mick’s blog

Ray McKinley

June 18, 2021

Ray McKinley (June 18, 1910 – May 7, 1995) was an American jazz drummer, singer, and bandleader.

McKinley got his start at age 9 working with local bands in the Dallas–Fort Worth area. He left home when he was 15 and played with Milt Shaw’s Detroiters and the Smith Ballew and Duncan-Marin bands. His first substantial professional engagement came in 1934 with the Dorsey Brothers’ Orchestra. It was with the Smith Ballew band in 1929 that McKinley met Glenn Miller. The two formed a friendship that lasted from 1929 until Miller’s death in 1944. McKinley and Miller joined the Dorsey Brothers in 1934. Miller left for Ray Noble in December 1934, while McKinley remained.

The Dorsey brothers split in 1935, with McKinley remaining with Jimmy Dorsey until 1939, when he joined Will Bradley, becoming co-leader. McKinley’s biggest hit with Bradley, as a singer, was “Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar“, which he recorded early in the year 1940 (and for which he got partial songwriting credit under his wife’s maiden name Eleanore Sheehy). McKinley is referred to as “Eight Beat Mack” in the lyrics to the song “Down the Road a Piece,” which he recorded as a trio with Will Bradley and Freddie Slack in 1940. This was the earliest recording of the song, which was written specifically for Bradley’s band by Don Raye.

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Benny Payne

June 18, 2021
Consummate pianist and arranger, Benny Payne played with greats like Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Chu Berry, and Fats Waller, but his longest collaboration was with the lounge singer Billy Daniels; during the 1950s, they were among the first African-American entertainers to appear on national television. In 1964, Payne appeared on Broadway in a revival of “Golden Boy” with Daniels and Sammy Davis, Jr.

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Flamenco Fridays with Cameron

June 18, 2021

Fandango is a lively couples dance originating from Portugal and Spain, usually in triple metre, traditionally accompanied by guitars, castanets, or hand-clapping. Fandango can both be sung and danced. Sung fandango is usually bipartite: it has an instrumental introduction followed by “variaciones”. Sung fandango usually follows the structure of “cante” that consist of four or five octosyllabic verses (coplas) or musical phrases (tercios). Occasionally, the first copla is repeated.

Eighteenth century Castilianfandango dancers (by Pierre Chasselat) (1753–1814)

The meter of fandango is similar to that of the bolero and seguidilla. It was originally notated in 6

8 time, of slow tempo, mostly in the minor, with a trio in the major; sometimes, however, the whole was in a major key. Later it took the 3-4 tempo, and the characteristic Spanish rhythm. The earliest fandango melody is found in the anonymous “Libro de diferentes cifras de guitarra” from 1705, and the earliest description of the dance itself is found in a 1712 letter by Martín Martí, a Spanish priest. The fandango’s first sighting in a theatrical work was in Francisco de Leefadeal‘s entremés “El novio de la aldeana” staged in Seville, ca. 1720. By the late 18th century it had become fashionable among the aristocracy and was often included in tonadillas, zarzuelas, ballets and operas, not only in Spain, but also elsewhere in Europe.

 

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Daily Roots with Burning Spear

June 18, 2021

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The Cosmos with NGC 6888

June 17, 2021

NGC 6888, also known as the Crescent Nebula, is a about 25 light-years across blown by winds from its central, bright, massive star. A triumvirate of astroimagers ( Joe, Glenn, Russell) created this sharp portrait of the cosmic bubble. Their telescopic collaboration collected over 30 hours of narrow band image data isolating light from hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The oxygen atoms produce the blue-green hue that seems to enshroud the detailed folds and filaments. Visible within the nebula, NGC 6888’s central star is classified as a Wolf-Rayet star (WR 136). The star is shedding its outer envelope in a strong stellar wind, ejecting the equivalent of the Sun’s mass every 10,000 years. The nebula’s complex structures are likely the result of this strong wind interacting with material ejected in an earlier phase. Burning fuel at a prodigious rate and near the end of its stellar life this star should ultimately go out with a bang in a spectacular supernova explosion. Found in the nebula rich constellation Cygnus, NGC 6888 is about 5,000 light-years away.

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Dobet Gnahoré

June 17, 2021

Dobet Gnahoré (born June 17, 1982) is a singer from Côte d’Ivoire. The daughter of percussionist Boni Gnahoré, she plays with the group Na Afriki, consisting mainly of French and Tunisian musicians, who accompany her with the guitar, sanza, the balafon, the calebasse and bongos. Due to the civil war, she moved to France in 1999. In 2004, Gnahoré released her debut album Ano Neko. In 2006. She was a nominee at the World music (Awards) for Newcomer and shared an award for Best Urban/Alternative Performance with India.Arie at the 52nd Grammy Awards.

A self-taught musician, who incorporates elements of song, dance, percussion and theatre into her repertoire, she is the daughter of percussionist Boni Gnahoré, who performs with her and the sister of kiff no beat band member Black k. She settled in Marseille in 1999 due to the civil war.

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Chuck Rainey

June 17, 2021

Charles Walter Rainey III (born June 17, 1940 in Cleveland, Ohio, United States) is an American bass guitarist who has performed and recorded with many well-known acts, including Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan, and Quincy Jones.

By the 1970s he had played with Jerome Richardson, Grady Tate, Mose Allison, Gato Barbieri, and Gene Ammons, as well as with Eddie Vinson at the 1971 Montreux Festival.

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Igor Stravinsky

June 17, 2021

Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ComSE (/strəˈvɪnski/; Russian: Игорь Фёдорович Стравинский, IPA: [ˈiɡərʲ ˈfʲɵdərəvʲɪtɕ strɐˈvʲinskʲɪj] (About this soundlisten); 17 June [O.S. 5 June] 1882 – 6 April 1971) was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor, later of French (from 1934) and American (from 1945) citizenship. He is widely considered one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century.

Stravinsky’s compositional career was notable for its stylistic diversity. He first achieved international fame with three ballets commissioned by the impresario Serge Diaghilev and first performed in Paris by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes: The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913). The latter transformed the way in which subsequent composers thought about rhythmic structure and was largely responsible for Stravinsky’s enduring reputation as a revolutionary who pushed the boundaries of musical design. His “Russian phase”, which continued with works such as Renard, L’Histoire du soldat, and Les noces, was followed in the 1920s by a period in which he turned to neoclassicism. The works from this period tended to make use of traditional musical forms (concerto grosso, fugue, and symphony) and drew from earlier styles, especially those of the 18th century. In the 1950s, Stravinsky adopted serial procedures. His compositions of this period shared traits with examples of his earlier output: rhythmic energy, the construction of extended melodic ideas out of a few two- or three-note cells, and clarity of form and instrumentation.

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Tony Scott

June 17, 2021

Tony Scott (born Anthony Joseph Sciacca June 17, 1921 – March 28, 2007) was an American jazz clarinetist and arranger with an interest in folk music around the world. For most of his career he was held in high esteem in new-age music circles because of his involvement in music linked to Asian cultures and to meditation.

Born in Morristown, New Jersey, Scott attended Juilliard School from 1940 to 1942. In the 1950s he worked with Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday. He also had a young Bill Evans and Paul Motian as side-men on several albums released between 1957 and 1959. In the late 1950s he won on four occasions the Down Beat critics poll for clarinetist in 1955, 1957, 1958 and 1959. He was known for a more “cool” style on the instrument than his peer Buddy DeFranco who often played a more aggressive bebop style.

Despite this he remained relatively little-known as the clarinet had been in eclipse in jazz since the emergence of bebop. In 1959 he left New York City, where he had been based, and abandoned the United States for a time. In the 1960s he toured South, East, and Southeast Asia. This led to his playing in a Hindu temple, spending time in Japan, and releasing Music for Zen Meditation in 1964 for Verve Records. In 1960 a Down Beat poll for Japan saw readers there name him best clarinetist while the United States preferred Buddy DeFranco. More recently he did a Japanese special on Buddhism and Jazz, although he continued to work with American jazz musicians and played at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1965. In the years following that he worked in Germany, Africa, and at times in South America.

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World Music with Ágnes Herczku

June 17, 2021

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Daily Roots with Alexander Henry

June 17, 2021

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The Cosmos with Scorpius

June 16, 2021

If Scorpius looked this good to the unaided eye, humans might remember it better. Scorpius more typically appears as a few bright stars in a well-known but rarely pointed out zodiacal constellation. To get a spectacular image like this, though, one needs a good camera, a dark sky, and some sophisticated image processing. The resulting digitally-enhanced image shows many breathtaking features. Diagonal across the image right is part of the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. Visible there are vast clouds of bright stars and long filaments of dark and intricate dust. Rising vertically on the image left are dark dust bands known as the Dark River. Several of the bright stars on the left are part of Scorpius’ head and claws, and include the bright star Antares. Numerous red emission nebulas, blue reflection nebulas, and dark filaments became visible as the deep 17-hour expo image developed. Scorpius appears prominently in southern skies after sunset during the middle of the year.

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Eddie Levert

June 16, 2021

Edward Willis Levert (born June 16, 1942) is an American singer–songwriter and actor. Levert is best known as the lead vocalist of The O’Jays. He is the father of Gerald Levert (1966-2006).

Levert was born in Bessemer, Alabama, but was raised in Canton, Ohio, where he moved at the age of 6. He attended church regularly and eventually joined the church choir. As Levert continued singing into his teenage years, he became a recognized voice in the church choir, sang in school plays and performed regularly on a gospel radio show.

Whilst at high school he teamed up with classmates Walter Williams, William Powell, Bobby Massey and Bill Isles to form a group called the Triumphs. The Triumphs played locally in Canton opening for different acts, playing ‘sock hops’. They traveled to Cincinnati to canvas King Records whose President Sid Nathan changed their name to The Mascots and signed them to his label. The Mascots’ popularity grew as their music was broadcast on Cleveland radio stations.

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Lucky Thompson

June 16, 2021

EliLuckyThompson (June 16, 1924 – July 30, 2005) was an American jazz tenor and soprano saxophonist whose playing combined elements of swing and bebop. Although John Coltrane usually receives the most credit for bringing the soprano saxophone out of obsolescence in the early 1960s, Thompson (along with Steve Lacy) embraced the instrument earlier than Coltrane.

Thompson was born in Columbia, South Carolina, and moved to Detroit, Michigan, during his childhood. Thompson had to raise his siblings after his mother died, and he practiced saxophone fingerings on a broom handle before acquiring his first instrument. He joined Erskine Hawkins‘ band in 1942 upon graduating from high school.

After playing with the swing orchestras of Lionel Hampton, Don Redman, Billy Eckstine (alongside Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker), Lucky Millinder, and Count Basie, he worked in rhythm and blues and then established a career in bebop and hard bop, working with Kenny Clarke, Miles Davis, Gillespie and Milt Jackson.

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Clarence Shaw

June 16, 2021

Clarence Eugene Shaw, sometimes credited as Gene Shaw (June 16, 1926 – August 17, 1973) was an American jazz trumpeter.

Shaw was born in Detroit on June 16, 1926. He played the piano and trombone as a child. He began playing trumpet around 1946 after hearing Dizzy Gillespie‘s Hot House while recovering from injuries sustained in the army. He attended the Detroit Institute of Music, and studied with pianist Barry Harris.

In Detroit, he played with Lester Young, Wardell Gray, and Lucky Thompson. He moved to New York in 1956 and began playing with Charles Mingus‘s Jazz Workshop in 1957. Among his credits with Mingus is Tijuana Moods. On East Coasting, Shaw used a Harmon mute, although he was initially wary of using it, given its association with the sound of Miles Davis. Later in 1957 he destroyed his instrument and quit music over a fight with Mingus. He did not return to playing until 1962, after which time he formed his own ensemble. He retired again in 1964 and returned to music once more in 1968. He died in Los Angeles on August 17, 1973.

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World Music with At Adau

June 16, 2021

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Daily Roots with Cornell Campbell

June 16, 2021

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The Cosmos with NGC 6611

June 15, 2021

The star cluster is very bright and was discovered in the mid-eighteenth century. The nebula, however, is much more elusive and it took almost a further two decades for it to be first noted by Charles Messier in 1764. Although it is commonly known as the Eagle Nebula, its official designation is Messier 16 and the cluster is also named NGC 6611. One spectacular area of the nebula (outside the field of view) has been nicknamed “The Pillars of Creation” ever since the Hubble Space Telescope captured an iconic image of dramatic pillars of star-forming gas and dust. The cluster and nebula are fascinating targets for small and medium-sized telescopes, particularly from a dark site free from light pollution. Messier 16 can be found within the constellation of Serpens Cauda (the Tail of the Serpent), which is sandwiched between Aquila, Sagittarius, and Ophiuchus in the heart of one of the brightest parts of the Milky Way. Small telescopes with low power are useful for observing large, but faint, swathes of the nebula, whereas 30 cm telescopes and larger may reveal the dark pillars under good conditions. But a space telescope in orbit around the Earth, like Hubble — which boasts a 2.4-metre diameter mirror and state-of-the-art instruments — is required for an image as spectacular as this one. This picture was created from images taken with the Wide Field Channel of Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. Images through a near-infrared filter (F775W) are coloured red and images through a blue filter (F475W) are blue. The exposures times were one hour and 54 minutes respectively and the field of view is about 3.3 arcminutes across.

 

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Harry Nilsson

June 15, 2021

Harry Edward Nilsson III (June 15, 1941 – January 15, 1994), known professionally as Nilsson, was an American singer-songwriter who achieved the peak of his commercial success in the early 1970s. His work is characterized by pioneering vocal overdub experiments, returns to the Great American Songbook, and fusions of Caribbean sounds. A tenor with a 3+12 octave range, Nilsson was one of the few major pop-rock recording artists to achieve significant commercial success without ever performing major public concerts or undertaking regular tours. The craft of his songs and the defiant attitude he projected remain touchstones for later generations of indie rock musicians.

Born in Brooklyn, Nilsson moved to Los Angeles as a teenager to escape his family’s poor financial situation. While working as a computer programmer at a bank, he grew interested in musical composition and close-harmony singing, and was successful in having some of his songs recorded by various artists such as the Monkees. In 1967, he debuted on RCA Victor with the LP Pandemonium Shadow Show, followed by a variety of releases that include a collaboration with Randy Newman (Nilsson Sings Newman, 1970) and the original children’s story The Point! (1971). His most commercially successful album, Nilsson Schmilsson (1971), produced the international top 10 singles “Without You” and “Coconut“. His other top 10 hit, “Everybody’s Talkin’” (1968), was featured prominently in the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy. A version of Nilsson’s “One“, released by Three Dog Night in 1969, also reached the U.S. top 10.

During a 1968 press conference, the Beatles were asked what their favorite American group was and answered “Nilsson”. Sometimes called “the American Beatle“, he soon formed close friendships with John Lennon and Ringo Starr. In the 1970s, Nilsson, Lennon and Starr were members of the Hollywood Vampires drinking club, embroiling themselves in a number of widely publicized, alcohol-fueled incidents. They produced one collaborative album, Pussy Cats (1974). After 1977, Nilsson left RCA, and his record output diminished. In response to Lennon’s 1980 murder, he took a hiatus from the music industry to campaign for gun control. With this, he heavily advocated for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and spent most of his time and effort trying to make a change in the handgun industry. At this time his only occupation was a Spokesperson for Handgun Violence, and would even hold many social gatherings to spread the word on the topic.

For the rest of his life, he recorded only sporadically. In 1994, Nilsson died of a heart attack while in the midst of recording what became his last album, Losst and Founnd (2019).

Nilsson created the first remix album (Aerial Pandemonium Ballet, 1971) and recorded the first mashup song (“You Can’t Do That“, 1967). He was voted No. 62 in Rolling Stones 2015 list of the “100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time“, where he was described as “a pioneer of the Los Angeles studio sound, a crucial bridge between the baroque psychedelic pop of the late Sixties and the more personal singer-songwriter era of the Seventies”. The RIAA certified Nilsson Schmilsson and Son of Schmilsson (1972) as gold records, indicating over 500,000 units sold each. He earned Grammy Awards for two of his recordings; Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, Male in 1970 for “Everybody’s Talkin'” and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male in 1973 for “Without You”.

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Waylon Jennings

June 15, 2021

Waylon Arnold Jennings (born Wayland Arnold Jennings; June 15, 1937 – February 13, 2002) was an American singer, songwriter, and musician. He is best known as one of the founding pioneers of the Outlaw Movement in country music.

Jennings started to play guitar at age of eight and first performed at age 12 on KVOW radio, after which he formed his first band, The Texas Longhorns. Jennings left high school at age 16, determined to become a musician and worked as a performer and DJ on KVOW, KDAV, KYTI, KLLL, in Coolidge, Arizona, and Phoenix. In 1958, Buddy Holly arranged Jennings’s first recording session, and hired him to play bass. Jennings gave up his seat on the ill-fated flight in 1959 that crashed and killed Holly, J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Ritchie Valens.

Jennings then formed a rockabilly club band, The Waylors, which became the house band at “JD’s”, a club in Scottsdale, Arizona. He recorded for independent label Trend Records and A&M Records, but did not achieve success until moving to RCA Victor, taking on Neil Reshen as a manager, who negotiated significantly better touring and recording contracts for him. After he gained creative control from RCA Records, he released the critically acclaimed albums Lonesome, On’ry and Mean and Honky Tonk Heroes, followed by the hit albums Dreaming My Dreams and Are You Ready for the Country. During the 1970s, Jennings became one of the main figures of outlaw country. With Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser and Jessi Colter he recorded country music’s first platinum album, Wanted! The Outlaws. It was followed by Ol’ Waylon and the hit song “Luckenbach, Texas“.

Jennings was featured in the 1978 album White Mansions, performed by various artists documenting the lives of people in the Confederacy during the Civil War. Jennings also appeared in films and television series, including Sesame Street, and a stint as the balladeer for The Dukes of Hazzard, composing and singing the show’s theme song and providing narration for the show. By the early 1980s, Jennings struggled with a cocaine addiction, which he overcame in 1984. Later, he joined the country supergroup The Highwaymen with Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Johnny Cash, which released three albums between 1985 and 1995. During that period, Jennings released the successful album Will the Wolf Survive.

He toured less after 1997 to spend more time with his family. Between 1999 and 2001, his appearances were limited by health problems. In 2001, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2007, he was posthumously awarded the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award by the Academy of Country Music.

Waylon Arnold Jennings was born on June 15, 1937, on the J.W. Bittner farm, near Littlefield, Texas. He was the son of Lorene Beatrice (née Shipley, 1920–2006) and William Albert Jennings (1915–1968). The Jennings family line descended from Irish and Black-Dutch. The Shipley line descended from Cherokee and Comanche families. 

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Interviews