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On March 16th, 1959, the best hype man to ever do it, co-founding member of the rap group Public Enemy, VH1 Reality TV Show Star, former DJ, saxophonist, comedian, guitarist, drummer, bassist, clarinetist, and actor-Flavor Flav (William Johnathan Drayton Jr.) was born on Long Island, New York. A lot of people know Flav from the VH1 channel reality TV series The Surreal Life, Strange Love, & Flavor Of Love, but Flav was a hip hop cultural icon way before he had his own shows on VH1. He’s most known for his wild stage antics, humorous personality, the big clocks that he wears as necklace pendants, and for The Flavor Flav Dance. What many don’t know about Flav is that he was a musical prodigy. He taught himself how to play piano when he was just five, and had mastered the drums, guitar, and bass by the time he was 10.
Flav also sang in his church choir, and is said to be a proficient player of over 15 instruments. He got into trouble in his early teens, and eventually dropped out of high school-but then in 1978, he met Chuck D who attended the same university Flavor was taking culinary classes at (Adelphi University, Long Island, NY). Chuck had a radio show that they both rapped on together. They formed the rap group Public Enemy in the early 1980s, releasing Public Enemy #1 in 1984. Rick Rubin of Def Jam Records heard the single and signed them to his imprint in 1986. They released their debut Yo! Bum Rush The Show a year later. The LP did well, and paved he way for the classic It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back in 1988. The album went double platinum, and is viewed as one of the best hip hop records ever made. Flavor Flav is 60 today.
On March 16th, 1970, singer, iconic Motown vocalist, songwriter, and former James Brown affiliate-Tammi Terrell (Thomasina Winfred Montgomery) passed away in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her nickname as a child was Tommie-which she changed to Tammi. She’s most known for her duets with Marvin Gaye, and her alleged romance with David Ruffin of The Temptations. Tammi started singing at an early age, and by the time she was 12 began experiencing migraine headaches (1957). Surviving friends and relatives believe that this was the onset symptoms of the brain cancer that took her life at the age of 24.
In 1960 Tammi signed to Wand Records (a subsidiary of Scepter), and recorded a couple a solo singles under the name Tammi Montgomery. She also did some writing and singing for The Shirelles (demos), before joining James Brown’s revue as a backup dancer/singer. In 1963 she recorded I Cried on Brown’s Try Me imprint. According to former Famous Flame, Bobby Bennett, James Brown used to beat Tammi-which led her to leave him. In the mid 1960s she signed with Checker Records, sang live with Jerry Butler, and then signed to Motown. Berry Gordy changed her name to Terrell (instead of Montgomery), and she released her first single I Can’t Believe You Love Me in 1965. Tammi went on to record several hits with Marvin Gaye before she passed away in 1970. But her musical legacy lives on forever…
On March 16, 1975, we lost a seminal Bluesman, singer, guitarist, songwriter, banjo player, violinist, pianist, composer, ukulele player, arranger, producer, and mandolin player T-Bone Walker (Aaron Thibeaux Walker). Walker started playing guitar and singing around the Dallas, TX area during his early teens. His mother and father were members of The Dallas String Band, and close family friends with the bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson. Walker dropped out of school after 5th grade, and focused on music full-time. At age 15 he started performing alongside Jefferson, who had become his mentor. And four years later, in 1929, he made his recording debut release of Witchita Falls Blues b/w Trinity River Blues on Columbia Records.
At the time he was using the name Oak Cliff T-Bone, to represent his community (Oak Cliff) and his nickname derived from his middle name. He moved to Los Angeles in the mid 1930s, and played with Les Hite’s Orchestra until relocating to Chicago to sing in local nightclubs. His reputation grew quickly, and soon he started recording for Black & White Records during the mid to late 1940s. T-Bone penned, composed, and sang his biggest hit-Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad) in 1947. During the 1950s he recorded for Imperial Records, and in the 1960s, he started playing at the Folk & Blues Revival festivals. This Rock ‘n’ Roll & Blues Hall Of Fame musician passed away in Los Angeles, California. He was 64 years old.
HONORABLE MENTION: On March 16th 2017, Bluesman, drummer, singer, harmonica player, songwriter, and sideman with Howlin’ Wolf-James (Henry) Cotton passed away in Austin, TX. Cotton made his start in Tunica, MS. upon hearing Sonny Boy Williamson II on the radio, it was all over. He moved to West Helena, AR with his uncle, and sought out Sonny Boy-who served as Cotton’s mentor during his early years. When Williamson moved to Milwaukee, Cotton took over the band-but his inexperience and youth led to the band splitting up. During the early 1950s he joined Howlin’ Wolf’s band, as a backup vocalist and harp player. He was 81 when he died.
On March 16th, 1996, comedian, writer and actor-Charlie Barnett passed away due to complications from AIDS (he was a user of heroine). Barnett is most known for his role as Tyrone in D.C. Cab (1983). He also made the first cut of SNL auditions in 1980; but when he failed to show up for a second reading, the role was given to Eddie Murphy. Barnett started his career in the parks of NYC, and most of his material was performed in Washington Square. He had a consistent role on Miami Vice, as Neville 'Noogie' Lamont aka 'The Noog Man' from 1984 to 1989. He also played in other movies between 1985 and 1996. Charlie Barnett was 41 when he passed away.
On March 16th, 1995, rapper, producer, founder of Ruthless Records, actor, co-founding member of N.W.A., and Gangsta rap pioneer Eazy E made a formal statement to the press that he had contracted AIDS. Wright went on further to say that he was the father of seven children, by six women. The game got real when Eazy-E dropped this information. For hip hop, the reaction was similar to the general public’s when Magic Johnson announced he had HIV. Beef between Ice Cube and Dr. Dre was squashed shortly after he went public. It’s funny how tragedy can put things in perspective…
On March 16th, 1954, composer, guitarist, singer, producer, songwriter, and co-founding member of Heart-Nancy (Lamoureaux) Wilson was born in San Francisco, CA. After she saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan’s show in 1964, she and her sister decided they wanted to be rock stars. She played air guitar until she got a real one (Kent acoustic). Her first band was a quartet called The Viewpoints in 1965. She saw The Beatles perform again in 1966, and in 1967 The Viewpoints made their professional debut at the folk festival on Vashon Island. She played country in high school and then formed the rock band Heart shortly after graduation. She’s 65 today.
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