Rock & Roll Heaven

Three Dog Night singer Cory Wells dies at age 74

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Courtesy of NBC News

Cory Wells, one of the founding members of 1970s hitmakers Three Dog Night, has died at age 74. The death of Wells — one of the group's three lead singers — was announced on the band's official website.

Longtime bandmate Danny Hutton said that Wells died "unexpectedly" Tuesday in Dunkirk, New York. He said that Wells had been performing with the group until developing severe back pain in September. "Cory was an incredible singer, a great performer, he could sing anything," Hutton said in a statement. "Cory was like a brother in so many ways... I am in shock at this sudden loss."

Three Dog Night formed in the late 1960s and racked up 21 consecutive Top 40 hits, including "Joy to the World" and "One."

Wells — born Emil Lewandowski on Feb. 2, 1941 in Buffalo — joined the Air Force directly out of high school. He formed a band while in the service and went on to play with other groups in his hometown after leaving the military.

He met Hutton — then a solo artist — after both were invited to tour with Sonny and Cher. Three Dog Night — named after a story about Australian aborigines in the cold outback seeking warmth — was formed after that tour. Various iterations of the group have stayed on the road performing for 40 years. The band said that in addition to music, Wells was passionate about fishing — filming several episodes of "The American Sportsman" and participating in charity fishing tournaments around the country.

News of Wells' death prompted tributes from the world of music and far beyond.

Legendary Artist Billy Joe Royal Dies in His Sleep

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada

Four decades of an impressively resilient career, Billy Joe Royal’s soul-drenched voice was stilled on October 6, 2015, passing away in his sleep in his North Carolina home.

Billy Joe Royal got his big break when he was performing in Savannah, Georgia. His roommate, Joe South, asked him to record a demo of a song he’d written. Billy Joe did so well that he got a record deal with Columbia. With a string of hits in the pop world, he established himself with “Down In The Boondocks,” “I Knew You When” and “Cherry Hill Park”, establishing himself on the charts in the 1960’s.

Even as a kid, he knew music was central to his personality. Like many of his peers, he recognized that it could also be his source of income after he saw Elvis Presley—another guy who mixed, pop, country and R&B—on The Tommy Dorsey Show.  “When he made it so big,” Royal reflects, “all us Southern boys thought maybe we had a shot, too.” Elvis and Royal became friends when both played Las Vegas during the ‘70s.

After his initial success, he continued to make music signed to a number of smaller labels before finally settling in Nashville with Atlantic Records. In the 1980s he still saw success in the US Country chart, with songs like “Tell It Like It Is”and “Till I Can't Take It Anymore”.

Billy Joe Royal was honoured by the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1988, meaning he now sits alongside stars like Ray Charles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Otis Reading and James Brown.

At press time no funeral plans have been announced yet.

Frankie Ford, who sang 'Sea Cruise,' Dies at Age 76

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Courtesy of Associated Press

Frankie Ford, a rock 'n' roll and rhythm and blues singer whose 1959 hit "Sea Cruise" brought him international fame when he was 19, is dead at the age of 76.

Ford died Monday of natural causes, according to the Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, coroner's office.
"He was a great guy. He had the best voice in rock and roll," said Mike Shepherd, a friend of Ford's and head of the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, which inducted Ford in 2010.

In addition to "Sea Cruise," Billboard magazine's No. 14 overall and No. 11 in rhythm and blues in 1959, Ford's hits included "Roberta," ''Time after Time" and "You Talk Too Much." His version of "You Talk Too Much" aired while Joe Jones' recordings of the song were tied up in court. Jones' recording eventually reached No. 3, while none of Ford's after "Sea Cruise" made it higher than 72, the mark set by "Seventeen" in 1961.

Shepherd said Ford had been ill for some time, and had been unable to walk since he was hit by a car in Memphis several years ago.

Ford had sung since childhood. His adopted parents, Vincent and Anna Guzzo of Gretna, brought him to New York when he was five to perform on the "Ted Mack Amateur Hour." His stage name was suggested, in a nod to hot rods, by Ace Records owner Johnny Vincent, according to his biography on the hall of fame website.

Michael Burgess, Canadian Les Misérables star, Dead at 70

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Courtesy of CBC News

Michael Burgess died peacefully Monday, September 28, 2015 in a Toronto hospice, surrounded by his family, according to family friend Bruce Bowser. The 70-year-old musical theatre star had struggled with basal cell carcinoma for a number of years.

Burgess played the role of Jean Valjean in more than 1,000 performances of Les Misérables at the historic Royal Alex and on tour across Canada during the 1980s. He also appeared in the production's 10th-anniversary concert at Royal Albert Hall in London. "Michael created the role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, which was one of the first international blockbusters to have its own production in Canada with a local cast, instead of a touring version. He was magnificent in the role and led the all-Canadian cast to great heights," theatre mogul David Mirvish, head of Mirvish Productions, said in a statement Monday night.

Burgess was "that kind of performer that could walk the line between opera and musical theatre and connect with an audience," Daphne Burt, manager of artistic planning with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, told CBC News on Tuesday."You look out at a darkened concert hall and you can't see faces, but it still felt like he was looking straight into people's eyes." The NAC in Ottawa has lowered its flag to half-mast to honour Burgess.

Lynn Anderson Heading To Her Rose Garden

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Submitted by Don Graham

Country legend, Lynn Anderson, has passed away in Nashville Tennessee less than two months shy of her 68th birthday.

The Grammy-winning performer, whose 1970 single, "Rose Garden," was a country and pop hit worldwide, died after suffering a heart attack. Anderson had recently been hospitalized with pneumonia after returning from a trip to Italy.

She was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota on September 26th, 1947, to songwriters Casey and Liz Anderson. Liz Anderson was a recording artist and a songwriter, whose best known for writing  Merle Haggard's "I Am a Lonesome Fugitive" and "(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers.

Anderson's first single was released in 1966, when she was just 19 years old.It was a duet with Jerry Lane titled “For Better or for Worse.” Although it failed to chart, her next single “Ride, Ride, Ride”, made it onto  the country charts, and the follow-up “If I Kiss You (Will You Go Away)”, written by her mother, made it into the Top 5.

Anderson was a regular on the popular Lawrence Welk Show in the late ‘60s, which gave her exposure to a national audience. It was said that Lynn Anderson helped  broaden  the boundaries of country music because there wasn't a lot of country music to be found on network television at that time.

Lynn married record producer and songwriter Glenn Sutton in 1968 and he produced a few of her hit songs as well as writing several including“You're My Man” and “Keep Me In Mind.” The couple would divorce in 1977.

Bobbi Kristina Brown Daughter of Whitney Houston Gone at 22

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

Bobbi Kristina Brown, the daughter of late music legend Whitney Houston and R&B singer Bobby Brown passed away on July 26, 2015 at the age of 22. She had been recently been in the Peachtree Christian Hospice in Duluth, Georgia, where her family gathered to say their last goodbyes.

"She is finally at peace in the arms of God," the Houston family said in statement to ET. "We want to again thank everyone for their tremendous amount of love and support during these last few months."

Bobbi Kristina was found unresponsive in her bathtub of apparent drug related issues on January 31, 2015, eerily in similar circumstances to her mother Whitney Houston. She was taken to North Fulton Hospital in Roswell, Georgia, where she was put on a ventilator to assist her breathing. Later the decision was made to induce a medical coma at Atlanta's Emory University Hospital.

On June 24, nearly two months later, she was moved to a rehabilitation center, where she remained until June 24 until she was move to the Peachtree Christian Hospice.
"Despite the great medical care at numerous facilities, Bobbi Kristina Brown’s condition has continued to deteriorate," Pat Houston gave a statement that day. "We thank everyone for their support and prayers. She is in God's hands now."

Ernie Maresca – Do Wop Teen Idol and Songwriter Passes On in Florida

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada

From the early days of 1958, until its demise in the 1990s, the name of Ernie Maresca was a major part of the story of Laurie Records. The Bronx-born Italian-American songwriter, singer, producer and sometime hitmaker started out hustling his demos to Dion as a teenager and ended up running the company's publishing arm. Ultimately, he brokered the sale of the catalogue to Capitol in 1992 on behalf of Laurie's founders Gene Schwartz, his brother Bob and Eliot Greenberg.

Ernie Maresca died in his South Florida home on Tuesday, July 8, 2015. Confirmation of his passing was not confirmed until Saturday, July 11, 2015. Details of his death are not available at this time.

Rob Durkee of Cashbox Magazine US had this to say,  “While Ernie Maresca was in the Top 40 Disappearing Acts shows that Casey Kasem counted down in 1973 and 1975, he wasn't a One-Hit Wonder as a songwriter. For instance, he co-wrote this #1 hit from 1961, “Runaround Sue” and #2 hit from 1962 “The Wanderer” – both hits for Dion and the Belmonts.Among the other hit songs Ernie co-wrote were "No One Knows" (for Dion and the Belmonts); "Party Girl" for Bernadette Carroll; plus "Lovers Who Wander" and "Donna The Prima Donna" for Dion.”

Ernie Maresca had only one hit record on his own. In 1962 “Shout! Shout! (Knock Yourself Out) was a major chart topper for the kid from the Bronx.

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?

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