Categotry Archives: Musicians


Jeff Healey

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Categories: Musicians

jhealey.jpgNorman Jeff Healey, a Grammy-nominated singer and musicologist, died on March 2 of lung cancer. He was 41.

Born and raised near Toronto, Healey was diagnosed with a rare form of retinal cancer when he was only one years old. The disease, known as retinoblastoma, claimed his eyesight.

Blindness could not halt Healey’s passion for music. At three, he picked up his first guitar and taught himself to play by laying the instrument across his lap. In his teens, Healey continued to hone his guitar skills while also learning how to play the trumpet and the clarinet. He graduated from Etobicoke Collegiate Institute, performed in several bands, studied musical theory and emulated musicians such as B.B. King, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. He would eventually share a stage with King as well as George Harrison, Ringo Starr, ZZ Top, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

Healey formed The Jeff Healey Band in 1985. The group performed hundreds of concerts over a two-year period before signing with Arista Records and recording “See the Light.” The album, which featured the hit single “Angel Eyes,” went platinum in the United States and eventually sold two million copies worldwide. “See the Light” also earned Healey a Grammy nomination and the 1990 Juno Award for Entertainer of the Year. In 1989, The Jeff Healey Band performed their bluesy brand of rock music in the movie “Road House,” starring Patrick Swayze. Soon they were filling stadium venues with thousands of fans.

Healey also had a love for jazz, a genre of music he concentrated on in the 1990s. He once again picked up the trumpet, and recorded several albums with his jazz band, Jeff Healey’s Jazz Wizards. Healey also hosted the radio show “My Kinda Jazz” on CBC Radio and on Toronto’s Jazz-FM station, and operated two clubs in Toronto. His final album, “Mess of Blues,” which he recorded with the Healey’s House Band, will be released on March 20 in Europe and on April 22 in North America.

The cancer that plagued Healey in infancy returned in 2006. The husband and father of two underwent numerous operations to remove tumors from his lungs and leg, as well as aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatments, but the disease continued to wreak havoc on his body. Healey fought the cancer physically and spiritually, but also musically, giving concerts that raised money for Daisy’s Eye Cancer Research Fund.

Two memorial concerts are scheduled to be held in May in Toronto. Information on tickets and acts will be posted on Healey’s Website. Later this year, Stony Plain will reissue two of his jazz albums, “Among Friends” and “Adventures in Jazzland.”

The Jeff Healey Band Remembering Jeff Healey


John Wallowitch

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Categories: Musicians

jwallowitch.jpgJohn Wallowitch, a Broadway songwriter and composer who penned more than 2,000 songs, died on Aug. 15 of bone cancer. He was 81.
The Philadelphia native was only seven years old when he wrote “Waiting on Passyunk Bridge,” a song about committing suicide over unrequited love. He had hoped to become a high school music teacher when he grew up, but World War II altered his plans. Wallowitch joined the Army and served his enlistment in the United States singing in USO clubs.
After the war ended, Wallowitch attended Temple University for a short time, then moved to New York City to study classical piano at the Juilliard School of Music. He attended the prestigious institution on scholarship, supporting himself by playing piano for dance classes and coaching singers. He made his debut at the Carnegie Recital Hall, then traveled all over Europe, performing concerts for the State Department. When he returned to the states, he became a rehearsal pianist for Broadway shows, a nightclub singer and a professional songwriter.
Over the course of his five-decade career, Wallowitch played in many of Gotham’s top cabaret rooms, performing original songs like “Bruce,” “Manhattan, You’re a Dream,” “I See the World Through Your Eyes” and “Back on the Town.” He had a long-running hit revue called “The World of Wallowitch” and released seven albums. Wallowitch also coached aspiring performers and penned songs that were recorded by Tony Bennett, Blossom Dearie, Doc Severinson, Dixie Carter and Shirley Horn.
Beginning in 1980, Wallowitch produced a late-night public-access TV show called “John’s Cabaret,” which featured him singing songs from Tin Pan Alley and Hollywood that he found at yard sales and memorabilia shows. Tapes of the shows are ensconced in the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archive at Lincoln Center.
Wallowitch and his longtime partner Bertram Ross, who was Martha Graham’s principal dance partner, made their debut as a cabaret team in 1984 at The Ballroom in SoHo. John S. Wilson of The New York Times described the act as “hilarious, outrageous, sublime.” Their 34-year romance, both on-stage and off, was the subject of the 1999 documentary “Wallowitch & Ross: This Moment.” Ross died in 2003.
The talented songwriter won both the MAC and the Bistro Award for Composer of the Year. But friends say he was best known for his natty style of dress, self-proclaimed obsession with Joan Rivers and wicked sense of humor.
Each year on Christmas Eve, Wallowitch would honor his mentor, Irving Berlin, by gathering a group of friends together to sing “White Christmas” in front the lyricist’s home. In 1983, Berlin came out and told Wallowitch the annual concert was the nicest Christmas present he ever received. The tradition continued for 36 years. After Berlin’s death in 1989, the home was taken over by the Luxembourg consulate. Charmed by the holiday performance, delegates invited Wallowitch and the other carolers inside to perform in Berlin’s former library.


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.


Brad Delp


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”


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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