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In Memoriam February 2022: Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker, King Crimson and Foreigner co-founder Ian McDonald, members of America, The Five Americans, Skylark, The Manhattans, Sandy Nelson and more

Drummer Joe Vitale remembers Sandy Nelson and Houserocker Joe Grushecky pays tribute to legendary Pittsburgh record store owner Jerry Weber
Feb 2022 Procol

Gary Brooker Procol Harum leader, co-founder, vocalist, pianist and composer Gary Brooker passed away February 19 at age 76. The British group debuted in the U.S. Top 40 with the iconic “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” which reached No. 5 in 1967. The following year, he married his spouse, Franky.

In 1972, the classic album Procol Harum Live in Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra was released, which contained the group’s second-highest charting single in the U.S., “Conquistador.”

In 2002, Brooker performed The Beatles flip side “Old Brown Shoe” in the George Harrison tribute Concert for George, which he stated was one of his life’s most special moments in his 2011 Goldmine interview, “I was in the band, playing at Albert Hall that night with those people, with those songs, with that audience. It was an absolutely unforgettable experience. I think it comes across on the DVD as well. It was a great moment to be there.” The following year, Queen Elizabeth made him an MBE, Member of the Order of the British Empire, for his services to charity.

In 2021, Procol Harum released the EP Missing Persons. Brooker told Goldmine, “They are fairly new songs and recordings and fit very much with the world at the moment with the lockdown.” From the EP, the title song “Missing Persons (Alive Forever)” was among Goldmine’s Fabulous Songs of 2021.

King Crimson’s 1969 debut album “In The Court of the Crimson King”

King Crimson’s 1969 debut album “In The Court of the Crimson King”

Ian McDonald King Crimson and Foreigner co-founder and multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald passed away February 9 at age 75. In 1969, King Crimson debuted with the album In the Court of the Crimson King, with all songs co-written by McDonald, who Goldmine interviewed in 2017 and 2019. McDonald told Goldmine, “I used a Baldwin electric harpsichord on the finale ‘The Court of the Crimson King.’ ” This 1969 classic rock song was covered by jazz trumpeter Doc Severinsen the following year. McDonald shared, “It was quite a compliment being recorded by Doc Severinsen. What a great trumpeter!” King Crimson’s debut album began with “21st Century Schizoid Man,” which was covered by Canada’s April Wine at the end of the following decade. After leaving King Crimson, McDonald’s sax was heard on T. Rex’s 1971 hit “Bang a Gong.” McDonald said, “Here is a little bit of trivia for Goldmine. ‘Bang a Gong,’ called ‘Get it On’ in England where it reached No. 1, is my only No. 1 claim to fame.”

Foreigner’s 1977 self-titled debut album

Foreigner’s 1977 self-titled debut album

In 1977, Ian McDonald was a co-founding member of Foreigner and remained with the group for the first three albums, playing keyboards and other instruments, including saxophone. McDonald revealed, “One of my little trademark things is putting multiple saxophones on a recording with intermittent sax lines that are in three-part harmony. During McDonald’s time in Foreigner in the 1970s, the sextet reached the Top 40 eight times with “Feels Like the First Time,” “Cold As Ice,” “Long, Long Way From Home,” “Hot Blooded,” “Double Vision,” “Blue Morning, Blue Day,” “Dirty White Boy” and “Head Games.”

Most recently, McDonald co-led the group Honey West with Ted Zurkowski. Their album Bad Old World reached No. 1 on Goldmine’s Fabulous Albums of 2017.

America’s 1976 “Hideaway” album with Willie Leacox 2nd from right

America’s 1976 “Hideaway” album with Willie Leacox 2nd from right

Willie Leacox Longtime drummer for the band America Willie Leacox passed away February 2 at age 74. Leacox debuted with the band on 1974’s Holiday album, which included the Top 10 hits “Tin Man” and “Lonely People” and remained with the group for over 40 years until retiring.

Feb 2022 Five

Mike Rabon “Western Union” reached No. 5 in 1967 by The Five Americans, co-written and sung by Mike Rabon, who passed away February 11 at age 79. The Dallas quintet achieved their Top 40 debut in the prior year with “I See the Light,” and their other Top 40 hits were “Sound of Love” and “Zip Code.” In the early 1970s, after The Five Americans disbanded, Michael Rabon & Choctaw released an album and a pair of non-charting singles. Rabon returned to the Top 100 in 1972 as a member of the Texas band Gladstone. Their song “A Piece of Paper” reached No. 45. On the last weekend of that decade, Rabon married his wife, Carla, in Hugo, Oklahoma, where Rabon served as a teacher and principal at Hugo schools for many years. After retirement, he authored five books including the autobiography High Strung with a focus on The Five Americans.

Skylark’s 1972 self-titled album with Donny Gerard on the left

Skylark’s 1972 self-titled album with Donny Gerard on the left

Donny Gerrard Skylark’s lead singer on the Top 10 hit “Wildflower,” Donny Gerrard, passed away February 3 at age 75. This Canadian group was comprised of Gerrard, Duris Maxwell, B.J. Cook and David Foster, who went on to be a successful producer and songwriter.

Feb 2022 Sister

Sister Janet Mead In the early 1970s era of Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell, a rock version of “The Lord’s Prayer” made the Top 40 by Australian Sister Janet Mead, who passed away January 26 at age 83. The gold single reached No. 4 in 1974, and Mead donated all the proceeds to charity. The original intended A side, Mead’s cover of Donovan’s “Brother Sun and Sister Moon” was relegated to the flip side.

Feb 2022 Sandy

Sandy Nelson Drummer Sandy Nelson, known for his pair of Top 10 instrumentals “Teen Beat” from 1959 and “Let There Be Drums” from 1961, passed away February 14 at age 83. Regarding Nelson’s debut Top 10 hit, drummer Joe Vitale, known for his work with Joe Walsh, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and others told Goldmine, “I wore out two or three records of Sandy Nelson's ‘Teen Beat.’ It was so much fun playing along and learning all his parts. My dad finally said, ‘Hey, I like that music.’ Sandy opened up a new way to feature the drums and every drummer I know loved his work. He set a whole new bar in drumming! What a legend! RIP Sandy Nelson.”

Betty Davis, 1970s publicity photo by Robert Brenner

Betty Davis, 1970s publicity photo by Robert Brenner

Betty Davis Funk-soul singer-songwriter Betty Davis, born Betty Mabry, passed away February 9 at age 77. In 1967, her composition “Uptown (to Harlem)” gave The Chambers Brothers their first charting single, and a live version is the opening number on the soundtrack for Questlove’s Summer of Soul film. Davis, who was briefly married to jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, charted twice in the following decade on the R&B charts with “If I’m in Luck I Might Get Picked Up” and “Shut Off the Lights.”

Feb 2022 Howard

Howard Grimes Drummer Howard Grimes, known for his work in Memphis with Stax and Hi Records, passed away February 12 at age 80. After being a critical figure in the early years at Stax, Grimes made his lasting legacy as a member of the famed Hi Rhythm Section, heard on classic Top 40 hits “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green, “I Can’t Stand the Rain” by Ann Peebles and many more. His influential drumming will be heard on the album Live in Memphis by Ann Peebles & the Hi Rhythm Section, recorded at a February 1992 concert and being released April 29 on vinyl LP, CD and digital formats on Memphis International Records.

Syl Johnson Soul and blues singer and guitarist Syl Johnson passed away February 6 at age 85. His most successful single was his version of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” in 1975 on the Hi label, which reached No. 48 on Billboard’s pop chart and No. 7 on the R&B chart, where his singles spanned 1967 through 1982.

Hargus “Pig” Robbins Country Music Hall of Fame pianist Hargus “Pig” Robbins passed away January 30 at age 84. In addition to his own albums, Robbins was heard on several albums by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers along with many country, rock and folk performers.

David Tyson The Manhattans welcomed David Tyson to the R&B vocal group in 1993, and he continued as a member until his passing on February 17 at age 62. In his 2019 Goldmine interview, The Manhattans founding member and lead vocalist Gerald Alston said, “Ron Tyson was with The Temptations and recommended his brother David to us, as a tenor. David has been really wonderful and has come through for us.”

Mark Lanegan Screaming Trees lead singer Mark Lanegan passed away February 22 at age 57. Lanegan’s decade with Screaming Trees culminated in the group’s sole Hot 100 entry, “All I Know,” which reached No. 62 in 1996. He also co-wrote Queens of the Stone Age’s debut Top 100 single, “No One Knows,” which reached No. 51 in 2003, and was half of the duo The Gutter Twins. His final project was another duo, Dark Mark vs. Skeleton Joe, with Lanegan joined by Joe Cardamone, formerly of Icarus Line. Their album was released October 2021. In February 2022, Goldmine published Lanegan’s 10 Albums That Changed His Life, with artists ranging from The Sex Pistols to Roxy Music.

Jon Zazula Megaforce Records was founded in 1982 by Jon Zazula, who passed away February 1 at age 69, and his wife, Marsha, who passed away in 2021 at age 68. The couple married in 1979 and were fans of heavy metal and harder-edged rock groups. The label released the first recordings by Metallica, and through the years it issued efforts by The Black Crowes, Meat Puppets, Blue October and many others.

Jerry Weber The owner of Pittsburgh’s longstanding record store Jerry’s Records, Jerry Weber, passed away January 28 at age 73. In 1978, when Weber became the co-owner of his first record store, Steve Popovich signed Pittsburgh’s Iron City Houserockers to his Cleveland Entertainment Co. and secured a recording contract for the band, led by Joe Grushecky. Grushecky told Goldmine, “Jerry was an absolute legend and a fountainhead of musical knowledge. Spending time in his store was always a treat and an adventure, wondering, ‘What are we going to discover today kids?’ I remember when The Houserockers had some friends from Switzerland visit us here in Pittsburgh. Being music lovers, a trip to Jerry’s Records was a must. They thought they had died and gone to heaven and ended up purchasing several hundred dollars worth of vinyl, all the while marveling at Jerry’s willingness to share his time and insights. He will be missed. This is certainly an end of an era.”