Rock & Roll Heaven

DoWop Singer Earl ‘Speedo’ Carroll Passes On

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada

Earl Carroll the lead singer of the do-wop group The Cadillacs  died on Nov. 25 of a stroke and diabetes at a New York nursing home. He was 75 years old.

In a 1994 interview via The Daily News in New York Carroll explained how he got his nickname. "I always liked to take my time, do things at my own pace," he said. "Since I was a kid, the other guys would be telling me, 'C'mon, hurry up, Speedy.’

Carroll was the lead singer on the 1955 hit by the Cadillacs “Speedo” which was titled after his nickname. Carroll went on to join The Coasters but left them in 1990 to reform The Cadillacs. 
In the 1990s, Carroll  made a new life for himself as a custodian at a New York public school. The children called Earl "Speedo" and he was later the subject of a children's book, That’s Our Custodian by Ann Morris. He left the school job in 2005 and continued to sing with The Cadillacs until his health forced him to quit.

He was a big part of the PBS series honoring Doo Wop, hosted by Jerry Butler.

Major Harris of The Delfonics Passed Away From Heart Entertainment

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

Major Harris, a former member of the “Philadelphia sound” soul group the Delfonics and singer of the 1975 hit “Love Won’t Let Me Wait,” has died in Richmond. He was 65. His sister, Catherine Thomas, told the Associated Press that Harris passed away Friday morning from congestive heart and lung failure after being rushed to a hospital.

The Richmond native was born Feb. 9, 1947, and grew up in a musical family. His father was a guitarist and his mother led the church choir, Thomas said. In his teens, Harris was tall for his age and was able to get into clubs to watch musicians perform, she said.

“He always appeared to be older, which gave him a lot of ins to a lot of older places,” Thomas joked. She said he didn’t drink in the clubs back then, but he was pursuing his career. Music, she said, “was his life.”

Harris made the rounds with several music groups in the 1960s, including the Charmers, Frankie Lymon’s Teenagers and Nat Turner’s Rebellion. He then joined the Delfonics in the early 1970s, replacing Randy Cain in the group.

R.B. Greaves (Take A Letter Maria) Dies of Cancer

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

R. B. Greaves, a pop singer whose "Take a Letter, Maria" was a 1969 hit, has died in Los Angeles. He was 68 and was the nephew of the legendary R&B singer, Sam Cooke. Greaves died of prostate cancer on Sept. 27 at his home, said Craig Harvey, Los Angeles County coroner's chief of operations.

Ronald Bertram Aloysius Greaves III, was born on 28 November 1944, on a U.S. Air Force Base in Georgetown, (the former British) Guyana.Living in the United Kingdom in the 1960s, he recorded several soul singles as Sonny Childe, but it was after moving to the United States that he scored his biggest hit as R.B. Greaves and the hit ‘Take A Letter Maria.”

There are many other songs about infidelity hitting the top of the charts with “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel in 1968; “Me And Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul in 1972; “Torn Between Two Lovers” by Mary MacGregor in 1977, and a personal favourite of mine, the hauntingly beautiful duet of Jose Feliciano and Gloria Estefan and ‘Tengo Que Decirte Algo’ where a wife confesses her affair, and her husband lovingly forgives her.

Raylene Rankin God Speed and Fare Thee Well Love

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Submitted by Don Graham

Raylene Rankin, a member of the internationally acclaimed Canadian Celtic-country band The Rankin Family, has died after a long fight with cancer at the young age of 52.

Rankin and her four siblings -- John Morris, Jimmy, Cookie and Heather -- formed the group more than 20 years ago and are credited with taking Cape Breton Celtic music to the mainstream. It’s a sad loss for a family that has already endured so much tragedy. In 2000 John Morris died when the truck he was driving to a hockey game plunged into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Sister Geraldine passed away in 2007.

Rankin had three bouts of cancer. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, it returned again in 2009. In 2011, she was told the cancer had spread to her liver and she immediately began aggressive chemotherapy.

The Rankin Family performed together for 10 years, during which time they sold more than two million records, won six Juno awards, three Canadian Country Music Awards and 15 East Coast Music Awards.In 1999, members of the group went their separate ways to pursue different personal and creative paths.

God speed and fare thee well Raylene Rankin, you will be missed.

Kathi Macdonald A Singer’s Singer Passes On

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Submitted by Don Graham

As a singer, it’s always nice to get the call to sing on someone’s album. Kathi Macdonald got that call many times from rock legends like The Rolling Stones, Leon Russell, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Long John Baldry, Nils Lofgren, Delaney and Bonnie, Dave Mason, Rita Coolidge and Ike and Tina Turner. That’s how respected she was and proves the value and talent attributed to the power of Kathi's voice.  Her soulful, passionate vocals and her phrasing, great timing and tone are good reasons her vocals are such an important part of so many hit records.

Born in Anacortes in Washington State in 1948 and living in Seattle, Macdonald performed professionally for the first time when she was 12 years old. Kathi recalls her parents (after coming home from a night at the local Elks club) waking her up and having her sing from her crib. The first song she fully learned was "Goodnight Irene" by Huddie Leadbetter and at age 2 she would sing all 5 verses from her crib. She was used to late night singing at a very young age.

At 19 years old she moved to San Francisco and joined Ike and Tina Turner as an Ikette. She then did some work with Big Brother & the Holding Company, post Janis Joplin. In 1972 she recorded "Insane Asylum" for Capitol Records. The album was Co-Produced by David Briggs and Pete Sears. Sears was also musical arranger and played keyboards and bass, as well as writing several of the album's songs with Kathi.

Andy Williams His Talent Was Wider Than a Mile – Now Crossing in Style


Submitted by Sandy Graham

On Friday, November 4, 2011, it was reported in the press that American crooner Andy Williams had been diagnosed with bladder cancer. The singer confirmed the news during an appearance that weekend at his Moon River Theater in Branson. He traveled to Houston, Texas for chemotherapy treatments and then moved with his wife, Debbie, to Malibu, California, to be closer to cancer specialists in the Los Angeles area.

On July 19, 2012, Williams’ theater announced that Andy Williams had returned to Branson following cancer treatment and was "in good spirits and getting stronger every day" and had hoped to take the stage as scheduled in September. However, on September 25, 2012, Williams died at the age of 84, having suffered from bladder cancer for a year.
I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Andy Williams in the late 1970’s and one of his greatest characteristics, besides the amazing voice, was his wicked sense of humour. At one show at Hamilton Place in Ontario, he came out to a rousing round of applause, then stopped in his tracks, turned his back on the audience, pretended to do up his fly, then did an about face and said ‘okay that’s a bit better!’. The same slapstick humour prevailed when he would come out after intermission with the then popular Kodak Instamatic camera and say, ‘you are such a great audience I want to take a picture of you all!’ Then he would hesitate for a second and say ‘ I can’t seem to get you all in the photo. Can you sit just a little bit closer together?’. Perfect delivery.

Sam (Sniderman) the Record Man Passes away in Toronto

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Submitted by Joanne Smale on behalf of the Sniderman Family.

Iconic Canadian record retailer, Sam Sniderman, passed away peacefully in his sleep, surrounded by loved ones, in Toronto on Sunday September 23. He was 92.

Known widely as Sam the Record Man, Mr. Sniderman joined his brother, Sid, in a small retail store on College Street in Toronto in 1937 - Sniderman Radio Sales and Service. Together they built a chain of Sam the Record Man stores that literally spanned the country.

"Sam was the last of the great Canadian showmen that were able to establish themselves as household names purely through the force of their personality", said Brian Robertson, a close family friend and Chairman Emeritus of the Canadian Recording Industry Association.  "He was a mentor to literally hundreds of Canadian artists and musicians and the Yonge Street record store and Sam's presence there was the centre of the Canadian music industry's universe for over three decades".

Sam Sniderman was a Member of the Order of Canada, was an inductee of the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, received the Governor General award and Honourary doctorates from Ryerson University and University of Prince Edward Island.

He is survived by his sons Bobby and Jason, as well as their wives Marlaina and Karen, grandchildren Zachary, Jhase, Cosmo and Echo.

Joe South Don’t It Make You Wanna Go Home?

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Submitted by Don Graham

Someone asked me just the other day “Who’s your favourite songwriter? Who inspired you as a writer?” Without hesitation I said “Joe South!” And now, few days later came the news that he has passed on. He died at his home in Flowery Branch, Ga., Wednesday morning (Sept 5). He was 72.

In 1958, he recorded his debut single, a novelty tune called “The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor.” In 1959, South wrote a couple of songs which were recorded by rocker Gene Vincent  "I Might Have Known" and "Gone Gone Gone".

Aside from being a prolific songwriter, South was also a prominent sessionman, playing guitar on Aretha Franklin's "Chain of Fools", Tommy Roe's "Sheila", Marty Robbins sessions and Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde album. Some list South on the electric guitar part that was added to Simon & Garfunkel's first hit "The Sounds of Silence" although others credit Al Gorgoni and/or Vinnie Bell instead.

R.I.P. John Stockfish Sundown, You Better Take Care

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Submitted by Don Graham

The original bass player for Gordon Lightfoot, who with guitarist Red Shea formed the back up band for the legendary Lightfoot, passed away on Monday, August 20th, 2012 of natural causes. He was 69.

A self-taught musician who also trained at the Royal Conservatory of Music, John began his musical life touring extensively throughout Europe and North America as the bassist for Tommy Danton and the Echoes.

For a few years in the early 60s, he performed as part of the band on the daily CBC Music Hop show hosted by Alex Trebec, and the CTV television music show After Four, backing up the stars of the day like Bobby Curtola. 

The highest profile part of his musical career began in 1965 as the bassist for Gordon Lightfoot during the successful United Artists years. John was an integral of the Lightfoot sound during the concert tours and recording sessions, Many times we saw the trio and small coffee houses in Montreal, so close and personal and an amazing sound.

John’s bass line for Sundown Lightfoot’s big record that peaked at number one in 1974 was a big part of the records success and sonic quality. 

In 1969, John moved to New York where he lived, recorded, and performed with the late Jim Croce. This included appearances on both the Mike Douglas Show and the Today Show at the beginning of Croce's career.

Scott McKenzie Passes Away, May he find some “gentle people there”

Scott McKenzie

Submitted by Don Graham

Scott McKenzie of whom producer Lou Adler once said “ He sings like an angel. Scott McKenzie has one of the most beautiful voices to ever have a rock ‘n’ roll hit”  has died at age 73 in Los Angeles, California. He is perhaps best known for his 1967 hit single "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)." “San Francisco” was written by John Phillips, the leader of the 1960’s group The Mamas and the Papas. But McKenzie sang it and it has stood as an anthem for the 1960s flower power movement for decades.

Phillips and McKenzie, along with Dick Weisman, formed The Journeymen in 60’s, which Phillips left to form the Mama and Papas. McKenzie was originally pegged to be a Papa but declined to pursue a solo career. That cleared the way for Nova Scotian Denny Doherty to join. McKenzie would later replace Doherty in a 90’s version of the group.

Canadian guitarist Bob Cohen of Montreal worked with a version of that band that included Scott McKenzie and remarked what a nice guy he was and said of the signature song “San Francisco”, ” We all know what that song meant to our generation and for years I played it in bars with different singers. The first time Scott McKenzie opened his mouth to sing it while I was on stage with him, the feeling was indescribable.  No one but him could do that song justice.”

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