Pete Fountain

13882276_313471258994963_591927711222280469_n Pierre Dewey LaFontaine Jr., was born July 3, 1930, in New Orleans, the great grandson of a French immigrant who came to the U.S. in the early 19th century. His father would later change his last name to Fountain and Pete followed suit.

As a child, he was very sickly, frequently battling respiratory infections due to weakened lungs. He was given expensive medication but it proved to be not very effective. During a pharmacy visit, Pete’s father began a discussion with a neighborhood doctor who was also there shopping and talked with him about his son’s condition. The doctor agreed to see the boy the following day. After a short exam, the doctor confirmed the weak lung condition and advised the father to try an unorthodox treatment: purchase the child a musical instrument, anything he has to blow into. The same day, they went to a local music store and, given his choice of instruments, Pete chose the clarinet. At first, Pete was unable to produce a sound from the instrument, but he continued to practice and eventually not only made sounds and eventually music, but greatly improved the health of his lungs.

He took private lessons but also learned to play jazz by playing along with records of Benny Goodman and Irving Fazola. Early on he played with the bands of Monk Hazel and Al Hirt. Fountain founded The Basin Street Six in 1950 with his longtime friend, trumpeter George Girard. After this band broke up four years later, Fountain was hired to join the Lawrence Welk Orchestra and became well known for his many solos on Welk’s ABC television show, The Lawrence Welk Show. Fountain was later hired by Decca Records A&R head Charles “Bud” Dant and went on to produce 42 hit albums with Dant. After Welk’s death, Fountain would occasionally join with the Welk musical family for reunion shows.

Fountain married Beverly Lang on October 27, 1951. They have two sons and a daughter: Kevin, Jeffrey, and Dahra.

Fountain returned to his hometown New Orleans and played withThe Dukes of Dixieland, then began leading bands under his own name. He owned his own club in the French Quarter in the 1960s and 1970s. He later acquired “Pete Fountain’s Jazz Club” at the Riverside Hilton in downtown New Orleans. His Quintet was made up of his studio recording musicians, Stan Kenton’s bassist Don Bagley, vibeist Godfrey Hirsch, pianist Merle Koch, and double bass drummer Jack Sperling. Fountain brought this same group with him in 1963 when they played the Hollywood Bowl. Pete would go to Hollywood many times, appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson 56 times.

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Fountain opened his club, the French Quarter Inn, located in the French Quarter in the spring of 1960. Cliff Arquette and Jonathan Winters were there on opening night and performed their comedy routines. Over the next few years Frank Sinatra, Phil Harris, Carol Lawrence and Robert Goulet, Keely Smith, Robert Mitchum, and Brenda Lee, among many others, came to the club. Many would perform with the band, and Brenda Lee’s sit-in resulted in a duet record album recorded by her and Pete. Benny Goodman came to the club twice, but without bringing his clarinet. In 2003, Fountain closed his club at the Hilton with a performance before a packed house filled with musical friends and fans.

Fountain was a founder and the most prominent member of the Half-Fast Walking Club, one of the best known marching Krewes that parade in New Orleans on Mardi Gras Day. The original name was “The Half-Assed Walking Club,” and it was an excuse to take a musical stroll down the street.

He would go on to record about 90 albums, four of which went gold, Perform for four U.S. presidents and, in September 1987, for Pope John Paul II during the pope’s visit to New Orleans.

Sadly, New Orleans would lose a music legend when Fountain passed away on August 6, 2016 of natural causes.

Adela

Prince

13076766_259869017688521_4989544048018183489_nIt seems like we have been writing way too many of these memorial tributes lately.  2016 had been a rough year, and now we have lost another great musician.  Prince Rogers Nelson was an amazing musician, icon and innovator.

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 7, 1958, Prince had been interested in music from a young age writing songs as young as seven years old.  He hit the big time when he was 19, with his first commercial album For You in 1978,  He continued his success with four more albums , one of which went platinum. In 1984, Prince and the Revolution, as he had named his backup band, released Purple Rain.  Purple Rain was the soundtrack to a film by the same name, which has become a cult classic.  Purple Rain was voted as one of the greatest albums in music history.  It made it to 15th place in the Time magazine poll in 1993, and it placed 18th on VH1’s Greatest Rock and Roll Albums of All Time countdown.

Prince did not rest on his laurels, and kept making hits.  He was such a prolific songwriter, he wrote under many pseudonyms and for many different artists.  One was the smash hit, Nothing Compares 2 U, which was performed by Sinead O’Connor.  Prince sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best selling artist of all time.  The awards he has garnered for his iconic career are numerous, including seven Grammys, a Golden Globe and an Academy Award.  He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the first year of his eligibility and Rolling Stone has ranked him at 27 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Prince was no stranger to controversy as many of his lyrics were sexually explicit and pushed the boundaries.  His song Darling Nikki inspired the controversial Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), which sought to put warning labels on music and brought censorship to the forefront of American society.  He also publicly protested financial and artistic control of his music, appearing at a court hearing with the word “slave” painted on his cheek.  Not long after, he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol to take back control from his record company.  He explained the change with this statement:

“The first step I have taken toward the ultimate goal of emancipation from the chains that bind me to Warner Bros. was to change my name from Prince to the Love Symbol. Prince is the name that my mother gave me at birth. Warner Bros. took the name, trademarked it, and used it as the main marketing tool to promote all of the music that I wrote. The company owns the name Prince and all related music marketed under Prince. I became merely a pawn used to produce more money for Warner Bros…

I was born Prince and did not want to adopt another conventional name. The only acceptable replacement for my name, and my identity, was the Love Symbol, a symbol with no pronunciation, that is a representation of me and what my music is about. This symbol is present in my work over the years; it is a concept that has evolved from my frustration; it is who I am. It is my name.”

Eventually he began referring to himself as Prince again, but this definitely made a statement.  

Over and through all this controversy was the music.  Prince was an amazing musician, playing almost all of the instruments on the first five albums he made.  He played all the instruments on the song “When Doves Cry” as well as singing.

A talented and iconic performer.  He will be missed.
ER

A Wonderful Life

6917659_origAs you all know, my role on the page is purely administrative, but the team very graciously allowed me to add a short post of my own on this occasion.

I’m very much a child of music, born to two young people of the sixties, at the start of the seventies, and reached maturity in the eighties. That’s pretty much where my music tastes rest. I like rock and melodies, words and the beat of the drums or the strum of guitar. So it had been a bit of a shock as the favourites of my youth, Lemmy and Phil Taylor, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, John Bradbury, Jimmy Bain and Natalie Cole have succumbed in quick succession in a matter of weeks to various illnesses.

One of my favourite songs as a young woman was ‘Wonderful Life’ by Black singer Colin Vearncombe. It figured quite heavily in the mid-80s and as the song that would later shake me free of some personal demons. From time to time over the last 30 years or so, I have re-visited Black’s work, with a smile whilst remembering moments from my youth, grateful that the desire to run was past. Always eager for travel and taking in the history of the world, in 2013 I was lucky enough to take a study trip back to Crete to view some archaeology work that was taking place at Knossos Palace. As some of my family and a friend travelled with me, (any opportunity for a holiday right?) I took a day or two out to relax.

3646811_origOne of these days saw us travel up into the hills overlooking Hersonissos to have a day out at the Water Park. It was fairly early in the morning when we set off, in two cars. My driver, Paul had the radio on and we chatted a little about the songs, and sang along smiling. ‘Wonderful Life’ started to play as we rounded a bend, on the hill and I looked out of the open window, across the valley below. The sun was shining and all was quiet. The scenery was magnificent and I sang along… “No need to run, and hide, it’s a wonderful, wonderful life…”

Born in Liverpool in May 1962, Colin Vearncombe first achieved moderate success touring with his band, Black, supporting The Thompson Twins aged 20 before signing with WEA in 1984. He achieved some success outside of the UK, before writing what is for me, his greatest hit, rather out of frustration the following year. The song was released on an independent label and got Black noticed, leading to a signing with A & M, launching an international career. Their first single with A & M achieved little, and was subsequently far outshone by successful follow-up ‘The Sweetest Smile’. ‘Wonderful Life’ was then re-released, being a massive hit. An album of the same name followed shortly afterwards in 1987.

Two further albums, ‘Comedy’ and ‘Black’ achieved similar success. Colin married his Swedish singer partner Camilla Griehsel, and broke with A & M, after becoming disillusioned with working for a large label. Forming his own record label Nero Schwartz, Colin released one album in 1993, ‘Are we having fun yet?’ He took a break from the industry, returning in 1999 under his own name. In 2005 after re-adopting the name Black, he poked fun at his success with ‘Wonderful life’ with one of the songs on his album ‘Between Two Churches’ which asked ‘Are you having a wonderful life?’

4979967_origSince then, Colin had released four further albums, using a variety of media, including his latest, ‘Blind Faith, in April 2015 as a result of a crowd-funding project. Colin had also fitted in several appearances at a variety of select venues both in the UK and abroad, in that time. Colin Vearncombe was involved in a serious car crash in Ireland on January 12th 2016. As a result of his injuries, he was placed in a medically induced coma, where his condition remained stable but critical. I sent silent thoughts of hope out into the ether. Sadly, despite the hopes and prayers of many many fans, friends and family, Colin’s condition deteriorated and he passed away today. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

The song may have become synonymous with the artist often at the expense of his later work, but for me the memories associated with it make that personally worthwhile. Although several others are also highly rated in my iPod, I will forever associate Colin with a warm, peaceful August morning driving in the hills of Crete….. a truly wonderful memory.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiN4EOqpvwc

Paula

David Bowie

12553069_209003919441698_1252133465744494598_nBorn David Robert Jones on the 8th of January, 1947 in Brixton, south London. David Jones took to music early in his life, and though his singing voice was deemed only adequate, he excelled in his (newly introduced) music and movement classes as a very imaginative dancer. As he grew and developed, he struggled to establish himself as his own man in a time when so much amazing music was being written. He toyed with new and different stage names (not liking the fact that as Davy or Davie Jones he was often confused for the lead singer of the Monkees). He had a very (VERY) brief stint as one Tom Jones, but in the end, he opted to name himself after the once-prolific and deadly in it’s simplicity: Bowie knife. In his words, it was “the ultimate American knife. It is the medium for a conglomerate of statements and illusions.”

In his time, Bowie released 27 studio albums, 9 live albums, 46 compilation albums, 5 EPs, 111 singles including 5 UK number one hits and 3 soundtracks. Additionally he also released 13 video albums and 51 music videos. Additionally, Bowie has 39 actor credits on IMDb. Indeed, he wore many hats in the industry, including but not limited to singer, songwriter, record producer, arranger, painter and actor.

But you see… that is just a series of facts and numbers that span a career that lasted over five decades. What you cannot quantify with numbers is his affect on the world. Bowie had a style and penuche that did not lack for controversy. He brought us the character of Ziggy Stardust and inadvertently came to represent the gay rights movement as he was often thought of as either gay or bi-sexual. This was corroborated when he first declared himself gay (Melody Maker, 22 January, 1972) and later bi-sexual (Playboy, September 1976) and ultimately – heterosexual (Rolling Stone, 1983). He was married more than once but is purported to have had a romantic entanglement with Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. (Here, you can watch the most homoerotically charged music video of all time:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9G4jnaznUoQ. Go watch, we’ll wait.)

Either way, Bowie played with the rules of social conduct in volatile times the same way he played with the conventions of music. He brought a whole new sound into being that no one had really ever heard before, and in a world full of the Beatles and the Monkees, he seemed to bridge the gap between pop and rock.

I was too young to grow up within the context of Bowie’s music, but my parents were fans (as well as fans of the Beatles, the Monkees, Billy Joel, Elton John and for some inexplicable reason, Linda Ronstadt) and I grew up such titles as “Fame”, “Heroes”, and “Under Pressure” (and was sufficiently outraged when Vanilla Ice blatantly ripped off the bass riff) and as I grew older developed an extreme respect for what he did for the music industry. I listed above the IMDb actor credits to his name, but IMDb has another category: Soundtrack. And in this category, Mr. David Robert Jones of Brixton, south London has 452 credits. Hang one, let me spell that out for greater impact: FOUR-HUNDRED AND FIFTY-TWO credits. That means 452 movies, television episodes, shorts, WHATEVER paid that man money to use his music. Talk about an impact.

I will leave you with a benediction and a quote. Rest in peace, Ziggy Stardust. You brought about positive change in the world and made the youth of several very powerful nations take one look at what you were wearing and go… “Huh.”
And, the quote:
“I’m not a prophet or a stone aged man, just a mortal with potential of a superman. I’m living on.”

AG

A True Songbird – Eva Cassidy

“You left in autumn, the leaves were turning
I walk down roads [of] orange and gold
I see your sweet smile, I hear your laughter
You’re still here beside me every day . . .
‘Cause I know you by heart . . . “

12314694_189017961440294_4830049958543415612_oIn November of 1996 the world said goodbye to the great talent that was Eva Cassidy. At the age of just 33, after a short battle with cancer, she passed away in her family home in Maryland US. Eva’s fame would only continue to grow after her death, as new generations discovered her beautiful, soulful voice, and effortless harmonies.

Born in Washington, on February 2nd 1963, Eva Marie Cassidy, was the 3rd child of Hugh and Barbara. Both her Father and her younger brother Danny shared her love of music, with Danny taking up the fiddle around the same time as Eva started singing and playing the guitar. The two were in a band together from a young age, although originally Eva struggled with her shyness, and felt uncomfortable performing in front of strangers. During high school she joined a local band named Stonehenge, and in 1986 she attended Black Pond Studios as a favour to fellow band member, and friend David Lourim, in order to record some vocals for his musical project, it was this which led to her introduction to Al Dale, who would go on to become her manager. Eva first found work as a session singer, singing back up vocals for various bands. However she soon formed The Eva Cassidy band, and began to perform around the Washington area.

The major breakthrough for Eva came in 1992, when she was asked to record a duet album with Chuck Brown, the album named The Other Side turned out to be the only studio album she would ever release during her lifetime. With it came the cover of a song which would go on to be one of Eva’s most famous Over the Rainbow. The Washington Area Music Association honoured her in 1993 with a WAMMIE award, in the Vocalist/Jazz Traditional music category. The following year she was presented with another 2 awards. A live album recorded at The Blue’s Alley in Washington was released in 1996, although Eva had originally been reluctant to release the recording, a technical glitch had meant that out of 2 nights worth of recordings, only 1 was useable, and Eva felt she hadn’t sounded her best due to suffering with a cold at the time. She need not have worried, the album was very well received by both critics and the public, and propelled her musical talent far beyond Washington.

Unfortunately Eva was unable to enjoy her success. She had been plagued with ill health, and various physical problems for some time. In 1993 she’d had a malignant mole removed from her back, and in the months running up to and during the recording of the live album she’d noticed a persistent aching in her hips, she had even taken to using a cane to aid her during gigs. Xrays revealed a hip fracture and surgery was scheduled for August 21st 1996. Pre op tests revealed cancer in a lung, and further investigations carried out at John Hopkins University confirmed that the cancer had spread throughout Eva’s bones. It was at this point she was told her cancer was terminal; she had just months to live. Eva started an intensive course of chemotherapy, determined to fight, and to ride her bike again, and take trips to the countryside with her beloved mom, with whom she’d shared a tradition of taking Sunday trips out surrounded by nature. However it simply wasn’t meant to be.

In the early autumn of 1996 Eva gave her last public appearance at a benefit concert at The Bayou, she closed her set with “What a Wonderful World”. A month before her death she finally recorded a song which she’d previously attempted to record in 1993, it was called “I know you by Heart”, and she sang it alongside her brother Danny playing his violin.
On November 2nd 1996 Eva passed away, her wish was to be cremated and for her ashes to be scattered by the lake in St Mary’s River Watershed Nature Reserve in Maryland.

Eva Cassidy has released 10 albums posthumously, and even bagged herself a number 1 in the UK with a duet of What a Wonderful World with Katie Melua, 11 years after her death. Her voice continues to enchant the hearts of those who listen to her singing.

Below is a link to the recording of “I know you by Heart”

Caz