Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Top 100 Music Makers of the Pre-Rock Era (1890-1953)

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After a couple treks WAY down memory lane this last week (Duke Ellington’s 1941 “Take the ‘A’ Train” and Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra’s 1940 “I’ll Never Smile Again”), the timing was right for a glimpse at the biggest music makers of the pre-rock era. Music makers is an all-encompasing term used to embrace individual performers, groups, songwriters, and others involved in the creation of music. This list is dominated by performers, but there are some notable songwriters and composers on the list. Music makers who debuted from 1954 on were disqualified from this list so don’t look for Elvis Presley and his ilk here! Click on names to see their entries in the Dave’s Music Database Music Makers Encyclopedia.

1. Bing Crosby
2. Frank Sinatra
3. Paul Whiteman Orchestra
4. Tommy Dorsey
5. Benny Goodman
6. Billy Murray
7. Guy Lombardo
8. Louis Armstrong
9. Perry Como
10. Nat “King” Cole

Bing Crosby

11. Glenn Miller
12. Duke Ellington
13. Henry Burr
14. Al Jolson
15. Fats Domino
16. Jimmy Dorsey
17. The Andrews Sisters
18. Byron G. Harlan
19. Arthur Collins
20. Peerless Quartet/Columbia Male Quartet

Frank Sinatra

21. Billie Holiday
22. Ella Fitzgerald
23. Sammy Kaye
24. Harry MacDonough
25. Ben Selvin
26. Ted Lewis & His Band
27. Patti Page
28. Fats Waller
29. Frankie Laine
30. Jo Stafford

Paul Whiteman

31. Mills Brothers
32. Freddy Martin
33. Harry James
34. Eddy Arnold
35. Dinah Shore
36. Muddy Waters
37. Robert Johnson
38. Isham Jones
39. Kay Kyser
40. Leo Reisman

Tommy Dorsey

41. Haydn Quartet
42. Vaughn Monroe Orchestra
43. Rudy Vallee
44. Irving Berlin
45. Glen Gray & The Casa Loma Orchestra
46. George Gershwin
47. Eddie Fisher
48. Ada Jones
49. Gene Austin
50. American Quartet

Benny Goodman

51. Eddy Duchin
52. Artie Shaw
53. Hal Kemp
54. Ray Noble
55. Count Basie
56. Charles Adams Prince/Prince’s Orchestra
57. Jan Garber Orchestra
58. Russ Morgan
59. Ink Spots
60. John McCormack

Billy Murray

61. Fred Waring
62. Ruth Etting
63. Igor Stravinsky
64. Woody Herman
65. George Olsen & His Orchestra
66. Marion Harris
67. Richard Rodgers
68. Doris Day
69. Louis Jordan
70. Enrico Caruso

Guy Lombardo

71. Les Paul
72. Thelonious Monk
73. Gene Autry
74. Dick Haymes
75. Woody Guthrie
76. Albert Campbell
77. Nat Shilkret
78. Cab Calloway
79. Jerome Kern
80. Oscar Hammerstein II

Louis Armstrong

81. Teddy Wilson & His Orchestra
82. Bessie Smith
83. Margaret Whiting
84. Ted Weems Orchestra
85. Dizzy Gillespie
86. Peggy Lee
87. Fred Astaire
88. Rosemary Clooney
89. Horace Heidt
90. Len Spencer

Perry Como

91. Charlie Parker
92. Eddy Howard Orchestra
93. Bob Crosby
94. Shep Fields
95. Marty Robbins
96. Jimmie Rodgers
97. Ira Gershwin
98. Ozzie Nelson
99. Roy Acuff
100. Ben Bernie

Nat “King” Cole

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Are These the New Faces of Classic Rock?

Originally published in my "Aural Fixation" column on on July 27, 2011. See original post here.

image from

In recent weeks, VH1 has launched a handful of new episodes of Behind the Music, keying in on artists like Missy Elliott and Ice Cube. The show was a music mainstay in the late ‘90s and the first half of the 21st century with documentaries of the music world’s legends. It became a running cliché that the average episode delved into a band’s humble beginnings in crappy clubs, its sudden rise to fame, the inevitable fall from grace thanks to a member’s drug overdose, and the band’s hopeful comeback.

In 2011, some of yesteryear’s stories could add a new chapter. Pick an established classic rock band which celebrated its heyday in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. The group stubbornly refuses to hang it up, even in the face of less-than-stellar reunions in recent years. The lead singer, to whom the band attributed the lion’s share of its success, has been felled by some strange disease rendering him unable to perform on stage. It’s best if it is an obscure ailment that makes the general public scratch its collective head and say, “never heard of that before. Is that for real?”  The band unceremoniously dumps said vocalist. To rub salt in his wounds, they don’t turn to a well-respected veteran (a la Queen tapping Paul Rodgers to sub for Freddie Mercury), but scour YouTube videos for a fresh-faced frontman who has belted out the group’s catalog for a decade in a cover band.

While this may sound like a sequel to the film This Is Spinal Tap, this is no mockumentary. Case in point: Journey. The band got its start in the mid-‘70s as an offshoot of Santana. After three albums and little fanfare, it tapped Steve Perry to helm the mic. His arrival signaled a more pop-oriented sound which peaked with Escape in 1981, an album which secured three top ten US hits. Two more successful albums followed before the band hung it up, seemingly for good.

The group inevitably reunited in 1996. Then the drama began. A hiking injury in the summer of 1997 left Perry needing hip replacement surgery. The intended tour was canceled, but guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Jonathan Cain were determined to keep the dream alive (or the paychecks flowing, depending on one’s perspective).

Journey didn’t immediately go the lead-singer-from-cover-band route. After two studio albums, an EP, and two different lead singers, Journey hired Arnel Pineda in 2007. He was the leader for the Zoo when Schon saw him singing covers of Journey songs on YouTube. While haters would love to snicker at the assumed failure of such a proposition, Journey had the last laugh. Its next album, Revelation, went top five and platinum in the US. This was a far cry from the number 170 peak of the Generations album in 2005.

Let’s explore another recent case. Progressive rock band Yes just released Fly from Here, its first studio album in a decade. Since the group’s 1968 inception, nearly 20 musicians can boast I-was-once-in-Yes membership cards. The only constant has been bassist Chris Squire. However, no member has been more associated with the group than Jon Anderson, who sang on all their albums but Drama (1980).

In 2008, Yes reassembled for a summer tour. Anderson had to bow out when he was hospitalized with acute respiratory failure. Once again, the lure of the tour (or the payday it offered) led the remainder of the band to say, “Screw it, the show must go on.” It brought in Benoît David, a Canadian singer with Close to the Edge, which was—say it with me—a Yes cover band. How did Yes stumble across this guy? If you have to ask, you haven’t been paying attention: Squire found him on YouTube.

Perhaps you’re curious to see if Arnel can convince you to “Don’t Stop Believin’”. You can catch Journey out on the road this summer. Interestingly enough, the band is touring with Foreigner. Fans will remember Foreigner as the group with Lou Gramm belting out power ballads like “Waiting for a Girl Like You” and “I Want to Know What Love Is” as well as rockers like “Hot Blooded” and “Urgent”. By the early ‘90s, Gramm left the group. Mick Jones, the band’s only constant, kept things plodding along and Gramm attempted a return by decade’s end, but—here we go again—medical problems affected his singing voice. By 2002, Gramm and Jones parted for good so this summer’s “Juke Box Hero” will be Kelly Hansen. Who? Exactly.

If you want to take in a Yes show this summer, you’ll also find Styx on the bill. This story is getting repetitive. Styx also found its voice in the ‘70s and early ‘80s when founder Dennis DeYoung gave the group its biggest hits via “Babe”, “Come Sail Away”, and “Mr. Roboto”. The group was defunct by the mid ‘80s and muddled through a couple reunions in the ‘90s. Personality conflicts and differences over musical direction escalated. DeYoung contracted a viral illness which left him light-sensitive. The rest of the group opted to continue without him, bringing Lawrence Gowan into the fold to try to convince audiences that these were still “The Best of Times”.

There are two schools of thought on how aging bands should approach their golden years. They can play until they drop, unashamed that the few hairs they have left are gray and that they can no longer strut across a stage without a walker. The more dignified approach would be to accept age and gracefully hang it up, sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch and reminiscing about the other kind of rocking days.

My mocking tone would suggest that I fall into the latter camp. Surprisingly, I’m all for groups beating a dead horse. I say rock until you can’t walk! Sing until your oxygen tank sputters! Wail on that guitar until the arthritis renders your fingers useless stubs.

Here’s the thing: rock ‘n’ rollers don’t just clock out one day and take home a retirement watch. They long to play. Sure, seeing Mick Jagger prance across a stage at 70 may crank up the ick-factor, but here’s the rub: no one has to see the Rolling Stones 40 years past their prime. No one has to watch a Super Bowl half-time show starring half the Who and trying not to think of the irony of Pete Townshend’s most famous lyric ever: “I hope I die before I get old.”

No one is twisting fans’ arms. The audience will always dictate the market. As long as people still buy Journey records or see Yes in concert—even if the numbers are far less than the glory days—then I say, “Play on.” Congrats to Arnel, Benoît, Kelly, and Lawrence. Here’s hoping you can lead your bands into the next generation—when you’ll be old enough to catch a disease of your own and get replaced by the next generation’s cover band sensation found on YouTube.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Amy Winehouse dead at 27

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Note: this entry has been updated since its original July 23 post.

27-year-old singer Amy Winehouse was found dead at her London home today. No official cause of death was cited, LA but suspicions immediately turned to drug overdose. DM An autopsy is anticipated for Sunday or Monday. SR Her body was discovered shortly before 4:00pm local time. CS Paramedics responded within five minutes. She was pronounced her dead at the scene. DM Winehouse won Grammys for song and record of the year for 2006 song “Rehab” and was named Best New Artist.

Her performance at the 2008 Grammy telecast was broadcast via satellite from London. Speculation was that she had entered a rehab center and was denied a visa. LA She was hospitalized and sought treatment multiple times at rehabilitation facilities – most recently in May of this year. SR Tabloids often featured her looking dishevled and incoherent SR and focused on her “tempestuous relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil, who she married in May 2007 and divorced in July 2009.” NME

Just a month ago, Winehouse canceled a twelve-date European tour. She showed up over an hour late for the kick-off gig in Serbia and then forgot lyrics to her songs and repeatedly left the stage, MTV seemingly too intoxicated to sing. NME In a 2008 interview, her mother Janice acknowledged her daughter’s problems, saying “We’re watching her kill herself, slowly. I’ve already come to terms with her dead.” DM

Winehouse once responded to a reporter’s “where will you be in 10 years” question with the joking, but sadly prescient quip, “Dead. Dead in a ditch, on fire.” RE When spending time with Winehouse for a 2007 cover story, Spin editor-in-chief Steve Kandell found her “aloof and dismissive of her newfound fame.” SP As he said, “she wasn’t interested in much other than whatever was making her feel good…and she surrounded herself with people who allowed for that.” SP He continued, saying, “That seemed rebellious and intriguing – an idea that seems hopelessly flippant now…We convinced ourselves to look at that as darkly romantic, or even as something to celebrate.” SP

Despite such well-publicized troubles, the confirmation of her death was still, as Mojo magazine said, “both shocking and pitiful.” MJ In a testament to her impact, 10% of all tweets (or 20 million) mentioned Winehouse on Twitter within minutes of the report. DM posted reactions from the music world, such as Rihanna’s tweet: “Dear Amy U made a MAJAH impression on this industry and throughout the world in such a short space of time…too short!” BB Winehouse joins a list of famous musicians who also died at 27 – Robert Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, and Kurt Cobain. Paste magazine’s Bonnie Stiernberg said, “it’s a tragedy to see yet another talented musician silenced as such a young age.” PS

Click to see the DMDB page for ‘Frank’

She was born Amy Jade Winehouse on September 14, 1983 in Southgate, north London. Her dad, Mitch, was a double-glazing salesman and later a taxi driver while her mother, Janis, was a pharmacist. MM She developed an interest in jazz at an early age thanks to professional jazz-playing uncles and Dad’s record collection of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dinah Washington. MM She has also said she listened to Madonna’s Immaculate Collection every day for four years before discovering hip-hop at age 11. She also wanted to be a roller-skating waitress, inspired by George Lucas’ 1973 movie American Graffiti. MM

In school, she was often in trouble for singing in class. At 12, she auditioned for the Sylvia Young Theatre, but three years later was expelled for disruption, poor grades, and a nose piercing. MM She then spent time at the Brit school in Croydon MM before Tyler James, a schoolmate and soul hopeful, MM passed her demo tape to his A&R, which led to a recording contract with Island Records.

Winehouse’s debut album, Frank, was released in 2003 just weeks after her 20th birthday. That “collection of jazzy neo-soul tunes” LA earned her comparisons with soul greats like Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. The album nominated for the Mercury Prize (a UK version of the Grammy) and won her an Ivor Novello songwriting award for the single “Stronger Than Me”.

That album set the stage for 2006’s Back to Black. On that album, which has sold more than 15 million worldwide, “her brassy voice, retro Motown sound and painfully personal lyrics made her one of the most acclaimed female singers of the past decade.” RS Black was named Album of the Year by Dave’s Music Database.

Click to see the DMDB page for ‘Back to Black’

Winehouse’s success paved the way for a British blue-eyed soul movement which has included singers like Duffy, Adele, and Florence + the Machine. Winehouse was reportedly working on a new album at the time of her death. Jay-Z once told the BBC that he thought she had “re-invigorated British music.” MM Mark Ronson, who produced Black, said, “She was my musical soul mate and like a sister to me. This is one of the saddest days of my life.” Q

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Monday, July 18, 2011

The Rolling Stones Hit #1 for the First Time: July 18, 1964

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The Rolling Stones are now revered as one of the best rock bands in history. They rate in the top 10 acts of all time according to Dave’s Music Database. They are a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

Every band has to start somewhere, though. For the Stones, their first chart hit came in the U.K. in 1963 with “Come On” (#21). “I Wanna Be Your Man” (#12) and “Not Fade Away” (3) followed. Their fourth time out, however, the Stones went all the way to the top with a cover of “It’s All Over Now”.

The song was written by Bobby and Shirley Womack. The Valentinos, which featured Bobby, charted with their version of the song in the U.S. a week before the Stones’ version debuted on the British charts. The Stones heard the song in June 1964 when they were interviewed by New York radio DJ Murray the K. The Stones recorded it nine days later at Chicago’s Chess Studios. Womack wasn’t excited about the idea – until he got his first royalty check six months later.

“Over Now” started a string of five consecutive #1 songs for the Stones. They would land eight songs atop the British charts overall.

Stateside “Over Now” was the third chart hit for the Stones following “Not Fade Away” (#48) and “Tell Me (You’re Coming Back)” (#24). The group wouldn’t hit #1 in the U.S. until “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction)” in 1965, but would take eight songs to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 as well.

The video for the song was taken from the T.A.M.I. Show, a television broadcast featuring many acts, including James Brown, Chuck Berry, and the Beach Boys. The shows were taped on October 28-29, 1964 and aired on television December 29, 1964.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” hit #1

Party Rock Anthem

LMFAO with Lauren Bennett & GoonRock

Writer(s): Jamahl Listenbee, Stefan Gordy, Skyler Gordy (see lyrics here)

Released: January 25, 2011

First Charted: February 12, 2011

Peak: 16 US, 11 RR, 12 BA, 16 DG, 15 A40, 79 RB, 14 UK, 13 CN, 110 AU, 4 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 10.0 US, 1.29 UK, 18.87 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2425.73 video, 689.09 streaming


Click on award for more details.


About the Song:

“Party Rock Anthem” is a club banger by Los Angeles electroc-hop duo LMFAO which was comprised of Redfoo (the son of Motown founder Berry Gordy) and SkyBlu (Redfoo’s nephew). The song spotlights shuffling, which Redfoo explained as a particular style of dance which caught his eye so they made a song about it. SF Redfoo described the song as “a party track that actually talks about how to party. It’s like an instruction to dance. We were excited about it when we finished it, especially as it took over a year to make.” SF

Because of his father and time hanging out with legends like Smokey Robinson, Redfoo learned the value of a lyric. He changed the original chorus from “I feel it in my soul tonight, everybody’s gonna have a good time” to “Party rock is in the house tonight, everybody just have a good time.” The latter, he said, “made it a command, to focus people on what to do now that we’re together. Our lyrics are very calculated, even if they appear simple.” SF

Jamahl Listenbee (GoonRock) was a childhood friend of Redfoo who co-wrote and co-produced the song. He said the original plan was to give the song to Flo Rida. He said the aim of the song was to “make everyone feel good in the club.” SF The song also features Lauren Bennett, a British singer who appeared on the X Factor in the UK in 2006 and became part of the girl group Paradiso Girls, an “ill-fated attempt by Jimmy Iovine to create a European spin-off of…The Pussycat Dolls.” SF

The song spent 68 weeks on the Hot 100 – only four songs have spent more time on the chart. “Party Rock Anthem,” however, had the longest run for a #1 song. SF It took 47 weeks to exit the Hot 100 after peaking at #1. SF The song’s 29 weeks in the top 10 also put it in rare company; only five songs have spent more time in the top 10. WK It topped the charts in more than a dozen countries and is the best-selling single of all-time in Australia. WK

The video parodies 28 Days Later, a British zombie movie from 2002. Redfoo and SkyBlu wake up from a party-induced coma to find that party rocking has taken over the world. Mickey Finnegan, the director, explained that “there’s been an epidemic…as soon as the song came out, everyone got possessed and all they want to do is shuffle.” SF


Last updated 4/1/2024.

The Top 100 Blues Acts of All Time

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These are the top 100 blues acts of all time as determined by consolidating fifteen best-of lists focused on blues artists (see resources at bottom of page). Click on names to see their entries in the Dave’s Music Database Music Makers Encyclopedia.

1. Robert Johnson
2. Muddy Waters
3. John Lee Hooker
4. Howlin’ Wolf
5. B.B. King
6. Son House
7. Stevie Ray Vaughan
8. Bessie Smith
9. Leadbelly
10. Buddy Guy

Robert Johnson

11. Elmore James
12. Albert King
13. Eric Clapton
14. Lightnin’ Hopkins
15. T-Bone Walker
16. Big Bill Broonzy
17. Skip James
18. Mississippi John Hurt
19. Jimmy Reed
20. Billie Holiday

Muddy Waters

21. Charley Patton
22. Ma Rainey
23. Blind Lemon Jefferson
24. Johnny Winter
25. Otis Rush
26. Bukka White
27. Ray Charles
28. Freddy King
29. Willie Dixon
30. Memphis Minnie

John Lee Hooker

31. Reverend Gary Davis
32. Albert Collins
33. Koko Taylor
34. John Mayall
35. W.C. Handy
36. Lonnie Johnson
37. Big Joe Turner
38. Big Mama Thornton
39. Bonnie Raitt
40. Tommy Johnson

Howlin’ Wolf

41. Blind Willie McTell
42. Blind Willie Johnson
43. Taj Mahal
44. Etta James
45. Charles Brown
46. Bobby “Blue” Bland
47. Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup
48. Sonny Boy Williamson #2 (Rice Miller)
49. Professor Longhair
50. Robert Nighthawk

B.B. King

51. Magic Sam
52. Wynonie Harris
53. Sonny Boy Williamson #1 (John Lee Williamson)
54. Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown
55. Arthur “Blind Blake” Phelps
56. Ruth Brown
57. Otis Spann
58. Mississippi Fred McDowell
59. Leroy Carr
60. Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Son House

61. Brownie McGhee
62. Little Milton
63. Son Seals
64. Ida Cox
65. Slim Harpo
66. Robert Cray
67. Mamie Smith
68. Victoria Spivey
69. Junior Parker
70. Peetie Wheatstraw

Stevie Ray Vaughan

71. J.B. Lenoir
72. Louis Jordan
73. Little Walter
74. Jimi Hendrix
75. Tampa Red
76. Junior Wells
77. Sippie Wallace
78. Jimmy Witherspoon
79. Big Joe Williams
80. Blind Boy Fuller

Bessie Smith

81. Roosevelt Sykes
82. Gus Cannon
83. Hound Dog Taylor
84. Johnny Shines
85. Luther Allison
86. David “Honeyboy” Edwards
87. Charlie Musselwhite
88. Eddie Taylor
89. Robert Lockwood Jr.
90. Sonny Terry


91. Dinah Washington
92. Peter Green
93. Roy Brown
94. Jimmy Rogers
95. Amos Milburn
96. Jimmy Rushing
97. Sleepy John Estes
98. Irma Thomas
99. Roy Milton
100. Big Maceo Merriweather

Buddy Guy

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