Rock & Roll Heaven

Joe Bennett of the Sparkletones Passes On


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Story Credit: Dan Armonaitis

Joe Bennett and The Sparkletones once recorded a song called “Boys Do Cry.”

They sure do. And so do men and women of all ages, as evidenced by the tremendous outpouring of emotion expressed over the loss of a Spartanburg music icon.

Bennett, who co-wrote the early rock 'n' roll classic, “Black Slacks,” which, in the autumn of 1957, propelled him and three fellow Spartanburg County teenagers into national stardom, died Saturday, July 4th at night at the Rainey Hospice House in Anderson. He was 75.

Bennett had been suffering from complications related to Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia, stemming from exposure to Agent Orange while serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War.

Led by Bennett, the eldest of the group, on guitar, The Sparkletones included Wayne Arthur on bass, Howard “Sparky” Childress on guitar and Jimmy Denton on drums. The band is enshrined in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

“He was a dear friend. He was like a brother to me, and it hurts,” Childress said. “We'll miss him bad.”

A Spartanburg native, Bennett grew up in the Cannon's Campground community and, like all of his bandmates in The Sparkletones, attended Cowpens High School. Growing up, he immersed himself in music, taking private guitar lessons from the late Jerome Fowler, a Clifton-based music instructor who had previously taught the legendary Hank Garland.

As a child, Bennett started a band called The Jamborettes, which later morphed into The Sparkletones.

All The Chapel Bells Are Ringing For Jim Ed Brown

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Submitted by Don Graham

When I was I kid growing up in Montreal we would pack up the car every August and head to Toronto to visit our Nana. My memories of those summers at Nana’s were streetcars, oatmeal cookies and listening to her big radio in the parlour. In 1959 there was one song that everything stopped for; Nana’s favourite song, “The Three Bells” by The Browns. The song told the story of the little newsboy Jimmy Brown. The church bells in the little valley town rang when Jimmy was born, when he got married and when he passed away. Nana loved the bible passages and the sentiment of the song. She also loved the lead voice. The voice was that of Jim Ed Brown who formed The Browns with his sisters Maxine and Bonnie. Sadly Jim Ed passed away last week at the age of 81 in Franklin, Tennessee. The cause of death was listed as lung cancer.

The song almost didn’t get recorded. The Browns were preparing to disband as a group and were finishing up a final recording session when their producer Chet Atkins, asked them if there was something they fancied recording. They suggested “The Three Bells” which had been a hit in French by Edith Piaf called Les Trois Cloches. Jim Ed remembered that after the session Chet said “I know you folks are thinking about breaking up but I think you’ve just recorded the biggest record we’ve ever made.” And big it was making it to number one the pop and country charts.

Sonny Rollins Saxophone Colossus

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Submitted by Bill King

It was around 1974 that Rollins played the El Mocambo nightclub in Toronto. This was the same room a fully inebriated hillbilly psycho-boogie band Black Oak Arkansas, thrashed their way through “Red Hot Lovin’’’ on a Thursday night, and Boston’s much beloved Roomful of Blues would play a sophisticated style of jump blues the next.

On this occasion the room was jammed, everyone anticipating a mix of straight-ahead blowing and Caribbean rhythms. Rollins was in full roar! The solos were long extended rhythmic motifs that snapped and cracked through the attentive house. Forty minutes of long-winded soloing per tune normally drove a dozen or so patrons to the smoking lounge, but on this occasion, the fun had just began. Rollins started the easy stroll, walking table to table, blowing a few staccato like lines--then moving on. Some 40 minutes later, the calypso-laden “St. Thomas” ends and the delirious crowd still insisting on more from Sonny.

(Interview Date: 1997)

Bill King: After years of expanding the potential of the music, are you still finding new challenges?

Fiddler Johnny Gimble Passes Away

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Submitted by Don Graham

Johnny Gimble, one of the best fiddlers to ever resin up a bow, passed last week in Dripping Springs, Texas. He died from complications brought on by several strokes he had suffered in recent years. He was 88 years old and his recording credits spanned generations, recording with everyone from Bob Wills to George Strait.

He learned to play the fiddle and mandolin as a child, and  in his early teens he performed on local radio stations. He played with Jimmie Davis, who'd become the governor of Louisiana and would write the classic “You Are My Sunshine”. After serving in World War II, he returned to the States and country music. In 1949, he began playing with the king of Western Swing, Bob Wills and a few years later, fiddled on Marty Robbins' debut single, "I'll Go on Alone," which topped the country charts.

After leaving Bob Wills' Texas Playboys in the 1960s, he searched out different lines of  work including being a barber, before moving to Nashville later in the decade. In the booming music scene in Nashville, he became a first call session musician. He played on now-classic recordings like Connie Smith's "If It Ain't Love," Merle Haggard's "If We Make It Through December" and a Bob Wills tribute record, "A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World", He played on Chet Atkins' 1974 album "Superpickers" and George Strait's version of "Right or Wrong." From 1979-1981 he  toured with Willie Nelson.

Singer of The Kingsmen Jack Ely Passes On

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Submitted Courtesy of BBC


Jack Ely, lead singer of The Kingsmen, who were best known for 1960s hit Louie Louie, has died at the age of 71. His son, Sean Ely, said the musician died at home in Redmond, Oregon, after a long battle with an illness. "Because of his religious beliefs, we're not even sure what (the illness) was," he said.


Ely's incoherent singing on Louie Louie led the FBI to investigate the famous track on the grounds that it might be obscene. The law enforcement agents concluded, in a lengthy investigative report, that the song was "unintelligible at any speed".


Ely had a falling out with the band shortly after the song was recorded and later trained horses in Orgen. Louie Louie was originally recorded in 1957 by Richard Berry who had written it two years earlier. The song was written from the perspective of a many who wants to sail to Jamaica to return to a girl he loves,  but it was Mr. Ely’s rendition that popularized the song.


His son said, “Right out of his mouth, my father would say, ‘we were initially just going to record the song as an instrumental and at the last minute I decided I’d sing it. It’s all of this in a 10x10 room with one microphone. I was standing on my tippy toes yelling into the microphone Louie Louie ! We gotta go!’

God Speed Percy Sledge Gone at 74

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Submitted by Don Graham

Percy Sledge, who became famous for his soulful rendition of the mournful classic, “When a Man Loves a Woman”, has died in Baton Rouge Louisiana at age 74.

Sledge, seemed close to tears throughout the production which was the first No.1 hit from Alabama's blooming Muscle Shoals music scene, where Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones among others would record, and the first gold record for Atlantic Records.

During an interview for the 2013 documentary Muscle Shoals, Sledge recalled the recording of the song. "When I came into the studio, I was shaking like a leaf. I was scared," he said, adding that it was the "same melody that I sang when I was out in the fields. I just wailed out in the woods and let the echo come back to me". He says “I came up with the melody for When A Man Loves A Woman, but signed away the rights of the song to Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright, because "I didn't know any better"."I had the melody in my mind so I gave that song to them," he said, adding they then created the lyrics. Sledge did not contest the agreement, saying: "I felt like if God fixed it in my mouth to give it to them I won't change anything about it. I'm satisfied with what I wrote but I cut my kids out of so much because I gave it to someone else - I just wasn't thinking."

Founding Member of Lynyrd Skynyrd Bob Burns Killed in Car Crash

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada

The former drummer and a founding member of the Southern hard rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Robert Burns Jr., died April 3, 2015 in a single-vehicle crash in Georgia, police and his father said.

Burns’ vehicle went off a road just before midnight as it approached a curve near Cartersville, striking a mailbox and a tree, Georgia State Patrol spokeswoman Tracey Watson said. Burns, 64, was killed in the wreck. He was not wearing a seatbelt. The single-vehicle accident remains under investigation, and Watson said further details were not immediately available. There were no other cars involved in the accident and the police are investigating if the weather played a part in the accident.

Burns was one of five musicians who founded the band in Jacksonville, Florida. While Burns was with the group, it recorded “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Gimme Three Steps,” and “Free Bird.” He left the group in 1974. He performed alongside singer Ronnie Van Zant, bassist Larry Junstrom and guitarists Gary Rossington and Allen Collins in Lynyrd Skynyrd from 1966 to 1974.

Burns left the band after becoming exhausted by touring. Artimus Pyle subsequently replaced him as drummer for 1975's Nuthin' Fancy album.

He was not aboard the plane that crashed in 1977, killing three of the band's members, including Van Zant. The group disbanded after the tragedy - but reformed in 1987 with Van Zant's younger brother, Johnny, on lead vocals.

Al Bunetta John Prine Manager Passes Away

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada

Al Bunetta, who spent more than 30 years guiding the career of John Prine and managing the catalog of the late Steve Goodman, passed away after a brief battle with cancer. He was admitted to Saint Thomas Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee on March 12 and passed away on March 22nd 2015.

Bunetta founded and headed his namesake management company as well as Oh Boy Records. He was also a music publisher through his own Blue Plate Music and won a Grammy for co-producing the Best Contemporary Folk Recording ‘A Tribute To Steve Goodman’. In 2006, Prine’s Fair & Square album, released by Oh Boy, won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album.

Al was preceded in death by his son Juri Bunetta, who passed away in 2011. Al Bunetta and wife Dawn Bunetta started the Juri Bunetta Friendship Foundation and Building Bridges Golf Tournament in his loving memory, to benefit organizations including Safe Haven Family Shelter.

Billy Block Nashville Loses a Shining Light

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Submitted by Don Graham

Billy Block, champion of the talented artists needing a leg up and a break in the hard-to-break-into Nashville music scene has passed away at age 59.

Billy Block famously championed talented, emerging artists and gave countless numbers of artists their first shot in front of a live Nashville audience on  his weekly radio show. The Billy Block Show was one of Nashville’s longest running shows (just under twenty years) Billy Block was known as “The Honky-Tonk Underdog’s Best Friend.”  Billy claimed his show catered to “the misfits, the troublemakers and the creative geniuses who resist all categorization” but if you examine the list of stars that got their start on his show, you’ll see that it was much more than a stage for off-the beaten track talent. Mainstream artists such as Keith Urban, KaceyMusgraves, Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean got  their chops together and found their big breaks on this legendary stage.

Block was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic melanoma in 2013 after doctors discovered cancer in his lymph nodes, spleen and liver. It was his third bout with melanoma, which he had battled in his twenties and again in the 1990s. He went into hospice care on Tuesday March 10th and passed away on Wednesday March 11th.

Jimmy Greenspoon of Three Dog Night Succumbs to Cancer

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada

Three Dog Night had an iconic sound of organ and electric piano, and that was Jimmy Greenspoon. He died on March 11 of metastatic melanoma, which he only announced just over five months ago.

On the Three Dog Night Facebook page, the band announced, "We are very saddened at the passing of our dear friend and longtime band mate, Jimmy Greenspoon. Jimmy died peacefully at home today surrounded by his family. Please keep him and his loved ones in your prayers and your hearts."
Named Three Dog Night for the original members of the band Danny Hutton, Chuck Negron and Cory Wells they decided to expand the band to seven pieces by hiring four musicians, Greenspoon being one of them.

Greenspoon was raised in Beverly Hills, where his musical training began at the age of seven with piano lessons encouraged by his mother, Mary O’Brien, the former silent screen actress.He recorded with his surf group the New Dimensions while in junior high and high school. After attending the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music, he became a fixture at Sunset Strip clubs, playing with a host of bands. For a brief time he lived in Denver, where he was a member of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band.

Charting started for Three Dog Night in 1969 with hits like ‘One’, ‘Mama Told Me Not to Come’, ‘Eli’s Coming’, ‘Never Been to Spain’, ‘Black and White’ and ‘Joy to the World’ with the opening line of Jeremiah was a bullfrog that identified the song to us all.

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