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Marty Stuart - country musician, musicologist and photographer - is 65 years old today
Marty Stuart performs at the tribute for Sun Records at Lincoln Center, New York City, 2011
Photo by Frank Beacham
Marty Stuart is 65 years old today.
A country music singer-songwriter, Stuart is known for both his traditional style, and eclectic merging of rockabilly, honky tonk and traditional country music.
Stuart is also a photographer, who has captured many iconic images surrounding country music and its stars. When I asked him the secret to his notable photographs, he responded, “I have access.”
Born as John Martin Stuart in Philadelphia, Mississippi on September 30, 1958, Stuart has become known as one of country music's most eclectic artists, performing and recording diverse types of country music. He is of French, English, Choctaw and Colombian descent.
From an early age, he was obsessed with country music. He was so obsessed, in fact, that he taught himself how to play the guitar and mandolin. At the age of 12, Stuart started performing with the bluegrass group, The Sullivans.
He later met Lester Flatt’s band member, Roland White. White invited Stuart to play with him and the Nashville Grass at the Labor Day gig in Delaware, 1972.
After this, White asked him to join the band permanently and Stuart accepted. This made White responsible for the rest of Stuart's education. Marty stayed with Lester Flatt until Flatt broke up the band in 1978 due to his failing health.
In 1979, Flatt died. Stuart pushed forward and worked with fiddler, Vassar Clements, and guitarist, Doc Watson.
In 1980, he joined Johnny Cash's backing band. The previous year, Stuart made his first solo album, With a Little Help From My Friends, on Ridge Runner Records
In 1983, Stuart married Johnny Cash's daughter, Cindy. They divorced five years later in 1988.
In 1985, Stuart accompanied Johnny Cash to Memphis and played on the "Class of '55" album that also featured Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis. At the end of the session, Perkins presented him with his guitar.
Later that year, Stuart left Cash's band and landed a solo recording contract with Columbia Records. The following year, he released a self-titled album on the label, which produced a Top 20 hit on the Billboard country charts, "Arlene."
In 1991, Stuart co-wrote a song with Travis Tritt called, "The Whiskey Ain't Workin'." The song was recorded as a duet on Tritt's 1991 album, It's All About to Change, and that became Stuart’s biggest hit.
In 1992, his former record company, Columbia finally released his album, Let There Be Country. That same year, Stuart released the album, This One's Gonna Hurt You, on MCA.
The album's title track, a duet with Travis Tritt, was released as a single, and became another Top Ten hit for Stuart. This One's Gonna Hurt You became Marty's first gold album.
His collection of music memorabilia and photography was exhibited at the Tennessee State Museum in 2007 as "Sparkle & Twang: Marty Stuart's American Musical Odyssey." In October, 2008, the "Sparkle & Twang" exhibit opened at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, OH.
Here, Stuart performs “Doing My Time” with Johnny Cash.
Truman Capote, in his U.N. Plaza apartment, parodies the famous 1948 author photo of himself that was used for his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms
Photo by Arnold Newman
Truman Capote, writer, was born 99 years ago today.
Capote was an author, many of whose short stories, novels, plays and nonfiction are recognized literary classics, including the novella, Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958), and the true crime novel, In Cold Blood (1966), which he labeled a "nonfiction novel."
At least 20 films and television dramas have been produced of Capote’s novels, stories and screenplays. He rose above a childhood troubled by divorce, a long absence from his mother and multiple migrations.
Capote had discovered his calling as a writer by the age of 11, and for the rest of his childhood he honed his writing ability. He began his professional career writing short stories.
The critical success of one story, "Miriam" (1945), attracted the attention of Random House publisher, Bennett Cerf, resulting in a contract to write, Other Voices, Other Rooms, in 1948.
Capote earned the most fame with In Cold Blood (1966), a journalistic work about the murder of a Kansas farm family in their home, a book Capote spent four years writing, with much help from Harper Lee, who later wrote, To Kill a Mockingbird.
Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams on a drunken night in Key West
Truman Capote — A Personal Remembrance
In the late 1970s, I found myself at a tiny bar at the Pier House in Key West, Florida sitting between Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote — both drunk and drug-fueled to the hilt.
I already knew Tennessee and joined him and Truman at the bar. When he introduced me to Truman, I will never forget Truman’s cold, almost slimy handshake, which was like gripping a slippery fish.
I sat between them at the bar and listened to drunken gibberish for over an hour. I don’t remember much of what was said that night, but I remember being a kid in a room with two inebriated literary giants.
I always regretted that I had so little to say that evening. In later years, Williams became my favorite Southern playwright. But in those early years, I didn’t understand his work well enough to have an intelligent conversation with him. It is such a waste to be so young and uneducated!
I later learned this was Truman’s only trip to Key West from Tennessee Williams himself. Here’s an except of his story from Dotson Rader’s 1985 book, “Tennessee: Cry of the Heart.”
"...(Capote) had flown to Key West from Mexico, where he was to stay with Mrs. [Lee] Radiwill but left in a hurry because the mosquitoes were terrible. So he came to Key West from the Yucatan. He had never been on the island before, and I suspect that he never will be there again.
He was robbed the first night, losing all his credit cards, his address book and about two thousand dollars. He said that he wasn't in his hotel room when the robbery occurred, but the police found no evidence of forced entry. I think he was cleaned out by some street boy he invited home for a private session!
Truman came to Key West because he sold excerpts of his book [Answered Prayers] to Esquire. He made one of the conditions of the contract that the editor of the magazine [Don Erickson] had to fly to Key West to pick up the manuscript.
He did that because Hemingway used to make Arnold [Gingrich, the editor/found of Esquire] came to Key West to edit his stories before they were published. Truman was not about to get one thing less that Hemingway.
"One night Truman, Jimmy Kirkwood, and a friend of Truman's, I, and some other men went to dinner. His friend was very drunk. The restaurant was full of tourists in double-knit suits, and since it was quite late, most of them were as tipsy as Truman's boyfriend. Some distance away, at a round table, sat three couples. Truman noticed them staring at us, and he said, "Watch out! They'll be coming over for autographs!"
And a few minutes later, one of the women at the table got up and came over, carrying a menu. She asked Truman to autograph the menu. He did. She left, and a few minutes later her husband came to our table and glared at Truman.
"Are you Truman Capote?" And Truman said, "I was this morning!" And the man unzipped his pants, and pulled out his cock. He said, holding it in the palm of his hand, "Can you put your signature on this?
And Truman looked down at the cock, and up again, and he said:
"I don't know about my signature. But I can initial it!"
Stars like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were established enough to survive the rock-and-roll revolution, but the arrival of Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry et al., in the late-1950s did no favors for most of the artists who occupied the top of the pre-rock-and-roll pop charts.
Names like Perez Prado, Gogi Grant and Guy Mitchell, for instance, have been largely lost to history, though one young newcomer working in a style far more "square" than that of his contemporaries managed to survive and even thrive.
Born on this day in 1935 — 88 years ago — Johnny Mathis went on to become one of the most successful recording artists of all time.
Mathis was born in Gilmer, Texas, and raised in San Francisco the fourth of seven children. He showed an aptitude for music very early on, and he began his formal, classical voice training at the age of 13.
As promising as his future in music seemed to be, however, there was question during his teens as to whether he should devote himself to sports instead.
As a four-letter athlete at George Washington High School, Mathis broke a high-jump record previously held by NBA legend Bill Russell, and while a student at San Francisco State University, he was invited to the U.S. trials in track and field for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
With his father's guidance, however, Mathis chose to dedicate himself to what was beginning to look like a good chance of success as a musician. While doing weekend gigs in various San Francisco nightclubs the previous year, Mathis came to the attention of George Avakian, head of jazz A&R for Columbia Records.
As the widely circulated legend has it, after hearing Mathis for the very first time, Avakian wired a telegram to Columbia headquarters reading, "Have found phenomenal 19-year-old boy who could go all the way. Send blank contracts."
After Johnny passed on his chance at making the Olympic team, he headed to New York to record his debut album. While that first album had little impact, Mathis's next recordings, under the supervision of Columbia's Mitch Miller, established him as a star.
The singles, "Wonderful, Wonderful" and "It's Not For Me To Say," sailed up the pop charts in the summer of 1957, quickly followed that same year by the hits "Chances Are," "Twelfth Of Never" and, in the next five years, by 13 more Top 40 hits, including "A Certain Smile" (1958), "Misty" (1959) and "Gina" (1962).
So popular during the dawn of rock and roll was the smooth pop stylist Johnny Mathis that his 1958 album, Johnny's Greatest Hits, spent an astonishing 490 weeks on the Billboard magazine album charts — a record finally broken by Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon in 1982.
On June 21, 2014, Mathis was inducted into the Great American Songbook Hall Of Fame along with Linda Ronstadt, Shirley Jones and Nat King Cole (his daughter Natalie Cole accepted the award on his behalf).
The awards were presented by The Center for the Performing Arts Artistic Director Michael Feinstein. Defined on their website, "Conceived as an enduring testament to the Great American Songbook, the Hall of Fame honors performers and composers responsible for creating America’s soundtrack."
Mathis continues to perform live, but from 2000 forward, he limited his concert performances to under sixty per year. Both Mathis and Barbra Streisand carry the distinction of having the longest tenure of any recording artist on the Columbia Records label.
With the exception of a four-year break to record for Mercury Records in the mid-1960s, he has been with Columbia Records throughout his career, from 1956 to 1963 and from 1968 to the present.
Here, Mathis performs live in a concert.
Photo by Buddy Fishman
Buddy Rich, jazz drummer and bandleader, was born 106 years ago today.
Rich was billed as "the world's greatest drummer" and was known for his virtuoso technique, power, groove and speed.
Born in Brooklyn to Jewish vaudevillians Robert and Bess Rich, Rich’s talent for rhythm was first noted by his father. He saw that Buddy could keep a steady beat with spoons at the age of one.
At 18 months old, Rich began playing drums in vaudeville, billed as, "Traps the Drum Wonder." At the peak of Rich's childhood career, he was reportedly the second-highest paid child entertainer in the world (after Jackie Coogan). At 11, he was performing as a bandleader.
Rich received no formal drum instruction, and went so far as to claim that instruction would only degrade his musical talent. He also never admitted to practicing, claiming to play the drums only during performances and was not known to read music.
Buddy Rich remained active performing until the end of his life. On April 2, 1987, Rich died at age 69 of heart failure following surgery for a malignant brain tumor.
Here, Rich in concert at the Montreal Jazz Festival.
Cissy Houston is 90 years old today.
Houston is soul and gospel singer. After a successful career singing backup for such artists as Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin, she embarked on a solo career.
She is the mother of singer, Whitney Houston, grandmother of Whitney's daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, aunt of singers Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick and a cousin of opera singer, Leontyne Price.
Born Emily Drinkard in Newark to Nitcholas and Delia Mae Drinkard, she was the eighth child. The Drinkards had owned a substantial amount of farmland in Blakely, Georgia, during a time when it was unusual for blacks to own large portions of land. The asset was gradually depleted as they sold small portions of the land over time, to resolve the continued legal troubles of a close relative.
After Dinkard’s three oldest siblings were born, the family relocated to New Jersey during the Second Great Migration. Her parents emphasized the children getting educated and being involved in the church, and her father encouraged Houston and her siblings to sing.
In 1938, five-year-old Cissy's mother, Delia, suffered a stroke and died of cerebral hemorrhage three years later. Her father died of stomach cancer in 1951 when Drinkard was 18.
In 1955, Drinkard married Freddie Garland and had a son, Gary Garland, an NBA basketball player and DePaul University Athletic Hall of Famer. They divorced soon after.
In 1963, she married John Russell Houston, Jr., a Newark City administrator and entertainment executive. The couple had a son, Michael Houston, who became a songwriter, and a daughter, Whitney Houston, who became a singer.
In 1963, then about to give birth to daughter, Whitney, Cissy formed the Sweet Inspirations with Doris Troy and niece, Dee Dee Warwick. Later, under contract to Atlantic Records, Sylvia Shemwell, Estelle Brown and Myrna Smith formed the line-up.
During the mid-1960s, the Sweet Inspirations provided backup vocals for a variety of artists, including Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Lou Rawls, The Drifters, Dusty Springfield and Houston's niece, Dionne Warwick.
They appeared on Van Morrison's single, “Brown Eyed Girl.” Houston performed the operatic soprano melody on the Aretha Franklin hit, “Ain't No Way.” In 1967, The Sweet Inspirations sang background vocals for The Jimi Hendrix Experience on the track "Burning of the Midnight Lamp.”
In 1969, they were hired to sing backing vocals for Elvis Presley in Las Vegas on his return to live performances during July and August, 1969. Presley often introduced them at shows by saying, "They really live up to their name ladies and gentleman, The Sweet Inspirations!" Many of these performances can be heard on the All Shook Up and Live In Las Vegas live records.
Houston, along with Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick, sang the background vocals on the original recording of “Time Is On My Side” by Kai Winding, released by Verve Records in October, 1963.
On September 29, 2014, at 81 years old, Cissy sang backup to a standing-ovation performance with Aretha Franklin of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep," and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" on The Late Show with David Letterman.
Here, Houston performs “Yesterday.”
Frankie Lymon was born 81 years ago today.
A rock and roll/rhythm and blues singer and songwriter, Lymon was the boy soprano lead singer of a New York City-based early rock and roll group, The Teenagers. The group was composed of five boys, all in their early to mid teens.
The original lineup of the Teenagers, an integrated group, included three African American members, Frankie Lymon, Jimmy Merchant and Sherman Garnes, and two Puerto Rican members, Herman Santiago and Joe Negroni.
The Teenagers' first single, 1956's "Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” was also their biggest hit. After Lymon went solo in mid-1957, both his career and those of the Teenagers fell into decline.
At age 25, he was found dead in his grandmother's bathroom from a heroin overdose. His life inspired the 1998 film, Why Do Fools Fall In Love?.
Here is Lymon performs “Goody, Goody.”
Image of the serpent by Currier & Ives
In 1895 — 128 years ago today — the New York Times reported a sighting of a giant sea serpent off the shore at Spring Lake, New Jersey.
There were other sightings too in the New York City area, including several at the Brooklyn Bridge.
Phillip N. Jackson, vice president of the Newark Electric Light and Power Co., said he saw the creature — which traveled through the water at great speed and was about 100 feet long.
A number of folds in the creature’s body were plainly seen as it rose and fell, Jackson said.
Another witness told Scientific American that the body of the long creature was as large around as a flour barrel. “The nose and mouth resembled those of an alligator, but there were no tentacles to be seen. The body was smooth and round and of dark color,” the witness, Willard P. Shaw of 41 Wall Street, said.
Shaw also said the creature was about 100 feet long and travelled about 50 miles an hour and jumped from the water several times.
Johnny Cash, Last Portrait, September 8, 2003
Photo by Marty Stuart
“I was over at (Johnny’s) house and I had just been to Folsom, California. I had been given a gate pass to go to the prison to see where he made his Folsom Prison album, and at that point I was just looking for anything to talk to him about — we recorded, we talked, just anything to keep him entertained, because June had recently passed away. So I went next door to have a cup of coffee and just share with him my impressions of Folsom Prison.
I started a song and I took it next door to John, and we actually wrote this song called ‘Hangman’ that we did on a record called Ghost Train, and it was the last song that he ever wrote. We just finished this song together. And he was sitting there in his chair looking so pretty in the light, the late-afternoon light was coming in from behind and I said, ‘JR, let me take your picture.’ I knew he didn't want to, but he let me. There were three frames. In the first two, he just kind of looked tired and weary, but on the third frame I said, ‘JR!’ and he sat up straight and pulled on that black collar, and he became Johnny Cash. Four days later, he was gone.”
— Marty Stuart