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This Special Edition of the TOV daily post highlights artists from the 4 genres of music commonly created by Blacks in North America: Reggae, Soul, Blues and Hip Hop. Jazz and Rock ‘n’ Roll have been left off. Enjoy.
Reggae: On November 23rd, in 1949, singer, session vocalist, songwriter and former member of Bob Marley & the Wailers-Marcia (Llyneth) Griffiths was born in Kingston, Jamaica. She was discovered by Phillip James of the Blues Busters band. James had heard her singing in Kingston and took her to Byron Lee and the Dragonaires. She had her first stage performance with them when she was 15 (1964). She sang so well, that following the show, seminal producers on the island-Clement Coxsone Dodd (Studio One) and Ronnie Nasralla (BMN Records) offered the teen a recording contract.
She signed with Dodd and during the mid and late 60s, she released a few duet singles on the Studio One imprint (Bob Marley-Oh My Darling, Bob Andy-Always Together, Toney Gregory-You’re Mine and Jeff Dixon-Words). Bob Andy liked her vocals and wrote a few solo singles for her that the label released in the late 60s (Melody Life, Feel Like Jumping, Truly). In 1970, she and Andy started a group called Bob & Marcia, working together until 1974. She became an I-Three with Bob Marley & the Wailers from 1974-1981. In 1983, she released a remake of Bunny Wailer’s Electric Boogie which was remixed in 1989 and made into a line dance song: The Electric Slide. Griffiths continues to record, perform and tour. She’s 69 today.
On November 23rd, in 2011, we lost an important Rocksteady vocalist, singer and co-founding member of the Heptones-Barry Llewellyn. He, along with Earl Morgan and Leroy Sibbles were originally a vocal trio called the Hep Ones that formed in Kingston, Jamaica in 1965. Earl Morgan spotted an empty bottle of tonic water with Heptones on it, and they changed the name to Heptones. At first, they recorded Ska & Rocksteady for K Calnek/Caltone Records owned by seminal producer Ken Lack. The singles didn’t do well, but Clement Coxsone Dodd of Studio One produced and released several singles for the group that charted: Get in the Groove, Ting a Ling, Pretty Looks Isn’t All, Be a Man, I Hold the Handle, Sea of Love (Doo-Wop cover of Phillip Phillips & the Twilights) and Party Time.
They quickly became one of the two top Rocksteady acts on the island (The Techniques were their major rival). Sibbles was featured playing bass on some of their session work and was one of the chief studio arrangers for Studio One (worked closely with Jackie Mittoo-keys). As dub was taking form-instrumental remixes of singles released with dissonance, reverb and echo, the band would release these songs under the names: Sound Dimension & Soul Vendors. Barry Llewelyn (above & inset-l) was a prolific songwriter that continued to work with artists throughout the 70s. Most notably, Glen Campbell-Try a Little Kindness which was featured on the Rockers soundtrack. He was 64 years-old when he died.
Soul: On November 23rd, in 1995 we lost a seminal Jazz & Soul saxophonist, bandleader, session musician and composer-Junior Walker (Autry DeWalt Mixon). He passed away in Battle Creek, Michigan when he was 64 years-old. Walker was raised in the South Bend (Notre Dame), Indiana. He got his start around the mid 50s when he formed his first band-the Jumping Jacks. Walker was good friends with the Rhythm Rockers founder and drummer-Billy Nicks. Nicks asked Walker to join his band permanently following a TV appearance in South Bend.
Once Nicks got drafted, Walker moved the band to Battle Creek, hired drummer Tony Washington and had his original All-Star lineup (Victor Thomas on keys & Willie Woods guitar/vocals). However, they didn’t have a new name…They didn’t come up with the new name until they were playing a show and a drunk listener shouted out: These guys are All Stars!. It stuck. Junior Walker was a tenor sax player that had a Jump Blues (sped up Blues-like Boogie Woogie) and early Soul style like Louis Jordan and Earl Bostic. He had over 25 singles chart during his musical career. His most notable hit is Shotgun, one of the songs used at the end of Spike Lee’s movie X when the dance is taking place in the Audobon Ballroom where Malcolm was assassinated. His sax riffs are greatly missed.
Blues: On November 23rd, in 1926, Blues guitarist, singer, songwriter, and Punk Rock/Garage Rock musical inspiration-R. L. (Robert Lee) Burnside was born in Harmontown, Lafayette County, Mississippi. He started playing guitar and harp during his teens. His primary Blues mentor and teacher was the infamous Mississippi Fred McDowell (Hill Country Blues singer & guitarist). Ranie Burnette also showed him some stuff, but to a lesser extent. Burnside was performing publicly by the time he reached his early 20s. In the late 40s, he moved to Chicago and his major influences became John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Lightnin’ Hopkins.
Burnside gigged around Chicago, but stepped away from music, returned to the Delta area and got into some legal trouble surrounding a murder at a crap game. After he got out, he worked odd jobs around the south, and continued to record and perform music here and there for 3 decades (roughly 1960-1990). He has some late 60s recordings with George Mitchell on Arhoolie Records. The graduate student was documenting the Hill Country Blues, Delta Blues and Folk music of the Delta area. In the 70s and 80s, he traveled to Montreal and Europe, recording and performing. In the 90s, he linked up with Oxford, Mississippi label Fat Possum Records. His 1992 release Bad Luck City shot him to Blues stardom. He continued to perform and record up to his death (79).
Hip Hop: On November 23rd, in 1972, infamous emcee with the Dogg Pound-Kurput (Ricardo Emmanuel Brown) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He got into Hip Hop culture in the Philly area. His family later relocated to Hawthorne, California when he was a teen. By the time he was 18, they’d moved to South Central, LA, CA. Interesting fact about Kurupt: his first recording appearance is with the S.O.S. Band on their last LP released on Tabu Records in 1991-One of Many Nights. Kurupt is featured on 3 songs under his birth name Ricardo Brown-Are You Ready, Someone I Can Love and Get Hyped on This. All of these songs are pre-Death Row Records and Dogg Pound music. A year later, he’d appear on Dr. Dre’s seminal solo LP on Death Row Records-The Chronic.
This LP introduced the world to the Hip Hop crew known as the Dogg Pound-Snoop Doggy Dog, Nate Dogg, Daz Dillinger, RBX, Lady of Rage and Lil ½ Dead. Speaking of Dead, after Pac got murdered in 1996, Kurupt left Death Row and signed with A&M. He released his solo debut called Kuruption! in 1998. A year later he came with Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha (1999). Then in the early 2000s, he, Rass Kass, Canibus and Killah Priest formed the group called the HRSMN. They only released one unfinished white label single (bootlegged mostly). Suge was acting real funny about releasing the Dogg Pound’s name, since he owned it and kept releasing unofficial remix LPs and cutting floor material to the public as if DPG condoned it. They were forced to change their name to DPG (Dogg Pound Gangstaz). The early 2000s would also be the time when Foxy Brown & Kurput would be engaged and split. By the mid 2000s, the dust had settled, Suge was an afterthought and the unit reunited to perform and record. Kurupt continues to emcee and act. He’s 46 today.
Honorable Mentions: On November 23rd, in 1939, Soul vocalist-Betty Everett was born in Greenwood, Mississippi. She got her start singing gospel in Chicago. She also recorded for Vee-Jay Records in the early 60s. She’s most known for her single-The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss). A precursor to Rock ‘n’ Roll, it became a top 10 Billboard hit. She toured and recorded throughout her life due to the success of her recordings made during the 60s. She was 61 when she passed (1991).
On November 23rd, in 2002, Soul singer, vocalist, icon, world renowned songwriter and performer-Otis Redding was turning in his grave. His wife and manager were filing a lawsuit against an author that had written an unofficial biography about the singer depicting him as a womanizer, drug abuser, and having a manager that had him killed by the mob so he could collect $1m in insurance money. They sought $15 million in damages and censorship of the book.
On November 23rd, in 2005, Canadian Mounted Policeman-Dan McTeague attempted to have the rapper 50 Cent barred from entering Canada because of his promotion of gun violence. McTeague wrote a letter to the Immigration Minister Joe Volpe that cited 50 Cent as being a deplorable human being for his constant glamorization of violence in his music. He wanted to keep the rapper from being able to perform in Canada. It didn’t work.
On November 23rd, in 2008, the planet lost the oldest living human being in the world-Pearl Gartrell. Her family bible records show her birth as being April 1st in 1888. She was 120 years-old when she died. I’m sure the transformation of society and the experiences she saw in her 120-year tenure on this planet we call earth, were nothing short of astonishing. For one, she outlived all of her 8 children…not many, if anyone can say that, and that in and of itself is a powerful experience for any parent to go through.
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!