Buddy Greco, “The Ultimate Lounge Singer”

“The Lady Is A Tramp”–Watch on YouTube

Buddy Greco (August 14, 1926-January 10, 2017) was a jazz singer and pianist, long associated with Las Vegas, lounge acts and a Rat Pack-sensibility. Although he never achieved the fame of Rat Pack stalwarts Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. He recorded over 70 albums and performed relentlessly. “The Lady Is A Tramp” was the closest he had to a hit, and even that did not crack the Top 40.

Reviewers were generally not kind:

“…a strangely empty, unfocused act…” -New York Times critic John S. Wilson (1977)

“Frank Sinatra  Jr. Is Worth Six Buddy Grecos” -GQ (1994)

“…the epitome of a certain kind of saloon performer.” -Chicago Tribune critic Larry Cart (1985)

Greco’s first love was jazz and piano. He played with the Benny Goodman Orchestra for four years beginning in 1948 and can be heard soloing on Goodman’s album Undercurrent Blues, a brief detour for Goodman from swing into bebop.

Greco was inducted into the Las Vegas Entertainers Hall of Fame in November.

“Like Young” on Spotify

Sources: The Washington Post, Billboard, JazzWax

 

Barrelhouse Chuck, Legendary Chicago Blues Piano Player

At the Terrassa Blues and Boogie Reunion, 2012–Watch on YouTube

 

Charles “Barrelhouse Chuck” Goering was a dedicated student of the blues from the time he bought his first Muddy Waters album. He started collecting as many blues albums as he could, and followed Waters and his pianist Pinetop Perkins throughout the South as they played at clubs.

He eventually migrated to Chicago, home of the electric blues, where he met more of his heroes. He learned the techniques of legends Perkins, Sunnyland Slim,  Blind John Davis, Detroit Junior and Little Brother Montgomery.

His apprenticeship paid off. Goering (July 10, 1958-December 14, 2016) got to perform with blues royalty, opening for Waters, B.B. King and Willie Dixon and playing with Bo Diddley. He joined musicians  on the soundtrack of the movie Cadillac Records, a movie based on the history of Chess Records, and participated in an all-star lineup to promote the film’s music at the Apollo Theater.

He was nominated for a traditional blues Grammy in 2010 and received the 2014 Living Blues Magazine Critics Award for “Most Outstanding Musician (Keyboards).”

“Salute to Sunnyland Slim” on Spotify

Joe Ligon, Gospel Frontman for The Mighty Clouds of Joy

Thehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpMOIiqzbCU

“I’ve Been In The Storm Too Long” (2 Versions)–Watch on YouTube

Joe Ligon was an Alabama-born gospel singer who moved to LA and started the legendary gospel group, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, in the 1950s. The group won three Grammys in the 1970s and were the first gospel group to appear on Soul Train.

Their contemporary approach to gospel helped them cross over to the R&B charts and earned them a spot as opening acts for Paul SImon, the Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin.

Their first recording, “Steal Away To Jesus” was for the Peacock label in 1960. Village Voice critic Robert Christgau, while liking some of their later work, still held this early work in high regard: “Is it the formal purity of the Peacock stuff, leaving the excitement to Joe Ligon’s falsetto-piercing shouts, that makes their sermonizing so unpresumptuous?”

“Mighty High”-Live-On Spotify

Herb Hardesty, Saxophonist for Fats Domino

“When My Dreamboat Comes Home,” Solo by Herb Hardesty–Watch on YouTube

Herb Hardesty was a tenor sax player whose most famous gig was with Fats Domino, as a member of “The Fat Man’s” sax-heavy band. Hardesty played with Domino for nearly 50 years, from the singer’s 1949 debut single “The Fat Man” through his farewell concert in 2007.

Hardesty (March 3, 1925-December 3, 2016) was admired by other musicians, as well. He’s on “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” a 1952 hit by Lloyd Price and has appeared on Dr. John’s Goin’ Back to New Orleans and Tom Waits Blue Valentine. (You can hear a Hardesty solo on “A Sweet Little Bullet from a Pretty Blue Gun” on Waits’ 1978 album.) In his later years in Las Vegas, he was part of the Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Hilton Hotel bands.

Hardesty’s first instrument was a trumpet given to his stepfather by Louis Armstrong. While in the service in WWII, he was given a sax by his commanding officer, and is said to have learned how to play it in just two days. For many years he played a gold-plated Selmer Mark VI, dubbed “the most famous horn on the planet” by The Vintage Saxophone Gallery.

“Perdido St.” on Spotify

Pauline Oliveros, Composer Who Promoted “Deep Listening”

“The Difference Between Hearing and Listening” at TEDxIndianapolis–Watch on YouTube

I was in the shower this morning and took some time to take in the sounds: the hum of the water in the pipe, the spray of the showerhead and percussive clap of droplets hitting the tile floor.

I suppose I was practicing a form of “deep listening,” the practice and philosophy developed by sonic experimentalist Pauline Oliveros over the course of her long musical career.

As a child in Houston, Oliveros (May 30, 1932-November 24, 2016) was keenly aware of the sound of her surroundings: crickets, frogs, mocking birds. When she headed to San Francisco in 1952 to study music, she took this attentiveness with her and applied it to the emerging art of electronic music.

Her breakthrough piece was “Bye Bye Butterfly,” a composition built off of a recorded sample of Verdi’s Madame Butterfly and modified dramatically through the use of oscillators, tape delays and other effects. In an excellent post on frieze.com, critic and journalist Geeta Dayal quotes Oliveros as saying the piece “bids farewell  not only to the music of the 19th century but also to the system of polite morality of that age and to its attendant oppression of the female sex.”

Oliveros’s ideas on deep listening formed the basis of a book, Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice,  and a band, The Deep Listening Band, which she formed with Stuart Dempster and Panaiotis after they recorded in an underground cistern in Washington state.

“Bye Bye Butterfly” on Spotify

Jules Eskin, Long-time Cellist for Boston Symphony

Dvorak Cello Concerto with Boston Civic Symphony–Watch on YouTube

Jules Eskin was given his first cello at age 7 by his father, a Russian immigrant and tailor who himself had fallen in love with the instrument at a young age. Eskin’s father auditioned but was never chosen to play for an orchestra, but did play professionally at movie houses.

Eskin (October, 1931-November 15, 2016) got his first contract, on the other hand, at age 16, when he was asked to join the Dallas Symphony. After a year there, he came back to his hometown to study at the Philadelphia Music Academy, where he was kicked out for auditioning, without permission, at the rival Curtis School of Music.

After his education and military service with the Army Band, Eskin played for the New York Opera, Cleveland Orchestra (George Szell conducting) and Boston Symphony, beginning as principal cellist in 1964. He also performed on recordings with Leopold Stowkowski, Sir Thomas Beecham and other leading conductors of the day and was part of the first productions of Bernstein’s Candide and Meredith Wilson’s The Unsinkable Molly Brown. 

Eskin insisted that tone was everything to a cellist. In an interview with opuscello.com, he said “If you have tone, you can do anything. Without tone, you do nothing!”

Fauré: “Après un Rêve op. 7, no 1” on Spotify

Holly Dunn, Country Singer of “Daddy’s Hands”

“You Really Had Me Going” Official Video–Watch on YouTube

Holly Dunn’s wrote her biggest hit, “Daddy’s Hands,” on her way to work one morning. She made a tape of it and slipped into a Father’s Day card to her dad. The song only made it to #7 on the Country Charts in 1986 (the year it was released), but it earned her nominations for two Grammys – Best Country Song and Best Country Vocal Performance, Female.

In a post on niume, Texas music exec A. Michael Uhlmann relates a conversation with Dunn, in which she recalls that when she was growing up, her San Antonio home was open to many musicians, including Sonny James, Roy Orbison and Porter Waggoner. But, according to Uhlmann, Dunn was also influenced by singers closer to her generation – James Taylor, Carole King and The Beatles.

She often collaborated with her brother Chris Waters, and the duo penned a number of her hits, including “Playing for Keeps,” “Strangers Again” and “(It’s Always Gonna Be) Someday.”

Dunn was named “Top New Female Vocalist” in 1986, won the CMA Horizon Award in the same year and joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1989.

“Daddy’s Hands” on Spotify

Mose Allison, Jazz and Blues Piano Player with a Rock Fan Club

“I Don’t Worry About a Thing” on Soundstage–Watch on YouTube

According to Richard Skelly in the All Music Guide to Jazz, Mose Allison “suffered from a ‘categorization problem'”–a boogie-woogie, beboppin’  jazz and bluesman who was also a great songwriter. His admirers include John Mayall, Pete Townshend, Tom Waits, the Rolling Stones, Diana Krall, Van Morrison, The Clash and another excellent pianist/songwriter, the late Leon Russell.

Born in Tippo, Mississippi, Allison (November 11, 1927-November 15, 2016) picked up piano in the first grade. He moved to New York in 1956 and released his debut album Back Country Suite the next year. He recorded and performed until his retirement in 2012 and became an NEA Jazz Master in 2013.

Despite his rock cred and blues leanings, Allison considered himself a jazzman. “My definition of jazz is music that’s felt, thought and performed simultaneously, ” he said in a 2006 BBC documentary. “And that’s what I’m looking for every night.”

“Parchman Farm” on Spotify

Mohammad Heydari, Persian Santur Player

“Havas Meykadeh”–Watch on YouTube

Mohammad Heydari was a santur player, who lived and performed in Iran until the 1979 revolution. He migrated to Italy and ultimately to Los Angeles.

The santur is a hammered dulcimer with a 3-octave range. To achieve its range, it has 18 bridges and strings made of three different metals.

Heydari (January 1937-August 23, 2016) was the composer of the nostalgic songs “Zahre Jodai” and “Bahar Bahar,” both of which were performed by the popular female Iranian singer Hayedeh, who also moved to Southern California.

“Delam Gerefteh” on Spotify

Jean Shepard, Honky Tonk Star of the Grand Ole Opry

“Second Fiddle To An Old Guitar”–Watch on YouTube

Ollie Imogene “Jean” Shepard was a member of the Grand Ole Opry for over 60 years, longer than any other artist. She was a country music pioneer–one of the first women to perform solo, to release a concept album (Songs of a Love Affair1959) and was only the third woman to join the Opry.

Born in Oklahoma, Shepard (November 21, 1933-September 25, 2016) grew up in California, where she formed  The Melody Ranch Girls. While performing in Bakersfield, she was seen by country star Hank Thompson, who used his clout at Capitol Records to get her a record contract. “A Dear John Letter,” a 1953 duet with Ferlin Husky, went to #1 on the country charts and crossed over into the Top 10 on the pop charts.

While she had a number of charted hits in the 50s and 60s, she never made it back to the top. Country veered in a more cosmopolitan direction, and Shepard doggedly stuck to her traditional country roots. When Olivia Newton-John won best female country vocalist in 1974, the Association of Country Entertainers was formed and Shepard became its president. The New York Times quoted an interview she gave the Edmonton Journal: “She’s a very sweet lady, I’m sure. But what she sang wasn’t country music.”

“I Don’t Apologize For Loving You” on Spotify