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Obituaries for January 2013

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Jazz musician Donald Byrd, a leading hard-bop trumpeter of the 1950s who collaborated on dozens of albums with top artists of his time and later enjoyed commercial success with hit jazz-funk fusion records such as “Black Byrd,” died Feb. 4, 2013. He was 80.

Byrd, who was also a pioneer in jazz education, attended Cass Technical High School in Detroit, played in military bands in the Air Force and moved to New York in 1955. The trumpeter, whose given name was Donaldson Toussaint L’Ouverture Byrd II, rose to national prominence when he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers later that year, filling the seat in the bebop group held by his idol Clifford Brown. He soon became one of the most in-demand trumpeters on the New York scene, playing with Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk. He also began his recording career by leading sessions for Savoy and other labels.

In 1958, he signed an exclusive recording contract with the Blue Note label and formed a band with a fellow Detroit native, baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, making their label debut with the 1959 album “Off to the Races.” The band became one of the leading exponents of the hard-bop style, which evolved from bebop and blended in elements of R&B, soul and gospel music. A 1961 recording, “Free Form,” brought attention to a promising young pianist, Herbie Hancock.

In the 1960s, Byrd, who had received his master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music, turned his attention to jazz education. He was the first person to teach jazz at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and started the jazz studies department at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Byrd began moving toward a more commercial sound with the funk-jazz fusion album “Fancy Free” in 1969, taking a path followed by fellow trumpeters Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard. He teamed up with the Mizell brothers to release “Black Byrd” in 1973, a blend of jazz, R&B and funk that became Blue Note’s highest selling album at the time.

In 1982, Byrd, who also had a law degree, received his doctorate from New York’s Teachers College, Columbia University, and turned his attention from performing to education. A longtime resident of Teaneck, N.J., Byrd was a distinguished scholar at William Paterson University and twice served as an artist-in-residence at Delaware State University. Byrd didn’t have much training in mathematics but created a groundbreaking curriculum called Music + Math = Art, in which he transformed notes into numbers to simultaneously teach music and math.

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, he returned to playing hard-bop on several albums for the Landmark label. In 2000, the National Endowment for the Arts recognized Byrd as a Jazz Master, the nation’s highest jazz honor.


CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) — Paul Tanner, 95, a trombonist with the Glenn Miller Orchestra who later played the electro-theramin on the Beach Boys hit “Good Vibrations,” died Feb. 5, 2013, of pneumonia.

Tanner performed with Miller from 1938 to 1942. During his long career, he also worked as a movie studio and ABC musician in California, and performed with stars that included Tex Beneke, Henry Mancini and Arturo Toscanini.

A UCLA music professor and author, Tanner also helped to develop the electro-theramin, a keyboard-style electronic instrument.


LONDON (AP) — Reg Presley, lead singer on the garage-rock classic “Wild Thing” by The Troggs, died Feb. 4, 2013, following a year-long struggle with lung cancer. He was 71.

The Troggs, part of the British invasion spurred by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, perfected a simple, hard-driving approach to the three-minute rock song that was miles away from the lyrical art-rock of the Beatles or the poetic songs of Bob Dylan. The Troggs, all from the Andover area, had several other big hits, including “Love is All Around” and “With a Girl Like You.” The band faded in the 1970s but their songs were revived in the 1990s when REM and Wet Wet Wet released covers of the Troggs’ “Love Is All Around.”
A prolific songwriter, Presley helped found the Troggs in the 1960s while he was working as a bricklayer. Born Reg Ball, he took the stage name Presley at his manager’s suggestion.


Andrews Sisters Maxine Patty LaVerne

The Andrews Sisters (from left): Maxine, Patty and LaVerne. Publicity photo.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Patty Andrews, 94, the last surviving member of the singing Andrews Sisters trio known for supporting and entertaining World War II troops, died of natural causes Jan. 30, 2013.

Patty was the Andrews in the middle, the lead singer and chief clown, whose raucous jitterbugging delighted American servicemen abroad and audiences at home. She also delivered sentimental ballads like “I’ll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time” with a sincerity that caused hardened GIs far from home to weep.

From the late 1930s through the 1940s, the Andrews Sisters produced one hit record after another, beginning with “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen” in 1937 and continuing with “Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar,” ‘’Rum and Coca-Cola” and more. They recorded more than 400 songs and sold more than 80 million records. They worked with popular bands of the 1940s, fitting neatly into the styles of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, Woody Herman and Guy Lombardo, among others. They sang dozens of songs on records with Bing Crosby, including the million-seller “Don’t Fence Me In.”

The sisters’ popularity led to a contract with Universal Pictures, where they made a dozen low-budget musical comedies between 1940 and 1944. In 1947, they appeared in “The Road to Rio” with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. The trio continued until LaVerne’s death in 1967.


CINCINNATI (AP) — Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner, frontman for the hit-making funk music band the Ohio Players, died Jan. 26, 2013. He was 69.

Leroy Sugarfoot Bonner of The Ohio Players

Born in Hamilton, Ohio, Bonner teamed up in the 1960s with core members of a group called the Ohio Untouchables to form the Ohio Players. Known for brassy dance music, catchy lyrics and flamboyant outfits, the group topped music charts in the 1970s with hits such as “Love Rollercoaster,” “Fire,” “Skin Tight” and “Funky Worm.” Bonner had remained active in recent years with a spinoff band called Sugarfoot’s Ohio Players.

Bonner had said he learned about music in Hamilton, where he was the oldest of a large family, playing harmonica, learning guitar and sneaking into bars as an adolescent to play with adult musicians. He ran away from his home some 20 miles north of Cincinnati at age 14, and told the Hamilton Journal News in 2009 that he had only gone back there once.
He wound up in Dayton, where he connected with the players who would form the band.

Their lineup changed at times, but featured horns, bass, guitar, drums and keyboards. “We were players. We weren’t trying to be lead singers, but we became one of the first crossover singing bands,” Bonner told the Dayton Daily News in a 2003 interview. He said he initially played with his back to the audience, because he didn’t want to get distracted.