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On December 30th, in 1928, Iconic Blues, Soul & Rock musician, singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer-Bo Diddley (Elias Otha Bates, Elias McDaniel) was born in McComb, Mississippi. Diddley is largely responsible for transitioning Blues to Rock & Roll. He also transformed the structural makeup of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Pop & Hip Hop by using a 5-accent hambone rhythm, which is the structure that the aforementioned genres rely on when composing songs. Diddley was raised by his mother’s cousin-Gussie McDaniel. In 1934, he moved to Chicago with the McDaniels. He got his start playing violin and trombone at Ebenezer Baptist Church. His violin skills were tight enough to earn him a chair in the orchestra. He continued to play until he was 18. He was inspired to start playing guitar after he saw John Lee Hooker perform and heard the music at the local Pentecostal church (relied on guitar).
In the early 40s, He & Jerome Green played on the corners of Chicago streets in the Hipsters band (later renamed the Langley Avenue Jive Cats). He also played with Earl Hooker, Roosevelt Jackson and Jody Williams (he taught Willaims how to play guitar). By the early 50s, Diddley had a regular gig at 708 Club on the South Side of Chicago (708 is the area code). His recording career started in 1955 at Chess Records. He released a cover of Muddy Waters’-I’m a Man and the self-penned, self-titled: Bo Diddley (the latter became a #1 R&B single). The success of the single earned Diddley a spot on the Ed Sullivan Show (1955). However, he was only supposed to do a cover of 16 Tons, but did it and Bo Diddley. He got banned from the show, which added to his legendary status and record sales. The Grammy Award winning artist passed away in 2008 when he was 79.
On December 30th, in 1995, we lost a seminal Funk band saxophonist, session musician, singer, songwriter, composer, arranger, guitarist and co-founding member of the Ohio Untouchables-Satch AKA Clarence Satchell. Satch (2nd l) is one of the unsung heroes of the Ohio Players, staying with the band from their humble beginnings to the end. The Ohio Players were originally called the Ohio Untouchables. They were a predominantly instrumental outfit (like the Meters) that formed in Dayton (1959). The original lineup was: Satch (sax & guitar-below seated 3rd r glasses), Cornelius Johnson (drums-2nd r) Robert Ward (guitar & vocals-r), Ralph Pee Wee Middlebrooks (trumpet & trombone-l), and Marshall Rock Jones (bass-c). They gigged around the area, acting as the backing band for the Falcons. Ward was the bandleader and lead singer from 1959-1964, after-which he & Jones had a dispute and Ward left the group.
In the mid 60s, Jones replaced Ward with guitarist Leroy Sugarfoot Bonner (standing 4th-r), added drummer Gregory Webster, and changed the band’s name to the Ohio Players-a testament to their skills with their instruments and the ladies. They remained together through the late 60s, recording a few sides and acting as the primary session band for artists on Compass Records out of NYC. In 1970, they had a new lineup, adding: Walter Junie Morrison on keys and lead vocals, Charles Allen, Bruce Napier on trumpet and Marvin Pierce on trombone. This was their best lineup. All of these artists appear on their Westbound LPs. The lineup shifted again in the mid 70s, when Junie went solo and worked with the P-Funk camp. Sugarfoot took over and they signed to Mercury (biggest commercial success). Satch (2nd r) stayed with them through all the switches.
On December 30th, in 1951, singer, songwriter, producer, solo artist, classically trained musician, multi-instrumentalist: drums, guitar, bass, keyboards and co-founder of the trio Isley-Jasper-Isley: Chris Jasper (Christopher H. Jasper) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Chris began learning classical music when he was 7. He moved to NYC and attended Juilliard to study music composition. He also attended L.I.U. (Long Island), studying under Billy Taylor (jazz pianist). Jasper and the Isleys lived in the same building in Cincinnati. When Jasper’s sister married Rudolph, Jasper moved to Teaneck with his sister and started playing around town while attending school. He, Marvin and Ernie formed a band called the Jazzman Trio in the late 60s.
They played on some of the songs that the Isleys released during the 60s and toured with the group. In the early 70s, Jasper, Marvin & Ernie showcased their songwriting skills to the older brothers and made it evident that Isleys could keep everything in-house from songwriting, to production, to recording, and pressing their music. They continued to record throughout the 70s and into the mid 80s, with Jasper acting as the primary songwriter, producer and arranger. From 1984-1987, Isley-Jasper-Isley was created, and continued to carry the Isley sound and name, with Jasper singing lead vocals. After 1987, Jasper continued as a soko artist, releasing music with a spiritual message, emphasizing education. He’s released 14 solo LPs, and continues to record, tour, uplift and mentor. He’s 67 today.
On December 30th, in 1969, singer, songwriter, dancer and founding member of the band Jamiroquai-Jay Kay (Jason Luis Cheetham) was born in Stretford, Lancashire, England. He was born a twin. However, his brother David passed a few weeks after his birth. Jay grew up in Manchester, and turned to the streets in his early teens. He was 'mostly' homeless and committed petty crimes to make money. Two things happened that made Jay want to work on music full-time: 1-he was arrested for a minor charge, and 2-he had a near death experience. These brought him back home, and he began singing at local venues. He continued to sing in clubs from the mid to late 80s. He met a few musicians that backed him at regular gigs.
They would become members of Jamiroquai. He formed the band in 1992. The original lineup was: Nick Van Gelder 9drums), Toby Smith (keys) and Wallis Buchanan (didgeridoo). They recorded their debut LP that was released in 1993-Emergency on Planet Earth. A year prior, they released the single-When You Gonna Learn, which set the stage for the LP. Both did very well in sales, as well as the rest of their singles and LPs (26 million sales and counting). The bulk of the band’s success came from their sophomore LP-Return of the Space Cowboy (1994). They released 2 more notable LPs in the 90s: Traveling Without Moving (1996) and Synkronized (1999). Jay Kay continues to tour and record. They released an LP in 2017-Automaton. The Grammy award winning singer is 49 today.
On December 30th, in 2010, DJ, performer, dancer and original member of Boney M-Bobby Farrell (Roberto Alfonso Farrrell) passed away in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Farrell wasn’t really a ‘singer’ with the group. More so a look, and persona that lip synced Frank Farian’s vocals. Farrell with Boney M. was the first Milli Vanilli. He was born, and spent most of his childhood on the Island of Aruba. When he graduated secondary school (15), he became a sailor and then moved to Norway (late 60s). While there, he got into DJ’ing, but not many opportunities existed so he moved to Germany. He continued spinning, and then had a chance run-in with producer, singer, songwriter-Frank Farian.
Farian thought that Farrell met the ‘image’ he was looking for as the male figure in his Pop Disco outfit Boney M. It was a vocal quartet consisting of: Marcia Barrett, Maizie Williams, Liz Mitchell and Farrell, with Farian singing his parts in the studio. They tried to stay away from songs that had lengthy male parts in live appearances, but Bobby could sing. In the early 80s, Farrell and Farian had a disagreement and Farrell left the group. However, pickings are very slim in the industry for lip-syncing performers so Farrell returned in 1984. The band had their final split two-years later in 1986. Bobby eventually toured with his own rendition of Boney M: Bobby Farrell’s Boney M. He released 6 LPs, mostly compilations from 2000-2006. He was found unresponsive in his hotel room in Saint Petersburg, Russia. He was 61 when he died.
HONORABLE MENTION: On December 30th, in 1946, Punk innovator, co-creator, author, poet, artist, singer, songwriter, producer, activist and painter-Patti Smith was born in Chicago, Illinois. She started off playing the clarinet and ended up singing Punk Rock. The CBGB legendary singer is most known for her 1975 debut LP-Horses. Smith was the first and last person to perform at CBGBs, she’s also written a few books and acts as a spokesperson for Women’s Rights. She’s 72 today.
On December 30th, in 1984, professional basketball player and legendary sports icon-LeBron (Raymone) James was born in Akron, OH. We all know King James. He came straight out of high school to the NBA. His professional career includes playing for 3 different teams (Cavs, Heat, Lakers), and winning championships with two of them (Miami Heat & Cleveland Cavaliers). Love him or hate him is how most people roll, but you can’t deny his skills. He also is a very generous athlete, giving back to his community and random others in need often. LeBron is 34 today.
On December 30th, in 2003, bassist and co-founding member of the seminal Punk band-The Meat Puppets-Cris Kirkwood (l) was detained by officials in Phoenix, AZ. As the story goes, he was in the post office, after arguing with another customer outside that had parked in a way that pissed Cris off. He and the guard got into a tussle, Cris over-powered him (go figure), took his baton from him, and hit him in the head with it. The guard shot Cris in the back in retaliation. All of it stemmed from Cris having a dispute with a customer over a parking space?!….The real parking wars.
On December 30th, in 2016, Emcee and Hip Hop pioneer-DMC of RUN DMC (Darryl McDaniel) filed a lawsuit against major corporations that were unlawfully using the RUN DMC image on their clothing and other products (Amazon, Wal-Mart). He went after them on a federal trademark infringement charge. It was a $50M law-suit. Pretty sure they broke him & Run off some duckets because both major retailers mentioned still sale the group’s image on their products. I just like that Darryl ain’t let them ‘sample’ his image without dough, the same way Hip Hop producers couldn’t sample music without paying dues.
Sidebar on the origin of Bo Diddley's name: A Diddly Bow is an African one stringed instrument that was commonly played by displaced Africans in America in the Southern states pre-Civil War. Many say his name came from and inverse of this instrument. Others claim that Diddley's name came from his Golden Gloves boxing moniker. While a small group believe it originated at Chess Records or that its associated with the euphemism-You Don't Know Diddley Squat, with Bo being a term of used by Africans to accent something (exclamatory). The artist himself never really was clear on the name origin. He left a mystique surrounding it like most good Blues musicians do.
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