Rock & Roll Heaven

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.

John Erlendson Passes Away in Toronto, Ontario

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

Toronto musician John Erlendson passed away on Saturday, March 7 at age 70.  Hailing from Winnipeg, he followed his jazz pianist brother Bob to Toronto and became the "hot young bass player" in the late 60s.  He went across Canada with nit singer Bobby G. Griffith ("Give My Love to Lady Canada") and Sunnyside.

In 1977 he formed the Sphere Band, which was a staple in Toronto and Ontario nightclubs.  On the side, the group did clown shows, ending up with a deal with A & M Records for the first Sphere Clown Band album, "I Can Do Anything". It rated a Juno nomination. The next album went Gold, only the 8th Canadian children's artist in history to achieve that status.  John continued to play the local jazz scene until a couple of years ago, when cancer slowed him down.

He'll be remembered for his mellifluous voice, solid bass playing, very entertaining clown character, and contributions to the jazz scene. A musical celebration is planned for Thursday, March 19th starting at 7:30 pm at Whistler's Grille & The McNeil Room in Toronto. Should you want to participate musically please contact John-Michael Erlendson at jaan.koel@primus.ca.

All are welcome to celebrate the life and love of John Murray Ross Erlendson.   

The Voice, Wit and Warmth of Don Berns Forever Remembered

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada

Don Berns, a radio and dj icon with the legendary voice will be heard no more. Don Berns passed away on Sunday, March 1st, 2015. He had recently posted on his Facebook page that he had just had some type of minor surgery.  Sources say he had complained on Saturday about  back and arm pains.  On Sunday, Berns was found dead in his Toronto home from an apparent heart attack.  He was in his 60s.

Berns lived in Toronto and aka ‘Dr. Trance’, most knew him as the "Godfather of Toronto's Rave Scene." He also was active in Toronto theatre and had an incredible sense of humour that he loved to share with his friends whenever he could. He loved improv, and also had a busy voice-over career well- known for his work with TSN.
 Growing up in Hartford, Connecticut, Don Berns spent time on radio in the 1970’s in Buffalo, New York. He and Jack Armstrong were the two new voices of WKBW 1520 AM.  Berns hosted mid-days while Armstrong rocked Eastern America and Canada at night.  Together, they brought new energy to WKBW.  Berns' trademark ending each day was "The Don Berns Show is a Dr. and Mrs. Berns production." Berns earned his way into the Music Director’s chair at WKBW and became very active in the live music scene, supporting and promoting local talent.

Lesley Gore Passes on from Lung Cancer

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Submitted Courtesy of Rob Durkee
Photo: Lesley Gore 1964

Lesley Gore, who has died of lung cancer, aged 68, once told an interviewer: “There’s nothing more wonderful than standing on stage and shaking your finger and singing ‘Don’t tell me what to do.’” Gore later appeared in films and TV series and was a campaigner for women’s rights.

Legendary producer Quincy Jones discovered Lesley Gore. Around February of 1963, Jones had Gore record some 200 demo tapes and one of the songs was "It's My Party." According to Wikipedia, Lesley told Quincy, "It's not bad. I like it. Let's put it on the 'maybe' pile." Two solo women singers--Barbara Jean English and Helen Shapiro--would record the song but it went nowhere.  Then producer Phil Spector heard it and had the Crystals record it. When Jones found out about it, he rush-released the Gore version to beat the Crystals to the pop chart.

How did Lesley find out about "It's My Party" being released as a single? While driving in her car and hearing it on the radio. She was so shocked to hear herself singing "It's My Party" that she almost drove her car off the road.

Joe B. Maudlin Will Not Fade Away

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Submitted by Don Graham

Bassist with the Crickets, Joe B. Maudlin, has died of cancer in Nashville,Tennessee at age 74. He passed away just days after the anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly, his former boss (Februrary 3, 1959.) Mauldin, like Holly was a Lubbock, Texas, native, and took over bass duties from Larry Welborn just after the Crickets recorded their initial single, 1957′s ‘That’ll Be the Day’. Together they would release a string of hits in quick succession after ‘That’ll Be the Day’ topped the charts including ‘Oh, Boy!,’ ‘Maybe Baby,’ ‘Peggy Sue’ and ‘Rave On,’  and that was only through 1958. “It did feel like everything was happening super fast,” Mauldin later was quoted as saying.

Rod McKuen Seasons in the Sun

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Story Courtesy of The Guardian

Rod McKuen moved to Paris, where he struck up a friendship with Jacques Brel. He translated the Belgian’s great song, Ne Me Quitte Pas, which became a hit in 1966 as If You Go Away.

Rod McKuen, who has died aged 81, was, at his peak, a cultural phenomenon whose massive success as a songwriter and singer saw him become America’s most popular poet, dubbed The King of Kitsch by Newsweek magazine.

His books of poetry were found both on middle American coffee tables and in the bedrooms of adolescents, reflecting their combination of dreamy romantic loneliness and uplifting platitudes. It was no coincidence that one of McKuen’s biggest hits was the title song for the animated Peanuts film A Boy Named Charlie Brown, for which he was nominated for an Oscar. A shrewd judge of passing styles and a hardworking promoter of his own work, McKuen produced 30 collections of poems and around 200 recordings of easy-listening music that sold in the millions. But it was his songwriting, covered by artists as varied as Frank Sinatra and Madonna, Dolly Parton and Chet Baker, Johnny Cash and Barbra Streisand, that made his fortune.

McKuen was born in a charity hospital in Oakland, California; his mother had been abandoned by his father. His stepfather beat him regularly and he was sexually abused by relatives, which was even more damaging. “Physical injuries on the outside heal,” he said, “but those scars have never healed and I expect they never will.”

Drummer Dallas Taylor Gone At 66

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Submitted by Don Graham

Dallas Taylor, the original drummer for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, has died at the age of  66. His wife, Patti McGovern-Taylor, posted the news on her Facebook page, but did not disclose the cause.

Her post read “This morning at 2:30 am I lost the love of my life Dallas W. Taylor, he came into my life almost 18 yrs ago and saved me as much as I may have saved him, To me he was just a Good Man, a Good Friend, a Good Father, a Good Grandfather, (or Pop Pop) Great

Drummer and much beloved by many. I cannot even find the words to put down to say how grateful I am for the many friends and family who have been there for both of us these many days he has spent in the hospital, especially last night. I know he is at peace. He will be missed beyond words; it is so very hard to imagine my life without him by my side, but i feel his love even as I write these words. Much Love to you all.”

Taylor was born in Denver, Colorado, and started out as a session musician in the early 1960s, soon joining the psychedelic rock band Clear Light. In 1967, he was recruited into Crosby, Stills and Nash when Stephen Stills asked Taylor to play drums on their record.Taylor performed on their breakthrough self-titled debut album, released in 1969, and their following album, Déjà Vu with new member, Neil Young, in 1970. Taylor played on Stills’ solo album and with Manassas.

R.I.P. Tim Drummond Long May You Run

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Submitted by Don Graham

Session and touring bass player Tim Drummond, who spent most of his career playing with the likes of Neil Young, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan and the Beach Boys, died on January 10th, 2015 at the age of 74. The cause of death wasn't immediately available, but no foul play or trauma was involved.

Drummond was the bass player on Neil Young's 1972 bestseller Harvest as well as its follow-up, 1992's HarvestMoo. Both were highly praised acoustic albums with the same bunch of musicians. He played on every Young studio LP between 1974's On the Beach and 1980's Hawks and Doves. He also played in various backing bands for Young: the Shocking Pinks, the Stray Gators, and the International Harvesters. Following, Harvest Moon, Young's 1993 MTV Unplugged performance was the final show of Drummond's tenure with the singer-songwriter.

The list of major artists with whom Drummond has performed is long and impressive. It includes  Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Joe Cocker, Jewel, James Brown, Conway Twitty and Crosby, Stills and Nash among the most notable. Drummond played on albums such as Jewel's Pieces of You,Dylan's Slow Train Coming and the Beach Boys' 15 Big Ones. Drummond also co-wrote Dylan's "Saved”.

Subhumans Lead Singer Brian Goble Was A Pioneer Of Vancouver Punk

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Courtesy of Tom Hawthorne of The Globe And Mail
Photo: Randy Bachman and Brian Goble 1991
Photograph by Craig Hodge

On Canada Day in 1978, anarchists organized a picnic with the promise of a free concert in Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

A Canadian flag was burned in front of the stage. The police came by car, horse and motorcycle. While some punk aficionados jumped up and down on the spot in front of the stage, slack-jawed passersby stood and stared.

On the bill was a newly formed band called the Subhumans. The lead singer, Brian Goble, a somewhat quiet young man with a pointy Jughead nose and a mordant sense of humour, stripped off his shirt while barking barely decipherable lyrics into the microphone. It was the public’s first glimpse of the energetic front man.

In an age of aloof rock gods, Mr. Goble smashed the invisible wall separating artist from audience with the subtlety of a rampaging Visigoth. His manic performances – as a twitchy, jumpy singer who liked to dive off the stage into a sweaty, beery crowd – became legendary. Once, a frantic audience ripped off his clothing (an act so violent he was left bruised), before depositing the naked singer back on stage. Another time, Mr. Goble dove from the stage only to land on the concrete floor, where the unseen figure groaned curses into the microphone. The most common of those, a two-word imprecation used as a signal of angry dismissal, was also the title of one of the group’s most popular songs.

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