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 | Leave a Comment »
Posted by themusicsover on January 20, 2012
Etta James (Born Jamesetta Hawkins)
January 25, 1938 – January 20, 2012
Etta James was an American singer whose songbook included forays into jazz, blues, soul, gospel and rock ‘n roll. Born in Los Angeles, California, James had what many would consider a rough childhood and spent many years in the charge of caregivers. Singing from a young age, James was just 14 when she caught the ear of music impresario, Johnny Otis. Otis helped her land her first recording contract with Modern Records and before she knew it, she and her group, the Peaches were touring with Little Richard. In 1960, now signed to Chess, James released her debut album, At Last!, which included the smash hit single of the same name. The album, which also included hits like “A Sunday Kind Of Love” and “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” peaked at #68 on the album charts but is nonetheless considered one of the great albums of the era. She went on to have several more hits over the next two decades. After parting ways with Chess in 1978, James struggled with personal issues before launching a well-received come-back during the late ’80s. Over the course of her career, James was awarded six Grammys, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, an NAACP Image Award, and permanent homes in the Rock and Roll, Grammy, Blues, and Rockabilly Halls of Fame. Rolling Stone magazine ranks her at #22 on their list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time, and #62 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists. In 2010, Etta James was diagnosed with leukemia and ultimately died of the disease on January 20, 2012. She was 73.
What You Should Own
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Posted in Blues, Jazz, R&B, Singer, Songwriter | Tagged: Etta James, Johnny Otis, Little Richard, The Peaches | Leave a Comment »
Posted by themusicsover on April 9, 2011
March 30, 1917 – April 9, 2011
Randy Wood was a successful music industry executive who is perhaps best remembered for being the man behind Dot Records. Wood had just returned home after serving in World War II when he opened an appliance store in Gallatin, Texas. When he started music – mostly pop and classical albums – young customers began coming in, but asking for the rhythm & blues records they heard on a powerful station from faraway Nashville, Tennessee. Wood quickly realized there was a need for a mail-order record business, and 78RPM was born. By sponsoring a show on that Nashville station, WLAC-AM, spots for Randy’s Record Shop’s mail-order services could be heard clear across the United States and beyond. With the income he was realizing from orders, Wood soon launched Dot Records out of the store. The label quickly turned a profit as Wood figured out that white performers singing watered-down R&B songs was a recipe for success. His artists like Pat Boone were turning songs by Little Richard and Fats Domino into pop hits while helping to further popularize the R&B singers as well. Others he signed to Dot included Lawrence Welk, Tab Hunter, Debbie Reynolds, and the Mills Brothers. The label was one of the most successful independent record companies of its time. In 1968, Wood partnered with Welk to launch Ranwood Records in order to release records by artists mostly associated with the Lawrence Welk Show. Welk purchased the label from Wood in 1979. Randy Wood passed away on April 9, 2011. He was 94.
Posted in Radio, Record Label | Tagged: Debbie Reynolds, Fats Domino, Lawrence Welk, Little Richard, Pat Boone, Randy Wood, Tab Hunter, The Mills Brothers | 1 Comment »
Posted by themusicsover on March 13, 2011
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.
What You Should Own
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Posted in Jazz, Musician | Tagged: Curtis Mayfield, Galactic, Hank Ballard, Hank Crawford, Jackie Wilson, Jimmy McGriff, Little Richard, Lou Donaldson, Marvin Gaye, Melvin Sparks, Soulive, The Upsetters | Leave a Comment »
Posted by themusicsover on October 12, 2010
July 14, 1958 – October 12, 1998
Raymond Myles was acknowledged by his New Orleans’ musical peers as perhaps the greatest gospel talent of his generation. The testimonials to his greatness as a singer, pianist and choir director came from no less than Harry Connick, Jr., Aaron Neville, Dr. John and Allen Toussaint. Myles devoted his life to addressing vital social issues that impacted his community and affected him personally. From his impoverished beginnings in the everyday violence of New Orleans’ housing projects, he became a dedicated public school music teacher whose commitment to young people steered many of them away from ruin during a murderous crack epidemic in New Orleans during the nineties. “But as hard as he tried, Raymond never felt that his community embraced him with what he considered to be God’s unconditional love,” said Leo Sacks, who produced his only full-length studio album, A Taste of Heaven, and is directing a documentary called A Taste Of Heaven: The Heartbreak Life of Raymond Myles, Gospel Genius of New Orleans, now in production (raymondmylesmovie.com). “These feelings of isolation and disconnection reflected a lifetime of struggle with his elders in the black church, a struggle that boiled down to their refusal to fully accept gay worshipers.” In his short, turbulent life, Myles performed as such prestigious music events as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and the Newport Folk Festival. Tragically, his dramatic journey from a childhood of abject poverty to the brink of international music stardom was cut short when he was murdered during a carjacking outside the French Quarter on the night of October 11, 1998. A career criminal from New Orleans was sentenced to 20 years in Louisiana’s Angola state penitentiary for being an accomplice to the killing. So beloved was Raymond Myles that when he was laid to rest, only Mahalia Jackson and Louis Armstrong drew more mourners to their Crescent City funerals.
Posted in Gospel, Musician, R&B, Singer | Tagged: Aaron Neville, Al Green, Allen Toussaint, Donny Hathaway, Harry Connick Jr., Leo Sacks, Little Richard, Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Otis Redding, Raymond Myles, Sam Cooke | Leave a Comment »