Saturday, January 11, 2020

Guitarists That We Have Lost In 2019

At least two dozen well known guitarist met their demise in 2019. We were fortunate to have them share their talent with us.  Some of them were famous to the masses, while others preferred to remain in the background as session players.

Reggie Young
Perhaps most of us have never heard of Reggie Young. But if you turned on the radio, or purchased records in the late 1960’s through the 1990’s, you have undoubtedly heard Reggie Young playing his instrument. He was the guitarist on over 120 hit records, which were all recorded in Memphis Tennessee’s American Sound Studio.  Reggie Young was the guitarist in the studios house band and  was one of the most respected session men in the industry.

Reggie recorded with some of the most well known artists of the day, such as Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond, B.J. Thomas, Dusty Springfield, Dobie Gray, The Box Tops, King Curtis, Otis Redding, Jimmy Webb, Petula Clark, and so many others. His distinctive guitar can be heard on “Son of A Preacher Man”, “Drift Away”, “Suspicious Minds”, “In The Ghetto”, “Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song”, Billy Swan (I Can Help), and “Sweet Caroline”.

Reggie Young - Some Songs

His Coral Electric sitar can be heard on “Cry Like A Baby”, and “Hooked On A Feeling.” Reggie Young passed away on January 17th, at his home just outside of Nashville, Tennessee in the small town of Leipers Fork. He was 82 years old.

Harold Bradley

Nashville studio guitarist Harold Bradley has passed away at age 93. According to Guitar Player magazine and other sources, he was among the most recorded guitarists in history.  He was also the younger brother of the pioneering record producer Owen Bradley, the man credited for 'The Nashville Sound".

Harold Bradley - Nashville A-Team
Harold Bradley served for decades as the de facto leader of leader of Nashville’s A-Team, the elite circle of first-call session musicians that were immortalized in the Lovin’ Spoonful’s 1966 Top 10 hit “Nashville Cats”.

Bradley passed away on January 31st of 2019. He can be heard on recordings by Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline, George Jones, and so many well known artists.

Peter Tork passed away on February 21st of this year after a 10 year battle with cancer. He started his musical career in Greenwich Village in New York City. His given name was Peter Thorkelson.

Peter Tork - From His Monkee Days
Peter Tork, was a pretty good guitar player, but shined as a banjo player. He played third chair guitar on the Mike Nesmith song Papa Gene’s Blues.  Tork, and his friend Joey Richards wrote the closing theme song for the Monkee's TV show. It was called “For Pete’s Sake.”  It is also said that he played the piano on Day Dream Believer.

Peter Tork
Later in life, after the Monkees had went their separate ways, Tork formed a band with some friends called Peter Tork And/Or Release. They recorded some music, but did not get much reception, The group disbanded when Tork ran out of money. He worked on some other projects with his friends including Mickey Dolenz, and founded a music and film company. And during this period, Peter Tork became a father.

It was in 2009 that Peter was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and underwent surgery, and radiation. Although he was ill, Tork rejoined The Monkee's on some of their reunion concerts.

Dick Dale
Dick Dale was born Richard Anthony Monsour on May 4th, 1937 in Boston Massachusetts. His father was Lebanese and his mother’s family came from Poland. Because of his Lebanese heritage Dale developed an interest in Arabic music. I mention this because the song everyone associates him with is Miserlou, which was an Eastern European song that had it's roots in the Ottoman Empire.

When Dick was very young his uncle taught him how to play the tarabaki, while the uncle played the oud.  Because of this Dale developed his rapid and alternating picking technique. He states this type music had a sense of pulsation. He incorporated that in his Surf Guitar playing. Dick Dale got his break in Surf Music by wowing the audience at Orange County's Rendezvous Ballroom, where he sold out shows for many weeks.

Dick Dale
When Dick Dale first met Leo Fender he told him that he was a surfer and a guitar player and did not have money for a decent instrument. Leo recognized the drive and determination and gave him a Stratocaster and right on the spot asked him what he thought about this Fender guitar.

Dale, being left-handed, turned the right handed instrument over and began playing, which caused Mr. Fender laugh. Here was a guy playing his guitar upside-down and backwards, meaning the 6th string was on the top and the 1st string was on the bottom. So Leo Fender made a left-handed Stratocaster for him. Dick Dale continued to string it upside-down.

Dick Dale passed away on Saturday, March 16th, at age 81. It is so sad that most people of his age are retired, but his medical condition was costing him up to $3,000 a month, and the only way to pay the bills was to continue touring. His contributions to the guitar, the amplifier, and music will not go unnoticed.

Leon Redbone
Leon Redbone was an enigma, and one of the most eccentric entertainers we will ever have the pleasure to have seen and heard. His repertoire was a trove of old songs that consisted of jazz, blues, and Tin Pan Alley classic songs which he sang in his own distinctive basso voice, while accompanying himself on a variety of vintage guitars.

Bob Dylan discovered Redbone at Ontario's Mariposa Folk Festival in 1972, and he was so impressed by Redbone's performance that he mentioned it in a Rolling Stone interview, which lead the magazine to do a feature article on Redbone a year before he had a recording contract.

In that article Dylan described Redbone's performances as being "so authentic you can hear the scratch noises on an old 78 rpm record (in his live performances). The Mariposa Festival was held on an island and the only way to get there is by the ferry. Dylan hired a boat and took his entire family to the festival, along with Gordon Lightfoot, just to meet Leon..

Leon Redbone
Redbone was not just a singer/guitarist. Throughout his career Leon Redbone acted in films and on television, and lent his distinctive voice to commercials, films and cartoons. He passed away on May 30th, 2019.

Ric Ocasek - 1980
Ric Ocasek was born as Richard Theodore Otcasek. He is best known for his work with the popular New Wave band, The Cars. Their music featured Ocasek's unique voice, plus his guitar, and synth playing. The Cars remained as a group from 1978 through 1988 when they disbanded.

The Cars were at the forefront of late 1970's guitar-oriented rock which merged with the new synthesizer-oriented pop that was just becoming popular and flourished in the early 1980's.

The Cars sound was heavily synthesizer influenced. Much of their success was due to the popularity of MTV, which at the time featured non-stop videos of popular and new talent that was promoted by the MTV VJ's.

Ric Ocasek
At the time of his death he was separated from his wife of 28 years, Paulina Porizkova. She was an 18 year old modelling sensation when he first met her in 1984 on the set of a video that The Cars were filming.

Ocasek was found dead in his New York City townhouse on September 15, 2019, by his estranged wife Paulina Porizkova when she was bringing him coffee.

Gerry McGee
Gerry McGee, the former lead guitarist of the instrumental rock band The Ventures, died after collapsing on stage in Japan on October 8th.  He passed away four days later on October 12th, in Japan at the age of 81. At the time McGee was on tour and apparently suffered a heart attack on stage.

It had been two years since McGee had played in Japan with The Ventures. His participation in that tour was cut short due to his health issues.

Gerry McGee
Gerry joined The Ventures back in 1968, stepping in as lead guitarist after founding member Nokie Edwards left the group. During McGee's tenure with the band, he recorded three of their biggest hits in Japan, including “Ame No Midosuji”, “Kyoto No Koi” and “Kyoto Bojo.”  The Ventures continue to have a huge following in Japan. Gerry McGee toured with The Ventures for three years. sometimes playing guitar, and sometimes playing bass. He rejoined the band in the 1984 until he was forced to step away two years ago due to health issues.

Vinnie Bell (Vincent Gambella)
Vinnie Bell, another one of the most heard guitarists that you probably never heard of, passed away on October 3rd of this year at age 87. His death was the result of Alzheimer's disease.  He had suffered with that insidious condition for the past five years. He was a well known session player in New York City, and in Los Angeles.

Throughout his career Vinnie invented many of his own effects, such as a device to get the “watery” guitar sound that is heard on the theme to “Midnight Cowboy” on Ferrante and Teicher's version. He created this by linking multiple Danelectro reverb units together.

Bell’s guitar work can be heard on Dionne Warwick’s “Walk On By”, and Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You”. Bell is also heard playing an instrument that he invented called The Bellzouki on many albums, including songs from the score of the Jane Fonda movie Barbarella. Bell played a bass guitar solo that was fed through his pedal board tremolo for the music to the television series, “Twin Peaks”.

That is his electric guitar you hear on Simon and Garfunkle's "Sounds of Silence". He played guitar on recordings for artists as diverse such as The Four Seasons, Frank Sinatra, Dionne Warwick, Herman’s Hermits, Bing Crosby, The Cowsills, Perry Como, The Drifters, Bob Dylan, The Shangri-Las, Rupert Holmes, Jean-Jacques Perrey, and Quincy Jones. He also did film work, playing guitar on "The Godfather", "The Devil In Miss Jones", and "The Muppet's Christmas Carol". Any fans of The Family Guy, will know the theme song. Vinnie Bell played guitar for that session.

Vinnie Bell With His Electric Sitar

Bell had some ideas and took them to his friend Nate Daniel was the go to guy to build them. Daniel was the engineer, founder, and owner of The Danelectro Guitar Company.

His company  specialized in unique inexpensive guitars, bass guitars, and amplifiers, that were mainly sold through major catalog companies such as Sears and Montgomery Ward.

In 1961 the men collaborated on a 12 string electric guitar called The Bellzouki. The body was a tear- drop shaped flat piece of wood, similar to the shape of a Greek Bouzouki.

Vinnie Bell
When George Harrison first featured a sitar on “Norwegian Wood”, Vinnie Bell fell in love with the sound, and turned to Daniels and Danelectro to produce the electric sitar. This instrument came out in several versions.

The original model was produced under Danelectro’s “Coral” brand, and it included a six string electric guitar neck, and instead of a guitar bridge, there was a large block of plastic material that had a metal track at its distal end for the six guitar strings. Vinnie Bell used this instrument on the Lemon Pipers song “Green Tambourine”. Coral/Danelectro produced a version called The Baby Sitar, that was in a different shape, had only one pickup, and did not have the drone strings. The Coral electric sitar can be heard on many other songs, including the B.J. Thomas hit, "Hooked On A Feeling", Freda Payne's "Band of Gold", Redbone's "Come And Get Your Love", and The Stylistics hit song, "You Make Me Feel Brand New".  Vinnie also was featured on his own album simply called "Electric Sitar".

Vinnie Bell created several other instruments for Danelectro/Coral. One of these was an affordable electric guitar called The Coral Hornet.

Larry Junstrom
Larry Junstrom was a bassist who was a founding member of Lynyrd Skynyrd and he went on to join .38 Special. Junstrom played with Lynyrd Skynyrd from their formation in 1964 until 1971, leaving before the band released their debut album and gained nationwide fame.

Larry Junstrom
Junstrom joined 38 Special in 1977 alongside Donnie Van Zant, brother of Lynyrd Skynyrd founder Ronnie Van Zant. The band had just released their debut album when Junstrom joined, and he played bass on a single track of the album. Their greatest fame was yet to come with early 1980s hits including “Hold on Loosely” and “Caught Up in You.” Junstrom played bass on all of .38 Special’s albums and remained with the band until 2014, when a hand injury forced him to retire. He passed away on October 6th, 2019

Jim Dunlop
On this past February 6th, 2019, Scottish immigrant Jim Dunlop died. Though not technically a guitarist, Jim Dunlop's Company was most important in the guitar industry. Dunlop started thinking about the guitar in 1965 as a part-time business, while working full time as a processing and chemical engineer at Barr and Stroud in Glasgow. He was an apprentice of creator of the first hip replacement.

Dunlop Toggle Capo
Dunlop's first guitar product was the Vibra-Tuner, which was a small device that attached to a guitar with a suction cup that displayed whether the guitar was in tune with the vibration of a small reed. While visiting music stores to sell his new product, someone told him that musicians needed a good capo, remarking that anyone who made a good capo that could handle a 12-string guitar would make a lot of money. Using his engineering background,

Dunlop created the toggle capo, and then worked with a local machine shop to build the first capo dies, manufacturing what eventually became the long running "1100 series" capo.

Jim Dunlop

Starting from his living room, Dunlop later moved construction to his garage, and then to a location outside the house. On March 19, 1972, he moved into the pick market, after reading every issue of Guitar Player magazine.

He noted musicians’ comments concerning what they liked and didn't like about picks. He manufactured his first picks from nylon, and continues to produce these. It was in 1973 that he decided to go full time into the guitar products business.

Dunlop Products now range from capos and picks, to slides, strings, fret wire, strap retainers, and a variety of electronic effects, which include the original Cry Baby wah-wah pedal, the Uni-Vibe phaser, Heil Talk Box, and the MXR and Way Huge lines of stompboxes. He was 82 at his time of death.

Pegi Young With Husband Neal - 1970's
Pegi Young, the singer-songwriter/guitarist, was married to Neil Young for 36 years, died on January 1st of 2019 after a yearlong battle with cancer. She was 66. She passed away surrounded by her friends and family in her native California.

Young was working as a waitress at a diner near Neil Young’s ranch when they met in the mid-Seventies. “Never saw a woman look finer,” Neil Young wrote in his 1992 classic song “Unknown Legend,” one of several songs about their love that also include “Harvest Moon” and “Such an Angel.” “I used to order just to watch her float across the floor.”

Pegi Young And Husband Neal
In the early years of their marriage, Young devoted herself nearly full-time to raising their daughter Amber and son Ben, the latter born with cerebral palsy. But in 1994, she began singing background vocals for her husband.

Pegi starting at the Academy Awards when she joined him on “Philadelphia.” Six years later, she hit the road with him on the Friends and Relatives tour and became a mainstay in his band over the next decade. “When I started touring with him, I get treated pretty much like any other band member,” she told Songfacts in 2011. “He certainly doesn’t cut me any more slack than anybody else. If he wants to hear something a certain way, he’s the clear boss, leader of the band.”

Pegi Young's CD
In 2007, Young recorded her self-titled debut LP with keyboardist Spooner Oldham, guitarist Anthony Crawford, bassist Rick Rosas and pedal steel guitarist Ben Keith. She went on to record four more albums and tour extensively. “I think it’s somewhat of a natural progression,” she told the Boston Herald in 2010.

 “I was writing and singing and playing a bit in my own fashion when I was younger, before Neil and I got together in 1974. It was a return to a longtime love of mine. I think it is up to me to do the best job I can do. I don’t take it casually. I’m not the next young hot thing.”

Steve Ripley With Bob Dylan

Steve Ripley, died on Jan. 3, 2019 from cancer at age of 69. Ripley was a guitarist and studio professional who played guitar on Bob Dylan's 'Shot of Love' album and tour.

He created a "stereo guitar" for Kramer Guitars, that Eddie Van Halen was often photographed with.

Steve Ripley With The Tractors

Ripley also fronted the Tractors, a country-rock band whose 1994 debut went double platinum on the strength of the hit "Baby Likes to Rock It."

Stephan Ellis With Survivor

Stephan Ellis, bass player for the band Survivor, died at the age of 69. This was confirmed by Survivor’s longtime guitarist, Frankie Sullivan.. No cause of death was revealed.

“We are devastated to hear that Stephan Ellis has passed away,” Sullivan wrote. “Steph was the guy who was only interested in the music. He absolutely had a special charm with the fans and within the band. I loved much when it came to Steph.”

Stephan Ellis
Though Survivor formed in 1978, but Ellis didn’t join the band until the early Eighties. He arrived in time to help the group record their 1981 album, Premonition, which featured their first Top 40 hit, “Poor Man’s Son.” One year later, Sylvester Stallone approached Survivor to record a song for Rocky III, resulting in the band’s signature smash, “Eye of the Tiger.” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks, while the band’s 1982 LP of the same name peaked at Number Two on the albums chart. The track won the Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group and was even nominated for Best Original Song at the 1982 Oscars. Stephan Ellis passed away on May 2nd, 2019.

Bernie Torme'
Guitarist Bernie Tormé joined Ozzy Osbourne's band in the immediate aftermath of Randy Rhoads' death. Prior to that he'd played in Ian Gillan of Deep Purple's self-named band. Tormé  died on March 17, 2019, one day shy of his 67th birthday, after a battle with double pneumonia.

Paul Raymond
Paul Raymond was a member of Savoy Brown, when he was recruited to join UFO as a keyboardist/guitarist just as the group was entering their classic period. He stayed with them through 1981, when he briefly left to join guitarist Michael Schenker's self-named group.

Raymond returned to UFO and wound up serving four stints in the band. He died of a heart attack at the age of 73 on April 13, 2019, only a few days after UFO concluded dates in the U.K. and Ireland as part of their farewell tour.

Roky Erickson
Roky Erickson was a guitarist and the front man of the 13th Floor Elevators, a pioneering psychedelic rock group that are best known for 1966's “You’re Gonna Miss Me" and were incredibly influential on indie rock and ZZ Top. He passed away on May 31, 2019 in his hometown of Austin, Texas. Erickson was 71.

Larry Taylor
Larry Taylor was the founding bassist of 1960's L.A. boogie rock band Canned Heat died at age 77. A spokesperson for the group confirmed on Monday, August 19th, that Taylor passed on at his home in Lake Balboa, California, after a 12-year battle with cancer.

A tireless session player, Taylor appeared on more than half a dozen albums by The Monkees, blues icon John Mayall and Tom Waits, as well as releases from Albert King, Leo Kottke, The Blasters and Sunnyland Slim. But he was best known for his work with Canned Heat, whose 1967 self-titled debut, featuring covers of blues classics by Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Robert Johnson, was released just after the band's appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival, Taylor, known by his nickname, "The Mole,"

Neal Casal
Guitarist Neal Casal's career started when he was barely out of his teens, spending five years in Blackfoot before moving on to session work and recording solo albums. In between, he played in Ryan Adams' backing band The Cardinals and The Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

Sadly Casal died by suicide on Aug. 26, 2019 at the age of 50.

Larry Wallis
Larry Wallis was Motorhead's first guitarist, playing on their shelved debut 'On Parole.' Prior to that he spent some time in the Pink Fairies and was also in the group UFO. He later became an in-house producer for the U.K. punk label Stiff Records. Wallis died on Sept. 19, 2019 at the age of 70.

Paul Barrere

Paul Barrere first auditioned for Little Feat as a bassist in 1969, but became its guitarist three years later and stayed with them until his death this past Oct. 26, 2019 at the age of 71. He'd been diagnosed with liver cancer in 2015.

Doug Lubahn

Doug Lubahn played bass on three records by the Doors, 'Strange Days,' 'Waiting for the Sun' and 'The Soft Parade,' He turned down an opportunity to join them full-time. Lubahn later worked with Pat Benatar, Billy Squier and Ted Nugent. He was 71 when he died of undisclosed causes on Nov. 20, 2019

Neil Innes
Neil Innes started as the guitarist in the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, combining rock, jazz, music hall and weird humor on songs like 1968's Paul McCartney-produced No. 5 hit, "I'm the Urban Spaceman." He later went on to write songs for Monty Python, essentially becoming the seventh member of the comedy troupe, and formed the Beatles parody band the Rutles with Python Eric Idle. He died on Dec. 29, 2019 of undisclosed causes. He was 75.

Vic Juris
Vic Juris, was a jazz guitarist of astounding abilities perhaps best known for his 23-year tenure in David Liebman’s band, passed away on Christmas Eve morning. The New Jersey-based Juris, was only 66. He was diagnosed six months ago, with metastatic liver cancer.

Vic Juris played in Ottawa in 2008 with Liebman’s group at the now-shuttered Cafe Paradiso on Bank Street, and that appearance led to further gigs and concerts here, jaming with Ottawa musicians John Geggie and Roddy Ellias.

Geggie said: “Lots of people are aware of guitarists like John Scofield, John Abercrombie, Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell and Kurt Rosenwinkel, I feel Vic should be added to that exclusive list. The fluid lyricism, the subtle phrasing, the engaging harmonies, the way he used his pedals as well as the classical guitar. They were revelations for me.”

Vic Juris

Juris was as humble and down-to-earth as he was talented, simply told this newspaper in 2009: “I’ve played with just about everybody I wanted to play with, which is really a good thing. And, you know, there’s not room for everybody at the forefront.”

Juris’s peers had the highest respect for him. The late John Abercrombie called him “the greatest … there is none better anywhere.” Pat Metheny credited Juris for “inventing new ways of thinking about jazz, harmonically and melodically.” Bill Frisell called him “a total monster".

Sleepy LaBeef

Sleepy LaBeef, an enduring rockabilly artist who helped fuel a resurgence of that genre in the 1970s and ’80s with his live shows, died on Thursday December 26, 2019, at his home in Siloam Springs, Ark. He was 84.

 In 1991, when Mr. LaBeef was 35 years into his musical career, The New York Times called him “a living, breathing, guitar-picking history of American music.”

LaBeef claimed to know 6,000 songs and played, as he put it at the time, “root music: old-time rock ’n’ roll, Southern gospel and hand-clapping music, black blues, Hank Williams-style country.”

Sleepy LaBeef
He was born Thomas Paulsley LaBeff, and known to all as Sleepy, made his first records in the 1950s when he was living in Texas and recording on small labels there.  In the mid-1960s he moved to Nashville and signed with Presley’s original label, Sun Records.

By the 1970s and ’80s Mr. LaBeef maintained a particularly exhausting touring schedule doing 200 to 300 shows a year.

He played music in clubs all over the United States and also finding surprising success in Europe.

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©UniqueGuitar Publications  2020 (text only) 

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