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LAUGHS: On December 9th, in 1922 comedian, actor of television-stage-and film-Redd Foxx (John Elroy Sanford) was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He got his start cracking jokes as a dishwasher in Chicago during the late 30s. This is where he was coined "Chicago Red" the funniest dishwasher alive, not to be confused with his close friend-a street hustler/pimp named "Detroit Red" aka Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik El Shabazz). TOV covered Foxx’s death date in our October 11th post. Hence, I’m not going to rehash what I stated in that post, but rather add to the information shared in that initial writing about Redd Foxx. Most people know Foxx from Sanford & Son-the major network sitcom starring Redd Foxx and scored by Quincy Jones. The show ran for 5 years from 1972-1977.
In its debut year, Foxx was nominated for an Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy Series (also was nominated in 1973 and 1974). In 1972, He won a Golden Globe for Best Television Actor in a Musical or Comedy. Stepin Fetchit is one of the first well-known original Black comedians in America (20s-40s). Without him, there would be no Redd Foxx. Foxx changed Fetchit’s comedic approach and decided to clown the audience rather than making himself the butt of the jokes. This approach would become a staple for Dick Gregory implementing social issues & Richard Pryor, and later Eddie Murphy. Foxx helped transform the Black comedian into a soundboard for social commentary. He was 68 when he died.
JAZZ: On December 9th, in 1932, prominent Jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer, arranger, producer, film scorer, Fusion Jazz innovator and Blue Note recording artist-Donald (L’Ouverture) Byrd (II) was born in Detroit, Michigan. He was one of the few Jazz musicians from the Bop & Cool Jazz era that was able to stay relevant and forge new frontiers for Fusion Jazz. Most artists had to make a decision in the late 60s when Fusion started to either stay the course of Modern Jazz or try the new electrified, funky and soulful version known as Fusion. He chose the latter. Byrd got his start playing with Lionel Hampton while he was still in high school. He then enlisted in the US Air Force and became a member of their segregated Jazz Band. When he returned to the states, he pursued his music education at Wayne State University, graduating with a Bachelor’s in music.
He started working with Art Blakey of the Jazz Messengers when he was still attending the Master’s in Music program at the Manhattan School of Music (early to mid-50s). In 1955 he got his recording debut with Mal Waldron, Gigi Gryce, Jackie McLean, and released 3 solo LPs. A year later, he was working with Sonny Rollins, Monk, Trane, Herbie Hancock, Art Farmer and released 2 solo LPs. From 1957-1960, he put out over a dozen LPs, 5 in 1957 alone. It wasn’t until 1969, when he released "Electric Byrd," that Donald began to work as a Fusion artist. He recruited a funky backing band called the Blackbyrds & secured seminal producers-The Mizell Brothers to help him carve out his sound. Byrd produced the Blackbyrds (Rock Creek Park) that are featured with him on the "Cornbread Earl & Me" Soundtrack. He also has been sampled by many. Most notably: Blackmoon's "Buck Em Down" remix. He was 80 years-old when he passed (2013).
On December 9th, in 1943, composer, arranger, producer, trumpeter, bandleader, session musician, Jazz educator and Jazz Foundation of America member-Jimmy Owens was born in New York City, NY. Owens is someone every Jazz listener has heard on any one of his hundreds of recordings. However, you may not have known who he was. He’s played with everyone: Miles Davis (not recorded), Willie Bobo, Gary Bartz, Kenny Burrell, Kenny Barron, Milt Jackson, Hank Crawford, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Cobham, Junior Mance, Gerald Wilson, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Yusef Lateef, Eric Kloss, Hubert Laws, Oliver Nelson, Herbie Mann, Charles Mingus, Les McCann, Thad Jones, James Moody, Joe Zawinul, Fathead Newman, Charles Tolliver and Archie Shepp to name a few. He was taught the trumpet around age 14 by Donald Byrd. Ironically, he didn’t venture into the Fusion world like Byrd did.
Instead, he joined the Prog Rock movement, as a member of the band Ars Nova in the late 60s. Owens’ sound can be categorized as Post-Bop or Standard Jazz at the base, but where he takes it permeates all genres-Funk, Soul, Rock, Classical, Blues, etc. I appreciate his sound as a session musician because he works his playing into the song without overpowering it. He makes the song better without having to standout. I also like him as a bandleader because you get to hear his compositions and personal takes on cover songs. Some of his accomplishments are: earned a Masters in Music from U of Mass (1975), was inducted as a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts (2012) and co-founded the Jazz Musician’s Emergency Fund. He’s 75 today.
On December 9, in 2010, we lost a Jazz musician that worked with Donald Byrd & Jimmy Owens-James Moody. He was a Saxophonist, composer, bandleader, flautist, arranger, producer, Blue Note recording artist and innovator of BeBop. The Savannah, Georgia native was inspired to play the sax after hearing Don Byas and George Holmes Tate, both of whom played with Count Basie. He got into the flute during his teens and stayed with it throughout his musical career. He enlisted in the US Army in the early 40s and started playing with the segregated band. When he returned to civilian life in 1946, he started playing with Dizzy Gillespie’s band. He played BeBop during this time with Kenny Barron (keys) and Les Spann (guitar).
Moody made his recording debut on Blue Note in the late 40s. By the 50s, he was in Europe recording and performing. He participated in the UK migration like several Black artists of the time, they felt more comfortable, creatively free and artistically appreciated overseas due to the racism in America. Europe is where he created his jazz standard "Moody’s Mood for Love." He was very instrumental in helping expand the scope of the European Jazz Movement. He returned to the states in the early 50s and continued recording and collaborating with others. He’s a Jazz Master inducted by the NEA in 1998 and has recorded over 50 LPs over a 50 year span (1949-2010). He was 85 years-old when he passed away.
BLUES: On December 9th, in 1932, infamous Blues Harpist, songwriter, vocalist and producer-Junior Wells (Amos Wells Blakemore Jr.) was born in West Memphis, Arkansas. I say he’s infamous for several reasons. First, he came from the land of Soul-Funk-Rock & Blues, being across the bridge from Memphis, TN where Hi Records created the Soul, Stax help birth the Funk, Elvis & Ike Turner cultivated Rock, and the Blues served as the foundation (B.B. King). Second, when he moved to Chicago in the early 50s, he replaced then troubled Little Walter in Muddy Water’s band. He was featured on Mud’s 1952 recordings. A year later he was cutting his own solo LP for States Records.
Third, as the British invasion re-energized public interest in Blues, Wells came out with his seminal "Hoodoo Man Blues" LP featuring Buddy Guy on guitar (Delmark Records-1965). They would work together in the 70s with acts like the Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana and Eric Clapton. Fourth, he stole the show in 1962 at the American Country Blues Festival from acts like Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson and Howlin’ Wolf. Fifth, he released over 30 LPs from 1965 to 1998. That’s an LP a year for 30 plus years. Sixth, he recorded for over 10 imprints and is a member of the Blues Hall of Fame. To end, he helped shape the Chicago Blues sound, leading the Junior Wells Chicago Blues Band. He was 63 years-old when he passed (1998).
Honorable Mention: On December 9th, in 1941, vocalist, dancer and member of the O’Jays-Sammy Strain (l) was born. He got in the game with the O’Jays late, but had been in the game for a while before joining them. Strain came from Little Anthony & the Imperials, the infamous 50s-60s doo wop group. He joined the O’Jays in the late 70s, after they had established themselves with a run of hits: "For the Love of Money," "Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby" (Big Pun sample) & "Give The People What They Want" (EPMD sample). They had their last Top 5 hit with Strain (Use Ta Be My Girl-1978). He’s 77 today.
On December 9th, in 1946, drummer, songwriter, vocalist, producer, composer, arranger and the unspoken hero for the Funk band the Commodores-(Walter) Clyde Orange (seated-c) was born. He joined the Commodores in the early 70s at Tuskegee U in Alabama (HBCU) when then leader James Ingram (no, not the one everyone knows) was drafted for the Vietnam War. Orange co-wrote several songs and was co-lead singer with Lionel (standing-r): he’s the lead singer on Brickhouse and Nightshift. Orange is 72 today.
On December 9th, in 1971, DJ, sampler/drum machine/sequencer user, keyboardist, composer, arranger, producer and member of Portishead-Geoff Barrow was born in Walton in Gordano, Somerset, England. Aside from making bangers for Portishead (Inspectah Deck has sampled Barrow & Barrow has sampled The Wu), Geoff also has remixed or produced tracks for Depeche Mode, Primal Scream, Tricky, Neneh Cherry and his splinter Hip Hop collective The Quakers. He’s 46 today.
On December 9th, in 1974, emcee, actor and freestyle champion-Canibus (Germaine Williams) was born in Kingston, Jamaica. The lyrical emcee lived a lot of different places as a child: Bronx, DC, ATL, Buffalo, Newark, Miami & London. He started taking rhyming serious around the early 90s, going by Canibus Sativa as a member of THEM (The Heralds of Extreme Metaphors-with emcee Central Intelligence). He put out some singles and a solo LP, but he’s most known for the bars he spit on mixtapes, live radio shows and other people’s songs (LL Cool J beef). He’s 44 today.
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!