It happened this week…

This is the week that was in matters musical …

1914, avant-garde keyboardist Sun Ra is born in Birmingham, Alabama, and given the decidedly terrestrial name Herman Poole Blount … he starts out playing in R&B bands before forming his own large aggregation known as The Arkestra … throughout his career Ra will maintain that he was born on Saturn and will inject much of his music with space themes and sounds … he is among the first musicians to use electronic keyboards and synths … Arkestra performances encompass jazz standards and out-there experimental pieces … Ra’s large orchestras include many highly regarded musicians who willingly earn chump change and live communally with the leader …

1954, Robert Allen Zimmerman who will later achieve fame as Bob Dylan celebrates his bar mitzvah …

1955, Ruth Brown’s signature song “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean” is banned in Britain by the BBC on the grounds that it may encourage wife beaters … Chuck Berry records his first single, “Ida Red” … producer Leonard Chess wants a name change … the new name is “Maybellene,” inspired by a Chess secretary’s makeup case …

1960, instead of touring as the backup band for Billy Fury, the job they had been offered, The Silver Beatles wind up on tour in Scotland this week with Johnny Gentle, a Liverpool pop singer … feeling the engagement is beneath their dignity, the lads use fake names for the tour … Paul becomes Paul Ramone, George becomes Carl Harrison (a nod to Carl Perkins), and Stu Sutcliffe temporarily becomes Stu deStael … meanwhile across the water, before launching his solo career, Ben E. King cuts his final two singles with The Drifters … they are “I Count the Tears,” which tops out at #17, and “Save The Last Dance For Me,” which will score big by going all the way to the top of the pop and R&B charts …

1964, Jamaican singer Millie Small’s “My Boy Lollipop” charts for the first time … playing harmonica on the recording is an unknown British singer named Rod Stewart … the tune registers strongly because of its infectious ska-like rhythm …

1965, the Beatles record the single “Ticket to Ride” … it’s the band’s first to feature Paul McCartney on lead guitar …

1968, John Lennon and Yoko Ono make a home tape that is later released as Two Virgins … the album depicts the couple sans clothing on the cover … adding to the air of scandal, John’s wife Cynthia returns home this same day to find the pair in bed, Yoko wearing her nightshirt … John and Yoko flee to Montreal where they will begin their celebrated 10-day “bed-in” two days later …

1979, Eric Clapton and Patti Boyd are married … Boyd’s marriage to Clapton’s friend George Harrison ended in 1977 … often portrayed as a muse to both musicians, Boyd inspired Clapton to write “Layla” about his unrequited love for her, and later, “Wonderful Tonight” once they were together … three of The Beatles-Paul, Ringo, and George-are joined by Mick Jagger for a performance at the wedding reception … it is the first time since their ’69 breakup that the three have played together …

1996, moments after taking the stage at the Yokahama Blues Café in Yokahama, Japan, flamboyant Texas blues and R&B performer Johnny “Guitar” Watson collapses from a heart attack and dies shortly afterwards … Watson is noted for his crazed string-bending excursions and salty lyrics …

1998, Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee draws a six-month jail sentence for kicking his soon-to-be ex-wife Pamela Lee Anderson … Lee is also ordered to perform 200 hours of community service and donate $5,000 to a battered women’s shelter …

2000, Tom Petty files for bankruptcy protection … the move in part arises out of a dispute with his record label …

2003, a South Carolina parole board agrees to wipe the slate clean on James Brown’s lengthy rap sheet in that state … these include a 1988 drug and assault charge and a 1995 conviction for wielding a weapon while on drugs … ever the showman, The Hardest Working Man in Show Business comes to his own aid during the hearing by singing a stirring rendition of “God Bless America” …

2004, a 320-year-old, $3.5 million cello made by Antonio Stradivari is recovered days after being stolen from principal cellist Peter Stumpf of the Los Angeles Philharmonic … the cello is discovered near a trash bin by a nurse who asks her cabinetmaker husband to fashion the instrument into a CD case … fortunately she sees a news report about the missing instrument before he gets out his saw … meanwhile in Africa, during a humanitarian tour, the Canadian band Sum 41 is overrun by the Congo’s ongoing civil war, obliging the rockers to hide out in a hotel bathroom near the Rwandan border … after seven hours they make their escape in a tank … on this same day in New Hampshire, making a bizarre appearance at a casino, singer-songwriter Jewel frequently interrupts her set with long diatribes dissing the audience, fat fans, and rambling on about the drugs Zoloft and Paxil … after the show pissed-off former fans scream obscenities as the tour bus departs the venue … that same night in Fairless Pennsylvania, Pennsbury High School’s graduating class is blown away when rocker John Mayer shows up to play a three-song concert at the senior class prom … the appearance is the result of a two-year lobbying effort by the class president …

2005, rapper 50 Cent agrees to take anger-management classes and stay drug- and crime-free in a plea bargain over charges that he stomped on two female fans and punched a third during a 2004 show in Massachusetts … in other legal matters, sporting a giant afro, Phil Spector appears in L.A. Superior Court at a pretrial hearing regarding the murder of actress Lana Clarkson … the judge rules that four alleged earlier incidents in which the producer had pointed guns at women could be admitted into evidence …

2006, Paul McCartney and Heather Mills announce that their four-year marriage is splitsville and they will separate … in an announcement, the couple state, “Having tried exceptionally hard to make our relationship work given the daily pressures surrounding us, it is with sadness that we have decided to go our separate ways” …

And that was the week that was.

Arrivals:

May 17: R&B singer-pianist Sonny Knight (1934), Malcolm Hale of Spanky And Our Gang (1941), roots music master Taj Mahal born Henry Saint Clair Fredericks (1942), singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester (1944), art rock drummer Bill Bruford (1949), George Johnson of The Brothers Johnson (1953), Paul Di’anno of Iron Maiden (1959), Irish singer Enya (1961), Page McConnell of Phish (1963), Pearl Jam drummer Dave Abbruzzese (1964), NIN’s Trent Reznor (1965), Jordan Knight of New Kids on the Block (1970)

May 18: blues shouter Big Joe Turner (1911), crooner Perry Como (1918), Glen Hardin of The Crickets (1939), Bobby Del Din of The Earls (1942), Joe Bonsall of The Oak Ridge Boys (1948), Rick Wakeman of Yes (1949), Bill Wallace of The Guess Who (1949), George Strait (1952)

May 19: UK pop star Alma Cogan (1932), Pete Townshend born Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend (1945), Phil Rudd of AC/DC (1946), Blood Sweat and Tears saxman Gregory Herbert (1947), ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill (1949), Joey Ramone (1951), Grace Jones (1952), Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware (1956), Ian Harvie of Del Amitri (1962), Jenny Berggren of Ace of Base (1972)

May 20: Vic Ames of the Ames Brothers (1926), Ink Spots pianist and singer Shorty Long (1940), Jill Jackson aka Paula of Paul and Paula (1942), Joe Cocker (1944), Cher born Cherilyn Sarkisian La Pier (1946), Jimmie Henderson of Black Oak Arkansas (1954), The Go-Go’s Jane Weidlin (1958), Susan Cowsill of the Cowsills (1960), Haircut 100’s Nick Heyward (1961), Tom Garman of Belly (1966), Busta Rhymes (1972), Naturi Naughton of 3LW (1984)

May 21: jazz innovator Thomas “Fats” Waller (1904), King Records producer Henry Glover (1921), Ronald Isley (1941), Hilton Valentine of The Animals (1943), Vincent Crane of Atomic Rooster (1943), Bill Champlin of Chicago (1947), T. Rex bassist Steve Currie (1947), Leo Sayer (1948)

May 22: Wilhelm Richard Wagner (1813), Sun Ra born Sonny Blount (1914), Jimmy Keyes of The Chords (1930), Jackie Landry of The Chantels (1941), lyricist Bernie Taupin (1950), Morrissey (1959), Jesse Valenzuela of The Gin Blossoms (1962), Johnny Gill (1966), Dan Roberts of Crash Test Dummies (1967)

May 23: Vee-Jay Records co-owner Jimmy Bracken, (1908), song and dance man Scatman Crothers (1910), clarinetist Artie Shaw (1910), Billy Wright (1918), bluesman Arthur Gunter (1926), pop songstress Rosemary Clooney (1928), synth inventor Robert Moog (1934), Jim Mankey of Concrete Blond (1955), Phil Selway of Radiohead (1967), Noel Gallagher of Oasis (1968), Maxwell (1972), Jewel (1974)

Departures

May 17: longtime Grateful Dead roadie Lawrence “Ramrod” Shurtliff (2006), producer Bruce Fairbairn (1999), guitar maestro Johnny “Guitar” Watson (1996), Lawrence Welk (1992), Fats Domino guitarist Roy Montrell (1979)

May 18: jazz drumming titan Elvin Jones (2004), dub producer Augusto Pablo (1999), Robert Carr of Robert and Johnny (1993), John Fenton of The Diamonds (1982), Ian Curtis of Joy Division (1980)

May 19: Harold Kelling of Hampton Grease Band (2005), Arnold “Gatemouth” Moore (2004), Trapezoid violinist Freyda Epstein (2003), Susannah McCorkle (2001), gospel singer Odia Coates (1991), Ron Wilson of The Surfaris (1989), Gene Mumford of Billy Ward & The Dominos (1977), tenor sax master Coleman Hawkins (1969), composer Charles Ives (1954)

May 20: Italian pop singer Renato Carosone (2001), harp player Willie Foster (2001), Fly Records founder David Platz (1994), The O’Jays’ William Powell (1977), Rudy Lewis of The Drifters (1964)

May 21: Nicholas Dante co-author of A Chorus Line (1991), music biz mogul Morris Levy (1990)

May 23: session guitarist Mike Farrell (2000), God Machine bassist Jimmy Fernandez (1994), jazz guitarist Joe Pass (1993), bassist Craig Pike (1993), Shamen bassist Will Sin (1991), blues and jazz pianist Lloyd Glenn (1985), Chitlin’ Circuit comedienne Jackie “Moms” Mabley (1975)

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1 Comments

  1. It happened to me this week! I met at the launch to this wonderful new DVD of Billy Fury’s life the following and what a great group:

    John Leyton – Great Escape Actor
    Vince Eager – Billy’s flatmate
    Clem Cattini – Drummer with the Tornados. I didn’t know that he played on over 50 number one singles!
    Johnny Gentle – the only performer ever to have the Beatles as his backing band!
    Dave Vanian – lead singer with The Damned and the voiceover to the new DVD!

    Ed – The Music Man

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