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On April 14th, 1925, one of my favorite tenor sax players-Gene Ammons (Eugene Ammons)-aka Jug was born. The first time I heard him was on the David Axelrod Heavy Axe LP (Fantasy Records, 1974). I figured you couldn’t go wrong with David in the early 1970's. I noticed this laid back song called My Family had a fierce trumpet and sax solo. Come to find out later, the sax was Gene Ammons. The next time I heard him was on Brasswind-an album David Axelrod had produced for Ammons in 1974. I bought the album because I needed some uptempo drums for this track I was making. I saw it was produced by Axelrod, figured I’d gamble, and bought it. After I heard the drum break during the intro of the song Cantaro, I was sold. I started looking at more of his LPs, like Goodbye from 1975 (Prestige Records).
The personnel alone had me sold: Gary Bartz on alto, Nat Adderley on cornet, Ray Barreto on congas, and Louis Hayes on drums. Needless to say, the album didn’t disappoint me. Ammons was born in Chicago, Illinois. He’d been playing sax for years, but starting gaining local ‘fame’ when he was in high school. In 1944 the 19 year old Ammons joined King Kolax's band, linked up with Billy Eckstines’s outfit shortly after, and was given the nickname 'The Jug' (because his head was so big). As the story goes, Eckstine ordered straw hats for the band for a gig they were scheduled to do-and Ammons’ hat didn’t fit. Gene Ammons played with Charlie Parker, Woody Herman’s Second Herd, and Dexter Gordon during the mid & late 1940's. In the 1950's, he began recording and producing for others. He was 49 when he passed away.
On April 14th, 1974, female rapper, actress, and Radio/TV personality-Da Brat (Shawntae Harris) was born in Joliet, Illinois. She’s most known for her 1992 debut LP, Funkdafied, on So So Def Records (produced by Jermaine Dupree). Most recently she’s served as co-host on The Rickey Smiley Morning Show and appeared on The Rap Game reality TV series (2016). She’s also known for her hard edged lyrics, and persona, which has been compared to Boss (Def Jam) and Yo-Yo. She was definitely not like Lil Kim or Foxy Brown, who embraced their femininity more overtly. She made her start on the West Side of Chicago singing in the choir. She rapped all through high school, and won a contest sponsored by Yo! MTV Raps.
She got a chance to meet Kriss Kross, who put her in touch with Jermaine Dupri. During this time, there came a flood of new indie labels (much like the flood in the early 80's). Record labels like Def Jam, Enjoy, Sugarhill, Jive, Rap-A-Lot, and Tommy Boy had all been powerhouses, but Bad Boy, Rocafella, Loud, Rawkus, and Jermaine’s So So Def all rose to challenge the majors during the mid to late 90's. Like many others, Da Brat capitalized on this. Without them, we wouldn’t have heard Wu-Tang Clan, Slum Village, Company Flow, Mad Lib, Mos Def, or Da Brat. She’s an original rapper, that forged her own niche in a crowded industry. Da Brat is 45 today.
On April 14th, 2015, we lost the legendary soul vocalist, songwriter, and former member of The Esquires-Percy (Tyrone) Sledge. Percy is most known for his 1966 hit single When a Man Loves A Woman (Atlantic Records). Before singing #1 hits, he worked in the fields of Leighton, Alabama-and at the local hospital as an orderly. He doubled as a fill-in for The Esquires as well, and soon joined them full-time to tour the southeast. Percy was discovered by Quin Ivy in the mid 1960's. Known as a heartfelt balladeer, he sang many of the romantic hits Ivy and Martin Greene wrote together. When A Man Loves A Woman was his first single, and it was hard to live up to the success of such a classic. Not every song winds up being a #1 hit.
This had a significant effect on his music career. Sledge was type cast as a balladeer, but his voice also sounded good over dance music. Still we will forever know him for ballads like Take Time, Sunshine, Warm & Tender, Love Me Tender, I’ll Be Your Everything, and It Tears Me Up. He toured off the success of his ballads throughout the late 1960's and 1970's. In the 1980's, just as his popularity was fading to the influx of new wave pop and the ‘neo’-British invasion, Sledge saw growth in The UK where his single peaked at #2. Michael Bolton covered When A Man Loves A Woman in 1991; and Sledge saw the venues open their doors once again. He continued to tour off that one song, his first recorded song, for nearly half a century. Percy Sledge was 73 when he died.
HONORABLE MENTION: On April 14th, 1932, actress, singer, spokesperson, guitarist, author, and one of the most recognizable country music artists of the past 60 years-Loretta Lynn (Loretta Webb)-was born in Butcher Hollow, KY. Lynn was revolutionary and innovative, being one of the few females to sing about issues everyday women faced (cheating husbands, birth control, war-making widows, male/female double standards, etc). Many of her songs were banned by major radio and TV during the 1960's, because her music spoke on the harsh truths that most people don’t want to discuss. Loretta Lynn turns 87 today.
On April 14th, 1944, psychedelic rock pioneer, guitarist, Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame musician (1996), San Francisco Sound innovator, bassist, former member of both Hot Tuna and Jefferson Airplane-Jack (William) Casady was born in Washington, D.C. Casady started playing guitar as a youth, and joined his first band (The Triumphs) in his teens. He was the rhythm guitarist, but eventually moved to the bass. His band-mate Jorma Kaukonen (guitar) invited him to join Jefferson Airplane in 1965. He formed a splinter group with Jorma called Hot Tuna in 1969. They still are active. He also joined SVT in the 70's, and The Yanks in the 80's, before returning to Jefferson Starship in the 90's. He’s 75 today.
On April 14th, 1945, seminal blues/rock artist, heavy metal innovator, guitarist, singer, Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Inductee (2016), songwriter, session musician, and co-founding member of Deep Purple-Ritchie Blackmore (Richard Hugh Blackmore)-was born in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England. Blackmore started playing guitar when he was 11. By his mid teens (1960), he was doing session work for local acts, and joined an instrumental band called The Outlaws. He appeared on many of their singles throughout the 60's, and is credited as a guitarist on over 50 songs during the decade. Ritchie Blackmore is 74 today.
On April 14th, 2010, we lost an influential Bluesman, educator, singer, songwriter-and one of the prominent figures in the Mississippi public school project called Blues In Schools-Mississippi Slim. Slim was a man of many trades (truck driver, club performer, Chicago Bluesman, Sunflower Records recording artist, Junior Wells collaborator) and a regular at music festivals that celebrated the blues. He made his recording debut in 1974 with Crying In The Arms Of Another Love, and very actively worked to show the youth how the blues is crafted-and giving them a history lesson on it. His last recording was Miracles (1999). Mississippi Slim was 66 years old, when he passed away.
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