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On December 24th, 1898, the ‘best Jazz drummer of the pre-big band era,’ (Warren) Baby Dodds was born in the NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana). Baby Dodds would revolutionize the sound of Jazz Music for The 20th Century; and on into infinity. Not enough praise and respect can be given to this man for what he invented-he took the bass drum-added it to his drum kit, and put it on the floor, the ‘Kick’ drum was born…simple enough, but the change in sound? Before he did this, the bass drum was played by a single drummer that held it out in front of him like in marching bands, the sound would dissipate quicker in the air. For example, with a marching band bass drummer, you can feel the beat as they get closer to you-but hear the instrumentation from a further distance. However, with a bass drum on a kit, the beat is the first thing you hear from a distance. It’s louder much, you don’t hear the instrumentation until the doors open, or the window is rolled down. This is Dodds invention, the kick drum. Before he did this, drum kits were essentially a mixture of snares, and cymbals.
Adding the Bass drum, or Kick drum as it’s now commonly called, gave the bass sound a warmth and deeper tone behind or on top of the music (the bass drum can stand alone or over power the other instruments in a band). You literally can feel the bass more fro a kick drum, it made it louder, less airy, with a richer sound. All music genres that use drums, or drum machines can attribute a large portion of their compositions to Baby Dodds’ invention. Most of the post-kick drum songs people consider to be great, regardless of genre, rely on a ‘big beat’ because the drums draw the listener in: Rock, Hip Hop, EDM, Jazz, Country, Blues, etc. Without this Kick drum, the sound of modern music would be drastically different. Dodds started playing drums as a child; and by his teens he was known as one of the best around and working on the Mississippi riverboats in New Orleans (with Louis Armstrong). In the early 1920s, he moved to Cali and worked with King Oliver’s band in Chicago. It’s here that he invented the Kick drum. The Hall Of Fame Jazz drummer is the first one to record solo sides, and strictly drum singles (the original breakbeats). He was 60 when he died (Chicago-1959).
On December 24th, 1924, a Hip Hop pioneer and break-beat craftsman, singer, songwriter, boxer, and Funk innovator-(Irving) Lee Dorsey was born in The NOLA. He was friends with legendary Rock 'n' Roll musician-Fats Domino in his elementary years. His family moved to Portland, Oregon when he was 10; and Dorsey remained in the area until he enlisted in The Navy for WWII. After serving, he returned to Portland in the late 1940s, and started a boxing career as Kid Chocolate (lightweight class). He had a successful run at it, before retiring in the mid 1950s, and moving back to New Orleans to open his own auto repair shop.
Around 1956 Dorsey started singing in nightclubs and met Allen Toussaint, who encouraged Dorsey to record some of the songs he’d composed. Moving into the late 50s, Dorsey recorded Rock b/w Lonely Evening in 1959. Toussaint’s studio band is what’s most important about Dorsey’s budding Funk sound-The Meters. They laid most of the instrumentation on the Toussaint-produced singles and LPs from 1959 to 1973. Two of his songs are classic break-beats that everyone has heard, in some song, but may not have known the origin: Get Out My Life Woman (1966) & Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On-1969). Lee Dorsey’s vocals-along with the production, arranging, and composing of Allen Toussaint, (with instrumentation being handled by the Meters) all helped shape the sound of NOLA Funk. He was 61 when he passed away (NOLA-1961).
The Tragic Story of Johnny Ace: On December 24th, 1954 we lost a seminal singer, pianist, good friend of Big Mama Thornton, dancer, and recording artist-Johnny Ace (John Marshall Alexander Jr.). Ace grew up in Memphis playing piano in church. His father was a pastor. During his late teens, he enlisted in The Navy during The Korean War (1950). He did a short tour, returning to play piano for Adolph Duncan & B.B. King’s band. When King left for Cali, and Bobby Bland (vocalist) enlisted in The Army (Korean War), Ace took over as bandleader and vocalist. He renamed the outfit The Beale Streeters, and that move set his career as a solo artist in motion.
In 1952, he signed with Duke Records, and released an R&B hit ballad My Song (later covered by Aretha Franklin in 1968 b/w See Saw). He had nine charting singles between 1952-1954; and toured with Big Mama Thornton, who looked after the younger and much wilder Ace. He died, due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, in 1954. Some say he was playing Russian Roulette; but others that were closer to him claim it happened much differently. Big Mama Thornton, and her bassist Curtis Tillman, both said he was playing around with the gun back stage and pointed at a few people saying it wasn’t loaded-then turned it on himself and fired to prove it. It was loaded. He was 25 years old when he died; and the owner of a brand new 1955 Oldsmobile (he had bought the car a few hours before he accidentally shot himself).
On December 24th, in 1951, bassist for the legendary 80s Rock & Soul Band Hall & Oates-Tom 'T-Bone' Wolk was born in Yonkers, NY. He started out playing accordion, becoming state champion by age 12. In the mid 1960s he switched to bass, and guitar, after seeing The Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. Wolk learned the instruments quickly, and was gigging with local bands in his late teens. His work on the bar scene earned him his nickname 'T-Bone,' after the Bluesman 'T-Bone' Walker. The name was given to him when he was playing at a bar gig with future band mate G.E. Smith (who became lead guitarist for Hall & Oates). Wolk played a bass solo with his instrument behind his head.
Smith coined him T-Bone after that (early 1970s). He continued to play in various bands with Smith, and got into session work. He’s the featured guitarist on The Breaks by Kurtis Blow (pre-Hall & Oates). He also did commercial jingles, and other promotional music. In 1981, he auditioned for Hall & Oates and got hired. He stayed with them for over 30 years-laying the bass on all of their hits like Man Eater, Sara Smile, I Can’t Go For That, Private Eyes, Out Of Touch, and more. He also was the co-bandleader for The SNL House Band from 1986-1992 (with G.E. Smith). He continued to record, produce, do session work, and perform up until his death in 2010 at the age of 58.
On December 24th, in 2012, we lost an original vocalist whose career spanned over 50 years-Ray Collins (r). He’s most commonly known as the lead singer for The Mothers Of Invention during their best years. However, his background as a vocalist goes back even further. The Pomona, Cali native grew up singing in his school choir. When he reached his teens, in the early 1950s, he dropped out of high school to get married. He continued to sing in Doo Wop groups during the late 50s and early 60s. He was an active member in Little Julian Herrera & The Tigers. In 1964, he linked up with four musicians that would serve as the foundation for Mothers Of Invention:
Ray Hunt-guitar, Jimmy Carl Black-drummer, Dave Coronado-sax, Roy Estrada-bass. They called themselves The Soul Giants. Ray Hunt left in 1965, and was replaced by Frank Zappa. In 1966, they released the first Prog/Psychedelic Rock Concept LP: Freak Out! On Verve Records. ..."Mr America Walk on By Your Supermarket Dream…Your Liquor Store supreme"…these lyrics are taken from Hungry Freaks Daddy-the first song on the Freak Out! LP. It sets the tone for the rest of the album. He stayed with The Mothers for a few LPs: 1967’s Absolutely Free, 1968’s Cruising With Ruben & The Jets, and 1969’s Uncle Meat double LP. He said the band was becoming too comical, and left in 1969. He continued to work closely with Zappa until he passed away in the 1990s. Collins (l) was 76 when he died.
HONORABLE MENTION: Christmas Eve is Jim Crow’s Birthday in America. On December 24th, 1881, Tennessee became the first state to enact segregation in public places with Black & White only railroad cars. They started a trend that would spread like wildfire in the southern states. Florida was second in 1887, then a year after that Mississippi joined in 1888. Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Georgia all joined-in between 1889 and 1891. By 1907, The Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, and Oklahoma had enacted similar legislation.
On December 24th, in 1920 one of the unsung heroes of NOLA music and the Rock ‘n’ Roll sound-Dave Bartholomew (David Louis Bartholomew-standing) was born in Edgard, Louisiana. He was a composer, arranger, bandleader, sideman, trumpeter, tuba player, producer, and worked closely with Fats Domino on all of his early hits: Blueberry Hill, Ain’t That a Shame, Blue Monday and more. He made music in several genres: R&B, Jazz, Dixieland, & Big Band. He’s in The Rock ‘N’ Roll & Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame. Dave is still alive, and 100 year-old today!
On December 24th, 2005, The Ill Na Na, female-rapper, actress, model, and Hip Hop personality-Foxy Brown was appearing in court on an assault charge (the infamous nail salon incident)... While at the proceedings, she got handcuffed by the bailiff-who was carrying out the orders given to him by NY Justice Melissa Jackson. Justice Jackson asked Foxy to stop chewing her gum. Foxy disrespected her, by replying with her tongue stuck out... I’m not sure who’s more wrong, Foxy or the Judge. Both showed gross misuse of power.
On December 24th, 2015, background vocalist and original member of Gladys Knight & The Pips-William (Franklin) Guest (r) passed away due to complications with his heart. He was a born in The ATL, and was a first cousin of Gladys & Bubba Knight. He was known for his backing vocals, steps, and upbeat demeanor. The group was inducted into The Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame in 1996. He continued to be a champion for music in the 2000s, forming Patten & Guest Productions-which managed artists and scouted for talent. He was 74 when passed.
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!