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On January 9th, in 1914, drummer, percussionist, sideman and bandleader-Kenny Clarke AKA Klook AKA Kenneth Clarke Spearman was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steele town native, was a product of a musical family. His father was a trombonist and his mother was a pianist. Clarke’s parents split when he was very young, and his mother died when he was 5 (orphaned). Before he was orphaned, she showed him some basics on piano playing. He used this foundation to build on his skills later. Clarke started playing drums around age 9 for the marching band at the Coleman Industrial Home for Negro Boys. When he was 12, he moved back with his stepfather. In the early 30s, he dropped out of school to become a musician full-time. In 1932, he joined Leroy Bradley’s band when he was 17. He then toured with Roy Eldridge before returning to Bradley’s band from 1933-1934.
In 1935, he moved to NYC and started going by Kenny Clarke. He played both vibraphone and drums. In the late 30s, he played with Chick Webb, Sidney Bechet, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie. He was hired as the house bandleader for Minton’s Playhouse in the early 40s, playing alongside Thelonious Monk, Nick Fenton and Joe Guy. He was drafted into the army in 1943 and married Jazz vocalist Carmen McRae in 1944. While Clarke was gone, Max Roach took over, but Clarke returned to his post in the mid to late 40s. He converted to Islam in 1946 and changed his name to Liaquat Ali Salaam. He was an original member of the Modern Jazz Quartet, and also played with Miles Davis during the 50s. He moved to Paris in 1956 and continued to perform, record and compose music. The NEA Jazz Master and DownBeat Hall of Famer was 71 when he passed in 1985.
On January 9th, in 1941, ukulele player, pianist, guitarist, singer, songwriter and activist-Joan Baez was born in Staten Island, NYC, NY. He father was a PhD Stanford U graduate and co-inventor of the x-ray microscope. Baez’s two sisters Pauline & Thalia both became musicians. When Baez was young, her family converted from Catholics to Quakers-which promotes pacifism and tackling social issues. She incorporated this belief system into her music and life. She refused to play in White only venues and wound up playing only at HBCUs when she toured the southern US. She was a ‘worldly’ woman, living in Europe, Iraq, Canada and the US as a child. After high school, her father moved them to Boston and she began signing folk music.
She gave her first concert that same year at Club 47 in Cambridge. Only 8 people showed, most of them family, but she did so well that she was asked to come back for a weekly gig. She got her recording debut with Odetta and Bob Gibson on the Folksingers 'Round Harvard Square LP released in 1959 on Veritas Records. Odetta & Marian Anderson were two of her biggest influences. She got a contract with Vanguard Records and headed out to the Newport Folk Festival in 1959, before returning to the studio to record her first self-titled LP in 1960. A year later, she was selling out concerts in NY. She appeared at Woodstock in 1969, which brought her much more notoriety. Baez represented for the Latin descendants in the Folk music genre. She’s 78 today.
On January 9th, in 1944, seminal Rock guitarist, songwriter, bassist, producer, composer, arranger and original member of Led Zeppelin-Jimmy Page (James Patrick Page) was born in Heston, Middlesex, England. Page got his started on guitar when he was 12. However, the guitar that he played was left by a prior tenant at the flat his parents moved to when he was 8. It took him 4 years to pick it up and play it. He was shown a few chords by a schoolmate, but learned to play mostly by ear. His early influences were Blues, Skiffle and Rockabilly. When he was 13 (late 50s), he played for Huw Wheldon’s All Your Own talent show which aired on BBC radio in 1957. He dropped out of high school to pursue music full-time, backing the Beat poet Royston Ellis and the Crusaders featuring Neil Christian in the early 60s.
He took a couple years off to paint, and enrolled at Sutton Art College in Surrey. When he returned to music around the mid 60s, he started gigging and doing session work for Cyril Davies & Alexis Korner’s Blues Inc., as well as artists on the Decca imprint. He got the nickname Lil’ Jim Pea and was featured on some of the Kinks & The Who’s first recordings. In 1965, he became house producer and A&R for Immediate Records. He joined the Yardbirds in the mid 60s, playing bass at first and then moving to guitar. In 1968, he reconfigured the Yardbirds’ lineup to include John Bonham, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones. They called themselves the New Yardbirds, which eventually switched to Led Zeppelin. Page’s career really took off after this. He is 75 today.
On January 9th, in 2005 two significant things happened to two different musicians. First, singer, pianist, guitarist, songwriter, keyboardist, Neo Soul innovator, producer, member of the Soulquarians and founder of the Vanguard-D’Angelo (Michael Eugene Archer) was in the custody on Richmond, VA police. As the story goes, D’Angelo was stopped by the police for erratic driving. They pulled him over and could tell he was intoxicated. They searched him and his vehicle and came up with marijuana and a 'controlled substance’…other reports say it was cocaine. His mug shot though? Social network killed his image for a minute by circulating the pics that showed him overweight and looking rough…D’Angelo is a native of Richmond, VA. He must have been extremely faded to get caught slipping like that in his hometown. I can’t front on his music though, it’s always good.
Second, MC Hammer and Vince Neil (lead singer for Motley Crue) were in Las Vegas. They had a TV reality show that followed their daily lives and the lives of their family members in a shared house called: The Surreal Life. Hammer officiated Neil’s 4th wedding. He married Lia Gerardini. Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee were present for the event (fellow Motley Crue band members). Dennis Rodman also was there. I’m sure it was a rare event to have all of those celebrities from different walks of life in one place for a marriage. Hammer’s prominence in rap had long been gone by 2005. Neil and the Crue were’t making much noise either after Grunge Rock and Indie Music took over. People no longer wanted to just have a good time, they wanted more real-life situations, lyricism and materialism…with plenty of bling. Glam Rock and Hammer pants turned into Billboard loops with shiny suits and depressed groups...
On January 9th, in 2014, we lost a seminal author, playwright, poet, activist, actor, theater director, producer and educator-Amiri Baraka (Everett LeRoi Jones, Imamu Amir Baraka, LeRoi Jones) passed away in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey. TOV covered Baraka’s birthday on the Oct 7th post. Please refer to it for additional information. Baraka’s early inspiration was Jazz music. He stated that he wanted to be like Miles Davis, even look like him. He called the Jazz of the 50s-Blue African Magic Chants. He managed to incorporate a Jazz style in his writing, especially his poetry, becoming infamous for innovating the runs and cadence in his delivery that the Last Poets became famous for. In the early 50s, he attended Rutgers for a year and then transferred to Howard (philosophy, religious studies). In 1954, he enlisted in the US Air Force and rose to the rank of sergeant (gunner).
However, an anonymous letter to his superior, accusing him of being a communist led to him getting a Dishonorable Discharge when Russian writings were found in his possession. He moved to Greenwich Village in the mid 50s, started working in a Vinyl Record warehouse (developed his love for Jazz), and started writing poetry (inspired by Beat poets). He came in contact with the Black Mountain Poets from Back Mountain College in NC, as well as the New York School poets. Both of these avant-garde poetry troupes heavily influenced his writing and poetry style. He married Hettie Cohen in 1958 and they started Totem Press and Yugen Magazine. They published the Beat poet-Allen Ginsberg. Throughout the early to mid 60s, Baraka wrote, co-authored and edited for publications like Kulchur Magazine and The Floating Bear Magazine. He really came into his own during the turbulent late 60s. The former college professor was 79 years-old when he died.
HONORABLE MENTION: On January 9th, in 1941, singer, guitarist, songwriter, producer Blue-eyed Soul innovator and original member of the Traits-Roy Head was born in Three Rivers, TX. He co-founded The Traits in the mid 50s. In 1958, they got signed to TNT Music out of San Antonio, TX. They started recording in 1959 and did well locally, but didn’t secure a big break until 1965-Treat Her Right (Scepter). He released 10 LPs from 1965-1985 (1 every 2 years or so). He’s 77 today.
On January 9th, in 1950, singer, songwriter, actor and original member of the New York Dolls-David (Roger) Johansen (Buster Poindexter) was born in Staten, Island, NY. The Glam Rock innovator is most known for his music during the 60s and early 70s, being a pre-Punk style in sound, with a Glam Rock look. He started with the Vagabond Missionaires, then the New York Dolls and wound up going solo and having a hit with Hot Hot Hot in 1987. He’s 69 today.
On January 9th, in 1980, we lost a seminal songwriter, singer, producer, lead singer and co-founding member of the Rivingtons-Carl White. They originally were called the Sharps-a doo wop outfit that recorded a minor hit covering Little Bitty Pretty One by Thurston Harris (1957). In 1961, they changed to the Crenshaws, and then later the Rivingtons. Their original lineup was: Carl White (lead), Tuner Rocky Wilson Jr (bass), Al Frazier (tenor) and Sonny Harris (baritone). They recorded several sides during the 60s and toured in the 70s.
On January 9th, in 1981, we lost a seminal Jazz drummer, percussionist, sideman and bandleader-Cozy Cole (William Randolph Cole). The East Orange, NJ native got his professional start playing drums for Wilbur Sweatman (1928). In the 30s, he played with: Jelly Roll Morton, Benny Carter and Cab Calloway to name a few. He became a member of CBS Radio’s multi-ethnic orchestra in 1942. He played with Louis Armstrong throughout the 40s, and then stepped out as a bandleader in the mid 50s. He recorded 7 LPs as a bandleader from 1955-1974. He was 71 when he passed.
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