Home > In Memoriam > In Memoriam – January 2017

In Memoriam – January 2017

February 2nd, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

The first month of January might have spared us the death of superstars, but the Grim Reaper wrought almost as great carnage in his domain as the Orange Horror Clown did in his.Perhaps the most famous name to be struck off the roll call of the living was that of Peter Sarstedt, the British folk-rock singer who suffered the double-edged sword of having an enduring mega-hit that came to define him. It didn’t help that this hit, Where Do You Go To My Lovely?, became one of those songs that gained a reputation, to the point of perceived wisdom, of being awful. While one can see how it might not be everybody’s cup of herbal tea, it didn’t merit this derision — it is a fine song. And Sarstedt did not deserve to be defined by his big hit; he actually had better songs than that, including Where Do You…’s flip-side, I am A Cathedral.

One of the premier jazz labels in the 1950s and ‘60s was Verve, and arranger and conductor Buddy Bregman was there from the start in 1956, having been appointed head of A&R by the label’s great founder, Norman Granz, at only 25. As part of his A&R job, he brought Bing Cosby to the label. But it was as an arranger that he made his name — so much so that it appeared on the title of Cosby’s first album for Verve, the platinum-seller Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings. Bregman also arranged the label’s first album, the classic Ella Fitzgerald Sings Cole Porter (he’d also arrange some of Ella’s subsequent songbook albums). Bregman arranged for the likes of Count Basie, Anita O’Day, Fed Astaire, Rosemary Clooney, Judy Garland, Louis Armstrong, Sammy Davis Jr., Peggy Lee, Bobby Darin, Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, Jerry Lewis, Ricky Nelson, Paul Anka, Buddy Rich, Gogi Grant, Eydie Gormé, Johnny Mercer, Coleman Hawkins, Eddie Fisher (on whose TV show he was musical director), Carmen McRae, and Ethel Merman. He also presented his own TV show in the late 1950s, and scored or orchestrated several films in the 1950s and ‘60s, including Bob Fosse’s The Pajama Game. In the 1960s he worked in Britain for a while, as head of light entertainment on the ITV television station.

It wasn’t a good month for Buddys who once lived in England.  Two days after Bregman, the jazz vocalist and pianist Buddy Greco died at 90. He was performing from seven years of age, including appearances on the radio. Greco’s professional music career began in 1942 when at the age of 16 he joined Benny Goodman’s touring band. By the time he left Goodman four years later, Greco was an experienced singer, pianist and arranger. In 1947 he scored his first US chart hit — Ooh! Look-A There, Ain’t She Pretty — which peaked at #15. Many more hits followed, including his greatest in 1960 with a version of The Lady Is A Tramp. Unusually for singers in his genre, he lived much of his time in England, where he had great success on stage (though none in the charts, other than a middling position with The Lady Is A Tramp). He was still performing on stage until a couple of years ago, marking his 80th anniversary as a performer with a concert in 2013.

The lifestory of South African jazz singer Thandi Klaasen might make for a pretty good movie. Having reached adulthood just as the apartheid regime was putting its racist boot on the throats of South Africa’s black people, Klaasen became a young singing sensation in early 1950s Sophiatown, a township that was the capital of jazz in Johannesburg, by breaking the male monopoly with her all-female vocal quartet, the Quad Sisters. It paved the way for other female Sophiatown artists, such as Miriam Makeba and Dolly Rathebe. Klaasen, a woman of formidable character, also taught the pretty singers how to deal with the sexual advances of the assorted gangsters and thugs who formed a large part of their audiences. In 1961 Klaasen featured with Makeba in the  London run of the all-black jazz-musical King Kong, which served as a requiem for Sophiatown after it had been ethnically-cleansed and torn down by the apartheid regime.

Klaasen was prolific mostly as a stage performer, but that might have ended in 1977 when she was disfigured by an acid attack on her face, allegedly by “rivals”. After more than a year in hospital, she drew from that immense inner strength to reboot her career. She became an icon not only for her contralto and jazz-scatting, but also for her defiance of fate’s cruel tricks. Among the mourners at her funeral was South Africa’s former president, Thabo Mbeki. On February 3, 1959 a bunch of musicians on a tour tossed coins to see who could fly to the next venue, and who’d suffer the mid-winter journey on the beat-up bus. Guitarist Tommy Allsup lost the toss to Richie Valens — and lived for another almost 58 years. After rock music’s most famous plane crash, Allsup, who was a member of Buddy Holly’s Crickets, completed the tour, which was joined by a young Bobby Vee, who also recently died.  Allsup had recorded with Holly (for example on Heartbeat) and previously toured with Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys. Later he backed acts like Bobby Vee, Johnny Cash, The Everly Brothers, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Mother Maybelle Carter, Faron Young, George Jones, Leon Russell, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jean Shepard, Tom T Hall, Billie Jo Spears, Reba McEntire, Charlie Rich, Marty Robbins, Asleep At The Wheel and Elvis Costello.

A year and five days after Mott the Hoople drummer Dale Griffin died, bassist Pete Overend Watts followed him. Watts and Griffin were also fellow band members in The Soulents, one of the two groups that would morph into the Hoople. It was Watts who confided to David Bowie that the band was about to split due to their lack of success. Bowie offered them his song Suffragette City, which the band turned down. Instead, Bowie wrote All The Young Dudes for them, providing their breakthrough hit in 1972. Within four years, the band had burnt out. Watts, Griffin and Mott keyboardist Morgan Fisher carried on as British Lions, releasing two modesty successful albums. Watts later went into production. He died on January 22 of throat cancer.

On the same day Watts died, German drummer Jaki Liebezeit said his final Auf Wiedersehen. For drum connoisseurs, the drummer of the legendary Krautrock band Can ranks among the greats, crediting him with innovation and a funkiness you’d not immediately expect from a German. As a resident of Cologne, he recorded with a few local acts that sang in the city’s local dialects, and mentored upcoming Neue Deutsche Welle acts like Joachim Witt. He drummed on early Eurythmics and later Depeche Mode records, and collaborated extensively with poet-singer-guitarist Jah Wobble. Liebezeit is one of the central voices in David Stubbs’ magisterial 2014 book on Krautrock, Future Days (the book was named after a Can album), which has been translated into several languages, including Japanese.

In the world of soul, Marvell Thomas was something of royalty: his father was the hugely influential Rufus Thomas, who was called “Memphis’ Other King”, his sister was the erstwhile Queen of Soul, Carla Thomas. Marvell was more of a behind-the-scenes guy, playing the keyboard and organ on the records of others produced on Stax and at Muscle Shoals — among them the flip-side of Rufus’ and Carla’s 1960 duet Deep Down Inside, Stax’s first big hit. From the ‘70s onwards he backed the likes of Wilson Picket, Clarence Carter, Duane Allman, Mavis Staples, Denise LaSalle, The Soul Children, Inez Foxx, Shirley Brown (including on Woman To Woman), Yvonne Elliman, Albert King, Tony Joe White, Irma Thomas, Pops Staples, Margie Joseph, among others. He wrote several songs, arranged others, and — by the way — also co-produced Isaac Hayes’ classic Hot Buttered Soul album.Actor Miguel Ferrer was best-known as an actor, especially in RoboCop and the TV series Twin Peak and NCIS: Los Angeles. But the son of actor José Ferrer and the legendary singer Rosemary Clooney (and therefore George Clooney’s cousin), Ferrer also had a career as a backing and session drummer. He was only 21 when he backed Bing Crosby on his 60th anniversary concert in 1976. The year before, he played the drums on Who drummer Keith Moon’s solo album.

Auriel Andrew was not your archetypal country singer. For one thing, she was Australian; for another, she was an Aborigine (her skin name was Mbitjana and her totem the hairy Caterpillar). It seems that the Aboriginal community has a rich tradition of making country music, going back to the 1940s, a time when the term “country” wasn’t even in use yet. A protégé of the godfather of the genre, Jimmy Little, Auriel Andrew was one of its biggest stars in the 1970s and ‘80s, and kept performing and recording until recently.  She was the first Aboriginal woman to perform on Australian television, and appeared in a couple of episodes of the TV soap A Country Practice in 1983. Once she also performed for Pope John Paul II in Pitjantjitjara. She stood in the line, shook his hand, and then joined the back of the line to shake his hand again.

In the canon of Beatles history, Magic Alex has a poor reputation. Known to his mom as Alexis Mardas, the Greek electronics engineer had struck up a friendship with John Lennon, who was impressed by the lightshow Magic Alex had produced for The Rolling Stones. Lennon brought Magic Alex to Apple where he declared the Abbey Road studios with the 8-track recording system as inadequate, and built a 72-track system in Apple’s Savile Row studio. It was a disaster: in the end the expensive mixing desk he devised was sold for scrap, recouping a full £5. When Allen Klein became Beatles manager, Magic Alex was fired in short order. Mardas wasn’t a complete fool, however. He devised a telephone that dialled by voice recognition and displayed the numbers of callers — not unlike what another outfit named Apple would offer a few decades later. Magic Alex was also central in Lennon’s sordid split from Cynthia: it was he who delivered the message that John was leaving her for Yoko Ono.

The death of sound engineer Bill Price on December 22 was announced only in mid-January. Engineers don’t really get much attention, but their contribution to the production of records is crucial. Price was involved in engineering some pop classics, including Tom Jones’ It’s Not Unusual and What’s New Pussycat, Engelbert Humperdinck’s The Last Waltz and Release Me, Los Bravos’ Black Is Black, possibly The Flirtations’ Nothing But A Heartache, Marmalade’s Reflections Of My Life, Wings’ Live And Let Die (as co-engineer), Mott the Hoople’s All The Way From Memphis (which gives us an overlap in light of Peter Overend Watts’ death), Tom Robinson Band’s Glad To Be Gay, Boomtown Rats’ She’s So Modern, The Clash’s London Calling, Pretenders’ Brass In Pocket, Kid, Stop Your Sobbing, Talk Of The Town and I Go To Sleep, Elton John’s I’m Still Standing , Blue Eyes, I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues and Kiss The Bride, Black’s Everything’s Coming Up Roses, Guns N’ Roses’ November Rain (the LP mix), and much more. His resumé as a producer is shorter, but it includes The Sex Pistols’ Pretty Vacant, The Clash’s I Fought The Law and the Jesus And Mary Chain’s triple whammy of April Skies, Darklands and Happy When It Rains.My intimate knowledge of Colombian rock is not flawless, so I had no idea who Elkin Ramírez was. It turns out that he was about the biggest rock star in the Latin American country. As frontman of the hard rock band Kraken, he was generally known as Colombia’s Freddie Mercury — so much so that there were rumours that he’d replace Freddie in Queen. The Medellín band began its rise to fame in the mid-’80s. Their last album was released in 2015, when Ramírez was diagnosed with the brain tumor that killed him at 54.

A second ex-King Crimson and future superband member died this month in singer-bassist John Wetton, a month after Greg Lake departed. They were Crimson members at different times, but like Lake, Wetton enjoyed his biggest success as part of a superband, Asia. In between finishing his two-year stint with King Crimson in 1974 and co-founding Asia in 1982, he was also a member of Wishbone Ash, UK and Uriah Heep. He also had session stints with Roxy Music on their live album and various solo albums by all of its members.

A hallmark of the sound created by The Allman Brothers, besides that guitar, was the use of two drummers: Butch Trucks provided the thundering backbeat, Jaimoe Johanson the funky syncopation (also using percussions). Butch remained the one constant in the 46-year span of the Allman Brothers Band, a group he co-founded with the brothers Duane and Greg. The band broke up for good in 2014, and Trucks continued to perform, latterly leading the group Les Brers, which features various Allman alumni, including Jaimoe. Butch last performed on stage on January 6. Eighteen days later the 69-year-old drumming legend put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

 

Bill Price, 72, sound engineer and producer, on Dec. 22
Tom Jones – It’s Not Unusual (1965, as engineer)
Sex Pistols – Pretty Vacant (1977, as producer)
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Happy When It Rains (1987)

Auriel Andrew, 69, Australian country musician, on Jan. 2
Auriel Andrew – Truck Driving Woman (1970)

Elliot Meadow, 71, Scottish-born jazz producer, broadcaster and writer, on Jan. 4
Claire Martin – You Hit The Spot (1991, as producer)

Mike ‘Jefe’ Gaborno, 51, singer of Chicano punk group Manic Hispanic, on Jan. 4

Sylvester Potts, 78, singer with soul group The Contours, on Jan. 6
The Contours – Do You Love Me (1962)
The Contours – It’s Growing (1974)

Johnny Dick, 73, Australia-based rock drummer, on Jan. 6
Johnny Dick ‎- The Warrior (1975)

Eddie Kamae, 89, ukuleleist with Sons of Hawaii, on Jan. 7

Peter Sarstedt, 75, English singer-songwriter, on Jan. 8
Peter Sarstedt – I Am A Cathedral (1969)
Peter Sarstedt – Frozen Orange Juice (1969)

Buddy Bregman, 86, producer, arranger and composer, on Jan. 8
Anita O’Day – Fine And Dandy (1956, as arranger and conductor)
Bing Crosby & Buddy Bregman – Have You Met Miss Jones (1956, as arranger and conductor)
Ella Fitzgerald – Anything Goes (1956, as arranger and conductor)

Crazy Toones, 45, hip-hop producer and DJ, on Jan. 9

Buddy Greco, 90, jazz singer and pianist, on Jan. 10
Buddy Greco – Ooh! Look-A-There, Ain’t She Pretty? (1947)
Buddy Greco – The Lady Is A Tramp (1960)
Buddy Greco – Like A Rolling Stone (1969)

Tommy Allsup, 85, rockabilly, pope & country guitarist, and arranger, on Jan. 11
Buddy Holly – Heartbeat (1958, on lead guitar)
Bobby Vee – Take Good Care Of My Baby (1961, on guitar)
Kenny Rogers – The Gambler (1978, on bass)

Meir Banai, 55, Israeli singer, on Jan. 12

Larry Steinbachek, 56, keyboardist of Bronski Beat, announced on Jan. 12
Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy (1984)

Jan Stoeckart, 89, Dutch composer, conductor and trombonist, on Jan. 13
Simon Park Orchestra – Eye Level (Van der Valk Theme) (1972, as composer)

Alexis ‘Magic Alex’ Mardas, 74, Greek electronics engineer, on Jan. 13

Richie Ingui, 70, singer with the Soul Survivors, on Jan. 13
Soul Survivors – Expressway To Your Heart (1967)
Soul Survivors – City Of Brotherly Love (1974)

Alan Jabbour, 74, fiddler and folklorist, on Jan. 13

Mark Fisher, 48, British music journalist and cultural theorist, on Jan. 13

Greg Trooper, 61, American singer-songwriter, on Jan. 15
Steve Earle – Little Sister (1988, as writer)
Greg Trooper – Good Luck Heart (2013)

Thandi Klaasen, 86, South African jazz singer, on Jan. 15
Thandi Klaasen – Sophiatown (2007)

William Onyeabor, 70, Nigerian singer-songwriter, on Jan. 16
William Onyeabor – Better Change Your Mind (1978)

Charles ‘Bobo’ Shaw, 69, free jazz drummer, on Jan. 16

Steve Wright, bassist of the Greg Kihn Band, on Jan. 16
Greg Kihn Band – The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em) (1981)

Franz Jarnach, 72, keyboardist of German band The Rattles (1991-95), actor, on Jan. 16

Mike Kellie, 69, English multi-instrumentalist and producer, on Jan. 19
Spooky Tooth – That Was Only Yesterday (1969, as member)
The Only Ones – You’ve Got To Pay (1979, as member)

Miguel Ferrer, 61, actor and session musician, on Jan. 19
Keith Moon – Don’t Worry Baby (1975, on drums)

Loalwa Braz, 63, Brazilian singer-songwriter, on Jan. 19
Kaoma – Lambada (1989, on vocals)

Frank Thomas, 80, French songwriter, on Jan. 20
Françoise Hardy – Des bottes rouges de Russie (1969, as writer)

Bingo Mundy, 76, singer with doo wop band The Marcels, on Jan. 20
The Marcels – Blue Moon (1961; Mundy sings the “Moon, moon, moon, moon, moon” line)

Joey Powers, 82, pop singer, songwriter, producer, on Jan. 20
Joey Powers – Midnight Mary (1963)

Maggie Roche, 65, songwriter and singer with The Roches, on Jan. 21
The Roches – No Shoes (2007)

Karl Hendricks, 46, singer, songwriter and guitarist, on Jan. 21
The Karl Hendricks Trio – The Last Bus (1992)

Pete Overend Watts, 69, English bassist of Mott the Hoople, on Jan. 22
Mott The Hoople – Thunderbuck Ram (1970)
Mott The Hoople – Honaloochie Boogie (1973)

Jaki Liebezeit, 78, drummer of German rock band Can, on Jan. 22
Can – Moonshake (1973)
Zeltinger Band – So wie ein Tiger (1979, on drums)
Depeche Mode – The Bottom Line (1997, on percussions)

Marvell Thomas, 75, American keyboardist, on Jan. 23
Carla & Rufus Thomas – Cause I Love You (1960)
The Soul Children – All That Shines Ain’t Gold (1972, on piano)

Butch Trucks, 69, drummer of the Allman Brothers Band, of suicide on Jan. 24
Allman Brothers Band – Southbound (1973)
Allman Brothers – Old Before My Time (2003)

Gil Ray, 60, drummer of power pop bands Game Theory, The Loud Family, on Jan. 24
Game Theory – Erica’s Word (1986)

Björn Thelin, 74, bassist of Swedish guitar band The Spotnicks, on Jan. 24
The Spotnicks – The Rocket Man (1962)

Ronald ‘Nambo’ Robinson, Jamaican singer and musician, on Jan. 25
Ronald ‘Nambo’ Robinson – Sunset (2001)

Ronnie Davis, 66, Jamaican reggae singer, on Jan. 26
Ronnie Davis – Jah Jah Jehovah (1977)

Geoff Nicholls, 68, keyboardist of Black Sabbath, Quartz, on Jan. 28
Quartz – Street Fighting Lady (1977)
Black Sabbath – Die Young (1980)

Guitar Gable, 79, swamp blues singer, on Jan. 28
Guitar Gable with King Karl – This Should Go On Forever (1959)

Elkin Ramírez, 54, singer of Colombian rock band Kraken, on Jan. 29
Kraken – Muere Libre (1987)

James Laurence, 27, half of instrumental hip hop duo Friendzone, on Jan. 30

John Wetton, 67, singer and bassist of Asia, King Crimson, on Jan. 31
King Crimson – Fallen Angel (1974)
John Wetton – Caught In The Crossfire (1980)
Asia – Heat Of The Moment (1982)

GET IT! (PW in comments)

Previous In Memoriams

Keep up to date with dead pop stars on Facebook

 

Be Sociable, Share!
Categories: In Memoriam Tags:
  1. halfhearteddude
    February 2nd, 2017 at 07:08 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Tony
    February 2nd, 2017 at 16:35 | #2

    Two were missed on your list.
    Deke Leonard of Man
    Bobby Freeman

  3. Clarence Jones
    February 2nd, 2017 at 19:46 | #3

    John Wetton, incredible work on the Red album.

  4. halfhearteddude
    February 2nd, 2017 at 21:20 | #4

    Both were reported after I put this In Memoriam to bed. They’ll feature next month

  5. RhodB
    February 3rd, 2017 at 22:29 | #5

    Thanks Amd

    Great work once again.

    Regards

    RhodB

  6. J. Loslo
    February 4th, 2017 at 18:27 | #6

    Thanks for these. Thandi Klaasen is a revelation to me.

    Kraken’s style isn’t something that generally appeals to me, but the song won me over by being so gleefully over-the-top.

  7. dogbreath
    February 7th, 2017 at 16:37 | #7

    Dragged out my old Mott the Hoople and Quartz albums to to give ’em a loud play to mark the deaths listed above; both bands have now lost two members in the past year. And now John Wetton and Deke Leonard, who I seem to have been listening to for ever, have gone. Thanks as ever for putting it all together. Cheers!

  1. No trackbacks yet.