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On April 3rd, 1936, one of the best jazz organists to ever do it-saxophonist, composer, bassist, sideman, pianist, arranger, drummer, bandleader, vibraphonist and producer-Jimmy McGriff (James Harrell McGriff) was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania. McGriff’s a prolific organist who, as a bandleader, recorded over 70 LPs between 1962 & 2004. He’s also featured as a sideman on a number of recordings with jazz notables like Hank Crawford, Charles Earland (then on sax), and Groove Holmes. His best work, from a soul/funk/fusion perspective, would be on the albums he released on Blue Note and Groove Merchant during the late 60's and early 70's. The best of these is Electric Funk (Blue Note, 1970). It’s one of those records that can be played front to back. I’m not entirely sure why more producers haven’t sampled it heavily. I assume it gets passed by in record bins due to the pop covers and style McGriff became famous for prior to the late 60's (Black Power/Consciousness Movement).
Prior to this, McGriff would play the popular tunes of the day-while sprinkling in some of his own compositions-or those from band members and musical acquaintances. His style was an early form of smooth jazz, which is the stuff that you hear on the radio that’s covered by a jazz band. Sure, some of these LPs are sample worthy; but most may have felt they weren’t worth the listen/purchase. If you’re looking for a copy of the recently reissued Electric Funk, try to buy the 45 singles instead to save money. The current asking price is about $30-$40. McGriff started playing piano when he was just five. He moved to other instruments prior to enlisting in The U.S. Army for The Korean War. He returned to the states in the mid 1950's, bought a Hammond B-3 Organ, and started performing shortly thereafter. Jimmy McGriff was 72 when he passed away.
On April 3rd, 1961, legendary comedian, comedic son of Richard Pryor, Charlie Murphy’s brother, filmmaker, writer, actor, producer, director, singer-and close friend to Rick James, Martin Lawrence, and Arsenio Hall-Eddie Murphy (Edward Regan Murphy) was born in Brooklyn, New York. Eddie is one of those comedians that has the ability to transcend time and genre. Some of his funniest SNL skits featured him as James Brown, Mister Robinson, The White Black Guy, Shabazz K. Morton (Black History Minute), Buckwheat, and Jesse Jackson. His Eddie Murphy Delirious stand up film is also hilarious, and features him speaking on James Brown, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Jesse Jackson, The Ice Cream Man, Family BBQs, The Fart Game, and more. Raw wasn’t as funny, in my opinion, but he had a lot of success with it.
A vinyl record inspired Eddie to want to become a comedian. When he was 15, he listened to Richard Pryor’s 1974 LP-That N*****s Crazy, and was hooked after that. He made his professional debut, when he was 16, at The Roosevelt Youth Center. He sang a comedic cover of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together. A few club owners saw his talents and asked him to perform. Eddie would skip school often to make his scheduled appearances, ans his early comedy was the precursor to his routine for Delirious. It was reflective of the people he encountered and saw in NYC from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds. He won a role on SNL, during the late 70's, and helped maintain the show’s survival thru the early 80's. He did his stand up specials, and got a co-starring role in 48 Hours (1982). He’s appeared in over 40 films since-in most of which he's credited as an actor, screenwriter, producer, and/or director. He also helped introduce his audience to the comedians that came before him like Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor. This award-winning actor & comedian is 58 today.
If you enjoy listening to music by Stax Records artists like David Porter, Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, Sam & Dave, Johnnie Taylor, and others-then this next musician is someone you’ll definitely enjoy reading about. On April 3rd, 2003, we lost Stax & Minit Records powerhouse singer & songwriter Homer Banks. Banks started singing in the church with his twin brother James when he was a child. He enjoyed singing the ‘customary’ gospel tunes, but he yearned to write his own songs. He accomplished this feat during his early teens, and then formed a gospel vocal group called The Soul Consolidators. They toured the south singing his spirituals throughout the remainder of his teen years. He served in the military from the late 1950's thru the early 1960's (post-Korea/pre-Vietnam). Banks returned to Memphis in 1964, and worked at the Satellite Record Shop/Studio via Estelle Axton (co-owned w/ her brother Jim Stewart).
Axton had teamed him up with Isaac Hayes and David Porter, as the primary writers/producers for Stax. Estelle couldn’t convince Jim to sign Banks as a singer,but Stewart agreed to give him a songwriting contract. Banks went on to pen hits like: The Staple Singers-If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me), Johnnie Taylor’s-Who’s Making Love, The Emotions’ & Luther Ingram’s-If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want To Be Right), Shirley Brown’s-Woman To Woman (with his twin brother James), and Sam & Dave’s-I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down. After Stax folded in the mid 70's, Banks took his talents to A&M Records, and later recorded Passport To Ecstasy on Warner Brothers Records in 1977. His compositions are universal-in that rock, pop, soul, country, gospel, and blues artists have all covered his songs with much success. He was 61 when he passed away.
HONORABLE MENTION: TOV missed an important date in the April 2nd post in regard to the then-Prince of Ethiopia-Ras Tafari. He’s the man that the Rastafarian faith is based upon. He also influenced the music genre called reggae-which has several sub-genres like dub, ska, rock steady, jungle and dancehall. He was crowned Emperor Halie Selassie I on April 2nd, 1930. He ruled until September 12th, 1974 (44 Years). TOV covered his death in the August 27th post. Please refer to it for more information. The word 'Ras' in Amharic means-head or noble head (ruler)-while 'Tafari' means One who is respected or feared. Thus his name before taking on Halie Selassie I roughly meant-a ruler that is respected or feared. He was 83 at the time of his death.
On April 3rd, 1941, singer, songwriter and lead vocalist of The Spinners-Phillippe Wynne was born in Detroit, MI. TOV covered the artist’s death in the July 14th post. Please refer to it for more information. He’s most known for his voice on songs like-The Rubberband Man (my personal favorite from The Spinners), and One Of A Kind (Love Affair). He got his start, however, with Bootsy Collins in the late 60's-right before his band The Pacemakers morphed into The J.B.s with James Brown. Wynne joined James’ band as a backup singer. Wynne left James, around the same time that Bootsy left, and went to Europe to sing lead for The Afro Kings. He replaced his cousin-G.C. Cameron-former lead singer of The Spinners, as the lead in 1974. Wynne returned to the P-Funk Camp in the late 70's, and is featured on Not Just Knee Deep by Funkadelic. ‘Soul Walker Wynne’ was 43 when he passed away.
On April 3rd, 1962, former homeless teen, singer, guitarist, co-founder-and the primary songwriter for the punk band Social Distortion-Mike Ness was born in Lynn, Massachusetts. Ness was kicked out of his home when he was 15. While on the streets, he had plenty of time and experiences that helped cultivate the ‘teen angst’ he’d later use to in his writing. He teamed with vocalist Casey Royer, in 1978, to form Social Distortion. They released their debut 7” Mainliner b/w Playpen (45RPM) in 1981 (Posh Boy Records). In 1983 they released their full-length debut Mommy’s Little Monster on 13th Floor Records. He battled a heroine addiction during the mid 1980's; but came back strong in 1988, with the release of their second LP Prison Bound. Mike Ness is 56 today.
On April 3rd, 1990, we lost the seminal jazz vocalist, pianist, composer, arranger, producer, pop-blues and soul singer-Sarah Vaughan. TOV covered the artist’s birthday in the March 27th post. Please refer to it for more information prior to the early 1940's. In the mid 40's Vaughan went solo, after working with Billy Eckstine and Count Basie. She recorded for Crown, Gotham, and Musicraft Records. In the late 40's, she signed with Columbia Records & performed with The Philadelphia Orchestra. The bulk of her early success came during the late 40's and early 50's when she won several awards from DownBeat, Metronome, and Esquire magazines. In the mid 1950's she toured Europe, and performed at The New York Jazz Festival. She was 66 when she died.
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