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On October 17th, in 1923, Jazz guitarist, songwriter, composer, arranger, session musician and original member of the seminal session band-The Wrecking Crew (similar to the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section)-Barney Kessel was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma. He got his professional start around the mid 40s when he started playing guitar for Oklahoma A&M Band. It was here where Kessel would earn the nickname ‘Fruitcake’. His band members called him that, not because of his sexuality, but back then (mid 40s), a Fruitcake was a term used for crazy people, as in: You’re nuttier than a fruitcake. Thus, his 16 hour a day practicing earned him the title of crazy or Fruitcake. He learned a lot on the guitar, like chord changes, inversions and melodies while practicing 16 hours a day. His practice paid off well.
By the late 40s, he was recording with Lester Young, Billie Holiday, Oscar Peterson & Charlie Parker. Downbeat, Esquire & Playboy ranked him the #1 Jazz guitarist from 1947 to 1960. In the mid 50s, he started recording with the Poll Runners (Shelly Manne, Ray Brown). By the early 60s, he’d become a member of the Wrecking Crew, a studio band for producer Phil Spector, that had Classical or Jazz trained musicians. They are responsible for scoring hundreds of Top 40 hits from the early 60s to the early 70s. Kessel, working within the Wrecking Crew, produced music for: Sam Cooke, Frank Sintatra, Sonny & Cher, Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, The Byrds, the 5th Dimension, Bob Dylan, The Monkees, The Mamas & the Papas, The Beach Boys, Jan & Dean and Nancy Sinatra to name a few. He passed away in 2004 from a brain tumor. He was 80 years-old.
On October 17th, in 1968, Bob Marley’s son that he nicknamed ‘little spliff’ in patois-‘Ziggy’ Marley (David Nesta Marley-l) was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Ziggy claims that his nickname came from him naming himself after David Bowie’s alter ego-Ziggy Stardust. Whichever story is true or not, the name stuck. Ziggy is a founding member Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers. His first band was comprised of school six other school mates-The Seven Do Bees (do-bees like marijuana joints). His nickname in this band was Freddie Dic, but it didn’t stick.
In the late 70s, Ziggy, his sisters Sharon & Cedella, and his brother Stephen formed the Melody Makers. Their first recording came out in 1979 and it’s called: Children Playing in the Streets. In the fall of 1979, they performed with their father on stage at the Roots Rock Reggae concert in Kingston. Ziggy was only 11 years old at the time. When Bob passed in 1981, Ziggy would perform in his place at select shows. His band released several LPs on his family’s Tuff Gong imprint. He also is a voice-actor and scored the theme song for the Arthur cartoon series. Ziggy is 50 today.
On October 17th, in 1969, actor of television, film and stage-Wood Harris (Sherwin David ‘Wood’ Harris) was born in Chicago, Illinois. Wood got his BS in Theater Arts from the Huskies-Northern Illinois University (my sister is an alumni). He got a MS from NYU in the same major. Wood did his thing on the HBO show The Wire. His character Avon Barksdale, based off the life of Nathan Barksdale was his most memorable role in my opinion. He also played in Above the Rim with Tupac Shakur & Bernie Mac. He has a younger brother named Steve who also acts.
One of my favorite movies Wood stars in is Paid in Full where he plays the role of Azie Faison, a real life Harlem drug Kingpin. He was also in the Disney movie Remember the Titans with Denzel Washington. It told the story of High School football integration in the South. Wood played Julius Big Ju Campbell and won a Blockbuster Movie Award for Favorite Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture. In 2008, Wood played Nate Sweetwater Clifton, the first Black NBA player, in the movie directed by Martin Guigui-Sweetwater. In 2013 the movie was still in production. Wood also appeared in Creed alongside Michael B. Jordan in 2015. He has several roles and movies hes been in, but he’s still always gonna be Avon Barksdale in my book. He’s 49 today.
On October 17th, in 1992, an all-star benefit concert for former Temptation and solo singer-Eddie Kendricks (2nd r) was held in Redondo Beach, California. Artists that performed included: Bill Withers, Chaka Khan, Al Green, Ike Turner, Earth Wind & Fire, Lou Rawls and Bobby Womack. Hats off to all of them and those not listed for putting on a free show to help a fellow musician’s family. I’m sure the favor would be returned if Kendricks could. He was a Birmingham, Alabama native that got his start singing with his childhood friend-Paul Williams (another Temptation) in their church choir around the late 40s.
In the mid-50s, they added on Kell Osbourne and Jerome Averette, then ventured out into the secular music world. The vocal quartet called themselves the Cavaliers and they performed mostly doo wop around the B-Ham area. He & Paul moved to Cleveland in the late 50s, and then Detroit, where they renamed themselves the Primes. Shortly after, in the early 60s, Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin recruited Eddie & Paul for their group that would eventually become the Temptations (Berry Gordy changed the name once they were signed to Motown). I posted some information on Eddie back on his death day, refer to Oct 5th post for more info on him.
On October 17th, in 2008, songwriter, lead singer and founding member of the Four Tops-Levi Stubbs (above r, left-l, below-2nd r) passed away at his house in the Motor City (Detroit, Michigan). Stubbs had been battling cancer and heart problems since 2000. He stopped touring as a result and focused on his health. The Tops got singed to Motown, via Berry Gordy in 1963. From 1963 to 1973, they had 20 Top 40 hits, making them a recognizable staple pop act in the US. They recorded duets with the Supremes and rivaled the popularity of the Temptations.
There’s a unique quality about the Four Tops, that isn’t characterisitic of any other singing group on Motown, and most other labels for that matter…The Four Tops kept the same personnel for over 40 years of performing and touring. Most bands split up, and/or replace people, somebody’s ego outgrows the collective, it’s a million stories in the studios of singing groups, this is just one. The Four Tops had some hot music they put out on their LPs in the 70s: Meeting so the Minds, Catfish & Keeper of the Castle are some of my favorites. Stubbs was 72 years-old when he passed.
Honorable Mention: On October 17th, in 1711, Jupiter Hammon was born in Lloyd Harbor, New York. It is currently known as Hunington, New York. Jupiter was became the first Black American to be published in the USA. He was a poet, writer, author and the son of slaves that belonged to the Lloyd’s out of Queens, New York. An Evening Thought is the tile of his first published writing. He also wrote: Address to the Negroes in the State of New York, which was published in 1806. He passed away that same year, he was 94 years-old.
On October 17th, in 1972, former Fugees Emcee, guitarist, singer, keyboardist, songwriter, producer, and actor-Wyclef Jean (Nel Ust Wyclef Jean) was born in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti. He moved to Newark, New Jersey and linked up with Pras & Lauryn Hill (former girlfriend) and started recording under the name The Fugees. They have several hits as a group, and their sophomore LP-The Score is certified platinum.
On October 17th, in 1985, the first annual Black Poetry Day was established. This is the 33rd year for the event. It celebrates the works of Black poets and their literary interpretation of the Black experience in America. Poets like Jupiter Hammon, Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni (l), Amiri Baraka, Maya Angelou, Phillis Wheatley, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Claude McKay, James Weldon Johnson, Haki R. Madhubuti, Audre Lorde and Countee Cullen are honored at events across the country. Pick up some Black poetry, or write your own, and celebrate the day!
On October 17th, in 2014, The British Phonograph Institute (BPI) published their latest findings on Vinyl sales in the UK. Seems that vinyl was making a strong comeback in terms of the medium people prefer to listen to music on. The study showed that there were 800,000 LPs sold in the UK for the first 9 months of the year, which was higher than the previous year’s numbers. Vinyl has also gone up significantly in price as well. I’d like to see how the prices on it have escalated over the years. As a consumer, I’d day it’s more than doubled singe the mid-90s.
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!