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On January 4th, in 1942, the Fusion Jazz innovator, Prog Rock purveyor, guitarist, composer, sideman, bandleader, and founding member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra-(Mahavishnu) John McLaughlin was born in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England. He started playing violin and piano when he was a child and moved to guitar at age 11. He was inspired by the Jazz & Flamenco style guitarists. McLaughlin joined his first band in the early 60s featuring Alexis Korner the British Blues guitarist. Korner is largely responsible for the formation of Cream, The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and many others. McLaughlin then joined the Marzipan Twisters, Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, The Graham Bond Organisation and Brian Auger (early to mid 60s).
He also did session work with a lot of musicians during this time to supplement his income. He taught Jimmy Page guitar and joined the Graham Bond Quartet in 1963, featuring drummer Ginger Baker, bassist Jack Bruce and Bond-keys, sax, vocals. In the late 60s he got signed to Marmalade Records and released his debut LP in 1969-Extrapolation. It’s more of a straight ahead Jazz sound (post-bop). Later that year he joined Tony Williams’ Lifetime and jammed with Jimi for over 12 hours. He then hooked up with Miles, and is featured on a few of his Fusion recordings like In A Silent Way, Bitches Brew, On the Corner and Live-Evil. McLaughlin went on to record solo LPs, form the Mahavishnu Orchestra, collaborate with Carlos Santana, and compose Indian Classical music. He’s 77 today.
On January 4th, in 1946, Born on this day, Arthur Conley, singer, songwriter, producer, performer and teen recording artist-Arthur Conley was born in McIntosh County, Georgia. TOV covered the musician’s death on the November 17th post. Please refer to it for additional information on the singer that is not listed in this post. In 1959, around the time Conley was 13, he had his recording debut on National Records (National Recording Company) out of Atlanta, Georgia. He formed the teen vocal group-Arthur & the Corvets, who released 3 singles in the early 60s. He moved to Baltimore when he was 18 and recorded as a solo artist for Ru-Jac Records. Otis Redding heard Conley’s single-I’m a Lonely Stranger’ and asked him to sing for his label Jotis Records.
In 1967, they linked to co-write their version of Sam Cooke’s Yeah Man into Sweet Soul Music. It’s an RIAA certified Gold single (sold over a million copies). After Otis’ death in late 1967, Conley continued to record with Atlantic Records, primarily on their subsidiary imprint Atco. From the late 60s to the early 70s, he released several songs and LPs that charted. However, with the advent of Punk, Disco and Hip Hop in the mid 70s, he decided to move to Denmark and change his name to Lee Roberts. He recorded with his new band-The Sweaters (late 70s). In the early 80s, he started a production company called Art-Con Productions and promoted Heavy Metal acts like Shockwave. He passed in 2003 when he was 57.
On January 4th, in 1960, singer, songwriter, musician, visual artist, director and guitarist John Michael Stipe was born in Decatur, Georgia. The son of an Army vet, Stipe and his family moved frequently around the Midwest, South and Europe when he was a child. He started singing for fun with his younger sister Lynda. In the late 70s, he graduated from high school in Illinois and went back to Georgia to enroll at the U of GA in Athens. He got a job at Wuxtry Record Shop and met future band mate Peter Buck (guitarist-he worked in the store in 1980). During the early 80s, Stipe joined a local band called Gangster (singing lead) and co-wrote songs with Wuxtry co-worker Peter Buck.
When drummer Bill Berry and multi-instrumentalist Mike Mills were added to the jam sessions, they officially became the band-R.E.M. There’s no mystique or deep story about the way the band came up with R.E.M. as their moniker. As legend has it, Stipe randomly picked the name from the dictionary. Later that same year (1980), they all dropped out of U of GA to focus on the development of R.E.M. full-time. In 1981 they released their first single on Hib-Tone Records-Radio Free Europe. It did well on college radio. They released their first EP in 1982-Chronic Town (I.R.S. Records). It also did well, followed up by their 1983 full-length critically acclaimed debut LP-Murmur. Stipes' career flew to success after this. He’s 59 today and still doing it big on the music scene.
On January 4th, in 1965, singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer, pianist and lead singer and lyricist for Portishead-Beth Gibbons was born in Exeter, Devon, England. Beth got her start singing as a child on the farm with her two sisters. Her parents split when she was still a child. When she reached her early 20s (mid to late 80s), she moved to Bristol to pursue a singing career. She met future band mate Geoff Barrow while there and they added multi-instrumentalist Adrian Utley to their duo, making him partially responsible for writing and producing. However, at this point (1990), Portishead was still considered a duo consisting of Gibbons and Barrow. They began jamming and touring the UK Alternative Rock scene.
This caught the attention of Go! Beat Records execs that signed them. In 1994, they released their debut LP-Dummy. Following this release, Utley became an official member of the band. They were dabbling in film as well, and linked the cover art for Dummy to their short film called-To Kill a Dead Man. They released another LP in 1997-Portishead, an un-official live one in 1998 containing songs from their performance with the string ensemble at the Roseland Ballroom in NYC. They released another LP in 2008 called-Third. All of them were received well by the public. Gibbons has a unique voice that seems to be from a different time, post-Great Depression: Joplin, Simone, Janis Ian (inspirations). She’s collaborated with others and continues to perform, record and tour. She’s 54 today.
On January 4th, in 1967, the four man band that formed in 1965 and forever changed the sound of music from 1967 on-The Doors released their debut self-titled LP on Elektra Records. The lineup included: Jim Morrison on vocals, Ray Manzarek on keys, John Densmore on drums and Robby Krieger on guitar. It took them 6 short days to record the 11 song album. They were way ahead of their time, eviden tin the title of their first single off the LP-Break on Through (To the Other Side) b/w End of the Night. It was a top 200 charting song, but didn’t do as well initially as they hoped. However, in the months following its release, it became one of their staple cuts.
Their second single is what put them over the top and launched them into superstar status-Light My Fire b/w The Crystal Ship. It was released in January of 1967 (reached #1 on US & UK charts). However, the original version was over 7 minutes long. Thus, in April of 1967, it was re-released as an edited single (cutting the time in half). The LP itself is good front to back, and should be listened to that way in order to get the total ‘feel’ that the Doors were trying to create. It has 11 tracks in all, most are about 2.5 to 3.5 minutes, excluding Light My Fire (7:06) & the epic outro track called-The End (11:41). The LP peaked at number 2 on the US chart and has been certified gold or platinum in over 9 countries.
HONORABLE MENTION: On January 4th, in 1937, opera singer and one of the first Black mezzo-soprano Opera singers-Grace Melzia Bumbry was born in St. Louis, Missouri. She belonged to the troupe that worked with Marian Anderson-the first official Black Classcial vocalist. She graduated from the first Black high school west of the Mississippi River-Charles Sumner High School (St. Louis), and won a radio competition when she was 17. In the late 50s, she got her professional start in opera. Shes’ 82 today.
On January 4th, in 1970, a very tragic situation happened to Keith Moon-drummer for the Who. As the story goes, a group of teens were being unruly and started attacking Moon's Bentley limo. Since Moon couldn’t drive, the chauffer-Neil Boland, got out of the car to calm the teens and protect Moon’s Bentley. It went south fast, and the kids started beating Boland down. Moon got in the front seat and floored it, running over Boland and killing him. He didn’t get any murder charges, but he never forgave himself, nor did Boland’s family.
On January 4th, in 2001, rapper and reality TV show personality-Vanilla Ice was detained by Florida police on a domestic abuse allegation. Ice was arguing with his wife at the time while he was driving in his truck. When she tried to flee from the moving vehicle, he grabbed her by the hair in an attempt to ‘save her’ from harm or possible death. In the process, he pulled some of her hair out. He was arrested by the local police and spent the night in Broward County Jail in Fort Lauderdale, FL. He was released after posting $3.5K bond.
On January 4th, in 2005, producer and studio owner AJ Abdallah was found dead in his studio on 8 Mile Road in Detroit, Michigan. AJ is the owner of the studio where Eminem first recorded his Slim Shady LP. A mutual business associate found AJ dead at the studio about two days after he’d been shot. It appeared that a robbery had went bad and AJ was the victim. He was 36 years old when Detroit’s finest found him.
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!