Categotry Archives: Musicians


Frances Langford


Categories: Actors, Hollywood, Military, Musicians

flangford.jpgFrances Langford Evinrude Stuart, the radio, stage and screen star who entertained the troops on Bob Hope’s USO tours, died on July 11. Cause of death was not released. She was 91.
Born in Lakeland, Fla., Langford was just a teenager when bandleader Rudy Vallee heard her sing. Vallee offered her a guest spot on his radio program and helped her get a start in New York. At 18, she made her Broadway debut in the 1931 musical “Here Goes the Bride.”
Langford’s beauty and talent soon took her to Hollywood, where she launched a successful radio, TV and film career. She became a household name playing Blanche, Don Ameche’s insufferable wife, on the popular radio comedy “The Bickersons,” and appeared in more than 30 movies, including “Broadway Melody,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Born to Dance.” Langford played herself in her final film, “The Glenn Miller Story,” starring Jimmy Stewart. On television, she starred in the variety programs “Frances Langford Presents” (1959) and “The Frances Langford Show” (1960).
Langford was singing on Hope’s “Pepsodent Show” in 1941 when he produced his first military program at March Field in Riverside, Calif. Once Hope decided to take the show overseas to boost wartime morale, Langford joined his troupe. She sang in military bases and hospitals in Great Britain, Italy, North Africa, the South Pacific, Korea and Vietnam. Known as the “Sweetheart of the Fighting Fronts,” Langford wooed thousands of servicemen with songs like “Embraceable You” and “I’m in the Mood for Love.” She also wrote about her war experiences in the newspaper column, “Purple Heart Diary.”
Langford’s first husband was Jon Hall, an actor who appeared in the films “The Hurricane” and “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”; they divorced in 1954. A year later, she married her second husband, outboard motor heir Ralph Evinrude. The couple donated more than a million dollars to the Martin Memorial Medical Center and built a Polynesian-themed restaurant and marina in South Florida. Their union lasted until Evinrude’s death in 1986.
Langford wed her third husband, Harold Cutliff Stuart, an attorney and former assistant secretary of the Air Force under Harry Truman, in 1994. The Stuarts spent the past 10 years traveling aboard her 110-foot yacht, fishing and supporting various medical and environmental causes. In 2002, Langford was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame.
When asked by Larry King how she’d like to be remembered, Langford said: “Please remember me as a simple person, who loved this country, its people and especially its military servicemen and women. Our servicemen needed us and we were there. I will always consider it one of the greatest honors of my life to have entertained the troops during the war years with Bob Hope and the USO.”
Listen to Langford on “The Bickersons”
Listen to a Tribute From WQCS
Listen to a Tribute From NPR


Luther Vandross


Categories: Musicians

lvandross.jpgLuther Ronzoni Vandross, the R&B singer whose lush voice sold more than 25 million albums, died on July 1. Cause of death was not released. He was 54.
The New York native began playing the piano when he was only three years old. In his teens, Vandross fell in love with the musical stylings of Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick because he felt they had more emotional range than their male counterparts. He attended Western Michigan University for two terms, then dropped out to become a professional singer/songwriter.
Vandross’ first gigs involved writing songs for the Broadway musical “The Wiz,” and working as a singer and vocal arranger for David Bowie. He sang backup for Donna Summer, Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand, and made more than $500,000 a year writing advertising jingles for Kentucky Fried Chicken and 7-Up.
As the lead vocalist for Change, Vandross scored his first big hit with the 1980 record “The Glow of Love.” A year later, Epic Records signed him to a solo recording contract, and released “Never Too Much.” The debut album sold 2 million copies.
Over the next 25 years, Vandross’ smooth tenor would become a staple on R&B and love song dedication radio stations. He charted 22 R&B hits, including “Superstar,” “Give Me the Reason” and “Love Won’t Let Me Wait,” but scored his first Top 10 pop single in 1990 with “Here and Now.”
The romantic crooner won eight Grammy Awards: one for “Here and Now,” two for “Power of Love / Love Power,” one for “Your Secret Love,” three for “Dance With My Father” and one for his duet with Beyonc


Verne Meisner

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Categories: Musicians

LaVerne D. Meisner, a virtuoso accordionist and bandleader who was known as the “Polka King of Wisconsin,” died on June 10 from complications of melanoma. He was 66.
The Milwaukee native picked up the accordion when he was eight years old and formed his first band, Verne Meisner and the Polka Boys, when he was 11. The group had been performing at local taverns for two years when Meisner got his big break. It was 1953, and the 13-year-old musician was offered the chance to play with Frankie Yankovic, “America’s Polka King.” Yankovic was so impressed that he invited the teen to tour with his band.
Other than a single term of enlistment with the National Guard, Meisner spent the next five decades performing for polka lovers in the United States, Canada and in Europe. Known for playing in the Cleveland-style, he was a regular attraction at the Wisconsin State Fair and Dairy Expo.
Meisner recorded 20 albums and composed more than 60 songs, including the hits “Memories of Vienna” and “El Rio Drive.” He appeared on the ABC show, “In Search of America,” hosted by Peter Jennings, and was the first polka musician to win the Wisconsin Area Music Industry Award. Meisner also was inducted into five polka halls of fame.
“My dad had a knack for writing a song that people would remember. He was a genius with melody,” said Meisner’s son Steve, who continues the family’s accordion-playing legacy.
Following Meisner’s memorial service on June 21, hundreds of polka fans and musicians from across the Midwest gathered at the Whitewater American Legion building in Wisconsin to honor and remember their king.


Karl Mueller


Categories: Musicians

kmueller.jpgKarl H. Mueller, the bass guitarist of the grunge rock band Soul Asylum, died on June 17 after a yearlong battle with esophageal cancer. He was 41.
The Minneapolis native was a teenager when he visited a friend in London and became utterly fascinated by punk rock. When Mueller returned home, he hooked his classmates onto the music too. In 1981, Mueller joined forces with drummer Dave Pirner and guitarist Dan Murphy to form the punk band Loud Fast Rules. Over the next three years, Pirner switched to rhythm guitar and vocals, the trio hired the first of several drummers and the band’s name changed to Soul Asylum.
Soul Asylum recorded four albums and received airplay on college radio stations in the mid- to late-1980s, but was mostly known as the opening act for Twin Cities’ denizens the Replacements and H


Paul Hester


Categories: Musicians

phester.jpgPaul Newell Hester, the former drummer of the pop/rock band Crowded House, committed suicide on March 26. He was 46.

The Melbourne native was born to Mulga Mike Hester, a legendary bushman, and Ann Hester, a jazz drummer who taught him how to play percussion instruments at an early age. Hester’s passion for music overrode any interest in education, and he dropped out of school to pursue a career in show business.

Hester joined the New Zealand New Wave group Split Enz in 1983. Although the band dissolved less than a year later, Hester and the group’s singer/songwriter Neil Finn soon hooked up with bass player Nick Seymour and guitarist/keyboardist Craig Hooper to form the Mullanes. When Hooper left the band in 1985, the trio moved to Los Angeles, signed a record contract with Capitol Records and changed the band’s name to Crowded House.

One of Australia’s most successful bands of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Crowded House found international fame with the hits “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and “Something So Strong.” Hester quit the band in 1994, citing declining motivation and the pressures of a grueling tour schedule. The band released four studio albums before breaking up in 1996.

In recent years, Hester played with several bands, including Rose Amongst Thorns, the Chris Bailey Combo, Ultrasound, Largest Living Things and Tarmac Adam. He hosted The Music Max Sessions, a series of intimate concerts featuring top-shelf music acts, for Australia’s cable music channel Music Max, and enjoyed a recurring role as Chef Paul on the children’s TV show, “The Wiggles.” Two weeks ago, he appeared on the SBS music quiz show, “RockWiz.”

Hester took his two dogs for a walk on Friday and hanged himself from a tree in Elsternwick Park near his home in Melbourne. His body was found the next day. Hester is survived by his two daughters, aged eight and 10.

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