Categotry Archives: Musicians

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Dwight Wilson

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Categories: Military, Musicians

dwilson.jpgPercy “Dwight” Wilson, a Canadian World War I veteran, died on May 9. Cause of death was not released. He was 106.
Wilson was born on Feb. 26, 1901 in Vienna, a hamlet outside of London, Ontario. When World War I began, he felt honor-bound to serve his country and fight against the Germans. After finishing the 10th grade, Wilson trained as a mounted bugler in the local militia. In 1916, he lied about his age to enlist in the 69th Artillery Battery in Toronto as a bugler-trumpeter. At 15, he was a full three years shy of the legal minimum.
Wilson did his basic training in Camp Niagara and Camp Petawawa in Ontario before getting shipped overseas. During the grueling two-week voyage aboard the R.M.S. Grampian, the teen tried to calm his seasickness by singing for the other members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
Once he arrived in England, Wilson’s superiors quickly realized he was underage. Instead of sending him to the front lines in France, they ordered Wilson to dig trenches in Dover. However, his trumpeting skills were put to good use; each morning he’d rouse his fellow soldiers at sunrise with “Reveille,” and each evening he’d repeat the performance to announce “lights out.” Out of the 600,000+ Canadians who fought in World War I, more than 69,000 of them died on the battlefields of Europe, and 172,000 were wounded.
In 1917, Wilson was discharged and sent back to Canada for being too young. He re-enlisted in the 69th Battery but was discharged again a year later. When World War II started in the late 1930s, Wilson served as a captain in Stratford’s 7th Perth Regiment Reserves. He offered to re-enlist in the service but was deemed too old for active duty. For his willingness to serve his country, and his repeated efforts to do so, Wilson received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal and the McCrae Medallion.
Wilson was studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto when he met singer and pianist Eleanor Dean. They wed in 1927 and remained together until her death in 1993 at the age 94. The couple had two sons, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Wilson began working for Bell Canada in 1919 and remained with the telecommunications company until his retirement in 1966. (He collected a pension for 41 years.) Wilson also sang baritone in the Bell vocal group and performed in an inaugural broadcast when the Canadian radio network was being established. In his spare time, he enjoyed reading, singing and following the Toronto Blue Jays and Maple Leafs.
With Wilson’s death, John Babcock is now the last surviving Canadian veteran of the First World War. Babcock, a 106-year-old naturalized American citizen living in Spokane, Wash., was recently offered the option of having a state funeral with full honors when he dies. He respectfully declined the honor.

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Brad Delp

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Categories: Musicians

bdelp.jpgBradley Delp, the lead singer of the mega-platinum rock band Boston, committed suicide on March 9. He was 55.

A Boston native, Delp bought his first guitar when he was 13 years old. The purchase was inspired by a viewing of the Beatles’ appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Delp’s first band, The Iguanas, was short-lived, but he and several of its members continued playing together throughout high school as The Monks. A good portion of the band’s repertoire included songs by the Fab Four.

After graduation, Delp began working in a factory making heating coils for Mr. Coffee machines. His free time was dedicated to writing songs, honing his skills on guitar, keyboards and harp and playing gigs at local bars and clubs. In the early 1970s, Delp tried out for Boston, a rock band formed by Tom Scholz, who was an MIT student interested in experimenting with new recording methods. Scholz had auditioned numerous other singers, but he knew Delp’s powerful and distinguishable voice was exactly what the group needed in a lead vocalist.

Delp sang lead and all the harmony tracks on Boston’s first three albums, and on the band’s hits: “More Than a Feeling,” “Don’t Look Back,” “Long Time” and “Amanda.” The group’s self-titled 1976 album went platinum in three months and was widely credited as the top-selling debut in American history. The album stayed on the charts for 101 weeks and eventually sold 17 million copies. Boston was nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best New Artist” in 1977 and voted Best New Band by the readers of Rolling Stone magazine that same year.

Delp left Boston to pursue other musical interests in 1990, but he returned 12 years later to lend his voice to the band’s most recent album, “Corporate America.” He also fronted a Beatles tribute band called Beatle Juice, and sang and wrote lyrics for former Boston bandmate Barry Goudreau, Sammy Hagar and RTZ.

Although Delp planned to tour with Boston and marry his fiancee, Pamela Sullivan, this summer, he struggled with depression. On March 9, police responded to a call for help at 1:20 p.m. and found Delp dead in his Atkinson, N.H., home. Paper-clipped to the neck of his shirt was a suicide note that read: “Mr. Brad Delp. J’ai une ame solitaire. I am a lonely soul.” Delp sealed himself inside his bathroom with two charcoal grills; toxicology tests showed he died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Other notes were left at the scene, including messages warning the police of the presence of carbon monoxide and sealed envelopes addressed to Sullivan, his son John Michael and his daughter Jenna, their mother Micki Delp and another couple whose identity was not disclosed.

Unlike other lead singers of arena rock bands from the 1970s and 1980s, Delp was a teetotaler, a vegetarian and a non-drug user. The soft-spoken and humble man was often called the “nicest guy in rock ‘n’ roll.” Upon news of his death, this sentiment was posted on the Boston Website. The band’s concerts scheduled for this summer have been canceled. However, a public memorial service is planned for a future date.

Watch Delp Perform “More Than a Feeling”

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Walker Edmiston

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Categories: Actors, Hollywood, Musicians

wedmiston.jpgWalker Edmiston, a veteran actor and puppeteer who worked in Hollywood for six decades, died on Feb. 15 of complications from cancer. He was 81.
Born in St. Louis, Mo., Edmiston always had a talent for mimicry. One of the first voices he mastered and performed for his family was that of actor Lionel Barrymore. After World War II ended, Edmiston moved to Los Angeles to study acting classes at the Pasadena Playhouse and break into show business.
Edmiston was performing in a play when someone overheard one of his impressions. The 21-year-old actor was then introduced to animation pioneer Walter Lantz, who needed a replacement voice for the cartoon character Wally Walrus. Through that job, Edmiston met producer Bob Clampett and landed a $75/week gig providing voices and working a hand puppet on the classic kiddie show “Time for Beany.”
Once “Beany” ended its run, Edmiston served as the replacement host on “Fireman Fred.” His witty ad libs and creative puppetry wowed children all over Southern California, and earned him the opportunity to host his own kiddie show. “The Walker Edmiston Show,” which aired on local television in the 1950s and 1960s, featured puppets such as Calli the Cat, Kingsley the Lion and Ravenswood the Buzzard.
Over the next 20 years, Edmiston continued working in children’s television, providing the voices of characters on shows created by Sid and Marty Krofft. He gave voice to Dr. Blinkey and Orson the Vulture on “H.R. Pufnstuf,” Sparky the Firefly on “Bugaloos,” Enik on “Land of the Lost” and Sigmund Ooze on “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.” His first credited role in TV animation was as con man J. Montague Gypsum in a 1962 episode of “The Flintstones.” Edmiston later lent his vocal talents to numerous cartoons and animated films, such as “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends,” “The Smurfs,” “Jem,” “The Gummi Bears,” “Transformers” and “The Great Mouse Detective.” In recent years, he voiced Ernie the Keebler Elf on cookie and cracker commercials.
When he wasn’t doing voice work, Edmiston acted in a wide variety of TV shows, including “Maverick,” “Green Acres,” “Get Smart,” “Batman,” “The Monkees,” “The Wild Wild West,” “The Big Valley,” “Gunsmoke,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Mary Tyler Moore,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Barnaby Jones,” “Dallas,” “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “Little House on the Prairie” and “Knots Landing.” He spent nearly 20 years performing on “Adventures in Odyssey,” a radio series produced by the conservative nonprofit group Focus on the Family, and recorded two records: “Mr. Grillon,” a parody of “Gunsmoke,” and “I Dreamt I Saw Khrushchev (in a Pink Cadillac),” a novelty song released in 1959. Edmiston did half of the song in the Russian premier’s voice and the other half as Barky the Dog.
Watch a Commercial Featuring Edmiston as the Voice of Ernie the Keebler Elf

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Ruth Jefford

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Categories: Business, Musicians

Ruth Martin Jefford, Alaska’s first female commercial air taxi pilot, died on Jan. 9. Cause of death was not released. She was 92.
The Iowa native began flying when she was only 17 years old. She made her first solo flight in 1937, then married her flight instructor Jim Hurst. The couple moved to Anchorage, Alaska, in 1941 so Hurst could work for the Civil Aeronautics Authority, the predecessor of the Federal Aviation Administration. During World War II, Jefford volunteered with the Red Cross Motor Corps, helping to cover all the lights in Anchorage to avoid bombing raids by the enemy.
Jefford spent the next 60 years in the air. She was the first woman licensed to teach students at Merrill Field in Anchorage, and the first female commercial air taxi pilot in the state. Jefford was a charter member of the Alaska chapter of the Ninety-Nines (International Organization of Women Pilots), and started the International Air Taxi Service at Anchorage International Airport.
For more than two decades, she delivered mail and supplies each week to the tiny community of Skwentna, Alaska. Jefford made the 140-mile trip in her Cessna 206, and took on charter and personal flights in between each visit. She and Hurst divorced in the early 1960s. Ruth remarried a decade later, this time to Jack Jefford, the chief pilot for the FAA in Alaska. Together they opened Valley Air Transport. Jack died in 1979.
With over 10,000 hours of flying time, Jefford made her last solo flight in 1996. Ten years later, she received the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, an honor created by the FAA to honor pilots who have flown safely for at least 50 years.
Jefford’s other passion was music. A violinist since the age of 9, she attended The Chicago Conservatory of Music and studied with teachers in New York and Paris. She co-founded the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra in 1946, and served as its concertmaster for nearly 30 years. In her spare time, Jefford enjoyed sailing her boat, the Arjay, and riding motorcycles.

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Basil Poledouris

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Categories: Hollywood, Musicians

bpoledouris.jpgBasil Konstantine Poledouris, an Emmy Award-winning film composer, died on Nov. 8 of cancer. He was 61.
Born in Kansas City, Mo., Poledouris began playing the piano when he was only 7 years old. Since modern music didn’t appeal to him, he fully expected to become a concert pianist after graduating from the University of Southern California. Instead, he studied film and music with famed composer Miklos Rozsa, and found his calling.
After college, Poledouris composed music for more than 100 educational films. But his big break came in 1978 when John Milius, an old USC classmate and surfing buddy, hired him to write the score for the movie “Big Wednesday.” His collaboration with Milius continued through four more feature films.
Over the next two decades, Poledouris composed soundtracks and orchestral scores for more than 80 feature-length movies and TV shows, including action films (“Robocop” 1 and 3, “Starship Troopers”), comedies (“Hot Shots! Part Deux,” “Mickey Blue Eyes”), romances (“The Blue Lagoon,” “For Love of the Game”), thrillers (“The Hunt for Red October,” “Breakdown”) and children’s movies (“White Fang,” “Free Willy” 1 and 2). But it was his sweeping score for the 1982 sword-and-sorcery epic, “Conan The Barbarian,” that made him a legend.
Poledouris preferred to create his scores using a pencil, paper and his battered old Steinway piano. “It’s the only way I feel connected to the music. I have attempted to write on the computer and it’s a complete bust. I keep thinking it would be quicker, easier, more fun, but alas. I need to touch the material I’m working with,” he once said.
Poledouris earned an Emmy Award for creating the score for the 1989 CBS miniseries “Lonesome Dove.” Seven years later, he was commissioned to compose the opening fanfare for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Entitled “The Tradition of the Games,” the 6-minute piece was performed by the Atlanta Symphony and a 300-voice choir.
Poledouris flew to Ubeda, Spain, last July to attend a film music conference. There he was met by hundreds of screaming fans and autograph-seekers. Despite his illness, Poledouris conducted a substantial portion of his “Conan” score, a performance he considered one of his greatest achievements.
Watch a Video Tribute to Basil Poledouris
Basil Poledouris Download Music by Basil Poledouris

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