Sib Hashian, Former Drummer For Boston

“More Than A Feeling” – Watch on YouTube

John “Sib” Hashian wasn’t the original drummer for Boston – and he wouldn’t be the last – but he was the drummer for the band’s successful self-titled debut album and its followup, Don’t Look Back. (Boston has sold over 17 million albums to date, including over seven million for its second album.)

In 1975 Hashian replaced original drummer Jim Masdea, who returned for the band’s third album. The band is famous for its multi-layered guitars, creating a 1970s version of Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound.”

At the time of his death, Hashian was playing on a Legends of Rock Cruise with fellow Boston vet Barry Goudreau, as well as former members of Kansas, the Beach Boys and Paul Revere & The Raiders.

“Peace of Mind” on Spotify

 

Chuck Berry, Bottled The Essence of Rock And Roll

Chuck Berry on The Tonight Show (1987) – Watch on YouTube

I usually try to keep my videos to a shorter length, but the above video of Chuck Berry on The Tonight Show is worth watching in full. First, you get to hear Berry perform three full songs, but you also hear Berry talk at length about his many influences. Among them:

Louis Jordan, for his lyrics. Here’s Jordan’s “G.I. Jive.”

Nat King Cole, for his voice. Here’s Cole’s “Orange-Colored Sky.”

Charlie Christian, for his electric guitar work with Benny Goodman. Here’s Christian with Goodman in “Wholly Cats.”

Carl Hogan, for his guitar riffs as part of Jordan’s Tympani Five. You’ll hear the prototype for the “Johnny B. Goode” intro in Hogan’s opening to “Ain’t it Just Like a Woman.”

Muddy Waters, for his soul. Waters introduced Berry to Chess Records, and “Maybellene,” Berry’s first hit, was the result. Here’s Waters on “Sugar Sweet” recorded in 1955, around the time he met Berry.

Berry doesn’t mention it on The Tonight Show, but according to the New York Times, “Maybellene” was a variant of the old country tune “Ida Red”, here performed by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys.

I appreciate Elvis and what he did to kickstart the rock-and-roll era, but to me Berry is really the one who put it all together: the irreverent attitude, the primacy of the guitar, the focus on youth, the melting pot of genres. Elvis would become a crooner, but Berry kept on rockin’, as his 1987 appearance on Carson – when he was 60 years old and still able to “duck walk” – says it all. The audience was having so much fun that Carson dropped his last two guests and let Berry stay on and perform “Johnny B. Goode.”

“Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news…” –Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry, October 18, 1926-March 18, 2007.

 

“Maybellene”on Spotify

Larry Coryell, The “Godfather of Fusion”

Larry Coryell and Eleventh House Live in Oslo (1975)–Watch on YouTube

Music genres get named and walls go up. Jazz lives in one room; rock ‘n roll in another. Purists don’t like intruders. Then along comes a musician like Larry Coryell and he doesn’t just knock on the door, he kicks it down. As a jazz-rock guitarist, he helped launch a new genre himself, fusion.

Coryell (April 2, 1943-February 19, 2017) came of age in the rock era, but he was a guitarist who had a healthy respect for jazz forbears like Wes Montgomery. For some listening suggestions, check out Mark Myers’ excellent blog JazzWax. His February 21st and 22nd posts provide a helpful survey of Coryell’s career, as well as memories from artists that Coryell collaborated with or inspired–Gary Burton, Randy Brecker, Steve Khan and John Scofield.*

“If music has something to say to you, whether it’s jazz, country-and-western, Indian music or Asian folk music, go ahead and use it.” Larry Coryell

I started this blog because I’m endlessly curious about different music styles. When someone asks, “What do you like to listen to?” I have a hard time coming up with a single answer. Like Coryell, I want to walk into different rooms. Thanks to artists like him, we can.

*Scofield, who just won two Grammys for his genre-mixing Country For Old Men, will be at the Dakota in Minneapolis on Saturday, February 25.

“General Mojo’s Well-Laid Plan” with the Gary Burton Quartet on Spotify

Bobby Freeman, Wrote And Sang “Do You Wanna Dance”

“Do You Wanna Dance” on Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show (1958)–Watch on YouTube*

I read Bobby Freeman’s obituary right after this year’s Grammy Awards. It made me wonder: would any of the songs that were up for 2017’s “Song of the Year” endure in the way that Freeman’s 1958 classic “Do You Want To Dance?” has?

Freeman’s song, written and recorded while he was still a teenager, would go on to be covered by The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas, John Lennon, The Ramones and Bette Midler. You can accuse me of Baby Boomer fuddy-duddyism, but it’s hard to imagine Adele, Beyoncé and all the pop machine behind them producing a tune still worth humming 60 years from now.

“Do You Want To Dance” didn’t win at the 1st Annual Grammy Award Show in 1959, the year it would have been eligible. It wasn’t even nominated. The honor that year went to “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)” by Domenico Modugno.

Freeman (June 13, 1940-January 23, 2017) is considered San Francisco’s first rock-and-roll star. His 1964 hit “C’Mon and Swim” was written and produced by then-19-year-old Sylvester Stewart (aka Sly Stone).

*This rather strange video begins with host Dick Clark talking to actor Tony Randall, apparently on leave from the Navy.

“Do You Wanna Dance” Original & Covers–Listen on Spotify

 

Gil Ray, Drummer for Game Theory and The Loud Family

W

Omnivore Game Theory Lolita Nation trailer–Watch on YouTube

Gil Ray (September 17, 1956-January 24, 2017) was a drummer  for Game Theory and The Loud Family. He joined California-guitarist Scott Miller, who founded both bands. Game Theory’s magnus opus is Lolita Nation, a 1987 album. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone called it “a head-spinning classic” and Stuart Batsford of Bucketful of Brains dubbed it “A work that ranks with the best music of the ’80s. Period.” Game Theory is often compared to Big Star, the band led by Alex Chilton. Like Big Star, Game Theory achieved much critical, but little, commercial success.

The Loud Family

The Loud Family emerged after Game Theory disbanded. It took its name from the family made famous on the PBS series An American Family. Although Ray did not join the band at its origin, he participated in the recording of its two final albums, Days for Days (1998) and Attractive Nuisance (2000). In a review of  a concert in support of the latter album, The Washington Post wrote “drummer Gil Ray’s inventiveness was a revelation.”

“We Love You, Carol and Alison” on Spotify

Rick Parfitt, Guitarist For Britain’s Status Quo

“Pictures of Matchstick Men”–Watch on YouTube

When I first saw the obit for Rick Parfitt, guitarist for Status Quo, I have to admit that I didn’t recall either his name or that of his band. But then I learned that Status Quo was behind psychedelic hit “Pictures of Matchstick Men.”

The 1968 single was their only hit in the U.S., reaching #12 on the Top 100. But they were very popular in Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and have toured extensively for 50 years. Spotify listens of several of their tracks number over 10 million.

Parfitt (October 12, 1948-December 24, 2016) joined The Spectres, an earlier version of the band in 1965. In recent years, he and Status Quo founder Francis Rossi performed as an acoustic duo, which they called Aquostic.

“Pictures of Matchstick Men” from Aquostic: Stripped Bare on Spotify

My Memories of Leon Russell in 11 Songs

 

I first discover Leon in the record bin of Boury’s Appliance Store in Wheeling, WV. I’ve never heard of him before, but I’m struck by the man looking back at me on the album cover. When I put needle to vinyl, I’m as captivated by his music as I am by him.

My friend Eddie and I chance upon Mad Dogs & Englishmen, the documentary about Joe Cocker’s world tour, at the Victoria Theater in Wheeling. In his stovepipe hat, Holy Trinity basketball jersey, Les Paul Gibson, and  his “hippy commune” of musicians and singers, he represents the type of free-spirited life I aspire to.

B.B. King is my other teenage musical idol, and I’m thrilled to see Leon playing piano for him as King performs a Russell song, “Hummingbird,” on The Mike Douglas Show. 

Here’s Leon’s original version.

During my freshman year at West Virginia University, a friend and I spend the better part of the year listening to Leon Live while drinking daiquiris and learning the Swahili chorus of “Out in the Woods.”

I see Leon for the first of five times at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. He and his carnival of a band open for Three Dog Night, which seemed a reversal of the natural order. One of the things that appeal to me about Leon is how he blends and celebrates country, rock, blues, classical, jazz and gospel, as he does when he gives the stage here to the Rev. Patrick Henderson.

Leon goes on tour to promote The Wedding Album, an record he produced with his then-wife Mary McCreary. I see them at Northrup Auditorium at the University of Minnesota with my then-wife. They would also perform the song on one of the earliest episodes of Saturday Night Live.

In the early aughts, I catch Leon at the Fine Line Music Cafe in Minneapolis. He has aged considerably, is drawing a much smaller crowd and rushes through his setlist on an electric piano. A highlight for the audience (and I’m sure him) is one of his daughters, who supplies backup vocals and a few solos. After playing sold-out stadiums and mingling with musicians from George Harrison to Eric Clapton, he must have felt like he was in a strange land indeed.

A Netflix documentary, The Wrecking Crew, celebrates a largely unknown group of LA studio musicians who backed and provided the sound to many of our favorite songs. Turns out, Leon was one of them, recording on tracks for The Byrds, The Beach Boys, The Monkees–even Sinatra and The Rolling Stones.

At the Trylon Microcinema, I see A Poem is a Naked Person, the surrealistic rock documentary by Les Blank. Produced by Russell and Denny Cordell, Leon kept it from release for 40 years. While the film  was ostensibly about Leon, he’s rarely in it. With his subject on a worldwide tour, Blank didn’t have the budget to travel along–most of the footage focuses on Russell’s home base and studio in Tulsa.

Leon has a late-life revival, when Elton John repays the kindness Leon had showed him as a young artist. Their joint album, recorded as Russell recovered from brain surgery, is highly acclaimed and puts Leon back in the spotlight. John makes sure Leon can afford to tour in a respectable bus with a real grand piano. Leon is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (introduced by Sir Elton) and Songwriters Hall of Fame.

I see Leon for a few last times, at the Dakota and Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis. He seems happy to be on stage with an adoring audience before him. RIP, Leon, I will miss you, but your music will always live on for me.

Kay Starr, Pop Singer Who Mixed Jazz, Country and Blues

On The Colgate Comedy Hour (1952)–Watch on YouTube

For decades Kay Starr was a jukebox favorite, racking up millions of record sales. When RCA-Victor lured her away from Capitol in 1955, they guaranteed her $250,000 a year, a stunning sum at the time. Her popularity was based on her ability to ebb and flow with musical tastes and trends, from swing to country to blues and even to the edge of rock and roll.

She started with big bands, making her first recording while a teenager with the Glenn Miller Orchestra. She replaced Lena Horne in Charlie Barnet’s swing orchestra and played with the Capitol International Jazzmen (including Coleman Hawkins and Nat King Cole). In the late 1940s, she went and scored big hits with songs like “Bonaparte’s Retreat” and “Wheel of Fortune.”

Starr (July 21, 1922-November 3, 2016) was a favorite of Patsy Cline and Elvis Presley, according to her obituary in The Washington Post. She performed at the inauguration of Harry Tuman.

 

“Wheel of Fortune” on Spotify

Bap Kennedy, Singer-Songwriter from Belfast

“Long Time Coming” Live from The Empire Belfast–Watch on YouTube

Bap Kennedy was a critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter who never achieved commercial fame despite the help of some very influential friends. Steve Earle produced his first solo album, Domestic Blues, which he recorded in Nashville in 1998. Van Morrison, a long-time fan and supporter, recorded Kennedy’s The Big Picture at his home studio and co-wrote the song “Milky Way.” And Mark Knopfler, with whom Kennedy toured, produced The Sailor’s Revenge.

One of Kennedy’s songs, “Moonlight Kiss,” made it onto the soundtrack of the John Cusack/Kate Beckinsale romantic comedy Serendipity.

Before going solo, Kennedy was part of the Irish bands 10 Past 7 and Energy Orchard, a band he formed in London.

“Moonlight Kiss” on Spotify

Don Ciccone, Guitarist and Vocalist for The Critters

“Younger Girl” from 1966–Watch on YouTube

Don Ciccone was a founding member of The Critters, one of a surge of American counterattacks to the British Invasion. The group offered up soft, “nice boy” vocals backed by the standard lineup of two guitars, bass, keyboards and drums.

The Critters were relatively short-lived (1964-1967), succumbing to the college and military careers of its members. But in that time they had several hits, including a cover of John Sebastian’s “Younger Girl” and their own oddly-titled single “Mr. Dieingly Sad,” which Ciccone wrote. (When Ciccone formed a new version of The Critters decades later, the title was slightly changed to “Mr. Dyingly Sad.”)

After The Critters, Ciccone was vocalist, guitarist and bassist for Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. He was the original vocal for their hit “Who Loves You” until record exec Mike Curb insisted Valli front the song. Ciccone (February 28, 1946-October 8, 2016) was later bassist for Tommy James and the Shondells. According to his website, Ciccone participated in the production of 40 hits, representing over 100 million in record sales.

“Mr. Dieingly Sad” on Spotify