Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Members of Rock & Roll Heaven, Part 16

Here's more amazing music representing the hard work that these greats of the Rock Era did for us:

Danny Smythe, co-founder and drummer of the Box Tops, died July 6 at the age of 67.

The group exploded out of the gate in 1967 with the classic "The Letter", still a solid member of The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*.

They scored another big hit with "Cry Like A Baby"

After the Box Tops broke up, Danny studied art and became a freelance illustrator for advertising agencies.

Danny and the Box Tops reunited in 1995 and he played with the group until 2010.

Kay Starr (pictured above with Louis Armstrong, left and Tony Bennett), whose #1 song "Rock And Roll Waltz" was one of the biggest hits early in the Rock Era (#1 for 6 weeks) has died at the age of 94.  Starr November 3 at her home in Los Angeles from complications of Alzheimer's disease.

Starr totaled 13 career hits, including another Top 10, "My Heart Reminds Me" in 1957.

Starr was popular in the big band era, but was so adaptable that she enjoyed Country hits and then scored her biggest hit as Rock & Roll emerged.

Lewis Steinberg, original bassist for Booker T. & the M.G.'s, died July 21 in Memphis, Tennessee after a battle with cancer.  He was 82.

Steinberg and the group played on numerous Stax releases for artists including Otis Redding.  Steinberg, along with Booker T. Jones, guitarist Steve Cropper and drummer Al Jackson recorded as Booker T. & the M.G.'s, with Steinberg playing on the 1962 album Green Onions and the 1965 release Soul Dressing.  Steinberg co-wrote the group's most famous song, "Green Onions".

Robert Stigwood, entertainment mogul who managed Cream and then steered the Bee Gees and founded the Robert Stigwood Organisation (RSO Records), died January 4 at age 81.

Stigwood and partner Joe Meek managed an actor named John Leyton, whose success as a recording artist caught them by surprise.  As a result, Stigwood and Meek became two of the first independent record producers.

Stigwood hooked up with EMI Records and briefly was the booking agent for the Who; they recorded the song "Substitute" on his Reaction Records.  Afterward, Robert signed a management contract with Cream.

Stigwood soon worked out a deal with Polydor Records, which allowed him to bring Cream to New York City to record.  In 1968, the group scored a #5 hit with "Sunshine Of Your Love".

Cream proved to be short-lived, but they also enjoyed a big hit with "White Room".

In 1967, Stigwood and friend Brian Epstein (manager of the Beatles) merged their two companies, with Robert working for NEMS Enterprises for 11 months.  During this time, the teenage group the Bee Gees returned to the U.K. after living in Australia.  They paid Robert a visit and Stigwood signed them to a five-year deal.

When Epstein died on August 27, his brother Clive took over for him and Stigwood departed, forming the Robert Stigwood Organisation.  A huge key here--Stigwood was able to take the Bee Gees with him.  

The Bee Gees started slow, but scored their first hit in 1967 with "New York Mining Disaster 1941".  

The group continued to enjoy minor hits in the '60s, many of which we now know were vastly underrated, such as "To Love Somebody", "(The Lights Went Out In) Massachusetts, "Words", "I Started A Joke" and others.  In 1971, they scored the #3 smash "Lonely Days", which became their first Gold record.

Stigwood also managed and promoted Blind Faith and Eric Clapton during this period and also moved into stage productions after seeing the musical Hair.  Stigwood staged the play in London, and followed that with Jesus Christ SuperstarOh!  Calcutta!Sweeney Todd and Evita.

In 1971, the Bee Gees recorded a song that went on to become one of The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*, "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart", which stayed at #1 for four weeks.

The Bee Gees were unable to score another big hit for four years before making The Biggest Comeback of the Rock Era* with their 1975 album Main Course.  The lead single "Jive Talkin'" returned the group to #1.

In the four years that followed, the Bee Gees were as hot as anyone has ever been in the Rock Era with the exceptions of the Beatles and Elvis Presley.  After "Jive Talkin'", they reeled off six Top 40 hits, including "Nights On Broadway", "Love So Right" and the #1 "You Should Be Dancing".  

Stigwood continued to expand into films, and he came to the Bee Gees with a request to write the music for a movie he was working on about a struggling young Brooklyn man who worked at a paint store by day, but was transformed into an admired dancer at a local disco on Saturday nights.  Not only did the film become a classic, but the "Saturday Night Fever" Soundtrack album went on to sell an estimated 40 million records worldwide.  The Bee Gees scored three monster hits, beginning with the ballad "How Deep Is Your Love".

The Bee Gees surpassed that hit with the Platinum record "Stayin' Alive".

"Night Fever" topped the chart for eight weeks.

The Bee Gees later scored the #1 hits "Too Much Heaven", "Tragedy" and "Love You Inside Out".  

After forming RSO Records in 1973, Stigwood also promoted Rod Stewart, Andy Gibb, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Yvonne Elliman and Player.  

On the heels of the wild success of Saturday Night Fever, Stigwood teamed up again with Grease, a huge hit on Broadway as well as on the silver screen.  The title song, sung by Frankie Valli, was written by the Bee Gees.

Stigwood was the man behind two of The Top Soundtracks of the Rock Era*, and he did it back to back!

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