Category Archives: Jazz

Jazz Practitioner

Jazz Practitioner

By Ed Reynolds

Dr. Frank “Doc” Adams, the last of the old guard of local jazz musicians who played with legends Duke Ellington, Sun Ra, and Erskine Hawkins, among others, has written a captivating memoir with writer Burgin Mathews entitled Doc: The Story of a Birmingham Jazz Man, by the University of Alabama Press. Adams is a brilliant story-teller, recounting life as a professional musician and musical instructor in segregated Alabama beginning in the 1950s. One of the first inductees into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, the 83-year-old musician will perform a free concert with the Birmingham Heritage Band on October 25 at 7 p.m. at the Bama Theatre in Tuscaloosa.

Adams was trained at Industrial High School [now known as Parker High School] under the tutelage of John T. “Fess” Whatley, whose discipline and devotion to musical professionalism made an early impression. The young Adams turned down an invitation in the early 1950s to tour with AdamsCount Basie’s orchestra, instead remaining in Birmingham to teach music at Lincoln Elementary. Adams’ family [his brother Oscar was the first black attorney to join the Birmingham Bar Association, as well the first black Alabama Supreme Court Justice] was somewhat prominent. His father published a newspaper, the Birmingham Reporter, in the early 1900s, and also wrote a column for more than 20 years for the Birmingham News entitled “What Negroes Are Doing.”

Black & White chatted with Dr. Adams in his office at the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame on a recent October afternoon.

“I got a chance to [travel] around with my Dad. He was one of those dads that said, ‘Come on. Go with me, boy!’ And I’d go with him,” Adams recalled. “And I found out a lot of things about people. One was that people are more alike than they are different.”

Reflecting on the evolution of musical styles he’s played during his lifetime, Adams grabbed a sax next to his desk to demonstrate different variations on the melody “Tea for Two” during our interview. “The big bands were evolving. First, we had Dixieland,” he explained. “You had a trumpet, maybe a clarinet, maybe a bass and a guitar or mandolin or whatever you had. It was everybody for himself. The clarinet going one way, the bass going one way, the
trumpet going one way. That’s Dixieland. But when you start adding two or three saxophones, you had to have harmony. You had to read music. Everybody couldn’t play what
they wanted to play.”

As a young teen, Adams played sax with Alabama’s Sun Ra. “Sun Ra
was a known character in Birmingham. To some people he’d be frightening because nobody knew where he came from and nobody knew his parents,” said Adams, who
writes in his book that Sun Ra would warn Bull Connor’s henchmen that they would be “paralyzed” if they tried to harm him when the jazz maestro wore his colorful robes on
the street. “Sun Ra lived over by Terminal Station in a raggedy house. He was ‘flower power’ before ‘flower power.’ He was before Dr. King. He was defiant back in the 1930s when
nobody was thinking about civil rights. And he had this thing about where he was from—the Sun or the Moon. And his bands were terrific. He picked up people [to play] that were just unusual folk. They didn’t have the discipline [musically] . . . They never played a place like the Birmingham Country Club. They played little dives and stuff.”

Sun Ra asked Adams’ mother if her son could join his band. “One day he called my Mom, he wanted me to play in his Intergalactic Arkestra. My Mom just said, ‘OK.’ What it was about him was this mystique; He would look at you and say, ‘Well, do this.’ And you might say, ‘I can’t.’ And he would say, ‘You’ve already done it. It’s in your mind.’ Those weird things, you know? He would wear these clothes down on Fourth Avenue and everything. And people admired him for his band. He was just a weird guy. He could play Count Basie but he also had this other weird stuff he was playing. And he talked more than he would really practice.” &

Originally published in Black & White, Oct 18, 2012

America’s Girl Singer — APT airs the story of vocalist Rosemary Clooney

America’s Girl Singer

APT airs the story of vocalist Rosemary Clooney.

“She could find the center of a note and just nail it,” Frank Sinatra remarked of legendary singer Rosemary Clooney. Clooney’s wondrous ability to seduce an audience with pop standards from the classic American songbook is documented in the PBS special “Rosemary Clooney: Girl Singer,” narrated by Carol Burnett. Performances on the program are drawn from Clooney’s 1956-57 weekly television series, where her stunning good looks and deep, rich vocals cast a spell as she vamped her way into living rooms across the country.

The PBS special, “Rosemay Clooney: Girl Singer,” will feature performances from Clooney’s 1956-57 weekly television series. (click for larger version)

Rosemary Clooney’s first number one hit was a song she absolutely detested—”Come On-a My House,” written by Ross Bagdasarian, who later created a cartoon combo called Alvin and the Chipmunks under the moniker David Seville. Clooney initially balked at singing the song because of its novelty nature, but when threatened with cancellation of her recording contract, she readily complied.

Clooney’s devotion to family is lovingly detailed in “Girl Singer,” with numerous testimonies from her five children, brother Nick, and famed nephew, actor George Clooney. “When she was at her best was in a cabaret,” remembers her nephew. “She’d be standing up, leaning against a piano singing some phenomenal song, and everybody would fall in love with her . . . She brought sadness but not despair.” He added that she once told him that her secret was to always sing a sad song with a smile on her face. Clooney purchased the house where Ira and George Gershwin wrote their final song together, a home her children fondly remember for impromptu rehearsals around the living room piano. Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, and Nat King Cole often joined Clooney in song until sunrise.

Irving Berlin’s 1954 classic holiday film White Christmas introduced Rosemary Clooney’s exceptional beauty and remarkable acting prowess to the world. Her duets with costar Bing Crosby on “Counting My Blessings” and, of course, the title track became as essential to Christmas as mistletoe. Unfortunately, her acting roles were few. She won an Emmy in 1997 playing an Alzheimer’s patient opposite nephew George on “ER.”

Clooney got hooked on prescription medication for depression after her first divorce from actor Jose Ferrer in 1960, a marriage that produced five children in five years. She divorced Ferrer a second time in 1967, then witnessed the assassination of Robert Kennedy a year later while standing only a few feet from the 1968 presidential candidate. Clooney spiraled into a nervous breakdown soon thereafter, eventually checking into a psychiatric hospital. A 1976 tour with Bing Crosby to celebrate Crosby’s 50 years in showbiz launched a career singing jazz that blossomed until her death in 2002.

As the “ultimate girl singer,” Clooney left a legacy that will be difficult to match. Among the musical gems showcased in “Rosemary Clooney: Girl Singer” are “My Blue Heaven,” “Moonlight in Vermont,” “Come On-a My House,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and a dozen others. Nick Clooney summed up his sister’s musical flair: “When you hear her voice, we hear not the way we were but the way we wanted to be.” “Rosemary Clooney: Girl Singer” will be broadcast Saturday, March 13, at 5:30 p.m. on Alabama Public Television. &

Leader of the Band

Leader of the Band

Local musician and orchestra conductor Frank Bettencourt represented a long-ago era in American music.


February 03, 2011

From the time of the 1930s swing band heyday—when the nation danced to music by Benny Goodman, Glen Miller, Artie Shaw, and Tommy Dorsey—to the era of the entertainment resort/supper clubs of the 1960s, performing in an ostensibly glamorous big band was akin to being a well-dressed migrant worker. The hours were brutal, but the pay was good, the food was good, and the clientele at least appeared to have some class. Bands traveled from supper club to resort to dance hall, setting up shop for two- or four-week residencies. The band played multiple sets in an evening, often backing up a floor show, which was the main attraction, consisting of comedians (such as Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis) or nightclub singers such as Tony Bennett. It was a circuit traveled by almost anyone who sang or danced professionally at the time.

For seven decades, former Mountain Brook resident Frank Bettencourt (who passed away in January 2009 at the age of 93) performed in and conducted these traveling big band dance orchestras. By 1951, some of those engagements were at Birmingham’s The Club on top of Red Mountain, where Bettencourt played his last gigs before retiring in 2005.

Two years before his death, Black & White spoke with Bettencourt and his daughters, Jan Fox and Suzanne Scott, at the Scott residence in Mountain Brook. We wanted to get an idea of the family’s life during the long, lost era of the dance clubs and swing bands. We got more than an idea because, as Scott summarized the era: “We lived it.”

In the Beginning
Bettencourt, a California native, began his musical odyssey in 1936 as a college student, playing trombone in a dance band in Lake Tahoe. As Suzanne told the story: “He graduated with a degree in education, and right out of college he had a gig at Lake Tahoe all summer. He said it was the best summer of his life. The minute he heard ‘Anything Goes’ by Cole Porter played with a big band, he knew he was going to be a musician, he was not going to be a music teacher.”

Frank Bettencourt’s head shot, courtesy MCA (Music Corporation of America) Management (click for larger version)

A friend recommended the group Bettencourt played in at Tahoe to orchestra leader Buddy Fisher. Bettencourt recalled, “Fisher made a deal and [the band met in] Dallas—that was the summer of ’37. We toured in cars and it was pretty damn hot getting through the desert without air conditioning.” Dallas is where Bettencourt met his wife, Alice, as Suzanne recalled. “My mother was working at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, that’s where they later met. And everybody told her ‘Don’t get mixed up with those musicians.’”

After two years with Fisher, Bettencourt went on to play with the Bobby Peters Orchestra until 1942, when renowned bandleader Jan Garber hired him to be his arranger and conductor. Like the bands of Guy Lombardo and Sammy Kaye, Garber’s orchestras played in a “sweet” style—lighter than swing, less emphasis on the drums. Noting with a grin that the sweet sound was often referred to as “Mickey Mouse,” Bettencourt explained: “The drummer could have stayed home and you wouldn’t have known the difference.”

When Bettencourt was drafted into the army in 1943, he played with a military dance band until the Battle of the Bulge threatened to briefly end his musical career. (More than 600,000 American soldiers fought in the famous World War II battle.) “They were taking all the musicians and putting them in the infantry after six weeks of training, flying them over to Europe,” Bettencourt said. Before being shipped to Europe to fight, Bettencourt stopped in to visit Garber. Garber knew an army major with connections. “Soon I had a message from the major saying, ‘Report to sick call in the morning,’ and they took me out of that group [assigned to Europe for the Battle of the Bulge].”

Bettencourt’s daughter Jan Fox recalled “It was Jan [Garber, who saved him from going overseas]. Suzanne was very sick. She was a baby. And Jan Garber knew this particular general and made a phone call and said, ‘Look, I need you to make sure he stays here with his wife while his daughter gets well,’ which is what the general did. In fact, Daddy and the general stayed in touch with one another over the years.”

Bettencourt recounted his stint in the military: “I was fortunate enough to get reclassified as a medic in the hospital where they had musicians like me working in the mornings in the wards—psychotic wards, basically. Then our little group would go around and play the bases in the afternoon.”

Bettencourt’s daughters remember the pervasive influence and importance of swing music during the Depression and war eras. Jan recalled: “Music during the war was very important because you had to keep the spirits up. They used the music to keep people supporting [the war effort] despite what they were doing without. The car manufacturing companies had to turn their cars over—cars weren’t being produced for all that time, they were making tanks and things to ship overseas. The music is what kept people’s spirits up. These were farmers that were coming to hear the music. They were not fancy folks. They’d come from as far as a hundred miles around to dance to the music. They’d wear their very finest clothes.”

Suzanne continued: “People wanted to get out and be seen, they wanted to dress up. And remember the women couldn’t wear nylon stockings [because of rationing]. Well, hell, they could wear silk stockings. . . . It wasn’t all about rich people dancing; everybody wanted to dance. And they could dress up and dance. And they could eat and dance. And they could drink and dance! What’s better than that? This supper club life we’re talking about was almost an ‘in-your-face’ during the Depression. It was like, ‘Here we are, living in this awful Depression,’ and then after World War II, everybody wanted to dance. Everybody wanted to celebrate. And people who had really lived that hard life, this was all about that. They wanted to dance.”

On the Road
After the war, Bettencourt returned to work for Garber, a partnership that lasted until 1961. “We played all over the United States, all the major ballrooms and hotels and things, so I saw the country pretty well,” he recalled. “I remember doing Portland, Oregon, and Portland, Maine, during a six-month span. Old bandleaders like Garber, in those days that’s how they made their money, really, doing one-nighters. They didn’t have to report it [to the IRS].”

The orchestra traveled mostly by bus but occasionally took planes and trains. “In the summertime, those of us who had families or liked to have their wives with them would drive their own cars,” said Bettencourt, whose wife and daughters often traveled with him. (The family lived in Waco, Texas, while Bettencourt was on the road.) Suzanne remembered the family’s extended summer vacations:

“In the late ’40s, Jan Garber was in L.A., and to sell your records, you had to go on the road. So he went on the road, plus it was a lot of money. They played one-nighters. That was the first part of the era. The second part was the resorts when you had lengths of time [in one place]. In the ’70s, and this was the tail end of it, Daddy played the Shamrock Hilton. And you had a ballroom, which was the way you would see celebrities—not in a big arena like today. You would see first-class celebrities entertaining. Once they got to know [Dad], they used him [as] musical arranger and director. He worked with Mitzi Gaynor, Dinah Shore, Carol Channing, Florence Henderson, and Shari Lewis [puppeteer/ventriloquist who performed with Lamb Chop]. When I was 12 years old I’d been to every state in the United States but Maine, and I just thought everybody else had as well.”

Jan also recalled some unique benefits of those extended stays: “That’s where we learned to dance. And my mom loved dancing, and Daddy couldn’t dance with her, so she’d get us out on the floor and teach us to dance.”

Among Suzanne’s fondest memories is meeting Bob Hope in Omaha. “Dad took Jan and me to rehearsal with him when he played with Bob Hope. We got to sit down and have a casual conversation with [him]. That night we went to the show, and Daddy had us on the front row. Bob Hope said something to me [during his performance] and I felt like I was a movie star.”

Frank Bettencourt, far right, enjoys a moment offstage at a supper club. (click for larger version)




Listening to Nat King Cole recording sessions was a favorite memory of Bettencourt’s. He recalled finishing a session in Hollywood for Capitol Records with the Garber Orchestra, then lingering at the studio just to listen to Cole record. Bettencourt recalled some of his headier private engagements.

“When I was with Garber, we played the Biltmore in Los Angeles. They would have certain nights that they would honor some celebrity and the room would be closed to the public. On this night they were honoring Al Jolson—the Friars Club or something. So anybody who was anybody at that time was there that night. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were still together and they performed. ‘Schnozzle’ [Jimmy] Durante performed. We were at rehearsal that afternoon and the conductor says to the guys in the Garber band, ‘Take everything off the piano because Durante will tear it up!’ But the guy that stole the show that night—and he was a newcomer, so you can see how far I’m going back here—was Danny Thomas. When they came to Al Jolson, he said, ‘You ain’t heard nothing yet!’ That was his big line.”

The Bettencourt sisters remember that being the daughters of the band’s arranger held certain advantages, including the camaraderie of the band.

“The other band members, if their kids weren’t with them or if they didn’t have kids and we were along, they did things with us,” Jan recalled. “And they would take us places and they would play with us. We’d end up on the bandstand, especially when they were doing their Dixieland routine. I was very short, and I would stand on the chair behind the trumpet players, and Suzanne would be up there—that was the fun part of it.”

Suzanne chimed in, “Oh yeah, we weren’t put in the corner. We’d go to cocktail parties. I remember Rusty Draper was the most fun at cocktail parties. He was a character. We were included. It was not an era of ‘get rid of those kids’ or nannies or anything like that. I grew up thinking that everybody lives like I did.”

In the early 1950s, Bettencourt worked at The Blue Room of the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, where Tony Bennett sat in with the Garber Orchestra one night that Suzanne recounted fondly.

“There was nothing more glamorous, more beautiful than The Roosevelt’s Blue Room in New Orleans at Christmas. They made an arch in the hallway of angel hair, so you floated in there. . . . One year they had birdcages with live birds. There’s no telling how much money they spent on the decorations, old Southern money. Mr. Billups [Billups Oil Company] was a friend of Daddy’s. ‘Fill up with Billups.’ He’d walk into the lobby of that hotel and he’d go, ‘Fill up with who?’ And everybody knew to say, ‘Billups.’ And if they said ‘Billups,’ they got a $100 bill. I’ll tell you another fabulous place, Elitch Gardens in Denver. It had a ballroom and a live theater. They had an amusement park, with a rollercoaster. Daddy met Cesar Romero there. Cesar Romero was sharp. Of course, my Daddy would like him, because of the way he was dressed.”

Bettencourt’s time with Garber led to work with The Mills Brothers [a 1930s, '40s, and '50s jazz and pop quartet]. “Oh yes, they were the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet,” Bettencourt recalled. “What they would do, to avoid things that would happen with them being black, they made Kansas City their hub, so to speak. And every night they would fly to the engagement so they wouldn’t have to be checking into hotels and things like that. They’d have their food brought in. . . they were the nicest fellows. The Mills Brothers were gentlemen, and just the nicest friends we made in the music business.”

Suzanne recalled the difficulties for black performers before the civil rights movement. “The Mills couldn’t stay in the hotels that Daddy’s band stayed in. It always made Daddy feel bad. Daddy brought a Mills Brothers album home, and I pulled it out—because Daddy spoke so highly of them—and I said, ‘That’s the best looking one of all of them.’ And my uncle almost killed me. . . . Even though we grew up in the Deep South and there were bigots, we didn’t have that [racist view] because of Mother and Daddy. Our parents were pretty liberal. And my mother was from the South. When you meet other people and travel other places, you’re just more broad-minded.”

Going Solo
After leaving Garber’s employ in 1961, Bettencourt turned down an invitation to play with Lawrence Welk so that he could form his own orchestra. In 1963 the Frank Bettencourt Orchestra had booked a stint at Houston’s palatial Shamrock Hotel. “The Shamrock was the place to go in those days,” Bettencourt recalled. “The movie Giant was basically filmed there. It was a fabulous hotel. My orchestra soon began backing up Mitzi Gaynor, who was breaking in an act to take to Las Vegas.” Bettencourt worked with other singers of the day such as Dinah Shore and Carol Channing.

Jan recalled her father’s relationship with celebrities of the day: “Even though they were big-name people, their bond was their music and their talent and their entertainment. So you were treated as an equal, and the families were as well. I was at rehearsal [once] and my Dad had said repeatedly, ‘Don’t you dare interrupt rehearsal. Just sit there and behave yourself.’ And so I did, and Bob Hope was like, ‘Come over here.’ And I’m looking at Daddy and he went, ‘Alright.’ So I went over and [Bob Hope] was always chewing gum. So he gave me some gum and we sat and talked. And that’s when they got the picture of me sitting on his lap. And Suzanne was swooning over the Everly Brothers, because she was older.”

Suzanne remembered: “I thought that Daddy was finally cool because the Everly Brothers were playing with him. But I’ll tell you who impressed Daddy more than anybody was Dick Van Dyke—he and his brother started out with a road show, the two of them as comedians, doing standup. They’d come out of the Roosevelt Hotel and Daddy said they’d be walking along and one of them disappeared, and you’d walk a little farther and they’d come out of a trash can and scare you. They never were off their comedy. The band would go out [after playing] and socialize with other musicians and actors at bars outside of the French Quarter. Daddy said there was pot then—minimal—but that was before the drugs. Musicians were ‘out there,’ they were thrill seekers, and they drank, but it wasn’t like they laid around the hotel and drank and drank.”

Frank Bettencourt poses with an unknown showgirl. (click for larger version)

Suzanne moved to Birmingham, in the early 1960s after her husband found work here. Her parents eventually followed. In Birmingham, Bettencourt’s first gigs at The Club were with the Jan Garber Orchestra back in 1951. The venue was the city’s top choice for couples out for an evening of dining and dancing. By the late 1990s, Bettencourt was working The Club with a seven-piece combo, leading the band on piano. Prior to his passing, Bettencourt reflected on how The Club had changed since that time: “They have to cater to the younger members because the older members are dying. I guess that’s what the squabble is about now. Maybe they want to modernize it, more or less. But business is not that great. During the week, people don’t stay out late anymore. They don’t go out much during the week like they used to.”

Bettencourt also reflected on the social and political changes that the nation was undergoing during the 1960s. “The whole year of 1968 I was playing at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago. That was the year of all the trouble—the Democratic Convention. We were right in the middle of it because we had complimentary accommodations at the hotel. It was unimaginable what they were doing, that hippie group [the Chicago Seven]. . . . That’s when I really became against Walter Cronkite because he was putting down Mayor Daley for what he was doing [to maintain order]. The hippies would come in that hotel with Limburger cheese and rub it on the walls—unimaginable things going on. Throwing bricks through windows, starting fires. It was terrible.”

Though the Bettencourt daughters often missed their parents due to their father’s work, they say they admired him not only for living his own life but also for the devotion to sharing that life with their mother. “In the year 2000, The Club wanted him New Year’s Eve. But he got a gig in Houston and took it,” Suzanne recalled. “They cut him back a little bit at The Club after that. That was stupid on his part. I said, ‘You’re in Birmingham with your family. You’re going to drag Mother to Texas.’ The millennium. He thought this was going to be his big night. He can honestly say he did things his way. Good for him. . . . He was a good father and he was a good man. But we were kind of bystanders sometimes.” Jan added, “Well, music was his life. And my mother enjoyed every minute of it and loved being a part of it. They were together for 67 years. . . . He was first on stage at five years old in Oakland, and they had Vaudeville acts. Then he played The Club when he was 90 years old. So he had an 85-year career.”

Bettencourt spent his final years living at Suzanne’s home in Mountain Brook. A piano occupied one corner of his downstairs living room, the wall behind the instrument lined with framed, autographed photographs of the stars with whom he played during his career. “I still keep late hours. I put the light out about 1 in the morning, and I eat breakfast around 11 in the morning. Little things pop into your mind at my age,” he said as he flipped through photograph albums that spanned his decades in music. He agreed that people were much more conscious of dressing well when going out for the evening when he was younger. “To see the way the world has become [fashion-wise],” Bettencourt said, shaking his head. “No class . . . people buy clothes today to make them look ragged.”

Stopping at a photo of himself playing a trombone with his bare toes, he recalled the comic skits that were a part of his orchestra act. “One bit we did was where I would holler, ‘Burlap, oh Burlap!’ One of my band members would then ask, ‘Who’s Burlap?’ And I’d say, ‘Oh, she’s an old bag from such and such a town who’s supposed to meet me here tonight after the show.’ Well, there was a guy at the show from that little town I referenced in my joke who wanted to beat me up because he was from that little town and he thought I was talking about his wife!”

Bettencourt’s wife, Alice, who passed away in December 2006, is in many of the photos. “I really miss my wife,” he suddenly sighed. “She would have turned 91 the day after Valentine’s Day. We were married 66 years.” When asked if the couple had a favorite song, he began playing a heartfelt rendition of the 1932 Irving Berlin classic “How Deep Is the Ocean?” Asked if he would accommodate a recent request from The Club that he return to the bandstand, Bettencourt shook his head and replied, “I’ve had a great life, and I’m not up to it anymore.” He stared out a window, paused for a second, and then grinned: “I’m 91 years old, damn it!” &


Dead Folks 2005, Music

Dead Folks 2005, Music

A look back at the notable names and personalities who called it quits last year.


By David Pelfrey, Ed Reynolds, J.R. Taylor

February 24, 2005
Artie Shaw

Artie Shaw (click for larger version)

Music fans, especially big band enthusiasts, love and respect Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller. But if any were forced to take just one bandleader’s work to a desert island, or place the same CD or vinyl album in a time capsule, they might very well choose one by Artie Shaw (94). The clarinet-playing bandleader, in at least three recordings, offered definitive tracks of the swing era: the lilting “Frenesi” (a Shaw original last used to great effect in Woody Allen’s Radio Days), a flowing, magnificent arrangement of Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine,” which practically blew Benny Goodman off the charts, and a stunning rendition of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust,” one of the most instantly recognizable recordings in popular music. Another of Shaw’s compositions, “Nightmare,” is a sultry, gloomy three minutes that evolved into the distinctive sound of films noir, as the scores for countless detective thrillers and crime melodramas all hearken, in some way, to Shaw’s 1938 recording. Throw in the fact that Shaw was a virtuoso clarinetist with looks that made all the girls cry, and it’s understandable that in 1939 there wasn’t a bigger star in the music galaxy.

Shaw’s musical ability was not matched by an ability to win friends or influence people; he broke up bands almost as soon as they made the big time. He wasn’t an egotist, but as a pathological perfectionist he was often devoid of patience with anything or anybody. Oddly enough, that in no way prevented the exceedingly handsome musician from being a ladies’ man (Lana Turner and Ava Gardner are numbered among his many brides), nor did Shaw’s irascibility imply insensitivity. It was Shaw’s idea to work publicly with black composers and players (Billie Holiday was the band’s lead vocalist for a short while), and he was an outspoken advocate for black musicians throughout his career.

Nonetheless, he wasn’t called “the reluctant king of swing” for nothing. Shaw regarded celebrity as an impediment to creative excellence, so his public performances temporarily came to a halt just before 1940. He organized several other groups during the war years and began performing again, but he was never completely comfortable with touring. Although he was approaching new heights in the 1940s and 50s by moving away from swing and into jazz, in 1954 he simply walked away from the music scene to take up a number of other pursuits. —D.P.

Elmer Bernstein

Speaking of his collaboration with Bernstein (82), Martin Scorcese said, “It’s one thing to write music that reinforces a film, underscores it. It’s entirely another to write music that graces a film. That’s what Elmer Bernstein does, and that, for me, is his greatest gift.”

The gifted composer didn’t just create marvelous, memorable films scores; he elevated the lyric quality of incidental music in movies. Bernstein’s legacy includes more than 200 movie scores, 50 years in the film industry, and an inestimable influence on three generations of film composers. So engaging and appropriate were his best works that it is difficult to imagine certain films without their scores. The rousing theme to The Magnificent Seven (later the “Marlboro man” theme until cigarettes ads were banned from television) is a textbook example, being cowboy music par excellence; its distinct “great American West” motif derives from Aaron Copland, under whom Bernstein studied. The martial, upbeat march from The Great Escape (1963) is another instance where melody and tone perfectly suit subject and style. Yet if ever there was a movie score that defined a film’s style, it must be the pure jazz score (a first for a Hollywood film) for The Man With the Golden Arm (1955), a downbeat, gritty melodrama starring Frank Sinatra that dared to explore drug addiction. The first minutes of Bernstein’s gripping score pretty much establish that things aren’t going to go well.

Indeed, the composer had a natural ability to convey urban angst and mean-street sensibility, as the jazzy, sleazy themes for Sweet Smell of Success, Walk on the Wild Side, and Some Came Running indicate. Yet for minimal orchestration and gentle, lyric passages, Bernstein also displayed an innate skillfulness; the tender, wistful score for To Kill a Mockingbird is exhibit A in that regard. His music is also associated with Hollywood actors and icons, most obviously John Wayne, for whom Bernstein provided scores for The Sons of Katie Elder, True Grit, and several others. He worked with Martin Scorcese on seven projects, notably The Age of Innocence and The Grifters, the latter being an example of Bernstein’s interest in various offbeat and independent productions such as Rambling Rose, Far From Heaven, My Left Foot, and The Field.

Bernstein’s stunning versatility is apparent from this partial list of compositions: Hud, The World of Henry Orient, Animal House, The Gypsy Moths, An American Werewolf in London, The Carpetbaggers, The Great Santini, the ballet music for Oklahoma and Peter Pan, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, “The Films of Ray and Charles Eames,” and themes for “The Rookies,” “S.W.A.T.,” and “Ellery Queen.” —David Pelfrey


Jerry Goldsmith

Last year when the record label Varese Sarabande announced the release of a series of film scores entitled “Jerry Goldsmith at 20th Century Fox,” orders started coming in the next day. The first run of the boxed set sold out nine days later. Put another way, everybody digs Jerry Goldsmith (75). His name might not ring a bell, but the motion picture scores and television themes Goldsmith arranged or composed for more than half a century certainly do. A deadly serious student of music since the age of six, Goldsmith learned classical piano and absorbed music theory before taking a film music class at the University of Southern California (under legendary composer Miklos Rosza, no less). Afterwards he landed a pretty good gig at CBS, where he scored several episodes of a show that was getting a lot of attention called “The Twilight Zone.” Dozens more television commissions came, but Goldsmith’s acquaintance with another famous film composer, Alfred Newman, led to his long career in motion pictures. He began as a contract composer for 20th Century Fox, and then basically established himself as the sound of the movies. Even a partial list of his film scores and television themes is daunting: Alien, L.A. Confidential, Planet of the Apes, Chinatown, Patton, Seconds, Logan’s Run, In Like Flint, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Omen, Papillon, Basic Instinct, The Boys From Brazil, Poltergeist, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” and “The Waltons.” —D.P.

John McGeogh

Like any founding guitarist who’d been in classic—and still listenable—bands such as Siouxsie & The Banshees, Public Image, and Magazine, John McGeogh (48) had both gotten a day job (as a nurse) and was trying to record dance music by the end of the ’90s. That’s kind of a shame since McGeogh was probably one of the rare punks who really had the versatility to thrive as a session man. It’s certainly no secret that he was a huge influence on subsequent generations. At least to those funky punks who don’t try to get away with citing old blues guys as their heroes. —J.R.T.

Johnny Ramone


Johnny Ramone’s headstone (click for larger version)

He didn’t have many songwriting credits, and that’s probably not even him playing guitar on some of your later favorite Ramones songs. Still, Johnny Ramone (55) got to retire as the wealthiest member of the band because he had 100 percent of the merchandising rights. How did that happen? It’s a long story that certain people can’t wait to tell if certain long-awaited books don’t reveal the whole story. Suffice to say that Johnny benefited from being one of rock ‘n’ roll’s proud conservatives, cashing in on the hypocritical peacenik attitude of certain other band members. The greatest testimony to Johnny, however, is that he was always well-loved in the music community, even after expressing his support for President Bush while being inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. We lost him to prostate cancer, which leaves C.J. and Marky to helm various tribute nights in the future. Jeffrey’s somewhere out there, too. —J.R.T.

Elvin Jones

The younger brother of pianist Hank and trumpeter/bandleader Thad was a drummer who changed the way we hear jazz. Jones (77) played with major figures like Sonny Rollins and J. J. Johnson in the ’50s, but it was with the iconoclastic quartet of John Coltrane (1960-66) that Jones’ fluid, polyrhythmic blankets of sound found their ideal setting. Jones’ beat was implied more than defined, and although one always knew where it was, the surrounding percussive accents and colors were endlessly fascinating, opening up the rhythmic options for the other players unlike what any drummer had done before, even since. Coltrane greatly appreciated Jones: “I especially like his ability to mix and juggle rhythms. He’s always aware of everything else that’s happening. I guess you could say he has the ability to be in three places at the same time.” Jones played on Coltrane’s classic albums My Favorite Things and A Love Supreme; he led his own bands from 1967 until his death, incubating such talent as Joe Farrell, Dave Liebman, Nicholas Payton, Joshua Redman, and Ravi Coltrane early in their careers. His unique approach, seemingly limitless ideas, and sheer power led many to regard Jones as the world’s greatest drummer, and following a much-ballyhooed “battle” with Cream’s Ginger Baker in the early ’70s, Jones became something of a celebrity, even appearing in the cult film Zachariah. It’s hard to imagine anyone ever sounding like him again. —B.G.

Rick James


Rick James (click for larger version)

The guy would’ve made an interesting footnote just for signing to Motown with bandmate Neil Young as the Mynah Birds back in the ’60s. Of course, Rick James (54) had to take a stranger path to fortune and disgrace. He finally got to make a record for Motown in 1978 and was a popular R&B star until the release of Street Songs in 1981. “Give It To Me Baby” and “Super Freak” were huge hits that made James briefly seem like another Prince in the rock-crossover sweepstakes. He was a steady performer through 1989—following his move to the Reprise label—but it still felt like nostalgia to the masses when MC Hammer sampled James for “U Can’t Touch This.” By then, James’ drug problems had plunged him into several embarrassing legal situations. He spent the ’90s with critics hoping for a comeback, but James’ last high profile moment was as a punch line in sketches on “The Dave Chappelle Show.” He was probably pretty happy with that, but any future opportunities—say, on VH1′s “The Surreal Life”—were lost after James’ death from a heart attack. At least he got to date Linda Blair. —J.R.T.

Illinois Jacquet

Tenor sax man Illinois Jacquet (82) was one of the jazz piledrivers: he typically hit his solos full throttle, with clearly developed musical phrases based in the sophisticated vocabulary of the great Lester Young, but run through a rough-edged dialect of Jacquet’s own creation. The latter included “honking,” later to be overdone by a multitude of R&B and rock horn players, and squealing in the altissimo range (i. e., above where the tenor is normally supposed to sound), an effect that was also subsequently overdone by lesser players. He became a star at 19 when he recorded a rousing solo on Lionel Hampton’s “Flying Home” (1942), and was a featured player in the Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts in the ’40s and ’50s. He also led a septet in that era that featured the likes of Fats Navarro and J. J. Johnson. After becoming the first jazz musician to serve a long-term residency at Harvard in the early 80s, Jacquet formed a his first big band, which had a big success, recording the irresistible Jacquet’s Got It (1987, Label M). Almost everyone who plays the tenor sax owes something to this guy. —B.G.

Robert Quine

Lefty hipsters were pissed off that Ronald Reagan’s death overshadowed not only the death of Ray Charles but that Robert Quine’s death was completely squeezed out of all the NYC newspapers. To be fair, Quine (61) was an innovative guitarist and overaged punk who—while unable to make Richard Hell & The Voidoids sound interesting—went on to a stellar career enhancing (and occasionally saving) the work of artists such as Lou Reed and Marianne Faithfull. Quine was depressed over the recent death of his wife, but don’t believe anyone who called his heroin overdose a suicide. If you want to see Quine in action, track down the 1983 concert DVD A Night with Lou Reed. —J.R.T.

Barney Kessel

One of the greats of jazz guitar, Kessell (80) was one of the first generation of guitarists influenced by Charlie Christian, and as an Okie from Muskogee (literally), the sole white member of local jazz bands. It was in that setting that he met Christian, perhaps the most influential jazz guitarist of all, and his direction was set. Kessell played in big bands (Artie Shaw’s, Charlie Barnet’s, and even Chico Marx’s), when Gjon Mili made the short film Jammin’ the Blues in 1944, Kessell was again the only white face, but since an integrated ensemble was not to be shown on the screen, he remained in shadow or silhouette.

Kessel became famous after recording with Charlie Parker (1947) and touring with Oscar Peterson (1952-1953), but it’s likely that many more people heard his studio recordings with pop artists, from Julie London’s “Cry Me a River” to his work with Elvis, Rick Nelson, and the Beach Boys, to numerous movies and TV shows. Phil Spector was his student and protégé; Kessel advised the young man to get into record production and later played on almost all of Spector’s big hits (“You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” et al.). He introduced Brian Wilson to the theremin that was used on “Good Vibrations” and Pete Townshend wrote a song in honor of Kessel after the latter’s 1969-70 residency in London. Throughout, Kessel found time to make numerous jazz recordings, and from 1976 on toured with Herb Ellis and Charlie Byrd as The Great Guitars. —Bart Grooms

Randy VanWarmer

There was a brief window of opportunity in the late ’70s when lite-pop songwriters discovered they could put on a skinny tie and seem vaguely cool while turning out mellow sounds. Randy VanWarmer was able to break through with the modest hit “Just When I Needed You Most”—modest in its humble wimpiness, that is. The song still made it to number four on the Billboard charts. The solo career went downhill from there, but VanWarmer (48) was already establishing himself as a hit songwriter for country acts. The band Alabama scored with “I’m in a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why),” one of VanWarmer’s earliest compositions. VanWarmer would spend most of his subsequent career in Nashville—including a brief comeback as a solo artist in 1988—although he was settled in Seattle when he finally succumbed to leukemia. —J.R.T.

Jerry Scoggins

Jerry Scoggins’ (93) rendition of “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” the theme song from “The Beverly Hillbillies,” is one of the best known musical motifs in television history. The show originally ran from 1962 to 1971, with 60 million viewers at one point. Accompanying Scoggins on the theme were bluegrass legends Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. —E.R.

Hank Garland

As king of the Nashville studio guitarists, Hank Garland (74) was in constant demand. Switching effortlessly between jazz and country, he played with an impressive list of performers ranging from Elvis Presley to Roy Orbison to Patsy Cline to Charlie Parker. He pioneered the use of the electric guitar at the Grand Ole Opry. A 1961 car wreck left Garland in a coma for months. When he regained consciousness, he received more than 100 electroshock treatments that forced him to relearn not only how to play the guitar, but also how to walk and talk again. —E.R.

Terry Melcher

Many people wanted to kill Terry Melcher (62) for co-writing “Kokomo” with the Beach Boys, but Charles Manson had a personal grudge against Doris Day’s son. As an A&R man in the wake of his early days guiding The Byrds, Melcher passed on Manson as a recording artist. Charlie was also still pissed about the Beach Boys altering his song “Cease to Exist,” so Melcher’s association with the band didn’t help matters. Anyway, Melcher moved out of the house he was renting, Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate moved in, and the speculation continues about how things might have changed if Charlie had kept his address book up-to-date. Melcher kept working with some of the great pop acts of the era, and the ’60s lost a key figure when the California icon passed away from cancer. —J.R. Taylor


Billy May

He could have retired in 1942 as a brilliant arranger, but Billy May (87) was lured away from his staff position at Capitol Records to provide Frank Sinatra with some of his most unforgettable and brassy settings. The association began with “Come Fly With Me” in 1957 and continued to the end of the ’70s. —J.R.T.

Ernie Ball

Every would-be star who has attempted to play a screaming guitar solo is intimately familiar with Ernie Ball Slinky guitar strings and their neon-colored packages. Endorsed by the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and a million other rock stars, Ernie Ball strings are sold in more than 5,500 music stores in the United States and 75 other countries. They were made to be stretched, but, inevitably, they do break, thereby simultaneously rendering them the most revered and cursed guitar string in the world. Ball was 74. —Ed Reynolds.

Jan Berry

As one half of the duo Jan and Dean, Jan Berry (62) and partner Dean Torrence pioneered the surf music sound with hits such as “Dead Man’s Curve,” “Surf City,” and “The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena).” Berry had been in poor health for much of his life after suffering brain damage in a car crash in 1966. —E.R.

Al Dvorin

Al Dvorin was the concert emcee who made the phrase “Elvis has left the building” a staple of pop culture. The 81-year-old Dvorin was thrown from his car following an accident on a California desert highway after delivering his famous line at the conclusion of an Elvis impersonator contest. —E.R.

Estelle Axton

Estelle Axton (85) was the “ax” in Stax Records, which she started with her brother James Stewart (he was the “St”). Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett, Isaac Hayes, and the Staple Singers were just a few on the Stax roster of hitmakers. Her son Packy Axton was saxophonist for the Mar-Keys, an instrumental group on the label that often accompanied the singers. She later took over her son’s record label Fretone Records, whose only hit was in 1976 with the novelty “Disco Duck” by Rick Dees. —E.R.

Johnny Bragg

Leader of The Prisonaires, a singing group composed of black Tennessee State Penitentiary inmates that put Sun Records on the map with the hit “Just Walkin’ in the Rain,” Johnny Bragg (79) and his fellow convicts traveled under heavy guard to Memphis to record in 1953. In 1961, Elvis Presley visited Bragg (who had been convicted of rape in 1943), in prison. The Prisonaires were among the first rhythm and blues groups to have hit records in the South. —E.R.

Alvino Rey

As a bandleader who made the steel guitar popular during the swing era, Rey (95) billed himself as “King of the Guitar.” Rey had a hit in 1942 with “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” —E.R.

John Peel

To discerning music fans, John Peel (65) was best known as the legendary BBC radio DJ who promoted any number of really forgettable ’80s acts via assorted live “Peel Sessions” releases. There’s certainly no denying that Peel got really excited about way too many forgettable art/punk/new-wave/grunge acts over the years. In his defense, though, Peel would often just as easily lose interest in the struggling acts that he would grace with needed airplay. At least he was always interested in new acts, which was pretty good for a guy who’d been spinning discs since 1965. Peel could legitimately claim much credit for breaking acts ranging from David Bowie to The Smiths. —J.R.T.

Lacy Van Zant

He couldn’t match the output of Olivia Osmond, but Lacy Van Zant (89) made an impressive musical contribution through his rockin’ DNA. This ultimate band parent oversaw the Southern Rock dynasty of Ronnie, Johnny, and Donnie—which covers two Lynyrd Skynyrd vocalists (one, sadly, deceased) and a member of the underrated .38 Special. Van Zant worked hard to help out his kids in their early musical years, and his home also served as a museum. Lacy looked the role, too, with a long white beard and a penchant for overalls. If his image hasn’t been put on an album cover, it should be. —J.R.T.

Timi Yuro

She was pretty much forgotten at the time of her death, but Timi Yuro (63) cast a striking figure while ruling the early ’60s charts with gloriously overwrought tunes such as “Hurt” and “I Apologize.” Despite the exotic name, she was pure American pop. Still, it didn’t even help her career when Morrissey singled her out as his favorite vocalist in the 1984 tour program for the Smiths’ Meat is Murder tour. While the subject matter helped, Morrissey might have also been influenced by Yuro’s bizarre ability to look androgynous even when dolled up in evening gowns. —J.R.T.

Lizzy Mercier Descloux

She made some forgettable Parisian punk, but Lizzy Mercier Descloux (47) went out as a goddess to French hipsters. The very young gal was hanging out in NYC during the days of the New York Dolls, and she made it back to Paris in time to start up a pioneering punk clothing boutique. Descloux eventually went into the studio with her musician pals to record two fairly useless albums at the end of the ’70s. (This past year’s CD reissues reminded us why she was promoted mainly as a moody sex symbol.) Nobody was paying much attention to Descloux when she suddenly came up with an international chart hit in 1984. “Mais où sont passées les gazelles” was recorded with South African musicians about two years before Paul Simon got the idea, and the World Music genre was suddenly off and running. Descloux didn’t benefit much, though. Her major-label career was over by the ’90s, and she had moved on to a successful career as a painter before succumbing to cancer. —J.R.T

Alf Bicknell

From 1964 to 1966, Alfred George Bicknell (75) chauffeured The Beatles to concerts and other appearances. The inspiration for the song “Drive My Car,” Bicknell wrote the 1999 autobiography Ticket to Ride: The Ultimate Beatles Tour Diary!, in which he recalled the moment John Lennon reportedly snatched his chauffeur’s cap from his head and declared, “You don’t need that anymore, Alf. You are one of us now.” After The Beatles ceased touring, the former circus clown began driving business executives. A chainsaw accident ended his driving career in 1980, and he joined a Beatles convention circuit giving speeches and selling memorabilia. —E.R.

Skeeter Davis

One of the few women who serve as both a footnote and a legend, Skeeter Davis (72) spent her very long career skirting the pop and country markets. She started out as a rockabilly pioneer with her partner Betty Jack Davis, in 1953, before the duo ended up in an automobile accident that left her as a solo act. It took another decade before she finally became a huge solo star with “The End of the World.” Her public profile would later be that of a one-hit wonder. Within the Nashville scene, though, Davis was much admired and often sought out for duets. She aged pretty well, too, as NRBQ bassist Joey Spampinato noticed when he began courting her back in the ’80s. —J.R.T.

Arthur Kane

You can find at least two CD booklets from the ’90s that refer to the late Arthur Kane, while others believed that the New York Dolls’ bass player had simply disappeared after a jilted groupie cut off his thumbs. The only person who seemed willing to insist that Kane (55) was still alive was Keith Richards, and everybody probably thought that was just a hallucination. Anyway, Kane made a triumphant reemergence with his old band in 2004, after Morrissey invited the Dolls to perform at a UK music festival he was curating. Sadly, Kane succumbed to leukemia before the Dolls could follow up with any American dates. —J.R.T

Set List: Ludacris, Tobi Keith, The Isley Brothers, and more


The Set List


July 29, 2004Little Charlie and the Nightcats
In a world saturated with bad blues acts, swing and jump blues masters Little Charlie and the Nightcats provide redemption for the most worn-out genre in the history of music. They’re the best blues band in the world. Despite Charlie Baty’s talent at dashing off clever and tasteful guitar licks, the real show-stealer is harmonica virtuoso and wry vocalist Rick Estrin. (Estrin’s immaculate, eye-popping suits are worth the price of admission alone.) His gangster persona never fails to entertain. (Saturday, July 31, at Workplay; 7 p.m.; $15-$17.) — Ed Reynolds

Mac McAnally
He started out as the Warren Zevon for the Jimmy Buffet set. Mac McAnally then spent the ’80s putting out great country-pop albums that could’ve spared us the Americana movement had they been more successful. Fortunately, he’s been covered enough to guarantee that labels would fund his own string of ’90s releases (most of which went straight to the cheap bins). The patronage of David Geffen has also ensured the occasional windfall from projects like the soundtrack to The Prince of Egypt. Europeans still haven’t discovered McAnally as a cult figure, though, most likely because very few recording artists can do justice to his unashamedly emotional tunes. Adrienne Barbeau has recorded an impressively torchy version of “All These Years,” though. (Tuesday, August 3, at Zydeco; 8 p.m. $15.) —J.R. Taylor

Little Charlie and the Nightcats (click for larger version)


Don’t mistake this for a KISS reunion tour. It’s really another fine summer cash-in, but it pales next to the potential of the Gene Simmons solo tour we should be enjoying. Poison deserves the privileged opening slot, though, since they were always The Ramones in spandex. Nobody wrote better pop songs about girls and best friends—at least, for about two years back in the ’80s. Here’s a Don Dokken quote that really sums up the band’s long career: “Poison’s having the last laugh on all of us. It makes me feel like I wasted a lot of time practicing guitar and reading poetry.” (Tuesday, August 3, at Verizon Music Center; 7:30 p.m. $25-$60 R.S.) —J.R. Taylor


Poison (click for larger version)

Garrison Starr
Don’t blame Hilary Duff because Garrison Starr isn’t on a major label. Airstreams & Satellites is an album worthy of any woman who’s been around long enough to be Duff’s mom. True adult pop still doesn’t sell—but if it did, Starr’s defiant jangle-pop would ensure that her posters covered the bedroom walls of many beleaguered adults. (Wednesday, August 4, at Workplay; 8 p.m. $17; Laser’s Edge in-store concert; TBA; free admission.) —J.R. Taylor

Toby Keith/Terri Clark
They’re still terrified of Southern rednecks, so Toby Keith has certainly done his part to keep country scary for the national media. The press will never get close enough to appreciate his complexity, either. In that same spirit, Terri Clark’s new Greatest Hits collection showcases one of country’s most bizarre femmes—or soft butches, as the case may be—who has an angry sexuality that doesn’t scare away the fans of her fun and tuneful work. (Thursday, August 5, at Verizon Music Center; 7:30 p.m. $32-$64.) —J.R. Taylor

Ludacris/Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz/Sleepy Brown/David Banner
Everybody knows Ludacris is so crazy, and Sleepy Brown is still an unknown quantity when not performing with Outkast. That leaves David Banner, who is this bill’s biggest deal as the critics’ darling of Crunk—mostly because he adds a spiritual spin to rapping about the joys of bouncing along in a Cadillac. Banner also has an impressive stash of instrumental tricks, and everyone likes the idea of storytellers coming out of Mississippi. Lil Jon & the East Side Boys, however, remain the true Kings of Crunk, and not just because they used the word as an album title back in 2002. Their big jeep beats are the closest that Southern hip-hop will ever get to matching the stigma of bad Southern Rock blaring from Camaros. (Friday, August 6, at Alabama State Fairgrounds; 7 p.m. $25 per day; $40 for weekend.) —J.R. Taylor

The Isley Brothers featuring Ronald Isley/The Gap Band/Bobby Womack/Avant/The Bar-Kays
The Isley Brothers are back to being chart-topping pop stars, so there’s little to add there. The Gap Band and The Bar-Kays are equally iconic as vanguards of funk. So that leaves Bobby Womack sorely in need of being remembered as a soulful crooner whose long, long career has him defining any number of genres. This singer/songwriter has plenty of hits to fill his stage time, but Womack could’ve also built an entire alternate career out of some stunning album tracks. He’s still a great live act, too. Avant also appears as the token young-blood soul man who’s probably thrilled to share a bill with guys who were legends before he was born. (Saturday, August 7, at Alabama State Fairgrounds; 5 p.m. $25 per day; $40 for weekend.) —J.R. Taylor


The Isley Brothers (click for larger version)

Bobby Womack
When Bobby Womack was a young man singing in a gospel group with his four brothers, his father, Friendly Sr., warned of eternal damnation if his son went secular, which acquaintance Sam Cooke was encouraging him to do. So what did Womack do? He convinced his brothers to join him on the secular circuit despite threats of damnation. They changed their name from the Womacks to the Valentinos, and released a pair of songs written by Bobby that would be famously recorded by The Rolling Stones ["It's All Over Now"] and The J. Geils Band ["Lookin' for a Love"]. After going solo, Womack later penned many songs for Wilson Pickett (including “I’m a Midnight Mover” and “I’m in Love”) and recorded in the studio or performed live with acts such as Ray Charles, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Sly & the Family Stone. As a solo artist, he had a string of R&B hits, including “Woman’s Gotta Have It,” “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” and the blaxploitation classic “Across 110th Street” (last heard on the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown).

Bobby Womack (click for larger version)

But despite his success, Bobby Womack might have wondered if his dad had been right, because tragedy was not far behind. Womack married Sam Cooke’s wife a few months after Cooke’s murder. The resulting ill will in the R&B community stalled his career, and he began battling a drug addiction that almost killed him. In 1974, Womack’s brother was stabbed to death by his girlfriend at Bobby’s home, and in 1978, Womack’s son Truth Bobby died at the age of four months. Another son committed suicide at age 21.

Throughout his adversity, Womack continued to record and was generally known as a bit of an iconoclast. At one point in the late ’70s, Womack badgered his reluctant label into letting him do a full album of country music, something he’d always loved but that the label regarded as commercially inadvisable. The album, BW Goes C&W, sold poorly. What’s more unfortunate is that the label didn’t release it under the title Womack reportedly wanted: Step Aside, Charley Pride, Give Another Nigger a Try.

Womack’s output slowed throughout the ’80s and ’90s. His last studio recordings were a 1994 album for the label owned by friend Ron Wood and a 1997 gospel album, Back to My Roots. (Saturday, August 7 at Alabama State Fairgrounds, August 6 through 8; $25 per day, $40 for the weekend.) — Ed Reynolds

White Animals
The White Animals date back to precious days when a band had to be sure they had good songs before investing in studio time. They’d be D.I.Y. legends if they’d been turning out bad punk rock. Instead, the White Animals deserve to be heroes of jam bands everywhere for pioneering trashy frat-rock that bespoke a World Music collection instead of a token reggae LP. Actually, they’re probably responsible for a lot of really bad music from bands that followed in their wake. At least their recent originals are pretty good, and they’re touring seldom enough to make this show worth seeing. (Saturday, August 7, at Zydeco; 10 p.m. $10-$12.) —J.R. Taylor

Patterson Hood
In retrospect, Patterson Hood had little to worry about at the start of 2001. His band, the Drive-By Truckers, was already getting more press than any other project from this rapidly aging rocker. Any musician about to tour behind a popular album doesn’t get much sympathy for being recently divorced, either. Hood nevertheless worked out all of his bad feelings in his living room on his new solo album, Killers and Stars—a pleasant diversion from the determined Southern goth of the Truckers. The album is less of a singer/songwriter bid than a look at the self-loathing and self-obsession that eventually turn into grander obsessions for the band project. Hood’s feeling much better, of course, and maybe this solo appearance will bring up some of the poppier tendencies that some of us still hope to hear again. (Thursday, August 12, at Workplay; 9 p.m. $12.) —J.R. Taylor