Musician Obituaries (50)

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 …

It was a great shock to hear the sad news of Richard Bell, keyboard great in The Band, passing away unexpectedly at his home here in Toronto, Ontario, Friday, June 15, 2007, at the age of 61. I heard this unhappy news from my good friend, guitarist Buzz Thompson, who performed onstage with Richard many times, in Rompin' Ronnie Hawkins' band, The Hawks .. along with Le …

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 …

National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, bebop pioneer, and one of the pillars of the jazz drum tradition, Max Roach has passed away at 83 after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's. One of only four drummers among the N.E.A. list of greats--he is joined by Kenny Clarke, Louis Bellson and Elvin Jones--Roach enjoyed a career that began with the Ellington Orchestra, flowered in the company of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and went on to embrace several of the music's later generation …
On Saturday Nov 10th, a memorial service, including a funeral processional, will be held for multi-instrumentalist Tim Eyermann as part of the Cape May Jazz Festival. Eyermann passed away May 1, after a battle with lung cancer that was complicated by pneumonia. A great favorite at the festival, Eyermann opened up the first one in April '94, and appeared there on many subsequent occasions, until his last performance in November 2006. Tim played flute and saxophones with the Cape May All …

Hey friends

The last time I felt so much grief was when I was a boy hearing of Terry Kath's (guitarist/composer/singer in the original Chicago band) passing. I remember the first time I heard Weather Report when I was around 8 years old in my room on my portable suitcase record player. Those little 6 x 3 inch speakers never made a sound like that! From that day to this day, and well into the future, Joe will be an inspiration to me as well as countless others around the world.

I …

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 …

We've just been notified that Frank Morgan passed away peacefully from kidney failure this morning, near his family and friends in his hometown of Minneapolis. He had just completed a successful European tour, even though he was worried about his health.

A memorial gathering is planned in his longtime home town of Taos, New Mexico, on what would have been his 74th, birthday, December 23.

Frank Morgan Bio (Courtesty of High Note Records): It is a real rarity for a jazz musician …

Pianist/composer/bandleader Oscar Peterson, one of the most popular jazz artists in history, died on Sunday, December 23, 2007, at his home in Mississauga , Ontario , outside Toronto . He was 82.

Peterson recorded with most of the jazz greats over the years. He played alongside giants like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz and Nat King Cole.

Peterson was born on …

Jeff Healey was a one of a kind. A kind man with a hearty laugh, and infectious sense of humor. He could get the whole place laughing, and at the same time poke fun at himself and the blindness which claimed his sight from retinoblastoma when he was only one year old. And he was one helluva guitarist, jazz trumpet player and keyboardist -- not to mention exceptional vocalist! He passed away suddenly this past Sunday evening March 2nd, 2008 of cancer at St. Joseph’s Hospital i …

Ray Brown Jr., the son of legendary jazz performers Ray Brown and Ella Fitzgerald, is being joined by some of his friends and other artists he has admired to create a truly unique album put out by SRI Jazz with veteran producer Shelly Liebowitz at the helm. All-star guests from the CD have also signed the "Green Piano" used in making the CD, which will then be sold at auction, the proceeds of which will help rebuild eco-friendly homes to musicians affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Clarinetist, saxophonist, occasional flutist, composer, and bandleader Jimmy Giuffre has died in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, two days before his 87th birthday. A victim of Parkinson's disease, he had been inactive as a performer for several years. Giuffre is survived by his wife of 47 years, Juanita.

Originally from Dallas, Texas, Giuffre received a Bachelor of Music degree from North Texas State University before joining the Army, where he played in the official Army band. After his discharge …

The Brazilian music world has been saddened by the passing of one of its most cherished members. Walter Santos, one of the key names in the bossa nova movement, succumbed to cancer June 29th at the Albert Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo.

Santos was less well-known to American audiences than close friends such as Joao Gilberto, Antonio Jobim and Hermeto Pascoal. Unlike his colleagues, his performance and recording activities were largely restricted to Brazil, and he did not interact with …

The jazz world is saddened this week with the loss of another of its legendary performers. Tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin, a mainstay of the hard bop generation, who worked with such luminaries as Lionel Hampton, Art Blakey, Thelonious Monk, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and John Coltrane, was found dead on Friday by his wife Miriam at his home in western France. He had celebrated his 80th birthday in May with a stint at Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London, and had performed in the Riviera town …
Guitarist Joe Beck has died of complications from lung cancer on July 22nd in Woodbury, Connecticut, four days from his 63rd birthday.

Originally from Philadelphia, Beck enjoyed a career spanning over four decades during which he exhibited a wide stylistic range, performing and recording with a Who's Who of musicians that included Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Duke Ellington, Buddy Rich, Paul Desmond, Maynard Ferguson, Woody Herman, Stan Getz, Larry Coryell, Gene Ammons, Sergio Mendes, Antonio Carl …

The jazz world has lost one of its finest writers and historians. On September 19th, after a lengthy illness, Richard Sudhalter finally succumbed to aspiration pneumonia in a New York City hospital. He was 69.

Although he was himself a fine musician, Sudhalter was best known for his writings, which represented some of the most scholarly works in the field of jazz history. He wrote three major books, including biographies of Bix Beiderbecke and Hoagy Carmichael, published in 1975 and 20 …

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