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Posts Tagged ‘Ritchie Valens’

Died On This Date (May 7, 2011) John Walker / Lead Singer of the Walker Brothers

Posted by themusicsover on May 7, 2011

John Walker (Born John Maus)
November 12, 1943 – May 7, 2011

John Walker was a the co-lead singer of the Walker Brothers, a popular California-born “British” rock band during the ’60s.  Ironically, the band moved to England while British bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were taking over America.  As a sort of rock version of the Righteous Brothers, the band became immensely popular in England, with a fan club that once counted more members than even the Beatles’. During the early ’60s, Walker began building a name for himself throughout the hip Hollywood night spots while working with the likes of Phil Spector, the Monkees, and Ritchie Valens in the studio.  Meanwhile, he was forming the Walker Brothers with co-lead singer Scott Walker (born Noel Scott Engel) and drummer Gary Walker (born Gary Leeds) while playing in the house band at Gazzari’s on the Sunset Strip.  The band soon moved to England where they helped fill a void that was created when the popular British bands were trying to conquer America.  Over the course of their run, the Walker Brothers reportedly sold some 20 million records with hits like “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore,” “My Ship Is Comin’ In,” and “Love Her.”  In recent years, Walker regularly toured the UK as part of nostalgia tours.  In December of 2010, he was diagnosed with liver cancer.  John Walker was 67 when he died of cancer on May 7, 2011.

Thanks to Craig Rosen at number1albums for the assist.

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Died On This Date (March 4, 2011) Johnny Preston / Had Hit With “Running Bear”

Posted by themusicsover on March 4, 2011

Johnny Preston (born Johnny Courville)
August 18, 1939 – March 4, 2011

Johnny Preston was a rock ‘n roll pioneer who is perhaps best remembered for is 1960 #1 hit, “Running Bear.”  Preston was still in his teens when he and his band caught the attention of JP “The Big Bopper” Richardson at a local club.  Richardson was so impressed by the singer, that he gave Preston a tune he had penned to record.  That song was “Dancing Bear,” and when they put it to record, it included Richardson and future country icon, George Jones, on backing vocals.  The record was a huge hit, reaching #1 on both the U.S. and U.K. charts.  Unfortunately, Richardson never saw its success since it was released shortly after he perished in the plane crash that also took the lives of Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.   Preston released a handful of other charting singles over the next couple of years, but none came close to the success of “Dancing Bear.”  He did however, continue to perform well into the 2000s and was once recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame as a pioneer of the genre.  Johnny Preston died of heart failure on March 4, 2011.  He was 71.

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Johnny Preston

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Died On This Date (July 18, 1966) Bobby Fuller / Rock ‘n Roll Great

Posted by themusicsover on July 18, 2010

Bobby Fuller
October 22, 1942 – July 18, 1966

Pound for pound, Bobby Fuller’s remarkable output could stack up against any of his peers even though it was cut tragically short after just two years. Songs like “I Fought The Law,” “Let Her Dance,” and “Another Sad and Lonely Night” are just a few of his classic rock ‘n roll recordings that have either been covered by major artists or cited as major influences. Growing up, Fuller idolized fellow Texan, Buddy Holly, and at an early age decided he wanted to be a rock ‘n roll singer as well. Starting in the early ’60s, Fuller began to make a name for himself in the El Paso area clubs, and by 1964, he was living in Los Angeles, chasing his dreams. It was while in Los Angeles, he formed the Bobby Fuller Four and convinced legendary producer Bob Keane to sign them to Mustang Records. Keane’s other claim to fame was discovering a young Ritchie Valens. With a sound that was equal parts Buddy Holly, Tex Mex, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Elvis, Little Richard and the Ventures, Fuller began putting out such instant hit records as “Let Her Dance,” “Love’s Made A Fool Of You,” and of course, the great “I Fought the Law.” And then, almost as quickly as it started, it all came to a tragic and mysterious end. In what the incompetent police ruled a “suicide,” Fuller was found with multiple wounds to his body, covered in gasoline, and left for dead in a parked car outside his apartment. The scene, not only unsecured by police, was never dusted for fingerprints. Fuller’s mother claimed that the police told her that he had been dead for two hours, even though she had been with him just 30 minutes prior. And one witness even came forward claiming they saw a police officer discard a gas can into a nearby dumpster. But the case was never solved. Many speculate that the perpetrators fled the scene before they were able to burn the car and body. And adding to the mystery, the LAPD case files remain lost to this day. A 2002 novel entitled The Dead Circus by John Kaye further fuels the fire by including a “fictional” subplot that has Frank Sinatra ordering the hit on Fuller because he did not like him dating his daughter.

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I Fought the Law - The Best of Bobby Fuller Four - Bobby Fuller Four

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Died On This Date (February 13, 2002) Waylon Jennings / Country Music Icon

Posted by themusicsover on February 13, 2010

Waylon Jennings
June 15, 1937 – February 13, 2002

waylon-jenningsWaylon Jennings was a hugely influential country singer, songwriter and musician who was one of the pioneers of the genre’s “outlaw” movement of the ’70s.  Jennings learned to play the guitar and formed his own band before he even hit his teen years.  One of Jennings’ first jobs in music was as a disc jockey at a local Texas radio station.  It was there that he met an up-and-coming rockabilly singer named Buddy Holly.  Before long, Jennings was playing bass in Holly’s band.  On February 3, 1959, Jennings career path suffered a tragic setback when Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and Ritchie Valens all perished in a plane crash while they were on tour of the Midwest.  The accident, which has been memorialized as “the day the music died,” almost claimed Jennings’ life as well.  At the last minute Jennings gave up his seat to Richardson who hadn’t been feeling well.  As the musicians were boarding the plane, Holly quipped to Jennings, “I hope your ‘ol bus freezes up.”  Jennings’ retort, “Well, I hope your ‘ol plane crashes” haunted him for the rest of his life.   Jennings took a hiatus from performing and moved to Arizona where he went back to DJ’ing.  By the mid ’60s, he was making music again.     As he began building a following, Jennings met resistance from the Nashville music community for in part, not using the usual session players for his records.  Jennings was adamant that he would only use his traveling band in the studio.  And the rock edge to his music fell outside what was perceived as the “Nashville Sound,” a more slick country-pop.  This “outlaw” movement began to take hold as fellow country men like Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson who preferred to hang on to country’s honky tonk roots.   Over the course of his career, Jennings released a series of top-selling and influential country records.  That list includes Honky Tonk Heroes, Waylon Live, Are You Ready For The Country Lonesome, On’ry and Mean, Good Hearted Woman, and Dreaming My Dreams.  His collaborations with the likes of Nelson, Jessi Colter, the Highwaymen and the Outlaws were critically and commercially acclaimed as well.  Jennings stayed active through the ’90s even as his health began to fail due to diabetes.  On February 13, 2002, the disease claimed Waylon Jennings’ life.  He was 64.

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Honky Tonk Heroes - Waylon Jennings

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Died On This Date (February 3, 1959) Buddy Holly / Rock ‘n Roll Pioneer

Posted by themusicsover on February 3, 2010

Buddy Holly (Born Charles Holley)
September 7, 1936 – February 3, 1959

Buddy Holly was a gifted singer-songwriter who, even though his career lasted just a year and a half, was arguably the most important figure in the birth of rock ‘n roll.  Holly was more of a traditional country artist before being inspired by Elvis Presley and Bill Haley to add elements of rockabilly into his music in 1955.  The following year, he was signed by Decca Records and formed his back-up band, the Crickets.  Over the next eighteen months, Holly released one hit single after another.  They included “Peggy Sue,” “That’ll Be the Day,” and “Oh Boy.”  These songs became a direct influence on the likes of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones.  Just as Holly’s career was beginning to take off, tragedy struck.  February 3, 1959…it’s been called “the day the music died.”  While on a U.S. mid west tour called the Winter Dance Party, Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and Ritchie Valens were on a small Beechcraft airplane en route from Mason City, IA to Moorhead, MN.  The winter weather was taking its toll on the traveling musicians.  Waylon Jennings had originally been slated to fly ahead, but gave up his seat to Richardson at the last minute.  Shortly after take off, the plane carrying rock ‘n roll’s brightest new stars crashed into an empty field killing everyone on board.  Initial reports blamed pilot error on Roger Peterson, but future examinations vindicated him, putting the blame squarely on the bad weather conditions.  Buddy Holly was 22 at the time of his death.

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The Buddy Holly Collection - Buddy Holly

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Died On This Date (February 3, 1959) Ritchie Valens / Rock ‘n Roll Pioneer

Posted by themusicsover on February 3, 2010

Ritchie Valens (Born Richard Valenzuela)
May 13, 1941 – February 3, 1959

The Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly

L-R: The Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly

Ritchie Valens was one of the founding fathers of rock ‘n roll as well as a pioneer of Chicano rock.  Born in Los Angeles, Valens was raised by parents who embraced the modern America where they now lived, but also kept one foot firmly planted in their Mexican roots.  From an early age, Valens was exposed to Mexican folk music, but also absorbed the sounds of R&B and jump blues he heard on the radio.  After his one and only audition while just 16 years old,  Valens was signed to Bob Keane’s Del-Fi Records in May of 1958.  In just a matter of months, Valens released hits like “Donna,” “Come On, Let’s Go,” and of course, “La Bamba,” which quickly became his signature song.   He would later become an inspiration for the likes of Los Lobos, Carlos Santana and Los Lonely Boys.  But less than a year after he signed his first recording contract, he died in one of pop music’s most famous tragedies.  February 3, 1959…a date that has been called “the day the music died.”  While on a U.S. mid west tour called the Winter Dance Party, Valens, Buddy Holly, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were on a small Beechcraft airplane en route from Mason City, IA to Moorhead, MN.  The winter weather was taking its toll on the traveling musicians.  Waylon Jennings had originally been slated to fly ahead, but gave up his seat to Richardson at the last-minute.  Shortly after take off, the plane carrying rock ‘n roll’s brightest new stars crashed into an empty field killing everyone on board.  Initial reports blamed pilot error on Roger Peterson, but future examinations vindicated him, putting the blame squarely on the bad weather conditions.  Ritchie Valens  was just 17 at the time of his death.

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Ritchie Valens

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Died On This Date (February 3, 1959) J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson / Rock ‘n Roll Pioneer

Posted by themusicsover on February 3, 2010

J.P. Richardson
October 24, 1930 – February 3, 1959

big-bopper

J.P. Richardson, or as he was more commonly known, The Big Bopper was an early rock ‘n roll disc jockey turned pop star thanks to his big hit, “Chantilly Lace.”  He was also a successful songwriter who wrote “White Lightning” which became a hit by George Jones, and “Running Bear”, a hit by Johnny Preston.  Richardson began his career on radio during the late ’40s.  His first big claim to fame came in May of 1957 when he set the continuous on-air record by broadcasting non-stop for five days, two hours and eight minutes.  During that time he played over 1800 records.  In 1959, he reportedly coined the phrase “music video” when he made one of himself.  But shortly thereafter, tragedy struck.  On February 3, 1959 – the date that has been called “the day the music died,”  Richardson was killed in one of pop music’s most tragic events.  While on a U.S. mid west tour called the Winter Dance Party, Richardson, Buddy Holly, and Ritchie Valens were on a small Beechcraft airplane en route from Mason City, IA to Moorhead, MN.  The winter weather was taking its toll on the traveling musicians.  Waylon Jennings had originally been slated to fly ahead, but gave up his seat to Richardson at the last minute.  Shortly after take off, the plane carrying rock ‘n roll’s brightest new stars crashed into an empty field killing everyone on board.  Initial reports blamed pilot error on Roger Peterson, but future examinations vindicated him, putting the blame squarely on the bad weather conditions.  The elder statesman of the group, The Big Bopper died at the age of 28.

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The Big Bopper

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Died On This Date (February 3, 1959) Roger Peterson / Pilot of Flight Carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens & The Big Bopper

Posted by themusicsover on February 3, 2010

Roger Peterson
May 24, 1937 – February 3, 1959

roger-peterson

Roger Peterson was a young pilot who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time when the small aircraft he was piloting during a cold wintry morning in 1959 crashed, killing three of pop music’s biggest stars in a tragedy that has been called “the day the music died.”  On board the Beachcraft plane on that tragic day were Buddy Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and Ritchie Valens – all, including Peterson, were killed when the plane crashed into an Iowa cornfield.  In the immediate aftermath of the crash, Peterson was the target of blame by family and fans of the performers, but he would later be vindicated.  One theory is that the plane was equipped with an unusual gyroscope that read upside down from what most pilots were accustomed to.  Peterson may have thought he was gaining altitude when he was actually descending.  Another theory is that he was not informed of the treacherous weather conditions as he should have.  Either way, Roger Peterson, a well-trained and experienced pilot went down with his plane at the age of 21.



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Died On This Date (December 23, 2008) Don Randall / Co-Founder of Fender Guitars; Coined “Stratocaster”

Posted by themusicsover on December 23, 2009

Don Randall
October 30, 1917 – December 23, 2008

Photo by Robert Perine

Photo by Robert Perine

Don Randall was one of the driving forces behind the success of Fender Guitars.  It was Randall’s marketing savvy that helped secure such loyalists as Ritchie Valens, Jimi Hendrix and Dick Dale.  Randall also had to responsibility of naming the guitars that the company created.  In that capacity, he coined the name Stratocaster, given to the 1954 model that would help revolutionize the way musicians approached the instrument.  It was popularized by Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Holly and countless others.  In 1965, Randall helped negotiate the sale of the company to CBS and stayed on as Vice President and General Manager until is retirement from the company in 1969.  He later launched the successful Randall Instruments that built amplifiers and PA systems.   Don Randall passed away on December 23, 2008 at the age of 81.



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Died On This Date (November 28, 2009) Bob Keane / Founder of Del-Fi Records

Posted by themusicsover on November 28, 2009

Bob Keane (Born Robert Kuhn)
January 5, 1922 – November 28, 2009

At right with Ritchie Valens

Bob Keane was the founder of Del-Fi Records, the first label to give a young Ritchie Valens a recording contract.   Keane began his music career as a clarinetist who, after a 1938 concert by his jazz band was broadcast on Los Angeles radio station, KFWB, was offered a record deal by MCA Records.  A couple of years later, he was dropped by the label so he enlisted in the army.  Upon his return home from duty, Keane picked up where he left off, playing in local clubs around Los Angeles.  In 1955, Keane and a partner formed the label, Keen Records, and released a single by then unknown soul singer, Sam Cooke.  The song was “Summertime,” but it was the b-side “You Send Me” that started to get attention at radio, quickly sending it to #1 on the Billboard pop chart.  Unfortunately for Keane, he made an oral agreement with his partner, and before he could collect any of the “You Send Me” earnings, he was out the door.  He soon formed his own label, Del-Fi Records and discovered Valens, a young Latino rock ‘n roller from Pacoima, CA.  Over the next several months, Keane released hit after hit records by Valens but sadly, the musician was killed the following year in the plane crash that also took the lives of Buddy Holly and JP “The Big Bopper” Richardson.  The label continued on, eventually signing a stable of artists that were just as important to the legacy of popular music as Valens had been.  That list included the Surfaris, Frank Zappa, Brenda Holloway, and the Bobby Fuller Four.  In 1967, Keane shuttered the label and went on to manage his sons’ band.  He sold the Del-Fi catalog to the Warner Music Group in 2003.  On November 28, 2009, Bob Keane, 87, died of renal failure.

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