Soul and R&B singer Joe Simon is 80 years old today
Joe Simon is 80 years old today.
Simon is a soul and R&B musician who scored three #1 hits on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart between 1969 and 1975.
Born in Simmesport, Louisiana, Simon was similar to many other African-American artists from the era. He began singing in his father's Baptist church. He pursued his vocal abilities full-time once the family moved to Richmond (near Oakland, California) in the late 1950s.
There Simon joined the Golden West Gospel Singers and became influenced by Sam Cooke and Arthur Prysock. With this, the group decided to turn secular and recorded, "Little Island Girl," as the Golden Tones in 1959.
Hush Records label owners Gary and Carla Thompson urged Simon to record on his own, and in 1964 Simon scored considerable success on the Vee-Jay label with "My Adorable One." Simon scored again in 1965 on the Chicago-based label with "Let's Do It Over," which landed a #13 spot on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart.
However, the Vee-Jay label folded soon after the latter song's release and Simon found himself traveling across the country singing. He caught the eye of Nashville R&B disc jockey John Richbourg (“John R” on WLAC) during this time, and Richbourg not only became Simon's manager/record producer but also brought the singer to Monument Records' subsidiary label, Sound Stage 7, in 1966.
That year Simon released "Teenager's Prayer," which peaked at #11 on Billboard's R&B chart. Within the next two years, Simon released a string of hits: "(You Keep Me) Hanging On," "The Chokin' Kind" (Billboard Hot 100 #13), "Farther On Down The Road" and "Yours Love."
Under the encouragement of Richbourg, Simon moved to the Polydor distributed Spring Records label in 1970, which paired Simon with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. The team scored a #3 R&B hit in 1971 with "Drowning In The Sea of Love" and a #1 R&B hit in the summer of 1972 with "Power Of Love." Both songs reached #11 on the Hot 100.
"Drowning In The Sea of Love" sold over 1.5 million copies. "Power of Love," written by Gamble, Huff and Simon was Simon's third million seller in 1972.
In the late 1970s/early 1980s, Simon decided to remove his tenor/bass-baritone voice from the secular music world and devote it and his life to Christianity. He began evangelist preaching in Flossmoor, Illinois.
In 1983, he produced the album, Lay My Burden Down, for former Davis Sisters second lead, Jackie Verdell. Simon released a gospel album, This Story Must Be Told, in the late 1990s.
In 1999, Simon was inducted as a Pioneer Award honoree by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.
Here Bishop Joe Simon performs “Amazing Grace.”
Billy Preston was born 77 years ago today.
A musician whose work included R&B, rock, soul, funk and gospel, Preston became famous first as a session musician with such artists as Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and The Beatles.
He was later successful as a solo artist with such hit pop singles as "Space Race,” "Will It Go Round in Circles" and "Nothing from Nothing.” Preston performed in a string of albums and guest appearances with artists like Eric Clapton and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Alongside Tony Sheridan, Billy Preston was the only other musician to be credited on a Beatles recording: the artists on the #1 hit "Get Back" are given as "The Beatles with Billy Preston.”
Steven Stills asked Preston if he could use Preston's phrase "if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with" in a song and created the eponymous hit.
Preston battled kidney disease in his later years, brought on by his hypertension. He received a kidney transplant in 2002, but his health continued to deteriorate.
He died at age 59 on June 6, 2006 in Scottsdale, Arizona, of complications of malignant hypertension that resulted in kidney failure and other complications.
Here, Preston performs, “That’s the Way God Planned It,” in 1973.
Booker T. Laury was born 109 years ago today.
A boogie-woogie, blues, gospel and jazz pianist and singer, Laury worked over a lengthy career with various musicians including Memphis Slim and Mose Vinson. He appeared in two films, but did not record his debut album until he was almost eighty years old.
Laury was born in Memphis and grew up with his lifelong friend, Memphis Slim. At the age of six, after helping his mother play the family's pump organ, Laury learned to play the keyboards. His barrelhouse playing style, which he developed alongside Slim, was based on the influence gained from regular Memphis performers Roosevelt Sykes, Sunnyland Slim and Speckled Red.
In the early 1930s, and in the company of the younger Mose Vinson, Slim and Laury began playing in local clubs. In 1935, Sykes suggested to Laury and Slim that they relocate to Chicago, with a view of obtaining a recording contract. Slim took up the advice, but Laury decided to remain in Memphis, where he played in gambling houses and clubs for decades.
Laury had a large hand-width, which enabled him to span ten keys. His playing dexterity was such that, after losing one finger on his left hand following an accident with a circular saw in the 1950s, he was still able to play well.
Based around Memphis' Beale Street, as that area started to degenerate, Laury traveled around Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri. Despite differing fortunes, the friendship with Slim did not diminish over the years, up to Slim's death in 1988.
Laury finally recorded his debut album in his late seventies. A full band concert was recorded in 1980. A 1980 Paris concert was released by Indigo Records in France. In the 1989 Dennis Quaid film, Great Balls of Fire!, the plot had a young Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart, look into a juke joint to see Laury playing "Big Legged Woman." This attention led to Laury having the opportunity to record later in his life.
Laury appeared in the 1992 documentary film, Deep Blues: A Musical Pilgrimage to the Crossroads. In the film, Laury played "Memphis Blues" in his own living room.
In 1994, Bullseye Blues Records issued Nothin' But the Blues, an album of Laury's voice and piano, performing ten of his own compositions.
The same year, the Austrian label, Wolf Records released a live album, containing concert recordings made in 1987.
Laury died of cancer, in September, 1995 in Memphis, at the age of 81.
Here, Laury performs “Big Legged Woman” as Piano Slim in the 1989 Jerry Lewis biopic, Great Balls of Fire.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s classic jazz-inflected album, East-West, was released 57 years ago.
The album features traditional blues covers and the guitar work of Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop, who also contributed guitar solos. Drummer Sam Lay had left the band due to illness and was replaced by the more jazz-oriented, Billy Davenport.
One result was the inclusion of two all-instrumental extended jams at the instigation of Bloomfield, following the group's successful appearance at The Fillmore in San Francisco during March alongside Jefferson Airplane.
Both reflected his love of jazz, as "Work Song" had become a hard bop standard, and the title track, "East-West," used elements of modal jazz as introduced by Miles Davis on his ground-breaking album, Kind of Blue.
Bloomfield had become enamored of work by John Coltrane in that era, especially his incorporation of ideas from Indian raga music. The album also included Michael Nesmith's song, "Mary, Mary," which Nesmith would soon record with his band, The Monkees.
“East-West” is part of the music that sparked the West Coast's rock revolution, in which song structures with extended improvisatory passages became commonplace.
The band members appearing on the album were all inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
In William Allen Rogers's 1904 cartoon, Roosevelt's big stick is used in a recreation of an episode in Gulliver's Travels
On this day in 1901 — 122 years ago — Vice President Theodore Roosevelt gave us one of the most famous entries in our national lexicon.
“Speak softly and carry a big stick,” Roosevelt said in a speech at the Minnesota State Fair, using a day in the heartland to help define a new role for the federal government in the world.
Four days later, President William McKinley was shot by an assassin. McKinley’s death eight days later elevated Roosevelt to the presidency.
As governor of New York, Roosevelt had used similar words in a letter to a friend, as he explained how he forced the state’s Republican leaders to abandon their support for a corrupt insurance commissioner. Roosevelt attributed the phrase, which came to refer to U.S. dominance, to a proverb he learned while on a safari in Africa.
He also added “bully pulpit,” “muck raker” and “loose cannon” to our civic lingo. “Lunatic fringe” was his characterization of a group of avant-garde artists. Speaking more softly, Roosevelt gave us “Alice blue,” a tint named for his daughter Alice, and inspired “teddy bear,” after a toymaker was moved by the president’s refusal to shoot a cub on a hunting trip.
And the term “White House”? That was his, too. It was known as the Executive Mansion until he moved in.
Thanks New York Times!
Marge Champion, dancer, choreographer and actress, was born 104 years ago today.
At a young age, she was hired as a dance model for Walt Disney Studios animated films. Later she performed as an actress and dancer in film musicals, and in 1957 had a TV show based on song and dance. She has also done creative choreography for liturgy, and served as a dialog and movement coach for the 1978 TV miniseries, The Awakening Land, set in the late 18th century in the Ohio Valley.
Champion was born Marjorie Celeste Belcher in 1919 in Los Angeles to Hollywood dance director, Ernest Belcher, and his wife, Gladys Lee Baskette. She had an older half sister, Lina Basquette, who was already acting in silent films at the age of twelve. She was the daughter of her mother's first husband, Frank Baskette, who committed suicide.
Marjorie began dancing at an early age as her sister had done. By the age of twelve, she became a ballet instructor at her father's studio. She was hired by Walt Disney Studios as a dance model for their animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Her movements were copied to enhance the realism of the animated Snow White figure.
Belcher later modeled for characters in other animated films, including the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio (1940), Maid Marion in Robin Hood and the Dancing Hippo in Fantasia.
In 1947, she married another dancer, Gower Champion (1919–1980). They had two sons, Blake and actor, Gregg Champion. They divorced in 1973.
She married director Boris Sagal on January 1, 1977. He was killed on May 22, 1981, in an accident during the production of the miniseries, World War III. He was the father of actress Katey Sagal.
Together as a dance team, the Champions performed in MGM musicals of the 1940s and 50s, including Show Boat (1951) and Everything I Have Is Yours (1952). MGM wanted the couple to remake Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films, but only one, Lovely to Look At (1952), a remake of Roberta (1935), was completed. The couple refused to remake any of the others, the rights to which were still owned by RKO.
During the summer of 1957, the Champions had their own TV series, The Marge and Gower Champion Show, a situation comedy with song and dance numbers. Marge played a dancer and Gower a choreographer. Real-life drummer Buddy Rich was featured as a fictional drummer named Cozy.
Champion has also worked as a dance instructor and choreographer in New York City.
In 1982, she made a rare television acting appearance on the dramatic TV series, Fame, playing a ballet teacher with a racial bias against African-American students. In 2001, she appeared as Emily Whitman in a Broadway revival of Follies.
Champion died on October 21, 2020, at her son's home in Los Angeles. She was 101.
Here, Marge and Gower Champion perform “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” from the 1952 film, Lovely to Look At.
Robert Lee Dickey — “Bobby Purify” of the R&B group, James and Bobby Purify — was born 84 years ago today.
James and Bobby Purify’s biggest hit was "I'm Your Puppet" in 1966, which reached #6 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and in a re-recorded version #12 in the UK Singles Chart (in April 1976). The song was written by Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn.
Another hit was "Let Love Come Between Us" in 1967, which reached #23 in the U.S.
The original "Bobby Purify" (Robert Lee Dickey) was replaced by a second "Bobby Purify" (Ben Moore) in the 1970s.
The vocal duo of James Lee Purify (born May 12, 1944, Pensacola, Florida) and his cousin, Robert Lee Dickey, formed in 1965. Dickey had previously worked as a guitarist with the Dothan Sextet. The duo were signed by Don Schroeder to Bell Records in 1966, with Dickey taking his cousin's surname as a stage name.
They had immediate success with "I'm Your Puppet," produced by Dan Penn at the FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The record, released in September, 1966, spent 14 weeks on the U.S. chart and sold an estimated one million copies.
Although "I'm Your Puppet" was their biggest hit, they had several further successes on both the Hot 100 and R&B chart in the U.S. in the late 1960s, including a revival of "Shake a Tail Feather," originally by The Five Du-Tones, and "Let Love Come Between Us."
Oliver's cover of the twosome's 1968 hit, "I Can Remember," reached the Top 25 of the Billboard Easy Listening Chart in mid-summer of 1970.
The duo continued to record and tour together until 1971, when Dickey retired from the music business for health reasons and returned to Tallahassee. There he worked as a city maintenance supervisor as well as singing and playing guitar with his church and as a member of the Bethlehem Male Singers.
Dickey died at age 72 in Tallahassee on Dec. 29, 2012.
James Purify then worked as a solo singer until 1974, when Penn introduced him to Ben Moore (James B. Moore, born 1941, Atlanta, Georgia). Moore had previously worked with Otis Redding, James Brown and as a member of Jimmy Tig and the Rounders, before forming half of the duo Ben and Spence, who recorded for Atlantic Records in the 1960s.
Moore adopted the stage name "Bobby Purify," and the duo toured together until the 1980s. They re-recorded "I'm Your Puppet," which became a #12 hit in the UK in 1976, and an album, Purify Bros.
Moore began recording as a solo singer for Mercury Records in 1977, and (as "Bobby Purify") released an album, Purified, in 1979. He also continued to tour as half of the duo with James Purify.
In 1998, Moore went blind from severe glaucoma and completely dropped out of the music industry. With the encouragement of Ray Charles, however, he returned to performing and recording. Following a new Bobby Purify album, the Dan Penn-produced, Better To Have It, in 2005, he joined the gospel band, the Blind Boys of Alabama.
Dickey told The Tallahassee Democrat newspaper in 2000 that he never liked "I'm Your Puppet."
"I hated it," Dickey told the newspaper when he was honored as part of a Florida rock and roll exhibition held at the Museum of Florida History. "It was originally intended to be the B-side. But things got changed ... I sang it for 23 hours straight (in the studio), that's why I hate it."
Here, James and Bobby Purify perform “I’m Your Puppet” in 1966.
Aldous Huxley opening the door of perception
Photo by Cecil Beaton, 1936