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Ginger Baker, wild man drummer for Cream, was born 84 years ago today
Ginger Baker, Denmark, 1975
Photo by Jorgen Angel
Ginger Baker, drummer for Cream, was born 84 years ago today.
Baker was also known for his numerous associations with world music, mainly the use of African influences. He had collaborations with Blind Faith, Gary Moore, Hawkwind, Masters of Reality and Public Image Ltd.
He formed and recorded with Ginger Baker's Energy and was involved in collaborations with Bill Laswell, jazz bassist Charlie Haden, jazz guitarist Bill Frisell and pioneering afro beat musician, Fela Kuti.
Baker gained fame as a member of the Graham Bond Organization and then as a member of the rock band, Cream, from 1966 until they disbanded in 1968. In 1970, Baker formed, toured and recorded with fusion rock group, Ginger Baker's Air Force.
He lived in Nigeria from 1970 until 1976. Baker sat in for Kuti during recording sessions in 1971 and these were released by Regal Zonophone as Live!
Fela also appeared with Baker on, Stratavarious (1972), alongside Bobby Gass, a pseudonym for Bobby Tench from The Jeff Beck Group. Stratavarious was later re-issued as part of the compilation, Do What You Like. Baker formed Baker Gurvitz Army in 1974 and recorded three albums with them before the band broke up in 1976.
Baker lived in Parker, Colorado, a rural suburb of Denver, between 1993 and 1999, in part due to his passion for polo. He not only participated in polo events at the Salisbury Equestrian Park, but he also sponsored an ongoing series of jam sessions and concerts at the equestrian center on weekends.
In 2008, a bank clerk, Lindiwe Noko, was charged with defrauding him of almost one-half million Rand ($60,000). The bank clerk claimed that it was a gift after she and Baker became lovers.
Not so, insisted Baker, who explained, "I've a scar that only a woman who had a thing with me would know. It's there and she doesn't know it's there."
Noko was convicted of fraud and in October, 2010 was sentenced to three years "correctional supervision," a type of community service.
Baker has COPD, a lung disease. His autobiography, Hellraiser, was published in 2009. In 2012, the documentary film, Beware of Mr. Baker, by Jay Bulger had its world premiere at South By Southwest in Austin, where it won the grand jury award for best documentary feature.
In 2014, Baker signed with record label Motéma Music to release a new jazz album.
In February, 2016, Baker announced he had been diagnosed with "serious heart issues" and cancelled all future gigs until further notice. On September 25, 2019, Baker's family reported that he was critically ill in the hospital. Baker died on October 6, 2019 at the age of 80, at a hospital in Canterbury, Kent.
AllMusic has described Baker as "the most influential percussionist of the 1960s" and stated that "virtually every drummer of every heavy metal band that has followed since that time has sought to emulate some aspect of Baker's playing."
Neil Peart has said: "His playing was revolutionary – extrovert, primal and inventive. He set the bar for what rock drumming could be. [...] Every rock drummer since has been influenced in some way by Ginger – even if they don't know it."
Here, Baker performs at the Buddy Rich 25th anniversary concert.
Billy J. Kramer, New York City, 2013
Photo by Frank Beacham
Billy J. Kramer is 80 years old today.
Born William Howard Ashton in Bootle, Lancashire, England, Kramer was a British Invasion/Merseybeat singer. In the 1960s, he was managed by Brian Epstein, who also managed the Beatles, and he recorded several original Lennon and McCartney compositions.
He grew up as the youngest of seven siblings and attended the St. George of England Secondary School, Bootle. He then took up an engineering apprenticeship with British Railways and in his spare time played rhythm guitar in a group he had formed himself, before switching to become a vocalist.
The performing name Kramer was chosen at random from a telephone directory. It was John Lennon's suggestion that the "J" be added to the name to further distinguish him by adding a "tougher edge." He soon came to the attention of Brian Epstein, ever on the look-out for new talent to add to his expanding roster of local artists.
Kramer turned professional but his then backing group, the Coasters, were less ambitious. Epstein sought out the services of a Manchester-based group, the Dakotas, a combo then backing Pete MacLaine. Even then, the Dakotas would not join Kramer without a recording contract of their own.
Once in place, the deal was set and both acts signed to Parlophone under George Martin. Collectively, they were named Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas to keep their own identities within the act.
Once the Beatles broke through, the way was paved for a tide of Merseybeat and Kramer was offered the chance to cover "Do You Want to Know a Secret?," first released by the Beatles on their own debut album, Please Please Me. The track had been turned down by Shane Fenton (later known as Alvin Stardust) who was looking for a career-reviving hit.
With record producer George Martin, the song "Do You Want to Know a Secret?" was a #2 UK Singles Chart hit in 1963, and was backed by another tune otherwise unreleased by the Beatles, "I'll Be on My Way."
After this impressive breakthrough another Lennon–McCartney pairing, "Bad to Me" c/w "I Call Your Name," reached #1. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. "I'll Keep You Satisfied" ended the year with a respectable #4 placing.
Kramer was given a series of songs specially written for him by John Lennon and Paul McCartney which launched him into stardom. "I'll Keep You Satisfied," "From a Window," "I Call Your Name" and "Bad to Me" earned him appearances on the television programs, Shindig!, Hullabaloo and The Ed Sullivan Show.
Kramer had also been offered Lennon–McCartney's "I'm In Love," and recorded a version in October, 1963. In the end, it was shelved and the song was instead given to the Fourmost. In the 1990s, a Kramer CD compilation album included Kramer's version, as well as some recording studio banter on which John Lennon's voice could be heard.
The three big hits penned by Lennon and McCartney suggested that Kramer would always remain in the Beatles' shadow, unless he tried something different.
Despite being advised against it, he turned down the offer of another Lennon–McCartney song, "One and One Is Two," and insisted on recording the Stateside chart hit, "Little Children." It became his second chart topper and biggest hit. In the United States, this was followed up with "Bad to Me."
"Little Children" b/w "Bad To Me" is the only debut single of an act on the Hot 100, each of whose sides separately reached that chart's Top 10 (#7 and #9, respectively). Despite this success, Kramer went backwards with his second and last UK single of 1964, the Lennon–McCartney composition, "From a Window," which only became a Top Ten hit.
In late 2012, Kramer went back into the studio for the first time in years to record a new CD — I Won the Fight — which was released in 2013. The CD featured some new songs written by Kramer as well as some covers.
In 2013, Kramer provided the introduction to the graphic novel, The Fifth Beatle, by Vivek Tiwary. The book was released in November and spent several weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, reaching #1 in its third week of release.
In 2015, Kramer was part of the British Invasion 50th Anniversary tour, performing in the U.S. and the UK.
Kramer now lives in New York City.
Here is Kramer and the Dakotas performing Lennon/McCartney’s “Bad to Me.”
Guards wrestling with fans as the Beatles play
Photo by Joe Burke
The Beatles took America by storm during their famous first visit, wowing the millions who watched them during their historic television appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show in February, 1964.
But after the first great rush of stateside Beatlemania, the Beatles promptly returned to Europe, leaving their American fans to make do with mere records.
By late summer of that same year, however, the Beatles finally returned to the U.S. on August 19, 1964 — 59 years ago today — more than six months after taking the East Coast by storm.
The Fab Four traveled to California to take the stage at the Cow Palace in San Francisco for opening night of their first-ever concert tour of North America.
Although in retrospect it would seem a laughable underestimation of their drawing power in America, Beatles' manager Brian Epstein chose venues like the 17,000-seat Cow Palace for the 1964 tour expressly because he feared that the Beatles might not sell out large sports stadiums like San Francisco's Candlestick Park, where they would play their final official concert in 1966.
Suffice it to say that the Beatles had no difficultly filling the Cow Palace, which was packed with 17,130 screaming fans when the group bounded to the stage shortly after 9:00 p.m. on this day in 1964 and launched into "Twist And Shout."
The Beatles' set that night and throughout the tour that followed featured only 12 songs. At other stops on the tour, the Beatles' performances would last approximately 33 minutes, but the show that night in San Francisco lasted some five minutes longer — not because of any difference in the Beatles' performance, but because of police intervention to stem the growing pandemonium.
Within the first few seconds of the first song that night, at least one radio journalist traveling with the Beatles had been trampled to the ground along with a young female fan who broke a leg in the melee.
And thanks to an offhand comment by George Harrison about the group's favorite candy in the days leading up to the show, the Beatles themselves were pelted with flying jelly beans throughout that night's set.
Though John, Paul, George and Ringo were uninjured, they left the Cow Palace that night by ambulance after their limousine was swarmed by berserk fans. It was a scene that would become familiar to them as they continued on their first historic tour of America in the months ahead.
Johnny Nash was born 83 years ago today.
A pop singer-songwriter, Nash was best known in the United States for his 1972 comeback hit, "I Can See Clearly Now.” He was also the first non-Jamaican to record reggae music in Kingston.
Born John Lester Nash, Jr. in Houston, Texas, he began as a pop singer in the 1950s. He also enjoyed success as an actor early in his career appearing in the screen version of playwright Louis S. Peterson's, Take a Giant Step.
In 1965, Johnny Nash and Danny Sims formed the JAD label in New York. One of the more interesting signings was four brothers from Newport, Rhode Island, ages 9, 11, 15 and 16. They were called The Cowsills and their first million selling hit single was "The Rain, The Park & Other Things.”
Besides "I Can See Clearly Now," Nash recorded several hits in Jamaica, where he travelled in early 1968, as his girlfriend had family links with local TV and radio host and novel writer, Neville Willoughby. Nash planned to try breaking the local rocksteady sound in the United States.
Willoughby introduced him to a local struggling vocal group, The Wailers. Members Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh introduced him to the local scene. Nash signed all three to an exclusive publishing and recording contract with his JAD label and financed some of their recordings, some with Byron Lee's Dragonaires and some with other local musicians such as Jackie Jackson and Lynn Taitt.
In early 1968, Nash and Sims brought the Marley group to New York City for the first time and introduced them to Jimmy Norman, the R&B writer and singer. They visited Norman at his apartment in the Bronx and became fast friends, recording a session that evening on a home tape recorder.
None of the Marley and Tosh songs were successful. Only two singles were released at the time: "Bend Down Low" (JAD 1968) and "Reggae on Broadway" (Columbia, 1972), which was recorded in London in 1972 on the same sessions that produced "I Can See Clearly Now." It sold over a million copies.
JAD Records ceased to exist in 1971, but it was revived in 1997 by American Marley specialist Roger Steffens and French musician and producer Bruno Blum for the "Complete Bob Marley & the Wailers 1967-1972" ten-album series for which several of the Nash-produced Marley and Tosh tracks were mixed or remixed by Blum for release.
Nash's biggest hits were the early reggae (rocksteady) tunes "Hold Me Tight" (a #5 hit in the U.S. and the UK, the tune used more than a year earlier in Score commercials) and "Stir It Up," the latter written by Bob Marley prior to Marley's international success.
For many years Nash seemed to have dropped out of sight, with the exception of a brief resurgence in the mid-1980s with the album, Here Again (1986), which was preceded by the minor UK hit, "Rock Me Baby." However, in May, 2006, he was singing again at SugarHill Recording Studios and at Tierra Studios in his native Houston.
Nash died peacefully at age 80 of natural causes in his home in Houston on October 6, 2020, after a period of declining health.
Here’s Nash singing “I Can See Clearly Now” in 1973.
Dick Gregory, comedian, died six years ago today.
Gregory, in this photo with Frank Beacham, after a performance at B.B. King’s Club, New York City, June, 2016. We are talking about the killing of Gregory’s friend, Medgar Evers.
Ring Lardner, Jr.
Photo by Bud Schultz
Ring Lardner, Jr. was born 108 years ago today.
Lardner was an American journalist and screenwriter blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studios during the Red Scare of the late 1940s and 1950s.
Born in Chicago, he was the son of Ellis (Abbott) and journalist and humorist, Ring Lardner. After being educated at Phillips Academy, Andover and Princeton University, he became a reporter on the New York Daily Mirror. He joined the U.S. Communist Party in 1936.
Lardner moved to Hollywood where he worked as a publicist and "script doctor" before writing his own material. His work in cinema included, Woman of the Year, a film that won him an Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay in 1942. He also worked on the scripts for the films Laura (1944), Brotherhood of Man (1946), Forever Amber (1947) and M*A*S*H (1970).
Lardner held strong left-wing views and during the Spanish Civil War he helped raise funds for the Republican cause. He was also involved in organizing anti-fascist demonstrations. His brother, James Lardner, was a member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, and was killed in action in Spain in 1938.
Although his political involvement upset the owners of the film studios, he continued to be given work and in 1947 became one of the highest paid scriptwriters in Hollywood when he signed a contract with 20th Century Fox at $2,000 a week. After the Second World War, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began an investigation into the Hollywood motion picture industry.
In September, 1947, the HUAC interviewed 41 people who were working in Hollywood. These people attended voluntarily and became known as "friendly witnesses.” During their interviews, they named several people whom they accused of holding left-wing views.
Lardner appeared before the HUAC on October 30, 1947, but like Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Dalton Trumbo, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Samuel Ornitz and John Howard Lawson, he refused to answer any questions.
Known as the "Hollywood Ten,” they claimed that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution clearly gave them the right to do this. The HUAC and the courts during appeals disagreed and all were found guilty of contempt of Congress. Lardner was sentenced to 12 months in Danbury Prison and fined $1,000. He was fired by Fox on October 28, 1947.
Blacklisted by the Hollywood studios, Lardner worked for the next couple of years on the novel, The Ecstasy of Owen Muir (1954). He moved to England for a time where he wrote under several pseudonyms for television series, including The Adventures of Robin Hood. The blacklist was lifted when producer Martin Ransohoff and director Norman Jewison gave him screen credit for writing, The Cincinnati Kid, in 1965.
Lardner's later work included M*A*S*H (1970), for which he won the Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay, and The Greatest (1977). According to Hungarian writer, Miklos Vamos — who visited Lardner several times before his death — Lardner won an Academy Award for a movie he wrote under a pseudonym.
Lardner refused to tell which movie it was, saying that it would be unfair to reveal it because the writer who allowed Lardner, Jr., to use his name as a front (as Lardner's pseudonym) was doing him a big favor at the time.
Ring Lardner, Jr., died in Manhattan, New York, in 2000 at age 85. He was the last surviving member of the Hollywood Ten.
Philo Farnsworth with an early television camera, 1938
Philo Farnsworth was born 117 years ago today.
An inventor whose contributions led to modern video movement, Farnsworth built the first all-electronic image pickup device for video cameras — the "image dissector" — as well as the first all-electronic television system. He was the first person to demonstrate such a system to the public.
Farnsworth developed a television system complete with receiver and camera, which he produced commercially in the firm of the Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation, from 1938 to 1951, in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Though Farnsworth invented the technology, he was not happy with how it was used. Farnsworth’s son, Kent, summarized his father’s view of his invention of television: "There's nothing on it worthwhile, and we're not going to watch it in this household, and I don't want it in your intellectual diet."
By Christmas 1970, was nearly bankrupt. The banks called in all outstanding loans, repossession notices were placed on anything not previously sold, and the Internal Revenue Service put a lock on his laboratory door until delinquent taxes were paid.
In January 1971, his company disbanded. Farnsworth had begun abusing alcohol in his later years, and as a consequence he became seriously ill with pneumonia, and died on March 11, 1971.
At the time he died, Farnsworth held 300 U.S. and foreign patents. His inventions contributed to the development of radar, infra-red night vision devices, the electron microscope, the baby incubator, the gastroscope and the astronomical telescope.
In a 1996 videotaped interview by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Elma Farnsworth recounted Philo's change of heart about the value of television, after seeing how it showed man walking on the moon, in real time, to millions of viewers:
Interviewer: The image dissector was used to send shots back from the moon to earth.
Elma Farnsworth: Right.
Interviewer: What did Phil think of that?
Elma Farnsworth: We were watching it, and, when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, Phil turned to me and said, "Pem, this has made it all worthwhile." Before then, he wasn't too sure.
Today is World Photography Day. It originates from the invention of the Daguerreotype, a photographic process developed by Frenchmen Louis Daguerre and Joseph Nicephore Niepce in 1837.
On January 9, 1839, the French Academy of Sciences announced the Daguerreotype process. The following August 19, the French government purchased the patent and announced the invention as a gift “free to the world.”
So this day — August 19 — is celebrated each year.
Palm Court Cafe, New Orleans, 1996
Photo by Herman Leonard