| || || |
| || || |
| || || |
| || || |
| || || |
On December 31st, 2015, we lost a great singer, actress, songwriter, daughter of famed singer Nat King Cole and Maria Hawkins, Ellington-Natalie (Maria) Cole (Los Angeles, CA). The Los Angeles native started singing as a child, growing up in a musical household. She made a few cameo appearances, with her father, on his shows and records. She had her first recording with her father at the age of six. In 1965, when she was nine, her father passed away from lung cancer. Two years later, when Natalie was 11, she began performing live. Natalie viewed her family as The Black Kennedy’s. She said growing up in an affluent home, and having two well-known parents that were musicians, afforded her the opportunity to meet all sorts of entertainers and political figures of the time. A few years after her father’s death, she attended The University Of Massachusetts In Amherst. She transferred to USC, became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, transferred back to UMass, and graduated in 1972 with a degree in Child Psychology (minor in German).
To be completely honest, Natalie totally exploited her father’s fame to gain her entrance into the entertainment world. Without her father being Nat King Cole, the world may have never gotten the chance to hear her sing or see her act. Many venues were open to her, that otherwise would’ve been closed. Natalie wasn’t into The Jazz Vocalist Scene, like her father was; which is what most venue owners expected when booking her. Natalie was into hard-edged Rock & Soul. These are the types of songs she’d sing with her first band called Black Magic. It took her three years, but in 1975, she released her debut LP Inseparable on Capitol Records. Her career took off after this. She was 65 years-old when she died. Interesting Fact sidebar: Natalie's 1st demo was recorded at Curtis Mayfield’s studio in Chicago-with songs written and produced by Marvin Yancy of The Independents. Aretha Franklin had turned down half of the songs on the Inseparable LP-hence why people say Natalie’s 1st LP sounds like Aretha's music.
On December 31st, 2009, drummer, singer, band member, bandleader, former session musician, and the man known as "The Best R&B Singer" In The MUSIC CITY Nashville, TN-Earl Gaines Jr. passed away in his adopted hometown-Music City (Nashville), TN, USA. He was born in Decatur, AL; which is about 30 minutes from the Fame Studios location of Muscle Shoals (and about 2 hours from Nashville). In his teens, he moved to Nashville and started drumming for Louis Brooks And His Hi-Toppers (early 1950s). By 1955, he had an un-credited hit with It’s Love Baby (24 Hours A Day). Late that same year, he left The Hi-Toppers, and joined Caravan Of Stars which included: Etta James, Bo Diddley, and Big Joe Turner.
They toured the nation, ending their performances in NYC’s Carnegie Hall. In the late 50s, he joined Bill Doggett’s band, acting as lead singer. In the early 1960s he joined Bill ‘Hoss’ Allen’s showcase, and recorded the seminal LP-The Best Of Luck To You. The title track was another R&B hit that got him an appearance on the TV show-The !!! Beat. He recorded more material for King & Sound Stage 7 Records during this time. He also recorded sides for DeLuxe Records from 1967-1973. By 1975, he was with Ace Records and released a few sides. He left the music industry in the late 70s and became a truck driver. He came back to music in 1989 with the LP House Party. He recorded and performed throughout the 1990s, and 2000s, up to his death in 2009. He was 74 years-old at the time of his passing.
On December 31st, in 1982, the infamous NYC artists’ venue Max's Kansas City closed down. It was owned, operated, and opened by Mickey Ruskin in December of 1965. It was a restaurant and music venue-which it remained until its final days. However, most of the graphic artists in NYC used the venue as their hangout. Artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Larry Rivers, and John Chamberlain attracted the ‘hipsters’ of the time to the venue. Famed Pop Art Icon-Andy Warhol used the venue as his hangout, especially the back room (equates to a modern day V.I.P. section). It was the primary performance spot for Andy’s Velvet Underground, The New York Dolls, and Lou Reed. The first and latter performed their last shows their before Reed went solo in 1970.
Glam Rockers also loved the venue and considered it their own. David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, Marc Bolan, and Wayne County all frequented the venue. Patti Smith (CBGBs) and her then boyfriend-famed photographer Robert Mapplethorpe also frequented the venue on a nightly basis from 1969-1970. It’s notoriety and fame continued to attract established and budding acts. Bruce Springsteen performed there a few times in the early 70s. Bob Marley & The Wailers opened for him in 1973. Later that same year, Aerosmith did their first NYC gig there. Odetta, Emmylou Harris, Country Joe, and Bonnie Raitt are all acts that graced Max’s stage. In 1974, Max’s lost some of its luster, mainly due to the trendiness of youth-and the budding Punk, Disco, and Hip Hop movements. The venue was remodeled in 1975; but the artists had moved on. It closed in 1982.
On December 31st, 1948, singer, actress, songwriter, and the woman coined "The Queen Of Disco" Donna Summer (LaDonna Adrian Gaines) was born in Boston, Massachusetts. She was raised in Mission Hill, and started singing at an early age. She mostly performed in school plays and musicals during her teens. She left high school during her senior year, moved to NYC, and became a member of the band called Black Crow which was primarily a Blues Rock outfit. They gigged around The Five Burroughs, but never got signed. Around the late 1960s, she played the role of Shelia in the musical Hair. However, there was a twist, she’d have to play in the Munich version and subsequently learn German.
She did both-even singing songs in German. She also toured with the vocal collective called The Family Tree on the side while there. Mad props for that! That shows dedication. This led her to her first recording opportunity with Polydor in 1968-the German version of Aquarius under the name Donna Gaines. In 1969, she recorded with Phillips Records, and a second single with Polydor in 1971. She married Helmuth Sommer in 1972. She continued to sing, and in 1974 she got a deal with Groovy Records. They misprinted her LP cover with Summer instead of Sommer. This is how she got the name. In 1975, she signed to Casablanca Records and released Love To Love You. Her career took off, lasting into the late 80s. In my opinion, she laid the foundation for Whitney Houston’s sound. She was 63 when she died (May 12, 2012).
On December 31st, in 1942, songwriter, composer, pianist, arranger, photographer, classically trained guitarist, and member of The Police-Andy Summers (Andy James Somers) was born Poulton-Ie-Fylde, Lancashier, England. He didn’t start with The Police, in the beginning; he replaced their original guitarist-Henry Padovoni. He took piano lessons and played until he was 13. He then moved to guitar and began playing with bands when he was 16. In 1961, he moved to London with his friend Zoot Money from Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band. By the time LSD hit the scene in the mid 60s, the band had turned psychedelic and changed their name to Dantalian’s Chariot. In 1966, Summers was the first guitarist that Jimi Hendrix would meet when he reached the UK. By the late 60s, the Chariot had disbanded and Summers was playing in two bands:
the Prog Rock outfit Soft Machine and Eric Burdon & The Animals (he appears on the 1968 Love Is LP). He moved to LA in the early 70s and studied classical guitar at California State University in Northridge. He moved back to London around 1976, and started touring with artists and doing session work. A year later, Sting & Stewart Copeland convinced him to join The Police as their guitarist and sometimes vocalist. He stayed with the band from 1977 until it ended in 1984. They sold over 80 million records during that seven year span. In the mid 1980s, Summers began working as a composer for TV shows and film soundtracks. He also was a long-time photographer and writer. He exhibited his photos and published a few books. He composed concertos and even had an appearance at Carnegie Hall (Dark Floresence, 2005). He continues to work in music, TV, film, and visual art. He is 76 years-old today.
HONORABLE MENTION: On December 31st, 1969, Jimi Hendrix was performing at the Fillmore East in NYC. While there, he introduced the crowd to his new band: The Band Of Gypsys. Members of the power trio included Billy Cox on bass, and Buddy Miles (from The Electric Flag) on drums. The live show was recorded and released as an LP-Band Of Gyspys (1970). It became a Top 10 hit on the US & UK charts (#5, #6), and features the seminal Machine Gun.
On December 31st, in 1978, the innovative all-female Punk/Hard Rock band called The Runaways were having their last official show as a group at The Cow Palace in San Francisco. The strife over the direction and the rightful leadership needed for the group led to its demise. Lita Ford and Joan Jett had two entirely different visions. Jett wanted them to become Glam Rockers, while Ford wanted the band to remain Punk-Hard Rockers.
On December 31st, in 1984, the drummer for Def Leppard-Rick Allen, lost his arm…yes…his left arm to be exact. Allen was speeding in his corvette, near Sheffield in the UK. He was on his way to a NYE party and a Jaguar passed him. The driver then did the classic slow down, and wouldn’t let Allen pass him. When he finally whipped his car around him to pass, he didn’t spot the turn ahead and lost control of his vet, was thrown out the car, and his arm was severed in the crash…
On December 31st, 1912, one of the innovators of modern Jazz-Louis Armstrong, endured a sequence of tragic events that would later expand a great music genre-Jazz. Armstrong fired his father’s pistol into the air during a NYE celebration. He got sent to the New Orleans Home For Colored Waifs when he was 12. This is the place where he started learning to play music. He became a prolific cornet player quickly, and later transformed the sound of Jazz.
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