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On November 30th, in 1912, writer, photographer, screenwriter, author, painter, director and musician-Gordon (Roger Alexander Buchanan) Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kansas. Parks had a big family, being the youngest of 15 children. His mother passed when he was 14 and he moved to Minnesota. He was homeless for a short period of time, but being a self-sufficient go-getTer with survival skills, he quickly hustled up a few gigs to make ends meet (traveling waiter, semi-pro basketball, piano player, singer, bus boy). The stock market crash of 1929 led him to Chicago where he worked in a flop house. He got interested in photography at this time based off pictures he’d seen in magazines.
By the late 1930s, he’d purchased his first camera and taught himself how to take pictures. The person that developed his first roll of film was so impressed with his work, that he referred Parks to a women’s clothing shop in St. Paul owned by Frank Murphy. Murphy passed the pictures on to Marva Louis (Joe Louis’ wife). She urged Parks to move to Chicago and capture the Black experience there. He won the Julius Rosenwald Fellowship for his photos of Blacks in Chicago and was offered a federal job by the Farm Security Administration asking him to chronicle social conditions in the US with Roy Stryker as his supervisor. This is the job that led Parks to stardom. He directed films like Learning Tree, Shaft and Shaft’s Big Score (1969-1972). He passed away in 2006 from liver cancer. He was 93 years-old.
On November 30th, in 1937, singer, songwriter and recording artist-Luther (Thomas) Ingram was born in Jackson, Tennessee. Ingram was a ‘veteran’ by the time his first recordings came out in 1965 (28 years-old at the time). None of the singles charted, but when he signed to KoKo Records in the late 60s, his first single made the Top 100 chart-My Honey & Me (#55). KoKo Records was a small imprint owned by his manager and record producer-Johnny Baylor. Although distribution was mostly local, Baylor had ties to Stax in Memphis and used these to help Ingram get exposure to a larger audience.
With the help of songwriters: Homer Banks, Raymond Jackson and Carl Hampton, Ingram gained national fame with his signature hit: If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want to Be Right). The song was number #1 on the US R&B chart and #3 on the Top 100 Singles. Many have covered this song, like label-mate Isaac Hayes, Millie Jackson, Rod Stewart, Millie Jackson, Bobby Blue Bland and David Ruffin…but Ingram does it best…hands down, no further discussion needed…Ingram was the show opener for Isaac Hayes and used his Hot Buttered Soul ensemble and the Bar-Kays as his backing band as well. His music is heartfelt and funky. Interesting fact: Ingram co-wrote Respect Yourself which is a famous cut sang by the Staple Singers (fellow label-mates at Stax). He passed away in Belleville, Illinois in 2007 when he was 69 years-old.
On November 30th, in 1953, singer, actress, songwriter, Jazz vocalist and the youngest member of the Pointer Sisters-June (Antoinette) Pointer was born in Oakland, California. June (below-r) loved music as a child and she formed a singing group with her sister Bonnie in 1969 while she was still in her teens. They called themselves: The Pointers-A Pair. They sang in nightclubs around the Bay area. There sister Anita (below-2nd r) quit her job after hearing about how well June (below-2nd l) & Bonnie (below-1) were doing, and joined the group that same year. They changed the band’s name, which was now a trio, to the Pointer Sisters and got a deal with Atlantic. They released a few sides in the early 70s, but nothing really charted big.
In 1972, they added their sister Ruth to the mix making them a vocal quartet. They also got a deal with Blue Thumb records which was a subsidiary of ABC Records. Their self-titled debut put them on the musical map-Yes We Can Can did a number to the average listener’s ear (Allen Toussaint produced). Their Willie Dixon cover of Wang Dang Doodle also caught the public’s attention. The sisters released 3 more LPs during the 70s, before Bonnie left to pursue a solo career. June remained with the core of the group that fell into the late 70s/early 80s transition of Pop music. Songs like Slow Hand, He’s So Shy, and Fire (written by Bruce Springsteen), show the versatility of June and her sisters. They can sing Funk, Soul, Jazz, Rock & Pop…well! June passed away in 2006. She was 52 years-old.
The Beginning of the End: On November 30th, in 1994, the event that sparked the whole Eastcoast Westcoast Beef occurred in an elevator shaft in NYC. Tupac was on his way to record with Big & Puff, but before he could make it upstairs, some cats robbed him, and shot him 5 times. Pac thought Big had something to do with it, and/or Pac was just paranoid and didn’t, or couldn’t trust anyone. On the other hand, Big was a close homey of Pac’s, and Pac essentially was helping him get on, putting him on his songs and allowing Big to open for him at Eastcoast appearances. Big logically wouldn’t have had any harm done to Pac because Pac was helping him eat. Taking him out, would take food off his plate. Now I can’t speak for Puff, and he always kind of rubbed me wrong…but Big and Pac just needed to talk, you know?
Like grown men, none of that I gotta be hard and front for the homeys stuff either. I am pretty sure if both camps that helped hype the beef knew that both men would be dead two years later, they’d had them talk and there wouldn’t have been any East West Beef. Sad part for Pac is that he was found guilty of sexually abusing a woman two days later. They had to wheel him into the courtroom for him to stand trial. Point of this post is that communication is key. If you have a dispute with someone over something, just holler at them before it gets all awry and folks end up hurt, or in this case dead. We lost two great emcees, won’t say they were the greatest cuz they weren’t, but they were great emcees, and all over some masculinity keeping them from talking to one another to settle it.
On November 30th, in 1999, we lost a seminal Bluesman, guitarist, organist, singer and violin player-Don 'Sugarcane' Harris (Don Francis Bowman Harris). He was a musician that permeated all genres-Blues, R&B, Psychedelic Rock and Fusion Jazz. His has genre was the Blues, but he worked with many from outside of the Blues world. The Pasadena native co-founded the two-man band Don & Dewey in the mid 50s with Dewey Terry. They didn’t have any hits per say themselves, but some of the songs they created would be chart toppers for other artists that would cover them later. These included songs like: Big Boy Pete, Justine, Farmer John and I’m Leaving it up to You.
Johnny Otis coined him Sugarcane, and Don kept the nickname until he passed. In the 60s, Don electrified his violin like most of the musicians at the time were doing on their primary instrument. Taking full advantage of the new technology, he worked with the infamous Prog Rocker-Frank Zappa on a few of his LPs: Hot Rats, Burnt Weenie Sandwich and Mothers of Invention to name a few. He also worked with John Lee Hooker and Little Richard. Considered a violin virtuoso, Don went on to be the front man for Pure Food & Drug Act-an early 70s Rock & Blues based band. He also put out a few LPs in the 70s as a solo artist under the name Don Sugarcane Harris. One of my favorite songs by him is The Pig’s Eye. He was 61 years-old when he died.
Honorable Mention: On November 30th, in 1915, Blues guitarist, vocalist, pianist and kazoo player-Brownie McGhee (Walter Brown McGhee) was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. He worked closely with Bluesmen: Sonny Terry and Stick McGhee (brother). McGhee studied the Golden Voices of Gospel Quartet and learned to play guitar via ear. He also worked as a traveling musician, making music with Blind Boy Fuller. After Fuller passed, Columbia Records coined him Blind Boy Fuller No. 2. He passed in 1996 from stomach cancer (80).
On November 30th, in 1929, the man that was the face for American Bandstand was born-Dick Clark (Richard Wagstaff Clark). The Mount Vernon, NY native had the longest major network syndicated TV show that showcased up and coming talent as well as seasoned vets. There are not many alive today that were born before 1980 that don’t recall seeing Clark's American Bandstand on the TV at least once a week. Prince did his first TV appearance on American Bandstand. Clark passed in 2012 when he was 82 years-old.
On November 30th, in 1953, the guy that wrote Strawberry Letter 23 (song made famous by The Brothers Johnson & Quincy Jones)-Shuggie Otis (Johnny Alexander Veliotes Jr.) was born in Los Angeles, California. He worked with his father Johnny Otis, Frank Zappa & Al Kooper. Shuggie has been sampled by J-Dilla, Wu-Tang, Beyonce and Digable Planets to name a few. He also had Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings cover his Inspiration Information song. Otis is 65 today.
Two things happened to the King of Pop-Michael Jackson on the 30th of November, nine years apart: First, He released the seminal Thriller LP on November 30th, in 1982. It spent over 175 weeks on the UK & US charts. The LP sold over 65 million copies, and is the biggest selling Pop album of all-time. 9 years later in 1991, he released his Dangerous LP which gave him his 4th US & UK number 1. Dangerous was his 8th album, and sold over 32 million copies worldwide. It didn’t do as well as Thriller (sold about half as much), but it’s a great album.
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!