| || || |
| || || |
| || || |
| || || |
| || || |
On December 19, 1918, singer, pianist, songwriter, bandleader, and New Orleans music innovator-"Professor Longhair" (Henry Roeland Byrd) aka "Fess" was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana. He learned to play piano at an early age, playing one that had missing keys (this is how he developed his unique style). He didn’t start playing professionally until he was 29 years old. Caldonia Club owner Mike Tessitore hired Byrd n 1948, and gave him the stage name Longhair. A year later in 1949, he was making his recording debut on the Star Talent imprint. He recorded four sides with The Shuffling Hungarians-one of them being Mardi Gras In New Orleans. He recorded for several labels throughout the 50s, including Atlantic, Mercury, Federal. In 1964 he recorded Big Chief with Earl King. This is one of his more notable songs.
He fell on hard times in the mid to late 60s, dropping out of the music scene, working as a custodian, and trying to control his gambling habit. The Folk And Blues Revival of the late 60s and early 70s ‘uncovered’ the hidden gems that Longhair recorded in the 50s. By the early 70s, he was back on stage performing at the Newport and Montreux Jazz Festivals (1971 & 1973); and the PBS special Soundstage (with Earl King, The Meters & Dr. John-1974). He also was a major influence on Fats Domino, Dr. John & Allen Toussaint. They all mentioned Longhair, which kept his name in the public domain. He never ‘crossed over’. However, he created a new sound in New Orleans Music, a gumbo of Blues, Jazz and Soul. He was 61 years-old when he passed away in 1980.
On December 19th, 1933, former wife of Miles Davis, activist, author, model, radio/television/film and theater performer, the subject of Miles Davis' Sorcerer LP cover art, and award winning actress Cicely Tyson was born in Harlem, NYC, NY. Tyson’s parents were West Indian immigrants. She initially worked as a model for Ebony Magazine and other publications. Hence her picture on the Miles Davis Sorcerer LP from 1967 (she married Miles 14 years later in 1981). Tyson transitioned from modeling to acting, securing her first role on NBC’s Frontiers Of Faith in 1951. In 1957, she got her first film role in Carib Gold. She continued to appear on TV shows, and in films throughout the 50s and 60s.
In the early 70s, following the political turmoil and new Black Consciousness from the 60s, Tyson began to take on more ethnocentric roles. She appeared in the TV series Roots; and played the lead matriarch in Sounder with Paul Winfield. Cicely was nominated for both Academy, and Golden Globe Awards, for her roles in Sounder, Roots and King (as Coretta Scott King). She won two Emmys for her performance in The Autobiography Of Miss Jane Pittman in 1974. I recall watching Sounder and Miss Jane Pittman in elementary school. I always liked both movies, especially Pittman and how well Tyson played the historical figure through the years. In the early 80s, she married legendary trumpeter Miles Davis. The two stayed together for seven years; but divorced in 1988. He was the only man she married. Tyson played in many other movies, and continues to act to date. She’s 94 years old today.
On December 19th, 1941, songwriter, producer, arranger, session musician, composer, drummer, pianist, kalimba player, and co-founder of Earth Wind & Fire-Maurice White, aka Moe, aka Reece, was born in Memphis, Tennessee. He grew up in the Foote Homes Projects. He was childhood friends with David Porter (Stax solo artist & co-writer with Isaac Hayes) and Booker T. Jones (Booker T & The MGs). They formed a band while in high school, and White would spend his holidays and summers in Chicago with his mother and doctor/leisure saxophonist step-father. He moved to Chicago in the late 50s, and attended the Chicago Conservatory Of Music. In the early 60s he started gigging around town, backing local and traveling acts. In 1962, he joined The Jazzmen, aka The Pharaohs. They were an infamous Fusion Jazz Funk outfit that pre-dated Earth Wind & Fire, while being very similar to their early sound.
In the mid 60s he was a regular session drummer for Chess Records, laying the drums for acts like Sonny Stitt, Etta James, Muddy Waters, Betty Everett, Buddy Guy, Ramsey Lewis, The Dells, Jackie Wilson (Higher & Higher), Chuck Berry, and Fontella Bass (Rescue Me). In 1966 he replaced Isaac Redd Holt in Ramsey Lewis’ trio. Holt went solo, and White played drums for Ramsey until 1969. This is when the foundation for Earth Wind & Fire came about. White, Don Whitehead, & Wade Flemons formed a songwriting crew that got signed by Capitol Records. The trio called themselves The Salty Peppers. They moved to California, and changed the band’s name to reflect the elements in the astrological chart: Earth, Wind & Fire…the band took off rather quickly. White went on to write and produce others from the mid 70s up to his death. He was 74 when he passed away in 2016.
On December 19th, 1997, we lost a guitarist, singer, songwriter, harmonica player, and authentic Chicago Blues musician-Jimmy Rogers (Jay Arthur Lane). Born in Ruleville, Mississippi, Rogers grew up around Memphis and Atlanta-learning to play harp with his friend Snooky Pryor (future Chicago Bluesman/harp player). In his teens (during the early-mid 40s), he started playing guitar and harp with Blues guitarist and Chess Records artist-Robert Lock Wood Jr. in the St. Louis & East St. Louis Area. He got his recording debut in 1946 on the Harlem Records imprint. However, to heighten sales, label owner J. Mayo Williams didn’t give Rogers credit-and instead labeled the record as Memphis Slim & His Houserockers.
In 1947 he moved to Chicago and joined The Headcutters, aka The Headhunters. This was the infamous Blues power trio of Little Walter, Muddy Waters and Rogers-who would upstage other acts performing at clubs. They were able to record as a band with each other, as well as recording as solo acts, for the Chess label (much like the Wu would do decades later with their roster of artists). Rogers had his first solo hit in 1950 with the song That’s All Right. He continued to play with Muddy until 1954; and by the early 60s, the Blues had taken a backseat-Rock ‘n’ Roll was driving. As a result, Rogers dropped out of music. Blues started making a comeback in the late 1960s; and so did Rogers. He was touring and recording again, in 1971; and kept on up to his death (died age 73).
On December 19th, 2000, singer, songwriter, producer, activist, gospel spokesman, guitarist, and founder of The Staple Singers-(Roebuck) Pops Staples passed away in Chicago, Illinois. Pops was a Winona, Mississippi native-and grew up with all of the pioneering Mississippi Bluesman like Robert Johnson, Son House, and Charlie Patton. He got his start playing guitar with these men before he moved to Chicago in the mid 30s. Playing the Blues with these greats helped shape Pops’ approach to the gospel he would pen and arrange from the 50s to the late 70s. He incorporates significant amounts of Blues and Soul into his arranging, and covers of gospel standards. Simply put, you know a Pops Staple song when you hear it.
It took a while for him to gain any ground on the music scene in Chicago. He had singing and playing guitar for The Trumpet Jubilees in the late 30s; but by the late 50s, he would form The Staple Singers with his spouse Oceola. The original lineup was Mavis,Yvonne, Cleotha, (all vocalists), Pervis, and Pops. They made their first recording in the early 50s for United Records. By the mid 50s they were on Vee-Jay, and had a hit with This May Be The Last Time (Rolling Stones cover-Last Time). The band was off and running by then, and scored enough hits to earn them an induction into The Rock ‘n’ Roll and The Blues Hall of Fame. Pops was 85 years old when he passed away.
HONORABLE MENTION: On December 19th, 1895, cornet player, composer, arranger, bandleader, and one of the founding fathers of Jazz-(Joseph) King Oliver was born in Aben, Louisiana. By the time he was 25 years-old, he had the hottest Jazz band in America (1910s). He moved to Chicago in the early 20s, and continued to awe audiences and listeners with his form of Jazz-leading The King Oliver and The Creole Jazz Bands. The world considered him The Jazz King at the time, right before tragedy struck. When the banks failed during the Great Depression, he lost all of his savings. Joseph Oliver died in poverty.
On December 19th, 1958, the man that brought us the lyrics "too shy shy, hush hush eye to eye, too shy shy, hush hush"…keyboardist and lead singer for the New Wave band Kajagoogoo-Limahl aka Christopher Hamill was born in Pemberton, Wigan, Lancashire, England. He was an original member of the short-lived Punk outfits Vox Deus and Crossword, before joining Art Nouveau who would later become Kajagoogoo. Nick Rhodes-keyboardist/vocalist of Duran Duran and Limahl were close friends. Rhodes helped him get on. He’s 60 today.
On December 19th, 1991, an infamous roadie for Black Flag and (Henry) Rollins Band was murdered via gunshots during an armed robbery-Joe Cole (l). Black Flag lead singer Henry Rollins and Joe were leaving The Whiskey Go Go, after seeing a Hole show. They stopped at a convenient store on their way home, and two men approached asking for money with guns drawn. They only had $50 between them. Cole got shot in the face at close range. Rollins got away and called the cops. It’s an unsolved crime. I think Rollins knows more than he told the cops. Look up the evidence, it’s fishy at best, and stank at worst.
On December 19th, 2000, Jazz bassist, composer, bandleader, sideman, arranger, producer, music educator, and photographer-Milt Hinton (Milton John Hilton) passed away in Queens, NYC, NY. He was a NEA Jazz Master & Jazz Hall Of Fame double bassist, that produced more than 20 LPs as a bandleader. He worked with several notable musicians as a sideman including: Art Tatum, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Branford Marsalis, and Benny Goodman. He was 90 years old when he passed.
or 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!