NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Billy Grammer, 85, known for the hits “Gotta Travel On” and “Bonaparte’s Retreat” and a long career on the Grand Ole Opry, died Aug. 10, 2011. He had suffered a heart attack in late March 2011.
A singer and guitarist who also was a Nashville recording session musician, Grammer performed regularly on the Grand Ole Opry beginning in 1959. He had his own syndicated television series in 1965.
Adapted from a British folk tune, “Gotta Travel On,” was a million-seller and the first hit for Nashville’s Monument Records.
Grammer also designed guitars, and a brand of flat-top came from a company he started in the 1960s. He donated his first model to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1969.
A much sought-after session man, he played guitar in recording sessions for Patti Page, Louis Armstrong, Eddy Arnold and many others.
The eldest of 13 children in a coal-mining family in Benton, Ill., Grammer spent his childhood on a farm, fishing the Wabash River and dreaming of becoming a mechanical engineer.
After high school, he served in the Army and took on an apprenticeship as a toolmaker. He made his way to Washington, D.C., where he was hired in the bands of Hawkshaw Hawkins and Grandpa Jones. He also appeared as a guitarist on Jimmy Dean’s television show. He then formed his own band and began performing as a solo artist.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jani Lane, 47, the former lead singer of the metal rock band Warrant, has died in Los Angeles. His body was found Aug. 11, 2011, in a Woodland Hills hotel. The cause of his death was not immediately known.
With his long blond hair and tight leather outfits, Lane embodied the excess of 1980s “hair metal” rock bands. He joined Warrant in 1984 and wrote such hits as “Heaven,” ‘’Down Boys” and “Cherry Pie.”
Lane had an on-and-off relationship with the band, leaving it in 1992 before returning and quitting again several times. In recent years, he appeared in VH1’s “Celebrity Fit Club” and made news for a drunken driving arrest.
JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — Marshall Grant, 83, a longtime member of country music superstar Johnny Cash’s original band, the Tennessee Two, died Aug. 7, 2011, following an aneurysm and stroke.
Grant was the last survivor of the group. He fell ill after rehearsing for a concert to raise funds for the restoration of Cash’s boyhood home, said Cash’s daughter, Rosanne Cash.
Grant and Luther Perkins were guitar-playing auto mechanics when they were introduced to Johnny Cash by Cash’s brother, Roy, a fellow mechanic, in Memphis in 1954. He played bass guitar in Cash’s band from 1954-80.
Grant then managed the Statler Brothers until they retired in 2002 and later wrote the autobiography “I Was There When It Happened.”
Grant had been in Jonesboro for a Johnny Cash Festival also featuring country music stars George Jones, Kris Kristofferson and Cash’s daughter and son, Roseanne Cash and John Carter Cash. The festival was a fundraiser to help restore Johnny Cash’s boyhood home near Dyess in northeast Arkansas.
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Gene McDaniels, who recorded the 1961 hit “A Hundred Pounds of Clay” and later wrote Roberta Flack’s chart-topping single “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” died July 29, 2011, following a brief illness. He was 76.
McDaniels’ first hit was “A Hundred Pounds of Clay,” which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard pop chart in 1961, the same year his song “Tower of Strength” hit No. 5. His other hits included “Point of No Return” and “Another Tear Falls.”
As his success as a pop singer faded, McDaniels emerged as a successful songwriter. Flack’s Grammy-nominated performance of “Feel Like Makin’ Love” hit No. 1 in 1974. McDaniels’ Web site says the song achieved more than 6 million performances and has been recorded on 400 albums. His songs also were recorded by Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Johnny Mathis and Ray Charles.
Even though McDaniels is best known for music that made the pop charts, his wife, Karen, says her husband’s first love was jazz. He was working on music projects as a singer, writer and producer until his death, releasing an album of his own as recently as 2009. McDaniels branched out into movies in his later years. According to his Web site, he got involved in writing and producing film and video. He also did video game and audio book voice-over work.
Born in Kansas City, Kan., McDaniels was raised in Omaha, Neb. His father was a minister; McDaniels sang in church choirs before leaving home for Los Angeles as a young man to break into the music business.
CHICAGO (AP) — Delois Barrett Campbell, a member of the award-winning Barrett Sisters trio who electrified audiences worldwide with their powerful gospel harmonies, died Aug. 2, 2011, after a long illness. She was 85.
Raised on Chicago’s South Side, The Barrett Sisters were coached to sing by an aunt and grew up to become what music critic Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune has called “the greatest female trio in gospel history.” Campbell was the eldest; Rodessa Barrett Porter and Billie Barrett GreenBey survive.
In the girls’ youth, Thomas A. Dorsey, now considered the father of gospel, was stirring up change as music director of the city’s Pilgrim Baptist Church. The Roberta Martin Singers, a touring gospel group, emerged from Pilgrim Baptist’s youth choir, and Campbell joined it when she was in high school. When they were young, the sisters practiced blending their voices on religious and secular songs.
They recorded their first album together, “Jesus Loves Me,” in the mid-1960s. New generations discovered the Barrett Sisters when they appeared in the 1982 documentary “Say Amen, Somebody.”
The film opened doors for the Barrett Sisters, Mary Campbell said. “That’s when they began their European travels,” she said. The sisters appeared in Patti LaBelle’s 1990 television special “Going Home to Gospel.” In 2008, they received the Ambassador Bobby Jones Legend Award at the Stellar Awards, the national gospel music awards show.
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Dan Peek, 60, a founding member of the popular 1970s band America and singer of high harmonies on hits that included “A Horse With No Name” and “Ventura Highway,” was found dead July 24, 2011. The cause of his death was not released.
Peek was born Nov. 1, 1950, in Panama City, Fla. His father was in the Air Force, and the family frequently moved. He met America bandmates Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley in the late 1960s, while attending high school in London.
America was an almost instant sensation with songs featuring tight harmonies over catchy tunes. Peek played lead guitar on many of the songs, and wrote some of them, including the 1974 hit “Lonely People.”
All told, America racked up eight Top 40 hits, three platinum records and three gold albums from 1971 through 1975. The group’s 1971 album included the No. 1 hit “Horse With No Name.” Other hits followed, including “Tin Man,” “Sister Golden Hair,” and “Daisy Jane.”
Peek left America in 1977 and turned to contemporary Christian music. His first solo album in 1979, “All Things Are Possible,” reached No. 1 on the Contemporary Christian Music chart and was nominated for a Grammy Award. Beckley and Bunnell sang harmonies on the song, “Love Was Just Another Word.” It marked the last time the three recorded together, according to Billboard, though they occasionally reunited on stage.
CHESAPEAKE, Va. (AP) — Frank Foster, a jazz saxophonist who played with the Count Basie Orchestra and composed the band’s hit, “Shiny Stockings,” died July 26, 2011, of complications from kidney failure. He was 82.
Foster was recognized in 2002 by the National Endowment for the Arts as a Jazz Master, the nation’s highest jazz honor. According to the NEA, Foster’s many compositions included material for singers Sarah Vaughan and Frank Sinatra, and a commissioned piece written for jazz orchestra for the 1980 Winter Olympics: “Lake Placid Suite.”
Jazz big bands caught Foster’s attention when he was 12. Foster’s first instrument was clarinet, but at age 13 he took up the sax. During his 11-year tenure with Basie, Foster not only played tenor saxophone and other woodwinds but also contributed numerous arrangements and compositions for the band, including the jazz standard “Shiny Stockings,” Down for the Count” and “Back to the Apple.”
After Basie’s death, he returned to assume leadership of the Count Basie Orchestra from Thad Jones in 1986. He won two Grammy Awards while leading the band until 1995. He also had his own big band, Frank Foster’s Loud Minority. He also played as a sideman in drummer Elvin Jones’ combo and co-led a quintet with saxophonist-flutist Frank Wess, a fellow Basie veteran.
Foster also served as a musical consultant in the New York City public schools and taught at Queens College and the State University of New York at Buffalo. Although Foster was partially paralyzed by a stroke in 2001, his wife said he continued composing up until his death.
GLENDALE, Calif. (AP) — Versatile saxophone player Gil Bernal, 80, died of heart failure July 17, 2011.
He performed on the 1950s pop song “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” and worked with Spike Jones, Lionel Hampton and Ry Cooder.
Bernal was born in the Watts area of Los Angeles. He joined a band after high school, then sang with Lionel Hampton’s band, leaving in the early 1950s to form his own group and later joining bandleader Spike Jones. A tenor saxophonist, Bernal worked on several projects with Ry Cooder, including his 1997 Cuban music album, “Buena Vista Social Club.”
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Famed Colombian singer Joe Arroyo, composer of such salsa classics as “La Rebelion” and “Echao pa’lante” and “Tania,” died July 26, 2011, after a month-long hospitalization. He was 55.
The singer, whose given name was Alvaro Jose Arroyo, composed some 200 songs and performed with artists including Celia Cruz and Shakira.
He first appeared in the 1970s with the orchestra “Fruko y sus Tesos,” and formed his own band in Medellin in 1981 called “La Verdad.” Two years later, he moved to Barranquilla.
The Afro-Colombian performer “was very refined. He charmed everyone with his voice, with the enthusiasm and joy with which he sang,” the leader of Fruko y sus Tesos, Julio Estrada, told the AP. “He didn’t need any instrument” but his voice.
Although never winning a Grammy, Arroyo received several nominations. The Latin Recording Academy lauded Arroyo for crossing many styles including salsa, merengue and reggae, even creating his own style known as Joeson. It said it would celebrate him at a special awards ceremony in November.
ERIE, Pa. (AP) — Frank Martin, 85, a popular disc jockey in Erie for more than five decades, died July 25, 2011, after a short bout with lung cancer.
Martin began as a disc jockey at WJET-FM and was part of a popular morning team with Craig Warvel. He finished his career, retiring 55 years later, on July 2003 after working the final eight years of his career with WFGO-FM, also in Erie.
Wambaugh says family always came first to her father who was well known and dubbed “the Morning Mayor” by the late Erie Mayor Louis J. Tullio.