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On March 27th, in 1924, jazz and pop vocal icon, singer, pianist, songwriter, composer, and arranger-Sarah Vaughan AKA Sassie AKA Sass was born in Newark, New Jersey. Her father was a guitarist and pianist, while her mother was a singer in the church choir. Both acted as heavy musical influences during her childhood. She started learning piano and singing in the choir when she was 7. By the time she reached her teens, she was into jazz, blues, soul and pop. She started performing in nightclubs around the time she was 16 (pianist, singer). She dropped out of school shortly after her junior year to pursue music full-time. When she was 18, she traveled to NYC and sang at the Apollo in Harlem. She won $10 and weekly gig. She opened for Ella Fitzgerald and Earl Hines.
Hines hired her as his female singer while Billy Eckstine sang lead. She toured with them from 1943-1944. This is the same time period that bebop jazz was being created. She met Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie-who did the arrangements for the band. She and Eckstine left Hines’ band towards the end of 1944. She made her recording debut in December of that year on De Luxe Records-I’ll Wait & Pray. Leonard Feather-executive at Continental Records, asked her to record for his imprint. Her popularity soared that last month, causing her to go solo in 1945. She got her nickname-Sassie from jazz pianist John Malachi due to her demeanor and vocal approach. She shortened it to Sass, which stuck as a moniker among the jazz musicians of her time. The Grammy Hall of Fame, Hollywood Walk of Fame singer was 66 when she died (1990).
On March 27th, in 1941, Sound of Philadelphia soul music pioneer, seminal singer, pianist, (Kenneth) Gamble & (Leon) Huff co-producer, songwriter, composer, arranger and the man that discovered the funk band Instant Funk-(Walter) Bunny Sigler was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. TOV covered the artist’s death on the October 6th post. Please refer to it for more information. Bunny was prolific singer in his own right. However, he’s probably most known for his songwriting, composing and production work for others on Philadelphia International Records. The bulk of his ‘great’ work was done during the late 60s up to the early 80s. He penned hits for the O’Jays, Jones Girls, Billy Paul, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Dexter Wansel, MFSB, The Three Degrees, Lou Rawls, Carl Carlton, and others. He often co-wrote songs with Gamble & Huff, as well as with keyboardist Dexter Wansel and guitarist Norman Harris from MFSB.
Sigler got his start singing in the church and learning to play the piano. In his teens he got into doo wop and sang with the Opals. In his late teens he sang and played piano around town. By the late 60s, he was writing and composing at Cameo-Parkway Records. In early 70s, Cameo-Parkway closed and Sigler moved to Philadelphia International Records. Aside from writing hundreds of songs for others, he also managed to put out 7 albums during the active part of his career: 1967-1980. He’s one of the few musicians that, for the most part, can reach the same high level of quality of work when producing for others and creating solo work for himself. Artists like Prince, George Clinton, James Brown, Quincy Jones and the like, are all similar in that regard. Sigler was 76 when he passed.
On March 27th, in 1993, we lost a prominent jazz musician, sideman, tenor saxophonist, composer, bandleader, arranger and Chicago jazz innovator-Clifford (Laconia) Jordan. Jordan’s legacy goes deep into the post-bop era of jazz (50s, after bebop hit big). He was able to mesh cool jazz pioneered by Ahmad Jamal, with bebop pioneered by Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus & Max Roach. He played for Roach in Chicago and other blues and soul acts. In the late 50s, he moved to NYC and started playing tenor sax as a sideman with Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, and others. In 1957, he made his recording debut as a bandleader on Blue Note Records-Blowing in From Chicago with John Gilmore.
He recorded 4 LPs in all during 1957, all for Blue Note. Not to mention, he also was a sideman for several acts that recorded on the imprint. As he puts it, going to the studio during the late 50s was like going to an all-star jazz convention and you could pick and chose the players. Some of his best solos are with others as bandleaders. For instance, he toured with Charles Mingus in 1964 when he had Eric Dolphy on sax. They both had ‘friendly’ challenges with one another often. He also played with Randy Weston and Cedar Walton. Both of these jazz pianists pushed Jordan’s playing while allowing him to have freedom within the melodies. Jordan recorded with a lot of musicians in the 80s, most notably-Dizzy Gillespie. He was 61 when he died.
HONORABLE MENTION: On March 27th, in 1909, one of the ‘Big Three’ swing saxophonist (with Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins, sideman, pianist, jazz musician, and bandleader-Ben Webster (Benjamin Francis Webster) was born in Kansas City, Missouri. He learned blues piano from his neighbor Pete Johnson. In the late 20s, he played for silent movies in Kansas City and Amarillo, TX. Budd Johnson tauhgt him sax, and Webster stuck with it. He played with Lester Young, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Bennie Moten, Fletcher Henderson, Cab Calloway, Benny Carter, Teddy Wilson, Andy Kirk, Willie Bryant and Oscar Peterson. He was 64 when he died (1973).
On March 27th, in 1940, reggae singer and songwriter-Derrick Morgan was born in Clarendon, Jamaica. Morgan is most known for his ability to transcend genres, but keep his sound reggae based. He’s covered many soul standards, as well as penned his own hits. His songs have charted on the R&B, Reggae, Dance and Pop charts. He also has collaborated with reggae innovators like Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff. Many consider him to be in the same vein as Cliff with a stronger tone and less pop appeal. He released over 20 LPs and more than 50 singles. Morgan was one of the few vocalist that helped put reggae and island music on the map. He’s 79 today.
On March 27th, in 2004, Prince (Rogers Nelson) implemented an innovative tour plan that literally paid off in the end. He started the first date of his Musicology Tour in Reno, Nevada. Tickets were around $60, and all attendees got a ‘free’ Musicology CD. Billboard had to count these as sales, and Prince being a huge draw, saw his Musicology LP chart and peak at #3 on the Albums chart. On face value, this appears to be a minimal achievement for the mogul. However, when one considers the fact that his previous 3 LPs didn’t chart and that he grossed the most of any tour in 2004-$87.4 million…it’s quite obvious this was a very good year for the .Artist’.
On March 27th, in 2013, we lost a pioneering music journalist, writer and creator of the music magazine Crawdaddy!-Paul S. Williams. It predates Rolling Stones magazine, being the first official US periodical to cover rock music (Jan 1966). It ran for 13 years (1966-1979). During that same period of time, Williams helped launch and sustain the careers of Bob Dylan and Neil Young. He also wrote over 25 books, and helped sci-fi writers like Theodore Sturgeon and Philip K. Dick get their works published. The Boston native suffered from dementia in his latter years. He passed away when he was 64.
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