This edition of Goldmine's In Memoriam covers the musical heroes who we lost in the autumn of 2021.
In the future, we have moved In Memoriam to online, getting the news to you sooner.
Graeme Edge The British Invasion quintet The Moody Blues debuted in the U.S. Top 40 in early 1965 with “Go Now!” The single reached No. 10 with Graeme Edge on drums, who passed away November 11 at age 80 in Florida. Two years later, significant personnel changes happened in the group with guitarist Justin Hayward and bassist John Lodge joining the band for their creative orchestrated album Days of Future Passed. At the end of Hayward’s composition “Nights in White Satin,” there was a poem called “Late Lament” which Edge wrote, beginning with the words, “Breathe deep.” In his 2017 Goldmine interview Edge said, “I was trying to write a song lyric, and when I finished, I gave it to the boys and suggested they put some music to it. They said it was fabulous, but it was much too wordy to sing. Our producer Tony Clarke said that it was a poem and that I should just read it, but at the time my voice was too squeaky, so we asked our keyboardist Mike Pinder to deliver it because he had the right kind of voice. That became sort of a tradition and we became known for it, so one of my jobs became to sort of thread the needle with the theme of each album by writing a poem.”
The new members in The Moody Blues grew close to Graeme Edge. Justin Hayward said, “Graeme’s sound and personality is present in everything we did together and thankfully that will live on. In the late 1960s, we became the group that Graeme always wanted it to be, and he was called upon to be a poet as well as a drummer. He delivered that beautifully and brilliantly. Graeme and his parents were very kind to me when I first joined the group and for the first two years, he and I either lived together or next door to each other. We had fun and laughs all the way as well as making what was probably the best music of our lives.”
John Lodge quoted the poem “The Dream” from the group’s 1969 album On the Threshold of a Dream which opened with the line, “When the white eagle of the north is flying overhead.” Lodge said, “To me he was the white eagle of the north with his beautiful poetry, his friendship, his love of life and his unique style of drumming that was the engine room of the Moody Blues.” In his November 2021 interview with Goldmine, Lodge said, “Graeme was a great supporter of my solo efforts, and he contributed a reading of his poem ‘Late Lament’ from Days of Future Passed. I very much wanted him to voice his own poem. He recorded it for me, and I filmed him recording it. I do that on stage prior to ‘Nights in White Satin.’ Edge lived in Florida near Lodge, who told Goldmine, “I was speaking with Graeme all the while, and I spent an afternoon with him. My wife and I went to see him, along with my daughter Emily and Jon Davison. It was lovely. We talked about old times and about the future, and I gave him my new CD, and he was just tickled pink to have that. It was a really nice time with him, and he was great. He still had the twinkle in his eyes. So yes, it’s very sad, but I'm so pleased I was with him near the end. The important thing is that we had fifty years of real friendship. Graeme told his daughter he wanted to be sent into space. Hopefully his wish will come true.”
The seventh album, with what is considered the classic Moody Blues lineup, was called Seventh Sojourn. Side two began with a Hayward and Edge composition “You and Me” and ended with Lodge’s “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)” which was fun to watch live with Edge’s enthusiastic drumming. The group then took a break and issued solo and project albums in the mid-1970s including a pair from The Graeme Edge Band featuring Adrian Gurvitz, Kick Off Your Muddy Boots and Paradise Ballroom.
The group reunited in 1978 with the album Octave, followed by a personal favorite album of Edge’s, Long Distance Voyager featuring the Top 20 singles “Gemini Dream” and “The Voice.” The flip side of “The Voice” was Edge’s composition “22,000 Days,” inspired by what was considered to be the average life expectancy at the time, the chorus included the lines, “22,000 days, it’s not a lot, it’s all you got,” encouraging listeners to make the most of life, which Edge certainly did, spending close to 22,000 days as an iconic member of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s The Moody Blues.
Philip Margo The Brooklyn vocal group The Tokens debuted in the Top 40 in the spring of 1961 with “Tonight I Fell in Love,” co-written by the group’s Philip Margo, who passed away November 13 at age 79. Late that year, the group’s biggest hit debuted, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” That gold single spent three weeks at No. 1.
In 1964, The Tokens recorded the Gerry Goffin and Carole King composition “He’s in Town,” which peaked just below the Top 40. In the mid-1960s, they returned to the Top 40 twice with “I Hear Trumpets Blow,” which Margo co-wrote and “Portraits of My Love.” This was followed by the Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil composition “It’s a Happening World,” which was also recorded by Lesley Gore. Around the same time, The Tokens were producing another vocal group, The Happenings, who had Top Five hit singles with up-tempo covers of “See You in September” and “I Got Rhythm” on The Tokens’ B.T. Puppy label. The Tokens ended the decade with the gently beautiful “She Lets Her Hair Down (Early in the Morning).”
In the early 1970s, Margo, along with two other members of The Tokens, formed the vocal trio Cross Country, and their slowed down cover of Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour” reached No. 30 in 1973. The Tokens were inducted in the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004.
Stephen Sondheim Eight-time Tony Award winning lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim passed away November 26 at age 91. Sondheim’s storytelling lyrics helped to make the West Side Story movie soundtrack become the longest running No. 1 album in chart history for Billboard, spending 54 weeks in the top position in the early 1960s. In 1966, a bouncy tempo version of “Somewhere” from West Side Story gave Sondheim his Top 40 pop debut as a composer and became the second highest solo single for the Dovell’s Len Barry, a year after his solo Top 40 debut “1-2-3.” Barbra Streisand’s 1985 Broadway-style “Somewhere” single included another Sondheim composition on its flip side, “Not While I’m Around” originally from the musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon of Barber Fleet Street. Sondheim’s highest charting pop Top 40 composition was Judy Collins’ reading of “Send in the Clowns,” from A Little Night Music, the Tony Award winning musical with both lyrics and music written by Sondheim. The single reached No. 17 in 1977, the same decade that Alice Cooper included Sondheim’s West Side Story lyrics in the final minute of the song “Gutter Cat vs. The Jets” on the School’s Out album.
Billy Hinsche Dino, Desi & Billy were formed in 1964 by Dean Martin’s son Dean “Dino” Martin Jr., Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball’s son Desi Arnaz Jr. and their friend Billy Hinsche, who passed away November 20 at age 70. The trio reached the Top 40 twice in 1965 with the pop-rock hit “I’m a Fool” followed by the folk-rock song “Not the Lovin’ Kind,” written by Lee Hazelwood, who also supplied their next flip side, “The Rebel Kind,” with a garage rock sound. The trio reached the Top 100 for a final time in 1968 with Hinsche’s composition “Tell Someone You Love Them.” Their final single was 1970’s “Lady Love” which Hinsche co-wrote with Brian Wilson. Hinsche was Carl Wilson’s brother-in-law and he played guitar and keyboards on many of The Beach Boys’ albums in the 1960s and the 1970s, the same decade that he toured with the band as a keyboardist.
Keith Allison Paul Revere and The Raiders member from the late 1960s through the mid-1970s, Keith Allison, passed away November 17 at age 79. During his time with The Raiders, Allison was heard on hits including “Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon,” their sole gold single “Let Me” and the group’s sole No. 1 hit and platinum single “Indian Reservation.” He was also heard on The Monkees’ final Top 40 hit of the 1960s, “D.W. Washburn,” and toured with Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart in the mid-1970s. Later, Allison went solo (the album “Keith Allison in Action”) and even became involved in acting.
Sue Thompson Eva Sue McKee, who passed away September 23 at age 96, picked her stage name Sue Thompson from a telephone book and debuted with a pair of back to back releases in 1961, both written by John D. Loudermilk. The brokenhearted ballad “Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)” reached No. 5, followed by the fun and bouncy “Norman,” which reached No. 3 in early 1962. Thompson had three more Top 40 singles that decade, “Have a Good Time,” “James (Hold the Ladder Steady)” and “Paper Tiger.” Following those hits, Thompson traveled to Vietnam to entertain the troops followed by return trips to other parts of Asia. In the following decade, Thompson appeared in the country Top 40 three times, including two duets with Don Gibson.
Terence Wilson UB40 vocalist Terence “Astro” Wilson (above, middle, on picture sleeve) passed away November 6 at age 64. The British group reached No. 1 twice in the U.S. with reggae cover singles, first with Neil Diamond’s “Red Red Wine” in 1988 and again in 1993 with “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” which originally reached No. 2 in early 1962 for Elvis Presley. Wilson is the second UB40 member to pass away this year, following saxophonist Brian Travers, who passed away August 22 at age 62.
David Blatt Jay & The Americans’ second “Jay,” David “Jay Black” Blatt passed away October 22 at age 82. He was the lead singer on most of the vocal group’s hit singles. Jay & The Americans debuted in the Top 40 in 1962 with the song “She Cried,” the first of four Top 10 hits for the group and the only big hit sung by John “Jay” Traynor, who passed away in 2014. The first “Jay” left the group in 1963, due to a desire to not tour. Auditions were held and David Blatt became the second “Jay” for the group and was known as Jay Black. The group rebounded with the Top 40 hit “Only in America,” written by a combination of the songwriting teams Leiber and Stoller and Mann and Weil. The following year the group returned to the Top 10 with “Come a Little Bit Closer,” written by Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart and Wes Farrell.
1965’s Top 10 single “Cara Mia” earned Jay Black the nickname of “The Voice” among his fellow Americans. By mid-summer of 1966, Jay & The Americans departed from the Top 40 but made a tremendous comeback on January 25, 1969 with “This Magic Moment,” which had previously reached No. 16 at the beginning of the decade for The Drifters. Jay & The Americans’ version reached No. 6 and became their sole gold single. That updated nostalgic approach continued with their final Top 40 entry, “Walkin’ in the Rain,” which previously reached No. 23 for The Ronettes in 1964 and reached No. 19 in early 1970 for Jay & The Americans.
Jay Black was in the Top 100 for a final time in 1980 with the smooth ballad “The Part of Me That Needs You Most,” written by the pop writing duo Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn who provided Suzi Quatro and The Knack with hit singles in the 1970s.
Jay & The Americans are currently on tour with the powerful third “Jay,” Jay Reincke, along with the original Americans Sandy Deanne, Marty Sanders and Howie Kane, who stated, “We mourn David Blatt’s passing and acknowledge the great successes we had with him both as a partner and as a lead singer. We’ll always remember ‘The Voice.’”
George Frayne Commander Cody was the name adopted by vocalist and keyboardist George Frayne from a 1950s sci-fi film. In 1967, he formed the group Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen in San Francisco. The group’s western swing, country and rock blend fit in with other groups from that area’s era, a bit Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks and a bit Grateful Dead in sound, along with being a California parallel to Texas’ Asleep at the Wheel. Their cover of the 1955 Charley Ryan song “Hot Rod Lincoln” became a Top 10 hit in 1972. Similar in style, their single “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette),” a cover of a 1947 Tex Williams song, reached the Top 100 the following year. In total, the group reached the Top 100 four times. George Frayne passed away September 26 at age 77.
Ron Tutt Drummer Ron Tutt was a member of Elvis Presley’s band from 1969 through Presley’s death in 1977, playing on hit singles including “Burning Love” and Presley’s final charting single while he was alive “Way Down.” After Presley’s death, Tutt became Neil Diamond’s drummer for many years and played on Diamond’s final Top 40 hit “I’m Alive” in 1982. He was spotlighted on Diamond’s live albums Hot August Night II in 1987 and Hot August Night III in 2018. Tutt passed away October 16 at age 83.
Dan Hrdlicka Eric Carmen’s lead guitarist Dan Hrdlicka passed away October 5 at age 69. Hrdlicka’s Top 100 debut came in 1973 as a member of the Cleveland band Circus with “Stop, Wait & Listen.” After Circus, Dan was a member of the Cleveland band Magic, with Richard Reising and George Sipl on keyboards, Steve Knill on bass and D. Dwight Krueger on drums.
After The Raspberries disbanded in the mid-1970s, Eric Carmen recruited Magic along with drummer Mike McBride from The Raspberries to be his backing band as he embarked on a solo career and released his highly successful self-titled debut solo album, featuring three hit singles.
In 1976, Hrdlicka was in the Top 40 three times with Carmen’s gold single “All by Myself” followed by “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again” and “Sunrise.” Steve Knill told Goldmine, “We had such wondrous times together, being kids from Cleveland who got to live our dream, at least for a while, and then remain musicians our whole lives. Who could ask for more really? Finding the right spot for guitar solos is not easy in a band with different instrument combinations by song, but Dan did it. His tour de force was ‘Sunrise’ but his guitar playing on all the songs was stellar.” Richard Reising agreed, “Dan’s opening guitar and ending on ‘Sunrise’ was so cool.” Hrdlicka’s playing was reminiscent of what he previously brought to Magic’s cover of Elton John’s “Love Lies Bleeding.” Reising continued, “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” was Magic’s signature performance with great guitar soloing from Dan.” George Sipl added, “I realized in my reflections on our past that we never had one disagreement. That’s a lot to be said for two musicians who played together for over five years. In the studio we worked together on background vocals. With Dan’s powerful voice, they always asked him to step back from the microphone. He was always pitch perfect and was a pleasure to sing with.”
Reising and Sipl also sang with Hrdlicka in 1978 on the first single by The Euclid Beach Band called “There’s No Surf in Cleveland,” co-written by Reising.
Hrdlicka’s final vinyl release came in 1988, on the flip side of Eric Carmen’s Top Five hit “Make Me Lose Control,” with Carmen’s version of “That’s Rock ‘N Roll,” originally on his debut album and successfully covered by Shaun Cassidy.
Alan Lancaster Status Quo’s bassist Alan Lancaster passed away September 26 at age 72. Although the British group has achieved tremendous global success, including 22 Top 10 hits in their U.K. homeland, in the U.S. they are primarily known for the 1968 Top 40 psychedelic hit “Pictures of Matchstick Men.” Lancaster’s final performance with the group was in 1985 at the Live Aid concert, performing three songs including a popular U.K. cover of John Fogerty’s “Rockin’ All Over the World.”
Deon Estus In 1989, Deon Estus and George Michael reached No. 5 with the tender song they co-wrote “Heaven Help Me,” from his Estus’ album Spell. Estus played bass on albums by Wham! and George Michael’s first two solo albums, reaching the Top 10 seventeen times beginning with Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” in 1984 through Michael’s “Freedom” in 1990. Estus passed away October 11 at age 65.
Bob Moore In 1961, bassist and orchestra leader Bob Moore reached the Top 10 with the Latin instrumental hit “Mexico.” Previously he played bass on Elvis Presley recordings, including the No. 1 1959 single “A Big Hunk O’ Love” and created musical arrangements for Roy Orbison. Moore was the bassist on most of Patsy Cline’s recordings including the hits “I Fall to Pieces,” “Crazy” and “She’s Got You.” Bob Moore passed away September 22 at age 88.
Paddy Moloney In Dublin, Ireland in 1962, Paddy Moloney co-founded the The Chieftans, playing uilleann pipes and tin whistle, and married artist Rita O’Reilly, who survived him on his passing October 11 at age 83. The Chieftains, performing traditional Irish music, have achieved tremendous crossover appeal, joined by classical flautist James Galway in 1987 and rock’s Van Morrison in 1988 for a pair of successful albums, In Ireland and Irish Heartbeat, respectively.
Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis Alfred Ellis, known professionally as Pee Wee Ellis was a saxophonist, composer and arranger. He played in James Brown’s band in the late 1960s, co- writing the No. 1 R&B hits “Cold Sweat” and “Mother Popcorn.” In 1979, he joined Van Morrison for Morrison’s album Into the Music and performed on eleven more of Morrison’s albums over the next twenty years. Ellis passed away September 23 at age 80.
Larry Goshorn Pure Prairie League’s Larry Goshorn passed away on September 14 at age 73. Goshorn was a guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter for the Southern Ohio band from 1975 through 1978, between the Craig Fuller and Vince Gill eras. He appeared on five albums beginning with Two Lane Highway through Just Fly.
Everett Morton Ska drummer Everett Morton of The English Beat passed away October 8 at age 71. The British group charted just below the U.S. Top 100 in 1983 with “I Confess” at No. 104 and “Save It for Later” at No. 106. The group disbanded later that year and spawned two groups who achieved success in the U.S. in the 1980s, General Public and Fine Young Cannibals.
Robin McNamara One-hit wonder Robin McNamara passed away October 21 at age 74. McNamara reached No. 11 in 1970 with a catchy song he co-wrote “Lay a Little Lovin’ On Me,” with background vocals from his fellow cast members from the musical Hair. Months later, “Got to Believe in Love” was released as his next and final Top 100 single, which peaked at No. 80.
Ronnie Wilson Multi-instrumentalist Ronnie Wilson, from Tulsa’s The Gap Band, passed away November 2 at age 73. The funk trio was in the R&B Top 10 fourteen times from 1979 through 1990, including four No. 1 hits in the 1980s, the decade that they crossed over to the pop Top 40 twice in 1982 with “Early in the Morning” and “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” and released a series of fun videos.
Tom Gray Cyndi Lauper’s solo album debut She’s So Unusual began with her exciting performance of “Money Changes Everything,” written by Atlanta musician Tom Gray, who passed away October 16 at age 70. Gray’s band The Brains recorded “Money Changes Everything” on their 1980 debut album on Mercury and was released as a single, but it was the placement on Lauper’s album as the song before “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” which brought Gray’s composition the notoriety it deserved. After The Brains ended, Gray moved on to the band Delta Moon, a popular group in the Atlanta music scene.
Joe Siracusa Drummer for Spike Jones and His City Slickers, Joe Siracusa passed away on November 13 at age 99. During his time with the novelty orchestra in the 1940s, they achieved their sole No. 1 single with their version of “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth” in 1948, the same year that they reached the Top 10 with “William Tell Overture” filled with a horse racing narration and puns based on the horses’ names.
Mike Hoffmann Milwaukee, Wisconsin music scene legend Mike Hoffmann passed away October 24 at age 67. He was a member of the power pop band Yipes! with two albums on the Millennium label and the Americana group Semi-Twang on Warner Bros. In the Goldmine December 2021 article celebrating the 25th anniversary of the song “Closer to Free” BoDeans co-founder Sam Llanas told Goldmine, “My new album Ghosts of Yesterday’s Angels is produced by Mike Hoffmann, who recorded our early BoDeans songs, which got us signed to our record deal.” In addition to his work with BoDeans, Hoffmann also recorded with Herb Alpert, k.d. lang and opened for Lou Reed, The Clash, Cheap Trick, The Replacements, Wilco, and more, as Marshall Crenshaw’s bassist.
James Giombetti Another legendary Wisconsin music icon James “Mr. G” Giombetti, the owner of The Exclusive Company record store chain, passed away November 13 at age 80. Giombetti opened his first store in the mid-1950s and survived competition from discount stores, big box stores, and online music purchases and the record chain still operates seven stores across Wisconsin.
In Memoriam compiled and written by Warren Kurtz.