Saturday, July 09, 2011

Happy Birthday to Jack White

Jack White (John Anthony Gillis) was born July 9, 1975. Often credited as Jack White III, he is an American musician, record producer, and occasional actor. He is best known as being the guitarist, pianist, and lead vocalist of The White Stripes. White began playing an instrument, a drum, at the age of six, and grew up in a lower middle-class neighborhood in southwest Detroit. As a teenager, he was already listening to the blues and 1960s rock that would influence him in The White Stripes, Son House and Blind Willie McTell being among his favorite blues musicians.

To be honest, The White Stripes weren't on my radar at all when their first album came out in 1999. Several years later, a good friend had enthusiastically recommended that I give the band a listen and gave me a few albums to hear. I wasn't expecting much. I was bored with most of the music being fed to the masses at the time, barely paying attention to any of it.

If you haven't already guessed from reading my previous blog posts, or my Twitter feed, my true loves are blues and rock from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. It was, for a long time, unusual for me to get excited about an unknown artist or group. Everything new that I did manage to hear seemed over-produced and had no raw edges; it was dead. So, I had nearly lost all faith that any artist under the age of 40 would produce an authentic rock sound I could love.

Jack White (with Meg, at the time) returned my faith. Rock wasn't dead after all. I began seeking and finding again, beneath and outside of the mainstream. I realized that there was, and is, a vibrant, younger generation that gets it. I owe that realization entirely to Jack White. (And, of course, to that very good friend who turned me on to the music. You know who you are!)

There is much more to Jack than The White Stripes, but White's popular and critical success with the band enabled him to collaborate as a solo artist with other renowned musicians, such as Beck, The Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck, Alicia Keys, Bob Dylan, Electric Six, and Loretta Lynn, whose 2004 album Van Lear Rose he produced and performed on. In 2005, White became a founding member of the rock band The Raconteurs. In 2009, he became a founding member and drummer of his third commercially successful group, The Dead Weather.

Also in 2009, Jack was featured in It Might Get Loud, a film in which he, Jimmy Page, and The Edge come together to discuss the electric guitar and each artist's different playing methods. White's first solo single, "Fly Farm Blues", was written and recorded in 10 minutes during the filming of the movie, in August of that year.

(This is far from being a complete list of Jack's accomplishments and projects. My intent is to share with you some of the highlights that stand out for me.)

According to Joe Chiccarelli, engineer for Icky Thump, White is not very technical when it comes to capturing his sound on record: "Usually he wouldn’t talk in terms of compression or EQ or any of those things, it was always about what can we do to give something more aggression or hit you in the face more. Jack’s brilliance is his understanding of great emotional performances, and of what it takes to make something come alive through the speakers and have an impact."

Happy 36th birthday to Jack White, this generation's torch carrier of rock and roll and a massive Bit of Groovy!

For further information on Jack White: (independent record label founded by Jack White)

Search for Jack White

Information Source: Wikipedia
All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The Wrecking Crew

The Wrecking Crew was a nickname coined by the drummer Hal Blaine after the fact for a group of session musicians in Los Angeles, California, who earned wide acclaim in the 1960s. They backed dozens of popular singers, and were one of the most successful "groups" of studio musicians in music history.

The Wrecking Crew's members typically had backgrounds in jazz or classical music, but were highly versatile. The talents of this group of 'first call' players were used on almost every style of recording, including television theme songs, film scores, advertising jingles and almost every genre of American popular music, from The Monkees to Bing Crosby. Notable artists employing the Wrecking Crew's talents included Nancy Sinatra, Bobby Vee, The Partridge Family, The Mamas & the Papas, The Carpenters, The 5th Dimension, John Denver, The Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, and Nat King Cole.

The figures most often associated with the Wrecking Crew are producer Phil Spector (who used the Crew to create his trademark "Wall of Sound"), and Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson, who used the Crew's talents on many of his mid-1960s productions including the songs "Good Vibrations", "California Girls", the acclaimed album Pet Sounds, and the original recordings for Smile.

Members of the Wrecking Crew played on the first Byrds single recording, "Mr. Tambourine Man", because Columbia Records did not trust the skills of Byrd musicians except for Roger McGuinn. Further recordings of the Byrds were conditional on the success of the single. All of the Byrds played on their subsequent recordings.

Spector used the Wrecking Crew on Leonard Cohen's fifth album, Death of a Ladies' Man.

A book, Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew: The Story of the World's Most Recorded Musician, co-written by Blaine, was published in 1990.

The Wrecking Crew were inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame on November 26, 2007.

The Film:

The Wrecking Crew were featured in the 95-minute 2008 film The Wrecking Crew directed by Tommy Tedesco's son, Denny Tedesco. The film has screened at several festivals and was featured on National Public Radio. As of the date of this post, it has not yet been commercially released. -Source: Wikipedia

Learn more:
The Wrecking Crew: the inside story of LA's session giants |

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy 73rd Birthday to Bill Withers

William Harrison "Bill" Withers, Jr. (born July 4, 1938) is an American singer-songwriter and musician who performed and recorded from 1970 until 1985. His life was recently the subject of the documentary film Still Bill.

During early 1970, Clarence Avant of Sussex Records signed Withers to a record deal and assigned Booker T. Jones to produce Withers' first album. Four three-hour studio sessions were planned to record the album, but funding caused the album to be recorded in three sessions with a six-month break between the second and final sessions. Just as I Am was released in 1971 with the tracks "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Grandma's Hands" as singles. The album features Stephen Stills playing lead guitar.

The album was a success and Withers began touring with a band assembled from members of The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band: drummer James Gadson, guitarist Benorce Blackmon, keyboardist Ray Jackson, and bassist Melvin Dunlap.

At the 14th annual Grammy Awards on Tuesday, March 14, 1972, Withers won a Grammy Award for Best R & B Song for "Ain't No Sunshine." The track had already sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in September 1971.

During a hiatus from touring, Withers recorded his second album, Still Bill. The single "Lean on Me" went to number one the week of July 8, 1972. It was Withers' second gold disc awarded track with confirmed sales in excess of three million.

His single "Use Me" released in August 1972, became his third million seller, with the R.I.A.A. gold disc award taking place on October 12, 1972.

A Friday, October 6, 1972 performance on a rainy night was recorded for the live album Bill Withers, Live at Carnegie Hall released November 30, 1972. In 1974 Withers recorded the album +'Justments. But he became involved in a legal dispute with the Sussex company and was unable to record thereafter.

During this time, he wrote and produced two songs on the Gladys Knight & the Pips record I Feel a Song, and in October 1974 performed in concert together with James Brown, Etta James, and B. B. King at the historic Rumble in the Jungle fight between Foreman and Ali in Zaire. Footage of his performance was included in the 1996 documentary film, When We Were Kings, and he is heard on the accompanying soundtrack.

Withers signed with Columbia Records in 1975. His first release with the label, Making Music, Making Friends, included the single "She's Lonely" which was featured in the film Looking for Mr. Goodbar. During the next three years he released an album each year with Naked & Warm (1976), Menagerie (1977, containing the successful Lovely Day) and Bout Love (1978) and Get On Down, the latter song was also on Looking for Mr. Goodbar soundtrack.

Due to problems with Columbia, he concentrated on joint projects between 1977 and 1985, including the successful "Just the Two of Us", with jazz saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr., which was released during June 1980. It won a Grammy on February 24, 1982. The song appeared on Washington's album Winelight. It reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100, and stayed there for 3 weeks. The song won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song. Bill Withers recorded another version of the song which is included on a CD of his greatest hits.

Withers next did Soul Shadows with The Crusaders, and In the Name of Love with Ralph MacDonald, the latter being nominated for a Grammy for vocal performance.

In 1985 came Watching You, Watching Me, which featured the Top 40 rated Rhythm & Blues single "Oh Yeah". Withers ended his business association with Columbia Records after this release, which as of 2010 is his last studio album.

In 1988, a new version of "Lovely Day" from the 1977 Menagerie album, titled "Lovely Day (Sunshine Mix)" and remixed by Ben Liebrand, reached the Top 10 in the United Kingdom, leading to Withers' performance on the long-running Top of the Pops that year. The original release had scored #2 in the UK in 1973, and the re-release scored to #1.

In 1987, he received his ninth Grammy award nomination and on March 2, 1988 his third Grammy for Best Rhythm and Blues Song as songwriter for the re-recording of Lean On Me by Club Nouveau on their debut album Life, Love and Pain, released in 1986 on Warner Bros. Records.

In 1996, a portion of his song "Grandma's Hands" was sampled in the song "No Diggity" by BLACKstreet, featuring Dr. Dre. The single went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and sold 1.6 million copies and won a Grammy in 1999 for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

Withers contributed two songs to Jimmy Buffett's July 13, 2004 release License To Chill. Following the reissues of Still Bill on January 28, 2003 and Just As I Am on March 8, 2005, there was speculation of previously unreleased material being issued as a new album. In 2006, Sony gave back to Withers his previously unreleased tapes.

In 2007, "Lean On Me" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Source: Wikipedia

For all things Bill, visit The Official Bill Withers Site:

Bill Withers - A Bit Of Groovy!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Happy 61st Birthday to legendary Queen of Glam Suzi Quatro

Susan Kay "Suzi" Quatro (born in Detroit, Michigan, June 3, 1950) is an American singer-songwriter, musician, and actress.

She scored a string of hit singles in the 1970s that found greater success in Europe than in her homeland, and had a recurring role on the popular American sitcom Happy Days. American fans are probably most familiar with her hit "Devil Gate Drive", which she performed as Leather Tuscadero, during season 5, on the episode, "Fonzie and Leather Tuscadero, Part II".

Quatro is the aunt of actress Sherilyn Fenn, whose mother is Quatro's sister Arlene. Quatro began her musical career at the age of fourteen. She played the bass guitar in the all-female band Pleasure Seekers and Cradle with her sisters Patti, Nancy, and Arlene. Also, according to her autobiography, her first bass guitar was a 1957 Fender Precision, given to her by her father. Patti Quatro later joined the band Fanny, one of the earliest all-female rock bands to gain national attention. She has a brother, Michael Quatro, who is also a musician.

Quatro moved to the United Kingdom in 1971 after being discovered in Detroit by the record producer Mickie Most, who produced The Animals, Jeff Beck, Lulu, and Donovan. Most introduced Quatro to the songwriting and production team Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. Following a support slot on a UK tour with Thin Lizzy and headliners Slade, her second single "Can the Can" (1973) was a number one hit throughout Europe and in Australia.

It was followed up by three further hits: "48 Crash" (1973), "Daytona Demon" (1973), and "Devil Gate Drive" (1974) on RAK Records. "Can the Can", "48 Crash" and "Devil Gate Drive" each sold over one million copies, and were each awarded gold discs.

Quatro continues to record and perform live around the world. She has a new album, the first in five years, called "In The Spotlight" (release date August, 29, 2011). For ordering info on her new album, visit: Cherry Red Records. For all things Suzi, visit her site: and follow her on Twitter: @suzi_quatro

Happy 61st Birthday to Suzi Quatro, who proved it was possible for a woman of small stature to proudly and raunchily wear leather, sing and play bass. She had a direct influence on The Runaways and Joan Jett, and is A Bit Of Groovy!

Sources: Wikipedia, VVN Music Almanac, and Cherry Red Records