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Folksinger David Bromberg is 78 years old today
Photo by Frank Beacham
David Bromberg is 78 years old today.
A multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter, Bromberg is an eclectic artist — playing bluegrass, blues, folk, jazz, country and western and rock and roll equally well. He is known for his quirky, humorous lyrics and the ability to play rhythm and lead guitar at the same time.
Bromberg has played with many famous musicians, including Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, Jorma Kaukonen, Jerry Garcia, Rusty Evans (The Deep) and Bob Dylan.
He co-wrote the song, "The Holdup," with former Beatle George Harrison, who played on Bromberg's self-titled 1972 album.
Bromberg was born in Philadelphia and raised Jewish in Tarrytown, New York. He attended Columbia University in the 1960s, studying guitar with Reverend Gary Davis during that period.
Proficient on fiddle, many styles of acoustic and electric guitar, pedal steel guitar and dobro, Bromberg began releasing albums of his own in the early 1970s on Columbia Records.
His seven-minute rendition of "Mr. Bojangles" from 1972's Demon in Disguise, interspersed with tales about traveling with song author Jerry Jeff Walker, earned Bromberg progressive rock radio airplay.
In 1973, he played mandolin, dobro and electric guitar on Jonathan Edwards' album, Have a Good Time for Me.
Bromberg released his first new studio album since 1990 with Try Me One More Time in 2007 on Appleseed Recordings. The disc includes Dylan's "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" and Elizabeth Cotten's "Shake Sugaree."
His 2011 album, Use Me, featured guests Levon Helm, John Hiatt, Tim O'Brien, Dr. John, Keb' Mo', Los Lobos, Widespread Panic, Linda Ronstadt and Vince Gill.
Bromberg currently lives in Wilmington, Delaware, where he and his wife, artist Nancy Josephson, own an extensive violin sales and repair shop, with a partial subsidy from the City of Wilmington, Delaware.
He occasionally performs at Wilmington's Grand Opera House, where he and his wife are major donors, as well as at the new World Cafe Live at the refurbished Queen Theatre.
Here, Bromberg performs “Sloppy Drunk” at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey.
Sylvia Tyson and Suze Rotolo, Washington Square Park, 2007
Photo by Frank Beacham
Sylvia Tyson is 83 years old today.
A musician, performer, singer-songwriter and broadcaster, Tyson from 1959 to 1974 was half of the popular folk duo, Ian & Sylvia, with Ian Tyson.
From the late 1960s to the early 1970s, she and Ian also fronted the country-rock band Great Speckled Bird. More recently, she has been a member of the all-female folk group, Quartette.
Perhaps her best-known song was "You Were on My Mind,” which was originally recorded by Ian & Sylvia in 1964. The song became a massive hit single in the mid-1960s for the San Francisco-based folk-rock band, We Five, and also for the British pop singer, Crispian St. Peters. It has become a rock and roll standard which has been covered numerous times.
She married Ian Tyson in 1964 and they divorced in 1975. During their marriage, they had one child, Clay (Clayton Dawson) Tyson.
The Canadian Music Hall of Fame inducted Ian & Sylvia as a duo in 1992. In 2003, Sylvia Tyson herself was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.
Here, Ian and Sylvia perform “Four Strong Winds” in 1986.
Cass Elliot was born 82 years ago today.
Born Ellen Naomi Cohen and also known as Mama Cass, Elliot was a singer and member of The Mamas & the Papas. After the group broke up, she released five solo albums.
She adopted the name "Cass" in high school — possibly, as Denny Doherty tells it, borrowing it from the actress, Peggy Cass — but in any case, it was "Cass,” not "Cassandra." She assumed the surname Elliot sometime later, in memory of a friend who had died.
While working as a cloakroom attendant at The Showplace in Greenwich Village, Elliot would sometimes sing, but it wasn't until she moved to the Washington area, to attend American University, that she began to pursue a singing career.
As America's folk music scene was on the rise, Elliot met banjoist and singer, Tim Rose, and singer, John Brown. The three began performing as The Triumvirate. In 1963, James Hendricks replaced Brown and the trio was renamed, The Big 3.
In 1964, the group appeared on an "open mike" night at The Bitter End Cafe in Greenwich Village, billed as "Cass Elliot and the Big 3.” She was followed onstage by bluegrass banjoist, Eric Weissberg, and folksinger, Jim Fosso.
When Tim Rose left The Big 3 in 1964, Elliot and Hendricks teamed with Canadians Zal Yanovsky and Denny Doherty to form The Mugwumps. This group lasted eight months, after which Cass performed as a solo act for a while.
Yanovsky and John Sebastian co-founded The Lovin' Spoonful, while Doherty joined The New Journeymen, a group that also included John Phillips and his wife, Michelle. In 1965, Doherty convinced Phillips that Cass should join the group. She did while vacationing together with the others in the Virgin Islands.
Elliot’s vocal range was improved by three notes after she was hit on the head by some copper tubing shortly before joining, The New Journeymen, in the Virgin Islands. Elliot herself confirmed the story in a 1968 interview with Rolling Stone magazine.
With two female members, The New Journeymen needed a new name. According to Doherty, Elliot had the inspiration for the band's new name, as written on his website:
“We're all just lying around vegging out watching TV and discussing names for the group. The New Journeymen was not a handle that was going to hang on this outfit. John was pushing for The Magic Cyrcle. None of us could come up with anything better, then we switch the channel and, hey, it's the Hells Angels on this talk show... And the first thing we hear is: "Now hold on there, Hoss. Some people call our women cheap, but we just call them our Mamas." Cass jumped up: "Yeah! I want to be a Mama."
And Michelle is going: "We're the Mamas! We're the Mamas!" OK. I look at John. He's looking at me going: "The Papas?" Problem solved. A toast! To The Mamas and the Papas. Well, after many, many toasts, Cass and John passed out."
Elliot, known for her sense of humor and optimism, was considered by some to be the most charismatic member of the group. Her powerful, distinctive voice was a large factor in their success.
She is best remembered for her vocals on the group's hits, "California Dreamin'," "Monday Monday" and "Words of Love," and particularly for the solo "Dream a Little Dream of Me," which the group recorded in 1968 after learning about the death of Fabian Andre, one of the men who co-wrote it.
The Mamas & the Papas continued to record to meet the terms of their record contract. Their final album was released in 1971. After the breakup of The Mamas & the Papas, Elliot embarked on a solo singing career.
At the height of her solo work in 1974, Elliot performed two weeks of sold-out concerts at the London Palladium. She telephoned Michelle Phillips after the final concert on July 28, elated that she had received standing ovations each night.
She then retired for the evening, and died of a heart attack in her sleep at age 32.
Here, Elliot performs “Dream a Little Dream of Me.”
On September 19, 1973 — 50 years ago today — 26-year-old musician Gram Parsons died of "multiple drug use" (morphine and tequila) in a California motel room.
His death inspired one of the more bizarre automobile-related “crimes” on record.
Two of his friends stashed his body in a borrowed hearse and drove it into the middle of the Joshua Tree National Park, where they doused it with gasoline and set it on fire.
Parsons' music helped define the country-rock sound, and his records have influenced everyone from the Rolling Stones to Wilco.
But like many musicians of his generation, Parsons struggled with drugs and alcohol. His childhood was unhappy. His father committed suicide when he was 12, and his mother died of alcohol poisoning on the day he graduated from high school.
He dropped out of Harvard and moved to California, where he played with bands like the Byrds (on their seminal album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo) and the Flying Burrito Brothers.
He released two celebrated solo albums with the then-unknown Emmylou Harris singing backup.
At a friend's funeral a few months before he died, Parsons made a drunken pact with his road manager, Phil Kaufman. If anything should happen to one of them, the other would take his body to Joshua Tree and cremate it.
And so, after Parsons' overdose, Kaufman and a roadie named Michael Martin met his coffin at the Los Angeles airport.
They loaded it into a borrowed hearse with broken windows and no license plates. The hearse belonged to Martin's girlfriend, who used it to carry tents and other gear on camping trips.
For complicated reasons involving a disputed inheritance, Parsons’ stepfather had arranged for the body to be flown to Louisiana for a private funeral. Kaufman convinced the airport staff that the Parsons family had changed its mind about the flight. Having gotten the body, they drove 200 miles to the Mojave Desert, stopping along the way to fill a five-gallon tin can with gasoline.
Then they drove into Joshua Tree and dragged the coffin to the foot of the majestic Cap Rock, where they doused it with the gas and tossed on a match.
Kaufman and Martin were arrested, but since stealing bodies was not actually a crime in California, they were fined $300 each plus $750 for the ruined coffin.
They raised the money by holding a "Kaper Koncert" starring Bobby Pickett & the Cryptkeepers, who played their hit "Monster Mash" over and over.
Parsons' remains are buried in New Orleans.
Bill Medley, left, is 83 years old today.
A singer and songwriter, Medley was half of The Righteous Brothers. He met his singing partner, Bobby Hatfield, while attending California State University, Long Beach. The pair began singing as a duo in 1962. Their first hit was "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin’,” produced by Phil Spector in 1964.
Follow-up hits included "(You're My) Soul and Inspiration" and "Unchained Melody.”
The duo broke up in 1968, but returned with another hit in 1974, "Rock And Roll Heaven,” and they continued to appear together until Hatfield's death in November, 2003.
Medley performed at Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater in Branson, Missouri until the late 2000s. In January, 2016, Medley announced he would revive the Righteous Brothers for the first time since 2003, partnering with new singer, Bucky Heard.
Bill Medley met his first wife, Karen O'Grady, in church, started dating in 1963 and were married at the beginning of his music career. Their son, Darrin, was born in 1965, but they were divorced when Darrin was about five.
In January, 1976, Karen was raped and murdered by a stranger, and Medley decided to take time off from his music career to look after his 10-year-old son Darrin. The murderer was never caught and Medley employed a private investigator in an effort to track down the killer.
On January 27, 2017, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced that investigators used a controversial DNA testing method to solve the decades-old murder. The sheriff's department said that the case "was solved through the use of familial DNA, which identified the killer," who was named as Kenneth Troyer, a sex offender and fugitive killed by police in 1982.
Medley married his current wife, Paula, in 1986 and they have a daughter, McKenna. Their daughter is also a singer and she performs with Medley as his duetting partner on "Time of My Life" in his tour.
Here, Medley performs “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” in 1972.
Daniel Lanois performs in New York City in 2006. In mid-song, a dancer appeared on stage.
Photo by Frank Beacham
Daniel Lanois is 72 years old today.
Lanois is a Canadian record producer, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter. He has released several albums of his own work. However, he is best known for producing albums for a wide variety of artists, including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson and Brandon Flowers.
Lanois also collaborated with Brian Eno. They produced several platinum albums for U2, including The Joshua Tree.
Lanois started his production career when he was 17, working in his own studio with his brother, Bob Lanois, in the basement of their mother's Ancaster, Ontario home, recording local artists including Simply Saucer. Later, Daniel started Grant Avenue Studios in an old house he purchased in the east-end of Hamilton, Ontario.
He worked with a number of local bands, including Martha and the Muffins (for whom his sister, Jocelyne, played bass), Ray Materick, as well as the Canadian children's singer, Raffi.
Lanois worked collaboratively with Brian Eno on some of Eno's own projects, one of which was the theme song for David Lynch's film adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune. Eno invited him to co-produce U2's album, The Unforgettable Fire. Along with Eno, he went on to produce U2's, The Joshua Tree.
Lanois' early work with U2 led to him being hired to produce albums for other top-selling artists. Bono recommended Lanois to Bob Dylan in the late 1980s. In 1989, Lanois produced Dylan's Oh Mercy. Eight years later Dylan and Lanois worked together on Time Out of Mind.
In his autobiographical Chronicles, Vol. 1, Dylan describes in depth the contentious but rewarding working relationship he developed with Lanois.
Lanois was working on Neil Young's record, Le Noise, in June, 2010 when he was hospitalized after suffering multiple injuries in a motorcycle crash in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles. He has since recovered.
As well as being a producer, Lanois is also a songwriter, musician and recording artist. He has released several solo albums and film scores.
After his October, 2014 release of Flesh and the Machine with ANTI- Records, Lanois has been touring extensively.
Billy Ward was born 102 years ago today.
Billy Ward and his Dominoes were one of the most successful African-American R&B vocal groups of the early 1950s. The Dominoes helped launch the singing careers of two notable members, Clyde McPhatter and Jackie Wilson.
Billy Ward, born on September 19, 1921 in Savannah, Georgia, grew up in Philadelphia and was a child musical prodigy — winning an award for a piano composition at the age of 14. Following military service with the U.S. Army, he studied music in Chicago and at the Juilliard School of Music in New York.
While working as a vocal coach and part-time arranger on Broadway, he met talent agent, Rose Marks, who became his business and songwriting partner. The pair set out to form a vocal group from the ranks of his students, hoping to cash in on the new trend of vocal quintets in R&B.
The group was at first called the Ques, composed of Clyde McPhatter (lead tenor), whom Ward recruited after McPhatter won "Amateur Night" at the Apollo Theater, Charlie White (tenor), Joe Lamont (baritone) and Bill Brown (bass).
Ward acted as their pianist and arranger. After the group made successful appearances on talent shows in the Apollo Theater and on the Arthur Godfrey show in 1950, they were recommended to Ralph Bass of Federal Records, a subsidiary of King, where they were signed to a recording contract and renamed themselves, The Dominoes.
Their first single release, "Do Something For Me,” with McPhatter’s lead vocal, reached the R&B charts in early 1951, climbing to #6. After a less successful follow-up, the group released "Sixty Minute Man,” on which Brown sang lead, and boasted of being able to satisfy his girls with fifteen minutes each of "kissin'" "teasin'" and "squeezin’,” before "blowin'" his "top.”
It reached #1 on the R&B chart in May, 1951 and stayed there for 30 weeks, and crossed over to the pop charts, reaching #17.
It was an important record in several respects — it crossed the boundaries between gospel singing and blues, its lyrics pushed the limits of what was deemed acceptable and it appealed to many white as well as black listeners. In later years, it became a contender for the title of "the first rock and roll record.”
The group toured widely, building up a reputation as one of the top R&B acts of the era, edging out The Five Keys and The Clovers (two of the top R&B groups of the early 1950s) and commanding an audience which crossed racial divides.
However, Ward's strict disciplinarian approach, and failure to fairly compensate the singers, caused internal problems.
"Billy Ward was not an easy man to work for. He played piano and organ, could arrange and he was a fine director and coach. He knew what he wanted, and you had to give it to him. And he was a strict disciplinarian. You better believe it! You paid a fine if you stepped out of line," said Jackie Wilson.
Ward most likely got the idea of levying fines against group members from his tenure in the military. Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice gives a unit commander authority to mete a certain amount of punishment to troops under his or her command without going through a court-martial, which includes fines (partial forfeiture of pay).
The name "The Dominoes" was owned by Ward and Marks, who had the power to hire, fire and to pay the singers a salary. Clyde McPhatter was being paid barely enough to live on, even though much of The Dominoes' success was due to McPhatter's soaring vocal abilities.
"I'd go home and hear my records on the radio — half the time I couldn't afford a Coca-Cola," according to McPhatter. Allegedly, Ward paid his singers $100 a week, minus deductions for taxes, food and hotel bills. McPhatter often found himself billed as "Clyde Ward" to fool fans into thinking he was Billy Ward's brother. Others assumed Ward was doing the lead singing.
In early 1953, McPhatter decided to leave. He soon formed his own group, The Drifters. His replacement in the Dominoes was Jackie Wilson, who had been coached by McPhatter while also singing with the group on tour.
Lamont and McNeil also left and were replaced by Milton Merle and Cliff Givens. Givens had been in The Golden Gate Quartet, and joined The Ink Spots in 1944 upon the death of original bass Orville "Hoppy" Jones.
With Wilson singing lead, singles such as "You Can't Keep A Good Man Down" continued to be successful, although The Dominoes didn't enjoy quite the same success they did with McPhatter as lead tenor.
Billy Ward and the Dominoes were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2006.
Ward died on February 16, 2002 in Inglewood, California at age 81.
Here, Billy Ward and the Dominoes perform “60 Minute Man.”
Brook Benton and Elvis Presley
Brook Benton was born 92 years ago today.
Benton was a singer and songwriter who was popular with rock and roll, rhythm and blues and pop music audiences during the late 1950s and early 1960s. He scored hits such as "It's Just A Matter Of Time" and "Endlessly,” many of which he co-wrote.
He made a comeback in 1970 with Tony Joe White’s ballad, “Rainy Night in Georgia." Benton scored over 50 Billboard chart hits as an artist and also wrote for other performers.
Benton earned a good living writing songs and co-producing albums. He wrote songs for artists such as Nat King Cole, Clyde McPhatter (for whom he wrote the hit, "A Lover's Question") and Roy Hamilton.
Later he went on to the Mercury label, which would eventually bring him larger success. Also he appeared in the 1957 film, Mr. Rock And Roll, with Alan Freed.
Weakened from spinal meningitis, Brook died of pneumonia in Queens, New York City, at the age of 56 on April 9, 1988.
Here, Benton performs “Rainy Night in Georgia” in 1982.
Seahorse with Q-Tip
Photo by Justin Hofman
When Justin Hofman took this image while snorkeling off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumbawa in 2016, he couldn't have guessed the environmental impact the snapshot would eventually have. A year later, it is a finalist in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, and has been dubbed "the poster child for today’s marine trash crisis."
Hofman watched as the seahorse bounced from natural object to natural object, hitching rides on the current. Then, suddenly, something changed.
"As the tide started to come in, the mood changed. The water contained more and more decidedly unnatural objects — mainly bits of plastic — and a film of sewage sludge covered the surface. The seahorse let go of a piece of seagrass and seized a long, wispy piece of clear plastic. As a brisk wind at the surface picked up, making conditions bumpier, the seahorse took advantage of something that offered a more stable raft: a waterlogged plastic cotton swab."
The image, Hofman said, has become “an allegory for the current and future state of our oceans."