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On January 10th, 1976, we lost Hall of Fame musician, singer, songwriter, guitarist, harmonica player, and Rock ‘n’ Roll innovator-Howlin’ Wolf (Chester Arthur Burnett). He passed away in Hines, Illinois. The White Station, Mississippi native was named after the 21st POTUS (Chester A. Arthur). He was a large man in stature, at 6’3,” and averaged about 250+ pounds. This earned him the nicknames "Bull Cow" and "Big Foot Chester." The origins of the name Howlin’ Wolf came from his grandfather, who told fear-driven stories about wolves and how misbehaving children bring out the Howlin’ Wolves. His mother and father split when he was very young; so Wolf stayed with his mother until she kicked him out for not working in the fields. He went to live with his uncle, and then his father in the mid 1920s. In 1930, infamous Mississippi Delta Bluesman Charlie Patton started teaching Wolf guitar.
Patton also showed him how to command the stage and play with flare. He learned how to play his guitar in all sorts of positions, throwing it in the air, on his shoulders, behind the back, between the legs, you name it! A lot of Rock artists from the 60s & 70s, most notably Jimi Hendrix, would use these movements when they performed. His other major influences included Ma Rainey, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leroy Carr, and Country singer Jimmie Rodgers-who influenced Wolf to Howl instead of yodel, since he couldn’t yodel well. In 1933, he moved to Parkin, AR, and learned harp from Sonny Boy Williamson II. He played with Williamson, Robert Johnson, and Son House during this time period. In the early 1940s he entered The US Army for a couple years, but was discharged. He moved to West Memphis, AR (across the bridge from Memphis, TN), and started his own band in 1948. Three years later, he made his first recording with Chess Records, How Many More Years b/w Moaning At Midnight. His career accelerated after this. He was 65 when he died.
On January 10th, 1924 drummer, percussionist, sideman, Be-Bop innovator, bandleader, composer, arranger, and producer-Max Roach (Maxwell Lemuel Roach) was born in Pasquotank County (Newland), NC. TOV covered his birthday in the August 16th post. Please refer to it for more information. He played bugle as a young child in parade bands, and by the time he was 10, he was playing drums with gospel bands (his mother was a gospel singer). After high school (early 40s), Roach started playing in Jazz clubs in NYC (his family relocated to Brooklyn in the early 1930s). He acted as a sideman, and had his recording debut with Coleman Hawkins in 1943. He is also credited as being one of the first Be-Bop drummers (with Kenny Clarke). Roach also was a prolific brush player, changing the sound of Jazz. In the early 1950s, he co-founded Debut Records with bassist Charles Mingus.
They released their first recording, Jazz At Massey Hall, in 1953-featuring: Mingus on bass, Roach on drums, Gillespie on trumpet, Bird on sax, and Bud Powell on piano. A year later, he started his own quintet with Clifford Brown (trumpet). His notoriety was on the rise, which allowed him to secure the drumming job for Dinah Washington in 1955. He released a time signature themed LP in 1957-Jazz In ¾ Time. He also married Abbey Lincoln in the late 50s, and cut his infamous protest LP-We Insist!: Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite in 1960-featuring vocals from Oscar Brown Jr., and Abbey Lincoln. He collaborated with Duke Ellington, and started his own percussion-based orchestra in the early 1970s (M’Boom). From 1972 to the mid 1990s, he taught Jazz at the U Of Massachusetts In Amherst. The NEA Jazz Master & Hall of Fame musician was 83 when he passed away in 2007.
On January 10th, 2013, we lost an important former chef’s apprentice, Director of Tourism in Montreux, close friend of Atlantic Records co-founder Nesuhi Ertegun, and the founder of The Montreux Jazz Festival-Claude Nobs-passed away in Lusanne, Switzerland. Nobs started the festival in 1967; but had been inviting artists like Natalie Cole and Aretha Franklin to perform in Montreux long before it became an official event. Nobs had a love for good music, and a vision of how to bring artists from all corners of the world to his country. His close association with Ertegun allowed him to meet artists, and introduce him to some that he otherwise wouldn’t have known. And as the Director Of Tourism for Montreux, he was in a position to cultivate the fest.
The first event lasted three days, and hosted the following notable artists: Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Jack DeJohnette, Soft Machine, Nina Simone, Keith Jarrett, The Fourth Way, Bill Evans, Weather Report, and Jan Garbarek. The first couple of festivals exclusively feature Jazz artists; but the late 1960s brought changes in both the music and the political climate-thus more artists from genres outside of Jazz were brought to the Montreux stage. Rock, Blues, and Soul artists all performed there in the early 1970s, such as: Santana, Parliament Funkadelic, Led Zeppelin, Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley, Frank Zappa, B.B. King, and Pink Floyd to name a few. Nobs acted as the general manager of the event, from 1967, until his death in 2013. The annual music event continues to thrive to this day. S.O. to Nobs for showcasing great artists for nearly half a century. He was 76 years old, at the time of his death.
On January 10th, 2001, guitarist, actor, film maker, songwriter, and founding member of The Cramps, Bryan Gregory (Gregory Beckerieg) passed away in Anaheim, California. Gregory was born in Detroit, but moved to NYC in the late 60s. While there, he continued to play guitar in his spare time and got a job at a record store where he met future Cramp member Lux Interior. They met Poison Ivy shortly after, who ironically shared the same birthday with Gregory (Feb 20th). They would jam and gig at local venues, but had trouble securing a reliable drummer. Gregory’s sister, Pam Balaam, moved to NYC to fill the position and The Cramps were born in 1976-featuring Interior on lead vocals, Ivy on guitar & backing vocals, Gregory on guitar, and Pam on drums.
They were innovative for the time, having a gender balanced rock band (i.e., Heart). They innovated The Psychobilly Sound (a mix of Rockabilly, Soul, Blues, and Rock played extremely fast), and Punk Rock, being one of the first bands to start the movements in Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s in the late 1970s. He stayed with them for their debut EP recording on Illegal Records: Gravest Hits. It did well, but in 1980, Gregory left The Cramps and joined Beast. He played with them from 1980 until 1983. In 1984, he dabbled in film and television, making the futuristic horror show called Freezer. It was ahead of its time, and didn’t get picked up. He also had a short role as a zombie in Day Of The Dead in 1985. He spent the rest of the 80s managing a book and video store, in Florida, before forming The Dials in 1992. He was 49 when he died.
On January 10th, 1917, music journalist, producer, record executive, and co-owner of Atlantic Records-Jerry Wexler (Gerald Wexler) was born in The Bronx, NY. TOV covered his birthday in the Aug 15th post. Please refer to it for more information. He got a job as a writer, editor and reporter for Billboard Magazine. He was a devout fan of Blues and Soul music; and came up with the term Rhythm & Blues in 1949 while working at the magazine. Before he suggested the name change, Billboard called Rhythm & Blues-"Race Records." Wexler felt this was a bit offensive, and didn’t reflect the true essence of the music that was being produced by Blacks and other people of color that was not ‘Jazz’.
He left Billboard in the early 1950s, and became a co-owner of Atlantic Records in 1953. He, along with Ahmet & Nesuhi Ertegun, all focused on making Atlantic the home of Rhythm & Blues. Artists like Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Ruth Brown, and Aretha Franklin all helped shape The Atlantic Sound. The label saw its best years during the mid 50s-before Rock ‘n’ Roll was a legitimate genre, and up to the late 70s (before music got over synthesized in the 80s). During the 1960s, he cultivated a great relationship with Stax Records (who acted as the training camp for Otis Redding). Wexler also helped publicize and legitimize The Muscle Shoals Sound, coming out of Fame Studio, where most of the artists on their roster recorded. He went on to become vice president of Warner Brothers Records in 1975 (Atlantic’s parent company via 1968 buyout). He was 91 when he passed away in 2008.
HONORABLE MENTION: On January 10th, 1997, The Godfather Of Soul, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, the inventor of 'The One,’ Funk innovator, and world-renowned musician, James Brown received some overdue recognition. As the story goes, Brown got his Hollywood Walk Of Fame Star on that day. He achieved much success by this time, and also was free from a recent jail stint. James Brown is probably one of the most sampled and influential musicians of all-time. You can probably to go the farthest-most rural corners of the world, and the people there would know at least one of James Brown’s songs.
On January 10th, in 2016, singer, songwriter, Ziggy Stardust inventor, multi-instrumentalist, producer, artist, and actor-David Bowie passed away (two days after his 69th birthday). TOV covered the artist’s birthday in the January 8th post. Please refer to it for more information. The irony of his death is that he’d just released his newest LP, Blackstar, two days prior. Bowie was very influential in art, film, fashion, and especially music. His career spanned over 50 years, with several TV appearances, live performances and movie roles. He was 69 when he died.
On January 10th, 1979, rapper, actor, and member of Kris Kross-Chris (Daddy Mac) Smith (l) was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Smith and Chris Kelly formed the teen rap duo that brought producer Jermaine Dupri much money and notoriety. The teens lost their luster as they got older, and rap music styles started changing. A lot of the scat type of rap came out in the early 1990s (i.e. Das Efx, Fu-Schnickens, etc) and Kriss Kross capitalized off the style-using their youth as a silent justification. They appeared in movies and TV shows during the height of their popularity. Chris Smith turns 40 years old today.
On January 10th, 1949 the way records were being pressed was changed forever…RCA Victor introduced the 45 RPM 7” 2-sided. Before that, all the singles were sold on bulky and fragile 78RPM records. By the mid 1950s, 45RPM records were a standard for releasing singles, and the 78RPMs were phased out. In the UK 45RPM singles don't require an 45RPM insert to play. In the states, they were issued with the larger inch hole that used the insert. This is how you can tell the difference between imports and exports on sight. 45s are 70 today.
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!