Clarence Clemons

Born in Norfolk, Virginia, in January of 1942, Clarence Clemons appeared destined for a career in sport, as opposed to one in rock and roll. This changed, however, when he received severe concussion in a car accident, which was to sideline him for two years, away from his beloved professional football.

Clarence had been playing the saxophone since the age of nine. He firstly became a member of Norman Seldin and The Joyful Noise, and it was while playing in Norman’s group that he met Bruce Springsteen. From there it was only a matter of time before Clarence joined Bruce’s E Street Band.

In 1983, Clarence found himself with some spare time and decided to embark upon his first recording as a solo artist. The result was the release of the album, ‘Rescue’, credited to Clarence Clemons and The Red Bank Rockers. From this LP came the single, “A Woman’s Got The Power”. The opening track, “Jump Start My Heart”, instantly reminds me of “Nutbush City Limits”. The last two tracks are the pick, “Savin’ Up”, written by Bruce Springsteen, and a cover of “Resurrection Shuffle”, which had originally been a hit for the British outfit Ashton, Gardner and Dyke, in 1971.

Two years later came Clarence’s second album, ‘Hero’, known best for his duet with Jackson Browne, “You’re A Friend Of Mine”. In my opinion it is a superior album to ‘Rescue’. The only track I wouldn’t care to listen to again is “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore”, a cover of The Walker Brothers’ original from 1966. Some recordings are so good they just shouldn’t be revived!

Clarence passed away in June of 2011, at the age of sixty-nine. He had suffered a stroke a week before his death.

David Houston

Gene Austin, an early recording star of the 1920s and ’30s, with many hits which included “Yes Sir! That’s My Baby”, “Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue”, My Blue Heaven”, “Tonight, You Belong To Me”, “Ramona” and “Bye Bye Blackbird”, was David Houston’s godfather. It was he who encouraged him to become a singer and pianist.

David, whose ancestors included Robert E. Lee and Sam Houston, was born in December of 1938, in Bossier City, Louisiana. At the age of twelve he appeared on the ‘Louisiana Hayride’, a hugely popular country radio programme, which was second only to the ‘Grand Ole Opry’.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ec6ocZNrdvY

Even so, David had to wait until 1963 to have his first hit, a cover of Harold Dorman’s “Mountain Of Love”, from 1960, which sounds almost entirely dissimilar to the original. Over the next decade and a half, David Houston enjoyed much success by recording a long series of entries to the country charts, seven of which went to number one. Some crossed over to the pop charts, the most noticeable fittingly being his biggest country hit, “Almost Persuaded”, in 1966.

David Houston also recorded duets with Tammy Wynette and Barbara Mandrell. Sadly, his life was cut short in November of 1993, when a cerebral aneurysm ruptured.

The names of more tracks by David Houston can be found in the suggested playlists.

Billy Preston

In 1956, at the age of ten, Billy Preston portrayed the young W.C. Handy in ‘St. Louis Blues’. He toured with Little Richard and Ray Charles in the 1960s and, in the middle of that decade, released two instrumental albums, ‘The Most Exciting Organ Ever’ and ‘Wildest Organ In Town!’. Billy also provided the organ solo on The Beatles’ “Get Back”, and, for a time was signed to the group’s Apple label.

As a session artist he worked with such notables as Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Carole King, Sly Stone, Barbra Streisand and The Rolling Stones. Working with such a diverse array of talent served to demonstrate his far-reaching love of music, which makes it difficult for one to categorise it.

By the middle of the 1970s, while recording under the A&M livery, Billy had reached the height of his fame. The singles “Will It Go Round In Circles”, “Outa-Space” and “Space Race” had already reached No.1 on either the pop or rhythm and blues charts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhap_K8X3yM

Billy Preston co-wrote and recorded “You Are So Beautiful”, in 1974, but it was another artist, Joe Cocker, who was also recording for A&M at the time, who had the hit. Billy left A&M in 1978.

By 1979 he was signed to Motown and it was there that he recorded in duet with Syreeta. Their most successful single was “With You I’m Born Again”; from the film, ‘Fast Break’.

The names of more tracks by Billy Preston can be located in the suggested playlists.

Nana Mouskouri

Nana Mouskouri is synonymous with Greece, however, as well as her native tongue, Nana could also speak and sing in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. She was truly an international superstar.

As a child Nana grew up amid poverty in Athens which, at that time, was under German occupation. The arrival of American troops in Greece exposed her to the sounds of such notable singers as Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.

Nana’s love of singing and music, in general, prompted her parents to enrol her in the Athenian Conservatory of Music. She began singing on the radio and in Athenian clubs.

Continued advancement resulted in her travelling to Paris where she recorded the first of her many hits, “The White Rose Of Athens”. This recording launched her career globally, selling in excess of one and a half million copies.

In 1962, Nana  recorded her first album, ‘The Girl From Greece Sings’, in the United States. Its recording was supervised by none other than Quincy Jones.

Nana, in 1968, recorded a series of television shows for the BBC, in London. These were purchased by television networks from around the world.

During her career Nana performed concerts in such countries as The Netherlands, Australia, the United States, Canada, Russia, Belgium, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Switzerland, Germany and France, as well as the continent of South America.

In September of 1979, in the city of Boston, Nana Mouskouri marked twenty years of global success.

The Move

The Move formed in early 1966. Its members were Roy Wood (guitar and vocals), Carl Wayne (vocals), Trevor Burton (bass), Ace Kefford (guitar) and Bev Bevan (drums), who were based in Birmingham, England.

A prolific writer of songs, Roy Wood supplied the group with virtually all of its material. While it had its roots in soul and rhythm and blues, the band was highly entertaining and innovative and could switch from soul to psychedelia during the course of the one show. The Move became known for its outlandish stunts on stage. Objects, such as television sets, would be smashed, and effigies burned.

Try as it may, the group failed to break into the lucrative American market. Perhaps this was one reason why the band underwent so many changes in its personnel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6o5F0s2SjQ

One such change took place, in 1970, when Jeff Lynne (later of E.L.O. and The Traveling Wilburys) became a member. Nevertheless, Roy and Jeff could not see eye to eye and, therefore, decided to go their separate ways a year later.

In 1972, Roy Wood formed Wizzard, which was to have a string of hits in Britain, that extended into the 1980s. Jeff Lynne, formed The Electric Light Orchestra (E.L.O.) and saw it develop into one of the Seventies’ biggest and most successful bands on stage.

The names of more tracks by The Move can be found in the suggested playlists.

Demis Roussos

Artemios Ventouris Roussos was born to Greek parents in Alexandria, Egypt, in June of 1946. His family fled to Greece during the Suez Crisis of 1956, leaving behind all of its possessions.

Demis had to support his family by performing in cabarets, while learning how to play the guitar, trumpet and piano. In the middle of the 1960s he met Vangelis, a Greek multi-instrumentalist — since famed for his hit, “Chariots Of Fire”, in 1981 — and the pair formed the rock group, Aphrodite’s Child. Releasing  albums bearing titles such as ‘666’, this phase of Demis’s life could not have been any further removed from that of a decade later when he toured the world dressed in his trademark kaftans.

Demis Roussos’s first in a long line of solo albums, ‘Fire And Ice’, demonstrated how he had managed to mix light balladry with rock. His long flowing black hair, bearded face and then massive frame, coupled with his unusual falsetto and obligatory intricately embroidered kaftans all became a part of what was known as the ‘Roussos Phenomenon’, in 1975 and 1976.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kE-7sQnIDa4

In 1985, the aeroplane on which Demis was travelling, from Athens to Rome, was hijacked and for five days it remained stationary on the tarmac in Beirut.

America

Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell and Dan Peek rose to both national and international prominence as the trio, America, in 1972. This was achieved via the release of their single, “A Horse With No Name”. For much of the 1970s America’s popularity endured as hit after hit entered the charts.

Despite its name, America was actually formed in Britain, as its members were the sons of servicemen in the United States Air Force who were stationed near London. Veteran producer Ian Samwell, who had worked with Cliff Richard in the early part of his long career, secured the trio a contract to record for Warner Bros. “A Horse With No Name”, “I Need You”, “Sandman” and “Everyone I Meet Is From California” were all recorded in London.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRY361U3A5Y

The group moved to Los Angeles and produced its own album, ‘Homecoming’, which contains the single, “Ventura Highway”. In March of 1973 America won a Grammy for being the Best New Artist of 1972.

The band’s next album, ‘Hat Trick’, did not do as well as had been expected and so it was decided to turn to another producer, none other than the legendary George Martin who had worked so splendidly with The Beatles. The album, ‘Holiday’, was recorded at Sir George’s Air Studios in London, and from it came the singles, “Tin Man” and Lonely People”.

America’s second collaboration with Martin took place in Sausilito, California. The resultant album, ‘Hearts’, released in 1975, contains “Sister Golden Hair” which, when released as a single, gave the band its first No.1 hit since “A Horse With No Name”.

Dan Peek left the group, in 1977, to pursue a career as a Christian artist.

‘Big’ Joe Turner

“Shake Rattle And Roll”, by ‘Big’ Joe Turner, is my favourite recording. I know this because a couple of decades ago — when I used to listen to the radio to hear its music — over the period of a long weekend, a countdown of ‘The Top 1,000 Hits Of All Time’ would invariably be played; with such playlists being published in the newspaper, leading up to that particular long weekend. One day, years later, I sat down to write out my own list of just 100 top recordings. To my surprise I ended up with the names of more than 120 which I, just as surprisingly, could not cull further. There, at the top of this list was “Shake, Rattle And Roll” by ‘Big’ Joe Turner.

Joseph Vernon Turner was born in Kansas City. While he had sufficient work singing in the clubs of his home town, when he moved to New York, in 1935, he found such work hard to obtain. Gradually, the opportunities did come his way and he was able to perform alongside some of the greatest names in jazz.

After the War his recordings gravitated towards the characteristics of rhythm and blues. These can be identified in such recordings as “My Gal’s A Jockey” (which doesn’t have anything to do with being a jockey) and “Sally Zu-Zazz”, both from 1946.

In 1951, ‘Big’ Joe was signed to the fledgling Atlantic label and under this livery he was to reap a string of hits. Initially, these consisted of blues ballads like “The Chill Is On” and “Chains Of Love” — which was to be revived by Pat Boone, in 1956 — before such up-tempo numbers as the self-penned classic “Honey Hush” (1953), “Shake, Rattle And Roll” (1954), “Flip, Flop And Fly” (1955) and “The Chicken And The Hawk” (1956), raised his popularity to new heights.

‘Big’ Joe Turner died in November of 1985, at the age of seventy-four.

The names of more tracks by Joe Turner can be found in the suggested playlists.

Connie Stevens

Concetta Rosalie Ann Ingoglia was born in August of 1938, in Brooklyn. Her father, a musician, had adopted the stage name of Stevens and Concetta was to do likewise.

When her parents divorced, Connie moved in with her grandparents. At the age of twelve she happened to witness a murder and, as a result, was sent to live with friends of the family in Missouri.

In 1953, she moved again, this time to live in Los Angeles, with her father. Connie’s career as a singer was already starting to develop. Following a short stint with The Foremost she joined The Three Debs as a replacement. In addition she began appearing in films, as an extra, however, it was not long before the attractive Connie was signed to a contract by Warner Bros.

Nevertheless, the role that was to make her famous came via television, in the form of the series, ‘Hawaiian Eye’. In it she plays nightclub singer, Cricket Blake. The series ran for four years from 1959 and continued parallel to her singing career.

Connie also appeared in several programmes of another popular series of the time, ’77 Sunset Strip’, and one of her hit singles was recorded, in 1959, in duet with one of its stars, Edward Byrnes, who played Kookie, a car-parking attendant who was renowned for almost continually combing his hair. It was a novelty song titled “Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)”. Connie’s other major hit was “Sixteen Reasons”, in 1960.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2BkSK0PLY8

Eddie Fisher, a popular singer in the 1950s, became Connie’s second husband. Although the pair was only married from 1967 until 1969, she bore him two children. Connie remained active in film and television into the new millennium.

Ronnie Milsap

Being born blind presented Ronnie Milsap with a myriad of additional challenges. One of the first was the rejection of both he and his father, by his mother, shortly after Ronnie’s birth in Robbinsville, North Carolina, in 1943. As a result, the pair moved in with Ronnie’s grandparents.

The radio introduced Ronnie to country music, and he was enrolled in a school for the blind, in Raleigh, in 1949. He studied to be a lawyer, in Georgia, in 1963 and 1964. One night, he attended a concert, in Atlanta, that featured Ray Charles. Ronnie was invited to meet his idol after the show and it was during this meeting that Ray encouraged him to follow his dream and pursue a career as a professional musician.

In 1965, Ronnie secured his first recording contract, in New York, where he was viewed to be a performer of rhythm and  blues. He moved to Memphis, in 1968, where he played and sang on the recording of Elvis Presley’s hit “Kentucky Rain”. A chance meeting with Charley Pride, the most popular singer in country music at that time, prompted Ronnie to try and make headway in Nashville. Still, it was to take until 1973 before his recordings would begin to enter the country charts.

A long succession of number-one hits followed, spanning a period of almost twenty years. Some even crossed over to the pop charts, with Ronnie’s most successful of these being “(There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me”, which peaked at No.5, in 1981.

The names of more tracks by Ronnie Milsap can be found in the suggested playlists.

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