Monday, January 1, 2018

In Memoriam 2017: Roger Ferguson to Paul O'Neill

The same year that saw an orange-colored buffoon elevated to the highest position in the land also saw another 365 days of loss and tragedy. Last year was absolutely brutal in terms of musician deaths, and while 2017 tried its best to beat the Reaper, we still lost far too many talents from the ranks of the visionary. Our “In Memoriam” feature is so large again this year that I’ve broken it down into three parts, with each artist's age at death in parentheses. To follow is in tribute to the artists that have made the music we love…

Part One: John Abercrombie to Dennis Dragon
Part Three: Scott Putesky to Jessi Zazu

Roger Ferguson photo courtesy Ferguson's Facebook page
Photo courtesy Roger Ferguson's Facebook page
Roger Ferguson (65)
Roger Ferguson was the longtime friend and musical foil of American underground DIY legend R. Stevie Moore and the father of John Roger Ferguson of the Apples In Stereo. A pioneer of Nashville’s early rock scene, the elder Ferguson played guitar in a number of late ‘60s and early ‘70s bands with Moore and the like-minded Victor Lovera, including Goods and Ethos.

Mike “Gabby” Gaborno (51)
Vocalist Mike “Gabby” Gaborno was a founding member of the Cadillac Tramps, an Orange County, California hardcore punk band formed in the mid-‘80s by Gaborno, guitarists Brian Coakley and Johnny Wickersham, bassist Warren Renfrow, and drummer Dieter. The band would record three albums for the independent Dr. Dream label, including 1994’s It’s Allright, and counted Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder among their fans. The band broke up in 1995, but had paved the way for fellow O.C. bands like No Doubt, Sugar Ray, and the Offspring.

Gaborno was also involved in a musical side project, forming Manic Hispanic with Adolescents’ guitarist Steve Soto as a parody band performing doo-wop versions of punk songs. Manic Hispanic would release four albums for the punk indie BYO Records label between 1992 and 2005. Gaborno reunited the Cadillac Tramps in 1999, touring sporadically, and launched a blues band called Santos Y Sinners. Gaborno suffered from various health issues over the past few years, working a day job in construction and performing at night until his death from liver cancer.

Guitarist J. Geils
J. Geils

J. Geils (71)
We’re sad to report on the passing of a rock ‘n’ blues icon, guitarist J. Geils. Rolling Stone magazine confirmed Geils’ death and a preliminary investigation by Groton, Massachusetts police indicated that Geils died of natural causes. The guitarist’s friend and fellow musician, Duke Robillard, had mentioned on Facebook that Geils had experienced recent health problems; Geils was 71 years old. [read full obituary]

Bob Glassley (58)
Bob Glassley was bassist for the Cheifs [sic], an early L.A. punk rock outfit formed in 1979 that were favorites of later (and better-known) bands like the Descendents, Bad Religion, and Black Flag. The Cheifs’ lone record release was the three-song 7” EP Blues, which goes for upwards of $500 in collectors’ circles. The band broke up in 1982 but has had songs featured on several punk compilation albums, including Who Cares and the Killed By Death series. A collection of all of the Chiefs’ known recordings was compiled on a 1997 CD titled Holly-West Crisis, named for the notorious Hollywood crash space. Glassley put together a new, Atlanta-based line-up of the Cheifs in 2016.

Col. Bruce Hampton (70)
The world of rock ‘n’ roll lost a giant with the death of Col. Bruce Hampton at the young age of 70 years. Born Gustav Valentine Berglund III, Hampton was a pioneer on the Atlanta, Georgia music scene and a true innovator, albeit an obscure influence on, rock music throughout the 1980s and ‘90s. [read full obituary]

Hüsker Dü with Grant Hart
Hüsker Dü (Grant Hart, center)
Grant Hart (56)
Grant Hart – singer and drummer for the influential, almighty punk rock onslaught that was Hüsker Dü – passed away at the University of Minnesota Medical Center of complications from liver cancer and hepatitis. Hart was only 56 years old. [read full obituary]

John Thomas “Sib” Hashian (67)
Drummer Sib Hashian joined AOR legends Boston before the recording of the band’s self-titled 1976 album, touring and recording with the band through 1986. Hashian also played on Boston bandmate Barry Goudreau’s 1980 solo album. After leaving the band, Hashian ran a record shop and dabbled in stage acting in his Boston, Massachusetts hometown.

Bobby Lloyd Hicks (69)
Drummer Bobby Lloyd Hicks was a true journeyman, playing with dozens of bands throughout his lengthy career, and appearing on hundreds of recordings. Hicks is best recognized as a founding member of Missouri roots-rockers the Skeletons and as a member of N.R.B.Q. for a short while. Hicks also played and recorded with artists like Steve Forbert, Dave Alvin, Jonathan Richman, Robbie Fulks, and Scott Kempner, among many others. Over the past 15 years, Hicks was involved in USO events and U.S. State Department cultural exchange programs, touring the Middle East, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Molly Hatchet
Dave Hlubek (66)
Guitarist Dave Hlubek would form Southern rock legends Molly Hatchet in 1971 in Jacksonville, Florida. The band would undergo numerous line-up changes before settling on a roster that included guitarist Steve Holland and bassist Banner Thomas, who both joined the band in 1974, and singer Danny Joe Brown, who joined in 1976. Molly Hatchet released its Platinum™-selling self-titled debut album in 1978 and its sophomore album, Flirtin’ With Disaster a year later. The latter album would score a hit with the title track, which pushed the album into the Top 20 and to better than two million records sold. The band would go Platinum™ for a third time with 1980’s Beatin’ The Odds, but their commercial returns would dwindle throughout the decade as Southern rock fell out of favor with mainstream record buyers.

Hlubek would leave the band he founded in 1987 after six albums and better than a decade of touring, the guitarist struggling with substance abuse problems. He never again reached the critical and commercial heights of his former band, but Hlubek would stay busy performing with bands like Hlubek & Friends, the Southern Jam Band, and the Southern Rock Legends (with members of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Blackfoot). He would later form the Southern Rock Allstars with Blackfoot drummer Jakson Spires, the band recording several albums. Hlubek rejoined Molly Hatchet in 2005, and would continue to tour with the band until his death, appearing on four more Molly Hatchet albums.

Allan Holdsworth (70)
Innovative prog-rock and jazz fusion guitarist Allan Holdsworth passed away over the weekend with no cause of death given; Holdsworth was 70 years old. Although Holdsworth wasn’t well-known outside of a small, loyal group of fans (including many fellow musicians), he made a lot of music over the past four decades, sustaining a moderately-successful career right up to his death. [read full obituary]

Evan Johns
Evan Johns
Evan Johns (60)
Guitarist Evan Johns began his career in the Washington D.C. area, playing with and writing songs for esteemed guitarist Danny Gatton. Johns would later form his own band, the H-Bombs, releasing several albums of guitar-driven garage-rock and rockabilly that found a cult audience and a major fan in Dead Kennedy’s frontman Jello Biafra, who would release Johns’ debut album, 1982’s Rollin’ Through The Night, on his Alternative Tentacles label. Biafra would also release a collaboration between Johns and underground multi-instrumentalist Eugene Chadbourne, 1993’s Terror Has Some Strange Kinfolks.  

Johns relocated to Austin, Texas in 1984 to join the LeRoi Brothers, and would later appear on the Grammy® Award-nominated compilation album Trash, Twang and Thunder in 1985. Johns would re-form the H-Bombs in Austin, the band recording a number of albums for labels like Rykodisc and Jungle Records, cranking out their unique blend of rockabilly, blues, country, and Cajun music until health problems forced Johns off the road in 1998. The guitarist would continue to write and record music until his death from complications from a recent surgery. The blog Austin360 posted a nice overview of the underrated guitarist’s life and importance to the Austin music scene.  

Robert “P-Nut” Johnson (70)
Singer and songwriter Johnson was a popular member of Funkadelic bassist Bootsy Collins’ band, recording Stretchin’ Out With Bootsy’s Rubber Band in 1976 and Ahh…the Name Is Bootsy, Baby in 1977. Johnson also contributed to several late ‘70s period albums by funk legends Parliament and would later be part of the Godfather of Funk George Clinton’s band during the 1980s, recording albums like 1982’s Computer Games. Johnson also appeared on the 1985 Red Hot Chili Peppers’ album Freaky Styley

Casey Jones (77)
Jones was a notable Chicago blues drummer who recorded and toured with legends like Albert Collins, Lonnie Brooks, and Johnny Winter.

Tommy Keene's Based On Happy Times
Tommy Keene (59)
Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Tommy Keene died of natural causes at the very young age of 59 years. Keene is known for his melodic power-pop songwriting skills, and over the course of a career that spanned four decades, Keene released better than a dozen critically-acclaimed live and studio albums. [read full obituary]

Robert Knight (72)
Knight, a Tennessee native, made his debut as a vocalist with R&B outfit the Paramounts, who signed to Dot Records in 1960 and had an immediate chart hit in 1961 with the single “Free Me.” The Paramounts’ later single releases performed badly and the group broke up; Knight sang with Nashville vocal trio the Fairlanes while attending Tennessee State University in Nashville, studying chemistry.

Knight was offered a contract as a solo artist by Rising Sons Records, scoring a monster hit with his first single, the classic “Everlasting Love.” Written by the label’s owners, Buzz Cason and Mac Gayden, the song rose to #14 on the U.S. R&B chart and #13 on the Billboard pop chart. Knight enjoyed a couple more hits – “Blessed Are the Lonely” and “Isn’t It Lonely” – and enjoyed status as a Northern soul legend in the U.K. When the hits dried up, Knight went to work as a chemistry lab technician and chemistry teach at Vanderbilt University, but would perform his timeless hit now and then, as on this appearance on the Music City Roots TV show (video below). 

Jimmy LaFave (61)
Beloved Austin, Texas based singer/songwriter LaFave blazed new trails in both folk and Americana music during a lengthy career that resulted in 20 album releases. While living in Stillwater, Oklahoma LaFave became an acolyte of the legendary Woody Guthrie, and was a regular performer at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival. LaFave and a loose-knit collection of Okie songwriters developed a style known as “red dirt music” that blended folk, blues, and country music in the style of artists like J.J. Cale and Leon Russell. LaFave relocated to Austin in the late ‘90s and quickly became a local favorite, performing on the popular Austin City Limits TV show and earning the “Songwriter of the Year Award” in 1996 from the Kerrville Folk Festival. LaFave was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in June 2017, shortly after his death.  

Rudy Lawless (84)
Jazz drummer Lawless grew up with talents like Sonny Rollins and would tour and record with legends like Blue Mitchell, Junior Mance, Etta James, Freddie McCoy, and others. Lawless fronted his own band from the ‘80s on and recorded albums with George Jackson and with Danny Mixon in 2015.

Deke Leonard's Wireless
Roger “Deke” Leonard (72)
Welsh rock guitarist Roger “Deke” Leonard is best known for his on-again/off-again tenure with the British prog-rock outfit Man, with whom he performed from the 1960s through the ‘90s and recorded roughly two-dozen studio album. In between quitting and re-joining Man, Leonard formed his own band called Iceberg, which recorded a trio of acclaimed albums with 1973’s Iceberg, 1974’s Kamikaze, and 1979’s Before Your Very Eyes. Leonard also recorded and toured with the British band Help Yourself, contributed to American singer/songwriter Walter Egan’s 1981 album The Last Stroll, and was briefly a member of the Tyla Gang, appearing on the band’s 1977 album Yachtless.

Leonard would also make a name for himself as a writer; beginning with liner notes for various ‘70s-era Man albums, he would later contribute articles and reviews to Vox, Studio Week, and other British music publications. He published his first autobiographical book, titled Rhinos, Winos & Lunatics, in 1996 to limited sales, but a 2000 follow-up, titled Maybe I Should Have Stayed In Bed?, sold well enough to prompt a second printing of his first book. Leonard read extracts from both books for a series of award-winning BBC radio programs, and toured as a one-man show performing songs and telling tales from his lengthy rock ‘n’ roll career. Leonard also appeared as a panelist and narrator on several TV and radio programs in the U.K. including Pub Rock Quiz, Tales of the Road, and Juke Box Heroes. He published his third book, The Twang Dynasty – From Memphis to Merthyr, in 2012 and his final tome, and third biographical title Maximum Darkness: Man on the Road to Nowhere in 2015. 

Jaki Liebezeit (78)
German drummer Hans “Jaki” Liebezeit was a founding member of prog-rock legends Can, appearing on all twelve of the band’s studio albums from 1969’s classic Monster Movie through the band’s reunion album, 1989’s Rite Time and including critically-acclaimed efforts like Tago Mago (1971) and Future Days (1973). During Can’s hiatus during much of the ‘80s, Liebezeit was a member of Phantomband, and brought his talents to albums like Brian Eno’s Before and After Science and Depeche Mode’s Ultra as well as recordings by Jah Wobble and Robert Coyne, among others.   

Chuck Loeb (61)
Jazz guitarist Chuck Loeb honed his craft playing with legends like Stan Getz, Chico Hamilton, Hubert Laws, and Ray Barreto before joining the group Steps Ahead, which featured Michael Brecker and Steve Gadd, in 1980. Loeb would launch his solo career with the release of his debut album, My Shining Hour, in 1988. Through his career, Loeb would release some 20 solo albums as well as performing with the jazz-fusion outfit Metro during the ‘90s and replacing guitarist Larry Carlton in the band Fourplay in 2010. Loeb’s music has also been featured on TV shows and movie soundtracks, including the films You’ve Got Mail and Hitch

Mike Kellie (69)
Born in Birmingham, England Kellie was a drummer, songwriter, singer, and producer who performed with several notable bands, including the VIPs, Spooky Tooth, and the Only Ones. As a session player, he worked on albums by Joe Cocker, Peter Frampton, George Harrison, and Pat Travers, among others. Kellie was also part of the floating line-up of Johnny Thunders’ Living Dead and recorded the So Alone album with the rock ‘n’ roll legend.

Wayne McGhie & the Sounds of Joy
Wayne McGhie (70?)
Born in Montego Bay, Jamaica but immigrating to Canada as a young man, Wayne McGhie passed away in Toronto in July after decades of suffering from acute schizophrenia. During the 1960s, however, McGhie was forging a career as an in-demand songwriter, penning material for bands like Jo-Jo & the Fugitives and the Hitchhikers. McGhie would become friends with famed keyboardist Jackie Mittoo, who would later form the Skatalites, and Mittoo oversaw the production of McGhie’s influential and acclaimed album Wayne McGhie & the Sounds of Joy. The 1970 release offered a mix of reggae, jazz, and R&B music that is credited with creating the ‘70s-era Canadian funk scene, but when a fire at the label’s warehouse destroyed thousands of copies of the album, it would become a rare item selling for hundreds of dollars to funk and soul collectors. McGhie was out of music and homeless by the end of the ‘70s until taken in by his sister, who cared for him until his death. The Wayne McGhie & the Sounds of Joy album was rescued from obscurity and reissued in 2005 by Light In The Attic Records.    

Goldy McJohn (72)
Born in Toronto, Canada as John Raymond Goadsby, the classically-trained keyboardist is best-known as an original member of classic rockers Steppenwolf. McJohn was an early pioneer in the use of electronic organ in rock music, in his case a Hammond B3, which he used to great effect on songs like “Born to Be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride.” McJohn played during the ‘60s with a number of Canadian bands, including the Mynah Birds with Rick James, before joining the Sparrows with John Kay. When that band broke up, Kay moved to L.A. and recruited McJohn and Sparrows drummer Jerry Edmonton to help form Steppenwolf in 1967.

McJohn performed and recorded with the band until 1975, appearing on Steppenwolf’s first seven studio albums, including classics like 1968’s The Second and 1969’s Monster, as well as the band’s 1970 live album. When Steppenwolf broke up, McJohn helped form New Steppenwolf in 1976 with estranged bassist Nick St. Nicholas, and he would later play with Steve Marriott in a late-period line-up of Humble Pie. McJohn also released several solo albums, including New Visions, Rat City In Blue, and Set the World On Fire.
Chuck Mosley photo by Goongunther
Chuck Mosley photo by Goongunther
Chuck Mosley (57)

Chuck Mosley may be best known as the original frontman for rockers Faith No More circa 1984 to 1988. During his time with the band he recorded two albums, 1985’s We Care A Lot and 1987’s Introduce Yourself. Due to a growing drug addiction and erratic behavior, Mosley was fired from Faith No More after the band’s 1988 European tour. Mosley subsequently spent almost two years as the singer for legendary hardcore punk outfit Bad Brains, leaving the band in 1992 to form the funk-metal band Cement. That band released two albums on the independent Dutch East India Trading imprint – 1993’s self-titled debut and 1994’s Man With the Action Hair – a tour for their second album cut short by a bus accident that left Mosley with a broken back that took over a year to recover from, thus breaking up Cement.

Mosley moved to Cleveland in 1996, working as a chef while he wrote songs and raised two daughters with his longtime girlfriend Pip Logan. Mosley continued to perform with bands like V.U.A. (Vanduls Ugainst Alliteracy), which released the Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food album in 2009, as well as Cleveland’s Indoria and the industrial outfit Primitive Race. Mosley knew hard times, though, revealing in 2014 that he and his family were broke and facing eviction. Mosley would eventually slip back into drug abuse after years of sobriety, dying from a heroin overdose in November. The singer’s death was particular personal for the Reverend, as Mosley had reached out after the release of We Care A Lot in 1985 to see if I would be interested in reviewing the album for Nashville’s The Metro magazine. We corresponded for a couple of years and I got to see Faith No More perform in Nashville with Mosley, but we lost touch after he left the band. 

Jimmy Nalls (66)
Guitarist Jimmy Nalls was a busy session guitarist during the early ‘70s, lending his talents to albums by artists like Johnny Jenkins, Livingston Taylor, Cowboy, and Gregg Allman. It was while doing session work that Nalls met keyboardist Chuck Leavell, who was also a member of the Allman Brothers Band. When the ABB temporarily broke up in 1976, Leavell invited Nalls to join his new band, Sea Level, with ABB bassist Lamar Williams and drummer Jaimoe. Sea Level would find modest success between 1976 and 1981, releasing five albums including the acclaimed 1977 set Cats on the Coast. After Sea Level broke up, Nalls moved to Nashville and went back to session work, working with artists like B.J. Thomas and T. Graham Brown until he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1994. Although he couldn’t perform on stage, Nalls continued to record, and released his solo debut album Ain’t No Stranger in 1999. The follow-up to that album, 2017’s The Jimmy Nalls Project, was released days before the guitarist’s death and featured guests like Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford, bluesman Joe Bonamassa, and former Allman Brothers Band guitarist Warren Haynes.  

Geoff Nicholls
Geoff Nicholls
Geoff Nicholls (68)
Longtime Black Sabbath keyboardist Geoff Nicholls was originally a founding member of “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” band Quartz, which released a handful of albums during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s including the band’s Tony Iommi-produced self-titled 1977 album and 1980’s Stand Up and Fight. Nicholls initially joined Sabbath as rhythm guitarist, playing bass for a while during Geezer Butler’s brief absence, before moving over to keyboards where he would spend better than a quarter-century with the band, from 1980’s Heaven and Hell album through the band’s final studio album, 2013’s 13, with a few hiatuses through the years. Nicholls also played on former Sabbath vocalist Tony Martin’s solo albums as well as with his band Tony Martin’s Headless Cross.

Paul O’Neill (61)
Co-founder of the popular outfit Trans-Siberian Orchestra, O’Neill was a guitarist, songwriter, and producer as well as a concert promoter working with powerhouse rock management firm Leber-Krebs, Inc. As a producer, O’Neill worked with bands like Aerosmith, Badlands, Metal Church, and Savatage.

>>> In Memoriam 2017, Part Three

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