Friday, January 28, 2011

Gladys Horton of the Marvelettes dies aged 66

Gladys Horton, (in the middle of the photo) the Detroit native whose voice led such Marvelettes hits as "Please Mr. Postman" and "Beechwood 4-5789," died late Wednesday 26 January 2011 at a nursing home in Sherman Oaks, Calif. She was 66.

"My mother died peacefully," Horton's son, Vaughn Thornton, said in a statement issued by the Motown Alumni Association. "She fought as long as she could."

Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr. paid tribute to Horton, lauding her as one of the first Motown greats.

"Gladys was a very, very special lady, and I loved the way she sang with her raspy, soulful voice," Gordy said through a spokesperson. "We will all miss her, and she will always be a part of the Motown family."

Horton had lived in the nursing facility since a stroke last year.

She had retired from the music business in spring 2009, noting that travel was no longer enjoyable, effectively ending the 48-year reign of the original Marvelettes.

"Love comes in two directions, from your hearts to us and from our hearts to you, and it has always been that way!" she wrote in a statement at the time.

As a student at Inkster High School, Horton helped found the group that would eventually become the Marvelettes, linking up with fellow glee club members Katherine Anderson, Juanita Cowart, Georgeanna Tillman and Georgia Dobbins.

A successful audition for Motown Records was followed in 1961 by the group's debut single, "Please Mr. Postman," with 17-year-old Horton on lead vocals. It became Motown's biggest pop crossover hit to that point, reaching No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100.

Horton was the lead singer on follow-up hits such as "Beechwood 4-5789," "Playboy" and "Too Many Fish In The Sea" before losing her lead role to Wanda Young in 1965. Horton departed the group in 1967 and moved to the Los Angeles area in the early 1970s.

She performed in later years as Gladys Horton of the Marvelettes, though she complained that her ability to tour was hampered by other "Marvelettes" incarnations with dubious ties to the original group. Her example was frequently cited amid legislative attempts to protect the naming rights of original artists.

Horton is survived by two sons.

email from music maestro Mark

Friday, January 21, 2011

Don Kirshner dies

Don Kirshner, the music publisher of Brill Building hits like “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin,’ ” who later served as a deadpan Ed Sullivan for Kiss, the Ramones and others with his 1970s television show, “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert,” died on Monday 17 January 2011, in Boca Raton, Fla., where he lived. He was 76.

The cause was heart failure, his family said.

The Brill Building age of pop, named after the Manhattan building where many of its songwriters labored, lasted from the mid-1950s to the mid-’60s and is celebrated for the people behind its innocently aching music: producers like Phil Spector, writing teams like Carole King and Gerry Goffin (“The Loco-Motion”).

But the guiding force behind many of those people was Mr. Kirshner, whose hustle, hit-trained ear and good timing helped shape pop in the days when Tin Pan Alley’s song-craft traditions were being mingled with the rhythms of rock.

As a pioneering musical matchmaker, Mr. Kirshner discovered many of the era’s best songwriters, prodded them for hits and shopped the results to top artists. Later in the 1960s he married bubblegum to television with two manufactured, semifictitious bands: the Monkees and the cartoon Archies.

“He had a great sense of commerciality and song, the ability to hear a song and know it’s a hit,” said Charles Koppelman, a veteran music executive who began his career in Mr. Kirshner’s company, Aldon.

Yet to music fans who came of age in the 1970s and ’80s, Mr. Kirshner is best known as the leisure-suited, monotonous host of the syndicated “Rock Concert,” which from 1973 to 1982 presented live performances byLynyrd Skynyrd, the Sex Pistols, David Bowie and Ted Nugent, among many others.

Unlike “American Bandstand” and other early TV rock shows, on which performers lip-synched their music or played a song or two in a sterile studio, “Rock Concert” featured full, loud performances in an arena or club setting. In his spoken introductions, however, Mr. Kirshner often seemed strangely out of place, as if he barely knew the acts he was introducing — which was sometimes the case.

“Someone once told me I had to put on Alice Cooper,” he recalled in a 2004 interview with The Washington Post. “I said, ‘Well, is she any good?’ ”

Donald Kirshner was born in the Bronx on April 17, 1934, the son of a tailor. He had hopes of being a songwriter, and got his start in the music business when he met a brash young singer named Robert Cassotto at a candy store in Washington Heights. They became partners, working on jingles and pop ditties (their first: “Bubblegum Pop”), but their collaboration ended after Mr. Cassotto — under his new stage name, Bobby Darin — scored a hit in 1958 with“Splish Splash,” which he wrote without Mr. Kirshner.

That year Mr. Kirshner founded Aldon with Al Nevins, who had played in a successful instrumental group, the Three Suns. Mr. Kirshner and Mr. Nevins opened an office at 1650 Broadway — a block away from 1619 Broadway, the Brill Building — and soon signed two struggling songwriters, Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. By 1962 they had 18 writers on staff.

The list of Aldon alumni includes Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Neil Diamond, Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. To some degree the company operated as an assembly line: teams of writers in piano cubicles churned out songs that would be recorded immediately, as demos or sometimes as finished productions.

In 1963 Mr. Kirshner and Mr. Nevins sold Aldon to Screen Gems, a Columbia Pictures subsidiary, for more than $2 million, and moved to a luxe new office on Fifth Avenue. Meanwhile, with the arrival of the Beatles, the American pop landscape was shifting toward bands that wrote their own material. Mr. Nevins died in 1965.

Yet one of Mr. Kirshner’s biggest achievements was in some ways an adaptation to the Beatles era. In 1966 he was hired to put together the music for the Monkees, a Beatles-y group assembled by television executives. Mr. Kirshner commissioned songs from many of the best Aldon songwriters, like Mr. Diamond (“I’m a Believer”) and the Goffin-King team (“Pleasant Valley Sunday”).

When tensions arose with the band, Mr. Kirshner moved on to the Archies, an animated version of the clean-cut comic strip. “I want a band that won’t talk back,” Mr. Kirshner later said.

The Archies’ music, performed by uncredited studio musicians, brought bubblegum to the pinnacle of its success: its still-ubiquitous “Sugar, Sugar” was the best-selling song of 1969.

In 1972 Mr. Kirshner began to work with ABC on a live performance show, “In Concert”; he left that show the next year to begin “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert,” which had its premiere in September 1973 with the Rolling Stones. In the 1970s Mr. Kirshner also continued his work as a music executive, signing the band Kansas (“Carry On Wayward Son,” “Dust in the Wind”) to his CBS-affiliated Kirshner label, but by the early 1980s he had retired.

He is survived by his wife, Sheila; his son, Ricky Kirshner, a producer of the Tony Awards show; his daughter, Daryn Lewis; and five grandchildren.

Though he began his career as a songwriter, Mr. Kirshner said he realized early that he was better at recognizing talent in others than at creating the work itself.

“My idols were people like Walt Disney, and I feel that what he did with Pinocchio and Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse I had the ability to do in my own right — build the stars as a star maker,” he told The New Yorker in 1993. “And maybe it’s because, you know, I don’t read or write music — and I guess I live vicariously through these people, ’cause I don’t have the talent myself — but, you know, I’m the man with the golden ear.”
(email from Music Maestro Mark)

Indian Origins Of Jazz

Indian origins of Jazz

My Poppadam tol me

Although jazz has thrown up an abundance of controversies over the
years, the one element on which there has hitherto been universal
agreement is that concerning the origins of the music.

It has long been accepted that jazz evolved from a combination of
African music, introduced into America by the slaves, and European dance

Now, however, comes a remarkable book, Jazz Is Where You Sikh It, by P.
Vencatachellum, which threatens to cause a gigantic upheaval in jazz
circles by claiming that jazz had its origins in India in the middle of
the 19th century.

In a fully documented survey of the beginnings of jazz, Venatachellum
traces its origins to an eating house in New Delhi where the
specialities were particular spicy jhals. The resident musicians led by
Ali Zanda, specialised in syncopated improvised music which quickly
became associated with the food being served. It became known locally as
hot jhals music and, as the musicians played the l out of it, this became
corrupted to hot jhas From there it was a short step to hot jazz or jazz.

If this were all the evidence that Vencatachellum was able to provide,
it would be derisory indeed. But he goes on to trace the spread of the
music to other towns in India where, during the days of prohibition,
musicians would get together for what were known as chutney sessions in
the local Sikheasies.

Meanwhile the original New Delhi band was gaining a wide following among
the Sikhs who derived, it is said, great élan from the music. As a
result of this the band became known as the Original Sikhs Elan Jhas
Band and the leader achieved additional fame when he wrote Ali Zander's
Raga Time Band.

Hand in hand with the evolution of jazz in New Delhi was a secondary
movement emanating from a member of the British Raj in the northern
state of Nepal. He assembled around himself a large orchestra of British
and Indian musicians which became known as the Nepal White Man Band.

Also contributing to the mainstream of jazz development was religious
music and a number of gopal (gospel) singers were emerging, using jazz
rhythms in conjunction with traditional hymns like 'We Pilau The Fields
And Scatter'. And from the workers in the cotton fields came the blues
form, later taken up with some success by a titled woman in the Punjab
known only as Maharanee (later corrupted by Western writers to Ma Rainey).

But perhaps the blues movement, says Vencatachellum, came from the
fakirs (including some elderly female ones known as mother fakirs) who
roamed Bombay moaning laments as they walked through hot coals.

Their wailing became so distracting that the authorities banished them
to the municipal toilets where a special section was put aside for them.
The lavatory seats each had a dozen spikes sticking up and the wailing
that echoed through the place naturally became universally known as the
music of the 12-barb loos perhaps the most fundamental form of Indian

Vencatachellum traces the development of various forms of jazz that of
the West Coast stream evolved by a group of diminutive members of the
aristocracy known as Shorty Rajahs, the bebop movement introduced by a
number of seers who transformed the standard Whispering into Guruvin
High and the rock n roll style pioneered by Chuck Ber-Beri, who found
fame with RagaBeating Boogie and Sweet Little Sikhs Teen.

The Author is particularly interesting when he gives the stories behind
such jazz standards as Low Down Dhoti Shame Blues, Poppadam Allow No
Music Played In Here and You Korma Long Way From New Delhi. He also
refers at length to the introduction of the electric sitar by Charlie
Hindu and the contributions made by such Indian jazz greats as Vindaloo
Donaldson, Rajah kellaway, Rupee Braff, and singers like Delhi Rice and
Chappatti page. He also recalls the pioneering work of the dark-hued
trombonist from the south known as Tanned Ory.

Vencatachellum is convincing when he explains how Indian jazz evolved
into rhythm and blues through the efforts of the Tabla Motown label. And
he is most persuasive when he talks about the bosa nova influence from
the former Portugese region, led by the talented Domengo Chutney.
Domengo, he explains, is nicknamed Mango by his followers, and since he
comes from the former Portugese region, is often referred to as Goa
Mango an appellation familier to jazz lovers throughout the world.

However the author is on rather more treacherous ground when he sets out
to prove that most of the American jazz standards are, in fact, based on
original Indian tunes.

He quotes the case, for example, of an Indian potentate who commissioned
a song from a local composer. The composer completed the work and, to
make an impression, rode to the palace sitting on the ear of an elephant
and singing, Caliph, On Ear I Come. He has other far-fetched
explanations for titles like Ghee Baby Ain't I Good To You, Whose Sari
Now, DIG Urdu Urdu and I Call My Sugar Ghandi.

Vencatachellum has written a recourceful and fascinating book, but I am
bound to say that if you are a serious student of jazz, in the Brian
Oxide class, you may find that Jazz Is Where You Sikh It, instead of
helping you, tends to India.

This article is reprinted from Melody Maker and is attributed by that
magazine to the almost totally unknown authority on Indian culture, Jean
Elliot, who has made a bit of chutney in her time and once visited Southall?
(from a email from Eric)- if this article is tongue in cheek, is it a hot spicy tongue?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Margaret Whiting dies aged 86

TRENTON, N.J. - As a songwriter's daughter and a singer who sold millions of records herself in the 1940s and '50s, Margaret Whiting knew what separated a good singer from a great one.

"Being a great actress, being very dramatic," she said in 2001. "To read a lyric, to make the words come alive, that's the secret."

Whiting, a sweet-voiced performer known for sentimental ballads such as "Moonlight in Vermont" and "It Might as Well Be Spring," died Monday at the Lillian Booth Actors' Home in Englewood, N.J., home administrator Jordan Strohl said. She was 86.

As the daughter of Richard Whiting, a prolific composer of such hits as "My Ideal," "Sleepy Time Gal" and "Beyond the Blue Horizon," Whiting grew up with the music business. She began singing at a young age, her career almost predetermined.

Born in Detroit on July 22, 1924, Whiting moved with her family to Los Angeles after her father headed west to write for movie musicals. He turned out songs for Maurice Chevalier and Bing Crosby while at Paramount and composed "Hooray for Hollywood" and "Too Marvelous for Words" for Warner Bros.

And on at least one occasion, his daughter provided him with unexpected inspiration.

In 2000, Whiting recalled how she came home from school one day with an all-day lollipop while her father was trying to write a song for a Shirley Temple movie. At first he was annoyed by the sticky kisses, but then inspiration struck.

He called lyricist Sidney Clare and said, "How about 'The Good Ship Lollipop' for Shirley?"

The Whiting family's home in the posh Bel-Air section of Los Angeles was often a gathering place for such songwriters as George and Ira Gershwin, Frank Loesser, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. And as Whiting grew, her father's friends took note of her talents as a singer and encouraged her to perfect her craft.

It was Mercer who had coached the teenage Whiting through her first recording, of her father's "My Ideal," and although Chevalier and Frank Sinatra had already recorded the tune, her version sold well.

She followed it with a remarkable procession of million sellers: "That Old Black Magic," "It Might as Well Be Spring," "Come Rain or Come Shine" and her biggest seller and signature song, "Moonlight in Vermont."
(from an email by Mark Matheson) and the Margaret Whiting songs in my Unforgettable Music folders; A Bushel And A Peck (with Jimmy Wakely) Slipping Around (Wakely) and Silver Bells (Wakely), Baby, It's Cold Outside (with Johnny Mercer), That Old Black Magic (with Freddie Slack & Orch) plus Wheel Of Hurt, Now Is The Hour, A Tree In The Meadow, Guilty, Far Away Places & A Wonderful Guy.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Gerry Rafferty dies

I was doing a shift on Coast over the summer break and checking for stories when I saw that Gerry Rafferty had died.
I well remember his City To City album and the big new single of Baker Street from my days at Radio Scenicland in Greymouth and so pulled up "Baker Street" and his Stealers Wheel hit "Stuck In The Middle With You" and then added "Right Down The Line" from my laptop.
Also took a call from Chris Ross, a music buff, painting a house interior and he confirmed my thoughts about "Her Father Didn't Like Me Anyway" being from his 'Humblebums' days.
I remember being introduced to that Humblebums song by colleague AnneMarie and quite liking its quirky message.
Later on TV3 News people were interviewed and basically didn't remember the name Gerry Rafferty or Stealers Wheel but knew the songs and especially that riff, that saxophone solo in Baker Street.
That night I went and dropped the needle on my LP of City To City to immerse myself again in Gerry Rafferty. Adding to the plays of Baker Street - "... the track that was recognised last October for having been played a staggering five million times worldwide."