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Almanac – April 26

1886 – Ma Rainey born. One of the earliest known American professional blues singers and one of the first generation of such singers to record. she has been  billed as The Mother of the Blues.

She  was known for her very powerful vocal abilities, energetic disposition, majestic phrasing, and a ‘moaning’ style of singing similar to folk tradition, though her powerful voice and disposition are not captured on her recordings (due to her recording exclusively for Paramount, which was known for worse-than-normal recording techniques and among the industry’s poorest shellac quality), the other characteristics are present, and most evident on her early recordings, Bo-weevil Blues and Moonshine Blues. She also recorded with Louis Armstrong.



1937 – Spanish Civil War: Guernica (or Gernika in Basque), Spain  bombed by German Luftwaffe, causing widespread destruction and civilian deaths – the Basque government reported 1,654 people killed.

The bombing was the subject of a famous anti-war painting by Pablo Picasso. It was depicted by Heinz Kiwitz, a German artist who made a woodcut of it  and later was killed fighting in the International Brigades.

The bombing shocked and inspired many artists: Guernica is also the name of one of the most violent of René Iché sculptures, one of the first electroacoustic music by Patrick Ascione, of a musical composition by René-Louis Baron and a poem by Paul Eluard (Victory of Guernica). There is also a short film from 1950 by Alain Resnais entitled Guernica.



1938 – Duane Eddy born.  American guitarist. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he had a string of hit records, produced by Lee Hazlewood, which were noted for their characteristically “twangy” sound, including “Rebel Rouser”, “Peter Gunn”, and “Because They’re Young“. He had sold 12 million records by 1963.



1940 – Giorgio Moroder born. Italian record producer, songwriter and performer.

When in Munich in the 1970s, he started his own record label called Oasis Records, which several years later became a subdivision of Casablanca Records.

 He collaborated with Donna Summer during the  disco era (including “Love to Love You Baby” and “I Feel Love“) and was the founder of the former Musicland Studios in Munich, which was used as a recording studio by artists including the Electric Light Orchestra, Led Zeppelin, Queen and Elton John.

Moroder also produced a number of electronic disco hits for The Three Degrees, two albums for Sparks, songs for performers including David Bowie, Irene Cara, Madleen Kane, Melissa Manchester, Blondie, Japan, and France Joli.



1970 – Gypsy Rose Lee died.  American burlesque entertainer famous for her striptease act.

She was also an actress, author, and playwright whose 1957 memoir was made into the stage musical and film Gypsy.

Trying to describe what Gypsy was (a “high-class” stripper), H. L. Mencken coined the term ecdysiast.  Her style of intellectual recitation while stripping was spoofed in the number “Zip!” from Rodgers and Hart‘s Pal Joey, a play in which her sister June appeared.

Gypsy can be seen performing an abbreviated version of her act (intellectual recitation and all) in the 1943 film Stage Door Canteen.







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Bad news, loyal subjects.  Mrs Windsor’s husband – Phil the Greek, as he’s known in the East End bars and whorehouses he frequents – has been taken  ill and won’t  be attending tonights jubilee pop concert.  He’s probably got at least another couple of hours in the queue at his local NHS A&E department before he gets the chance to make a racist comment about the overworked doctor who draws the short straw and has to deal with him.

Actually, I suspect it might just be a ploy to get out of going to the gig – Sir Elton John, Sir Cliff Richard,  Sir Paul McCartney [who will probably not be performing “Give Ireland Back To The Irish”], Dame Shirley Bassey, Madness shedding the last vestige of credibility – sheesh !  A line-up like that would certainly  have me reaching for the medical symptoms dictionary. Hell, I’d fake bubonic plague to get out of an event like that.

An interesting point to ponder, though – what if Phil was to shuffle off this mortal coil in the immediate future ?  It would certainly put a damper on proceedings, the adoring crowds being confined to waving their union jacks at the funeral cortege. And the Olympics looming  ever closer too.

Or would they perhaps stick him on ice, put out a press release saying that he’s “resting after an illness”  [technically true, I suppose] and delay announcing his demise until later in the year ?

A state funeral right now would be bad for business,  and the monarchy is nothing if not a business, and not one that would allow sentiment to get in the way.

Just ask Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon. They were daughters of John Herbert Bowes-Lyon and his wife Fenella (née Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis). As John was the brother of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon the Queen Mother, the two daughters were first cousins of Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1987, it was revealed that Nerissa and Katherine had been placed in Earlswood Hospital for the mentally disabled in 1941, aged 22 and 15 years respectively,  categorised as  ‘imbecile’ in the surviving medical notes.

The bizarre and rather cold-blooded  fact is that although Nerissa died in 1986, and Katherine, as far as I know, is still alive , both had been listed in Burke’s Peerage as being dead since the 1963 edition. Effectively written out of history. Not good for the royal image, I suppose.

The infomation was  supposed to have been supplied to Burke’s by their mother, said to have incorrectly filled in the forms due to  ‘vagueness’, which is also somewhat bizarre. But considering they were first cousins of Mrs Windsor, you might have expected Burke’s to have double-checked with Buckingham Palace. Perhaps they did. Perhaps the enteries were officially approved. And  they were officially written out of history.

According to a 2011 television documentary about the sisters, “throughout their time at the hospital, there is no known record that the sisters were ever visited by any member of the Bowes-Lyon or royal families, despite their aunt, the Queen Mother, being a Patron of MENCAP” (the charity for people with a learning disability).

Nurses interviewed on the documentary said that, to their knowledge, the family never even sent the sisters a birthday or Christmas gift or card. When Nerissa died in 1986, none of her family attended the funeral. She was buried at Redhill Cemetery. Her grave was only marked with plastic tags and a serial number until her existence was revealed in the media, after when the family added a proper gravestone.

It does seem rather unlikely that Mrs Windsor or her mother wouldn’t know about the fate of their cousins/neices. But I guess there’s no room for sentiment in the royal business.

This attitude towards mentally disabled members of the clan isn’t anything new, though. In 1905, George V and Queen Mary had a son, Prince John, who suffered from epilepsy and who appeared to be autistic.

John was excluded from official family photographs and was not allowed to attend his father’s coronation in 1911. In 1917, he was removed to Wood Farm on the Sandringham estate. Reportedly, he saw little of his parents and died two years later.

Interesting to speculate what might happen if Will & Kate were to produce a mentally- [or physically- for that matter] disabled offspring ? Would it be spirited away soon after birth and replaced by something a little more in line with the royal image ?

I guess the question is – do you think they wouldn’t ?

And has it happened before ?

Mr. Frankenstein

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