Many Rock and Roll historians have long questioned the origins and birth of Rock and Roll music. The name Rock and Roll itself is subject to questions as to who first used it. Credit is given to DJ Allan Freed for first using the label Rock and Roll while he was a disc jockey in Cleveland, Ohio. That was the rather flimsy reason that Cleveland was chosen to house the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
One could easily argue that other cities deserved the honor more than Cleveland. Philadelphia is one city that could certainly make a case for being the birth place of the music. While many consider Chuck Berry the grandfather of the genre, there can be no argument about the first Rock and Roll hit record. That first hit “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and The Comets is cited by many rockers as the reason they got into the music.
Bill Haley got his start in “show biz” by himself being a DJ on a station in the Philadelphia area. While still here he started a band called The Saddlemen. Their music started to out as country, but soon moved into the realm of Country Swing. When the band changed their name to The Comets, they incorporated Country Swing and R & B to create the sound that changed the world of music forever.
The list of people that Mark Andes has played bass guitar for gives you an idea of just how talented he is. While known for his work with Rock musicians, Besides Rock groups, Mark has worked with Jazz, American native music artists and even played on a French artist’s album.
Mark was born in Philadelphia, but since his father Keith was a professional actor, the family moved to Los Angeles to be closer to his chances of working. Music was more of a calling for Mark and before long he was part of the original group from LA called Canned Head. He left the band before they recorded and along with his high school friend, Jay Ferguson started a band called Spirit.
On the surface it certainly appeared that Spirit had all the elements that fit perfectly into the time period. They combined Rock, Jazz and folk to back up the many songs that were filled with topical lyrics of that time period. The group debuted with a self -titled LP in 1968. It was one of two released that year. The first single “Mechanical World” was co-written by Mark and Jay. It was not a big hit.
On the surface calling a member of one of the most successful groups in the history of music underrated would seem totally absurd. But John Paul Jones has lived in the shadows of Jimmy Page, Robert Planet and John Bonham ever since Led Zeppelin was formed. While that trio took most of the glory, it John Paul Jones who was a major factor in the group’s success.
It was the arrangements that Jones did of the music that often separated the super group from just another rock band. Jones has a whole career that the casual fan knows little or nothing about. He is a lot more than a bass player.
John Baldwin (for some unknown reason selected the surname of Jones for a stage name) was born into a very musical family. Both parents were professional musicians. They toured so often that young John had attend boarding schools as a youth.
The beginning of Graham Parker’s career started out like a story book fairy tale. He was working at a filling station pumping gas in England and listening to the radio. After listening for some time he thought to himself, I know I can write better songs than what I am hearing. And so he started writing songs.
Once the songs were written he had to find a way to record them so he put an ad in the paper to find people to play in a backup band. Once the band was in place, the intention was to make a demo recording to get a major label record company interested in signing them. One of the members of the band, Paul Riley, suggested that Dave Robinson, the manager of a local recording studio, was the perfect person to approach. Robinson loved what he heard from the band and agreed to record them. Ironically during the course of recording the demos, it was Robinson who slowly replaced the original members (including Riley) with players that he considered superior. One of those who became the backbone of the band and later a recording artist in his own right was Brinsley Schwartz. Parker was sure that with a name like Brinsley Schwartz that he had been the leader of a German heavy metal band.
The recent death of Tom Petty brought to mind one of the true super groups of our time The Traveling Wilburys. In the article written at the time of Petty’s death I documented how the group accidently got together. While it was essentially a one album group, they did put out a second album but without the great Roy Orbison. It was truly the end of the line when he passed away.
Roy is perhaps the greatest true singer in Rock history. He could hit notes without even straining that others wouldn’t even attempt. How ironic was it that The Traveling Wiburys gave his career a needed shot in the arm after the 70’s had apparently left him behind.
Roy Orbison had more than his fair share of grief. After being discovered by the legendary Sam Phillips of Sun Records in the 50’s, it was awhile before he had a string of hit records in the early 60’s. Then his wife was killed in an accident. Then just two years later, two of his three children died when his home burned down. If there was anyone who needed a lift, it was Roy.
Ray Davies and The Kinks are one of the most over looked bands of the English Invasion. They started recording when Ray was 17 and his brother Dave (the lead guitar player) was only 15. They had an immediate impact with “You Really Got Me” which remains one of the best Rock songs ever. They followed that up with two more top ten singles in the US with “All Day and All l of the Night” and “Tired of Waiting for You”.
In England everyone loved The Kinks. Other bands wanted to sound like them. The Who, for example, admitted that when they first started their goal was to sound like The Kinks. Ray Davis is always being cited by his peers as one of the best song writers in all of the business. So what happened?
The single “Misfits” released in 1978 may tell a good part of the story. The Kinks in general and Ray Davies in particular have been misfits in the music business. Ever since the early success the group has been putting out great records that are largely ignored by the general public but highly praised by critics and other musicians.
Anyone who was alive in the 50’s was very much aware of Ricky Nelson. His family had a TV show called “The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet” that was extremely popular though most of the 50’s and well into the 60’s. In fact it lasted from 1952 until 1966 making it one of the most long lasting sitcoms in TV history. The show was as close to reality TV as you could get back then. There never seemed to be much of a plot to the show. The family just talked and talked and every once in a while they actually left the house to do something. One could only wonder what the father did for a living since they lived in a beautiful suburban home despite Ozzie being on the family couch for most the show.
Every Halloween avid horror film fans trot out the horror classics. For many people that is the only exposure they have ever had to a device known as the Theremin. That eerie music that you hear as part of the soundtrack for many old spooky or science fiction motion pictures like “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “Spellbound” used this odd instrument.
A Russian physicist named Lev Termen invented this most unusual sounding instrument in 1919 and brought it with him to the US with big dreams of making it a huge success. That never really happened and Lev ended being forced back to Russia with nothing to show for his efforts.
Another in a series of 45 RPM stories.
Jim Messina fell in love with music at a very early age. Despite the fact that his parents were divorced when he was still an infant, Messina learned from both of them. That was accomplished even though he was bouncing back and forth living with them for parts of the year. His mom, who lived in Texas, loved early Rock ‘n’ Roll and his father, who was a guitarist, lived in California and was into country swing music like that of Bob Willis & The Texas Playboys.
When Jim picked up the guitar at the tender age of 5, he started to be influenced by the guitar work he heard in the songs by Elvis Presley and Ricky Nelson. By the time he was 17 he was so accomplished that he was asked by a local DJ to play with and produce a band. He didn’t even know what a producer did, but was confident in his knowledge of music so he took up the challenge. While those early efforts were not a commercial success, the engineer on the sessions was so impressed he offered Jim a job in the studio as an assistant.
Only ardent fans of The Rolling Stones know very much about one of the original members of the band. However, Ian Stewart was very instrumental in getting the group off the ground. Keith Richard said “Ian Stewart was the glue that held the whole thing together”.
Those who take the time will note that Ian’s name appears on many of The Rolling Stones records. He wasn’t a studio musician, he was a member of the early Rolling Stones. As it turned out he did a lot more than play keyboards for the band.
When Brian Jones, the original leader of The Rolling Stones, put an ad in the paper looking for a piano player who knew American Blues, Boogie Woogie and R & B, it was Stewart who showed up and blew the whole band away with his playing.
As of this writing, we officially enter into the Summer of 2017. Even before the summer started there were all kinds of talk and writing about this year being the 50th anniversary of the so called “Summer of Love”. That summer was a major turning point in my life. While I had been on the air prior to that summer, it was a milestone because of my having the opportunity to launch a new form of radio programming.
The idea for a radio format that included all kinds of music with both singles and album cuts being played was born long before that summer. For that matter, so were the seeds for “The Summer of Love”.
They both grew out of a blending of a social and musical revolution that had been brewing from as early as the 50’s. Jazz was the music of the “Beat” generation. The music itself was more universal but center point of thought for that generation was San Francisco. It was no accident that the liberal city by the bay was the epicenter of “The summer of Love” and “Flower Power”.
The social, Political and musical changes that started to simmer in 1965 continued to escalate in 1966. The war in Viet Nam was one of the driving forces. On March 26 over 200,000 protested gathered around the world in anti US demonstrations. They blamed the US government and President Johnson for heating things up. Even in England, normally a solid alley, demonstrators storm the US Embassy.
By the end of the year over 500,000 American troops were in Viet Nam. It wasn’t just the protesters at that point that began to question why we were taking sides in a civil war. The heavyweight champion of the world in boxing, Muhammad Ali, surprised everyone by declaring he would not accept the draft notice because he was against the war. Many others followed and draft dodging became accepted by many. On May 16th, the same day that BLONDE ON BLONDE by Bob Dylan was released, Martin Luther King came out against the war giving a passionate speech at a huge rally. Anti- war songs increased in popularity-especially with the college age youth.
As documented in parts one and two of “The Summer of Love” feature, much of what propelled the social and political movement was the anti-war movement that was spearheaded by the youth of America. By 1967 the majority of the general population agreed that this was not a war that the U.S. should be involved in and sided with the resistance movement to the war.
Perhaps buoyed by the rise in that sentiment, many young Americans were moving on to other issues in an effort to change not only the politics of this country, but the social mores as well. Those in this new movement were given a name. They were called “Hippies”. Like their counterparts, the “Beatniks” of the 50’s, the “Hippies” found a mecca in San Francisco. It has been estimated that well over 100,000 young people (many of them runaways), came seeking free love, free food and free drugs. The Haight-Asbury district of the city soon became overwhelmed. The “Flower Power” movement was in full bloom.