2016 was certainly one for the history books
In the political universe, 2016 was the year for the craziest, most divisive election in the modern history of the United States. While a few of my associates will be celebrating this bizarre moment where all the normal rules were tossed by the wayside, so many of us are truly dreading to see what happens next.
If there was a unifying theme of 2016, it was an excess of deaths for some very talented people – musicians, actors, writers and various good people that made a real difference in making the world less bleak.
Last year – 2015 was a difficult one for the LOUIE project. We lost some principal members of the documentary project., as well as a beloved family member.
Last year, around this time, it took me a few days to write up an overview of those we lost in 2015.
This year –a bit more of the same, as more principal members of the documentary project have left us.
So, let try to summarize the year that was, or at least, my personal thoughts on the people we lost last year.
Frankie Lee was someone I failed to mention in my 2015 wrap-up. Between the years of 1999 to 2001, I was a writer, researcher and associate producer for Blues Express, a television production company and record label based in San Francisco. I worked closely with Frankie, helping produce a video segment on his life story, as well as writing liner notes for his CD release “Here I Go Again.”
I really enjoyed working with Frankie, and that album in particular, which I was proud to be involved with. Members of the Etta James band were backed up Frankie on that album, including Etta’s sons Sametto James and Donto James, who coincidentally married Richard Berry’s daughter Christy.
I was saddened to hear that Frankie died of cancer on April 24, 2015.
Meanwhile, let’s go over some of the losses of 2016…
Long John Hunter
Long John Hunter was another musician I was honored to work with in conjunction the Blues Express TV program. Like Frankie Lee, Long John was a blues musician that came from Texas. Around that time, Norton Records had just reissued some of his early 1950’s recordings from El Paso. He was a blues player with some really great stories, and I was more than happy to capture some of those moments with the interview I conducted. (January 4)
David Bowie’s death caught so many of us off-guard that it initially felt like a hoax. As the sad news was confirmed, his passing ignited a floodgate of emotional tributes. On this LOUIE site, I noted one of his earliest recordings –a cover version of Paul Revere & Raiders’ LOUIE answer song – “Louie Go Home”; the significance of the year 1983 as a moment when both Bowie + the KFJC LOUIE Marathon broke out to a much bigger audience; and the unlikely connection between “Fame” and Richard Berry’s old band, The Flairs.
As the impact of David Bowie’s legacy continued to be analyzed and celebrated throughout 2016, there were a considerable number of people that planted the idea that David Bowie was the one that really should have received TIME magazine’s Person of the Year award… which inspired the fake TIME magazine graphic shown above… (January 10)
RIP: David Bowie (aka Davie Jones) – LOUIE of the Week
David Bowie + LOUIE LOUIE part 2 / Les Dantz – LOUIE of Week
David Bowie + LOUIE connection part 3 / Footstompin’ – non-LOUIE of the Week
Blowfly (aka Clarence Henry Reid) was an inspired creature that discovered a way to fuse funk soul music, rockin’ oldies, rap hip hop and comical obscenity into an absurd art form. Countless hours were laughing along with his not-ready-for-radio “Oldies But Goodies” parodies of 50s rock ‘n’ roll standards. You categorize this one as a guilty pleasure, not designed to be shared with children or those that might be easily offended (January 17)
Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane / Starship was truly a San Francisco institution. We (the LOUIE production team) would see him all over town – drinking coffee in North Beach, catching a punk or hippy music show, walking around in Golden Gate Park, or simply performing at one his own shows as the leader of the Jefferson Starship. The LOUIE production team was honored to work with Kantner on a handful of projects for a various clients. (January 28)
Signe Toly Anderson
Ironically, Jefferson Airplane co-founder Signe Toly Anderson, passed away in Oregon on the same day as her old band mate Paul. (January 28)
Buck Munger was a dedicated advocate for music in his home state of Oregon. When Norm Sunholm of the Kingsmen and his brother Conrad decided to market their customized high-powered amplifiers, they created the Sunn Musical Equipment Company in 1965. As they continued to grow their company, they hired Buck Munger to represent their company with an office in California to promote their products and line up endorsement deals. Thanks to Buck, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Who both endorsed the products of this company, helping transform this company into a major player in the late 1960s. After his run with Sunn, Buck wound up working with Norlin (manufacturer of Gibson and Moog products) and Billboard magazine before moving back to Portland, Oregon, where he launched TWO LOUIES, a regional music trade public publication. Buck did a lot of great things in his hometown – a lot of celebrations as well as inspiring the eventual creation of the Oregon Music Hall of Fame. He provided some great support for the LOUIE documentary project and will be severely missed. (April 19)
RIP: Buck Munger, publisher of Two Louies, NW music industry legend
Prince. A super-talented singer songwriter with eccentric tendencies.
Author of a song called “Hey Louie Louie,” which has been called “best song ever” as well as “funny as hell” and “just stupid.”
A musician with a wealth of previously-unheard material that may or may not be released in the near future. (April 21)
RIP: Prince Nelson, musician extraordinaire (with a semi-Lost LOUIE of Week?)
Good ol’ Candye Kane. A dynamo blues singer. A beautiful being that believed in empowerment, promoting healing, love, and self-acceptance of one’s body – whatever size, shape or hue it may be. She fought her cancer for many years, and actively helped others that were also dealing with cancer She put up a damned good fight, but unfortunately lost the battle. Those that knew her, truly loved her. (May 6)
Remembering Candye Kane – Non-LOUIE of the Week
Jim Manolides was a member of one of the earliest musical groups to cover Richard Berry’s LOUIE LOUIE. Jim was a founding member of the Frantics, whose first record (“Straight Flush”) made the Billboard Top 100 chart in 1959. While the Frantics may not have recorded LOUIE LOUIE, they did perform the song regularly in the Seattle area in the late 1950s. According to Jim, he was the guy that taught the lyrics to Rockin Robin Roberts, the guy who recorded what many people consider the definitive version of the song. Not only did Jim play LOUIE LOUIE before the Kingsmen made it famous, but with his band James Henry & the Olympics, he also recorded the song “My Girl Sloopy” before the McCoys picked it and renamed it “Hang On Sloopy.” As our pal Barry Curtis stated, “Jimmy was opinionated and did not suffer fools, but once any of us got to really know him, we had a friend for life.” (May 9)
RIP: Jim Manolides, legendary musician with Frantics, Dave Lewis, and more….
Seaside Memories with James Henry & the Olympics
James Henry & Olympics – Sloopy (LOUIE-mutant) of the Week
Between Richard Berry and Rockin’ Robin Roberts
Gary S. Paxton
Gary S. Paxton was a friend that lived a life filed with some truly incredible moments. As a teenager, he found early success as a singer-songwriter of Skip and Flip, a teenage duo with a hit song that sold a million records, and toured America with legendary DJ Alan Freed. After that partnership fell apart, he wound up forging a brief alliance with Kim Fowley, producing a lot of records together, including their own musical project (which evolved into an actual group), the Hollywood Argyles, which had a big hit with “Alley Oop.” From 1959 until the time of his passing, he produced thousands of records for a wide variety of musicians, with an assortment of #1 hit records in rock, country and gospel music. He survived a murder attempt on his life, character assassination attempts by tabloid media, multiple marriages, and became a reborn Christian that eventually found an everlasting love with Miss Vicki Sue, who was with him until the very end. He also produced some excellent records with Richard Berry after LOUIE LOUIE, and also wound recording the very first album by Paul Revere & the Raiders, years before they signed to Columbia Records. (July 16)
RIP: Gary S. Paxton, legendary music producer
When it comes to finding an advocate for the legacy of music from the Pacific Northwest, and the Seattle-Tacoma area in particular, one would be hard-pressed to find a stronger player than Buck Ormsby. As a key member of the Fabulous Wailers, and a co-owner of Etiquette Records, one of the earliest artist-owned record labels of the Northwest, Buck was a true pioneer that forged a path in uncharted territory. With Little Bill Engelhart, they formed The Blue Notes, which was considered the very first rock band of Tacoma, and they also discovered Rockin’ Robin Roberts, who would later transform Richard Berry’s ditty into the rock ‘n’ roll archetype adopted by the Kingsmen and a gazillion other bands. As the primary mover behind Etiquette Records, Buck also discovered and produced the Sonics, whose ragged style provided the primordial ooze for what would eventually be labeled punk. As my friend Alec Palao so eloquently stated, “Buck Ormsby proffered no agenda other than to keep the faith for what he felt need nurturing and preserving: real rock’n’roll.” (October 29)
RIP: Buck Ormsby of Fabulous Wailers + Etiquette Records
Dave Marsh on Buck Ormsby
More on Buck Ormsby + Song of the Week
The beautiful poetry of Leonard Cohen, set to music, provided some wonderful elements to the ongoing life soundtrack for many of us. When faced with an unexpected financial crisis late in his life, he returned to public performances for the first time in many years, discovering the biggest audience of his career during his golden twilight of his life! (November 7)
Leon Russell was a musician that was highly respected by fellow musicians. As singer, songwriter, and session player, he was involved with a LOT of top-selling musical recordings over the course of his 60-year career. During an early part of his career, he filled for Paul Revere for a few weeks when the leader of Paul Revere & the Raiders was unable to perform. He also recorded with Richard Berry for some of Richard’s final studio recordings. (November 13)
RIP: Leon Russell / duet with Richard Berry – unreleased song of the week
Billy Miller was a true champion for the foot-stomping, hip-shaking, soulful roots music we call rock ‘n’ roll. Along with his beloved companion / partner Miriam Linna, they established an incredible legacy designed to honor, archive and celebrate in the grandest possible manner, the rich heritage of American garage rock music with their Norton Records label, Kicks magazine and their musical group, The A-Bones. (Nov 13)
RIP: Billy Miller of Norton Records / A-Bones (with a LOUIE relative of the Week)
My friend Raul Vega was an extremely talented artist based in the San Jose area. He created some beautiful illustrations, had an unforgettable laugh, and was one of the most generous people I’ve ever known. Back in the 1980s, he, Phil Tiger, and Lisa Venuti were part of a special art collective / live/ workspace known as “Sector Four,” all of which was eventually bulldozed and transformed into another generic shopping center in Santa Clara. Before that particular renovation, they were the subject of a cover story for the March 9, 1986 issue of San Jose Mercury News – West magazine with the title “San Jose’s Lonely Bohemians.”
Of course, nothing lasts forever. Lisa moved out of California, Phil died in 2012, and we just lost Raul a few months ago. “Be a slave to art and die happy” was their mantra. (November 17)
When Richard Berry visited England in 1993, George Michaels was one of the big name British musicians that was anxious to meet him. (December 25)
Blue Johnson aka Bangkok Blue
Right after I assembled most of this article, I realized I failed to mention the passing of Blue Johnson aka Bangkok Blue, who did a jazzy remix of Richard Berry‘s original version, which he shared with the world on YouTube.
About a month after I made contact with him, and showcased his version on this website, he passed away.
Here’s some more names whose passings I would like to acknowledge, which I know is an incomplete list….
Keith Emerson – keyboardist, songwriter (March 11)
Merle Haggard – singer, songwriter, legend (April 6)
Betty Babjak – wife of Smithereens guitarist Jim Babjak. (February 24)
Pete Fountain – jazz clarinetist (August 6)
Mose Allison – singer, songwriter (November 15)
Sharon Jones – singer with the the Dap-Kings (November 18)
Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire of Oakland w/36 deaths (December 2)
Greg Lake – singer, songwriter, guitarist with Emerson Lake Palmer, King Crimson (December 7)
Santiago Avila – the beloved “Uncle Sandy” that inspired one of my favorite people, Robert Armstrong to become “Big Sandy” (December 22)
Don “Duck” Edwing – MAD magazine writer – artist (December 26)
Carrie Fisher – actress, writer, humorist (December 27)
Debbie Reynolds – Actress, singer, dancer, businesswoman (December 28)
– ERIC PREDOEHL of LouieLouie.net