Obituaries: Estelle Bennett, Molly Bee, Blossom Dearie, Lux Interior and Tom Brumley

Estelle Bennett, 67, one of the Ronettes, was found dead in her Englewood, N.J., apartment Feb. 11, 2009. The time and cause of death have not been determined.

The Ronettes — sisters Veronica “Ronnie” and Estelle Bennett and their cousin Nedra Talley — signed with Phil Spector’s Philles Records in 1963. The trio was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2007.

The Ronettes’ recording of “Be My Baby” epitomized the famed “wall of sound’’ technique of its producer, Phil Spector; the song hit No. 2 on Billboard magazine’s pop-music chart in 1963. The group’s other hits were “Walkin’ In The Rain” and “Baby I Love You.” After the group’s breakup around 1967, Bennett rarely made public appearances.

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Molly Bee, 69, the country singer who shot to fame at age 13 with the 1952 novelty hit “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,’’ died Feb. 7, 2009, at a hospital in Ocean-side, Calif., of complications following a stroke, said her manager, Rick Saphire.

Born Mildred Nungester Wolfe, Bee was just 10 when she started her music career, singing the Hank Williams classic “Lovesick Blues” on country star Rex Allen’s radio show. Three years later, she had a hit song and a regular role on “Hometown Jamboree,” a Los Angeles country-western TV show.

She made her movie debut in 1954 in “Corral Cuties,” opposite country star Tennessee Ernie Ford, with whom she had recorded the duet “Don’t Go Courtin’ In A Hot Rod Ford” the year before. She also recorded such songs as “Young Romance,” “5 Points Of A Star’’ and “Don’t Look Back.’’

Bee had a regular role on Ford’s TV variety show and played Pinky Lee’s sidekick on “The Pinky Lee Show.”

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Blossom Dearie, 82, a classically trained pianist who transformed herself into a jazz singer with a baby-doll voice heard in New York and London cabarets for three decades, died Feb. 7, 2009, of natural causes.

Born in East Durham, N.Y., Marguerite Blossom Dearie was a member of The Blue Flames by the mid-1940s. Dearie began her solo career in postwar Paris. She signed a six-album contract with jazz impresario Norman Granz, the owner of Verve Records. Dearie appeared regularly at London nightclubs in the 1960s.

In 1974, she founded Daffodil Records, writing the music to lyrics by Johnny Mercer and others. She sang several songs in the “Schoolhouse Rock” educational series, including “Figure Eight.”

Her last record was the 2003 single “It’s All Right To Be Afraid,’’ dedicated to victims and survivors of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. She last performed in 2006 at a cabaret in midtown Manhattan.

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Punk pioneer Lux Interior, 60, co-founder and lead singer of The Cramps, died Feb. 4, 2009, of a pre-existing heart condition at a hospital in Glendale, Calif., according to a publicity statement.

Interior, whose real name was Erick Lee Purkhiser, met his future wife Kristy Wallace — who would later take the stage name Poison Ivy — in California in 1972.

The pair moved to New York and started The Cramps with Interior on lead vocals and Ivy on guitar. The group became an essential part of the late 1970s early punk scene centered at the Manhattan clubs CBGB and Max’s Kansas City.

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Steel guitarist Tom Brumley, 73, who performed with Buck Owens and Rick Nelson, died Feb. 3, 2009 at Northeast Baptist Hospital in San Antonio. He had suffered a heart attack Jan. 26.

Brumley played steel guitar with Buck Owens and The Buckaroos from 1963 to 1969 and also played on Nelson’s “Live at the Troubadour’’ album in 1969.

The son of legendary Gospel songwriter Albert E. Brumley, Tom Brumley started playing bass in a band with his brothers at age 14. He was honored for his steel guitar work by the Academy of Country Music. He also was a member of the Texas Steel Guitar Hall of Fame and International Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. From 1989 to 2003, Tom Brumley appeared at The Brumley Family Music Show in Branson, MO.

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