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On October 21st, in 1917, musician, composer, arranger, bebop Jazz inventor, Afro-Cuban Jazz innovator, trumpeter, pianist and big cheeked Jazz legend-Dizzy Gillespie-John Birks Gillespie was born in Cheraw, South Carolina. Diz came from a big family, being the youngest of nine children. His Pops was a musician (bandleader). He started playing piano when he was 4, and taught himself to play trombone and trumpet at age 12. Gillespie’s major influence for wanting to become a professional Jazz musician came about after hearing Roy Eldridge. He got his first gig with Frank Fairfax in 1935, then he played with Edgar Hayes & Teddy Hill.
His first recording was with Hill on King Porter Stomp (1937). He joined Cab Calloway’s band in 1939, and married the infamous dancer Lorraine Willis in 1940. They never divorced. This is when Dizzy first started branching out in bebop. His solos and comedic approach to the serious Bandstand left a sour taste in Calloway’s mouth so he fired him in 1941. In 1942,Diz heard Charlie Parker playing flatted 5th chords in Earl Hines’ band (birth of Bop). After this, he and Bird would invent Bebop while playing in Hines’ & Eckstine’s bands. By 1945, it was a well-known sub-genre of Jazz. Dizzy passed away in 1993 from pancreatic cancer. He was 75.
On October 21st, in 1941, guitarist, session musician, producer, songwriter and original member of Booker T. & the MG’s-Steve Cropper (Steven Lee Cropper) was born in Dora, Mississippi. His family moved to Memphis when he was 9. He got his first mail order guitar when he was 14. He was heavily influenced by Soul and Blues music in the Memphis area. Charlie Freeman (guitarist) and Cropper started their first band called the Royal Spades, which later became the Mar-Keys. They acted as the studio band for some sessions with Stax, and then he joined Booker T & the MGs. This all took place in the early 60s.
They acted as the Stax House Band for years, cutting songs for: Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Little Milton, The Staple Singers, The Emotions, Johnny Taylor, Albert King, Eddie Floyd, Rufus & Carla Thomas, David Porter, and The Temprees to name a few. He also became the A&R for Stax and worked as a guitarist, writer and producer for other acts like: Wilson Pickett, John Lennon, Jeff Beck, Ringo Starr, Tower of Power, Blues Brothers, Rod Stewart, Jose Feliciano and John Prine. He’s a Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee (class of 1992); he was named the greatest living guitarist by Mojo magazine (1996); and he got inducted into Nashville’s Songwriters Hall of Fame (2009). He’s been married twice and has 4 kids. He’s 77 today.
On October 21st, 1957, singer, guitarist, producer, songwriter and arranger -Steve Lukather (Steven Lee Lukather) was born in San Fernando Valley, California. He started playing keys and drums at a young age, and by age 7, he’d gotten his first acoustic guitar from his father which he taught himself to play. He says he was influenced by George Harrison’s playing on the Beatles’ Meet the Beatles LP in 1964. By the time he’d reach his teens (high school), he met 4 future members of Toto-David Paich & three brothers Steve, Jeff & Mike Porcaro. Luthaker wanted to learn more about music and became a session musician after high school.
Jeff Porcaro was playing drums for Steely Dan (early to mid-70s) and got Luthaker a few gigs. In 1976, Paich & Jeff Porcaro approached Luthaker and asked him to be a member of Toto. He was the lead guitarist, arranger, composed many of their songs, and sang back up vocals. He is a day one member of Toto and never left the band. He also sang lead from 1990-1997, during the time they didn’t have a front man. Toto is one of the many 80s Rock bands that produced well-known hits like Africa & Georgy Porgy, the latter having been sampled by MC Lyte. He played most of the guitar (including the Beat It solo) on the Thriller LP and continues to record and tour. He’s 61 today.
…‘What’s Happening to Rerun & Roger?’…On October 21st, in 2003, actor, comedian, street dancer and original member of the Lockers Dance Troupe-Fred (Allen) Berry AKA ReRun passed away in Los Angeles, California. The St. Louis native got his start street dancing with the Lockers-including Ozone from Breakin’ and Toni Basil (Mickey). The crew could be seen on Soul Train during the early to mid 70s. They also appeared on SNL’s third episode. In 1976, Berry got an opportunity to play Rerun on What’s Happening. The show ran from 1976-1979. From 1985-1986, the show came back briefly with What’s Happening Now!!
However, Berry asked for more money, thinking he was the ‘star’ of the show. When he was refused a raise, the show fizzled out and everyone parted ways. Berry had made guest appearances on TV shows and in films, but he never secured a starring role. He eventually became a Baptist minister (early 90s). Around the same time, he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and got his health in check by losing nearly 100 pounds. Berry was a busy man…from 1976 to 1999, he got married 5 times, to 4 different women, and had 3 kids. He was in over 20 TV shows and films from 1972 to 2005. Most notably, In Living Colour, The Freshest Kid and Martin. He was 52 years-old when he passed.
On October 21st, in 2006, guitarist, songwriter, singer, drummer and founding member of the Runaways-Sandy West (Sandra Sue Pesavento-l) was born in Long Beach, California. She started drumming when she was 9, after her granddad bought her a drum kit. All through elementary school (4th-6th grade), she was the drummer for her school’s orchestra. She was gigging with local bands by 13, and when she met Joan Jett (guitarist) & older male manager/producer Kim Fowley when she was 15, they formed the Runaways-an all-female teenage Rock group. They added on Lita Ford & Cherie Currie (lead singer-Cherry Bomb) around 1975.
Interesting fact: most of the members didn’t know each other and Fowler brought them together. He didn’t pay em right either, like other managers of teen bands. The band toured for 4 years and broke up in 1979. After which, West tried to do some solo work, but the gigs dried up and she had to find a regular job. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005, and died a year later (47 years-old). She’s credited on over 10 Runaways LPs from 1976 to 1999. She also put out 3 releases on her own. The sad apart about this story is that West was a dope drummer that never got the real recognition she deserved until after her death, and she died as an employee not a drummer, which is what she was meant to do…
Honorable Mention: On October 21st, in 1972 two things happened, centered around two charts(R&B and Pop), and four genres (R&B, Country, Reggae, Pop). First, Country singer Johnny Nash had an awesome Country-Pop-Reggae ‘mash up’ hit with I Can See Clearly Now. The song reached number 38 on the R&B chart, and eventually became number 1 on the Pop chart (4-week run). The backing musicians for the track were Bob Marley & the Wailers’ band (minus Bob, just the band). On the same day, the Superfly soundtrack hit number 1 on the Pop chart. It remained there for 4 weeks. It was one of the biggest selling LPs Curtis ever made.
On October 21st, in 1978, The Rock the Casbah Clan AKA the Clash were having some problems with their current manager Bernie Rhodes. Most likely it was related to the amount of fame the group was getting, and the lack of money they were receiving…the band complained to their label that Rhodes was becoming increasingly difficult to deal with. As a result, Rhodes got canned and replaced by Caroline Cooke who was a writer for Melody Maker magazine.
On October 21st, in 1989, Millionaires Peter C.B. Bynoe & Bertram M. Lee became the first Black Americans to own an NBA team-Denver Nuggets. They purchased the team for $54 million, signing the agreement today and thus making it official. The Nuggest have had some ballers ‘don’ their jerseys like Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams and many others. I had no idea a Brother owned the team…
For more information on any musician or event reviewed in posts, or for additional information on the Wandering Eyes Blog overall, use the search bar and search the artist or event using keywords. It’s like a Google search for the site. A myriad of information, covering several topics exists on this site going back to 2013 when it was created. PEACE!