Categotry Archives: Musicians

by

B.B. King

No comments yet

Categories: Musicians

Legendary blues musician B.B. King died on May 14 in Las Vegas. Cause of death was not released. He was 89.

Born Riley B. King in Berclair, Mississippi, and raised by his grandmother, the future “King of the Blues” purchased his first guitar for $15 when he was just 12 years old. He dropped out of school in the 10th grade, and spent much of his early years picking cotton and working as a tractor driver.

While he began singing in a gospel choir at church, the blues took root in King during his teen years. The blues is considered by many to be the only truly indigenous American music, and over time, King would become its foremost ambassador.

After a short stint in the Army during World War II, King returned home to work as a farmer. But a tractor accident prompted him to give up that life, and start another in Memphis. There, King officially launched his musical career in the late 1940s.

He honed his vibrato style of playing, worked steady gigs at a string of clubs, got his first real break on Sonny Boy Williamson’s “King Biscuit Time” radio show and hosted a 10-minute program on WDIA as “the Beale Street Blues Boy,” a name he eventually shortened to Blues Boy and then B.B. King. Over the next seven decades, King produced dozens of albums for various labels and released a string of hits (“The Thrill Is Gone,” “3 O’Clock Blues,” “You Know I Love You,” “Woke Up This Morning,” “Every Day I Have The Blues,” “Sweet Little Angel”) that helped to define the genre’s post-war sound, Variety reported.

Although he originally played to all-black audiences, King’s distinctive voice soon won him fans the world over. Between the release of his landmark album “Live at the Regal” in 1965 — which would later be declared a recording worthy of preservation by the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry — and the charting of his 1969 LP “Live and Well,” King became a true star. And by the late 1960s, he was making appearances on the “Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Tonight Show.”


Playing on a Gibson ES-355 guitar he lovingly named Lucille, King would weave a musical tapestry of heartfelt soul and pain that masterfully fused elements of blues and jazz. These passionate sounds would not only enrapture audiences but influence many other artists, including Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix.

“When I’m singing, I don’t want you to just hear the melody,” King told the AP in 2006. “I want you to relive the story, because most of the songs have pretty good storytelling.”

King won the first of his 15 Grammy Awards in 1951 and joined the Grammy Hall of Fame 47 years later. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and the R&B Music Hall of Fame in 2014. Rolling Stone magazine also ranked him at No. 3 in its 2003 list of the 100 greatest guitarist of all time.


In the 1990s, King launched a chain of blues clubs bearing his name in cities across the U.S. The venues featured live bands and a full menu of Southern-inspired comfort food, as well as frequent performances by the man himself. A Delta blues museum in Indianola, Mississippi, that aims to “preserve and share the legacy and values of B.B. King,” also bears his name.

When he wasn’t making music, King loved to fly. He was a licensed pilot and until he turned 70, would fly himself to many of his gigs. The indefatigable performer was known for appearing in 250 to 300 concerts a year well into his 70s. Only declining health made him cut back his workload to about 100 shows annually, and those were not as well-received as his earlier shows. King officially launched a “farewell” world tour in 2006, yet remained active until almost the very end, appearing on television programs and in music festivals.

King’s life was chronicled in the 2012 documentary, “The Life Of Riley,” which was narrated by Morgan Freeman and included appearances and contributions from Aaron Neville, Bono, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Willis, Carlos Santana, George Benson, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Ringo Starr, Slash and Susan Tedeschi. He also told his own tale in the autobiography, “Blues All Around Me.”

“B.B. King taps into something universal,” Clapton told The Los Angeles Times in 2005. “He can’t be confined to any one genre. That’s why I’ve called him a ‘global musician.’”

A smart dresser, King preferred to appear on stage wearing a suit or tuxedo, patent leather shoes and diamond rings. Yet unlike other musical artists, he eschewed drugs and alcohol. He did, however, enjoy gambling, the Telegraph reported, and would hit the casinos in Las Vegas whenever he could.

King was married twice, though both unions ended in divorce, reportedly due to the demands of his touring schedule. He was the father to 15 children and a grandfather dozens of times over.


–Originally published in The Huffington Post.

by

Jimi Jamison

No comments yet

Categories: Musicians

Jimi JamisonJimmy Wayne “Jimi” Jamison, the lead singer of the 1980s arena rock band Survivor, died on Aug. 31 of a heart attack. He was 63.

The band’s official Facebook page shared the news of Jamison’s death on Monday: “The entire Survivor family is very shocked and saddened by the passing of our brother Jimi Jamison. Our thoughts, love and prayers go out to his family and friends.”

Born in Mississippi and raised in Memphis, Jamison was just 13 years old when he first performed in public. Even at such a young age, he’d found his calling.

Jamison spent the 1970s and early 1980s as the frontman for the hard rock bands Target and Cobra. He also provided back-up vocals for numerous recording artists, including ZZ Top and Joe Walsh.

When vocal problems caused Survivor lead singer Dave Bickler to leave the band, numerous people tried out for the gig. But it was Jamison who landed the coveted job of performing alongside guitarist Frankie Sullivan, keyboardist Jim Peterik, bassist Stephan Ellis and drummer Marc Droubay.

Although Jamison originally joined Survivor in 1983, the charismatic performer would leave and return many times over the next few decades. However, when there was harmony between the bandmates, the music shined.

Jamison’s first Survivor release was “The Moment of Truth,” a song that didn’t fare well on the radio but became the theme for the hit movie ‘The Karate Kid.” His debut album with the band was much more successful; “Vital Signs” (1984) went platinum and spun off several hits, including the rock ballads “I Can’t Hold Back,” “High On You” and “The Search Is Over.”

“I’m stronger on ballads,” Jamison told The Los Angeles Times in 1985. “I like to sing them more than anything else but I didn’t get much of a chance before. I wanted to sing more ballads. Being in this group is just right for me.”

Survivor’s biggest hit, “Eye of the Tiger” — which sold over 2.5 million copies, topped the Billboard Hot 100 and became an athletic anthem as part of the soundtrack for “Rocky III” — was released two years before Jamison joined the band. During the next 30 years, he would perform the soaring tune countless times in concert, much to the joy of fans. He also recorded the vocals for “Burning Heart,” a song that appeared on the “Rocky IV” soundtrack.

After Survivor disbanded in 1989, Jamison decided to focus on a solo career. He released two albums, “When Love Comes Down” (1991) and “Empires” (1999), and cowrote and sang “I’m Always Here,” which became the theme for the the TV show “Baywatch.”

Survivor reunited in 1993, with former lead singer Dave Bickler back on the mic. But Jamison reunited with the band in 2000, remained for six years, left for five and then returned again in 2011. He performed his last Survivor show on Saturday night in Morgan Hill, Calif., The Arizona Republic reported.

Singer/songwriter Richard Marx took to Twitter to remember Jamison.

“So sad to hear of Jimi Jamison’s sudden passing,” Marx wrote. “Just saw him last December at a benefit. He was a kind and talented man.”

Guitarist Paul Sidoti also praised Jamison’s singing talents.

“RIP Jimi Jamison.. Your incredible vocal talents fronting Survivor were a big part of my childhood.. May you sing with the angels,” Sidoti said.

In a statement released to the public, Jamison’s family described him as friendly and caring.

“Jimi was a friend to everyone he met. He was a loving father and grandfather and was always a person who valued people more than anything else,” the family stated.

Photo by James L. Dickerson. Used with permission.

–Originally published in The Huffington Post.

by

Chris Kelly

No comments yet

Categories: Musicians, Uncategorized

Chris KellyChris “Mac Daddy” Kelly, one-half of the 1990s rap duo Kris Kross, died May 1 of an apparent drug overdose. He was 34.

Kelly and his partner Chris Smith (a.k.a. “Daddy Mac”), were only 13 years old in 1991 when they were discovered by music producer and rapper Jermaine Dupri while performing at the Greenbriar Mall in their hometown of Atlanta. Dupri’s label, So So Def, signed the boys and sent them into the studio to record their first album.

As Kris Kross, the pair rocketed to stardom a year later with the release of the single “Jump.” The song spent eight weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, became an aerobics anthem and helped their debut album “Totally Krossed Out” go multiplatinum.

Soon Kris Kross was opening for pop star Michael Jackson on his Dangerous World Tour and appearing as guests on numerous TV programs. They recorded the “Rugrats Rap” for Nickelodeon and were listed at number 90 on VH1’s roundup of “The 100 Greatest Kid Stars.”

Kris Kross became a force in fashion as well; the duo was known for wearing their clothes backward during performances, and for a time many youths copied the trend. But it was the combination of their energy and mature rapping skills that earned Kris Kross a strong fan base.

Although future albums failed to match the success of “Totally Krossed Out,” Kris Kross continued to make music for several years, releasing “Da Bomb” in 1993 and “Young, Rich and Dangerous” in 1996. Kelly and Smith recently performed together in February for the So So Def 20th Anniversary All-Star Concert. Other than his talent for rapping, Kelly played the piano and dreamed of running his own record company someday.

Dupri described Kelly as a hard worker and the son he never had.

“His understanding of what we set out to do, from day one was always on point. His passion for the music, his love for doing shows, his want to [be] better than everyone else, was always turnt [sic] up,” Dupri said in a statement.

Smith said Kelly was not only his music partner, but his best friend.

“I love him and will miss him dearly,” Smith said in a statement. “Our friendship began as little boys in first grade. We grew up together. It was a blessing to achieve the success, travel the world and entertain Kris Kross fans all around the world with my best friend. It is what we wanted to do and what brought us happiness. I will always cherish the memories of the C-Connection. KRIS KROSS FOREVER, the ‘MAC DADDY’ and ‘DADDY MAC.'”

On Wednesday evening, Kelly was found unresponsive at his home. He was transported to Atlanta Medical Center and pronounced dead. According to his mother, Donna Kelly Pratte, Kelly had a history of using cocaine and heroin, and had recently returned home to recover from his addiction. A toxicology report is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.

by

Amy Winehouse

1 comment

Categories: Musicians

Amy Jade Winehouse, the Grammy Award-winning soul singer who spent years struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, was found dead in her London home on July 23. Cause of death is under investigation. She was 27.

Born in 1983 to taxi driver Mitch and his pharmacist wife Janis, Winehouse was raised in a middle class neighborhood in northern London. Around the time she turned 10, Winehouse formed a rap group with her best friend called Sweet ‘n’ Sour (she was Sour). While school didn’t interest her — she was expelled from the prestigious Sylvia Young Theatre School for piercing her nose — music did and by the time she was 12, she had picked up a guitar and immersed herself in the sounds of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington.

Although Winehouse was still in her teens when she cut her demo, it soon found a home at Universal Island Records. Her critically acclaimed debut album, “Frank,” did well in Britain — earning her nominations in 2003 for best female singer and best urban act at the Brit Awards — but the jazz-tinged record was never released in the United States. It did, however, showcase her extraordinary voice and songwriting skills, and earned her an Ivor Novello award and a spot on the shortlist for the Mercury Music Prize.

In 2006, her sophomore effort, “Back to Black,” rocketed Weinhouse to international stardom. The quasi-autobiographical album sold 3 million copies worldwide and won five Grammy Awards. Fans have been waiting for Weinhouse’s much-anticipated third album for five years. To date, it has not been released.

Weinhouse’s look was a unique combination of retro pop star and modern hard rocker. Her towering ebony beehive, heavy cat-eye makeup and multiple tattoos made her a much-copied fashion icon, yet she dismissed that label. “I just dress like…I’m an old Jewish black man. I just dress like it’s still the ’50s,” she once told Harper’s Bazaar Magazine. Winehouse would eventually collaborate with British brand Fred Perry on a 17-piece clothing and accessories collection.

Privately, Winehouse suffered from insecurity and depression. But it wasn’t until she began getting drunk and high that these traits became a liability. Her downward spiral was ubiquitous; she became intoxicated onstage and got arrested for possessing drugs and attacking people off-stage. The self-destruction knew few bounds; she rarely slept, grew skeletal from eating disorders and began cutting. During one interview, she even used a shard of mirror to carve her boyfriend’s name into her stomach.

Winehouse’s biggest hit was “Rehab,” which she wrote in response to pressure from her label to go into treatment, but the years of abusing cocaine, crack, ecstasy, ketamine, valium, marijuana and alcohol eventually affected her ability to sing. In recent years, many of her fans began booing her half-hearted concerts and demanded their money back. Multiple stints in rehab and encounters with police led promoters to cancel her tour dates.

The spotlight of celebrity revealed the troubled singer’s successes and failures, and the paparazzi documented her very public breakdown. Yet Winehouse never cared for fame. “If I had my choice, I’d be a roller-skating waitress in the middle of nowhere, singing songs to my husband while I’m cooking grits somewhere,” she told The Washington Post in 2007. “What I’m doing I’m so grateful to be doing — it’s so exciting, so fun. But I’ve never been the kind of girl who knocks on someone’s door and says, ‘Make me famous.'”

Along with her struggles with addiction, Winehouse made headlines for her abusive relationship to former music video producer Blake Fielder-Civil. During their two-year marriage, Winehouse and Fielder-Civil fought constantly, and frequently appeared in public looking bloodied and bruised from their altercations. The couple divorced in 2009.

Photo by Fionn Kidney.

by

Elmer Lynn Hauldren

1 comment

Categories: Business, Musicians

“5-8-8 2-300. Empire!”

For much of the past four decades, just about everyone living in or near Chicago knew that telephone number. They knew Empire sold carpets. They knew the company spokesman on sight because he’d appeared in more than 1,000 television commercials. Between ball games, soap operas and local newscasts, The Empire Man was always there.

Elmer Lynn Hauldren — The Empire Man — died on April 26. Cause of death was not released. He was 89.

The St. Louis native served as an Army radio operator in Asia during World War II. Upon his return to the states, Hauldren worked at Young & Rubicam, Bozell Jacobs and DDB Needham as an advertising copywriter. One of his clients was the flooring company, Empire.

In the 1970s, Empire decided to try a new approach to promoting its brand. After several unsuccessful auditions, Empire’s former owner, Seymour Cohen, asked the soft-spoken Hauldren to be the company’s pitchman. Tapping into his advertising background, Hauldren created The Empire Man character, who was part-carpet installer and part-blue collar superhero. He also wrote the well-known jingle and sang it with the a cappella group The Fabulous 40s. Over time, TV viewers became so accustomed to seeing Hauldren in the Empire ads that many assumed he actually owned the company.

When Empire expanded its services nationwide, The Empire Man became a pop culture icon. He was so famous that a line of Bobblehead dolls featuring his face was created. In 2007, he even threw out the first pitch at Wrigley Field on “Empire Day.”

Hauldren continued to promote Empire products in radio and TV commercials until his death. The most recent ads feature an animated version of Hauldren, for which he provided the voice.

Privately, Hauldren’s passion was music. He recorded several albums with the doctor-themed barbershop quartet Chordiac Arrest, including “Live and Well!” and “Second Opinion,” and performed with the vocal quartet Chordplay.

1 2 3 4 5 41 42