Obituaries: Eric Woolfson, Jack Rose, Liam Clancy, Bess Lomax Hawes, BIlly James, Jack Cooke, W.E. "Big Bill" Lister, Al Alberts and Bob Keane

Eric Woolfson, co-founder of the 1970s British progressive-rock group Alan Parsons Project, known for the hits “Eye In The Sky” and “Don’t Answer Me,” died of cancer Dec. 2. He was 64.

After the Alan Parsons Project disbanded in the 1990s, Woolfson continued to work as a music producer and composer of musicals. His musical “Edgar Allan Poe” is currently playing in Berlin.

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According to a report in the Philadelphia Daily News, guitarist Jack Rose died Dec. 5 of an apparent heart attack. He was 38.

Rose originally made a name for himself as the guitarist for Pelt in the ’90s, then began a solo career as an acoustic guitarist in 2001. The self-taught Rose played acoustic six- and 12-string guitar and lap steel guitar.

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Irish balladeer Liam Clancy, last of the Clancy Brothers troupe, died Dec. 4 in a Cork hospital. He was 74.

He had suffered for years with incurable pulmonary fibrosis, the same lung-destroying disease that claimed one of his older singing brothers, Bobby, in 2002.

Clancy emigrated to the U.S. in 1956 to join older brothers Tom and Patrick in New York City. After recording an album of Irish rebel songs, they grew a New York following and formed a partnership with Northern Ireland immigrant Tommy Makem. Scouts for the “Ed Sullivan Show” spotted them performing in Greenwich Village’s White Horse Tavern, and their 16-minute appearance in March 1961 on the program — extended because of the last-minute cancellation of another act — turned them into an Irish-American folk phenomenon.

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem performed at Carnegie Hall, toured Ireland, Britain, Australia and repeatedly throughout the U.S., and recorded more than a dozen albums before breaking up in 1974.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Liam and other Clancy brothers combined with a range of other Irish traditional musicians on tours of North America, Europe and Australia.

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Bess Lomax Hawes, who sang with Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, co-wrote The Kingston Trio hit “M.T.A.” and spent a lifetime documenting American folklore in recordings and films, died Nov. 27 at age 88.

In the 1940s, she had joined Guthrie, Seeger, her husband, Butch Hawes, and others in a popular, if loose-knit, folk group called the Almanac Singers.

In the late ’40s, Hawes and Jacqueline Steiner co-wrote “M.T.A.,” a whimsical, banjo-driven tale of a harried commuter named Charlie who gets on a Boston subway, learns he doesn’t have the proper fare and is never allowed to get off. It became a hit for The Kingston Trio a decade later.

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Jazz drummer Billy James died Nov. 20 at the age of 73.

James was originally from Pittsburgh and played with jazz greats Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Sonny Stitt and many others. He was a longtime mainstay at Philadelphia jazz clubs, including Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus and Chris’ Jazz Cafe.

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Jack Cooke, a longtime bluegrass bass player and singer with Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys, died Dec. 1. Cooke was 72.

He joined the Clinch Mountain Boys in 1970 and performed with the group until being sidelined by health problems early this year. In 2002, he performed on the Grammy-winning album Lost In The Lonesome Pines, a collection headlined by Jim Lauderdale and Stanley.

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W.E. “Big Bill” Lister, who toured as one of Hank Williams’ Drifting Cowboys and was dubbed “Radio’s Tallest Singing Cowboy,” died Dec. 1 at age 86.

Even though the 6-foot-7 cowboy never drank, his family said he needed a drinking song to record in 1951. Williams gave him a demo of “There’s a Tear in My Beer.” The demo ended up in Lister’s attic until he offered it to Hank Williams Jr. decades later.

Hank Jr. used the demo for a version of the song combining his voice with his father’s; it won a Grammy in 1990.

His family said Lister was performing nightly for crowds of 300-plus on a cruise from Galveston to the Caribbean until just a few months ago.

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Al Alberts, a founding member of The Four Aces, died Nov. 27 at the age of 87.

The Four Aces’ hits included “Three Coins in the Fountain,” “On the Way to Cape May” and “Love is a Many Splendored Thing.”

For more than three decades, he also hosted “Al Alberts Showcase,” a weekly TV talent show in Philadelphia featuring child singers and dancers. The show helped start the careers of local performers Andrea McCardle, Sister Sledge and Teddy Pendergrass.

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Del-Fi Records founder Bob Keane, who discovered rocker Ritchie Valens, died Nov. 28 at age 87.

Keane founded the West Coast independent label Del-Fi in the 1950s. In 1958, he discovered the 17-year-old Valens at a small concert and invited him to record in his home studio. Their brief association led to Valens’ hits “Come On, Let’s Go,” “Donna” and “La Bamba.”


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