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On December 18th, in 1917, actor, poet, activist, director, author, playwright, father of Blues guitarist Guy Davis and Husband of actress Ruby Dee-Ossie Davis (Raiford Chatman Davis) was born in Cogdell, Clinch County, Georgia. Davis got the name 'Ossie' when the county clerk mistakenly heard his mother refer to him as R.C. Davis for his birth certificate (R.C. Ossie). He grew up in the South during the height of domestic terrorism inflicted on the Black community by the KKK and systemically racist Jim Crow legal system. Ossie recalls his father being threatened with death by the Klan for being too successful when he was a young child. He graduated high school in the late 30s and attended Howard U for a stint until 1939 when he pursued an acting career full-time in NYC.
He got his start with the Rose McClendon Players-an acting troupe out of Harlem. He stayed with them until being drafted in the early 40s for WWII (US Army vet). When he returned to the states, he continued acting in off-Boradway plays, then he got a film offer (1950). He co-starred with Sidney Poitier in the film No Way Out. It’s about a doctor that services the downtrodden and is questioned internally when he discovers the racism his patients endure. His career was off and running after this film. Proof can be seen in his resume. He appeared in nearly 50 films over a 50 year period, not to mention the voice-overs, narrations and TV show appearances he’s done. Adding these elements pushes the numbers over 150. He’s done some of his best work in Spike Lee films, and these are probably some of the films he’s most noted for: (School Daze, X, Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever, Get on the Bus, 4 Little Girls). He was 87 years-old when he passed.
On December 18th, in 1943, two significant events occurred for one artist. The guitarist, songwriter, producer, actor, critic and co-founding member of the Rolling Stones-Keith Richards AKA the Human Riff was born in Dartford, Kent, England. Richard’s has created more riffs than any other guitarist in music. His grandfather-big band jazz guitarist-Gus Dupree gave him his first guitar. Well, he earned his first guitar from his grandpops. Dupree put the guitar on a shelf just out of Richard’s reach and told him if he could reach it, and learn to play it, then he could have it. Richards propped himself up on books and cushions and got the guitar. Dupree taught him the song Malaguena, and Richards practiced diligently until he mastered the tune. After that, he could keep it.
Sidebar: that’s how the culture of music should be passed down, like Kung Fu styles. Richards original guitar inspirations were Jazz musicians like his grandfather Gus Dupree, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Louis Armstrong. He’s 75 today. 40 years later, in 1983, Richards got married in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to Patti Hansen (on his birthday). She was 27 and he was 40. The thirteen-year age difference didn’t raise many eyebrows in the Rock world, considering it’s been a common occurrence since the early 50s during its infancy. Mick acted as best man for the ceremony.
On December 18th, in 1955, a very unique drummer that many have literally heard but never knew the name-Walfredo de los Reyes Palau IV or more commonly called-Walfredo Reyes Jr was born in Havana, Cuba. I’m not really going to go deep into his longtime membership with Santana, Chicago or Traffic…and how he’s been a full-time, session and touring musician for over 40 years…I won’t mention much about his experience and activity in Latin Jazz, Afro-Cuban & World Music, or his role as music educator and drum clinician-advising and directly showing artists how to improve their drums skills-a drum clinic. All of which are worthy achievements deserving of praise, accolades and further discussion.
However, his pure drumming and percussion skills overshadow all of those accomplishments in my opinion. For example, Reyes can play a drum set with his hands as if it were sticks. He’s done this feat at live shows and recording sessions. With his hands?! And sound like a drummer with sticks?! His stick skills are twice as nice as most drummers. Bands usually have to hire a percussionist and a drummer when they go on tour because you can't do overdubs on a live show. This can be expensive. Reyes is a two for one in that he can play the drums with his sticks so that it sounds like a drummer and a percussionist are playing simultaneously. He’s gifted at both though, so he can step from behind the kit and bang out some nice beats by hand. His discography ranges from International music to Rock and Jazz. He’s 63 today.
On December 18th, in 1971, two interesting things happened in the genre of Funk from two different musicians/bands, in no particular order…First, singer, songwriter, producer and Southern Soul music innovator-Joe Tex (Joseph Arrington Jr.) had a number one R&B hit with I Gotcha. It remained on the charts for 20 weeks. He recorded the song earlier in the month for Dial Records. It was received so well that by March of the following year (1972) it was RIAA certified gold. It went on to sell over 2 million copies becoming Tex’s biggest hit ever. The LP of the same title that featured the number one song (I Gotcha) was released in 1972. It has another slept on Funk cut-Give the Baby Anything The Baby Wants. Also released as a single b/w Takin’ a Chance in 1971.
Second, on the same day in the same year (1971), the multi-ethnic Psychedelic Funk Rock Jazz outfit-Sly & the Family Stone had a number one R&B and Pop LP-There’s A Riot Goin’ On. This LP contains the number one Pop & R&B single-Family Affair. However, it has several very slept on B-sides including: Runnin’ Away, Just Like a Baby, (You Caught Me) Smilin’ and Thank You for Talkin’ to Me Africa. The latter being one of the funkiest Larry Graham basslines ever! The intro is just drums, bass and guitar, a real power trio of Funk. It’s a funkier slowed down version of Thankyoufalettin…Interesting fact: The name of the LP is a response to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On LP (There’s a Riot Goin’ On). Gaye’s album was released 6 months prior. Originally, Sly & the Fam wanted to call this LP-Africa Talks To You.
On December 18th, in 1983, we lost a man that laid the riffs for all types of samplers to chop and loop like the Ensoniq 16 Plus, SP 1200, ASR 10 and MPC; the lead guitarist fro James Brown and former session musician-Jimmy Nolen. Nolen was the guitarist that defined the sound and style of the Funk guitarist. James Brown invented the Funk...and the entire concept of the One that Funk is based on. Jimmy Nolen was his lead guitarist before, during and after the invention of the Funk. Therefore, he invented Funk guitar. You can hear him playing on Blind Man Can See It (Das EFX-They Want EFX), Soul Power & I Know You Got Soul (latter is Bobby Byrd-sampled by Eric B & Rakim), Make it Funky (everybody in Hip Hop sampled this), Funky Drummer (everybody in every genre after Funk sampled this), Say it Loud (PE) and the Boss (Lord Finesse).
He also played on all of the splinter acts songs: Marva Whitney, Lynn Collins, Vicki Anderson, Bobby Byrd, etc. He got his start playing violin as a child and around age 9 he picked up the guitar. He moved to Southern California and played the clubs there with his own band. They backed travelling musicians and recorded sides for a King Records subsidiary (1950s). He met James in 1965, after he’d played with Johnny Otis (Shuggie Otis’ pops) for a while (mid to late 50s). His style is like a cool Jazz guitar, full of pauses and a ‘chicken scratch’ style. He’s listed as the 12th Greatest Guitarist of All-Time by Mojo Magazine (it’s like a UK Rolling Stones). Parliament-Funkadelic, Earth Wind & Fire, Tower of Power, Pleasure, Roy Ayers Ubiquity, Cameo, The Time, Sly & the Fam, New Birth (Nite Liters), the Bar-Kays, and other large Funk bands imitated the style Nolen created. His sound is greatly missed.
HONORABLE MENTION: On December 18th, a couple of things happened in Hip Hop worth mentioning. First, in 1970, the rapper, actor, controversial reality TV star directly and indirectly-DMX AKA Dark Man X (Earl Simmons) was born in Mount Vernon, NY. X got a bad rap early on. A lot of people considered him another Tupac imitator. However, I gotta give props where props are due. He played the role of Tommy ‘Bons’ Bundy well in the 1998 film Belly. He also called out a lot of ‘industry’ rappers and execs which also helped them professionally alienate DMX and expedite the destruction of his career. He’s been in and out of jail since. He’s 48 today.
Second, twenty-one years later in 1991, Dee Jay, Beat Boxer, Juice Crew Emcee and creator of the term ‘The Vapors’-Biz Markie was all up in a court dispute over his cut-Alone Again. The original artist-Gilbert O’Sullivan won an injunction that prohibited Biz from sampling his song-Alone Again (Naturally)…This was the era of the demise of sampling and implementation of sample clearance procedure. I will say that before producers started making these lifted loops and chops hot, folks weren’t really checking for the original artists. I understand wanting to get paid, but get on the road too…Aerosmith that shhhh (cues up Nobody Beats the Biz)...
On December 18th, in 1958, lead guitarist for the Punk Rock outfit called the Killing Joke-(Kevin) Geordie Walker was born in Chester-le-Street, County Durham, England. He originally wanted to be an architect and attended school for it. However, in 1979, he co-founded the Killing Joke with Jaz Coleman. They co-wrote several songs together and put the band on the map. Walker’s style is different than most, he can change pitches, staying in a higher range, and he sustains his notes longer than most ‘rapid’ Punk guitarists. He’s 60 today.
On December 18th, in 1946, Pan-Africanist, Revolutionary, Anti-Apartheid Activist and seminal South African Political figure-Stephen Bantu Biko was born in King William’s Town (Eastern Capetown province), South Africa. He’s a co-founder and first President of the Pro-Black collective called S.A.S.O. (South African Students’ Organization-later they became the BCM: Black Conscious Movement). He was very instrumental in mobilizing the people, so much so that the government banned him when he was 26 years old (March 1973). However, he refused to ‘obey’ and helped formulate the Soweto Uprising in 1976. The police murdered him in 1977. He was 30 years-old.
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!