Posted by themusicsover on November 13, 2016
Leon Russell (Born Claude Russell Bridges)
April 2, 1942 – November 13, 2016
Photo by Carl Lender
Leon Russell was a celebrated musician, singer, songwriter and producer whose early work as a session player alone was enough to rightfully find him a home in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Add to that his credits as a songwriter, and you have one of the most respected artists we have ever known. Born in Oklahoma, Russell began playing the piano at just four years old. By high school, he and schoolmate David Gates, of future Bread fame, had a band together. Over the next couple of years Russell needed a fake ID to play the clubs of Tulsa. And then, at just 16 years old, he headed to Los Angeles to take a crack at becoming a session musician. Russell quickly built a solid reputation and became one of the first people called into the studio or on stage to lend his talents. The list of artists or their producers that mad that call is staggering – it includes the Byrds, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, B.B. King, the Rolling Stones, Barbra Streisand, and the Beach Boys. And as part of the famed Wrecking Crew of L.A. studio musicians, the list goes on. Russel’s first hit as a songwriter came by way of Joe Cocker‘s 1969 recording of his “Delta Lady.” As the ’70s dawned, Russell began making his own albums while producing others. And thanks in part to the success of “Delta Lady,” he became a go-to songwriter for hopeful pop and rock stars. In 1970, he released his self-titled debut. The album spawned one of his most famous songs, “A Song For You” which has been covered by a diverse list of artists that includes Ray Charles, Zakk Wylde, Andy Williams, Herbie Hancock with Christina Aguilera, Whitney Houston, Willie Nelson, and Amy Winehouse. Russell spent the rest of the ’70s on a seemingly endless recording and touring cycle. He eventually slowed down, but became no less productive and influential. The next three decades found him working with the likes of New Grass Revival and Bruce Hornsby while releasing several more of his own albums which leaned more bluegrass and country than much of his ’70s output. In 2010, Elton John (who called Russell his biggest influence as a pianist, singer and songwriter) and Bernie Taupin partnered with Russell on The Union, which resulted in a return-to-the-charts for both. The outstanding album, produced by T-Bone Burnett, and credited equally to both John and Taupin, entered the Billboard charts at No. 3, Russell’s highest charting album since 1972 and John’s highest since 1976. Rolling Stone called it one of the best 30 albums of 2010. The new-found exposure for Russell found him touring heavily up through the first half of 2016 when a heart attack sidelined him. Not discouraged, plans were being made to hit the road again in 2017. Unfortunately, while still recovering from the heart attack, Leon Russell died quietly in his sleep on November 14, 2016. He was 74.
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Posted in Country, Musician, Producer, R&B, Record Label, Rock, Singer, Songwriter | Tagged: Amy Winehouse, Andy Williams, B.B. King, Barbra Streisand, Beach Boys, Bernie Taupin, Bob Dylan, Bread, Christina Aguilera, David Gates, Elton John, Frank Sinatra, Herbie Hancock, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, Ray Charles, Rolling Stones, T-Bone Burnett, the byrds, Willie Nelson, Wrecking Crew, Zakk Wylde | Leave a Comment »
Posted by themusicsover on September 26, 2012
Howard “Andy” Williams
December 3, 1927 – September 25, 2012
With 18 gold and three platinum albums, and a three-time Emmy winning primetime variety show, Andy Williams was a force to be reckoned with during the ’60s and ’70s. Williams launched his career with six recordings for an X Records, and RCA Victor label, in 1953. A year later he made his first of many appearances on Tonight Starring Steve Allen which led to his signing to Cadence Records and his first hits. By the mid ’60s, Williams was recording for Columbia and had purchased the Cadence master tape catalog which also included recordings by the Everly Brothers and the Chordettes. He soon launched Barnaby Records which had hits with Ray Stevens’ “Everything Is Beautiful” and “The Streak.” He also signed a young Jimmy Buffett to his first record deal at Barnaby. Meanwhile, Williams was quickly becoming the most popular pop vocalist of his era. At one point during the ’60s, he was awarded the most expensive recording contract in history. As a solo performer with 18 gold records, his award count was eclipsed by only Elvis Presley, Johnny Mathis, and Frank Sinatra at the time. Williams’ many hits over the years included “Born Free,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” “(Where Do I Begin) Love Story,” “Butterfly,” and “Can’t Get Used To Losing You.” The Andy Williams Show, which ran between 1962 and 1971, was one of the most popular variety shows of all time. It played host to most of the biggest names in show business, and it’s semi-annual Christmas specials set the standard. And with eight Christmas albums and a huge hit with “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year,” Williams became known around the world as Mr. Christmas. And although he was considered a “square” by the counter culture, Williams was one of the few major stars who was very vocal against the Nixon Administration’s attempts to deport John Lennon during the early ’70s. In May of 1992, Williams opened the Moon River Theater in Branson, Missouri. Hosting performers like Glen Campbell, Ann-Margret, Rich Little and David Copperfield, the theater became one of the most popular venues in the city. Andy Williams was 84 when he passed away on September 25, 2012. He had been suffering from bladder cancer.
What You Should Own
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Posted in Easy Listening, Musician, Pop, Singer | Tagged: Andy Williams, Ann-Margret, David Copperfield, Elvis Presley, Everly Brothers, Frank Sinatra, Glen Campbell, Jimmy Buffett, John Lennon, Johnny Mathis, Ray Stevens, Rich Little, The Chordettes | Leave a Comment »
Posted by themusicsover on October 8, 2011
September 19, 1936 – October 8, 2011
David Hess was a singer, songwriter and actor whose writing credits include “Come Along” (Elvis Presley), “Your Hand, Your Heart, Your Love” (Andy Williams), and “Speedy Gonzalez” (Pat Boone). Born in New York City, Hess began making records as a singer in the mid ’50s. In 1956, he released the original version of the Otis Blackwell penned “All Shook Up,” which later became a #1 hit for Presley. A year later, he signed on with Shalimar Music as a songwriter. He continued to write for Presley throughout the ’60s as well as numerous other popular acts. Hess’ recording of “Two Brothers” became a top 10 folk hit during the late ’60s. In 1969, he went to work for Mercury Records as an A&R rep. He continued to record music well into the 2000s. As an actor, Hess was a favorite among fans of horror movies in particular. He played significant roles in such films as the original The Last House On The Left and Swamp Thing. On October 8, 2011, 69-year-old David Hess died of a heart attack, reports Spinner.
Thanks to Scott Miller for the assist.
Posted in Folk, Rock, Singer, Songwriter | Tagged: Andy Williams, David Hess, Elvis Presley, Otis Blackwell, Pat Boone | Leave a Comment »
Posted by themusicsover on March 20, 2010
June 12, 1909 – March 20, 1989
Music pioneer Archie Bleyer served many purposes in the music industry. He was a musician, band leader, recording artist and producer, but will likely be most remembered for his label, Cadence Records. He was leading his own big band by the mid-’30s and throughout the ’40s and ’50s he was leading the orchestra for Arthur Godfrey’s TV show. Bleyer started Cadence Records in 1952 where he helped develop the careers of Andy Williams, Julius LaRosa and the Chordettes. In the mid-’50s he struck gold by signing the Everly Brothers and producing many of their biggest hits. As American musical tastes changed in the early ’60s, Cadence had trouble competing with the bigger labels who were having huge successes with the likes of the Beatles. Bleyer closed Cadence in 1964 and sold the masters to Andy Williams. Archie Bleyer passed away on March 20, 1989 from Parkinson’s Disease.
Posted in Producer, Record Label | Tagged: Andy Williams, Archie Bleyer, Arthur Godfrey, Beatles, Chordettes, Everly Brothers, Julius LaRosa | Leave a Comment »
Posted by themusicsover on March 14, 2010
Jerome “Doc” Pomus
June 27, 1925 – March 14, 1991
There isn’t enough room here to list the world-class artists who have recorded or covered songs written by the great Doc Pomus. From Brook Benton to the New York Dolls; from Andy Williams to Elvis Costello; from Dolly Parton to the Misfits. Okay, one more, from Dusty Springfield to Johnny Thunders. Oh and did I mention “Viva Las Vegas?” Pomus’ life was no picnic, however. As a child, he developed polio, so he needed crutches. And after an automobile accident later in life, those crutches were replaced by a wheelchair. Doc Pomus succumbed to lung cancer on March 14, 1991 at the age of 65.
Posted in R&B, Rock, Songwriter | Tagged: Andy Williams, Brook Benton, Doc Pomus, Dolly Parton, Dusty Springfield, Elvis Costello, Johnny Thunders, New York Dolls, the Misfits | Leave a Comment »