Frank Gutch Jr: They Will Never Pass This Way Again— Musicians We Lost in 2013, Part One; Plus Notes…..

FrankJr2The first time I think I even thought about death was when Hank Williams died back in 1952.  New Year’s Eve it was, but I only remember the headlines.  I was five years old and Hank was a regular part of my day.  Dad, the curator of the famous Gutch record collection, had only a few records at that time and Never Again (Will I Knock On Your Door) was one of them.  I loved that song so much that I begged and begged Dad to play it every time he headed toward the record player and, usually, he obliged.  I remember Dad humming along in a grunting kind of way, almost as if the music was going to bust out of him at any moment, but it seldom did.  Dad was a lot like myself in that when the music was playing, singing along seemed a lack of respect.

hankwilliamsdeathEveryone in  the tiny town of Sweet Home, Oregon loved Hank back then, or so it seemed.  Walk by a church on a Sunday morning and you were as likely to hear I Saw the Light seeping through the windows as Rock of Ages, the town loved him so much.  Gamblers, I am sure, placed bets on the probability of hearing Hank on a jukebox in any of the numerous taverns in town, and if you wanted to talk music, Hank was usually who you talked about.  So when he died, the whole town was in mourning.

In 1959, it was more the school than the town but the feeling was the same.  Buddy Holly, Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens went down in that plane back in 1959.  I was eleven and totally committed to Holly and his music and enthralled by the Bopper and Valens as well.  I didn’t read the paper except for the sports page and the funnies, but I remember that headline as if it was yesterday.  Had any one of the three died, it would have been headline news.  But all three?  It was the Titanic all over again.  The halls and classrooms of the schools felt and sounded like a tomb.

In 1963, as if to confirm that all that bad things come in threes, Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins died in yet another plane crash and Sweet Home, again, went into mourning.  This one was worse than Hank because I was older and was beginning to understand that we couldn’t live forever (though deep down I knew I could).  At the time, I knew of Patsy but was unaware of Copas and Hawkins, but radio and jukeboxes would take care of that quick enough, their older recordings added right away and the posthumous releases added as soon as they became available.

berryoakleygravestoneOthers came, or should I say went, after.  Duane AllmanBerry OakleyTommy BolinHendrixJanisMorrison.  My memory is filled with a long list of musicians who tripped off this mortal coil— all of them too soon because I always thought that maybe the best was to come for each of them.  Billie HolidayJohn Coltrane.  I am reminded of Vince Guaraldi at this time every year, thanks to the popularity of his “Charlie Brown” music.  Last year, Dave Brubeck passed on.  His Take Five alongside Guaraldi’s Cast Your Fate To the Wind was this young boy’s initiation into the world of jazz.  Leonard Bernstein.  When Leroy Anderson died, I was devastated, Anderson having given me such childhood classics I loved such as Blue Tango and Bugler’s Holiday and Typewriter Song as well as two of my favorite semi-classical pieces, the Irish and Scottish Suites.

Through the years I have realized that the future of music is formed as much by the musicians who are no longer with us as the musicians who are.  This year has been a brutal year for musicians, many stricken ill and others now gone.  I want to take the time to acknowledge those who have made my life better through their music— some directly and others indirectly.  Here is an incomplete list of musicians who this past year stepped over that line and left us with gaping holes in our musical existences from this year forward.

JohnOrsi1John Orsi was a friend of mine.  I had never met him so I didn’t get the pleasure of shaking his hand and telling him how much his music meant to me, but he was a friend nonetheless.  He was as good a friend as one could have in this day of cyber-greetings and meetings.  When I first heard of him, his band, Knitting By Twilight, had just released an EP titled Riding the Way Back and I picked up a copy to do a review for my web pages, Rock & Reprise (read it here).  Orsi had sent me a copy and an email explaining his approach to music but he needn’t have.  I heard it right away.  Influences were all over the place and when Orsi read the review, he  sent me another email thanking me for hearing the bits and pieces which reminded me of others’ music.  That started an erratic but ongoing series of emails and when he joined Facebook, the contact became less so.  I came to like and respect John, as much for the good man that he was as the music we had in common.  I found out that he had died a couple of weeks ago by scrolling through Facebook.  The sense of loss was immense.  We had so much more to talk about.

BillBrufordWe talked about Yes and Bill Bruford (I have never met a bigger fan of Bruford than John) and Jon Hiseman and one of my absolute favorites, Gypsy‘s Bill Lordan.  We talked prog and rock and jazz and a whole lot of other genres and even delved into the electronic field (Xenakis and John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen).  We talked about the media and the collapse of the music industry from what it once was.  But every time I got an email, it raised more questions and we just plain ran out of time.

I know there were a lot of supposedly more important-to-music musicians who stepped over the line this year and I will get to many of those, but while there were probably some as important to me, there was no one more important.  John was a good man and willing to share so much he had learned with me.  I am going to miss him, yes, I will.  He was one of the people who made writing about music a lot less work and one hell of a lot more fun.  If there is a Music Heaven, John Orsi is surely there.  And not resting, either.  He has probably already put together a band of his own and has a string of projects lined up.  That’s what he did.  Hopefully, that is what he still does.

This may seem a bit disorganized, but not as disorganized as my bedroom.  I really need to get in there and clean it up but writing is a lot more fun and anyway, you guys, if you stick with this, will be amazed at the number of musicians who just this year left us.  In no particular order, here is a list, sometimes with comments:

Noel_HarrisonNoel HarrisonHad it not been for his father, good ol’ Rex, I don’t think many of us would know much about Noel, but he did have a feel for the music he performed.  A Young Girl, in fact, charted in Eugene, Oregon, thanks to radio station KASH.  The song received incredible amounts of airplay, forcing other stations in the Willamette Valley to add it to their playlists, though none had the enthusiasm as the KASH disc jockeys.  I just checked in my Billboard book.  My first thought was, WTF?  It didn’t chart on Billboard?  Evidently not.  Neither did Suzanne a couple of years later.  Both songs got massive airplay in Eugene.  Man, I loved local radio.  I heard more solid stuff on KASH and Lebanon’s KGAL which I thought were hits until Billboard told me they weren’t.  Notice the not-bold letters of Billboard.  They don’t deserve them.  Harrison died on October 19th.

Jackie Lomax—  I remember the hoopla over Jackie and James Taylor when Apple Records claimed them.  Beatles’ fans went nuts.  But they didn’t buy them.  Not even the close association with George Harrison could put wind under Jackie’s wings.  He didn’t give up after leaving Apple, though.  He played in numerous bands including one of my favorites, Badger.  And he never gave up.  That alone counts for something.  Jackie passed away September 15th.

 

deannadurbinDeanna Durbin—  I tossed this in just to see if you were awake.  Actually, I had a tremendous crush on Durbin when I was a child and never really got over her.  She was beautiful and wholesome and everything I wanted in a girl.  Unfortunately, she had no idea who I was and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.  I was much too young for her.  Still, seeing her name listed as having died this year brought the old pang back.  I loved her movies.  I loved her voice, too.  Yes, she sang, and beautifully.  May she rest in peace.

 

Robert Zildjian—  I was a drummer.  When I bought my first set at the tender age of twelve or so, the salesman told me about Zildjian cymbals and I have been a huge fan ever since.  Back then, many music stores refused to carry any other make, they were that well thought of.  I had five, if you count the two in the hi-hat.  One thing which surprised me when I heard of Zildjian’s death was that he had also started Sabian, another cymbal manufacturer.  I remember when they introduced them into the market.  I wanted nothing to do with them.  I was loyal.  Little did I know.  Died March 28th.

Tony Sheridan—  The guy had quite a career outside of what he did with the early Beatles.  Funny that his time with The Beatles is about all anyone wants to point out.  I don’t think he liked that, either.  Read about him here.  Day of death, February 16th.

Tompall Glaser—  Remember the Outlaw movement spearheaded by Waylon & Willie & Jessi?  Well, ol’ Tompall was there, too, after having worked with Marty Robbins and his own group, Tompall & The Glaser Brothers.  I sold one hell of a lot of that Wanted!  The Outlaws album when it was released back in 1976.  One hell of a lot of it.  Tompall rode into the sunset on August 13th.

If_Forgotten_RoadsJ.W. Hodgkinson—  Finding out about this was a sledgehammer to the forehead.  Hodgkinson is one of those great voices in rock sentenced to obscurity because of the bands he sang with.  I first heard him on the first If album and was carried away by his unique vocals.  He recorded five albums with that excellent band, then sang with Darryl Way’s Wolf on the 1974 album Night Music.  I stumbled upon If quite by accident, having fallen for Capitol Records‘ hype about “pub music” back in 1970 (the first Brinsley Schwarz album was part of that campaign).  I have never regretted it.  It may have been hype to others but for me it was music to my ears.  Reading Hodgkinson’s bio, I see that he also recorded with a band called Rogue after If and Darryl Way’s Wolf.  Something to search for, but I would rather have Hodgkinson back.  If would have been a completely different band without his voice.  Passed away on June 8th.

Remember The Fendermen?  If you do, you’re as old as I am.  They had one huge hit in the sixties with Muleskinner Blues.  Hard to find a decent track back then which featured electric guitar.  Well, it wasn’t, but it was hard to find tracks that good.  Sigh.  Jim Sundquist died on June 4th.  Us old-timers will miss him.

Tandyn-AlmerSometimes, it’s the song.  Tandyn Almer, a co-writer of Sail On Sailor (a song way better than sails and chart position showed— way better) and writer of The Association‘s Along Comes Mary, passed away January 8th.  Those two songs are two of the few I have never tired of hearing.

Bob Engemann died on January 19th.  Bob was one of the velvet voices of The Lettermen.  While they had a string of hits, my favorite has always been When I Fall In Love, which came out on the eve of my puberty.  Bob, I am sure, would have loved to have known that I fell in love to that song on a regular basis.  Right next to The Beach BoysIn My Room in terms of slow danceability.

I  can still remember hearing for the first time The CookiesDon’t Say Nothin’ Bad (About My Baby)Dick Clark played it on American Bandstand and I was in love.  Didn’t matter with whom as long as the song was in the background.  They had scored an earlier hit with Chains but in my ears it paled in comparison.  The CookiesDarlene McCrea passed away on February 4th.   Another part of my childhood gone.

Roy_Harper_ΓÇô_HQHipgnosis graphic artist Storm Thorgerson was noted for what seemed like an unusually long run of album art.  They did covers for everyone from Pink Floyd to Pretty Things to Scorpions and more.  Hundreds of them.  In later years, he set up his own operation which he called Storm Studios.  He passed away on April 18th, leaving behind an amazing array of album art as well as art in other forms.  (I have chosen to show one of my favorite album covers out of Hipgnosis, that of Roy Harper‘s HQ)

The SpinnersBobby Smith died on March 16th, after an incredible run with that vocal group.  Smith shared vocal duties with Philippe Wynne, but was lead voice on many of their hits, including my favorite, Could It Be I’m Falling In Love.  The seventies were not my favorite period of soul music, but I’ve always felt The Spinners to be an exceptionally strong vocal group.  Evidently, thanks largely to Smith.

Speaking of soul, Clarence Burke Jr. of The Five Stairsteps passed away on May 25th.  I was in the Army when they had their smash hit, O-o-h Child.  It always reminds me of basic training.

let'sactiveMy buddy Howie Wahlen has supplied me with a number of stories over the years (Howie is a Pop fanatic).  He was a madman when it came to Let’s Active, a collaboration between Mitch Easter, Faye Hunter and Sara Romweber.  For an extremely long period of time, I heard Let’s Active‘s Afoot EP whether I wanted to or not.  When I heard that Faye Hunter had passed on, I flashed back on those days and that EP.  It was one of a few of Howie’s choices that I truly enjoyed.  Hunter died on July 20th.

Jaimie Vernon mentioned on Facebook just the other day that Canada’s Dave Cooper had tripped off this mortal coil.  Cooper was well-known in Canada for his work with the Ian Thomas Band, Klaatu, Tom Cochrane, and his own band, The Dave Cooper Band, among many others.  A tip o’ the hat, Captain Cooper, and fair sailing.  He died on Dec. 9th.

Frank Wess died on October 30th.  Wess was a jazz flautist and saxophone player who played with numerous bands, most notably in Count Basie‘s “New Testament” band of the early 50’s.  The man spent an entire life in jazz, living until the age of 91.  I remember selling some of Wess’s “solo” projects, meaning the few which carried his name first.  I had no idea of his connections with Billy Eckstine and Basie nor did I know he at one time played with The New York Jazz Quartet and with Dick Cavett‘s supporting band.  In fact, Wess had a career way beyond what I even imagined.  I hate playing catch-up, but that may be what I will do here.  Sometimes a biography is written in music more than words.

rickhuxleyThere are few bands out of the sixties more storied than The Dave Clark Five, largely due to legal hassles which haunted the band after their initial success.  At the beginning, everything was hunky dory, but the band soon slipped out of sight in the largest market available— the United States.  The band’s bass player, Rick Huxley, enjoyed the highs and suffered the lows along with the other members of the band.  He died on February 11th, his name barely remembered by all but the few who remembered the tremendous success the DC5 enjoyed in their early years.  Don’t let the lengthy listing of 45s and albums on their wikipedia page fool you.  As many as there seem to be, most were available in the US for only a short time.  A sad statement on a very popular and impressive band.

Magic Slim may not have been a giant in the world of blues, but he was the next biggest thing.  He came to Chicago in 1955 as a bass player in Magic Sam‘s band but decided to return to the South shortly thereafter.  By 1965, he was back in Chicago putting together a band which would eventually blossom into The Teardrops and Slim’s career took off.  The next number of years found him signed to a number of smaller labels such as Alligator, Blind Pig, and Wolf, but his album output was prodigious.  He died on February 21st  at the age of 75.

the doorsDo I even need to mention that Ray Manzarek of The Doors passed away on May 20th (that’s Manzarek on the left)?  I don’t know.  It seems we forget too quickly these days and while Jim Morrison seems to be who most people relate to when you mention The Doors, the other three were equally important to the band’s sound.  It was never the same for any of those three, their attempts to kickstart post-Doors careers weak at best, but that didn’t mean they didn’t produce music of worth.  Those who think Manzarek’s total output was a few solo albums and the Doors’ albums should take a look at his discography.  There is some intriguing music in the mix.

Jazz guitar great Jim Hall (well, he was introduced to me as a jazz guitarist, though he could play damn near anything) died recently and my first thought was, my God, will it never stop?  I mean, labels prided themselves on having Hall on their rosters.  Musicians studied him, fer chrissakes, and wished they could play like him.  But, like it gets repeated all too often, none of us get out of here alive.  The man at least left us an incredible legacy of his music.  Sigh.  I’m getting depressed.  Here is Hall with Pat Metheny on PBS Legends of Jazz:

Larry Verne—  Is there a Boomer out there who did not get a kick out of Verne’s #1 hit, Mr. Custer?  I didn’t think so.  Verne passed on on October 8th.

Ohio Express‘s Doug Grassel died on September 21st.  Anyone who listened to the radio during the heyday of OE either loved or hated them.  Doug is probably passing bubblegum around Upstairs right now.  Mercy…..

In one of this year’s most tragic scenarios, Amy and Derrick Ross died on October 14th.  Amy had died while undergoing surgery.  Derrick took his own life later that day.  They performed under the name Nowhere Man & A Whiskey Girl.  I wrote a review of one of their albums (read it here) and received a postcard from them— a personal message of thanks which made me feel as if we had been friends for years.  I found that card while cleaning out my closet over the Summer.  When I heard that both had died, and especially under those circumstances, I cried on the inside.

 

I saw J.J. Cale perform at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium (at least, I think that’s where it was).  He opened for a drunk and birthday-celebrating Dickie Betts.  I thought it was kind of funny because Cale sat in a rocking chair (or some kind of chair) his entire set, head down, his unique voice drawling phrases in his signature low tones.  Hell of a set, but he hardly moved.  That’s how I will always remember him.  He recorded one hell of a version of Don Nix‘s Goin’ Down, too.  Hell of a version.  I sold a ton of his albums over the years.  Cale died July 26th.

I discovered, thanks to good friend Joe Lee, a documentary on the Akron, Ohio music scene this past year, one which included the likes of the Rubber City Rebels and Tin Huey and, of course, Devo.  Titled It’s Everything and Then It’s Gone, it laid out the story of the different bands and their success/lack of success.  I need to go back and watch it again, though.  Alan Myers, drummer for Devo, passed away on June 24th and I feel the need to revisit that scene.  I mean, Devo owned early MTV.

 

I was in San Diego when The Ohio Players were riding the charts.  I can still hear the strains and funk of Love Rollercoaster playing through the store speaker system.  Those days flashed through my head when I heard that the Players’ Leroy Bonner had died on January 26th.  I always had arguments with the white kids who lived around Pacific Beach in San Diego.  They called it disco.  I called it funk.

Patti_PagePeople today will never know what a star Patti Page was back in the fifties.  She dominated radio in Oregon with songs like Let Me Go, Lover and Old Cape Cod and even 1958’s Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte.  In our house, one of the few tunes that Dad danced to was her version of Tennessee Waltz, which I was surprised not to find listed on the Billboard charts.  For us kids, Doggie In the Window topped our charts.  She passed on on New Year’s Day.

I knew rockabilly artist Mac Curtis from the rockabilly resurgence in the mid-seventies (remember Rollin’ Rock Records?) but had had no idea until then that he had recorded way back in the fifties.  The guy was the real deal, though, having that slap bass attitude toward the genre.  Curtis, I also found, was a Fort Worth child.  I swear to God, Fort Worth has produced more musicians, pound for pound, than any other city in the States.  He died September 16th.

Chicago blues man Piano ‘C’ Red died on June 3rd.  Red had played with such blues luminaries as Muddy Waters and B.B. King, among others.  He was known as and sang about life as a Cab Drivin’ Man. 

raydolbyYou kids don’t know and probably don’t care, but there was a time that “Dolby” was on every tape deck being sold.  What’s a tape deck?  Oh, you poor souls.  I remember them well.  Cassettes ruled my drive time in the old days, radio being a crapshoot in the seventies and eighties, and every one of the tape decks I owned had a “Dolby” button.  I think it was a sound filter which somewhat eliminated tape hiss.  Well, it was invented by a man named Ray Dolby and he died this year on September 12th.  May he be remembered for his gift of Dolby NR (insert trademark thingie here) forever.

Alan O’Day may have had only one real hit, but it was a big one.  Undercover Angel hit #1 on the Billboard charts in 1977.  Previous to that, he had written hits for Helen Reddy (Angie Baby) and The Righteous Brothers (Rock and Roll Heaven).  He passed on May 17th.  He was 72.

jimmy-oneill-ytI think it’s sad that the TV show Shindig is fading in the public consciousness.  When that show hit the airwaves, it swept the street clean of teens who were mostly inside with their faces glued to the TV screen.  They saw and heard a whole revolution of songs through that program and they were introduced to a personality which would have rivaled Dick Clark, had he not already been crowned God.  I remember Jimmy O’Neill like it was yesterday.  He introduced me to some of my favorite artists.  He died January 11th.

Love or hate disco, Vincent Montana Jr. made an impact with both MFSB and The Salsoul Orchestra.   He passed away on April 13th.

Eric Kitteringham died on May 7th.  Kitteringham was the original bass player for Taste.

Mindy McCready was a troubled soul.  Unfortunately, her problems bled onto the gossip sheets and served as fodder for Internet clowns who were nothing if not judgmental.  She died on February 17th, no longer able to control her demons.  She was 37 years old, much too young.

miraclesI am surprised that few people in my circle of musical friends knew that Bobby Rogers had died.  Rogers was an original member of The Miracles before they put Smokey’s name in front.  Next to The Temptations, The Miracles were my favorite of the Motown vocal groups.  They recorded songs with depth.  Nothing against the other groups, but those two seemed to me to be the real heart and soul of the label until later years.  Bobby passed away on March 3rd.  That’s Bobby on the left, by the way.

Jewel Akens, who had a huge hit with The Birds and the Bees, died on March 1st.  I don’t believe he had another hit, especially one of that magnitude, but that was enough.  A very distinctive song and one I love to hear on occasion.

In the world of classical music, few pianists reached the stature of Van Cliburn, at least in my lifetime.  I would see him on TV now and again and wonder at his style, which announcers constantly described as very unique.  I had no idea that his fame basically sprang from winning the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in 1958.  In Moscow.  During the Cold War.   That’s pretty heady stuff.  He died on February 27th.

Marshall Lytle died on May 25th at the age of 79.  Lytle was an original members of Bill Haley‘s combo, The Comets, playing double bass.  If you’ve seen any of the film clips of that band, you’ll know how cool Lytle really was.  Here’s a taste.

 

I think I’ll end Part One with a bit of Kenny Ball, who passed away on March 7th.  People today will never understand how big instrumentals were in the fifties and sixties.  Most people gave the instrumentals at least an 87, if only because you could dance to them.  Take it away, Kenny…..

 

Now, for this week’s…..

Music Notes smallNotes….. 

Sometimes the music is in the genes.  Here is a video of Amy Helm and band performing at Tarrytown Music Hall early in December.  Amy is the daughter of Levon Helm and is a solo artist as well as a member of the ongoing excellent band Ollabelle.  A hell of a good way to kick off the New Year.

There are few musicians I follow as closely as I follow Kirsti Gholson.  She appears on albums by Tom Mank & Sera Smolen and records under the moniker Little Green Blackbird.  She is a delight in that she is minimal in her arrangements.  Here are a couple of Gholson Christmas tracks for you to hear while Santa makes his way to your chimney.  Click here.  You should check out her solo albums, one recorded under her real name and the other under Little Green Blackbird.  Good stuff.

Jon Gomm is back (he never left) and as solid as ever.  Gomm is a whiz on the acoustic guitar, always stretching his music to the limits.  I heard rumors somewhere that he might be hitting the States this year.  If that’s the case, you had better get tickets early because a lot of people are finding him and I’m sure will be watching for his schedule.  Anyway, here he is performing his new single, Wukan Motorcycle Kid.  You’re welcome.

 

The song, by the way, is from his new album, Secrets Nobody Keeps.

Recognize the lady in the next video?  This isn’t a film op.  This is a video supporting Rebecca Pidgeon‘s brand new album, Blue Dress On.  I’ve seen her on the silver screen so many times yet didn’t realize she was a musician as well.  Caught her at The Aladdin Theater in Portland not all that long ago and got my money’s worth and a half.  The lady has talent!

When I was working in Seattle in the eighties, there was this band called Red Dress that could have been huge but somehow missed the bus.  I never understood why.  They were funk/nuts.  And fronted by a madman named Gary Minkler who has surfaced with a new band this year called The Gary Minkler Combination.  (album available from Green Monkey Records)  This is evidently a video of a song from 1981?  I’d not seen it before, but I dig it!  Minkler has the moves!

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS_ButtonFrank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.” 

5 Responses to “Frank Gutch Jr: They Will Never Pass This Way Again— Musicians We Lost in 2013, Part One; Plus Notes…..”

  1. Geez….Now that I see all of these people in one place for the same reason, I feel vulnerable.

  2. David Edwards Says:

    Glad to see you back!!

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