Categotry Archives: Musicians


Ed Townsend


Categories: Musicians

Ed Townsend, a successful R&B songwriter, died on Aug. 13 of heart failure. He was 74.
Townsend, who was known as “Big Papa” to his friends, started singing as a child in the church choir. He graduated from Arkansas State College, then served two years in South Korea with the Marine Corps. While overseas, Townsend honed his singing skills with a troupe of traveling minstrels.
Upon his return to the states, Townsend moved to Los Angeles where he hosted a TV show and signed with Capitol Records to record the song, “For Your Love.” The single hit #13 on the Top 40 charts.
None of Townsend’s follow-up recordings for Capitol, Liberty, Tru-Glo or Warner Brothers sold well so he became a songwriter for other artists, including Marvin Gaye, Nat King Cole and Etta James. In a career that spanned five decades, Townsend wrote over 200 songs, but he was best known for writing Gaye’s 1973 hit, “Let’s Get It On.”


Redd Stewart


Categories: Musicians

Henry Ellis Stewart, a country music singer who co-wrote Tennessee’s official song, died on Aug. 2 of complications from head injuries he suffered in a fall at his Louisville home. He was 80.
Stewart, who legally changed his first name to Redd to match his appearance, was raised in Louisville, Ky. He learned to play the banjo, piano, fiddle and guitar as a child then dropped out of junior high to perform in local bands. At 14, his first professional job was to write a jingle for a car dealer’s commercial.
In 1937, Stewart became a singer and fiddler in Pee Wee King’s Golden West Cowboys, a group that made regular appearances at the Grand Ole Opry and in Gene Autry films. During the 1940s and 1950s, Stewart signed a lifetime exclusive songwriting contract with Acuff-Rose Publications, and co-wrote numerous songs, including “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” “Slow Poke” and “You Belong to Me.”
He co-wrote “Tennessee Waltz” with King while on a road trip from Nashville to Texarkana. Patti Page’s version of the song sold millions. It was adopted as the official song of Tennessee in 1965.
Stewart was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1972.


Don Estelle


Categories: Actors, Musicians

destelle.jpgDon Estelle, the 4-foot-9-inch actor and singer who was best known for playing Gunner “Lofty” Sugden in the British comedy series “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum,” died on Aug. 2. Cause of death was not released. He was 70.
Estelle started his singing career as a boy soprano at the Holy Trinity Church in Darwen, England. After World War II ended, he moved to Manchester and joined the Manchester Kentucky Minstrels charity group. He embarked on a solo career on the North of England Club circuit where he met actor Windsor Davies. They formed a double act and toured the U.K. for four years.
His first television role was in David Croft’s show, “Dad’s Army.” Estelle had a small role in the series, and when Croft began to develop “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum,” Estelle was his first choice for the part of Lofty Sugden. The role of Sgt.-Major “Shut Up” Williams was played by Davies. “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum” aired from 1974 to 1981, and became a cult classic in Australia and New Zealand.
In 1975, a cast album was recorded. The Estelle and Davies release, “Whispering Grass,” topped the British charts and sold more than 1 million copies. They also recorded the album, “Sing Lofty,” which became one of EMI’s top 20 best-selling albums.
Estelle appeared in a variety of television programs, from “The Benny Hill Show” to ” Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He released 11 albums in his career, including “Beautiful Dreamer,” “Lonely Wine” and “The Best of Don Estelle Requests.” In 1999, Estelle published his memoirs, “Sing Lofty: Thoughts of a Gemini.”


Aaron Bell


Categories: Musicians

Samuel Aaron Bell, a bassist who performed with Duke Ellington’s orchestra, died on July 28. Cause of death was not released. He was 82.

When he was a child, Bell’s mother taught him to play the piano. In high school, he learned the trumpet and the tuba, and in college, he mastered the double bass. During World War II, Bell played in Navy bands then joined the Andy Kirk Orchestra and moved to New York City.

In between performances, Bell took classes at New York University and recorded music with John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday and Cab Calloway.

In the 1950s, Bell formed his own band and recorded five albums, none of which have been released on CD. Bell joined Duke Ellington’s orchestra as a bassist in 1960, and occasionally served as Ellington’s arranger.

Bell spent his later years performing in bars and clubs, and teaching music at Essex County College in Newark, N.J. At his funeral, several of his students played “Take the A Train,” the famous Ellington song that featured Bell on bass.


Sam Phillips


Categories: Musicians

sphillips.jpgSamuel Cornelius Phillips, the man who started Sun Records and discovered the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, died on July 30 of respiratory failure. He was 80.
Phillips’ first job in the music industry was as a radio engineer and disc jockey for stations in Decatur, Ala., and Nashville, Tenn. He settled in Memphis in 1952 and founded Sun Records. His goal was to record raw, up-and-coming blues and hillbilly singers and share their music with the world. The company’s motto was: “We Record Anything, Anywhere, Anytime.”
Two years after he launched the Sun label, Phillips gave a young singer from Tupelo, Miss., his big break. That singer, Elvis Presley, produced his first album with Sun Records, and released the singles “That’s All Right (Mama)” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”
Phillips sold Presley’s contract in 1955 to RCA for $35,000, and focused his attention on producing other artists, including Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Conway Twitty. That same year, the Carl Perkins’ song, “Blue Suede Shoes,” became Sun’s first certified million-seller.
In 1969, Phillips sold Sun Records to Shelby Singleton and returned to the business of running radio stations in Memphis and Alabama. In his later years, Phillips was inducted into the Rock and Roll and Country Music Halls of Fame.
Listen to an NPR Interview With Phillips

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