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On February 1st, 2012, we lost former Chicago police officer, journalist, record label owner, TV host, businessman, producer, songwriter, Korean War veteran, and the founder of Soul Train-Don Cornelius (Donald Cortez Cornelius) was born in Chicago, Illinois. TOV covered his birthday in the September 27th post. That writing goes up to the formation of Soul Train Records, and Solar Records, with Dick Griffey. Please refer to it for more information. In 1975, Soul Train was in its fourth season when Don & Dick started Soul Train Records. They released an LP in 1976 called Don Cornelius Presents The Soul Train Gang. Members of the ‘gang’ included future Shalamar vocalist Gerald Brown, Judy Jones, Denise Smith and Patricia Williamson.
Don dissolved the band in 1977, after the release of their second and final LP-The Soul Train Gang (produced by Norman Harris). Griffey bought out Don's interest in Soul Train Records, as Don preferred to focus entirely on the show. Griffey changed the imprint’s name to Solar, or The Sound Of Los Angeles, Records and focused on the label. From the late 1970s to the mid 1980s, Don continued to have staple and new acts appear on the show. He allowed the first rap group on the show (The Sugarhill Gang) in 1979, with RUN DMC, Whodini, The Fat Boys, The Beastie Boys, and Kurtis Blow following afterwards. In 1987 he started The Soul Train Music Awards, which honored musicians and celebrities in The Black Community. Don was instrumental in cultivating Black Pride, and launching the careers of many artists. He was 75 when he died.
On February 1st, 1975, rapper, actor, businessman, producer, the man credited with discovering Killer Mike (from Run The Jewels), and one half of the rap duo Outkast-Big Boi (Antwan Andre Patton) was born in Savannah, Georgia. He got his start rhyming in high school during the early 1990s, and linked with future Outkast member Andre 3000. They would skip school frequently to work on music, and hang out at Rico Wade’s basement studio known as "The Dungeon." The duo released their first recording in 1992, when they appeared on TLC’s remix for What About Your Friends. In the fall of 1993, they dropped their first single-Player’s Ball, on LaFace Records, which quickly rose to Number 1 and jump started their career. They released six LPs between 1994 and 2006.
Big Boi also starred in the 2006 films Idlewild, King Of The Hill, and ATL. Later that same year he announced he’d be releasing a solo LP, and started recording it at Stankonia Studios in Atlanta, GA. It took four years to complete Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty (Purple Ribbon & Def Jam Records); but he released a few singles to keep up public interest until it officially dropped. His second album, Royal Flush featured other notable artists including: Raekwon, Andre 3000, Big Rube, George Clinton, Too Short, and Gucci Mane. He’s released three solo LPs since 2010-and continues to act, make appearances on radio, and oversee Stankonia Studios. Big Boi is one of the most underrated southern rappers around. His lyrical content, delivery, punchlines, and cadence make him a force to be reckoned with on the mic. He’s 44 today.
On February 1st, 1957, reggae singer, songwriter, and guitarist-Dennis (Emmanuel) Brown AKA "The Crown Prince" was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Dennis got his start singing in elementary school. His major influences were singers like Nat King Cole, Sam Cooke, Dean Martin, Brook Benton, and Frank Sinatra. He appeared on stage for the first time in 1968 when he was 11. He sang with The Fabulous Falcons, and was hired as a part-time featured act because he could sing so well. He acquired the stage nickname "The Boy Wonder" from Bryon Lee, who took Dennis with him to The U.S. for showcases with American vocalists. He made his recording debut with Derrick Harriott on the unreleased song Lips Of Wine. Later in 1969, he recorded at Studio One with Coxsone Dodd. His first single for the imprint, No Man Is An Island, was a hit!
Brown learned guitar in the early 70s from Studio One musician, songwriter, and singer Alton Ellis. And by his teens, he was writing his own songs. After releasing several singles, his song Money In My Pocket became an international success (with Joe Gibbs on production and The Soul Syndicate as backing musicians). In 1973 he was voted Jamaica’s Best Male Vocalist by Swing Magazine. Brown took a break from music during 1973 and 1974. When he returned, he picked up where he left off and released a few singles with Lee Scratch Perry-one of which became the hit Wolf & Leopard. In the late 70s, he toured with Big Youth, Gregory Isaacs, Bob Andy, and Lennox Brown. He started producing for his protégé Junior Delgado too. His music, released between the 60s and the 80s, are worth the search. He was 42 when he died.
On February 1st, 1948, singer, songwriter, producer, dancer, guitarist, bassist, bandleader, drummer, keyboardist, composer, arranger, and percussionist-Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr.) was born in Buffalo, New York. Rick James is probably one of the most well known R&B singers of modern time, via Charlie Murphy and Dave Chappelle immortalizing him on The Chappelle Show. His road to stardom, however, is largely unknown. For that reason, TOV will discuss events in his life leading up to his fame. Rick’s mother was a number runner. She took him with her when she’d picked up customers’ money at local nightclubs, pool halls, speakeasies, and gambling venues. This is when he got the inspiration to be a musician-after witnessing legends like Coltrane, Miles, and Etta James perform. He got into a lot of trouble as a juvenile, and enlisted in The US Navy when he was 15. Later he moved to NYC, and performed as a drummer for local jazz bands.
In the mid 1960s he was drafted to serve in The Vietnam War-so he fled to Canada. While there, he changed his name to Ricky James Matthews, befriended the likes of Joni Mitchell & Neil Young, and started his first band-The Mynah Birds. They released the single Mynah Bird Hop b/w Mynah Bird Song on Columbia Records; and in 1966, he moved to Detroit where he met Marvin Gaye & Stevie Wonder. Stevie gave him the first version of his stage name (Ricky James), because he thought Ricky James Matthews was too long. In May of 1966, he turned himself into the feds and served his time for draft evasion. After he got out in 1968, he started writing and producing for Motown. He moved to LA in 1969, and founded the Funk/Soul/Rock band Salt’N’Pepper (and Hot Lips in 1973). In 1976 he returned to Buffalo, NY, and started The Stone City Band. He signed with Motown in 1977, and a year later began cranking out hits like Mary Jane and You & I off his debut LP Come Get It! He was 56 years old when he died.
On February 1st, 1939, pianist, composer, producer, arranger, bandleader, sideman, jazz icon, and founding member of The Crusaders-Joe Sample (Joseph Leslie Sample) was born in Houston, Texas. He started learning piano at age five from Curtis Mayo, and co-founded his first jazz band-The Swingsters while in his teens with classmates: Wilton Felder (sax), Wayne Henderson (trombone) and Stix Hooper (drums). They evolved into The Modern Jazz Sextet while they were attending Texas Southern University, and later The Jazz Crusaders after they graduated. Sample patterned the band after Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers; but with a West Coast sound. They played hard bop, and attracted a strong fan base throughout the 1960s. In 1970, they changed the band name to The Crusaders, and started incorporating fusion into their music.
Sample also began to work as a session musician. He played keys for Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Anita Baker, Minnie Riperton, Marvin Gaye, Joe Cocker, Tina Turner, The Supremes, and B.B. King to name a few. The Crusaders split late in 1987, but reunited in the early 90s. Sample is the featured pianist on all of their LPs; and also has a healthy amount of solo recordings. He's one of the leading pioneers of the electric piano, which debuted around the mid to late 60s. He helped validate the instrument for other artists that may have overlooked it, or refused to use it. Sample has recorded for several labels (Warner Brothers, ABC, MCA, Verve, Pacific Jazz, and GRP). His solos on the acoustic & electric piano have been sampled by many Hip Hop producers over the years (DJ Mark The 45 King, Easy Mo Bee, DJ Premier, D.I.T.C., Q-Tip, etc). He was 75 when he passed away.
HONORABLE MENTION: On February 1st, in 1938, vocalist, drummer, songwriter, percussionist, and producer-Jimmy Carl Black was born in El Paso, TX. He was the drummer for Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Mothers Of Invention, Geronimo Black, The Muffin Men, Strange News From Mars, Black-Brown-Blue, and The Grandmothers. His style of drumming has been heavily used & imitated in the psychedelic, alternative, and prog rock genres. He also plays on the 200 Motels soundtrack, and appears in the movie as Theodore Bikel. He was 70 when he passed away.
On February 1st, 1937, actor, comedian, and vocalist-Garrett Morris was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. If you were born in the 60s or before, you probably first encountered Morris on SNL. He was a reoccurring sketch comedian. If you were born in the 70s, then you most likely know him from the Fox sitcom Martin-in which he played Stan the station owner. If you were born in the 80s, you most likely saw him on Martin and/or The Jamie Foxx Show. Point is, you most likely have seen him on something. He’s been in the acting and comedy game since the early 1960s, performed with The Belafonte Folk Singers, and was a former Broadway Musical actor. He turns 81 today.
On February 1st, in 1902 writer, novelist, playwright, poet, Harlem Renaissance pioneer, and musical inspiration-(James Mercer) Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri. He got his start as a writer in high school, acting as a reporter for the school paper. He also wrote shorts stories, plays, poems, and edited the yearbook. His poetry during the 1920s and 1930s most accurately depicted The Black experience in America Post-Civil War & Industrial Revolution. His 1938 poem-Let America Be America Again is one that resonates with the current political climate. His contributions to the music world can be heard in jazz, soul, and blues musicians' use of lyrics and song titles taken from Langston's writings. He was 65 years old when he died.
On February 1st, 1894, pianist, composer, arranger, and stride piano pioneer-James Price Johnson was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey. His father showed him the basics on piano when he was a kid. Johnson had perfect pitch and good recall as well. He would remember songs he’d heard, and duplicate them on the piano later. His major influences were the NYC musicians-and his father’s playing at parties, churches, and musicals. He’s a member of The DownBeat Jazz Hall Of Fame, and the ASCAP Wall Of Fame. His piano style influenced the sound of American music from the early 1920s to the mid 1950s. He was 61 when he 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