Rock & Roll Heaven

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.

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

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.”

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