Posted by themusicsover on August 24, 2012
December 13, 1920 – August 12, 2012
Willa Ward was a singer who was part of one of the most influential gospel groups of all time, the Ward Singers. Formed in the early ’40s, the group, which initially included Ward’s mother, Gertrude Ward and sister, Clara Ward, became the world’s first, and at the time, biggest crossover spiritual groups. The Ward Singers released over 80 records during what is considered the golden age of gospel, the mid ’40s to late ’50s. Songs like “How I Got Over You” (one of Gospel’s first million sellers) and “Surely God Is Able,” and lively concerts helped them pack arenas and large theaters around the United States. They are said to have directly influenced Aretha Franklin and Little Richard. In the late ’50s, Ward left the group to sing pop music. Over the course of her career, she sang back up for the likes of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Patti LaBelle, and Chubby Checker. Willa Ward was 91 when she passed away on August 12, 2012.
Thanks to Henk de Bruin for the assist.
Posted in Gospel, Singer | Tagged: Aretha Franklin, Chubby Checker, Clara Ward, Gertrude Ward, Little Richard, Patti Labelle, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, The Ward Singers, Willa Ward | 2 Comments »
Posted by themusicsover on February 22, 2012
September 29, 1930 – February 22, 2012
Billy Strange was a much-respected guitarist, songwriter, and arranger who made an indelible mark on pop music as one of the top session players in Los Angeles during the 1960s. And as a songwriter, he was no slouch either. Born in Long Beach, California, Strange was just 5 years old when he performed on a local radio station – reportedly winning a yodel contest. Roughly ten years later, he was given his first guitar, and within two years, he was on the road. During the mid ’60s, Strange found himself as part of a collective of L.A. studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew, who would go down in history as the players on some of the most important pop, rock, and country records of the era. Most famously, Strange played on landmark recordings by the Beach Boys (Pet Sounds), Nat King Cole, Nancy Sinatra, Willie Nelson, and Elvis Presley (whose “A Little Less Conversation” was co-written by Strange. Others who recorded Strange-penned songs include Chubby Checker, the Champs, Hank Snow, and Glen Campbell. In the early ’70s, Strange moved to Nashville where he co-owned and ran the Sinatra’s publishing company. Billy Strange was 81 when he passed away on February 22, 2012.
Thanks to Brett Ortone for the assist.
Posted in Arranger, Country, Musician, Rock, Songwriter | Tagged: Billy Strange, Chubby Checker, Elvis Presley, Glen Campbell, Hank Snow, Nancy Sinatra, Nat King Cole, the Beach Boys, The Champs, Willie Nelson | Leave a Comment »
Posted by themusicsover on December 18, 2010
January 1, 1938 – December 18, 2010
Clay Cole was a pioneering ’60s New York City rock ‘n roll television show host who, outside of perhaps Ed Sullivan, showcased more rising rock stars than anyone of his era. At its peak, The Clay Cole Show aired six nights a week and played host to a who’s who of rock and R&B stars. What was particularly unique about the show, which aired from 1959 to 1968, was that Cole, who was just 21 years old, was as much of the fun as the show’s teenage dancers. It was on The Clay Cole Show that American teens first caught a glimpse of the likes of Neil Diamond, Simon & Garfunkel, Chubby Checker (who debuted “The Twist” – both song AND dance on the program), Dionne Warwick, and the Rolling Stones. Of special note, that particular episode featured both the Stones AND the Bealtes, making it the first and only time that has ever happened. The show also featured many future legends of comedy for their television debut. That list includes George Carlin and Richard Pryor. When tastes in popular music began to gravitate toward psychedelic rock in the late ’60s, Cole ended the show, even though it was just peaking in popularity. After the program ended, Cole went on to be a successful producer, writer and director for television. He won two Emmys as a producer. Clay Cole died of a heart attack on December 18, 2010. He was 72.
Posted in Early Rock, Radio | Tagged: Chubby Checker, Clay Cole, Dionne Warwick, Ed Sullivan, George Carlin, Neil Diamond, Richard Pryor, Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, the Rolling Stones | Leave a Comment »
Posted by themusicsover on March 2, 2010
Hank Ballard (Born John Kendricks)
November 18, 1927 – March 2, 2003
Hank Ballard was a popular R&B singer and songwriter who helped usher in the early days of rock ‘n roll. His biggest hit was 1969’s “The Twist,” a song he wrote for a dance he invented, no matter what Chubby Checker says. Raised in Detroit, Ballard quickly took a liking to the music he heard around him, and by the early ’50s, he was singing in a local doo-wop group. He was soon discovered by famed music impresario, Johnny Otis, who signed him to a record deal with a group that would be called Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. Over the next several years, the group released a string of hits that included “Work With Me Annie,” “Finger Poppin’ Time,” and of course, “The Twist.” The group broke up in 1965, after which Ballard launched a solo career, at times performing with James Brown. From the ’80s through the late ’90s, Ballard toured the oldies circuit with a reformed Midnighters. In 1990, he was rightfully inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On March 2, 2003, Hank Ballard died of throat cancer at the age of 75.
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Posted in R&B, Singer | Tagged: Chubby Checker, Hank Ballard, James Brown, Johnny Otis | Leave a Comment »