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Sidebar: Dr Dre beat up Dee Barnes today...Artist got buck today...
On January 27th, in 1941, jazz musician, vibraphonist, sideman, bandleader, composer, arranger and producer-Bobby Hutcherson (Robert Hutcherson) was born in Los Angeles, California. His brother (Teddy) and sister (Peggy) got him interested in jazz through their associations with musicians. His brother Teddy was good friends with Dexter Gordon and they listened to jazz records often in the house-mainly Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. His sister Peggy, dated Eric Dolphy, collaborated with Billy Mitchell and was a singer for the Gerald Wilson Orchestra. She introduced Bobby to Gerald which led to Bobby joining Wilson’s orchestra and covering many of his songs on later albums. However, before I get into all of that. Let me go back a bit to the time period that he got started as a player and professional musician.
When Hutcherson was 12 or so, he’d long been interested in jazz music, but more as an observer, an admirer, not so much as a person yearning to be involved in its creation. This all changed when he heard Milt Jackson playing vibraphone on Miles Davis’ song Bemsha Swing on his 1954 recording-Miles Davis All Stars Volume 2. He picked up the mallets shortly after this. He got his professional start a few years later in the late 50s as a sideman with various artists: Charles Lloyd, Eric Dolphy and Carmell Jones. They acted as the house band for Pandora’s Box in Hollywood (Sunset Strip). In 1960, he made his first recording with Les McCann (released 1961 on Pacific Jazz Records). Later that same year he recorded with Curtis Amy & Frank Butler’s sextet-Groovin’ Blue (LP) He recorded with others and performed at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco in 1962. After a short tour with Billy Mitchell and Al Grey, he moved to the Bronx and started his solo career (1963). The NEA Jazz Master was 75 when he passed (2016).
On January 27th, in 1930, singer, iconic Bluesman, arranger, producer, songwriter soul musician and Rock ‘n’ Roll innovator-Bobby Blue Bland (Robert Calvin Brooks) was born in Barretville, Tennessee. He had a 3rd grade education, dropping out of school to work in the cotton fields. His family moved to Memphis when he was 17 (1947) and he started singing in gospel groups. He stuck to gospel until he visited Beale street one night and caught the ‘secular’ music scene…he liked it, a lot. So, he went another night, and another, until he became a Beale St. staple. He met B.B. King, Johnny Ace, Junior Parker and Rosco Gordon. They went by the Beale Streeters. Bland would jam with them often during the late 40s. In the early 50s, he began working with Ike Turner who encouraged him to record at Sun Studios. He also recorded for Modern Records.
He signed to Duke Records and then got drafted. When he returned in 1955, he released his first single on Duke. He then toured the chitlin’ circuit as a driver and musician for Junior Parker. They called themselves Blues Consolidated. Bobby was a singer, exclusively. He played no instruments. However, he had the ability to make his voice, as distinct as it was, a dominant instrument on all of his recordings. He also arranged and wrote most of his songs. He would hum out melodies that his musicians would play, and construct the songs from the ground up. His sound in the mid to late 50s was reflective of the big band Blues style. In the 60s, he stripped it down to bare funk with less instrumentation. In the 70s, he stayed true to his Blues roots, kept away from trendy Pop and Disco, trailblazing hits like Ain’t No Love In the Heart of the City. He was 83 when he died (2013).
On January 27th, in 1918, singer, slide guitar pioneer, songwriter, bandleader and influential Bluesman-Elmore James (Elmore Brooks) was born in Richland, Holmes County, Mississippi. He’s the product of a single-teen mother that began making music when he was 12 using a diddley bow-single string instrument from Africa, but commonly used in folk music worldwide. In his teens, he performed in jukejoints, dances and parties under the names: Joe Willie James or Cleanhead. He married in his early 20s (1942) and was drafted into the US Navy for WWII. He became a decorated vet and part of the invasion of Guam. When he returned in the early 50s, he’d become heavily influenced by Robert Johnson, Tampa Red and Kokomo Arnold. He started working as a sideman (on guitar and vocals) with Sonny Boy Williamson II (1951).
He also invented a modification to his guitar, he placed two pickups on it, making it have a very unique sound. In 1952, he recorded his first solo single-Dust My Broom, which became an R&B hit (also a staple song for Elmore). Music historians debate on whether Robert Johnson or James wrote the song first, regardless of who penned it, James was the first to record it. In the mid 50s, he signed to Bihari Brothers Records and worked closely with their in-house producer and session musician-Ike Turner. In the late 50s, he recorded several sides for Fire Records-owned by Bobby Robinson (Enjoy Records). He recorded songs on several imprints throughout his career: Chief, Chess, Flair, Modern and Meteor. He was diagnosed with a heart condition and died in 1963 when he was 45.
On January 27th, in 2006, singer, producer, songwriter and co-founding member McFadden & Whitehead-Gene McFadden passed away in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. McFadden was born in Olanta, SC. His family relocated to Philadelphia when he was young. In his teens, he hooked up with John Whitehead and they formed their first group-The Epsilons. They gigged around Philly and got noticed by Otis Redding who was on tour in the mid 60s. They toured with him until 1967 (the year Redding died). In the late 60s/early 70s, after Gamble & Huff left Motown, they signed McFadden (l) & Whitehead (r) to their Philadelphia International label. At first, they were brought on to serve as songwriters and producers. In 1972, they worked with Thom Bell and co-wrote Backstabbers by the O’Jays.
They also penned several notable hits for Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes with Teddy Pendergrass on lead-Wake Up Everybody & Bad Luck. The Intruders’ staple song-I’ll Always Love My Mama is also a McFadden & Whitehead original. By the late 70s, disco was all the rave, but also about to be on it’s way out, making a swift and quiet departure from the music world by 1980. Philadelphia International was experiencing the pains of producing hits in the early and mid 70s-bands were unable to stick together on the label due to people going solo or signing to a bigger label for more money. Gamble & Huff decided to give McFadden & Whitehead a chance to sing their own songs, the same way they used to in the late 50s through the 60s. They produced a dance floor classic-Ain’t No Stopping Us Now in 1979. McFadden helped to define the Philly soul sound. He was 56 when he died.
On January 27th, in 2014, we lost a seminal Folk musician, guitarist, songwriter, banjo player, singer, TV host and social activist-Pete Seeger (Peter Seegar). The Manhattan born and raised Seeger came from a musical family. His father was Charles Seeger Jr-a Harvard graduate (composing and musicology). His parents divorced when he was 7, and his dad then married infamous 20th century composer-Ruth Crawford. She got Pete interested in folk music, as well as his younger step-siblings, most notably Peggy Seeger. He got inspired to play music while he was traveling the South Appalachian area with his parents. They played at folk festivals often. Banjo artists Bascom Lunsford saw how moved Pete was by the music at a folk fest in Asheville, NC. He showed the youngster a few strokes and Pete took it from there.
He spent the rest of the decade mastering the 5 string banjo (1936-1940). It was the height of the Great Depression and folk music was speaking to more people than ever because everyone was feeling the economic pinch. In the late 30s, he toured NY with the Vagabond Puppeteers, honing his craft all the while. He noticed that the conversations between the men, women, Blacks, Whites, urban and rural people were the same, they shared similar views on war, peace, politics, unionism and economic development. He was instrumental in bridging the gap between the rural farmers and city workers (blue collar). Later that year, he embarked on a life changing journey with Alan Lomax when he assisted him in recording the folk music of the south for the Library of Congress. Every prominent Bluesman that was still living in the south between 1938 and 1953, were recorded by Seeger. He passed away in Manhattan, NYC, NY when he was 94.
HONORABLE MENTION: On January 27th, in 1972, we lost a seminal singer, civil rights activist, songwriter and the woman coined the Queen of Gospel-Mahalia Jackson. She passed away from complications associated with diabetes in Evergreen Park, Illinois. TOV covered her birthday on the October 26th post. Please refer to it for more information. Mahalia left a lasting legacy with her music and civil rights accomplishments. She recorded hundreds of sides and over 25 LPs during her career. Music historians credit her as being one of the most influential gospel singers of all-time. She was 60 when she passed.
On January 27th, in 2004, former wife of Biggie Smalls, Bad Boy Records singer and songwriter-Faith Evans was facing crinimal charges in Atlanta, Georgia. Her then husband-Todd Russaw was accompanying her in the court room. Seems they got caught by ATL’s finest with some powder and weed. The cops said they had probable cause to pull them over for a ‘suspected’ license plate violation (DWB-cops read ya tags. Ya make and model, hell they’ll zoom vision the VIN number). They searched the car, found the drugs, and arrested the couple.
On January 27th, in 1998, the Godfather of Soul got into some trouble with the law as well. Brown was living in South Carolina at the time when ‘someone’ called the police on him…while he was at home (LWB-living while Black). The cops came over and found James in an irate state. They detained him and found some marijuana and a gun they said he’d used unlawfully. They charged him with simple possession and unlawful use of a firearm. When asked why he had the weed, James responded that it helped his eyesight…Maybe that’s where Cube got the concept for Bernie Mac in Friday.
On January 27th, in 1984 the King of Pop went up in flames…literally. For the 70s and 80s babies out there reading this, you all can recall when Michael Jackson was doing the Pepsi commercial following the height of the Thriller LP and the Victory Tour. In the commercial gone bad, he comes out on stage with his brothers playing Billie Jean, the sparks fly from the pyrotechnics and some landed in Jackson’s hair (jerry curl at the time). It immediately caught fire, but was put out quickly. He suffered some burns…Oh Pepsi paid him well too. S.O. to Marlon Brando’s son Miko for putting it out, and Michael for keeping the glove on while they took him to the hospital.
Sidebar: Dr Dre beat up Dee Barnes today...Artist got buck today...
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