Wendy O Williams
Wendy O Williams was rocks wildest woman. As the lead singer for the punk group “Plasmatics” in the late seventies she was one tough chick. She sported a wild Mohawk and wore outrageous stage attire which featured her boobs sticking out. Her stage act included chain-sawing Cadillacs. Definitely not one you would bring home for dinner to meet the folks. Despondent over her failed career , she committed suicide on April 6th, 1998 at the age of 48.
Sonny Boy Williamson
“Sonny Boy” Williamson was a popular harmonica musician whose recording career spanned from 1951 to 1965. No one seems to know exactly when “Sonny Boy” Williamson was born. Blues historians quote anywhere from 1894 to 1910. However “Sonny Boy”s sister claimed he was born December 9th , 1997 in Glendora , Mississippi. Born originally Aleck Miller he was nicknamed early on by his siblings for his penchant to eating “Rice and Milk” and henced dubbed the nickname by family peirs as Alex “Rice” Miller. He learned harmonica from the greats of the Delta Blues era. Later on he would adopt the name “Sonny Boy Williamson” ,although he was not the first to use “Sonny Boy” Williamson as a stage name. The original “Sonny Boy” Williamson was a Delta Blues musician of his own right originally named Johnny Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson. Sometimes you will see Miller refered to as “Sonny Boy” Williamson II. “Sonny Boy” II would often insist he was the original. (thru the rest of the graveyard “Sonny Boy II’ will be refered to as “Sonny Boy” unless otherwise noted). “Sonny Boy” Williamson was unlike any harmonica musician before him, first he was a charismatic and flamboyant stage performer. Second he was a brilliant songwriter and had an unique sense of timing and syncopation which put him in a class by himself as a master of the blues harmonica. “Sonny Boy” would put the entire harmonica in his mouth and play note for note while he did the “ole soft shoe”. There is some film footage that exists that is a good example of his on stage act.He gained notority as a performer on KFFA’s “King Biscuit Flour Hour” starting in 1941 were his fifteen minute spot garnered local attention. (And also sold a lot of King Biscuit Flour) At one point his face was even imprinted on sacks of King Biscuit Flour. In 1951 he cut his first tunes for “Trumpet Records”. When “Trumpet” hit a sour note in 1955 he was picked up by “Chess Records” were he recorded until 1963. In 1963 during the British Blues Revival , he was invited to play for “The American Folk Blues Festival”. He appeared on the English T.V. program “Ready Steady Go” in a two tone suit and his famous bowler hat. This clip illustrates his ability to play with practically the whole harmonica in his mouth. While in England he did recordings with “The Animals” and “The Yardbirds”. “Sonny Boy” was a complex individual and gave different accounts of his life from interview to interview making his past history somewhat of a puzzle. His “Don’t Start Me To Talkin” was covered by “The Doobie Brothers”, “One Way Out” by “The Allman Brothers” and “Eyesight to the Blind” by “The Who”. In addition to this, his song “Help Me” became a blues standard and was recorded by “Canned Heat”,”Johnny Winter”, “Savoy Brown” and a host of other musicians. “Good Morning Little School Girl” often mistakenly credited to “Sonny Boy II” were actually recorded by “Sonny Boy I” After the England gigs he returned to Helena Arkansas. “Sonny Boy” was known a hot head, street fighter, a liar, gambler, conman and ladies man. In 1965 shortly after returning to Helena Arkansas he was jamming with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks ( which included members of “The Band”) All through the evening he had been spitting up blood shortly afterwards he died of a heart attack on May 25th, 1965
Known as “The Mad Hatter” for his trademark hats, Leon Wilkeson joined the Jacksonville-based group Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1971 as bass player. In 1972 he took a leave of absence only to rejoin the band six months later. Released in 1973 , “Pronounced” , featuring the rock-anthem “FreeBird” climbed the charts. 1974’s “Sweet Home Alabama” established the band as superstars. Leon survived the October 20th, 1977 plane crash that killed band members Ronnie Van Zandt and Steve Gaines. Leon joined the later reincarnation of the band and remained active with the group. Leon eventually developed a liver ailment and was advised by doctors to stop drinking. While taking a break from touring in a Ponte Verda Beach hotel outside Jacksonville he died in his sleep on July 27th 2001, at the age of 49.
Danny Whitten was a guitarist recruited for Neil Young’s album “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere”. Neil had just quit “Buffalo Springfield” and embarked on solo albums. The group was entitled “Neil young and Crazy Horse” which yielded some of Neils most famous tunes. As he has often been known to do Neil drifted off to different projects. In 1972 Neil recruited Danny Whitten to play on his upcoming album. But when Whitten showed up he was unable to perform due to being under the influence of heroin. Neil dismissed him and gave him bus fare for home. Whitten used the money to buy heroin and died from an heroin overdose. “The Needle and the Damage done” is said to be inspired by Whittens death. Danny Whitten died on November 11th, 1972 at the age of 29.
Barry White was a deep-voiced soul crooner of the seventies. He started out as a producer and arranger had a number one hit with “Love Unlimited” entitled” Theme From Love Unlimited”. He then released a string of hit singles featuring his deep baritone voice , “I can’t get enough of your love, babe”, “Your the first my last, my everything”,”It’s ecstacy “ and a couple more I can’t remember. Barry’s tunes were often intro’d with his sultry seductive rap. Although released during the hey-day’s of disco White avoided the disco label moniker. In spite of his large frame Barry White had enourmous sex appeal to his female audience who would often throw the’re unmentionables upon stage. He remained active in the music scene thru the 80’s and 90’s till ill-health forced him to retire. They tried to save him but it “just wasn’t enough babe, just not enough”.
Junior Wells was a harmonica player from the south side of Chicago. Considered one of the best, he jammed with all the blues greats. He also enjoyed a lengthy recording career of his own. He died of cancer on January 15th, 1998 at the age of 63.
Johnny “Guitar” Watson
Johnny “Guitar” Watson was a moderately successful blues plucker who made his first recording in 1953. In 1957 he wrote and recorded “The Gangster of Love” which became his signature tune. He got the funk-fever and in 1977 he released “A Real Mother For Ya”. The album cover featured him in complete “Superfly” regalia sporting a long mink coat, platform shoes and a purple brim surrounded by three women. One white, one black and one oriental. After a 13 year hiatus he released “Bow Wow” in 1993. On May 17th of 1997 while performing onstage at the “Yokohoma Blues Cafe” in Japan he suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 61.
Junior Walker was saxophone player for the group “Junior Walker and the All-Stars” who enjoyed a string of hits in the mid to late sixties with “Shotgun” and “What Does It Take (To win your love?). He also played sax for Foriegner’s hit song “Urgent”. He died of cancer in December 1995 at the age of 53.
In 1956 “Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps” recorded and released “Be-Bop-A-Lula” which went on to sell over 200,000 copies and eventually became a fifties rock-n-roll classic and established Gene as a teenage idol. His follow-ups sold fair but by the late 1950’s his star was fading in the States. He toured London (were he was still a huge draw) with Eddie Cochran. In April of 1960 on the way to the London Airport he was almost killed in an auto accident. Eddie Cochran who was also in the car was in fact killed. Although he survived, his limp (previously caused by an earlier motorcycle accident) was more noticable then ever. Still he rocked on but by 1963 “The Beatles” had taken over the music scene and long-haired groups had replaced the 50’s rocker. By 1965 both his career and health had bottomed-out. In 1967 he hit the road and resumed his wild rock-n-roll lifestyle. On October 4th of 1971 after performing at the “Wookey Hollow Club” in Livepool England his health completely gave out on him. Suffering from a bleeding ulcer he returned to California were he passed away on October 12th,1971 at the of 36.
Perhaps the most controversial musician of the punk movement (If you can really call him a musician, because it has been debated if he actually knew how to play the bass guitar), Sid Vicious embodied the snarling obnoxious persona of the 70’s punk rock movement. After he teamed-up with his American sidekick Nancy he became addicted to heroin. Usually too messed up to actually contribute musically, Sid was known for pissing on the floor, carving himself up with razor blades, spitting blood out of his mouth and walking thru plate glass windows. When he woke up and found Nancy dead he was charged with murder. He died February 2nd, 1979 at age 21 from a heroin overdose while awaiting trial. A movie was made called “Sid and Nancy” which chronicled his short but tragic life.