One of the very first voices I heard when I came to Philadelphia for college was that of Bill Wright, Sr. He was nothing like I had ever heard before on Rock ‘n’ Roll radio. Instead of the usual rapid-fire approach, Bill was a lot more laid back and even “folksy”.
The Rebel Wright is what he proudly proclaimed. He never forgot his Alabama roots. His career started there, but he became a radio legend only after getting his big break at WIBG. It was at WIBG that he broke radio ratings history.
Dusty Hill, the man who provided the thunderous bottom for Z Z Top, died peacefully in his sleep at age 72. The cause is unknown, but just last week Dusty was on tour with “the little ol’ band from Texas” so it was totally unexpected.
Apparently, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer had not been feeling well and was taking some time off at the time of his death. It was thought that he would return after some rest. The official Z Z Top website called it a “short detour” on July 23.
The name Ethel Gabriel probably means very little to the average Rock fan. She was a true pioneer in the record business and should be remembered.
Ethel was born and raised in the Philadelphia area. As a young, accomplished musician she started her own band at age 13. Her instrument was the Trombone and the music her band played was that of the great big band bands of her youth like Glenn Miller. That led to playing in the Philadelphia Women’s Symphony Orchestra at a very early age.
Trying to create anything that has never been done before usually ends up in failure. No one remembers the names of the people who tried to invent the first radio or record player and failed. Even if they were successful and didn’t get the credit because someone simply beat them to the patent office, they didn’t get any reward for their work.
Creating something from a mere idea takes painstaking hard work. You have to be prepared to fail over and over. Read the life story of some famous inventors and you will get a better understanding. They are driven by an inner passion that most people just don’t understand. Most of the time their drive doesn’t come from a desire to make money. It is just as well, since most often the pioneers in any field rarely get rich from their ideas.
When Spencer Davis appeared at the Main Point years ago it was long past the time of the famed Spencer Davis Group days. One might have thought that he wanted to leave all of that behind him, but when I spoke with him in the basement of the legendary club, he didn’t mind dragging up the past. In fact, he seemed rather proud of the fact that Steve Winwood was doing so well.
At the time I didn’t think to ask him if the stories of him being Steve’s German teacher in high school were true. It was a rumor that prevailed for some time. While Spencer was very fluent in German and did teach it while performing in clubs at night, in looking at his bios there’s nothing about him ever teaching the subject to Steve or his brother Muff.
From the very first time you heard Eddie Van Halen play his explosive guitar on “Eruption” was a lead in to the group’s cover version of The Kinks tune “You Really got Me” you knew that you were listening to one of the all- time great guitarists. It almost jumped out of the speakers at you. The 1:45 guitar effort was one of the most intense solos ever recorded.
On October 6, 2020 it was Eddie Van Halen’s son Wolf who broke the news to the world that his father had lost his two year long battle with Cancer. In his statement Wolf said “He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift. My heart is broken and I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from this loss.”
All of us have been impacted by this horrible Covid-19, but none more so than those in the music business. Venues have been shut down with no idea of when they may be able to open again. This has affected so many lives whose income depends on live music. Not only venues, but the performers as well are on the verge on going bankrupt.
If music means something to you, there’s a couple of ways that you can help. First there are concerts you can enjoy online. It may not be the same as actually being there, but you can enjoy some great music in the comfort of your own home.
To many, especially younger fans, Fleetwood Mac started when they moved to the US with a new line-up. If that is your starting point, you missed out on one of the most exciting Blues Rock bands ever assembled. They certainly were the best that the early British blues scene had to offer.
The founder of the band, Peter Green, died on Saturday July 25, 2020. If you never had a chance to see Peter play guitar, you missed out on an experience of a lifetime. He did things to a guitar that were unequaled by many.
Among those who greatly admired him were B B King who said of Green “he has the sweetest tone I ever heard. He was the only one who gave me the cold sweats”. Frank Zappa said in the 60’s that the original Fleetwood Mac with Peter green in the lead was the only music he really liked coming out of England.
A huge chapter in the history of the world of Rock ‘n’ Roll closed on Saturday night May 9. 2020. Little Richard was such a groundbreaker in so many ways. In so many other ways he was also a mystery.
Even the date of his birth is not known for sure. What is known is that he went from being a dishwasher in his hometown of Macon, Georgia to one of the most influential stars in all of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Upon Hearing about the death of Little Richard Bob Dylan was quoted as saying “He was my shining star and guiding light back when I was a little boy. His was the original spirit that moved me to do everything I do”.
You are indeed a fortunate person if you have someone like Gene Shay as a friend or co-worker. He was the kind of individual who can change your life. Often, he did it by simply being himself. We all lost a real genuinely special person when Gene lost his battle with COVID 19.
When I first came to Philadelphia Gene was working at WHAT-FM. Before I had the chance to hear him, he was doing a Jazz show. His life and the of many performers changed when he started a new folk show on Sunday nights in 1962.
Shorty after his return from a tour of Europe, it was announced that John Prine has contracted the Corvid 19 virus and was taken to the hospital. Our hopes that he would pull through were dashed on April 7, 2020 when it was announced that he did not survive.
The world has lost not only a great songwriter, but a man who never forgot who he was while he wrote his songs. The days of delivering mail and driving a truck gave him a unique insight into life. His flat voice fit nicely with his songs that ranged from the sad to the funny.
Critics and fans alike were divided in their feelings for the Canadian band called Rush. But one thing that everyone agreed on was that their drummer was nothing short of sensational.
From the early age of 12 when he had his first drum lesson, it was apparent that Neil was gifted. He was also driven to be as good as his idol, Keith Moon. As a teen living in suburban Toronto, he was punished for pounding out rhythms on his desk in school. The teacher gave him what was thought to be a punishment. He was forced to stay in detention for an hour after school. Not a problem. He used the time to pound out the beats that Keith Moon used in the Rock Opera TOMMY.
It wasn't long before Peart was considered to be as wild in his drumming approach as Moon, but even more precise. He certainly wasn’t as wild in his private life. Neil spent most of his free time when he wasn’t drumming reading tons of books. He was very much influenced by the writings of Ayn Rand and loved science fiction. Both were major factors in the lyrics that he created for Rush.
For almost forty years Debbi Calton has kept Philadelphia radio listeners informed and entertained with her very personal style. On December 6, 2019, her last day at WMGK, she had the difficult task of saying goodbye. Saying goodbye to her was not easy.
I have known Debbi since she came to Philadelphia from WMET in Chicago in August of 1983 to join us at WYSP. I still remember when I was on the air and Debbi came into the studio for the first time. We hit it off right away. Of course, that isn’t hard to do with Debbi.
We did have more things in common than most in radio. The biggest thing (besides our love of music) was our history. I came from a Navy family. Debbi came from an Air Force family. You move around a lot. She lived in several places including Turkey. You don’t have lifelong friends because that is hard to do when you go to countless numbers of grade schools and three different high schools.