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On February 15th, 2016, vocalist, dancer, model, actress, songwriter, televangelist, lead singer of Vanity 6, on-screen love interest of Bruce LeRoy in the movie The Last Dragon-Vanity (Denise Katrina Matthews) passed away in Fremont, California. She was also romantically-linked to Rick James (1980-1982) Prince (1982-1984), Adam Ant, Billy Idol, and once engaged to Nikki Sixx (1985-1987). Vanity was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, which closely borders Rick James’ hometown of Buffalo, NY. Vanity got her start as an aspiring model and beauty pageant contestant in T-Dot (Toronto). She became Miss Niagara Hospitality in 1977, at the age of 17. In 1978, she competed for Miss Canada but lost, before moving to NYC to pursue a full-time modeling career.
Vanity was deemed too short for runway modeling, however, so she did photo shoots and ads for Pearl Drop toothpaste instead. She moved to Japan for a year (1979-1980), before returning to Canada and making her acting debut in the 1980 Roger Spottiswoode film-Terror Train. She also scored a leading role in the Canadian film Tanya’s Island that same year. She frequented the Buffalo music scene, and met the local Punk Funk king-Rick James. James and Vanity attended The American Music Awards in 1982 as a couple. She met Prince there, and he asked her to be the lead singer for his girl group-Vanity 6. The group released their self-titled recording debut later that year on Warner Brothers Records. Vanity left Prince’s camp in 1984, singed to Motown, and released two LPs in 1984 and 1986 (with moderate success). She was 57 when she passed away.
On February 15th, 1969, the 27th issue of Rolling Stone Magazine introduced a new term to the Rock ‘n’ Roll culture: Groupies. This stood as the title and cover page of their periodical. Now 15 years old, Rock ‘n’ Roll’s position in music as a legitimate genre was pretty much solidified. But now there was a term to describe the women that hung out with rock stars, frequented the backstage scene, and attended the after-parties in the hopes of having some ‘intimate’ contact with them. Rolling Stone summed this up as a groupie. These ladies were way ahead of their time, beating sex tape participants and reality TV stars like The Kardashians to the punch.
Take for example, the infamous "Plaster Caster" Cynthia Albritton. She and her cohorts would seek out rock giants, and then cast their penises in plaster to immortalize their ‘manhood’. Frank Zappa made an all-female band of groupies called The GTO (Girls Together Outrageously). Liv Tyler’s mother-Bebe Buell and Pamela Des Barres both wrote books about their lifestyles as groupies. The women didn’t have all the fun though. By the late 1980s, guys were also self-professed groupies of all-female bands like The Go Go’s, The Bangles, and Bananarama.
On February 15th, in 1968, we lost one of the best blues harp players that ever lived. Singer, guitarist, right-hand of Muddy Waters, songwriter, and harmonica innovator-Little Walter (Marion Walter Jacobs) passed away in Chicago, Illinois over one of his lady’s houses. If you’re familiar with the movie Cadillac Records, then you know how Muddy Waters and Little Walter met in Chicago. The movie doesn’t go into how Walter was so polished as a blues harpist, at the young age 18 however, when he met ‘Mud’ (as Walter referred to the Blues icon). TOV is going to cover that part of his life, and his relationship with Mud in a later post. Walter was born in Marksville, Louisiana. When he was 12 (1942), he dropped out of school, left home, and moved to New Orleans.
Little Walter got his musical start on the NOLA streets, playing guitar, harp, and singing for change. He moved around to Memphis, Tennessee, Helena, Arkansas, and St. Louis-working on his skills the whole time. He earned the opportunity to play with Honeyboy Edwards, Sonny Boy Williamson II, and Sunnyland Slim along the way. They served as mentors to the already talented harpist. He moved to Chicago in 1945, and quickly built a reputation for his harmonica skills. One of his first un-credited recordings came about that same year with Floyd Jones. Three years later, he joined Mud’s band (at age 18 with Jimmy Reed-and also The Head Cutters). His improvisational skills on the harp rival jazz musicians’ solos. Little Walter was 37 years old when he died.
On February 15th, 1941, legendary Motown & The Sound Of Philadelphia producer, composer, backing vocalist, solo artist, arranger, songwriter, singer, and one-third of the Holland-Dozier-Holland production trio-Brian Holland was born in Detroit, Michigan. Holland got his start as a singer in church. Brian and his brother Eddie started singing secular music in their teens, mostly doo wop, in the mid 1950s. In 1958, he got a gig with Motown as an artist (Briant Holland), songwriter, arranger, and producer. He and his friend Robert Bateman started a production company called Brianbert.
The pair co-wrote Please Mr. Postman for The Marvelettes. In the early 1960s, he was an active member of The Fidalatones, Satintones, and Rayber Voices-all of which were under contract with Motown. In 1963 he met Lamont Dozier, and they united to make the Holland-Dozier production team. They later added Brian's brother Eddie to mix, making them Holland-Dozier-Holland (Lamont and Brian retained their Holland-Dozier moniker as a separate entity though). Holland-Dozier-Holland left Motown shortly after the company moved to Los Angeles. He released a number of singles for Invictus Records, between 1972 and 1974, under the Holland-Dozier production name. He’s written well over 100 hits in The US, and more than 70 in The UK. He’s 78 today.
HONORABLE MENTION: On February 15th, 1965, musical icon, pop/jazz/swing vocalist, classical pianist, actor, businessman, father of Natalie Cole, activist, TV show host, international star, composer, arranger, and producer-Nat King Cole (Nathaniel Adams Cole) passed away in Santa Monica, California. Cole is most known for his singing, even though his piano skills far outweigh his vocals. Songs like Mona Lisa, Nature Boy, Straighten Up And Fly Right, and Unforgettable are just that, unforgettable. He had his own TV show-The Nat King Cole Show-on NBC; and is a Jazz Hall Of Fame musician. He was 45 when he died.
On February 15th, 1961, DJ, label owner, solo artist, former member and bassist for Culture Club-Mikey Craig was born in London, England. Mikey has Jamaican roots, and is most known for his bass playing with Culture Club. They had a number of hits during the height of The New Wave Era (1980-1986). In 1988 he recorded an LP, on Virgin Records, that was never released. He also started his own label called SLAMM Records in 1994. The imprint released dance music by artists like Mankey and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Interesting Fact: When Kid Creole And The Coconuts are in The UK, Craig serves as bassist for the band. He’s 58 today.
On February 15th, 1969, an interesting event transpired at a random club in Fort Myers, Florida. Local hairstylist Vickie Jones was an extremely talented beautician and singer. She sounded a lot like Aretha Franklin-so much so that she hosted a show at that club impersonating The Queen Of Soul. People were so convinced that she was the actual singer, that they didn’t demand their money back. She pulled it off quite well. However, the cops were waiting for her, after the show, and took her into custody for impersonating Aretha. Acts like this were commonplace pre-internet and cell phone cameras.
On February 15th, 1981, we lost guitarist, songwriter, pianist, composer, arranger, and former member of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band & The Electric Flag (featuring Buddy Miles) Mike Bloomfield (Michael Bernard Bloomfield). Though he played some mean guitar with both bands, he also did a lot of work with Bob Dylan once he electrified. You can hear his playing on Like A Rolling Stone, and Dylan’s Highway ’61 LP. He also played with Bob at his electric breakout show at The Newport Folk Festival. He died of a heroine overdose, at the age of 37, in Chicago, Illinois.
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