Obituaries: Alan W. Livingston, Jimmy Boyd, James Odell Johnson Sr., Willie King, John Cephas, Hank Locklin, Ernie Ashworth, Irby Mandrell, Altovise Joanne Gore Davis, Eddie Hoover and Richard Pegue

by  Goldmine Staff and The Associated Press

Alan W. Livingston, the music-industry executive who signed The Beatles and Frank Sinatra during his tenure at Capitol Records, died March 13 at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 91.

Livingston, who also created the popular Bozo the Clown character, became an executive at Capitol in the early 1950s. He signed Frank Sinatra at a low point in his career and introduced him to arranger Nelson Riddle. The pair produced “I’ve Got The World On A String” and “Young At Heart,” leading to Sinatra’s comeback on the charts.

As Capitol’s president, Livingston signed The Beach Boys, Steve Miller and The Band in the ’60s. Capitol, then partly owned by The Beatles’ UK record company, EMI, had rejected the group’s early hit singles as unsuitable for the American market. When Livingston heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” he agreed to release it and brought the Fab Four to the U.S in 1964 to promote it.

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Jimmy Boyd, the child vocalist and actor best known for singing the original rendition of the Christmas novelty hit “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” in 1952, died of cancer March 7 in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 70.

“I Saw Mommy” shot to the top of the Billboard charts three weeks after it was released. It sold 2 million records in less than 10 weeks. Boyd, who was 13 when he recorded the song, told Time magazine soon after its release that he was surprised by its success. “I like it personally,” he said, “but I didn’t think anyone would buy it.”

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James Odell Johnson Sr., bass singer with the 1950s rhythm-and-blues vocal group the Whispers, died Jan. 1 in Baltimore after a lengthy illness.  He was 73.  Johnson and his roommate Bill Mills, Eugene “Lump” Lewis, Billy Thompson, and Thompson’s Douglass High classmate Isaiah “Terry” Johnson (no relation) formed the original group, then known as Terry Johnson and the Rhythm Kings, in early 1954.

— Todd Baptista
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Willie King, 65, an Alabama blues singer and guitarist whose career took him to the largest blues festivals in North America and Europe, died of a heart attack March 8.

King was named Blues Artist of the Year by Living Blues Magazine in 2004. He also appeared in the Martin Scorsese film “Feel Like Going Home.”

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John Cephas, a blues guitarist and singer with the duo Cephas & Wiggins, died of natural causes March 4 at his home in Bowling Green, Ky. He was 78.

Cephas & Wiggins’ first U.S. album, Dog Days Of August, from 1987, won a Blues Music Award for Best Traditional Blues Album of the Year.

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Country singer and Grand Ole Opry member Hank Locklin died March 8 at his home in Brewton, Ala. He was 91.

Locklin’s hits included “Send Me the Pillow You Dream On” and “Please Help Me I’m Falling.” He recently released his 65th album, “By the Grace of God.” He became an Opry member in 1960.

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Grand Ole Opry singer Ernie Ashworth, who had a No. 1 hit in 1963 with “Talk Back Trembling Lips,” died March 2 in Hartsville, Tenn., after a sudden illness. He was 80.

Ashworth began his career writing songs for Little Jimmy Dickens, Carl Smith, Johnny Horton and pop idol Paul Anka. He joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1964.

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Irby Mandrell
, Barbara Mandrell’s father and longtime manager, died in a Nashville, Tenn., hospital at age 84. A spokeswoman for the country star said the elder Mandrell died March 5 at Baptist Hospital after a brief stay.

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Altovise Joanne Gore Davis, a dancer and actress and the widow of Sammy Davis Jr., died March 14 in Los Angeles after suffering a stroke. She was 65.

After Sammy Davis’ death in 1990, she was left to sort through his multimillion IRS tax debt and oversee his troubled estate. Last year, she sued two former business partners in federal court, claiming they tricked her into signing away the rights to the estate. The suit is pending.

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Avid record collector Eddie Hoover died Feb. 4 in California. He was 66. Hoover was a longshoreman for 35 years and a longtime rock ’n’ roll music fan.

Doug Hanners of the Austin Record Convention recalled, “Eddie never had the aggressive ‘killer’ instinct that typifies most longtime collectors. He had a easygoing attitude and a ready smile for most situations … Eddie attended all the record shows up and down the length of California and started coming to the big Austin, Texas, show in the early ’80s.” Hanners said Hoover continued to attend the Austin show even after becoming wheelchair-bound due to complications from diabetes. “Eddie was a dedicated collector and a true friend, we’ll all miss him,” Hanners said.

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Radio station WVON-AM says Chicago DJ Richard Pegue, known as “Doctor Dusty” for his sets of classic R&B, died March 3 of heart failure. He was 64.

by  Goldmine Staff and The Associated Press

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