Saturday, December 31, 2016

In Memoriam 2016: Giorgio Gomelsky to Alphonse Mouzon

Merle Haggard 1971, photo courtesy Country Music Association
Merle Haggard 1971, courtesy CMA
This year was absolutely brutal for a normal year, I sadly have to write up a couple dozen ‘end-of-year’ obituaries; for 2016, I had over 70 musicians, writers, and producers to memorialize. Our “In Memoriam” feature is so large this year that I’ve broken it down into three parts. To follow is in tribute to the artists that have made the music we love…

Part One: Mose Allison to Jimmy Guterman
Part Three: Prince to Bernie Worrell

Giorgio Gomelsky (81)
One of the major influential non-performers of the classic rock era of the ‘60s, Giorgio Gomelsky was a filmmaker, band manager, songwriter, and record producer. Gomelsky owned the Crawdaddy Club in London, hiring the Rolling Stones as his house band; he managed the Yardbirds and produced their albums from 1966 on; and he formed the Polydor-distributed Marmalade Records label, releasing albums by the Blossom Toes, Brian Auger & Trinity, and Graham Gouldman, who would later form 10cc. Gomelsky also had a hand in launching the careers of Soft Machine, Daevid Allen and Gong, Magma, Material, and Vangelis, among others. His fingers are all over the psychedelic and prog-rock of the ‘60s and, after a move to New York City in 1978, became involved with Big Apple bands like D Generation and Band of Susans.

Dale "Buffin" Griffin (67)
Drummer Dale “Buffin” Griffin was a founding member of legendary British cult rockers Mott the Hoople, performing on all seven of the band’s studio albums between 1969 and 1975. After Ian Hunter and Mick Ralphs left the band, Griffin regrouped with bassist Pete “Overend” Watts and keyboardist Morgan Fisher as ‘Mott,’ the new version of the band releasing two albums. After losing their singer and guitarist, Mott became British Lions with the addition of singer and guitarist John Fiddler (Medicine Head). British Lions released a pair of albums before breaking up in 1978. During the 1980s, Griffin moved into the studio, producing albums by the Cult, Hanoi Rocks, and New Model Army. Griffin also worked as a producer for BBC Radio 1, producing DJ John Peel’s legendary sessions from 1981 through 1994, recording bands like Pulp, Smashing Pumpkins, and Nirvana. Griffin was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2007, and gradually faded away from the music scene, leaving behind a stellar reputation and musical legacy. 

Merle Haggard (79)
Country music legend Merle Haggard was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who, along with contemporary Buck Owens, created what has been termed the “Bakersfield sound,” which was rougher-edged, twangier, and rawer than the music being cranked out in Nashville during the 1960s. Haggard’s troubled childhood led to a stint in San Quentin Prison as an adult, where he was inspired by a performance by Johnny Cash to pursue a career in music.

During his commercial peak, Haggard enjoyed 38 number-one hit songs on the U.S. country charts, and he continued to release critically-acclaimed albums up to the time of his death, collaborating with friend and fellow-legend Willie Nelson on the 2015 album Django & Jimmie, which hit #1 on the country charts. Haggard received a number of accolades during his lengthy career, including a 2010 Kennedy Center Honor, a 2006 Grammy™ Lifetime Achievement Award, induction into the 1994 Country Music Hall of Fame, and numerous Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association awards.

Bill Ham (79)
Best known as Texas blues-rock band ZZ Top’s longtime manager and producer, Bill Ham also made a name for himself in the country music industry as singer/songwriter Clint Black’s manager. Ham also formed several successful music publishing companies that, during the ‘90s, handled a large number of Top 10 charting country music songs. Ham also produced albums by Southern rock band Point Blank and Texas guitarist Eric Johnson.

The Black Crowes' The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion
Eddie Harsch (59)
Multi-instrumentalist Eddie Harsch was a Canadian keyboardist who joined the Black Crowes in 1991 in time to record their best-selling sophomore album The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. Harsch subsequently played with the band through 2006, appearing on 1994’s Amorica, 1996’s Three Snakes and One Charm, 1999’s By Your Side, and 2001’s Lions albums. Harsch also played bass with the Detroit Cobras during the Crowes’ early ‘00s hiatus. Prior to hooking up with the Black Crowes, Harsch was a member of Chicago blues legend James Cotton’s band.

Ted Harvey (85)
Longtime drummer for Chicago blues legends Hound Dog Taylor & the Houserockers, Ted Harvey appeared on all of Taylor’s albums and toured the world with the guitarist. Harvey was a veteran of the cutthroat Chicago blues scene, playing with legends like Jimmy Dawkins, Big Walter Horton, Jimmy Rogers, and J.B. Hutto, among others. Alligator Records founder Bruce Iglauer, who released all of Hound Dog Taylor’s albums, said of Harvey, “besides being one of the best Chicago blues shuffle drummers ever, Ted was a jovial, friendly man with a nice word and a smile for everyone. He never looked for credit for himself; he just wanted to make the band sound good.”

Leon Haywood (74)
R&B singer Leon Haywood found only modest success as a performer but created a niche for himself as a talented and successful songwriter and producer. Haywood started playing piano at the age of three, and by the time he hit his teens he was performing with Guitar Slim’s band. Moving to L.A. in the early ‘60s, Haywood worked with Big Jay McNeely before joining Sam Cooke’s band as the soul legend’s keyboardist. The initial singles Haywood recorded for Fantasy Records gained no traction on the charts but, after moving to Imperial Records in 1965, Haywood enjoyed a minor R&B chart hit with “She’s With Her Other Love.” Two years later, Haywood scored a bigger hit with “It’s Got To Be Mellow,” which rose mid-way up the pop chart as well as hitting #21 on the R&B chart.

Haywood changed his style during the ‘70s, incorporating elements of funk and rhythm into his sound, and his 1975 hit “I Want’a Do Something Freaky to You” charted at #15 pop and #7 R&B. A few other minor hits followed, most notably 1978’s “Don’t Push It, Don’t Force It,” which also charted in the U.K. In the 1980s, though, Haywood eased into the production side of the industry, writing and producing Carl Carlton’s 1981 R&B hit “She’s a Bad Mama Jama.” Haywood worked as an A&R man for Edge Records in Los Angeles, and he also produced albums by bluesmen Jimmy McCracklin and Buddy Ace, among others, releasing them on his own independent Evejim Records label. Haywood’s funk-infused ‘70s records would provide inspiration for a generation of hip-hop stars, with rappers like 50 Cent, Common and, most notably, Dr. Dre sampling his songs on their own records.   

Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks' Original Recordings
Dan Hicks (74)
Eclectic singer/songwriter Dan Hicks is best-known for his band Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, the artist exploring a wide range of styles with his music, incorporating folk, jazz, country, swing, bluegrass, and pop elements into a sound as unique as the artist himself. Born in Arkansas, Hicks’ family moved to northern California when he was 15 years old. He originally became interested in radio and TV, hosting a segment on a local radio program, Time Out for Teens. Hicks would study broadcasting at San Francisco State College in the late ‘50s, but after teaching himself guitar he became a familiar figure on the San Francisco folk music scene.

Hicks joined cult favorites the Charlatans in 1965 as the band’s drummer, but left in 1967 to form Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks with violinist David LaFlamme, who subsequently departed to form It’s A Beautiful Day. The Hot Licks would release a single self-titled album (also known as Original Recordings) in 1969 before breaking up in 1971. Hicks reformed the band shortly thereafter, the new Hot Licks line-up recording three albums, including the acclaimed Last Train To Hicksville, in 1973. Hicks went solo with 1978’s It Happened One Bite album, and continued to record and perform as both a solo artist and with various Hot Licks line-ups until his death. Hicks' last album was 2010’s Crazy For Christmas, the album’s humorous songs and biting mix of country swing, jazz, and pop showing that Hicks hadn’t lost a step in a career that had spanned nearly 50 years. 

Jerry Heller (75)
Controversial but undoubtedly influential, Jerry Heller was a promoter and manager who had his fingers in every major music trend for decades. During the 1960s and ‘70s, Heller promoted tours by Pink Floyd and Elton John and his booking agency represented artists like the Who, Black Sabbath, Humble Pie, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Grand Funk Railroad, and others. During the 1980s, Heller began working with R&B and hip hop acts like the World Class Wreckin’ Cru, The D.O.C. and the Egyptian Lover.

Heller is best known for his association with pioneering rappers N.W.A as their manager and producer, co-founding Ruthless Records with N.W.A. member Eazy-E. Heller played a role in the emergence of West Coast rap through his support of N.W.A. and Ruthless, and Heller discovered, signed, or managed the Black Eyed Pea, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and Above The Law. Heller was portrayed by actor Paul Giamatti in the 2015 N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton, later filing a lawsuit against the film’s producers and rappers Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, citing inaccuracies and false statements presented as fact in the movie.

Long John Hunter's Border Town Legend
Long John Hunter (84)
John Thurman Hunter, Jr. – best known by his stage name “Long John” Hunter – was an underrated Texas blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Born in Louisiana and raised in Arkansas, Hunter was working in Beaumont, Texas when he went to a B.B. King concert. The performance prompted Hunter to buy a guitar and learn how to play, and his first single – “She Used To Be My Woman” – was released by Duke Records in 1953. By 1957, Hunter had migrated to El Paso, Texas and he began performing regularly at the Lobby Club in Juárez, Mexico, where he stayed for 13 years.

Hunter released a number of singles throughout the early ‘60s on various regional labels, his “El Paso Rock” becoming his best-known song. The guitarist released his first album, Texas Border Town Blues, in 1988, Hunter subsequently signing with Chicago’s Alligator Records. Hunter’s efforts for Alligator included 1992’s Ride With Me, 1996’s Border Town Legend, and 1997’s Swinging From The Rafters. Hunter joined with fellow bluesmen Lonnie Brooks and Phillip Walker to release the critically-acclaimed Lone Star Shootout in 1999 for Alligator. A popular performer on the festival circuit, Hunter found an enthusiastic audience overseas and he toured frequently, releasing his last album, Looking For A Party, in 2009.  

Preston Hubbard (63)
Talented bass player Preston Hubbard is best known for his tenure both with Roomful of Blues and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Hubbard played on Roomful’s 1983 Let’s Have A Party and 1984’s Dressed Up To Get Messed Up albums before jumping ship and reuniting with former bandmate Fran Christina in the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Hubbard was with the T-Birds during their late ‘80s commercial peak, playing with the band roughly eight years and appearing on albums like 1986’s Tuff Enuff, 1987’s Hot Number, and 1989’s Powerful Stuff.

Hubbard was in high demand as a session player as well, appearing on Bonnie Raitt’s 1989 comeback album Nick of Time as well as records by Big Joe Turner, Toni Price, Snooky Pryor, and former Roomful bandmate Duke Robillard. Hubbard also performed on the Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan album Family Style. Hubbard’s demons caught up with him in the ‘90s, though, and he spent much of the decade addicted and dealing, finally going to prison in 1999. Hubbard got back into music in the 2000s, moving to St. Louis after getting out of prison and recording with artists like Candye Kane and Nick Curran. After a near-death experience in 2014 where Hubbard discovered he was diabetic, his health continued to decline after decades of drug and alcohol abuse.

Bobby Hutcherson (75)
Bobby Hutcherson was one of the premiere jazz vibraphone players of the 20th century, rivaling the legendary Gary Burton in talent and fame among jazz fans. The influential vibes player began his career in the late ‘50s while still a teen, working with saxophonists Curtis Amy and Eric Dolphy. Hutcherson made his recording debut in 1960 with a single for the Pacific Jazz label recorded with the Les McCann Trio. Hutcherson released his first solo album, The Kicker, in 1963 and would go on to record better than 30 albums for labels like Blue Note, Columbia, and Landmark Records. As a sideman, Hutcherson recorded with many of the most legendary jazz musicians of the era, including Dexter Gordon, Eric Dolphy, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, and Tony Williams among many others.

Wayne Jackson (74)
Trumpet player Wayne Jackson was a talented soul and R&B musician whose horn was an integral part of the Stax Records sound in the 1960s. As a member of the Mar-Keys, Jackson was part of the Stax house band, playing on hit records by Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Sam & Dave, and many others. Jackson formed the Memphis Horns with veteran saxophonist Andrew Love in 1969, the pair subsequently appearing on records by Elvis Presley, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, and Neil Diamond and touring behind artists like Stephen Stills, Rod Stewart, and the Doobie Brothers.

Jackson moved to Nashville in the late ‘70s, touring with country music legend Marty Robbins for three years. In the ‘80s, though, the horn player was called back to rock ‘n’ roll and Jackson performed on records by Sting, U2, and Peter Gabriel, who featured Jackson’s horn prominently in his hit “Sledgehammer.” Jackson and Love reunited in the late 1980s and would tour and record extensively for several years as part of bluesman Robert Cray’s band, performing on five of Cray’s albums including 1986’s Strong Persuader and 1988’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. During the ‘90s, Jackson played in the studio with talents like Steve Winwood, Bonnie Raitt, Neil Young, and Jack White. The Memphis Horns received a Grammy™ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. Jackson died after several years of failing health.  

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Tones' 100 Days, 100 Nights
Sharon Jones (60)
She came to earn some degree of fame late in life, but for soul singer Sharon Jones, it wasn’t for lack of talent. Jones honed her vocal style singing in church and working as a backing vocalist in the studio during the 1970s, typically credited as Lafaye Jones. Seemingly without a career in music, Jones went to work as a corrections officer at Riker’s Island in New York City, and later as a Wells Fargo armored car guard. She got a break in 1996 at the age of 40 when she sang for a session behind soul/funk artist Lee Fields. The producers, Gabriel Roth and Philippe Lehman – then owners of the French record label Pure Record – were in awe of Jones’s performance and recorded a pair of solo tracks with the singer, “Switchblade” and “The Landlord” subsequently appearing on the 1996 Soul Providers album Soul Tequila.

Members of the Soul Providers, along with musicians from the Brooklyn bands Antibalas and the Mighty Imperials, formed the Dap-Kings, who would become Jones’s longtime backing band. Roth and musician Neal Sugarman of Sugarman 3 formed Daptone Records to release Jones’s music, beginning with Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings in 2002. The album earned widespread critical acclaim, and subsequent Jones albums like 2005’s Naturally and 2007’s 100 Days, 100 Nights jump-started interest in soul and funk music with young record buyers. Jones was diagnosed with cancer in 2013, delaying the release of the Grammy™-nominated Give The People What They Want album as Jones underwent treatment.

The singer would return to touring after the release of the album, and would become the subject of a documentary film, Miss Sharon Jones!, which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015. Appearing at the festival, Jones revealed that her cancer had returned, and she underwent further chemotherapy. Jones experienced a stroke in November 2016 and passed away roughly a week earlier, leaving behind an incredible musical legacy.   

Paul Kantner 1975
Paul Kantner 1975, courtesy Grunt Records
Paul Kantner (74)
Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Paul Kantner is best-known for forming the legendary psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane and its later spin-off, Jefferson Starship. The Airplane was formed in 1965 by Kantner and singer Marty Balin, and after adding musicians like guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, bassist Jack Casady, drummer Skip Spence, and singer Signe Anderson, the band recorded its 1966 debut album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. Jefferson Airplane found its classic line-up with the additions of singer Grace Slick and drummer Spencer Dryden when Anderson and Spence departed, the latter going on the form the band Moby Grape.

Kantner appeared on all seven of the Airplane’s albums through 1972, at which time Kaukonen and Casady left to pursue a full-time career with their side band Hot Tuna. Kantner had previously used the Jefferson Starship name for his 1970 solo concept album Blows Against The Empire, and he and Slick revived the band name in 1974 for the Dragon Fly album. The Starship would prove to be even more commercially successful than the Airplane, and Kantner would appear on all eight of the band’s albums between their debut and 1984’s Nuclear Furniture.

After breaking up the band, Kantner took legal action to prevent the other band members from using the ‘Jefferson Starship’ name, singer Mickey Thomas subsequently spinning off the band Starship (later billed as Mickey Thomas’s Starship). Kantner later re-formed Jefferson Starship in 1992, the band releasing 1994’s Windows of Heaven and 2008’s Jefferson’s Tree of Liberty albums while continuing to tour until Kantner’s death. The guitarist was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

Martin ‘Bap’ Kennedy (54)
Singer and songwriter Bap Kennedy was best known as the frontman of London-based Irish rockers Energy Orchard. The band was signed to MCA Records on the strength of their live performances, releasing two albums for the label – their 1990 self-titled debut and 1992’s Stop The Machine – before jumping to the indie Transatlantic Records label for a pair of studio albums and the band’s swansong, an acclaimed 1996 live disc, after which the band broke up. Energy Orchard never reached much of an American audience, but they found a fan in Nashville’s Steve Earle, who offered to produce Kennedy’s solo debut album, 1998’s Domestic Blues. Throughout the two decades of his solo career, Kennedy recorded nine albums and collaborated with artists like Earle, Van Morrison, Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, and Shane MacGowan of the Pogues. Kennedy’s final album was 2014’s Let’s Start Again.    

Greg Lake (69)
We lost two-thirds of Emerson, Lake & Palmer this year when guitarist/bassist Greg Lake passed away in December. The prog-rock legend got his start with pioneering band King Crimson before leaving to form the influential supergroup with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer. Read our complete obit… 

John D. Loudermilk (82)
American singer and songwriter John D. Loudermilk will forever be remembered for his classic song “Tobacco Road.” A 1964 Top 20 hit for British band the Nashville Teens, “Tobacco Road” has since been recorded by dozens of rock and soul artists including Lou Rawls, the Blues Magoos, Spooky Tooth, Rare Earth, Jefferson Airplane, and Edgar Winter’s White Trash, among others. Surprisingly, the song wasn’t a hit when Loudermilk released his version as a single in 1960.

After rocker Eddie Cochran had a hit with one of his songs, Loudermilk recorded some of his own material, which was released under the name “Johnny Dee.” After a number of his singles failed to chart for Columbia Records, Loudermilk experienced modest commercial success after signing with RCA Victor in 1961, songs like “Language of Love,” “Thou Shall Not Steal,” and “Road Hog” making the charts. Loudermilk’s true talent was his songwriting, however, and after moving from North Carolina to Nashville, he began a productive streak, scoring hits throughout the 1960s and ‘70s with pop and country artists like the Everly Brothers, Johnny Cash, Marianne Faithful, Chet Atkins, and many others. Loudermilk’s second best known song, “Indian Reservation,” was a #1 hit in 1971 for Paul Revere & the Raiders.    

Richard Lyons (57)
Richard Lyons was a founding member of comedic avant-garde sonic terrorists Negativland; among other characters he played on the band’s record were Dick Vaughan, auto trivia expert Dick Goodbody, and Pastor Richard Seeland. Lyons formed Negativland with his high school friend Mark Hosler when both were 17 years old, the pair releasing their self-titled debut album in 1980 with friend David Wills on their own Seeland Records label.

The band is best known for their “Christianity Is Stupid” hoax where they issued a press release stating that a mass murderer had killed his family after hearing the song of that name from their 1987 SST Records release Escape From Noise. Many media outlets picked up the story as factual and reported on it, which the band later lampooned on their 1989 album Helter Stupid. Negativland ran into some controversy when they sampled the band U2 for a 1991 EP of the same name, that band’s label Island Records suing Negativland (as did their own label, SST), leading to one of the first serious discussions of copyright in the digital age.       

George Martin (90)
Other outlets have written more eloquently about the death of Sir George Henry Martin, but we’ll gladly add our two cents. Often referred to as the “Fifth Beatle” for his groundbreaking work with the Fab Four, Martin was a British record producer, arranger, composer, musician, and audio engineer who contributed his considerable talents to all the band’s albums. Martin also produced records by a number of other artists, including Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Action, Jeff Beck, John McLaughlin, Cheap Trick, Elton John, and Kenny Rogers, among many others. Martin also had a hand in composing film scores, including the Beatles’ movies A Hard Day’s Night and Yellow Submarine and the 1973 James Bond film Live and Let Die. One of a handful of producers to enjoy #1 records in three of more decades, Martin produced thirty chart topping singles in the U.K. and 23 number one hits in the U.S. from the 1960s through the ‘90s. Martin was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

Henry McCullough (72)
Talented Irish guitarist who first came to prominence with ’60s-era rockers Éire Apparent featuring vocalist Ernie Graham. McCullough went on to play with the Grease Band, backing Joe Cocker on the singer’s first two albums before accepting Paul McCartney’s invitation to join his new band Wings. McCullough’s guitar appears on McCartney’s 1971 album Ram and the 1973 album Red Rose Speedway. He left Wings to pursue session work while forging his own solo career, McCullough’s skilled fretwork appearing on albums by Spooky Tooth, Donovan, Frankie Miller, and Marianne Faithful, among others. As a solo artist, McCullough released eight solo and two live albums.  

Nick Menza (51)
Best known as the former drummer for thrash pioneers Megadeth, Nick Menza died on stage of an apparent heart attack during a performance by the band Ohm, which was formed by fellow Megadeth alum, guitarist Chris Poland. The son of jazz saxophonist Don Menza, Nick began playing drums at the age of two, and as a teen he kicked around as a member of a number of L.A. metal bands. Coming to the attention of Megadeth, he served three stints the band’s drummer, from 1989-98, in 2004, and one last time in 2014. Menza performed on four of Megadeth’s albums, including the groundbreaking 1990 set Rust In Peace, and 1992’s Countdown To Extinction.

George Michael's Faith
George Michael (53)
Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, better known to his fans as singer George Michael, came to prominence during the 1980s as part of the British pop band Wham! Formed with singer Andrew Ridgeley in 1981, the band scored big with its first album, 1983’s Fantastic, which shot up the charts to #1 in the U.K., the album yielding hits like “Young Guns” and “Club Tropicana.” Wham! broke through in the U.S. with their sophomore album, 1984’s Make It Big, topping the charts in both the states and the band’s homeland on the strength of its #1 single “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” The band’s future came into question after Michael enjoyed two hit solo singles, 1984’s “Careless Whisper” and 1986’s “A Different Corner.” Wham! officially broke up after the 1986 release of Music From The Edge of Heaven, which was released exclusively in North America and Japan.

Michael began his solo career with the 1987 multi-platinum smash Faith, which sold better than 20 million copies worldwide and yielded half a dozen hit singles, including the title track and “I Want Your Sex.” Michael’s solo follow-up, 1990’s Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1, sold better than eight million copies worldwide, topping the charts in the U.K. and hitting number two in the U.S. The album Older was released in 1996, and while it sold over eight million copies worldwide, it failed to go Platinum™ in the U.S. Songs From The Last Century was released in 1999, selling nearly four million copies worldwide, but barely breaking 100k sales in the U.S. as Michael’s personal troubles were effecting his commercial prospects stateside. Michael remained a major star in the U.K., his final solo album, 2004’s Patience, moving over four million copies worldwide and once again topping the U.K. charts.

Michael’s drug use and problems with his sexuality resulted in several arrests and mini-scandals that threatened to derail his career more than once. Nevertheless, Michael ranks among the best-selling British artists ever and remained enormously popular, using his celebrity to headline several charity benefits. Michael earned nearly every accolade possible, including three American Music Awards, four MTV Video Music Awards, three Brit Awards, and two Grammy™ Awards.  

Billy Miller (62)
Musician, record collector, and Norton Records label founder Billy Miller was an integral part of the American rock underground for over three decades. Along with his wife Miriam Linna, the pair first launched the fanzine Kicks in 1979, sharing their love of obscure rock ‘n’ roll with appreciative (pre-internet) readers. They formed Norton Records in 1986 as a way to share the music of fringe rockers like Hasil Adkins and Link Wray, the label reissuing rare rockabilly sides from the 1950s and ‘60s as well as obscure artists like Esquerita.

Before forming Norton, Miller and Linna performed in the rockabilly band the Zantees and later with garage rockers the A-Bones. They put most of their focus into their label’s record releases, though, researching the artists’ backgrounds to provide detailed liner notes for each album. Through the years Norton released albums by the aforementioned artists as well as the Flamin’ Groovies, the Real Kids, Flat Duo Jets, Bobby Fuller, and others. In 2009, Miller and Linna formed Kicks Books, which has published pulp fiction titles by Harlan Ellison and Royston Ellis as well as poetry by jazz legend Sun Ra, and non-fiction works by rock critic and music historian Nick Tosches and producer/musician Kim Fowley. Miller was finishing up a history of the family-owned Detroit label Fortune Records with writer Michael Hurtt at the time of his death after a lengthy battle with cancer; the book is scheduled to be published in 2017 by Kicks Books.

Chips Moman (79)
Lincoln Wayne “Chips” Moman was an American record producer, musician, and Grammy™ Award-winning songwriter best known for helping shape the sound of soul and rock music during the 1960s and ‘70s. Moman first worked for Stax Records as an audio engineer, producing the label’s first hit, the 1960 Carla Thomas song “Gee Whiz.” After a dispute with Stax founder Jim Stewart over money, Moman left the label in 1964 and launched his own Memphis-based studio, American Sound Studio.

As a producer, Moman worked with talents like Elvis Presley, Wilson Pickett, Bobby Womack, and the Box Tops, among others. As a songwriter, Moman wrote or co-wrote (with fellow Memphis legend Dan Penn) hit songs for artists like Aretha Franklin, James Carr, Waylon Jennings, and B.J. Thomas. Living for a while in Nashville, Moman made his mark on country music by producing the first (and most successful) album by country supergroup the Highwaymen (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson) in 1985.

Scotty Moore (84)
Early rock ‘n’ roll guitarist Winfield Scott “Scotty” Moore III is best known for playing with the legendary Elvis Presley during the singer’s early years. Credited by rock critic Dave Marsh with the invention of power chording (on the 1957 Presley hit “Jailhouse Rock”), Moore and drummer D.J. Fontana performed on all of Presley’s initial hits, songs like “Heartbreak Hotel,” “That’s All Right,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” and “Hound Dog,” the two musicians representing an integral part of Presley’s sound. Moore released a solo album in 1964 titled The Guitar That Changed The World and during the 1960s and ‘70s played on recordings by country, rock, and gospel artists. Moore is considered an extremely influential musician, providing inspiration to rockers like Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, George Harrison of the Beatles, and the Yardbirds’ Jeff Beck.  

Alphonse Mouzon's Mind Transplant
Alphonse Mouzon (68)
Drummer Alphonse Mouzon first came to prominence as a founding member of the legendary jazz-fusion outfit Weather Report. Mouzon toured and recorded for the band for roughly a year, appearing on their self-titled 1971 album before departing to pursue other opportunities. Mouzon spent a couple of years as part of guitarist Larry Coryell’s band Eleventh House, performing on several albums, including 1973’s Introducing the Eleventh House and the following year’s Level One. Mouzon would later reunite with Coryell to record the 1977 album Back Together Again.

Mouzon had signed with Blue Note Records in 1972, releasing his solo debut album The Essence of Mystery. He recorded four albums for the label, the best-known and most successful of which was the 1974 set Mind Transplant, which featured rock guitarist Tommy Bolin, who had contributed to jazz drummer Billy Cobham’s album Spectrum. Mouzon’s 1980 album By All Means featured keyboardist Herbie Hancock and guitarist Lee Ritenour. Mouzon also performed with some of the biggest rock and soul stars of the 1970s and ‘80s, including Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Stevie Wonder, Jeff Beck, and Betty Davis, among others. Mouzon formed his own independent label, Tenacious Records, in 1992 to release his album The Survivor as well as future recordings, and to reissue the best of his past albums. Mouzon’s last work was the 2011 album Angel Face.

>>> In Memoriam 2016, Part Three    

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