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Andrew Gold

06/08/2011

andrewgold_wrong

Once again we have to add another Joe a little earlier than we planned – Andrew Gold died this past week.

Gold had a few big hits as a solo artist but he still is a true Joe. His work as a studio musician in Southern California during the 70s helped define a whole sound. He played multiple instruments (piano, guitar, etc.) on Linda Ronstadt’s breakout album, Heart Like A Wheel, and her subsequent hit records. Check him out on guitar and backing vocals here on Linda’s cover of the Everly Brothers classic:

Gold went on to record with Maria Muldaur, Carly Simon, Karla Bonoff, Art Garfunkel, Leo Sayer, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Jennifer Warnes, Nicolette Larson and many others. But despite all this great work, Andrew Gold will probably be best remembered for the use of his song “Thank You For Being A Friend” as the theme song for Golden Girls.

Here at Rock and Roll Joe we will remember all the good stuff.

Posted in 1970s, Guitarists, Keyboards / Tagged

Pete Girardi

05/26/2011

girarditeardropguitar

{Today’s Joe comes from Al Gorgoni, a Joe himself. Apart from his influence on Al, Pete’s guitar from 1957 remains one of the most famous guitars in history. The “Teardrop” model by John D’Angelico is rare and unique and was made specially for Girardi. Read more about it in Guitar Heroes.]

Pete Girardi was my teacher, my friend, my big brother and if guardian angels exist, he was mine. There are people we encounter that open doors for us that completely transform our lives. Pete did that for me. He was a traditional player from the Django Rienhardt school of playing. He loved music and played with such passion and emotion. I think that’s what inspired me most. He was the kind of musician that causes you to feel something, that wonderful kind of bliss that wakes up your heart.
That was his gift.

He taught me how to read music and sent me to Joe Biviano to study theory. What I learned from Joe enabled me to do the work in writing and arranging that I was called on to do later .
Pete took me under his wing. I would have my lesson on Sunday at 12:30 at his parent’s apartment where he lived. After a while his mother and father began inviting me to stay for Sunday dinner. His parents were Italians who had immigrated to Argentina and then here.

After eating a wonderful meal the instruments would appear. Ralph, Pete’s father played the accordion, the kind with buttons instead of keys. We would accompany him on beautiful South American tunes as well as Italian songs that I had heard ever since I can remember. We had a great time.

After a year or so Pete got a job in Greenwich Village. It was in a very nice supper club called Charles the 4th. It just happened to be on the corner of Charles and Fourth St. He invited me to work with him. Just the two guitars. We would play sets and accompany various singers for the show. We did standards, show tunes, continental music, some jazz, and certain beautiful Italian classic songs. I learned the gig by Pete calling out the changes to me over his shoulder while playing the leads. All this was happening at the time I started in the music business. That’s another story.

Al Gorgoni

Posted in 1950s, Guitarists, Teachers/ Family

Nicky Hopkins

05/19/2011

Nicky_Hopkins

Session Man

Nicky Hopkins was certainly a session man, playing piano and keyboards on some of the best tracks and albums of the 60s and 70s. In part due to health problems, Hopkins never joined a band (some say he turned down the opportunity to join Led Zeppelin when they first formed) but you have definitely heard his music. Ray Davies wrote the song “Session Man” for Hopkins and you can find it on one of the Kinks best records.

Nicky Hopkins can be heard on the single version of “Revolution” by the Beatles, great albums by the Who (My Generation, Who’s Next), as well as many tracks with Jeff Beck, Steve Miller and the Move. This is a good list of the many songs that you can hear that feature Hopkins’ outstanding playing.

But Hopkins is rightly best known for his work with the Rolling Stones. He played on some of their best tracks during their best period. Here is one of his first appearances on a Stones record:

You can also hear Hopkins on one of rock’s best ever songs:

And Hopkins is all over the seminal Exile on Main Street album (Ian Stewart also plays keyboards on several Exile tracks but he is a Joe for another day) and his great playing is prominent here:

A book about Nicky Hopkins (who died in 1994) was recently released in the United States and is recommended.

Posted in 1960s, 1970s, Keyboards / Tagged , , ,

Cornell Dupree

05/17/2011

Cornell+Dupree+DupreeCornell

“Not many people read the back of albums.”

That’s what Cornell Dupree told an interviewer years ago. But here at Rock and Roll Joe we do read the back of albums and an awful lot of them featured Cornell Dupree’s name next to “guitarist.” He played with the best of the best – Wilson Pickett, B.B. King, Paul Simon, Ringo Starr and Miles Davis all featured Dupree on their records.

One of Cornell Dupree’s signature riffs can be heard on Brook Benton’s version of Rainy Night in Georgia – a truly great song.

But Dupree’s best work may have been with Aretha Franklin. He played on some of her biggest studio hits like Spanish Harlem

And Dupree was also part of her touring band (he started out with the King Curtis band) and can be heard on her seminal live recordings like the amazing Live at the Fillmore West.

Cornell Dupree went on to work on his own projects, including a stint with the jazz funk band Stuff in the 1970s.

We had hoped to post about Cornell Dupree sometime in the coming year but we had move it up because he passed away last week at the age of 68. But his music lives on and he will always be a true Rock and Roll Joe.

Posted in 1960s, 1970s, Guitarists

Baker Knight

05/11/2011

Baker Knight

I never met Baker Knight. I wish I had. But what little I do know about him has held my interest for almost 50 years.

Baker was born in Birmingham Alabama in 1933. He played guitar, wrote songs and fronted several local bands including Baker Knight and the Knightmares.

With dreams of making it big, Baker moved to LA in 1958, hoping to get his songs recorded, secure a recording contract or become a movie star. For several years he struggled with little success in any of these endeavors.

A chance meeting with Ricky Nelson provided the songwriting break he needed.

Nelson decided to record two of Baker’s songs which helped establish him as a songwriter. The two songs Nelson recorded were Lonesome Town which reached #6 on the Billboard charts and I Got A Feeling which reached #11. Ricky Nelson recorded many more Baker Knight songs as did Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frank Sinatra and Mickey Gilley.

[This was the Academy of Country Music Song of the Year in 1975]

Throughout his life Baker continued to write, record and release his own recordings but found little solo success.

He returned to Birmingham Alabama in 1985 where he unfortunately developed and struggled with some serious health problems. He died in 2005.

Lonesome Town in my opinion is one of the greatest rock n roll ballads ever written. It certainly may be one of the saddest.

Baker has yet to be recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or the Songwriter Hall of Fame.

A true Rock and Roll Joe.

Kevin Hale
Westlake Village California

Posted in 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, Guitarists, Songwriters

Clyde Stubblefield

05/05/2011

Clyde-Stubblefield

“Give the drummer some” grunted James Brown on one of his signature hits, Cold Sweat. That drummer, who was crucial in helping Brown create a whole new genre (funk) in the late 60s, was Clyde Stubblefield – a true Rock and Roll Joe. One of the most influential drummers in rock history, and probably the most-sampled, is largely unknown so Rock and Roll Joe wants to give the drummer some.

Stubblefield was in James Brown’s band for only about 5 years but he played on many iconic hits at a time when Brown was changing the face of rhythm and blues. In addition to Cold Sweat, Stubblefield played on monster hits like Mother Popcorn, Say it Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud and arguably the most famous drum break of all, Funky Drummer.

His rhythms were innovative and have become timeless as hip-hop artists have gone back to the Stubblefield well over and over again. Despite this amazing legacy, Clyde Stubblefield is not a well known name. Read this recent article in the New York Times for an interesting update on Stubblefield’s story. And then put on some of his music and try not to get up and dance.

Posted in 1960s, Drummers

Richard Bell

04/28/2011

RichardBell

by Bryan Owings

Richard Bell first came to my attention in 1970 when I heard Janis Joplin singing”Me and Bobby McGee”. The record was released not long after she passed away and I really liked the sound of her singing and I loved the band that was playing and especially the piano player.

Forward to 1984, and I was playing on what some people might call the chitlin circuit in Alabama, Georgia and my home state of Mississippi. I became friends with some musicians in a band called “The Convertibles” based in Atlanta. I noticed on an equipment case the name Valerie Carter who was, and still is, one of my favorite singers and I asked who the case belonged to. The keyboard player said it was his and he had been her band leader. His name was Richard Bell.

Then I heard Richard play and I knew right away I was in the presence of someone very special. We hit it off right away and not long after that first meeting I was at a party at the place Richard was living with some other musicians and I saw a gold record for the album “Pearl” by Janis Joplin. I asked him where he got it and he said he’d played on it. I found out right away that this guy was not only a “sho nuff” bad ass musician but he was also very humble. We became great friends and played a lot together.

A couple of years later I moved to Nashville and tried to get him to do the same thing but I think he’d been wandering a long time and wanted to get back to his hometown of Toronto. We stayed in touch and over the years we still did quite a few sessions and gigs together thanks to our dear friend, the great guitarist, writer, producer Colin Linden. I found out over all those years what an important part Richard played in lots of musical situations that he never really talked about. He played with people like The Band, Ronnie Hawkins, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Cockburn and tons of other folks. he always made everyone feel important. He didn’t care if you were famous or just getting started in the business. He was the best musician I’ve ever known and also one of my dearest friends.

Richard got sick about a couple of years ago and passed away June 15,2007. After he passed, Colin and I were talking and Colin put together a list of the records Richard had played on that he knew about. It looks like it’s over 400 albums. He was an influence not only as a musician but as a person too. It just doesn’t get any better than Richard Bell. He was a real Rock n Roll Joe.

Bryan Owings is the drummer of the Rock and Roll Joe Band.

Posted in 1960s, 1970s, Keyboards / Tagged , ,

John Vandiver

04/25/2011

JohnVanDiver1

by Robert Earl Keen

I grew up in Houston, Texas, in the the sixties and seventies.  The Houston music scene at the time was healthy, albeit somewhat undefined.  Lightning Hopkins, Houston’s most famous bluesman, was feeling his oats.  The Thirteenth Floor Elevators had a national hit.  And when you turned on your radio and heard “This is Archie Bell and the Drells from Houston, Texas, y’all.  Put that hamburger down and let’s all do the Tighten Up!” Well…you had to do what the man said, and get to dancin’.

Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt were writing songs there in the late sixties.  Their presence gave way to a new and vibrant group of singer-songwriter folkies who emerged in the early to mid-seventies.  Houston became a small haven for these young song slingers.  Pool halls and beer joints abandoned their hardcore, country shuffle bands and started holding open mike nights.  Don Sanders, Nanci Griffith, Lucinda Williams, Shake Russell, Eric Taylor, and Lyle Lovett were among this throng of troubadours who played for tips and beer in the neon coated Gulf Coast nightlife.

I loved them all.  However, my favorite was the bearded blues rocker, John Vandiver.  Short and squatty with round wire rim specs perched on a happy red nose, John looked to all the world like the son of Santa.  He played big fat hollow body electric guitars that bounced on his jolly girth and shook the rafters when he broke into “Key to the Highway” by Big Bill Broonzy.  He had a gentle speaking voice that turned into a golden megaphone when he belted out “Send Me to the Electric Chair” or “Saint James Infirmary”.  His timing was atomic and the solos he played were melodic and rocking and unimaginable to me given that he played solo.  John was equally magnetic when he fronted a band or was called up to lead a finale, but the magic was seeing one man make so much sound.

Vandiver was humble and gracious to other performers, whether he was giving a short history on the song he was about to perform or sharing the bill with national touring acts, he was more than generous.  I remember seeing him open for Willis Alan Ramsey to a packed house.  John started his set by explaining that he was the opening act and we could talk and scream to our hearts content while he was on stage.  Then he paused and said, “Willis is the greatest thing going and you guys need to listen when he sings.”  Of course as you can guess, John wound up doing three encores.  So in the end it wasn’t just the music, it was the man and warmth and courage you could feel every time he took the stage.

John Vandiver was murdered in 1985 by some drug dealers who mistakenly thought he was the involved in a high level cocaine operation.  When they realized their error and wound up empty handed, the dealers shot John and slayed his girlfriend.

Shortly after the tragedy, John’s friend, guitar maker Bill Collings packed up his one man shop and dedicated his life to helping the police find John’s killers.  Collings could not stand to see the case go dark.  He worked tirelessly with the Houston detectives until eventually the assailants were apprehended and sent to prison.  Bill reopened his guitar shop and within a few years was making some of the finest guitars in the world. He still makes them today.  You would have to ask Bill, but I believe Bill found his calling and his muse in the musical life and tragic death of his dear friend, John Vandiver.

Posted in 1970s, Featured, Guitarists, Unsung Hero / Tagged ,

Hank Garland

03/13/2011

hank garland

by John Platania

Hank Garland was one of the first guitar players I ever listened to – along with Chet, Wes & Jimmy Bryant. “The Unforgettable Guitar Of Hank Garland” was for me, a very early introduction into jazz. Then I bought “Jazz Winds From A New Direction”. There may be a third album but I think that’s the extent of his solo output. Sadly, a car accident ended Hank’s career in his prime. I never knew Hank was primarily a country picker until years later – and an “A” team guy at that.

To this day those aforementioned albums still hold up. Just amazing playing. They offer up no clue that Hank’s main gig was as an ace country picker. I don’t know of any guitarist who could own either genre so completely.

I’m not really familiar with all that Hank did as a session player. However one session I heard years ago that must have been his was The Everly’s “Don’t Blame Me”. The guitar playing on that record is not only very jazz-like, but it is some of the most exquisitely tasteful, from-the-heart playing you’ll ever hear. Later, I had the chance to ask Harold Bradley (another unsung guitar hero) if that was Hank on that track and he confirmed it.

Posted in Featured, Guitarists

Evie Sands

03/13/2011

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Although her outstanding recordings in the 1960s were critically acclaimed and she counted Dusty Springfield, the Hollies and Patti LaBelle among her fans and admirers, Brooklyn-born Evie Sands was the hard-luck girl of the era.

Songwriter Chip Taylor (“Wild Thing”) and guitarist Al Gorgoni (“Brown Eyed Girl”) teamed up with Evie in the mid 1960s and produced a string of singles for Lieber and Stoller’s Blue Cat label. The first, Take Me For A Little While, with an absolutely wonderful vocal, seemed to be a sure smash. Especially, as it turned out, to an unscrupulous promoter who took a test pressing over to the people working on Chess soul singer Jackie Ross’ followup to her monster hit “Selfish One”. A hastily recorded imitation version was released at the same time as Evie’s original. The subsequent litigation and confusion caused radio to back away and Evie’s version was only a regional hit.

Evie’s next single, Taylor and Gorgoni’s I Can’t Let Go, was caught up in the wake of the earlier fiasco and was relegated to an also-ran when the Hollies turned their version into an international hit.

In 1967, Sands and Taylor tried again with Angel of the Morning for Cameo Records. In its first week of release, the single was the most requested song on radio around the country. However, Cameo went bankrupt and copies of the single never made it to the stores. Several months later, Angel of the Morning was a huge hit for Merrilee Rush.

Finally, in 1969 Evie, teaming up again with Taylor & Gorgoni, had some success with Taylor’s Any Way That You Want Me which sold 500,000 copies and Rolling Stone called it one of the best singles of the year. An album of the same name sold modestly despite critical acclaim and Evie didn’t resurface until the mid 1970s when she scored two top 40 hits.

Evie then devoted her creative energies to songwriting, penning tunes for artists such as Barbara Streisand, Gladys Knight and Dusty Springfield but stayed out of the spotlight herself for many years.

A chance encounter with Taylor in 1996 led to a comeback album in 1998 called Women in Prison which featured a wonderful duet with Lucinda Williams. This led to a few appearances with Belle & Sebastian who, along with many others in the UK, had always loved those neglected singles from the 1960s.

Posted in Featured, Singers

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