Music industry obituaries for late October and early November 2011

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Lee Pockriss, 87, who wrote pop hits such as “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” died Nov. 15, 2011, after a long illness.
Pockriss, who also worked in musical theater, co-wrote several songs with Paul Vance, including “Catch a Falling Star’’ in 1957. “Bikini” was recorded by Brian Hyland, surged to No. 1 on the Billboard charts in August 1960.

Pockriss was born Jan. 20, 1924, in Brooklyn, N.Y. He served as a cryptographer, writing in code to guide Army Air Force planes over the Pacific during World War II. He studied musicology at New York University with modernist composer Stefan Wolpe.

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — A key behind-the-scenes associate of the famed Motown quartet the Four Tops, George Rountree, died Oct. 30, 2011. He was 61.

Rountree, known as Tree, worked as the group’s musical director for more than 30 years. He also performed other roles for the group, including arranger, composer and keyboardist. A Detroit native, he performed with some of the music industry’s biggest stars, including the Temptations, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Mary Wilson, Martha Reeves, Frankie Valli, Bill Withers, Freda Payne and David Ruffin.

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Yvonne “Dixie” Fasnacht, who spent much of her life playing jazz and welcoming aficionados to her French Quarter Club — Dixie’s Bar of Music on Bourbon Street — has died at 101.

Fasnacht toured with the all-female Southland Rhythm Girls, playing Dixieland jazz in the 1930s. In 1939 she and her sister, Irma, opened the first of several bars, all called Dixie’s. Elegant and sophisticated, Fasnacht was among the first French Quarter club owners to welcome gay patrons. The club closed in 1964.

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Heavy D publicity photo

Heavy D. publicity photo.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Heavy D, 44, the self-proclaimed “overweight lover’’ of hip-hop who became one of rap’s top hit-makers with wit, humor and a positive vibe, died Nov. 8, 2011, after collapsing. He was 44.

Dwight Arrington Myers, the rapper known as Heavy D of Heavy D and the Boyz, released “Living Large’’ in 1987. Their hits included “Now That We Found Love,’’ “Who’s the Man’’ and “Somebody For Me.’’

The New York-born rapper was one of the genre’s most integral stars in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the mid-1990s, Heavy D became president of Uptown Records, the label that released most of his albums and was also the home to such acts as Mary J. Blige. He also created the theme songs for the TV sketch comedy shows “In Living Color’’ and “MADtv’’ and acted on the TV shows “Boston Public’’ and “The Tracy Morgan Show.”

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — British-born big band singer Beryl Davis, who made her U.S. debut on Bob Hope’s radio show and later performed with Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman, died Oct. 28, 2011, of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. She was 87.

The daughter of British band leader Harry Davis, she sang with Stephane Grappelli and pianist George Shearing in a group that performed in London clubs throughout the Blitz during World War I. She sang with Glenn Miller’s Army Air Force Band near the end of the war. She appeared on the “Your Hit Parade’’ radio show. In the 1950s, she formed a vocal quartet with Jane Russell, Connie Haines and Della Russell.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Danish trombonist and bandleader Arne Bue Jensen, known as Papa Bue, died Nov. 2, 2011. He was 81. Chiefly associated with Dixieland jazz, he led his own New Orleans Jazz Band and later the Papa Bue Viking Jazz Band — the only non-American ensemble to play at the New Orleans Jazz Festival in 1969. He made dozens of recordings, including with early New Orleans jazz legend George Lewis.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Liz Anderson, 81, who wrote country music hits for Merle Haggard and others, and had her own recording career, as well, died Oct. 31, 2011.

Haggard had hits with her songs ’’I’m a Lonesome Fugitive,’’ “That Makes Two of Us’’ and “The Worst Is Yet to Come.’’ Lynn Anderson (her daughter), Tammy Wynette, Jerry Lee Lewis, Waylon Jennings, Ernest Tubb and Lorrie Morgan also recorded her songs.

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PALM SPRINGS, California (AP) — Harold Davison, 89, the music impresario who introduced Frank Sinatra to European audiences and helped bring British rock to America, died Oct. 11, 2011, of congestive heart failure.

He was the first to book concerts in England and continental Europe by Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland and Bing Crosby. In the rock ’n’ roll era, Davison was a strategist for the British Invasion, launching such acts as the Rolling Stones and the Dave Clark Five on the American scene.

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hollywood comedy writer Hal Kanter, 92, died Nov. 6, 2011, in Los Angeles at 92. He wrote for Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, and he directed Elvis Presley in “Loving You.”

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Cory Smoot, lead guitarist for the heavy metal band GWAR, was found dead Nov. 3, 2011, on the band’s tour bus. He was 34.

Officials have not released the cause of his death. Since 2002, he’s performed under the name “Flattus Maximus’’ with the band known for its comically grotesque sci-fi/fantasy-based costumes, stage antics and vulgar lyrics. He produced GWAR’s last two albums.

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