Gary Tate

Gary Tate

Everyone agrees on one thing: Ahmet Ertegun was far and away the most important behind-the-scenes figure in Rhythm ‘n’ Blues and Soul history. A visionary and true pioneer, his enthusiasm for Jazz and R&B was boundless, and his contributions to this art form throughout the last half of the 20th century are unprecedented. Soul, Rhythm ‘n’ Blues, Jazz, and even Rock ‘n’ Roll prospered under the auspices of his singular ability to spot, nurture, and produce talen …

Pookie Hudson, lead vocalist of the Spaniels, passed away recently at age 72 after battling lung cancer for a couple years. Until the very end, he was totally engaged in his life’s calling, still performing and recording throughout 2006, and thrilling fans who have been delighting to his artistry for over a half century. The Spaniels signature tune was "Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight". An R&B smash in 1954, the McGuire Sisters bland rush copy stormed …

Napoleon "Chico" Chism, one of the most well traveled and busiest blues drummers of the 20th century, passed away Jan 28, 2007 at age 79. His health had been in decline since he suffered a stroke in 2002 in his adopted state of Arizona where he had resided in Phoenix since 1986.

Chism is probably best known as Howlin’ Wolf’s last drummer, but he managed to play, tour, and record with practically every major blues artist as well. &nb …

One of the most important 1950’s independent label owners passed away March 20. Hyman "Hy" Weiss started the Harlem-based Old Town label in 1953, and over the next two decades introduced a steady stream of artists that set the pace for a radical shift in public tastes. Jazz, Country, Pop, and Latin had been coming together around that time, but visionaries like Weiss added deep injections of Blues & R&B to the mix. Old Town Records was there from the start, and deserves credit …

Zola Taylor of the famous 50’s R&B group the Platters died on April 30th at age 69. She was the first female to become part of a male R&B male group, helping break down a lot of gender barriers. Afterwards, lots of other R&B groups started adding a female voice. Thirty years after her 50’s heyday, she was at the center of a controversy that would provide grist for a popular Hollywood movie based on Frankie Lymon's numerous liasons.

Back in 1954, unhappy with the …

Big Joe Duskin was part of a tradition of boogie woogie piano players that harks back to the 30’s, including such legends as Meade Lux Lewis, Freddie Slack, Albert Ammons, and Pete Johnson. Big Joe passed away recently, May 6 at age 86, one day before he was scheduled to have both legs amputated from the effects of severe diabetes. The Alabama-born Duskin lived in Avondale Ohio, and was presented by Cincinnati's mayor with a Key To The City in 2004, in …

Hank Medress, a founding member of the Tokens, passed away from lung cancer on June 23. He was 68. Back in 1955, he and 3 school buddies from the Brighton Beach area of Brooklyn founded the Linc-Tones, soon to be re-named the Tokens. The original group included Neil Sedaka who went solo in 1960 and was replaced with Jay Siegel who sang most of the leads. The quartet also included brothers Mitch and Phil Margo.

In 1961, they scored a huge #1 hit with "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" a re …

Jimmy "T99" Nelson whose recording career spanned over 50 years died from cancer on Sunday July 29th in a Houston nursing home. He was 88. Nelson learned the "ins-and-outs" of performing and singing from Big Joe Turner. His passing means those mid-century R&B pioneers are fast becoming an extinct breed.

His earlist hit, 1951’s "T-99 Blues" (named after a Texas highway) stayed on the R&B charts for twenty-one weeks and reached #1. In 1952, Nelson had another RPM hit …

Lee Hazlewood died peacefully at his home outside Las Vegas, USA, after a three year struggle with renal cancer surrounded by family and Friends from around the world. He was 78.

He succeeded in a music industry he was dismissive of, and is most famous for his work with Nancy Sinatra he wrote and produced many of her biggest hits, including "These Boots Were Made For Walking", "Sugartown", "Summer Wine", and "Some Velvet Morning".

Hazlewood started his musical care …

Janis Martin who passed away on Sep 3 at age 67 was known as "The Female Elvis". It was a hard-earned title and most aficionados of the genre consider her the first female rock 'n' roller. Back in 1955, just after Elvis signed on with them she recorded on RCA "Will You Willyum" b/w the self-penned B-side "Drugstore Rock ‘n’ Roll" that became her signature song. . It sold 750,000 copies and charted both Pop & Country.

Only 15 at the time, Janis considered Ruth Brown her p …

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