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Almanac – June 10

323 BC – Alexander the Great died. King of Macedon, a state in northern ancient Greece.

By the age of thirty, he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from the Ionian Sea to the Himalayas. He was undefeated in battle and is considered one of history’s most successful commanders.

Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, in Babylon, aged 32.

 

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1884 – Leone Sextus Denys Oswolf Fraudatifilius Tollemache-Tollemache de Orellana Plantagenet Tollemache-Tollemache born.

English soldier, here solely because of his name. He died on active service in 1917, though of influenza rather than a bullet.

 

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1910 – Howlin’ Wolf born. American blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player.

With a booming voice and looming physical presence, Wolf is commonly ranked among the leading performers in electric blues; musician and critic Cub Koda declared, “no one could match Howlin’ Wolf for the singular ability to rock the house down to the foundation while simultaneously scaring its patrons out of its wits.”

 A number of songs written or popularized by him —such as “Smokestack Lightnin'”, “Back Door Man”, “Killing Floor” and “Spoonful”—have become blues and blues rock standards.

At 6 feet, 6 inches (197 cm) and close to 300 pounds (136 kg), he was an imposing presence with one of the loudest and most memorable voices of all the “classic” 1950s Chicago blues singers.  Sam Phillips once remarked, “When I heard Howlin’ Wolf, I said, ‘This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies.'”

 

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1940 – Marcus Garvey died. Jamaican political leader, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator who was a staunch proponent of the Black nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements, to which end he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL).

He founded the Black Star Line, part of the Back-to-Africa movement, which promoted the return of the African diaspora to their ancestral lands.
The Rastafari movement  proclaims Garvey as a prophet

.Garvey died in London in 1940 after two strokes. Due to travel restrictions during World War II, his body was interred in London and he was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery. In 1964, his remains were exhumed and taken to Jamaica, where the government proclaimed him Jamaica’s first national hero and re-interred him at a shrine in the National Heroes Park.

 

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1946 – Jack Johnson died.  American boxer.

At the height of the Jim Crow era, Johnson became the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion (1908–1915). In a documentary about his life, Ken Burns notes that “for more than thirteen years, Jack Johnson was the most famous and the most notorious African-American on Earth.”

Johnson died in a car crash on U.S. Highway 1 near Franklinton, North Carolina, a small town near Raleigh, after racing angrily from a diner that refused to serve him.

Miles Davis‘s 1971 album entitled A Tribute to Jack Johnson was inspired by the boxer. The end of the record features the actor Brock Peters (as Johnson) saying:
I’m Jack Johnson. Heavyweight champion of the world. I’m black. They never let me forget it. I’m black all right! I’ll never let them forget it!”

 

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Almanac – June 09

1915 – Les Paul born. American jazz, country and blues guitarist, songwriter, luthier and inventor.

He was one of the pioneers of the solid-body electric guitar, which made the sound of rock and roll possible, and is credited with many recording innovations.

Although he was not the first to use the technique, his early experiments with overdubbing, delay effects such as tape delay, phasing effects and multitrack recording were among the first to attract widespread attention.

 He recorded with his wife Mary Ford in the 1950s, selling millions of records.

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1934 – Jackie Wilson born. American singer and performer.

Wilson was important in the transition of rhythm and blues into soul. He was considered a master showman, one of the most dynamic and influential singers and performers in R&B and rock history.

Gaining fame in his early years as a member of the R&B vocal group Billy Ward and His Dominoes, he went solo in 1957 and recorded over 50 hit singles that spanned R&B, pop, soul, doo-wop and easy listening.

Wilson’s powerful, electrifying live performances rarely failed to bring audiences to a state of frenzy.  His live performances consisted of knee-drops, splits, spins,back-flips, one-footed across-the-floor slides, a lot of basic boxing steps (advance and retreat shuffling) and one of his favorite routines, getting some of the less attractive girls in the audience to come up and kiss him. “If I kiss the ugliest girl in the audience, they’ll all think they can have me and keep coming back and buying my records.”

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Almanac – June 02

1692 – Bridget Bishop was the first person to go to trial in the Salem witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts.

She wasaccused of bewitching five young women, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam, Jr., Mercy Lewis, Mary Walcott, and Elizabeth Hubbard, but  she may also have been accused because she owned one or more taverns, played shuffleboard, dressed in provocative clothing, and was outspoken.

She was hanged on June 10 1692.

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1740 – Marquis de Sade born. French aristocrat, revolutionary politician, philosopher and writer, famous for his libertine sexuality.

His works include novels, short stories, plays, dialogues and political tracts; in his lifetime some were published under his own name, while others appeared anonymously and Sade denied being their author.

 He is best known for his erotic works, which combined philosophical discourse with pornography, depicting sexual fantasies with an emphasis on violence, criminality and blasphemy against the Catholic Church.

He was a proponent of extreme freedom, unrestrained by morality, religion or law. The words “sadism” and “sadist” are derived from his name.

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2008 – Bo Diddley died. American R&B vocalist, guitarist, songwriter (usually as Ellas McDaniel), and rock and roll pioneer.

He was  known as The Originator because of his key role in the transition from the blues to rock, influencing a host of acts, including Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Velvet Underground, The Who, The Yardbirds, Eric Clapton, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles, among others.

 He introduced more insistent, driving rhythms and a hard-edged electric guitar sound on a wide-ranging catalog of songs, along with African rhythms and a signature beat (a simple five-accent clave rhythm) that remains a cornerstone of rock and pop.

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Almanac – May 16

1923 – Peter Underwood born.  English author, broadcaster and paranormalist,  a prolific author on books covering ghosts by region of the United Kingdom.

He is a leading expert on Borley Rectory, and  traced and personally interviewed almost every living person who had been connected with what the press had dubbed the ‘most haunted house in England’.

He built up a volume of correspondence with paranormal investigator Harry Price and after Price’s death, he became literary executor of the Harry Price Estate.

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1951 – Jonathan Richman born.  American singer, songwriter and guitarist.
In 1970 he founded The Modern Lovers, an influential proto-punk band. Since the mid-1970s, Richman has worked either solo or with low-key, generally acoustic, backing.

He is known for his wide-eyed, unaffected and childlike outlook, and music that, while rooted in rock and roll, often draws on influences from around the world.

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1953 – Django Reinhardt died. Pioneering virtuoso jazz guitarist and composer, often regarded as one of the greatest guitar players of all time and is the first important European jazz musician who made major contributions to the development of the idiom.

Using only the index and middle fingers of his left hand on his solos (his third and fourth fingers were paralyzed after an injury in a fire), Reinhardt invented an entirely new style of jazz guitar technique (sometimes called ‘hot’ jazz guitar) that has since become a living musical tradition within French gypsy culture.

With violinist Stéphane Grappelli, he co-founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France, described by critic Thom Jurek as “one of the most original bands in the history of recorded jazz.”

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Almanac – May 10

1768 – John Wilkes,  English radical, journalist, and politician, was imprisoned for writing an article for The North Briton severely criticizing King George III. This action provoked rioting in London.

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1916 – Milton Babbitt born. American composer, music theorist, and teacher, particularly noted for his serial and electronic music.

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1920 – Bert Weedon born. English guitarist whose style of guitar playing was popular and influential during the 1950s and 1960s.

He was the first British guitarist to have a hit record in the UK Singles Chart, in 1959, and his best-selling tutorial guides, Play in a Day, were a major influence on many leading British musicians, such as Eric Clapton, Brian May, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon, Dave Davies, Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, Tony Iommi and Jimmy Page.

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1952 – Lee Brilleaux born.  English rhythm-and-blues singer and musician with  Dr Feelgood.

He co-founded Dr Feelgood with Wilko Johnson in 1971 and was the band’s lead singer, harmonica player and occasional guitarist.

According to one obituary: “Brilleaux and Johnson developed a frantic act, often charismatically dressed in dark suits and loose ties, shabby rather than smart. The rough, and almost ruthless, edge which ran through his vocal and harmonica style reflected the character and philosophy of the band.”

In 1976, Brilleaux helped found Stiff Records, one of the driving forces of Punk, with a loan.

In 2011, contemporary artist and Dr. Feelgood fan Scott King announced his intention to commemorate  Brilleaux by erecting a 300 ft gold-plated statue of the musician on the foreshore in Southend-on-Sea close to the legendary Kursaal where the band played some of their most important gigs. An e-petition was launched to collect signatures in support of the project.

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1952 – Sly Dunbar born. Jamaican  drummer, best known as one-half of the prolific  rhythm section and reggae production duo Sly and Robbie.

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1954 – Bill Haley & His Comets released “Rock Around the Clock”, the first rock and roll record to reach number one on the Billboard charts.

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Almanac – April 23

1564 – William Shakespeare born. English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist.

 His extant works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, two epitaphs on a man named John Combe, one epitaph on Elias James, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

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1907 – Lee Miller born. American photographer. She was a successful fashion model in New York City in the 1920s before going to Paris, with the intention of apprenticing herself to the surrealist artist and photographer Man Ray. Although, at first, he insisted that he did not take students, Miller soon became his photographic assistant, as well as his lover and muse.

While she was in Paris, she began her own photographic studio, often taking over Man Ray’s fashion assignments to enable him to concentrate on his painting.In fact, many of the photographs taken during this period and credited to Man Ray were actually taken by Miller.

Together with Man Ray, she rediscovered the photographic technique of solarisation. She was an active participant in the surrealist movement, with her witty and humorous images.

 During the Second World War, she became an acclaimed war correspondent for Vogue, covering events such as the London Blitz, the liberation of Paris, and the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau.

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1965 – George Adamski died.  Polish-born American citizen who became widely known in ufology circles, and to some degree in popular culture, after he claimed to have photographed ships from other planets, met with friendly Nordic alien Space Brothers, and to have taken flights with them.

The first of the so-called contactees of the 1950s, he was called a “philosopher, teacher, student and saucer researcher“, though his claims were met with skepticism.

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1991 – Johnny Thunders died. American  guitarist, singer and songwriter. He came to prominence in the early 1970s as a member of the New York Dolls,  later played with The Heartbreakers and as a solo artist.

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Almanac – April 03

1882 – Jesse James died.  American outlaw, gang leader, bank robber, train robber and murderer, and the most famous member of the James-Younger Gang. Already a celebrity when he was alive, he became a legendary figure of the Wild West after his death.

 He was killed by Robert Ford,  a member of the gang living in the James house,  who was hoping to collect a state reward on James’ head.

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1949 – Richard Thompson born. British songwriter, guitarist and recording and performing musician. Highly regarded for his guitar techniques and strange, darkly-funny lyrics, Thompson’s music has been consistently lavished with praise by critics and by his peers throughout his long career.

He made his debut as a recording artist as a member of Fairport Convention in September 1967, and continues to write and record new material regularly and performs live frequently throughout the world.

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1950 – Kurt Weill died.  German composer, active from the 1920s, and in his later years in the United States.

 He was a leading composer for the stage who was best known for his fruitful collaborations with Bertolt Brecht, with whom  he developed productions such as his best-known work The Threepenny Opera, a Marxist critique of capitalism, which included the ballad “Mack the Knife”.

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