Obituaries, Feb. 2, 2023
Al Hooper, an East Coast country singer/songwriter, died at his home in St. George's, NB, on Jan. 27, at age 79.
Canadian country music authority Larry Delaney supplied FYI with this obituary.
"During the 1960's-'70s, one of the more prolific Canadian country recording acts was Al Hooper & The Blue Diamonds. The foursome featured the talents of Al Hooper. the late Doug Watters, Eddie Poirier and Roy MacCaull. They were based out of New Brunswick but worked the Toronto club scene primarily, backing some of Nashville's top touring acts of the day.
Among their many albums was the Live At Collins Bay Penitentiary LP on Paragon Records, which at the time rivaled the Johnny Cash "live" albums from Folsom Prison and San Quentin.
At one count during his heydays, it was reported that Al Hooper recorded or sang back-up on 36 albums and over 50 singles.
In recent years, Hooper continued to be active on the recording scene, releasing several new albums with his wife Brenda Hooper."
Evan Chick Roberts, a Toronto folk and blues musician, singer, guitarist, entertainer, archivist, and actor, has died at age 90.
He is best known as a member of '60s Toronto folk group The Dirty Shames. Local music historian Nicholas Jennings called Chick Roberts "a key figure in Toronto’s folk scene. A helluva nice guy too."
Roberts was a co-founder of the group The Sinners (1959-1963) prior to The Dirty Shames. The latter quartet was a Toronto folk band active from 1964 to 1968 and featured Roberts, guitarist Amos Garrett, Jim McCarthy, and singer Carol Robinson. After gaining prominence on the Yorkville scene, they moved to New York and became regulars at Andy Warhol’s The Dom club, and opened for the Velvet Underground. Amos Garrett would go on to play with Ian and Sylvia, Maria Muldaur (that’s his guitar solo on Midnight At The Oasis) and a host of other bands.
In an obituary posted on Facebook, Roberts' son Paul Boddum observed that "In Toronto’s legendary 1960's Yorkville Folk music scene, Chick was well known as an influential, passionate musical presence. The Dirty Shames performed at college concerts, coffee houses, nightclubs, and TV shows both in Canada and US. They initially played what the press described as 'folk-jug band-ragtime-fun' and the first 'modern commercial jug band.'"
"It was during this period that Amos and Chick took John Hammond, Jr. to see Levon and the Hawks for the first time, and the Hawks/aka The Band, would later be recommended by Hammond to Bob Dylan. The Dirty Shames recorded six demo songs for Kapp Records (unreleased) produced by Felix Pappalardi (Cream), who also subbed in on bass.
"They were regulars at venues such as The Riverboat and Penny Farthing, and appeared regularly on CTV’s After Four, Let's Sing Out, Take Thirty, and The Juliette Show. Relocating to New York in 1966, they moved into a more California 60’s folk-rock electric sound after being signed to the Phillips label. Managed by Leonard Cohen's manager Mary Martin (out of Albert Grossman's office), they lived at the Chelsea Hotel, recorded two singles (a cover of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s Coconut Grove and Blown Your Mind), and performed many live gigs, including opening for The Velvet Underground at Andy Warhols music venue The Gymnasium. Lou Reed commented that Chick' sounded like that singer Dave Van Ronk.'"
Neil Young later gave Chick Roberts thanks for his early support, calling the then 20-year-old Young's song Sugar Mountain "a very special song, one that we'll hear a lot.' Upon meeting Joni Mitchell for the very first time, Young told her of Roberts' praise.
Boddum continues: "Roberts performed as a solo act from the 1960’s until 2019. In the 1960’s he was a regular performer at the Bohemian Embassy, and one of his folk sets was recorded and self-released as a CD in 2016. Known as a singalong type performer, covering everything from folk, blues, jazz, and traditional to Irish songs. He was founder and lead singer of The Blues Collar Band and The Lowdown Ways Band during the 1980’s-2000’s, releasing one album, Blue Turning Grey.
He performed at the first Mariposa Folk Festival in 1960 with the folk trio The Sinners, reuniting over the years performing at special events. Chick also was involved as an organizer of Mariposa in its early years. He was one of three co-founders (with Klaas Van Graft and Sharon Hampson of Sharon/Lois/Bram) in 1969 of the Mariposa in The Schools program MITS. Created to bring traditional folk music into the schools and expose thousands of Canadian children to music education. MITS recorded two childrens albums that Chick participated in, the 1979 Juno-nominated Going Bananas and 1984’s Banana Split. His cover of Bananas Ain't Got No Bones appeared on the star-studded 1982 compilation, The Children's Collection Volume 1, out on Tapestry Records.
Roberts was also a Canadian stage and screen veteran, trained in Toronto with the Stanislavski acting method. His first onscreen role in 1957 was in Charlie Chaplins “A King in New York, and he went on to appearing in over 150 films, TV, and commercials. His TV roles included Road to Avonlea, Wind at my Back, Street Legal, Anne of Green Gable, and Anne with an E. His last on-screen role before retiring due to health issues was in 2020 in the acclaimed tv series What They Do in The Shadows. Boddum notes that "he leaves a lasting legacy of entertaining Canadians for over six decades."
Sources: Whatevernot.com, Nicholas Jennings, Paul Boddum.
Floyd Sneed, the drummer for rock hitmakers Three Dog Night, died on Jan. 27 at age 80. The news was posted on the group’s Facebook page on Jan. 29, noting, “Floyd broke many barriers both musically and culturally.” No cause of death was given.
The band’s post described Sneed as “an absolutely wonderful human being, a complete original and a sweetheart of a man. He was also an extraordinarily unique drummer who brought so much to Three Dog Night’s sound. Floyd broke many barriers both musically and culturally; he also influenced countless other drummers with his amazing technique. He will be greatly missed by all of us in the band and the many musicians, artists and others he inspired throughout his life.”
In its obitury, Best Classic Bands noted that "Sneed, born in Calgary, Canada, received his first drum kit from his older sister, who was married at the time to Tommy Chong. In 1968, two years after Sneed moved to Los Angeles, he met the vocalists Danny Hutton, Chuck Negron and Cory Wells, and along with guitarist Ron Morgan, bass player Joe Schermie and keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon, formed the band Three Dog Night. (Morgan was replaced by guitarist Michael Allsup before they recorded their first album.)
Beginning with 1969’s cover of Nilsson’s “One,” Three Dog Night notched 11 Top 10 singles through 1973, including the #1s “Mama Told Me Not to Come,” “Joy to the World,” and “Black and White.”
Sneed continued with the band until 1974, returning in the ’80s when the band reunited." At the time of Sneed’s passing, original members Cory Wells (2015), Jimmy Greenspoon (2015) and Joe Schermie (2012) had pre-deceased him.
Sources: Best Classic Bands, Anchor FM
Peter James McCann, an American songwriter, musician, lecturer, and songwriters' activist, died on Jan. 26 at age 74.
He penned many successful pop-rock and country songs, including his 1977 solo hit Do You Wanna Make Love and Right Time of the Night for Jennifer Warnes. Artists recording his songs have included Lynn Anderson, Paul Anka, Karen Carpenter, Shaun Cassidy, Crystal Gayle, Mickey Gilley, Lee Greenwood, Whitney Houston, Julio Iglesias, Jermaine Jackson, Michael Johnson, Nicolette Larson, Kathy Mattea, Reba McEntire, Michael McDonald, Anne Murray, Ricky Nelson, The Oak Ridge Boys, K.T. Oslin, Donny Osmond, Buck Owens, Kenny Rogers, Ricky Skaggs, John Travolta, and Bobby Vinton, among others.
McCann also spent upwards of 25 years lobbying for songwriters' rights in Washington, giving lectures on copyright law in several institutes of higher education across the United States.
Read more here.
Barrett Strong, a pop and soul singer/songwriter and a pivotal figure in the history of Motown Records, has died at the age of 81. No cause of death has been disclosed.
He sang the label's first major hit, Money (That's What I Want), in 1959, a tune that was later covered by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and the Flying Lizards. Strong went on to co-write classic songs such as I Heard It Through the Grapevine, War, Papa Was a Rollin' Stone, Ball of Confusion, Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me), I Wish It Would Rain and Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home).
Those hits were "revolutionary in sound and captured the spirit of the times", Motown founder Berry Gordy said in a written tribute to the musician. "Barrett was not only a great singer and piano player, but he, along with his writing partner Norman Whitfield, created an incredible body of work."
The musician was inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame, which called him "pivotal" to the Motown sound. Strong left Motown in the 1970s and made a handful of solo albums. In 2010, he released Stronghold II, his first album for 30 years, while his music can still be heard on London's West End in Motown: The Musical.
Read more on Strong's career in the Detroit Free Press and here, here, and here. Sources: BBC News, The Guardian, Variety
Anthony "Top" Topham, an English musician and visual artist who was best known as the first lead guitarist of The Yardbirds. died on Jan. 23 at the age of 75.
Topham left the band before they achieved mainstream popularity and was replaced by Eric Clapton, the first of three lead guitarists from the Yardbirds to gain an international reputation (the other two being Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page).
At just 15, Topham helped form The Yardbirds in London in 1975, but as the Yardbirds had to turn professional, Topham faced parental disapproval coupled with the anxiety of abandoning his art studies. He could not devote himself to the Yardbirds full-time, and he left. His replacement was a fellow art student from the same secondary school, Eric Clapton.
Topham went on to art college, where he formed bands with his friend Duster Bennett. He joined Winston G and the Wicked (later renamed The Fox), playing alongside Marc Bolan. He then revived his association with Bennett, recording a live album with him. This led to an introduction to Mike Vernon and his Blue Horizon label. Topham became a session musician for Blue Horizon, playing with Peter Green and Christine McVie. Topham recorded a solo album for Blue Horizon, Ascension Heights.
A meeting with Jim McCarty led Topham to return to the blues in 1988. The Topham-McCarty Band was formed and played for two years until Topham decided in July 1990 to pursue country blues. In the 2000s, Topham guested with the latest edition of The Yardbirds under the co-leadership of McCarty and Dreja and became an official member again from 2013-15.
Sources: Wikipedia, The Telegraph
Tom Verlaine (born Thomas Miller), credited with redefining rock guitar in the punk era of the 1970s with his band Television, died on Jan. 28, at age 73, reportedly of cancer.
Upon moving to New York City in the early '70s, Verlaine formed the group the Neon Boys, with Richard Hell on bass and Billy Ficca on drums. After splitting in 1973, the members reconvened, added guitarist Richard Lloyd, and became Television in 1974.
Signed to Elektra Records (after the departure of Verlaine’s close friend Hell), Television issued its groundbreaking debut album, Marquee Moon” in 1977. It is considered one of the most important albums of the era, and it had a huge influence on other musicians in the post-punk age
Television disbanded after its second album, Adventure” (1978), then reunited for a self-titled 1992 album for Capitol Records and sporadic live appearances. In 2007, Lloyd was replaced in the touring unit by Jimmy Ripp, who had for many years supported Verlaine on his solo albums and tours.
As a solo artist, Verlaine released eight critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful solo album from 1979-1992. A 14-year studio hiatus followed until the guitarist reemerged in 2006 with the vocal collection Songs and Other Things and the instrumental set Around, released simultaneously on the Chicago independent label Thrill Jockey.
He continued to perform, including a recent tour supporting Billy Idol.
Amongst the international stars paying homage to Verlaine was Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies. He posted this on Facebook: "R.I.P. Tom Verlaine. He was one of the reasons I picked up an electric guitar. His playing was so unique and distinctive, and, most importantly, exciting. Let’s spend the day listening to Marquee Moon…our world is better for it. Thank you, Tom."
In a Facebook post, Grammy-nominated Canadian composer/bandleader Darcy James Argue noted that "As a guitarist, Tom Verlaine was a natural risk-taker, his unflashy virtuosity giving rise to a totally distinctive personal style. Seeing Television in Central Park in 2007 remains one of the most memorable live gigs I’ve ever seen. Farewell, and thanks for the blisteringly great music. If you’ve never heard Television’s 1977 debut, Marquee Moon, it’s a huge album for me personally and fully deserving of its legendary status."
Verlaine's close friend and occasional collaborator Patti Smith remembers him in this eloquent New Yorker essay here. Sources: Variety, NYT, LA Times, The New Yorker