoals. He recorded several early songs by Bobby Womack. He used Duane Allman as a session guitarist on a hit cover of the Beatles' "Hey Jude." He cut some hits in Philadelphia with Gamble & Huff productions in the early '70s. He even did a hit version of the Archies' "Sugar, Sugar." The hits kept rolling through the early '70s, including "Don't Knock My Love" and "Get Me Back on Time, Engine Number 9." 

One of the corollaries of '60s soul is that if a performer rose to fame with Motown or Atlantic, he or she would produce little of note after leaving the label. Pickett, unfortunately, did not prove an exception to the rule. His last big hit was "Fire and Water," in 1972. He continued to be active on the tour circuit; his most essential music, all from the 1960s and early '70s, was assembled for the superb Rhino double-CD anthology A Man and a Half. Pickett was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, in recognition of his impact on song writing and recording. 

His first album in more than a decade -- 1999's "It's Harder Now" -- was honoured with a Grammy nomination for best traditional rhythm and blues vocal performance. In 2000, he picked up three W. C. Handy Awards from the Blues Foundation, including one for comeback album of the year. 

Pickett spent the early part of the 2000s performing, before retiring in late 2004 due to ill health. He passed away on January 19, 2006, following a heart attack. (Info edited mainly from All Music & NY Times)