Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Catching up on some music deaths

It's been a couple of months since I caught up on some of the musicians who have died recently. As ever, there have been quite a few, although the list is not as long as on some other occasions.
Two of those who have passed on in the last two months have appeared at Tales From The Woods shows in recent years. Roy Young (pictured above), who has died aged 81, was a great showman and also a keyboard player and singer who could give Little Richard a run for his money. Having auditioned successfully for the Oh Boy! TV show in 1958, he recorded a cover of Just Keep It Up for Fontana the following year with a great B side, Big Fat Mama. Other Fontana  recordings followed but he made his name in Hamburg, playing with Tony Sheridan and at the Star Club with the Beatles. He joined Cliff Bennett's Rebel Rousers and later formed his own band, backing Chuck Berry on tour. Later he worked with David Bowie on Low and worked with Long John Baldry among others. His appearances at a number of TFTW shows, in 2010, 2011 and 2013, were memorable: he always gave his all and was among the most convincing of UK rock and rollers.
 Stuart Colman, who died recently of cancer aged 73,  was a musician, record producer and broadcaster, who hosted a TFTW show starring P P Arnold in 2016. In the sixties he was a member of Pinkerton's Assorted Colours, which evolved into The Flying Machine, but it was his career as a broadcaster, first with the BBC and then with Radio London, that he is best remembered for by many of my generation. He was quite simply essential listening music wise. As a producer he was instrumental in Shakin' Stevens' success, worked with loads of artists from Kim Wilde to The Shadows, and made albums with Phil Everly and Little Richard. I remember seeing Stuart backing Johnnie Allen at a hot, sweaty Weavers Arms in London in the early nineties, but then he moved to Nashville and worked with a whole other group of musicians, including Nanci Griffith, the Crickets and Linda Gail Lewis. A great guy who will be much missed.
My first visit to New Orleans in 1989 was a life changing event, not least because I got to see the Neville Brothers play for the first time. I had always loved Aaron's voice and Art's rock and roll records, but the four brothers together was something else. The most jazz influenced of the four was sax player Charles Neville, who has died aged 79. Their album Yellow Moon featured Charles's superb playing at its best and when Aaron toured solo it was Charles who provided some classy musicianship behind his fabulous voice. I've seen the Nevilles many times - in New Orleans, London and Porretta - and it's sad that we will never get to see the classic line up again.
The Staple Singers were a wonderful gospel and soul group who made great records in the sixties, seventies and beyond. Now, Yvonne Staples, a key part of the group throughout their Stax years, has died aged 80. Always in the background, Yvonne's voice was strong enough to take the lead, but she was supportive of the family. Even in 2014, when sister Mavis was on tour, Yvonne was there to provide back up. Another wonderful group which we will never see again, although Mavis is still around and will be playing to sold out audiences in London soon.
A final word too for drummer John 'Jabo' Starks, who, along with Clyde Stubblefield, provided the beat that helped make James Brown, and his associates such as Lyn Collins, the J Bs and Bobby Byrd, so funky. The Vinyl Word raises a glass to them all.


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