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Posts Tagged ‘Hank Ballard’

Died On This Date (January 17, 2012) Johnny Otis / R&B Great; Had Hit With “Willie and the Hand Jive”

Posted by themusicsover on January 17, 2012

Johnny Otis (Born Ioannis Veliotis)
December 28, 1921 – January 17, 2012

Referred to as the “Godfather Of Rhythm and Blues,” Johnny Otis was a man of many aspirations and musical talents.  Born and raised in the San Francisco area, Otis went on to become a successful bandleader, producer, songwriter, journalist, talent scout, arranger, disc jockey, vibraphonist, drummer, club owner, merchant, and even politician.  His most popular contribution to popular music came by way of “Willie and the Hand Jive,” which sold over 1.5 million copies, rose to #9 on the pop charts, and has since been recorded by the likes of George Thorogood, Levon Helm, Eric Clapton, Cliff Richard, and New Riders of the Purple Sage, to name just a few.  A child of Greek immigrants, Otis actually lived and worked as part of the African-American community while employing mostly black musicians for his bands.  He began making an impact on music during the late ’40s when he opened a nightclub in the Watts section of Los Angeles.  It was there that he made his first discovery, Little Esther Phillips, who went on to have several pop and R&B hits of her own. Other future greats he is credited for discovering and working with during their early years include Big Jay McNeely, Jackie Wilson, Hank Ballard, Etta James and  Big Mama Thornton, whose signature song, “Hound Dog,” was produced by Otis.  In 1958,  Otis recorded the self-penned “Willie and the Hand Jive” which quickly became a smash with both black and white audiences and went on to become one of the most iconic songs of the era.  A tireless performer, Otis and his band toured the world well into the 2000s.  During the ’60s, he made an unsuccessful run for the California State Assembly.  Many blamed the loss on the fact that he ran under his virtually unknown birth name.  In 1994, Otis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in later years, he hosted “The Johnny Otis Show” on San Francisco radio station, KPFA.  Due to declining health, he did his last show in August of 2006.   His son, Shuggie Otis, had hits of his own during the ’70s. Johnny Otis was 90 when he passed away in his home on January 17, 2012

Thanks to Paul Bearer for the assist.

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Johnny Otis

Posted in Arranger, Blues, Club Owner, Early Rock, Musician, Producer, R&B, Rock, Singer, Songwriter | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Died On This Date (March 13, 2011) Melvin Sparks / Respected Soul-Jazz Guitarist

Posted by themusicsover on March 13, 2011

Melvin Sparks
March 22, 1946 – March 13, 2011

Melvin Sparks was a brilliant electric guitarist who made a name for himself on countless jazz and soul-jazz recordings as a session player and a band leader.  Born into a musical family, Sparks picked up the guitar at just eleven years old.  By the time he was in high school, he was playing behind Hank Ballard, and within a few years, he was in a touring band called the Upsetters who backed Little Richard, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, and Jackie Wilson.  He went on to become a session player for Blue Note and Prestige, playing on records by the likes of Lou Donaldson, Jimmy McGriff, and Hank Crawford.  In the 90s, he played with Soulive and Galactic during the acid jazz revival.  Melvin Sparks was 64 when he passed away on March 13, 2011.  It has been reported that diabetes and high blood pressure was to blame.

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Died On This Date (March 2, 2003) Hank Ballard / Gave Us “The Twist”

Posted by themusicsover on March 2, 2010

Hank Ballard (Born John Kendricks)
November 18, 1927  – March 2, 2003

hank-ballard 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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Hank Ballard

Posted in R&B, Singer | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »