James Cotton, who was given the nickname of “Superharp” because of his virtuosity on the harmonica, died of Pneumonia on March 16, 2017 in his adopted home of Austin, Texas. He was 81 years old. With his passing we have lost one of the last direct links to the golden age of Chicago Blues.
Mr. Cotton was also a link to music further back. When he was a child he learned how to make sounds on the harmonica that sounded like the sounds he heard around him. Sometimes he sounded like a train whistle or a chicken. Other times he tried to sound like the field hollers he learn from his parents and the other sharecroppers working the land on a plantation in Mississippi. His father was also a preacher, so he tried to copy the harmonies of the gospel singers.
Another sad note on the music front. Richie Ingui, who founded the Philadelphia group The Soul Survivors with his brother Charlie and Kenny Jeremiah, died on Friday, January 13, 2017. How ironic that he died on the unlucky day of Friday the 13th. He and his brother Charlie deserved better luck in the music business. They had much more talent than given credit for over the years.
The brothers started out as The Dedications and released a number of tracks between 1962 and 1964 before changing their name to the Soul Survivors. Legend has it that the name came from the fact that the group had a bad accident on the New Jersey Pike on their way to a gig. After seeing the damage, they were sitting around a table at dinner when someone commented “How did we survive?” The Soul part came from the fact that the young group was very much interested in Soul music. Soon after the name change they signed a deal with Crimson Records in 1965. That is where they first teamed up with the very young team of Gamble and Huff. Another legend from Philly, Joe Tarsia was the engineer. He went on to be the chief engineer and owner of the legendary Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia.
The voice of Emerson, Lake & Palmer has joined his band mate Keith who died just nine months prior. The sad announcement that Greg Lake had succumbed to Cancer was made from London on December 7th.
Very often the contribution that Greg made to music has been overlooked. He was a major figure in the movement that became labeled Progressive Rock. It all started when his mother bought him a guitar at age 12. Within a year he wrote a song that was later recorded by ELP called “Lucky Man”.
While taking guitar lessons he developed a friendship with another student, Robert Fripp. When Robert started a new band called King Crimson, he asked Greg to switch from guitar to bass so he could join the band. Greg agreed to not only play bass, but to sing.
It was probably the coldest morning we ever had for the John DeBella Turkey Drop, but we were all warmed by the tremendous donations by our listeners. The WMGK DJs were located in various Giant locations throughout the Philadelphia area and John maintained the operation headquarters in front of the Kimmel Center on Broad Street.
At my location in St. David’s we collected over $3,000 and several baskets of turkeys. The final tally is still being done as of this writing since we will continue the drive until the end of the Thanksgiving Weekend. We will update you when have the final numbers.
While we thank all of you for coming by and making this holiday season better for so many people that CITY TEAM helps feed and clothes each year, there were two that I should single out.
On November 18, 2016 the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia had their Annual Hall of Fame and Person of the Year Awards Dinner. It was held at the Hilton Hotel on City Avenue in Philadelphia. There was a record sold out crowd in attendance to honor those who were selected for the Hall of Fame.
This year the Person of the Year was long time Philly DJ Jerry Blavat.
A video of the entire ceremony can be seen on the Broadcast Pioneers website or by clicking onto the icon located on the front page of our website.
Here is the entire list of 2016 Honorees and some exclusive photos from this year's event taken by Michael Muderick.
Upon hearing of the death of Mose Allison at the age of 89 my first thought was that we have lost one of the most original talents ever in music. One major reason that Mose wasn’t a huge success during his long and very productive life was he was very hard to put in any one category. Record stores and radio stations love to be able to pigeon hole artists and you couldn’t do that with Allison. Many Jazz lovers felt he was more Blues than Jazz, while Blues lovers felt he was more Jazz than Blues. Hence he was never fully embraced by either camp.
Rock stars loved his music for its off center music and clever lyrics. You can’t help but love lines like “My mind is on vacation, but my mouth is working overtime.” His songs have been recorded by many, among them, The Who, Van Morrison, The Yardbirds, John Mayall, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello, Eric Clapton and The Clash.
The last time I saw Leon Russell he was the opening act for Bob Dylan. Dylan, like so many of the musicians of this classic rock period, had enormous respect for the man with the long silver hair. Leon had fallen out of the public eye and Bob wanted to give him some a spotlight as a thank you for all he has done. He wasn’t the only one who remembered Leon. Elton John considered Russell to be an influence on him and wanted reward him by doing an album together called THE UNION that gain much praised from the critics. It was another chance to do a comeback tour.
His reputation as a songwriter earned Leon a place in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He also was honored with an Award for Music Excellence from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. Some of his most noted songs that he wrote were “A Song for You”, “Tightrope” “Lady Blue” and “Delta Lady”.
It was “Delta Lady” that was a big hit for Joe Cocker. The Joe Cocker tour known as the Mad Dogs and English Men tour was a huge success primarily because of the work Leon Russell as music director. Read about that tour in my article about the most memorable concerts in Philadelphia. That same tour led to a popular film and a huge selling double album of their live performances on the tour.
I still remember the day that the first Leonard Cohen album came across my desk in 1967. There was already talk about him being Canada’s answer to Bob Dylan. That certainly didn’t help. Being compared to Dylan was almost a daily ritual in the press. Most didn’t come close to living up to the hype.
The first cut on the album “Suzanne” soon put those thoughts in the background for me. While Cohen and Dylan both were hardly great singers and both were the best poets for a new generation, they was a stark difference between the two. A comparison was not only unnecessary, but kinda like apples and oranges. For me one thing that they did have in common was their voices certainly fit their music. No one could present their music better or with more feeling in their voices than the authors themselves.
The WMGK Brew Blast was again sold out and despite the heat the crowd enjoyed a great day of music by The Kategory 5 and lots of brews.
This annual event took place on the historic Battleship New Jersey in Camden, NJ.
Kategory 5 was the winner of the WMGK "Battle of the Bands" and won the right to be the house band for one year. Their performance today left no doubt that they not only were the best band this year, but one of the very best bands ever in the yearly search to find the best band. Their name is clever as well with the lead singer named Kat.
Check out these photos provided by Kathy Wagner of WMGK.
Alice Cooper is running for President. He declared his candidacy at his big news conference on July 26. Some would argue that we couldn't do much worse with the present slate of candidates. His main slogan is “Make America Sick Again”. Others include “A Troubled Man for Troubled Times”, “The Whole World has Gone Crazy – Vote for Alice.”
Of course Alice running for president really isn’t new. He has run in every election since 1972. This time is a little different since many think the race for president is a horror show anyway so Alice fits right in.
Alice was born Vincent Collier Furnier in Detroit, Michigan to very religious parents. Both his father and grandfather were preachers. Vincent was also active in the church at ages 11-12. His family moved to Arizona because of health issues when the future rock star was in elementary school.
When Bob Dylan comes to your town, it is like a pilgrimage. It almost doesn’t matter if the show is great or the music is to your liking, you must see the man perform. His contribution to music goes far beyond anything that I could try and relate to you in this article. You go almost like paying homage to the living legend. And the fans came out. They were a very mixed crowd. Many families with younger kids, older fans and even some fans in their teens and twenties who may have never seen Dylan perform.
Mavis Staples is the current opening act on the Bob Dylan “Never Ending Tour”. She gave a very lively performance. At age 77 she is the sole remainder of the legacy that her father started with The Staple Singers almost seventy years ago. Her blues and gospel set kept the audience well entertained.
Without any fanfare or flashing lights, the Bob Dylan set was off and rolling. The set was almost exactly the same as the one he just did at Forest Hills in New York that got excellent reviews. This show deserved high marks as well.
One of the nicest and most talented people in the music business, Charlie Daniels, has died. When we first talked in 1972 he told me that he did over 300 concerts a year! All of these shows were done by traveling in the CDB tour bus from town to town.
The Charlie Daniels Band has been around since Charlie graduated from high school in North Carolina in 1955. It was a hard life bouncing around from town to town and Charlie had to do studio work to make ends meet. To that end Charlie moved to Nashville and worked on several albums. Soon he was in very much in demand because he was not only very skilled on the guitar, but also the Mandolin and was (and still is) considered to be one of the best fiddlers of all time.
One of the most interesting and exciting people I have ever had the pleasure to meet in my life has died. He started his legendary career as the “Louisville Lip” Cassius Clay and ended up the most well-known person on this planet, Muhammad Ali. He was not only an athlete, but also a rebel who was willing to sacrifice his life for his beliefs including spending some of his most productive years in jail rather than fight in an "unjust war."