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In Memoriam – June 2018

The man behind Elvis

Did rock & roll drumming take off with Elvis Presley’s drummer D. J. Fontana? No doubt, his stickwork on hits like Hound Dog — which must have sounded like punk to 1950s ears — helped create a template for the future. During a Louisiana Hayride tour in 1955 he joined a drummer-less group called the Blue Moon Boys — guitarist Scotty Moore, bassist Bill Black and rhythm guitarist and singer Elvis Presley. He’d remain with Elvis for the next 15 years, playing on most of his hits and backing him on the 1968 comeback TV special. He was the last surviving of the four.

End of a 79-year career

In 1939, at the age of nine, Clarence Fountain was one of the founding members of the gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama. He remained with the group, even during a ten-year-long attempt to make it as a solo artist, until 2007 when he retired from performing; but even then continued to record with them. In the process he and his bandmates, almost all of them actually blind, became legends in the genre of gospel. Their first recording was 1948’s I Can See Everybody’s Mother But Mine. As soul music pushed gospel to the margins, the band was tempted to go secular but refused. Fountain said they were contented with what they had and remained committed to singing for the Lord. They steadily released gospel albums, but were “rediscovered” in the 1990s, winning a number of Grammys, leading to profitable collaborations with secular acts. Their version of Tom Wait’s Down In The Hole served as the theme for The Wire for a season. Fountain is survived by fellow founding member Jimmy Carter, who still performs with the band.

The Blues Brother

In the movie, the henpecked Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy didn’t think what he was going to do to Aretha Franklin and went on to join The Blues Brothers on their Mission of God. Murphy had played with The Blues Brothers — a supergroup of blues and soul session men fronted by actors Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi — after a long career playing with the greats of blues, from Ike Turner and Howlin’ Wolf to Chuck Berry, Memphis Slim, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Albert King, Etta James, Otis Rush and so on.

Fleetwood Mac’s ‘unsung hero’

Guitarist Danny Kirwan has been called the “forgotten hero of Fleetwood Mac”, the band he belonged to from 1968-72. It’s his slide guitar that supports Peter Green’s lead on the band’s early instrumental hit Albatross, but in their coked-up LA pomp Fleetwood Mac were rather a different band from the blues-rock outfit Kirwan and Green were part of. The flip-side of Albatross, titled Jigsaw Puzzle Blues, was written by the then-18-year-old. Kirwan has been described as a crucial creative force in the band prior to his involuntary 1972 departure. He released some solo material but increasingly struggled with mental illness and alcoholism, culminating in homelessness at one point.

The Veteran guitarist

Guitarist Bob Bain, who has died at 94 on an unspecified day in June, backed some of the great vocalists, including Billie Holiday (among others, on God Bless This Child), Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Mahalia Jackson, Nat King Cole (apparently on Unforgettable), Rosemary Clooney, Sammy Davis, Duke Ellington, Billy Eckstine, Ricky Nelson, Sam Cooke and others. He also played for Henry Mancini (apparently also on the Peter Gunn and Mission:Impossile themes) and on several TV scores. For 22 years he played in Doc Severinsen’s Tonight Show Band. He made his last recording in 2008 and last played on stage in 2015, some 70 years after debuting with Harry James and his Orchestra.

The jazz guardian

She was not a musician, but Lorraine Gordon made an indelible contribution to jazz, first as the wife of Blue Note co-founder Alfred Lion, whom she married in 1942, and then as the wife of Max Gordon, owner of the career-making Village Vanguard jazz club in New York’s Greenwich Village. After Max’s death in 1989 she closed the club for a day, and re-opened it the following day under her management. A peace and women’s activist in the 1960s, Gordon also wrote to keep the memory of jazz alive.

The doo wop legend

The Jive Five came on to the doo wop scene rather late in the genre’s heyday, but they turned out to be one of its longer-running acts, in part thanks to the band’s ability to jump on to the soul train in the mid-1960s. With the death this month of lead singer Eugene Pitt, I think only one member of the original line-up is still alive, Billy (Thurmond) Prophet. I was working on a mix of songs featuring in The Sopranos just days before I learnt of Pitt’s death; the Jive Five’s 1961 song What Time Is It? is very much in contention (it featured in Season 1, the scene where Tony dreams of getting head from Dr Melfi).

The Catholic satanist

You wouldn’t expect a devout Roman Catholic to play in a band called Deicide, which is led by a professed Satanist, and proclaim as his favourite song one whose title calls for the death of Jesus. Yet, so it was with metal guitarist Ralph Santolla, who has died at 51 following a heart attack. Many Deicide fans, who unsurprisingly are hostile to the Christianity, apparently didn’t really like Santolla and reportedly even issued death threats against him over his Catholic ways. But Santolla said he’d not betray his faith just to be liked. When he eventually left Deicide, it was over mundane business matters.

 

Demba Nabé, 46, member of German dancehall/rap group Seeed, on May 31

Eddy Clearwater, 83, blues singer and guitarist, on June 1
Eddy Clearwater – I Wouldn’t Lay My Guitar Down (1980)

Clarence Fountain, 88, founding member of gospel band The Blind Boys of Alabama, on June 3
The Blind Boys of Alabama – I Can See Everybody’s Mother But I Can’t See Mine (1948)
Clarence Fountain – Ain’t No Way (1974)
The Blind Boys of Alabama – Way Down In The Hole (2001)
The Blind Boys of Alabama with Lou Reed – Jesus (2009)

Marc Ogeret, 86, French protest singer, on June 4
Marc Ogeret – Le chant des partisans (1990)

Norman Edge, 84, jazz double-bassist, on June 4
Gene Ammons – Ca’ Purange (Jungle Soul) (1968, on double-bass)

Brian Browne, 81, Canadian jazz pianist, on June 5

Teddy Johnson, 98, English singer, on June 6
Teddy Johnson & Pearl Carr – Sing, Little Birdie (1959)

Ralph Santolla, 51, heavy metal guitarist, on June 6

Jimmy Gonzalez, 67, singer with Tejano band Mazz, on June 6

Stefan Weber, 71, Austrian singer, on June 7

Danny Kirwan, 68, British guitarist (Fleetwood Mac 1968-72), on June 8
Fleetwood Mac – Jigsaw Puzzle Blues (1968, also as writer)
Fleetwood Mac – Sands Of Time (1971, also as writer)
Danny Kirwan – Hot Summer Day (1975)

Gino Santercole, 77, Italian singer and songwriter, on June 8
Gino Santercole – Questo Vecchio Pazzo Mondo (1966)

Lorraine Gordon, 95, owner of NYC jazz club Village Vanguard, on June 9
Wynton Marsalis Septet – Midnight In Paris (Live At The Village Vanguard, 1999)

Ras Kimono, 60, Nigerian reggae musician, on June 10

Neal E. Boyd, 42, America’s Got Talent winner 2008, on June 10

Jon Hiseman, 73, English drummer, producer and engineer, on June 12
John Mayall – Sandy (1969, on drums)
Colosseum II – Secret Places (1976, as drummer, writer, producer)

Wayne Dockery, 76, American jazz double bassist, on June 12

D.J. Fontana, 87, rock & roll drummer (Elvis Presley), on June 13
Elvis Presley – Hound Dog (1956, on The Milton Berle Show, on drums)
Elvis Presley – Return To Sender (1962)
Scotty Moore & D.J. Fontana feat. Steve Earle – Hot Enough For Ya (1997)

Santos Blanco, 46, singer of Spanish pop group Locomía, on June 13
Locomía – Locomía (1984)

Matt Murphy, 88, blues guitarist, on June 14
Chuck Berry – Jaguar And Thunderbird (1960)
Koko Taylor – Don’t Mess With The Messer (1969)
The Blues Brothers – Think (1980, on guitar)

Nick Knox, 60, drummer of The Electric Eels and The Cramps, on June 14
The Cramps – Bikini Girls With Machine Guns (1986)

Rebecca Parris, 66, American jazz singer, on June 17
Rebecca Parris – Never Let Me Go (2001)

Delia Bell, 83, bluegrass singer, on June 18
Delia Bell & Bill Grant – Sad Situation (1984)

XXXTentacion, 20, rapper, shot on June 18

Jimmy Wopo, 21, rapper, on June 18

Lowrell Simon, 75, soul singer and songwriter, on June 19
Lowrell – Mellow Mellow (Right On) (1979)

Bansi Quinteros, 41, Spanish keyboardist of Dutch trance duo GMS, on June 19

David Bianco, 63, record producer, engineer and mixer, on June 20
Bruce Springsteen – Trapped (Live) (1980/85, as co-producer)
Lisa Loeb – I Do (1997, as engineer)
Tift Merritt – Another Country (2008, mix)

Vinnie Paul, 54, founding drummer of heavy metal band Pantera, on June 22
Pantera – Cemetery Gates (1990)
Pantera – Revolution Is My Name (2000)

Geoffrey Oryema, 65, Ugandan musician, on June 22
Geoffrey Oryema – Umoja (1993)

Violeta Rivas, 80, Argentine singer and actress, on June 23
Violeta Rivas – Chim Chimenea (1965)

Bob Bain, 94, jazz guitarist, in June
Harry James and his Orchestra – It’s Been A Long, Long Time (1945, on guitar)
Bob Bain – Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)
Carpenters – I Can Dream Can’t I? (1975, on guitar)

George Cameron, 70, drummer and co-lead singer of The Left Banke, on June 24
The Left Banke – She May Call You Up Tonight (1967)

Big Bill Bissonnette, 81, jazz trombonist, drummer, producer, on June 26

Fedor Frešo, 71, Slovak rock and jazz bassist, on June 26

Steve Soto, 54, bassist of punk bands Agent Orange, The Adolescents, on June 27
Adolescents – Amoeba (1981)

Joe Jackson, 89, father and manager of The Jackson 5, on June 27

Eugene Pitt, 80, singer with doo wop band The Jive Five, on June 29
The Jive Five – My True Story (1961)
The Jive Five feat. Eugene Pitt – Sugar (Don’t Take Away My Candy) (1968)

Smoke Dawg, 21, Canadian rapper, shot dead on June 30

Alan Longmuir, 70, founder and bassist of the Bay City Rollers, on July 2
See yesterday’s post

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  1. halfhearteddude
    July 3rd, 2018 at 07:57 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. dogbreath
    July 10th, 2018 at 16:15 | #2

    A few good old artists I well recall from my younger days, including Alan Longmuir of the Bay City Rollers, a band I detested but my wife at the time just lurved (one more reason to get divorced!). I always felt Danny Kirwan of the original Fleetwood Mac was underrated and it’s not a bad thing to hear some of his stuff again. Thanks for the compiling job. Cheers!

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