Obituaries: Kenny Rankin, Huey Long, Bob Bogle, Brian “Renfield” Nelson, Sky Saxon and Harve Presnell

by  Goldmine Staff and The Associated Press

Kenny Rankin, a pop vocalist and musician-songwriter whose 50-year music career ranged from jazz to pop, died June 7 of complications relating to lung cancer. He was 69.

Rankin, who began with a handful of singles for Decca Records in the late 1950s, first gained acclaim as one of the guitarists on Bob Dylan’s 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home. He wrote and recorded the pop standard “Peaceful” and also wrote “In The Name of Love,” which was recorded by Peggy Lee, and “Haven’t We Met,” performed by Carmen McRae and Mel Torme.

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Huey Long, a jazz guitarist whose career included stints with musical giants Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker and as part of the Ink Spots vocal group, died June 10 at the age of 105.

Long joined Earl “Fatha” Hines, whose big band included Gillespie, Parker and Sarah Vaughn, in 1943. In 1945, Long was leading his own trio when vocalist Bill Kenny invited him to join the Ink Spots, whose velvet harmonies and flashy performing style had helped them become one of the first black groups to gain acceptance among white listeners.

The Ink Spots, whose recordings included such classics as “If I Didn’t Care” and “I’ll Get By,” along with songs “I Cover The Waterfront” and “Java Jive” later reinvented for newer generations, were inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1987 and into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1989. They are often credited with having a direct influence on the evolution of doo-wop groups and rhythm and blues.

Long went on to form his own combo and studied music in California. He also led a version of the Ink Spots in the 1960s.

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Bob Bogle, who cofounded the Ventures with Don Wilson, died June 14 at the age of 75.

The Ventures scored their first hit in 1960 with their version of the song “Walk, Don’t Run.” It sparked a remarkable run that saw the Ventures chart with 38 albums from 1960 to 1972, selling more than 100 million records. Their hits included “Perfidia,” “Telstar/The Lonely Bull” and the theme from TV’s “Hawaii Five-O.”

Although Bogle hadn’t played live with the band in four years, he remained active in recording and producing. The Ventures were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2008 and celebrated the 50th anniversary of the group’s founding in April 2009.

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According to an announcement made June 14 on Alice Cooper’s MySpace page, Cooper’s longtime archivist and personal assistant, Brian “Renfield” Nelson, has died. The announcement reads, in part “It was a sudden, completely unexpected, and untimely passing. We would appreciate it if you would keep him in your thoughts, appreciate his many contributions to Alice’s life and career over the years, and respect Brian’s privacy and the privacy of Alice and his extended family (at home and on tour) at this time. Alice is currently on tour in Russia, because the show must go on, which is as Brian would have wanted it.”

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Sky Saxon, lead singer and founder of the 1960s band The Seeds, died June 25 after a brief illness. Saxon was in his 60s, but described his age as “eternal.”

The Seeds sprang up in California, and their garage-band sound became a favorite of the flower-power generation. They had two hit singles in 1967 with “Pushin’ Too Hard” and “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine” and their song “Mr. Farmer” was included in the soundtrack for the movie “Almost Famous.”

Saxon had recently moved to Austin, where he played with his new band, Shapes Have Fangs. He had been planning to perform this summer with the California ’66 Revue, a tour featuring a lineup of California bands from the 1960s.

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Harve Presnell
, whose booming baritone graced such Broadway musicals as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and “Annie,” died of cancer June 30 at the age of 75.

An operatic singer, Presnell was cast alongside Liberace and the British rock group Herman’s Hermits in 1965’s “When the Boys Meet the Girls” and with Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood in “Paint Your Wagon” in 1969.


by  Goldmine Staff and The Associated Press

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