Obituaries: Kelly Groucutt, Randy Bewley, Louie Bellson, Snooks Eaglin, Joe Cuba and Billy Wilson

by  Goldmine Staff and The Associated Press

Kelly Groucutt, former bass player with 1970s rockers Electric Light Orchestra, died Feb. 19, 2009, in Worcester, central England, after having a heart attack. He was 63.

Formed in Birmingham, England, in 1971 ELO combined rock ’n’ roll with orchestral arrangements replete with string sections, choirs and symphonic sweep. Groucutt joined ELO in 1974 after leaving his previous band, Sight And Sound. He played bass and sang during ELO’s heyday as one of the world’s biggest rock acts. ELO had a string of chart hits during the 1970s and early 1980s, including “Livin’ Thing,” “Mr. Blue Sky” and “Don’t Bring Me Down.’’

Groucutt left the band in 1983 but later toured with several successor acts, including ELO Part II and The Orchestra.

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Randy Bewley, guitarist for the Athens, Ga., band Pylon, died Feb. 25, 2009, two days after suffering a heart attack, at Athens Regional Medical Center, the Athens Banner-Herald reports. He was 53.

Bewley and bassist Michael Lachowski founded Pylon in 1978, and the band released four original full-length albums from 1980 to 1990 before disbanding in 1991, when Bewley left the band. The band reunited in 2005 and had been playing local dates and touring on and off since then.

Fellow Athens musicians R.E.M. regularly cited Pylon as a major influence on their music.

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Big band and jazz drummer Louie Bellson, who performed with such greats as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman and his late wife, Pearl Bailey, died Feb. 14, 2009, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of complications of Parkinson’s disease following a broken hip in November, according to his wife, Francine. He was 84.

Bellson’s career spanned more than six decades, performing on more than 200 albums with jazz greats including Tommy Dorsey, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong.

He was designated a “master of jazz’’ in 1994 by the National Endowment for the Arts. Bellson wrote more than 1,000 compositions and arrangements in several genres, including jazz, swing, orchestral suites, symphonic works and ballets.

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Snooks Eaglin, a New Orleans R&B singer and guitarist who counted platinum-selling rockers Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Robert Plant and Bonnie Raitt among his fans, died Feb. 18, 2009, of a heart attack at Ochsner Medical Center. He was 72.

Eaglin, whose real name was Fird Eaglin Jr., played and recorded with a host of New Orleans giants, including Professor Longhair, the Wild Magnolias and pianist Allan Toussaint.

Blind from the time he was a child, Eaglin was a self-taught musician who learned to play the guitar by listening to the radio. One of Eaglin’s best-known songs was “Funky Malaguena.”

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Salsa band leader Joe Cuba, dubbed the “Father of Latin Boogaloo’’ for weaving a fluid, bilingual mix of musical influences, died Feb. 15, 2009, from complications of a persistent bacterial infection at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. He was 78.

Born Gilberto Calderon in 1931 in New York, Cuba led a six-member band with three singers who also played percussion and danced a routine. Albums such as 1966’s Bang! Bang! Push, Push, Push incorporated elements of salsa, Latin jazz and R&B and featured lyrics in both English and Spanish.

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Billy Wilson
, who drummed for the Rock Kings and worked with such greats as Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, died Nov. 24, 2008, in the living room of his East El Paso, Texas, home, the El Paso Times reports. Wilson’s death came shortly after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, according to his wife.

by  Goldmine Staff and The Associated Press

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