Famous Musician Graves
Graceland in Memphis, TN
Elvis Presley. Rock Singer, Actor. His career reached such acclaim that he is now universally known as “The King of Rock and Roll”. During his career, he had 94 gold singles, three gold EPs, and over 40 gold albums. His 33 movies grossed over $180 million and millions more were made by the merchandising of Elvis products. Globally, he has sold over one billion records, more than any other artist. Elvis died at Graceland. His death was attributed to congestive heart failure. Later it was determined that drug abuse may have been a contributing factor. He was an international sensation. Known the world over by his first name, he is regarded as one of the most important figures of twentieth-century popular culture.
Ray Charles. Singer, Entertainer. Born Ray Charles Robinson in Albany, Georgia, he was blind by age 7 and an orphan at 15. He spent his life shattering any notion of musical boundaries and defying easy definition. A gifted pianist and saxophonist, he dabbled in country, jazz, big band and blues, and put his stamp on it all with a deep, warm voice roughened by heartbreak from a childhood in the segregated South. Ray Charles won nine of his 12 Grammy Awards between 1960 and 1966, including the best R&B recording three consecutive years (“Hit the Road Jack,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “Busted”). His versions of other songs are also well known, including “Makin’ Whoopee” and a stirring “America the Beautiful.” Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell wrote “Georgia on My Mind” in 1931 but it didn’t become Georgia’s official state song until 1979, long after Ray Charles turned it into an American standard. He learned to read and write music in Braille, score for big bands and play instruments, including trumpet, clarinet, organ, alto sax and the piano. His last Grammy came in 1993 for “A Song for You,” but he never dropped out of the music scene. He continued to tour and long treasured time for chess.
Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. Jazz Musician. Born in the slums of segregated New Orleans. His biggest hits as a recording artist came late in his life: “Mack the Knife” (1956), “Hello, Dolly!” (number one hit 1964), “What a Wonderful World” (1968) and “We Have All The Time In The World” (20 years after his death. He performed during the 1960s doing a string of performances in which he barely played the trumpet, mostly singing and talking to the audience between numbers.
Aretha Franklin. Singer. She received her international acclaimed as the “Queen of Soul” with her 18 Grammy award-winning hits sung with a bluesy, soulful voice that few could match in power and gusto. Her genre ranged from gospel to jazz, rhythm and blues to pop. In 1987 she was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Her signature song and greatest hit, “Respect,” reigned during a turbulent era of racial tensions and became an anthem for women’s rights movements. According to MTV, the recording industry, and the National Endowment for the Arts, “Respect” ranks in the top five songs of the Twentieth Century. Wrote and originally released by Otis Redding in 1965, she released it in 1967 as her first Grammy-winning song. Since this song is “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important and reflect life in the United States, “Respect” is listed on the registry as provided by the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000. Another one of her 1967 hits was written by Carol King, “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman,” which reached #8 on the Billboard Top 100 Pop Hits. At the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, she performed it to honor award-recipient Carol King. Being one of five children, Aretha Louise Franklin was the daughter of Rev. C.L. Franklin, a charismatic preacher at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. He was a confidant of Martin Luther King, Jr. At the age of 14 years old, she made her first album, “Spirituals” in 1956 as a gospel artist; this was re-released in 1962. Although Motown Records was interested in signing her, she went with the Columbia label for the first half of the 1960s with an occasional R&B hit but never breaking into stardom. Upon leaving Columbia in the late 1960s for the Atlantic label, she was teamed with a R&B group from Alabama, the Muscle Shoals Sounds Rhythm Section, and was often on the keyboard accompanying herself. She gained international success with 10 recordings on the Top Ten Chart in a 18-month period between early spring of 1967 to late 1968 along with a steady stream of hits for the next five years. Released in 1967, “Chain of Fools”was #1 on the R&B chart, #2 on the Pop Chart, received a Grammy Award for Best R&B Female Performance, later Grammy Hall of Fame Award and became an anthem for those serving in the Vietnam War. Besides her R&B and Gospel hits, she had a wide range of songs with first-class originals and through the years, covered other artists’ songs from Adele, the Beatles, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, the Drifters, Barbara Streisand, Gladys Knight, to Simon & Garfunkel. In the 1970s, she had commercial and artistic success with huge hits such as “Spanish Harlem,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Day Dreaming.” Two of her most respected albums were “Live at Fillmore West” and “Amazing Grace,” a two record album in 1972 with James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir, which was one of the greatest gospel crossover hits to reach the pop charts. Her Atlantic Records contract ended at the end of the 1970s, and she signed with Clive Davis’ recording label, Arista. By 1979 she had released nineteen albums. That same year, her father received a gunshot wound during a armed home invasion, leaving him in a coma that he never recovered. During the 1980s, she recorded “Get It Right” and Grammy-winning “Freeway of Love” along with duets such as with “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me,” with George Michael. In July 1982 Luther Vandross wrote, produced and performed on her first gold album in six years, “Jump to It”. She released another gospel album hit in 1987, “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.” She contributed songs for several movie soundtracks including “A Rose Is Still A Rose” in 1998. The album, “So Damn Happy” was released in 2003 with poor sales rankings but generated the Grammy-winning song, “Wonderful.” In 2003 she left Arista and two years later started her own label, Aretha’s Records. In 2007 she released a compilation of duets, “Jewels in the Crown: All-star Duets and the Queen.” The next year she released her first holiday album, “This Christmas.” After recuperating from major health declines in 2010, she released her first album in 2011 on her own label, “A Woman Falling Out of Love.” At that point, she signed with the RCA label with Clive Davis and released “Babyface.” Then she released “Aretha Franklin: Sings Divia Classics,” which covered Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” Diana Ross’, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” Gloria Gaylor’s “I’ll Survive,” and Alicia Keys’, “No One.” She was the recipient of the Grammy Legend Award in 1991, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994, and the Grammy MusiCares Person of the Year Award in 2008. She performed at the inaugurations of United States Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and was the honored recipient of the Presidential Medal of Honor from President George W. Bush. She performed at the 25th annual gala for the AIDS Foundation in fall of 2017 and supported other worthy charities such as Feeding America, Childhood Diabetes, Special Olympics and many more. Pancreatic cancer of the “neuroendocrine type” was her official cause of death as reported by her private oncologist.
Country Artist Graves
Hank Williams, Sr. Singer, Songwriter. He received international acclaim for his traditional-style country music sung with his bluesy, Honk a Tonk voice. Having a dozen singles to reach #1 on the Top Ten, the list of his hits is long, given that he lived only 29 years. A example of early Rock n Roll, “Move It On Over” was released in June 1947 reaching #4 on the American Billboard Chart. Although not written by Williams, “Lovesick Blues” was the first song he sung on the Louisiana Hayride, a popular country music radio show aired in Shreveport, Louisiana. With an outstanding success, he recorded it the next year. Written in 1949, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” is listed #111 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and the oldest song on the list. It ranked #3 on the Greatest Country Songs of All Time. Recorded on May 5, 1951, “Cold, Cold Heart” reached #1 on the Country Music charts and was later covered with a pop version by Tony Bennett. Also recorded in 1951 and reaching the #1 slot, “Hey Good Lookin” was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001. “Jambalaya” was recorded in 1952 and reached the #1 slot. Recorded just weeks before his death, “Your Cheatin’ Heart” was one of five songs released posthumously, and it served as the title of the 1964 film version of his life, which starred George Hamilton. He was the first country music superstar to sell 10 million records from 1947 to 1953. The lyrics of his songs have become classic and are still best-sellers. Born Hiram Williams, the youngest son to Alonzo Williams and his wife Jessie Lillybelle Skipper, he was introduced to music at church where his mother played the organ. Since his father was employed by the railroads, the family traveled from town to town throughout Alabama. Many people influenced his informal musical education. While living with his aunt and uncle, his aunt taught him how to play the guitar. Rufus Payne, an area African American blues street musician taught him and led him to a career in the music profession. In Montgomery, Alabama as a teenager he would sing and play his Sear’s Silvertone guitar on the sidewalks for money with his favorite spot being at the front door of the radio station WSFA. Noticing his talent the station manager invited him inside to play on the air. Public interest in the form of letters and phone calls led him to his own fifteen-minute show, twice a week and changing his name to “Hank Williams.” Quitting high school before graduation, he formed a band, the “Drifting Cowboys,” and while still employed at the radio station, they played for parties and gatherings throughout Alabama. At the start of World War II, his entire band was drafted but Hank was declared unfit to serve due having a “bad back.” He began using alcohol and prescription drugs to alleviate the pain. Being habitually drunk impacted his ability to work and he was fired from the radio station and his band suffered. When he was fired from the Grand Ole Opry for being drunk, his band left him. His first marriage to Audrey Sheppard dissolved in the spring of 1952 because of his drinking; many of the melancholy lyrics on his songs were written during this time. The couple had one son, Hank Williams, Jr., who has become a country music star in his own right. Hank fathered a daughter during a relationship and she was born five days after his death. On October 18, 1952, he married Billie Jean Jones Eshliman; this was the second marriage for each. On December 31, 1952, an ice storm kept him from flying to a concert in West Virginia. To keep a concert date in Clanton, Ohio, he decided to have a friend, Charles Carr, drive his 1952 Cadillac while he rode in the back seat drinking and writing songs. Reaching Knoxville, Tennessee, Carr summoned a physician since there was a change in Williams’ behavior. Clearing him to finish the trip, the physician injected him with vitamins and Morphine. They continued the road trip until midnight when Carr asked Williams if he wanted anything to eat and the reply was , “No.” Then Carr drove until Oak Hill, Virginia where he stopped for gas. At this point, he realized that William was not sleeping but had died in the back seat of the car some time earlier. His funeral was held at the Montgomery Civic Center Auditorium with 25,000 people standing outside the building to listen to the funeral being broadcast. Country music stars, Roy Acuff, Red Foley, and Ernest Tubb sung during the service. The Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel promotes their famous country singer with the “Hank Williams Trail,” which includes his home place, the Hank Williams Museum, Lincoln Cemetery and a life-sized statue adjacent to the Montgomery City Hall. He was inducted in the Grand Ole Opry in 1949, the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1985, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. The Broadway play “Hank Williams: Lost Highway” was a tribute to him as was the 2006 movie, “Crazy.” He is pictured on the 29 cent United States commemorative postage stamp in the Legends of American Music series, which were issued on September 25, 1993.
Waylon Jennings. Country Western Singer. Famed for such hits as “I’m a Ramblin’ Man” and “Good Hearted Woman”, he recorded over 60 albums, and had sixteen Number 1 country singles. Born in Littlefield, Texas, he started his music career at age 12. By 1959 he was playing bass in the back up band for singer Buddy Holly. In early February 1959 he gave up his seat to singer J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson on the plane that carried Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and Richardson to their deaths, taking a bus instead. In the 1970s, he teamed up with country singer Willie Nelson on the songs “Mammas Don’t Let your Babies grow up to be Cowboys,” “Luckenbach,” and “Good Hearted Woman.” Many of his early songs had a restless spirit that was used later by Travis Tritt, Charlie Daniels, and others. His resonant voice was used to narrate the television Show “The Dukes of Hazzard,” and he sang the theme show’s theme song. He traditionally wore a black cowboy hat and black attire which accented his dark beard and mustache. In his later years, he wore short hair and a trimmed goatee. He won two Grammy awards and four Country Music Association Awards, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in October 2001. In his later years, his health caused him problems, and doctors wanted to amputate his left foot due to problems with his diabetes, however he refused to allow, and this lead ultimately to his death.
Patsy Cline. Country Music Singer, Songwriter, and Pioneer. She has been acclaimed, by fans, colleagues and music critics alike, as one of the most influential and unique vocalists in the history of modern music. She is often credited as a heroine by newer generations of female singers, who claim she opened doors to them in a business dominated by men in a career that only spanned five short years. She was best known for her rich tone, emotionally expressive and bold contralto voice. Born Virginia Patterson Hensley, her father was a blacksmith and her mother was a 16-year-old seamstress, and was the oldest of three children. She became familiar with music at an early age, singing in church with her mother. When her father left, she was forced to drop out of high school and work odd jobs to help support her family. After several weeks of watching performers through the window at her local radio station, she asked WINC-AM disc jockey and talent coordinator Jimmy McCoy if she could sing on his show. Her first performance on radio in 1947 was so well received that she was requested to come back and sing again. This led to performances at local nightclubs, wearing fringed Western stage outfits that her mother made from Patsy’s designs. She started singing in variety and talent showcases in and around the Winchester, Virginia and Tri-State area, and coupled with increasing appearances on local radio, she soon attracted a large following. In 1954 Jimmy Dean, a young country star in his own right, learned of her and she became a regular with Dean on Connie B. Gay’s “Town and Country Jamboree” radio show, airing weekday afternoons live on WARL-AM in Arlington, Virginia. In September 1953 she married Gerald Cline, a contractor who was considerably older than her and divorced him four years later due to her desire to sing professionally and his wish that she become a housewife. A few months later she married Charlie Dick, a linotype operator, with whom she would have two children. In 1955 her manager, Bill Peer, got her a contract at Four Star Records, the label with which he was then affiliated and also gave her the first name of Patsy, from her middle name and her mother’s maiden name, Patterson. She was limited to recording songs composed by Four Star writers which she found unfulfilling. Her first record was “A Church, A Courtroom & Then Good-Bye,” which attracted little attention but it led to appearances on the Grand Ole Opry. In the late fall of 1956, she auditioned for “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” in New York City, New York and was accepted to sing on the CBS-TV show on January 21, 1957. She was originally supposed to sing “A Poor Man’s Roses (Or a Rich Man’s Gold),” but the show’s producers insisted she sing “Walkin’ After Midnight” instead. Though heralded as a country song, recorded in Nashville, Godfrey’s staff insisted that Cline appear in a cocktail dress rather than in one of her mother’s hand-crafted cowgirl outfits. The audience’s enthusiastic ovations pushed the applause meter to its apex, winning the competition for her. After the Godfrey show, listeners began calling their local radio stations to request the song, and she released it as a single. The song reached Number 2 on the country charts and Number 12 on the pop charts, making her one of the first country singers to have a crossover pop hit. From 1955 to 1957 she recorded honky-tonk songs like “Fingerprints,” “Pick Me Up on Your Way Down,” “Don’t Ever Leave Me Again,” and “A Stranger in My Arms,” with her co-writing the latter two. In 1958, after the birth of her daughter Julie, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee. In 1959 she met Randy Hughes, a session guitarist and promotion man, and he became her manager and helped her change labels. When her Four Star contract expired in 1960, she signed with Decca Records. The same year, she realized a lifelong dream when the Grand Ole Opry accepted her request to join the cast, making her the only person to achieve membership in such a fashion, and became one of the Opry’s biggest stars. During this time she befriended and encouraged female country music star newcomers Loretta, Lynn, Dottie West, Jan Howard, and Barbara Mandrell. Her first release for Decca was the country pop ballad “I Fall to Pieces” (1961). The song was promoted and won great success on both country and pop music stations. On the country charts, the song slowly climbed to the top, garnering her first Number One ranking. In a major feat for country singers at the time, the song hit Number 12 on the pop and Number 6 on the adult contemporary charts, making her a household name and demonstrating that women could achieve as much crossover success as men. She was known to be generous with her friends, buying them groceries and furniture, hiring them as wardrobe assistants, and occasionally paying their rent in order for them to stay in Nashville to pursue their dreams. In June 1961 she and her brother Sam were involved in a head-on collision in Nashville. The impact threw her into the windshield, nearly killing her. When help arrived, she insisted that the other car’s driver be treated first. She spent a month in the hospital, suffering from a jagged cut across her forehead that required stitches, a broken wrist, and a dislocated hip. When she left the hospital, her forehead was visibly scarred and for the remainder of her career, she wore wigs and makeup to hide the scars, along with headbands to relieve the forehead pressure that caused headaches if left unattended. Six weeks later, she returned to the road on crutches with a new appreciation for life. Unable to capitalize upon the success of “I Fall to Pieces” due to her hospital stay, she sought another recording to reestablish herself. When introduced to “Crazy”, a song written by Willie Nelson, she expressed a vehement dislike for the composition and the inaugural recording session was unsuccessful. With her ribs still hurting from the car accident, she was unable to reach the high notes. However, after several other attempts and a different approach to the instrumental recording of the track, coupled with a week’s further healing of her ribs, she was able to reach the high notes and recorded her part in a single take. “Crazy” would ultimately become her signature song and by late 1961, it was a crossover success, straddling the country and pop genres, and reached the Top 10 on the both charts. It became her biggest pop hit, with it reaching Number 9 on the US Hot 100 and Number 2 on both the Hot Country Songs and the Adult Contemporary lists. In 1961 she became the first woman in country music to perform at New York’s Carnegie Hall and the following year she headlined the famous Hollywood Bowl with Johnny Cash and became the first woman in country music to headline her own show in Las Vegas at the Mint Casino. In January 1962 she released “She’s Got You,” another crossover hit, reaching Number 14 on the pop charts, Number 3 on the adult contemporary charts (originally called “Easy Listening”), and as her second and final chart-topper, Number 1 on the country chart. She would never again enter the pop charts during her lifetime. Following this success, she released a string of smaller country hits, including the Top 10 “When I Get Thru’ With You,” “Imagine That,” “So Wrong,” and “Heartaches”. In late 1962 she appeared on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” and released her third album, “Sentimentally Yours” in August of that year. On March 3, 1963 she performed at a benefit at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Kansas for the family of disc jockey “Cactus” Jack Call, who had died in an automobile crash a little over a month earlier. She was unable to fly out the next day because the Fairfax Airport in Kansas City, Kansas was fogged in. Declining a car ride back to Nashville with country singer Dottie West and her husband, she boarded a Piper PA-24 Comanche plane, along with country performers Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas, and her manager Hughes, who was the pilot but was not trained in instrument flying. After making a fuel stop in Missouri and another landing at Dyersburg Municipal Airport in Dyersburg, Tennessee, the plane departed for Cornelia Fort Airpark, near Nashville, against the advice of the airfield manager. The flight encountered inclement weather and crashed in a forest near Camden, Tennessee on the evening of March 5, 1963, killing all on board. She was 30 years old and was one of the most influential, successful and acclaimed female vocalists of the 20th century. In 1973, she became the first female solo act to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 1985, a full length feature film and box office smash, “Sweet Dreams”, told her life story and revitalized interest in her music. Among her numerous posthumous awards, including a US Postal Stamp in 1993 and a 1995 Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award. Her “Greatest Hits” album, released in 1967, continues to occasionally appear on the country music charts and was the longest album to stay on the country charts in country music history until Garth Brooks surpassed it in the 1990s. The album still holds the record for remaining on the country charts by a female artist. In 1999, she was voted Number 11 on VH1’s special, “The 100 Greatest Women in Rock and Roll,” by members and artists of the rock music industry. In 2002, country music artists and industry members voted her Number One on Country Music Television’s “The 40 Greatest Women of Country Music” and ranked 46th in the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” issue of Rolling Stone magazine.
Hendersonville Memory Gardens
353 E Main St, Hendersonville, TN 37075
Jean Shepard. Country Music Singer. Born Ollie Imogene Shepard, she had many hits on the country music charts during her long career. She grew up singing in the church, and was drawn to the music of Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. As a teenager, she played bass in the Melody Ranch Girls, an all-female band formed in 1948. Hank Thompson discovered her a few years later and with his help, she signed with Capitol Records in 1952, which followed the success of Kitty Wells. She cut four songs at her first session with popular band players Jimmy Bryant, Speedy West, Cliffie Stone and Billy Strange and recorded her first single for the label in 1952, “Crying Steel Guitar Waltz”, but it failed to chart. Her next single “A Dear John Letter”, a duet with Ferlin Husky in 1953, hit number one on the country charts and was number four on the pop charts. The duo’s follow-up, “Forgive Me John”, was another crossover hit, peaking in the Top 10 on the country chart and the top 25 on the pop chart. She would go on to release 70 singles to the Hot Country Songs chart and a total of 24 studio albums from 1956 to 1981. She became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1955 and remained a member for the next 61 years. Her first marriage was to fellow singer Hawkshaw Hawkins, but it ended when he, along with Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas, was killed in a plane crash in 1963. In 1981 she released her final album “Dear John”. She continued to perform until her retirement from the stage in 2015. During her long career, she was considered a pioneer “who opened the doors for women in country music”. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2011. She passed away from Parkinson’s Disease.
Johnny Cash. Country Singer, Musician, Actor, Entertainer. Legendary Country Music Singer and songwriter who was known as “The Man in Black” for his trademark wearing of all black clothing. Contrary to his songs and image, he never spent time in prison (except to visit). Most remembered for the songs “Ring of Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “A Boy Named Sue,” and “I walk the Line.”
June Carter Cash. Country Singer, producer, author, actress. Born in Maces Springs, Virginia, on June 23, 1929, as Valerie June Carter, she was a member of the famous singing Carter Family. The Carter Family began recording country music in 1927 and continued until Maybelle’s death in 1978. The Carter Family Singers included members like ‘Mother’ Maybelle Carter, Anita Carter, and Alvin Pleasant ‘A.P.’ Carter, and of course June who would go onto a successful singing career herself.
Maybelle “Mother” Addington Carter. Country Music Singer. Known as “Mother Maybelle,” she was one of the founding members of The Carter Family, the first family of country music and one of the most influential acts in the history of country music. Their music had a profound impact on bluegrass, country, southern gospel, pop and rock musicians, as well as on the U.S. folk revival of the 1960s. They were the first vocal group to become country music stars.
Merle Kilgore. Songwriter. Born in Chickasha, Oklahoma, he was a singer-guitarist, most noted for being a pop and country music songwriter. He began his career working as a disc jockey and musician before joining the Louisiana Hayride radio show as the principal accompanying guitarist. He debuted on the Grand Ole Opry, and appeared on the Big D Jamboree in Dallas, in 1952, signing with Imperial Records in 1953. He wrote the song “More and More,” which was recorded by Web Pierce and became a Top 10 Country Hit. He continued to generate other hits with his songs such as “Baby Rocked Her Dolly”, “Ring “Wolverton Mountain”, “Johnny Reb”, “Love Has Made You Beautiful” and “Gettin’ Old Before Your Time”. By the 1980s, he became the long time manager and friend of entertainer Hank Williams Jr.
Sumner Memorial Gardens
420 Albert Gallatin Ave, Gallatin, TN 37066
Conway Twitty. Musician. Born Harold Lloyd Jenkins in Friars Point, Mississippi. In 1957 he changed his name to Conway Twitty by using the names of two cities, Conway, Arkansas and Twitty, Texas. His first single on the MGM label, “It’s Only Make Believe” went to #1 in 1958 and made him an instant teen idol. He had several other pop hits including, “Danny Boy”, “Is A Bluebird Blue” and “Lonely Blue Boy”, but by 1965 he made the switch to country music. He moved to Nashville in 1968 and became one of the most successful artists in the history of country music with over 40 #1 songs. Among his biggest solo hits were “Hello,Darlin”, “You’ve Never Been This Far Before”, “Linda On My Mind”, “Happy Birthday Darlin”, “Tight Fittin’ Jeans”, “Slow Hand”, and “Desperado Love”. He also teamed with Loretta Lynn on #1 songs such as “After The Fire Is Gone”, “Lead Me On”, “Louisiana Woman,Mississippi Man”, and “As Soon As I Hang Up The Phone”.
Woodlawn-Roesch-Patton Funeral Home & Memorial Park
660 Thompson Ln, Nashville, TN 37204
James Cecil “Little Jimmy” Dickens. Country and Western Musician and Singer. He is best remembered for his small stature (4 feet 11 inches), his rhinestone-studded outfits, and his humorous novelty songs, including his biggest single hit “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose” (1965), that reached number 1 on the US Country Chart. During his career, that spanned over six decades, he recorded 12 albums and released over 80 singles.
Dottie Rambo. Gospel Singer, Songwriter. Born Joyce Reba Luttrell. She was a prolific composer in the Christian music industry and credited with up to 2500 songs that she wrote and co-wrote. Many of her songs have been recorded by various artists. She was awarded the Grammy in 1969 for her album, “It’s The Soul of Me”.
Van Stephenson. Country Singer, Songwriter. He was a member of the popular Country musical group, ‘Blackhawk’ from 1992 to 2000.
Marty Robbins. Country Music Singer, Auto Race Car Driver. He began writing songs while in the United States Navy during World War II. He signed with Columbia Records after the war, and had his first number one country single with “I’ll Go On Alone” in 1953. Over the course of his career he would have 15 more Number 1 songs on the Country Music sales charts, with several of them also reaching the Top Ten on the Pop Music sales charts. His most famous songs include “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation),” “El Paso,” “Devil Woman,” “Don’t Worry,” and “My Woman, My Woman, My Wife.” In 1965, he became interested in stock car racing and from 1966 to 1982 he competed in 35 NASCAR Winston Cup races.
George Jones. Country Music Singer and Songwriter. He is probably best remembered for his hit single “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and for his tumultuous marriage to famed country singer Tammy Wynette. Additionally, his musical career would be marked by frequent bouts of alcoholism and cocaine use and his wild lifestyle led to him missing many of his performances and earning the dubious nickname “No Show Jones.” Also nicknamed “The Possum,” supposedly for his facial resemblance to the animal.
Lynn Anderson. Country Music Singer. She was known for a string of Country Music hits throughout the 1970s and 1980s, most notably her 1970 country-pop song “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden”. Her crossover appeal and regular exposure on national television helped her to become one of the most popular and successful country singers of the 1970s, and she charted twelve Number 1 songs, eighteen Top 10 songs, and more than fifty Top 40 hits.
James Edward “Jim Ed” Brown. American Singer, Radio and TV Host. Brown was a longtime Grand Ole Opry member who had hits as a solo artist, as part of a duet and as a member of a trio, and was also featured prominently on country music television shows in the 1970s and 1980s. Jim Ed pursued a solo career and had hits with “Pop-A-Top Again” (1967), “Morning” (1970) and “Southern Living” (1973). In the mid-1970s, he teamed up with Helen Cornelius and the duo had hits with “I Don’t Want to Have to Marry You,”, “Saying Hello, Saying I Love You, Saying Goodbye” (both in 1976), “Lying in Love With You” (1979), “Fools” (1979) and “Don’t Bother to Knock” (1981).
Tammy Wynette. Country Music Singer. She was often referred to as the “First Lady of Country Music” and is best remembered for her song “Stand by Your Man,” one of the best-selling singles by a woman in the country music industry. She, along with Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, set the standards for the role of women in country music during the 1970s. Her marriage in 1969 to famed country singer George Jones created a “country couple” and they would record a sequence of albums and singles that topped the charts throughout the 1970s and into the early 1980s.
Dobie Gray. Vocalist, Songwriter, Actor. Best known for his hit “Drift Away” (1973). Born Lawrence Darrow Brown (some sources state name as Leonard Victor Ainsworth), into a family of sharecroppers, his love for gospel music was sparked by his grandfather who was a Baptist minister. He embarked upon a recording career during the early 1960s, as he moved to Los Angeles and came under the guidance of Sonny Bono.
Webb Pierce. Country Singer. He was one of the most popular Honky-tonk stars in country music and had more singles on the Billboard charts then any of his contemporaries in the 1950s. His biggest hit “There Stands the Glass” (1953), is regarded as one of country’s classic drinking songs. For Decca Records, he charted 48 singles, 39 reaching the top ten to include “In the Jailhouse Now”, ” More and More”, “Backstreet Affair”, “Why, Baby, Why”, “Oh, So Many Years” and “Finally”. He was a regular performer at the Grand Ole Opry, on the tour circuits and continued charting hits until retiring in 1982.
Willard Mack Vickery. Songwriter, Musician. His career lasted over a span of 6 decades. He was inducted into the Alabama music hall of fame in 2003 by the legendary Sam Phillips. He often would join with other Nashville songwriters such as Wayne Kemp to write songs. His songs were recorded by singers from Jerry Lee Lewis to George Strait.
Porter Wagoner. Musician. For over five decades, he was known as the image of country music for his showmanship and rhinestone suits. In 1952, he signed with RCA Records, released Hank Williams’ “Settin’ The Woods On Fire” and had his first top 10 hit in 1954, with “Company’s Comin”. He joined the “Grand Ole Opry” in 1957 and remained one of its most popular stars for his whole career.
Bob Montgomery. He started his music career in Lubbock, Texas, with Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame member Buddy Holly as a duet. They became the “Buddy & Bob” act on a local radio station from 1949 to 1955. Stardom was born for both of them. They were privileged to be the opening act for Elvis Presley when he performed in Lubbock early in his career. Bob eventually became one of the icons of country music production. He subsequently wrote or co-wrote such 1950s Holly hits as “Heartbeat,” “Love’s Made a Fool of You” and “Wishing.” Over 60 years in the business, he made major contributions as a songwriter, record producer, music publisher and label executive. Famous songs that he can be credited with includes such standards as “Misty Blue” and “Love’s Made a Fool of You.” Vern Gosdin, Janie Fricke, Bobby Goldsboro and Joe Diffie were stars for whom he produced records. He published such iconic songs as “Behind Closed Doors” and “The Wind Beneath My Wings.”
Jerry Donald Chesnut is an American country music songwriter. His hits include “A Good Year for the Roses” (recorded by Alan Jackson and George Jones) and “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” (recorded by Elvis Presley in 1975, and Travis Tritt in 1992.)
Johnny Paycheck. Country Western Singer. Born Donald Eugene Lytle, he began playing guitar by age six. Changing his name to Johnny Paycheck in the 1960s, he is best remembered for his 1977 hit song, “Take This Job And Shove It,” which sold over 2 million copies and inspired a motion picture by the same name. His other hits include “Don’t Take Her, She’s All I Got,” “I’m The Only Hell Mama Ever Raised,” “Georgia In A Jug,” “Colorado Cool-Aid,” “Barstool Mountain,” “Slide Off Your Satin Sheets,” “Old Violin,” and “You Can Have Her.” He recorded over 70 albums. In 2002 an album called, “The Soul & The Edge: The Best Of Johnny Paycheck” was released.
Mel Tillis. Country Singer. Born Lonnie Melvin Tillis, he was raised in Pahokee, Florida, under impoverished circumstances. During his early youth, he suffered from malaria which left him with a speech impediment. Additionally, to make his youth more difficult, his father frequently abandoned his family. While in high school, he began playing the drums and participated in the band. He also excelled athletically on the school’s football team. Tillis began singing during his mid teenage years and earned recognition in a local talent contest. Following service with the United States Air Force, he relocated to Nashville in efforts to start a career in entertainment. In 1956, he co-penned the song “I’m Tired” which became a hit for Webb Pierce and secured Tillis’ place as a songwriter. This led to a job with the Cedarwood Publishing Company. In 1958, he scored a Top 30 hit on the US Country Charts with his recorded version of “The Violet and the Rose” and followed this with “Wine” (1964), “Who’s Julie?” (1969) and “These Lonely Hands of Mine” (1969). Additionally, he co-penned the Bobby Bare hit “Detroit City” (1963) and wrote the Kenny Rogers’ song “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” (1967). During the 1970s, he expanded his success with further hits which include “Heaven Everyday” (1970), “Commercial Affection” (1970), “Arms of a Fool” (1970) and “Take My Hand” (1971, a duet with Sherry Bryce). During the next several decades, his songs could be found in many movie soundtracks of which include “W.W. and the Dixie Danckings”(1975), “Every Which Way But Loose” (1978), “The Villain” (1979), “Smokey and the Bandit II” (1980) and “Cannonball Run” (1981). In 1974, he hosted his own TV series.
Mary Ann Ward Wilson. Her stage name was Marion Worth; she is also listed in this cemetery under her stage name. She “was a Patti Page of the country music industry.” Her best known recorded songs were: “Shake Me I Rattle, Squeeze Me I Cry,” “Crazy Arms,” “Are You Willing, Willie,” “A Woman Needs Love,” “Mama Says,” “That’s My Kind of Love,” ” I Think I Know,” and “Slipping Around,” the latter a duet with George Morgan in 1964.
Roy Clark. Picture of Grave a few months before the headstone was placed down. Singer, Entertainer. He was best known for both his country music and as the long-time co-host of the popular television show “Hee Haw” from 1969 to 1993. He received his first guitar at the age of fourteen and was playing in his father’s square dancing band a year later. In the 1950s, he was playing in bands in the Washington D.C. area. In 1960, he got the chance to front the band of country singer Wanda Jackson and later played regularly in Las Vegas. In 1962, he signed his first recording contract with Capitol Records. He went on to produce many hits including “The Tips of My Fingers,” (1963) “Yesterday When I Was Young,” (1969) “Come Live With Me,” (1973) and “Honeymoon Feeling” (1974). Also around this time, he appeared regularly on Jimmy Dean’s television show “Town and Country Time” and later took over for Dean when he left the show. In 1969, he became the co-host, along with fellow country music performer Buck Owens, of “Hee Haw,” a country comedy and music show that aired for twenty-four years. He also was the guest host of “The Tonight Show” several times during the 1960s and 1970s. He also played various musical instruments and later performed around the world and with numerous prestigious orchestras. In 1983, he opened the Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre in Branson, Missouri and afterwards, other entertainers followed suit. He continued performing around the world in the early 21st Century. He was a long-time member of the Grand Ole Opry and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009. He passed away of complications from pneumonia.
Grandpa Jones. Country Musician. He is best remembered as an old time country and gospel music singer banjo player who always wore his pants tucked inside his boots, whose animated performances were often characterized by his leg kicks and foot stomping, and as a charter cast member of the CBS television show “Hee Haw” that aired from 1969 to 1971 before a 20-year run in local syndication.
Ramona Riggins Jones. American Musician, Actress and Composer. Born Ramona Riggins, she became known as Ramona Jones when she married her first husband “Grandpa” Jones in 1946. The couple who met while working at a Cincinnati radio station, moved to Nashville in 1947 and were married for 52 years until his death in 1998. Her father taught her how to play the fiddle and she taught herself how to play the guitar and mandolin. In high school, she competed in several talent contests and won them all. In 1947, she made her solo debut at the Grand Ole Opry, and in the mid-1950s, the couple regularly appeared on the Washington, D.C.-based TV series ‘Town and Country Time’. The couple performed on the long-running country-comedy show ‘Hee Haw’, starting with its debut in 1969, and would be regulars for 25 years; Grandpa would joke around and play the fool, while Ramona maintained a dignified presence on stage. Their most popular routine was when they would wear cowbells on their hands and feet to play familiar songs.
Eddie Rabbit – Singer, Songwriter. Born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in East Orange, New Jersey, he was one of the most innovative country artists of alltime. His recording career began in 1964 but he didn’t establish himself until he moved to Nashville in 1968. His earliest success was as a songwriter. In 1970 Elvis Presley recorded his song “Kentucky Rain” and in 1974 Ronnie Milsap had his first number one country single with the Eddie Rabbitt composition “Pure Love”. In 1975 he signed with Elektra Records and from 1976 to 1988 he had 33 consecutive Top 10 hits on the country charts, 16 of them reaching number 1. Many of those songs also crossed over onto the pop charts. Among his biggest crossover hits were “You And I”(a duet with Crystal Gayle), “Step By Step”, “Drivin’ My Life Away” (from the movie “Roadie” starring Meat Loaf), and “I Love A Rainy Night” which reached number 1 on both the pop and country charts. His biggest success on the country charts came in 1979 with the title song from the Clint Eastwood movie “Every Which Way But Loose”.
Hal Rugg. Country Musician. A steel guitarist, he began his musical career working clubs in Arizona, Illinois and Minnesota. In 1961 he moved to Nashville where his music is featured on hits sung be many country music stars including Loretta Lynn, Ronnie Milsap and George Jones. In 1963 he began a sixteen year career as a member of the Grand Ole Opry staff band. Later,he became a band leader for the majority of the televised awards shows originating from Nashville and started producing for Capital Records. For seven years he was the music director for the Statler Brothers’ Show. In 1989 he was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. He died in Tucson, Arizona after a two year battle with cancer.
Ernest Tubb. Musician, Songwriter. He was a farm boy born near Crisp, Texas, to sharecropper parents. One of the big country music stars of the day was Jimmie Rodgers, and Tubb aspired to be like him. He worked for the Works Progress Administration during the day and moonlighted at a San Antonio radio station by night. Several years after Rodgers’ death, Tubb solicited an autographed picture from his widow. They got to know each other, and Mrs. Rodgers used her contacts to help Tubb get a recording contract. After a tonsillectomy, Tubb’s voice changed dramatically. He then decided to concentrate on composing. Eventually, he returned to singing and had a hit with “Walking the Floor Over You.” He became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and performed on the show weekly for over 40 years. In addition, he broadcast his own radio show entitled “Midnight Jamboree” after the Opry show was over. Always a multi-tasker, he also owned the Ernest Tubb Record Shop in Nashville, Tennessee. Tubb was candid about his imperfections as a vocalist and didn’t take it to heart when he occasionally missed a note – even when recording. However, despite this, he retained a loyal cadre of fans throughout his career. A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Tubb suffered from emphysema for the last 17 years of his life, finally succumbing to the disease at the age of 70.
DeFord Bailey – Musician and Country Music Hall of Fame Member. A grandson of slaves, he was not just the first African American to appear on the Grand Ole Opry, he was the first star to appear. The show was originally named the WSM Barn Dance, but when it became a part of the NBC network in 1927 it was renamed The Grand Ole Opry and George D Hay, the announcer, introduced one of the Barn Dance’s most frequent and popular performers as the “Harmonica Wizard” – DeFord Bailey. Bailey did his classic train song, “The Pan American Blues.” He remained on the Grand Ole Opry from 1927 to 1941 when they fired him. There were many reasons given for the firing. Some said it was racism. Some said he played the same songs over and over and refused to learn new material. Some say it was because a license conflict with his recording company prevented him from playing his best music on the air. For whatever the reason, he was out of the business and spent 30 years shining shoes at his shop on Twelfth Avenue, South in Nashville. His career was brought to mind again in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and he made an appearance on a local syndicated show called “Night Train.”
Spring Hill Funeral Home & Cemetery
5110 Gallatin Pike S, Nashville, TN 37216
Jimmy Martin. Bluegrass Musician. He was the lead singer with the “Blue Grass Boys” until 1955, when he formed his own band, the “Sunny Mountain Boys”; then recorded with Decca records for 18 years. He recorded 138 titles including “Ocean Of Diamonds,” “Sophronie,” “Widow Maker” and “Sunny Side Of The Mountain,” He was inducted into the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 1995.
Roy Claxton Acuff. Country Music Singer. He is best remembered as the “King of Country Music” and is often credited with moving the genre from its early string band and “hoedown” format to the star singer-based format that helped make it internationally renowned.
Hank Snow. Country Music Singer, Composer. Hank Snow was a Canadian who achieved country music notoriety far from the American area that developed and shaped this musical form. At the time of his death in Madison (Nashville suburb) at age 85, he was given major credit for transforming country music from a largely rural musical style to an internationally popular mode. Hank Snow had a huge following in Britain, Germany, Australia and the Far East. Born Clarence Eugene Snow in Brooklyn, Nova Scotia, he would at age fourteen buy his first guitar for under ten dollars from a mail order catalog, self learn to play, then go on to a 45-year show business career while recording and selling over 70 million records. His songs “I’m Moving On” was number one for almost two years followed by “Don’t Hurt Anymore” for almost the same lengthy period. Other number one hits…”Golden Rocket” “The Rhumba Boogie” ” “I’ve Been Everywhere” and “Hello Love.” Other major hits included “Fool Such as I ” “Beggar into a King” and “Ninety Miles An Hour (Down a Dead End Street).” In all, he had more than 40 songs place in the country music Top Ten.
Pete Drake. Musician, Record Producer. He is best remembered as a pedal steel guitar studio musician and recording producer in Nashville, Tennessee from the 1960’s into the 1980s. He was born Roddis Franklin Drake in Augusta, Georgia, the son of a Pentecostal preacher. When he was 18 years old, he visited Nashville and became fascinated by the steel guitar sounds of musician Jerry Byrd. He returned home and built his own steel guitar and taught himself to play, and after a few years he became one of Atlanta, Georgia’s first steel guitar players. He formed his own band, “The Sons of the South” which included future country star musicians Joe South, Roger Miller, Doug Kershaw, Jerry Reed, and Jack Greene. In 1959 he moved to Nashville and started touring with Marty Robins, Don Gibson, and others, but soon gave it up to focus on becoming a studio musician and working at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry as a backup musician. In 1962 he formed Window Music Publishing and Tomake Music with Tommy Hill, Ralph Davis, Jerry Shook, Jack Drake, and Ralph Emory, to accommodate the flow of new Country music writers, signing Ed Bruce and Bill and Dottie West, whose song “Is This Me” became a Number 1 Country hit by recording artist Jim Reeves. In 1963 he signed a recording contract with Smash Records, recording several albums including “Forever,” from which his single by the same name reached Number 22 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1964, eventually selling over one million copies for which he received a Gold Disc Award. That same year he was voted “Instrumentalist of the Year” by Cashbox Magazine, “Fastest Climbing Instrumentalists” by Record World and “Instrumentalist of the Year” by the Country Music Association. His acclaim as a studio musician continued to grow as he recorded with Country artists Lyn Anderson, Marty Robbins, Charley Pride, The Louvin Brothers, Johnny Cash, Bobby Bare, Dolly Parton, Porter Wagoner, Jerry Lee Lewis, Reba McEntire, Charley Rich, Charlie Rich, and Tammy Wynette and well as Rock artists Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers, and George Harrison. His innovative use of what would be called the talk box (or “talking music actuator”) added novel effects to the sound of his steel guitar during recording sessions, which earned him the nickname “King of the Talking Steel Guitar.” The device would later be used by Rock musicians Peter Frampton, Joe Walsh, Jeff Beck, and Roger Troutman. In 1970 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Walkway of Stars and the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1987, as well as receiving Nashville Entertainment Association’s “Master Award.” He was president of the Pete Drake Music Group which included First Generation Records, Petewood Music, and his publishing companies Window Music and Tomake Music. In 1985 he developed emphysema brought on by many years of smoking and his health started to decline. He built a recording studio at his home in Brentwood, Tennessee to accommodate his illness. He died from emphysema in Nashville at the age of 55. He was posthumously inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame in 1990 Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2010.
George Morgan. Musician. Born in Waverly, Tennessee, he was a singer-guitarist referred to as the country crooner in the 1950s. In 1948, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and recorded the song “Candy Kisses” which was a number one hit on the country music Billboard charts in 1949. His other hits included “Red Roses For a Blue Lady”, “Mansion Over the Hilltop”, “Jesus Saviour Pilot Me” and “You’re the Only Good Thing That’s Happened to Me”. He also hosted his own radio program and was the last person to sing on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium before the Grand Ole Opry moved to it’s new location in 1974. He is a member of the Country Music hall of Fame and the father of country music artist Lorrie Morgan.
Earl Eugene Scruggs. Country and Bluegrass Musician. He is probably best known for his three-finger banjo picking style of bluegrass music. On September 24, 1962, Flatt and Scruggs, along with singer Jerry Scoggins, recorded “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” for the television show “The Beverly Hillbillies” which was released the following month. The theme song became an immediate country hit and was played at the beginning and end of each television episode.
Louise Scruggs, a pioneering businesswoman in Nashville and wife of Country Music Hall of Fame member Earl Scruggs.
Born Ann Louise Certain, she grew up near Lebanon, Tenn. While attending the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville in 1946, she first saw Scruggs and heard his groundbreaking style of three-fingered banjo playing while he was working with Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys. The couple married in 1948 — the same year Scruggs and guitarist Lester Flatt left Monroe’s band in 1948 to form their own group, the Foggy Mountain Boys.
In 1956, Mrs. Scruggs became one of Nashville’s pioneer female executives when she began serving as Flatt & Scruggs’ business and booking manager. In addition to booking the band, she aggressively promoted the act within the folk music community and helped inspire the band’s series of concept albums, including Songs of the Famous Carter Family and Folk Songs of Our Land.
In her greatest career accomplishment, Mrs. Scruggs took Flatt & Scruggs — and bluegrass music — to a mainstream audience and managed to turn the musical duo into TV stars. In the earliest days of the folk music boom, Flatt & Scruggs toured with Joan Baez and performed at the Newport Folk Festival and other prestigious festivals. At a time when country acts seldom played in major venues in New York, they recorded a live album at Carnegie Hall. When Mrs. Scruggs began booking Flatt & Scruggs onto the college campus circuit in the 1950s and 1960s, she helped turn them into the equivalent of modern-day rock stars. They followed up the At Carnegie Hall album with another live album recorded at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University.
She also launched Flatt & Scruggs’ music into the worlds of television and movies, although she initially rejected overtures from Paul Henning, the creator of The Beverly Hillbillies. When Henning wanted to feature the duo’s music in the television series, she was concerned the show’s image would be bad for country music.
After flying to Nashville, Henning convinced her that association would not be detrimental to country music or Flatt & Scruggs’ career. With lyrics by Henning, “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” was recorded as the show’s theme song. Flatt & Scruggs’ recording of the song became a No. 1 hit — and the series is still running in syndication today. Henning also cast Flatt & Scruggs as themselves in several episodes of the popular program.
Flatt & Scruggs’ profile was boosted again when actor-director Warren Beatty chose their 1949 recording of the banjo instrumental “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” for his 1967 film, Bonnie & Clyde.
When Flatt & Scruggs parted company in 1969, Mrs. Scruggs helped reinvent her husband’s career when he and their sons — Randy, Gary and Steve — began exploring stronger rock influences in the Earl Scruggs Revue. One of her first accomplishments was a PBS special that featured the Scruggs family in informal performances with Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, the Byrds and others. The foray into the rock world led to Mrs. Scruggs guiding her husband to work with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on the landmark album, Will the Circle Be Unbroken.
In addition to overseeing routine business matters, her eye for detail led her to enlist artist Thomas B. Allen to create original paintings for the covers of 17 Flatt & Scruggs’ albums. The distinctive style created an original and unique look that set them apart on the record racks at retail stores. She also co-wrote several songs recorded by Flatt & Scruggs.
Billy Marvin Walker. Country Singer. From his West Texas home of Ralls this country crooner went on to become one of Country music’s most successful recording stars during the 1960s. He overcame tremendous childhood difficulties when after his mother’s death, the four year old and two of his brothers were forced to leave their five siblings to be placed in a Waco, Texas children’s home, because of family financial difficulties. He left the orphanage at the age of twelve, got a job plucking turkeys and made enough money to buy his first guitar. After two years of practice he began publicly performing, by hitchhiking eighty miles one way to sing and play for free at a New Mexico radio station. In 1949 he landed a spot on the “Big D Jamboree” in Dallas Texas and soon was awarded his first recording contract. Three years later he was a regular on the “Louisiana Jamboree” and was instrumental in bringing Elvis Presley to the stage there. He had moderate success in the 1950’s but his career took off when he joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1960 and in 1962 recorded his first number one hit “Charlie’s Shoes.” Other number one hits included, “Cross the Brazos at Waco,” “Word Games” and “When a Man Loves a Woman.” He had over thirty top ten hits and was recognized by Billboard Magazine as one of the “Top Twenty” most played artists during a recent twenty year span. Known as “The Traveling Texan: The Masked Singer of Country Sings,” the singing legend was killed, along with his wife and two band members, on an Alabama highway when their vehicle wrecked while returning from a concert.
Floyd Cramer. Musician. Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, he was a self-taught pianist renowned as one of the one of the architects of the “Nashville Sound”. In 1955, he moved to Nashville and became one of the most sought after session musicians in town. He played on sessions to include Roy Orbison, the Everly Brothers, Patsy Cline, Perry Como, Chet Atkins, Boots Randolph, Owen Bradley and Elvis Presley. He also recorded more than 50 solo albums with hits such as “Last Date”, “San Antonio Rose”, “Fancy Pants”, “On the Rebound” and won a Grammy Award for best country instrumental for the song, “My Blue Eyes” in 1979. Besides country, he played rock, jazz, blues, gospel and light classical. He died of cancer Nashville. In 2003, he was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame and into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2008.
Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens
1150 South Dickerson Rd, Goodlettsville, TN 37072
David “Stringbean” Akeman. Comedian, Country Musician. One of the top musical stars of Nashville, Tennessee’ Grand Old Opry during his career, he is best known for being one of the original members the comedy and country music television variety show “Hee Haw”, which he starred in from 1969 until his murder in 1973. He and his wife were killed by burglars, who had heard rumors about them storing cash in his house, and laid in wait until the Akemans arrived home from the Ryman Auditorium (where the Grand Ole Opry was located at the time). The Akemans were known not to trust banks, and “Stringbean” always carried several thousand dollars at a time in his overalls, and he frequently showed it to friends and associates. After killing the Akemans, burglars packed several valuable items, including several firearms, in a pillowcase. The morning after, the Akemans’ friend and neighbor, Louis Marshall “Grandpa” Jones, discovered the bodies, alerted police, and testified in court, positively identifying one of the stolen pistols as one he (Jones) gave “Stringbean” as a present. In 1996, someone discovered $20,000 of the Akeman’s cash hidden above the fireplace. (The cash had long since rotted.)
Hawkshaw Hawkins. Country Musician. Patsy Cline had participated in a benefit concert in Kansas City for the family of a disc jockey (“Cactus” Jack Call) who had died in a car accident. Ramsey (Randy) Hughes, Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Cowboy Copas, were all in Hughes Piper Comanche, when it crashed just west of Camden, TN in a hollow along a ridge line in a heavily wooded area known as Fatty Bottom, near a fire tower off Mule Barn Rd. in Sandy Point, about 5 miles west of the Tennessee River.
James W “Jimmy” Elrod. He was a 5-string banjo picker and guitarist. He played for Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys in 1957. In the 1950’s he also played banjo for Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper.
Mount Olivet Cemetery
1101 Lebanon Pike, Nashville, TN 37210
Vern Gosdin – Singer, Songwriter. Known as “The Voice” because of his rich baritone singing, this Woodland, Alabama native turned the musical talent he acquired by being a part of a gospel music singing family to develop a successful country music career. He had almost twenty top ten hits during his thirty year career with over forty singles and eight albums reaching the country music charts. He died in Nashville, Tennessee after suffering a stroke.
Del Wood. Country Music Musician. Guest starred on the Grand Ole Opry in 1952 and became a member in 1953. First Female Million-selling artist. Pianist with a thumping Ragtime style. Earned the name “Queen of the Ragtime Pianists” and remained a member of the Grand Ole Opry until her death at the Baptist Hospital in Nashville. Del had a stroke on September 22nd of 1989, the same day she was scheduled to appear on the Legendary Ladies of Country Music Show at the Grand Ole Opry and died later that same year from complications.
Harriet “Hattie” Frost Stoneman – Country Musician. Also known as ‘Mom,’ she was a member of the famous musical group, ‘The Stonemans’ (or The Stoneman Family), which also included her husband, Ernest V. ‘Pop’ Stoneman and six of her 14 children. The family of musicians became one of the most famous family bands after there already famous mother and father joined the act.
Billy Byrd – Country Musician. He was one of the first country musicians to make a name for himself with the electric guitar. He was portrayed by actor Scott Michael Campbell in the film “Crazy” (2008).
Jim Denny. Country music talent agent and song publisher. He moved to Nashville at sixteen and found work as a mailroom clerk for the National Life and Accident Insurance Company which owned radio station WSM (the call letters stood for We Shield Millions) and the Grand Ole Opry. He eventually made a career in the company’s accounting department but found himself drawn to backstage oddjobs at the Opry. By the 1940’s he became the director of WSM’s Artists Service which was the booking department of the company and also served as the house manager for the Grand Ole Opry. In 1953 he formed Cedarwood Publishing Company (a company whose staff writers turned out hits such as “Detroit City” and “Tobacco Road”) with Opry star Webb Pierce. Denny was voted “Country and Western Man of the Year” by Billboard magazine in 1955 only to be fired from the Opry the next year due to conflicts arising from his publishing and booking companies. Leaving the Opry in 1956 he formed Jim Denny Artist Bureau and took such artist as Pierce, Carl Smith, Minnie Pearl, Red Sovine and Hank Snow along as clients. Three months after his termination he signed what country music historians consider as one of the largest talent deals at the time providing artist for the “Philip Morris Country Music Show.” Jim Denny was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1966.
Harpeth Hills Memory Gardens Funeral Home
9090 TN-100, Nashville, TN 37221
Chet Atkins. Country Musician. Known as “Mr. Guitar” and considered the most-recorded solo instrumentalist in music history. As head of RCA Records in Nashville, he propelled an entire generation of country music stars to fame, such as Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings, Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold, Charley Pride, Hank Snow, Porter Wagoner and many more artists. His guitar studio work is featured on countless recordings for so many Nashville legends. He built the famous RCA Studio B, and there he produced and recorded some of the world most popular music. Elvis Presley recorded many of his pop hits there, such as the hit “Heartbreak Hotel” which featured Chet on the lead guitar. He garnered many music awards, winning nine CMA musician of the year awards and 14 Grammys.
Rock Artist Graves
Jimi Hendrix. Rock Musician. One of modern rock music’s most influential figures on the electric guitar, his styles ranged from Rhythm and Blues, to jazz, to funk. Born Johnny Allen Hendrix in Seattle, Washington, his father changed the boy’s name to James Marshall Hendrix. Left-handed, he self taught himself how to play a right-handed guitar when he was a young boy, specializing in southern-blues style. In September 1966, Hendrix arrived in London, and formed a new group using English musicians, called the Jimi Hendrix Experience. In December 1966, they released their first single, “Hey, Joe” which quickly went to the top 10 in the UK, followed by “Purple Haze” and “The Wind Cries Mary.” Returning to the US in June 1967, he appeared at the Monterey Pop Festival, where he played the guitar with his teeth, then burned the guitar with lighter fluid. His American audience continued to grow with the release of “Axis: Bold as Love” and the jazz influenced “Up From the Skies.” Internal differences between several members of the group led to their breakup. One of Hendrix’s most memorable performances was at the Woodstock Festival in New York, where Hendrix played his famed version of “The Star Spangled Banner”, which some listeners perceived as a political statement. On the morning of 18 September 1970, his girlfriend, Monika Dannemann, could not wake him, and she called an ambulance, but he was pronounced dead. A coroner’s inquest recorded the cause of death as suffocation due to inhalation of vomit. Since then, others have claimed either overdose of drugs or suicide, but these claims remain in dispute. A Jimi Hendrix Museum was created in Seattle, Washington, in his honor. On November 26, 2002 Hendrix’s body was exhumed and reburied under a marble dome memorial in another section of Greenwood Memorial Park. Hendrix’s father Al and his step mother Ayako ‘June’ Hendrix have also been placed in the vault in the center of the memorial.
Ritchie Valens. Rock Musician. Born Richard Steven Valenzuela in a largely Hispanic community north of Los Angeles, California known as the San Fernando Valley, his father was a devotee of flamenco music and blues and instilled his love of music to Ritchie. At the age of eleven he started playing guitar and took it with him everywhere. During lunchtime at school he would sit on the bleachers and practice or entertain his friends with his music. When he entered High School he was already an accomplished musician and played often at school assemblies and after school parties. He was in a variety of bands and in his junior year he joined a local California Rock n Roll band called the “Silhouettes” and they quickly became local stars. At a January 1958 ‘rent party’ held in an American Legion Hall, the band was taped by a part time talent scout who worked for Bob Keane, the owner of Keen Records. Keane was looking for talent for his new label Del Fi Records and after hearing the tape, Keane decided he wanted to hear more of Ritchie so he auditioned him in Los Angeles. The audition went very well and shortly afterward Ritchie Valen’s first single ‘Come On Lets Go’ was released in the summer of 1958. The single did well and he released two more singles: ‘Donna’ for his high school sweetheart and ‘La Bamba’ which was reworking of a traditional Mexican folk song. Both singles became enormous hits and began moving towards the top ten and his record sold a half million copies. In late January 1959 Ritchie Valens joined Buddy Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and “Dion and the Belmonts” for the ‘Winter Dance Party’ which was a tour of the upper Midwest. On February 2, 1959 the ‘Winter Dance Party’ arrived in Clear Lake, Iowa to play a dance at the Surf Ball Room.
Alan Freed. Radio Disc Jockey. He is known as “The Father of Rock and Roll” for his efforts to promote that music style. In March 1952, as an emcee of a television program on rhythm and blues records for TV station WXEL in Cleveland, Ohio, he referred to the new music sound as “rock and roll,” thus being the first to coin the term.
Paul Revere. Musician, Keyboard Player. Born Paul Revere Dick, he owned several restaurants in Caldwell, Idaho when he first met singer Mark Lindsay at a bakery where Lindsay worked. In 1958, they formed a band called The Downbeats, but changed their name to Paul Revere & The Raiders in 1960 on the eve of their first record release. The following year, the band scored their first hit with the instrumental “Like, Long Hair”, which peaked at No. 38 on the Billboard chart. In 1965, the group relocated to Los Angeles, began recording under the direction of producer Terry Melcher, and scored their first major national hit, “Just Like Me”, which reached No. 11. Other hits followed, including “Kicks”, “Hungry”, “The Great Airplane Strike”, “Good Thing” and “Him or Me – What’s It Gonna Be?” and by mid-1967, they were Columbia’s top-selling rock group. Although the late 1960s saw their popularity fade, the band continued to have modest hits, including “Ups And Downs”, “I Had A Dream”, “Too Much Talk”, “Don’t Take it So Hard” and “Let Me”. In 1970, their name was officially shortened to The Raiders and they recorded their biggest hit of that period, “Indian Reservation”, which reached No. 1 and became Columbia’s biggest-selling single for almost a decade, clearing over six million units. Over the next several decades, Revere continued with a relatively stable lineup featuring longtime members and occasionally new records were released including “Special Edition” and “Paul Revere Rides Again”. In 2001, the Raiders released “Ride to the Wall”, featuring several new songs, along with new versions of their 60’s hits, with proceeds going to help veterans of the Vietnam War. In 2007, Paul Revere & the Raiders were officially inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame and in 2010, they were inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame. Revere, who announced his retirement from the band in August 2014, died at his home from cancer.
Chuck Berry. Singer. Born Charles Edward Anderson Berry, he was considered one of the pioneers of rock and roll music with such big hits as “Maybellene” (1955), “Roll Over Beethoven” (1956), “Rock and Roll Music” (1957) and “Johnny B. Goode” (1958). He grew up in a family proud of its African-American and Native-American ancestry. He gained early exposure to music through his family’s participation in the choir of the Antioch Baptist Church, through the blues and country-western music he heard on the radio, and through music classes, especially at Sumner High School. He was still attending high school when he was sent to serve three years for armed robbery at a Missouri reformatory for young offenders. After his release and return to St. Louis, he worked at various jobs to support his new wife and young daughter. He traveled to Chicago in search of a recording contract and Muddy Waters directed him to the Chess brothers. Leonard and Phil Chess signed him for their Chess label, and in 1955 his first recording session produced “Maybellene”, which stayed on the pop charts for 11 weeks, cresting at number five. He would follow this success with extensive tours and hit after hit, including “Roll Over Beethoven” (1956), “School Day” (1957), “Rock and Roll Music” (1957), “Sweet Little Sixteen” (1958), “Johnny B. Goode” (1958), and “Reelin’ and Rockin’” (1958). At the peak of his popularity, federal authorities prosecuted him for violating the Mann Act, alleging that he transported an underage female across state lines “for immoral purposes”. After two trials tainted by racist overtones, he was convicted and remanded to prison. After his release he put new hits on the pop charts, including “No Particular Place to Go” in 1964, at the height of the British Invasion. In 1972 he achieved his first number one hit, “My Ding-A-Ling”. Although he recorded more sporadically in the 1970s and ’80s, he continued to appear in concert, most often performing with backing bands comprised of local musicians. His public visibility increased in 1987 with the publication of his book “Chuck Berry: The Autobiography” and the release of the documentary film “Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll”, featuring footage from his 60th birthday concert and guest appearances by Keith Richards and Bruce Springsteen. In 1984 he was presented with a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement and two years later, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Carl Perkins. Musician. Born Carl Lee Perkins in Tiptonville, Tennessee, he was a rockabilly guitarist, singer, songwriter and a rock music pioneer. He began playing guitar at age 7 and at age 13, he won at a talent show with a song he had written titled “Movie Magg”. In the early 1950s, he formed a group called the Perkins Brothers which perform at a local honky tonks and appeared on WDXT radio in Jackson, Tennessee. He was touring with Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, when he was signed by Sam Phillips to Sun Records and released the hit single “Blue Suede Shoes” in 1956. Through the late 1950s and into the 1960s, he continued to record songs to include “Honey Don’t”, “Match Box”, “Boppin’ the Blues” and “Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby”. A major influence, his songs have been covered by artist Elvis Presley, Rick Nelson, John Fogerty, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, The Beatles and many more. Into the 1970s, he toured in rock shows across America, appeared at the Wembley Festival in England and appeared in the film “Into the Night” (1985). In 1986, he won the Grammy Hall of Fame Award for “Blue Suede Shoes”, was inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and is a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He died in Jackson, Tennessee and George Harrison paid musical tribute to Perkins singing Perkins’ early tune “Your True Love” at his funeral.
Felton Jarvis. Music Producer. He is best known as Elvis Presley’s record producer from 1966 to 1977. Employed by RCA, he branched out on his own in 1970 to work exclusively for Elvis. The bonds between him and the performer were so close that when Felton Jarvis’s kidney failed in 1971, Elvis paid for his dialysis and an eventual kidney transplant. His strong work ethic and being able to bring the best out of any artist, he worked over the years with such renowned artists as Willie Nelson, Jim Ed Brown, Floyd Cramer, Lloyd Price, Fats Domino, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Carl Perkins and Ronnie McDowell. In 1980 he created the practice of overdubbing new rhythm tracks on top of previously recorded vocals, a process that is commonplace in music production today.
Vinnie Paul. Rock Musician, Songwriter, Producer. He formed Pantera alongside his brother, guitar virtuoso “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott and bassist Rex Brown in 1981. Following Pantera, the Abbott Brothers formed Damageplan and released 2004’s New Found Power, but that band’s tenure was tragically cut short when Dimebag was shot and killed onstage by a deranged fan in December 2004. Two years after the death of his brother, Paul returned to music with the metal supergroup Hellyeah, which featured Mudvayne singer Chad Gray and guitarist Greg Tribbett and Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell and bassist Jerry Montano; Paul’s Damageplan bandmate Bob Zilla ultimately replaced Montano on bass. The supergroup released five albums together over the past decade, most recently 2016’s Unden!able.
Darrell Lance “Dimebag” Abbott. Heavy Metal Musician. A native of Dallas, Texas, he was the lead guitarist for the influential heavy metal group “Pantera.” The band, popular from it’s beginning in 1982 up through the 2000s, released several albums over their more than 20 year career, and had signature songs such as “Mouth For War,” “Walk,” “This Love,” and “Cemetery Gates.” After the breakup of that band, Abbott joined the heavy metal group “Damageplan,” which gained a following largely due to his musical notoriety from his Pantera career. On December 8, 2004, while performing at the Alrosa Villa Club in Columbus, Ohio, with his band, a man burst onstage and began shooting. Three people including Abbott were killed, and a few others were injured. The gunman was later shot and killed by a police officer. Through his career he was known as “Diamond Darrell” and “Dimebag Darrell.”
Stevie Ray Vaughan. Rock and Blues Musician. Born in Dallas, Texas, he was part of a musical family. His elder brother Jimmie, guitarist in the group “The Fabulous Thunderbirds”, introduced his younger brother to rock and blues via his record collection. Stevie Ray Vaughan came to appreciate guitarists such as B.B. King, Albert King, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and many others, by listening to their recordings. He learned to play by borrowing his brother’s guitar and following him to his concerts. By 1975 he was a member of the “Cobras”, followed by “Triple Threat”, a band that evolved into “Double Trouble”. The band recorded “Texas Flood” for Epic records, an album that showed his widening interests. After it’s release, he and the band were huge in the blues-rock scene, and the album won a string of awards internationally. A subsequent period of personal decline ended with Stevie Ray Vaughan collapsing on stage in 1986 due to alcohol and drugs overindulgence. Three years later, after an intensive rehabilitation, he returned with “In Step”, an album evidencing maturity and musicianship. He then recorded “Family Style” with brother Jimmie. Before the album’s release, in August 1990 Stevie Ray Vaughan was killed in a private helicopter crash, in a thick fog in Wisconsin, after leaving a concert at which he’d appeared with musicians Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, and Jimmie Vaughn. In 1994 a memorial statue of him was erected by the city of Austin, Texas at the intersection of Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail (South Bank at South 1st and Riverside Drive).
Miscellaneous Artist Graves
Frank Sinatra. Entertainer. Regarded by many as the greatest popular singer of the 20th Century, he was nicknamed “The Voice”, “Ol Blue Eyes” and “Chairman of the Board”. Born Francis Albert Sinatra in Hoboken, New Jersey, the son and only child of an Italian immigrant fireman, his mother Dolly was a midwife. Legend has it that one day he heard Bing Crosby singing and decided this would be the career path he was to embark upon. His initial break came in 1935, when he received first prize in a radio contest. He eventually caught the attention of bandleader Harry James, resulting in their collaboration, which included his first recordings in 1939 and moved onto the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with whom he recorded the hit “I’ll Never Smile Again” (1941). He would also marry his first wife Nancy and their union produced his children Nancy, Frank, Jr. and Tina. By the second half of the decade, he launched his Hollywood career with singing and dancing, as well as acting roles in several memorable pictures including “On the Town” (1949), co-starring with Gene Kelly, which featured the score “New York, New York”. In 1950, his career endured a major setback, when he suffered a hemorrhaged vocal cord due to his extreme concert schedule, which resulted in his hiatus from singing for a period. Sinatra turned what could have been a detrimental blow to his career into a positive, as he focused on his acting skills. During that time, he divorced Nancy and married one of Hollywood’s top actress Ava Gardner. His breakthrough role as an actor would be his playing the doomed Angelo Maggio in the Oscar-garnered “From Here to Eternity” (1953), for which he received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and earned respect as an accomplished dramatic performer. This was followed by “Guys and Dolls” (1955), “The Man With the Golden Arm” (1955, which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor playing heroin addict Frankie Machine), “The Joker Is Wild” (1957), “Pal Joey” (1957) and “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962). His singing career was also back on track, this time with a richer vocal style heard in the hits “In the Wee Small Hours” (1956), “Come Fly With Me” (1956), “Nice n’ Easy” (1960), “My Way” (1969) and “Theme From New York New York” (1980). By the end of the 1950s, he had divorced Ava Gardner and established an exclusive circle of friends unofficially called “The Rat Pack”, which included Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop (among the films they starred in are the original “Ocean’s Eleven” (1960) and Sergeant’s 3″ (1962), becoming a bill-topping act in Las Vegas. During this period, Sinatra established the Reprise record label. He received Grammy Awards for the singles “It Was a Very Good Year” (1966) and “Strangers in the Night” (1967), also for the albums “September of My Years” and “A Man and His Music” (1967). While filming “Von Ryan’s Express” (1965), he met actress Mia Farrow, whom he married in 1966 (until 1968). He had a brief retirement during the early 1970s, only to return and marry Barbara Marx (who was formerly married to Zeppo Marx of the Marx Brothers) in 1976. In 1988, there would be a brief reunion and tour of the “Rat Pack” and during the 1990s more success with his “Duets” recordings. Not long after celebrating his 80th birthday in 1995, his health began to decline as he suffered a heart attack in November 1996 and a fatal one on May 14th, 1998.
Donna Summer. Vocalist. Nicknamed the “Queen of Disco”, she was a major figure of the genre’s popularity as her songs echoed throughout nightclubs during the mid 1970s to early 1980s earning her multiple Grammy Awards and nominations. Her final Top-Ten hit would be “This Time I Know It’s For Real” (1989). Success did not come without controversy for her and during the 1980s she allegedly made remarks about gays and AIDS which had a negative affect on her career. In addition, she revealed that she had long suffered from severe depression. She died following a year- long battle with lung cancer. She left an indelible impression on the music industry and it would be difficult to think of Disco without remembering Donna Summer.
Sonny Bono. Entertainer, US Congressman. Until the early 1960s, he had a job delivering meat along the Sunset Strip in California. He became an A&R Man for Phil Spector. Working with people such as Sam Cooke, and Chubby Checker, and writing songs such as ‘Baby Don’t Go’, and ‘Don’t Laugh At Me’ Bono achieved his highest level of fame in the entertainment field with his second wife Cheriln Sarkisian LaPierre. It was at Aldo’s Italian Restaurant in Hollywood in 1961 that Sonny met a very young Cher and they married in 1964. Destined to become one of the most famous duos in music history, the couple recorded songs under the name Cesar and Cleo and finally, Sonny and Cher. Their weekly variety television show ran from 1972 until 1974. A daughter, Chastity, was born on March 04, 1969. After his marriage with Cher ended in 1974 Sonny appeared in movies such as ‘Hairspray’, and ‘First Kid’ and he was a guest star on many television shows. Sonny had a short lived third marriage to Susie Coelho. In May of 1982 he married Mary Whitaker. In February 1983 he opened a restaurant, Bono’s in Los Angeles. A restaurant in Palm Springs followed in 1986. It was during a dispute with City Hall over a building permit needed for his Palm Springs restaurant that Bono became interested in politics. He set out to become the Mayor of Palm Springs so that he could help to change the bureaucracy. He served as Mayor from 1988-1992. In 1990 he formed the Palm Springs International Film Festival. A run for The US Senate in 1991 was not successful, however in November of 1994 he was elected to Congress to serve the 44th District of California. A son, Chesare Elan was born in 1988 and a daughter, Chianna Maria was born in 1991.
Bing Crosby. Actor, Singer. He is best remembered for his many “Road” movies with costar Bob Hope, for such classic movies as “Going My Way” (1944), “White Christmas” (1954), and for such songs as “White Christmas” (1942). Born in Tacoma, Washington, while studying law at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, he became interested in playing drums and singing with a local band. Teaming with the band’s piano player, he went to Los Angeles, California in 1925, where they made a small living playing theaters and nightclubs, and making his film debut with “The King of Jazz” (1930). When one of his songs became successful on the radio in 1931, it brought him to the attention of Hollywood. Paramount Motion Pictures Studios included him in the movie, “The Big Broadcast of 1932” (1932), and his relaxed, low key style found success with audiences, making him a star. More films followed with varying acclaim, but in 1940, he was teamed with his friend, Bob Hope, in “The Road to Singapore” and the combination of jokes, songs, romance, burlesque and exotic locations (it was actually filmed in Hollywood), made the pair a hit, and additional “Road” movies followed, include “Road to Zanzibar” (1941), “Morocco” (1942), “Utopia” (1945), “Rio” (1947), “Bali” (1952), and “Hong Kong” (1962). In the film “Holiday Inn” (1942), he sang Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” and it went on to become one of the biggest selling records for the next 50 years. In 1944, he played ‘Father O’Malley’ in the sentimental comedy-drama “Going My Way” (1944) and won the Academy Award for Best Actor. He got a second nomination for Best Actor Academy Award for the sequel, “The Bells of St. Mary” (1945), when he reprised the role of ‘Father O’Malley’. Later films suffered highs and lows, but two films found much success: “The Country Girl” (1954) in which he played an alcoholic singer, earning him another Oscar nomination, and “White Christmas” (1954), which was a box-office sellout. In this period, he also moved on to television, with numerous appearances on Hollywood Palace (1964 to 1970) and his own sitcom “The Bing Crosby Show” (1964 to 1965). He also became a producer, and his Bing Crosby Productions became a leader in the film and television industry. His autobiography, “Call Me Lucky” was published in 1953. He died of a heart attack on a golf course in Madrid, Spain, after completing a tour of England that had included a sold-out engagement at the London Palladium. His last words were reportedly, “That was a great game of golf, fellers.”
Roy Orbison Unmarked Grave behind Frank Tuttle. Singer, Songwriter. He is best remembered for his songs, “Oh, Pretty Woman,” and “Only the Lonely.” He wrote “Claudette” (1958) which went to No. 30 when sung by the Everly Brothers. His trademark image included wearing dark sunglasses. His grave has no marker. He grew up in Wink, Texas, for his sixth birthday his parents gave him a guitar, and his father taught him how to play it. About 1942, the Orbisons moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where his father found work in the aircraft industry during World War II. An epidemic in 1944 had his parents sending the children back to live with their grandmother in Vernon, where Roy wrote his first song, “A Vow of Love” (1945). He formed his first band when he was 13, in 1949, calling themselves, “The Wink Westerners.” Over the next few years, his band began playing for local schools and radio stations, slowing gaining some recognition. He graduated from Wink High School in 1954, and his band friends had put together a new song called, “The Ooby Dooby,” which Roy agreed to record at a local studio in Dallas. It became his first big hit record, in 1955. In 1957, he married Claudette Frady, with whom he had three sons. Claudette was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1966, and two years later, he lost two of his sons in a house fire. He toured in England with the Beatles in 1962, before their first breakthrough, and had a major hit with “Oh, Pretty Woman” (1964). On May 25, 1969, he remarried, to a German girl, Barbara Anne Marie Welhonnen Jakobs, whom he had met in England, and they remained together until his death in 1988. Near the end of his life, he was a very close friend with Canadian singer k.d. lang. One of his last recordings was a version of “Crying,” sung by the two of them as a duet, for which he was awarded a Grammy. He was on tour with a group called the “Traveling Willburys,” which included former Beatle George Harrison, when he suffered a heart attack and died at his mother’s house. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Liberace. Musician, Entertainer. Born Wladziu (Polish for Walter) Liberace in West Allis, Wisconsin to musically talented immigrant Italian and Polish parents, his father played the French horn with the Milwaukee Philharmonic Orchestra and his Polish mother played the piano. When Polish pianist Ignacy Paderewski visited the Liberaces, he recommended Wladziu receive a scholarship to the Wisconsin College of Music. He also studied privately and at age 14 made his debut with the Chicago Symphony. Liberace debuted on local Los Angeles, California television in 1951, leading to a network musical variety program, followed by “The Liberace Show” on ABC and then again in his own CBS network series. He often played the song “I’ll Be Seeing You” as his closing number. He earned his nickname “Mr. Showmanship” for his glittering wardrobes and a candelabrum placed on top of his piano which became his trademark. He appeared in a number of motion pictures, but after his television career faded, he became a mainstay at Las Vegas, Nevada casinos, where he played to sold-out performances for years. His last public appearance was on a Christmas telecast of “The Oprah Winfrey Show”. His health was deteriorating, and he retreated to his Palm Spring home. He received the last rites of the Catholic Church and with a rosary in his hands died at the age of 68. The Liberace Museum, a popular Las Vegas tourist attraction, houses his collection of antiques, custom cars and elaborate costumes with proceeds funding a scholarship for aspiring musicians and artists.
Clarence “Pine Top” Smith. Entertainer. A vaudeville pianist, he popularized the boogie-woogie style of playing with his seminal 1929 hit record “Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie”. It marked the first time that colorful term appeared in print. He was on the cusp of fame when his life was tragically cut short at 25. Smith was born in Troy, Alabama, and raised in Birmingham. From around 1920 he was based in Pittsburgh and toured the South with vaudeville and minstrel shows as a dancer, singer and comedian; among the artists he performed with was Ma Rainey. Later he focused on his skills as a fast-blues pianist. In 1928 Smith moved to Chicago and quickly won notice performing at speakeasies and rent parties. On the recommendation of pianist Cow Cow Davenport he was given a shot by Vocalion Records in early December. His first three recording sessions were aborted, but on December 28 he went back into the studio and struck gold with “Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie”. This was pure barrelhouse dance music, with Smith shouting commands to the dancers over his raucous piano: “I don’t want you to move a peg!” “Mess around!” “Shake that thing!” Released two months later, it became the first bona fide boogie-woogie hit. Smith had little chance to savor his celebrity. On the night of March 14, 1929, he was appearing at a Chicago dance hall when gunfire erupted during a fracas. He caught a stray bullet and died the next day, leaving a wife, two children, and 11 recorded tracks.
Rick James. Singer, Songwriter, Musician. Grammy Award-winning R&B and Funk entertainer who attained international stardom in the early 1980s with his hit song “Super Freak.” His other hits include “You and I,” “Bustin’ Out,” “Ebony Eyes,” “Mary Jane,” “Fire and Desire” (with Teena Marie), and “Give It to Me Baby.”
Aaliyah Dana Haughton. R&B singer, dancer, entertainer and actress. Aaliyah (Arabic for “highest, most exalted one”) Dana Haughton was born in Brooklyn, New York on January 16, 1979. She and her family moved to Detroit, Michigan when she was five. Aaliyah made her first stage debut as an orphan in a production of “Annie” at age 6 and got her start in show business at age 10 by way of the popular talent show “Star Search”. Her break is credited to her uncle Barry Hankerson, her manager, CEO and owner of her management company, Blackground Enterprises. Aaliyah acquired the world’s attention in 1994 at the age of 15 when her first single “Back and Forth” landed #1 on the 100 singles chart, followed by other hits on her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number which eventually went gold. The provocative nature of the album’s title and lyrics, as well as the mystery of her true age at the time sparked a media frenzy about an alleged union between Aaliyah and R&B singer and mentor R. Kelly. The frenzy blossomed into a barrage of media rumors threatening to thwart a promising career. To this day it is not certain if there was ever a union between the two. In 1996 Aaliyah released her second album One In A Million. Before the close of 1997 the album would go double platinum with successful hits from the album: “4 Page Letter”, “Hot Like Fire”, and “The One I Gave My Heart To” shaking away any worries of a sophomore slump. Sound track work soon followed for Aaliyah with contributions to the movies Anastasia (“Journey To The Past”) and Dr. Doolittle (“Are You That Somebody?”). Around this time Aaliyah also began filming on her screen debut in Andrzej Bartkowiak’s Romeo Must Die. “Try Again,” taken from the movie soundtrack, went to the top of the US singles chart in June of 2000. The following years self titled third album demonstrated a new maturity and confidence with Aaliyah publically bidding farewell to her teenage years. At the age of 22 in 2001, Aaliyah was on top of the world with Grammy and Oscar nominations already under her belt.
Eddie James Kendrick. R/B singer. Original member of the famous Motown group The Temptations. Born in Union Springs, Alabama, he was the son of Johnnie and Lee Bell. In his hometown, he was known as “Cornbread” because he loved to eat it. Eddie left Alabama at a young age traveling to Detroit with his boyhood friend Paul Williams. Eddie and Paul formed their own little group, The Primes; Eddie’s record deal fell through leaving him without a contract; he met Otis Williams and in 1961 The Temptations was born, Eddie was the smooth falsetto voice. From 1961 to 1971 Eddie added the “s” to Kendrick (Kendricks). He sang lead on many songs during the Temptations early years: The Way You Do The Things You Do, Get Ready, The Girl’s Alright With Me, I’ll Be in Trouble and Girl Why You Wanna Make Me Blue. Eddie left the Temptations in 1971 to go solo; he recorded such songs as: Keep on Trucking, Boogie Down and Can I. Eddie later re-united with David Ruffin, who left the group in 1968; he and David Ruffin then formed a group with Dennis Edwards. The group toured and performed throughout the world. In 1989, Eddie, David and Dennis re-united with The Temptations to be inducted into the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame. In 1991 Eddie was diagnosed with Lung Cancer, he continued to sing and tour the country almost until his death.
Obie Benson. Singer, songwriter. A founding member of the Motown group The Four Tops. A native of Detroit, Obie along with founding members Levi Stubbs, Abdul “Duke” Fakir and Lawrence Payton (d. 1997), the group was originally named ‘The Four Aimes’ when they started out in 1954 singing at a Detroit party. They signed a contract with Chess Records and then changed their name to ‘The Four Tops’. They had no sucessful recordings with Chess Records. Over the next few years they had signed various contracts with Red Tops, Columbia and Riverside Records and all proved unsuccessful as well. The group signed with Motown Records in 1963 and had such hits as “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “Reach Out (I’ll be There),” “I Can’t Help Myself” and “Standing in the Shadows of Love.” The group was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. One of Obie’s greatest songwriting accomplishment was when he, along with Al Cleveland co-wrote with Marvin Gaye the 1971 hit “What’s Going On.”
Betty Jean Everette. Singer. Best known for her 1964 hit “The Shoop Shoop song (It’s in His Kiss). She began singing and playing piano in church when she was just 9. Her other memorable recordings included “You’re No Good” and “Getting Mighty Crowded”.
Rip Thrillby. Rock/Surf Musician. Born in 1966, his real name was John Scott Rogers. Thrillby was a guitarist for the musical group, ‘The Penatrators.’ The band formed in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and later relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, where they soon gained popularity. They made there official recording debut in 1996 with the album “Kings Of The High-Speed Weekend” on the Southern Rock Record Label. This was followed by “Hit The Jet Stream” in 1997, “The Penetrators Meet The Space Cossacks” in 1997, and “Locked And Loaded” in 2001. There recordings include, “Checkpoint Echo” “50 Bucks A Midget” “Midnight Run” “Deception Bay” “Another Time, Another Place” “Codename, Gypsy” “Speed Bump” “Single-Malt Stomp” “Triple-Dog Dare” “Mariner 4” and “Southern Surf Syndicate Theme.” A veteran of the Persian Gulf War, he served in the United States Army.
Spanky Twangler. Rock/Surf Musician. Born in 1970, his real name was Carl Brian Rogers. Twangler played the rhythm and lead guitar for the musical group, ‘The Penatrators.’ His brother, Rip Thrillby, was also a member of the group. The band formed in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and later relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, where they soon gained popularity. They made there official recording debut in 1996 with the album “Kings Of The High-Speed Weekend” on the Southern Rock Record Label. This was followed by “Hit The Jet Stream” in 1997, “The Penetrators Meet The Space Cossacks” in 1997, and “Locked And Loaded” in 2001. There recordings include, “Checkpoint Echo” “50 Bucks A Midget” “Midnight Run” “Deception Bay” “Another Time, Another Place” “Codename, Gypsy” “Speed Bump” “Single-Malt Stomp” “Triple-Dog Dare” “Mariner 4” and “Southern Surf Syndicate Theme.”
Billy Davis. Songwriter, Record Producer, and Singer. He contributed to a number of soul hits and some of the most popular commercial jingles, mostly for Coca-Cola. Davis’ career in music began with an early version of The Four Tops called “The Four Aims” which included his cousin the late Lawrence Payton. Davis sometimes sang with the group as the fifth Aim while they were affiliated with Chess Records (before Motown). Although Chess Records was more impressed Davis’ writing skill than the group, his persistence convinced the record label to sign the group in 1956.In the late 1950s, he and collaborator Berry Gordy wrote a number of hit songs for another cousin Jackie Wilson. They penned the hits ‘Reet Petite’, ‘To Be Loved’, ‘Lonely Teardrops’, ‘I’ll Be Satisfied’, ‘I’m Wanderin’, and ‘That’s Why I Love You So.’ The most notable of these, “Lonely Teardrops”, was written by Davis, Gordy, and Gordy’s sister Gwen, who was Davis’ girlfriend at the time. Davis and Gwen Gordy later founded the Anna record label, which was the distributor of the early singles from Berry Gordy’s Tamla (later Motown) label.By the mid-1960s, Davis was in charge of the A&R and creative departments at Chess Records, supervising the in-house songwriters and producers. During this period, he wrote and produced for many artists, including The Dells, Billy Stewart, Jackie Ross, and Fontella Bass, whose 1965 “Rescue Me” was Davis’ biggest hit. He also worked alongside the Dells and Little Milton and wrote songs for Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, The Supremes and Gladys Knight.Davis’s success garnered him a position writing and producing jingles at the McCann-Erickson advertising agency, where he eventually rose to Senior Vice-President and Music Director. While at McCann-Erickson, Davis’s primary client was The Coca-Cola Company, for which he wrote and produced the famous jingle “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)”, used in a 1971 Coca-Cola television advertisement. He also wrote and produced other jingles such as “It’s the Real Thing” and “Things Go Better With Coke” for Coca-Cola, and “If You’ve Got the Time” for Miller Beer.
Lawrence Payton. R&B Singer. A member of the musical group, ‘The Four Tops.’ The group was formed in Detroit, Michigan, and included Renaldo Benson, Abdul Fakir, and Levi Stubbs. The friends met while attending different high schools. In 1953 or 1954 they began performing together under the name, ‘The Four Aims’ later changing it to ‘The Four Tops’ when they signed to the Chess Record Label in 1956, with the help of Payton’s cousin, Roquel Davis, who joined the group as a songwriter. For Chess they recorded the song, “Kiss Me Baby” but it was a flop and went onto record with the Red Top and Riverside Record Labels. In 1960 they signed with Columbia and had a better success with jazz and pop music. In 1963 they recorded with Berry Gordy’s Label, and released the album, ‘Breaking Through.’ Gordy later put them back into R&B material and put them with Motown’s Holland-Dozier-Holland writing team. After a full decade the group had numerous hits including “Baby I Need Your Lovin’,” a Top Ten hit in 1964, “Ask The Lonely,” a hit in 1965, “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugarpie, Honeybunch),” #1 in the spring of 1965, “It’s The Same Old Song,” a Top Five hit in 1965, “Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” one of their finest singles ever, released in 1966, “Standing In The Shadows Of Love,” a Top Ten hit in 1967, “Bernadette,” a Top Five hit in 1967, “7 Rooms of Gloom,” a Top Twenty hit in 1967, “You Keep Running Away,” a Top Twenty hit in 1967, and two 1968 hits, “If I Were A Carpenter” and “Walk Away Renee.” In 1970 they joined producer Frank Wilson and they recorded a pop standard of Tommy Edward’s, “It’s All In The Game” and a ballad with ‘the Supremes’ entitled, “River Deep, Mountain High” in 1971. In 1972 they left Motown and joined ABC-Dunhill, teaming up with Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, and released, “Keeper Of The Castle” a Top Ten hit, and “Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got)” a smash hit that was their last Top Five Pop hit. In 1973 they recorded the theme song for the film, “Shaft In Africa” and released the song, “Catfish” in 1976. In 1981 they signed with the Casablanca Record Label and released, “When She Was My Girl” a Top Ten hit. In 1983 they rejoined Motown and in 1988 left and signed with Arista Records, where they recorded, “Indestructible” a Top 40 Pop hit,which was their last. In 1990 they were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Payton died in June 1997 of cancer and was replaced by Theo Peoples.
Bobby Engemann. Singer. Born Robert Philip Engemann, after attending Brigham Young University, he formed the vocal group The Lettermen with singers Tony Butala, Jim Pike in 1959. Signed to Warner Brothers Records in 1960, Their first two singles had little success until they signed with Capitol Records which produced the hits, “The Way You Look Tonight” (1961) and “When I Fall in Love” (1961). Over the next seven years, the group had 11 Hot 100 hits and 12 Top 40 songs such as “Come Back Silly Girl” (1963), “Theme From a Summer Place” (1965), “Goin’ Out of My Head” (1966) and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” (1967). The group also performed over 200 live concerts a year, had 32 charted albums, 11 Gold Records and five Grammy nominations. In 2001, they were inducted into the Vocal group Hall of Fame. Engemann was the first to leave the group in the late 1960s, wanting to concentrate on his growing family. He was an elder in the Mormon Church and spent many years in the alumni insurance program for his Alma Mater Brigham Young University. He died at age 78 from complications of pneumonia suffered after heart bypass surgery.
Whitney Houston. Singer, Actress. Regarded as one of the finest female vocalists of her generation, she began her musical career singing as a member of the New Hope Baptist Church junior gospel choir. She is credited with inspiring the successful musical careers of Mariah Carey, Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson among others. She was discovered at a local New York City nightclub by former Arista Records president Clive Davis, where she performed as a backup vocalist for her mother Cissy Houston. In February 1985 her debut album “Whitney Houston” was released to the general public, eventually reaching the top spot in the album charts, where it remained for a record 14 consecutive weeks. The album produced three number one Billboard Top 100 singles “Saving All My Love for You,” “How Will I Know” and “You Give Good Love,” with sales topping 25 million copies worldwide. Two years later, her second album “Whitney” became the first album by a female to debut at the top of the Billboards 200 albums list. She made her motion screen debut in 1992 opposite Kevin Costner in “The Bodyguard.” Her other screen credits include “Waiting to Exhale” (1995), “The Preacher’s Wife” (1996), “Cinderella” (1997), and “Sparkle” in post-production at the time of her death. She was the recipient of two Emmy Awards and six Grammy Awards. Her other notable accomplishments included 30 Billboard Music Awards, seven consecutive number one hit single releases, 22 American Music Awards and several platinum selling albums. By the end of 2009 she had sold an estimated 170 million records. Her meteoric rise to stardom was overshadowed by widely publicized bouts of substance abuse, and allegations of domestic violence during her nearly 15 year marriage to singer Bobby Brown. She was found lifeless in her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, California, one day before the 54th Annual Grammy Awards telecast.
John Denver. Singer, Musician, Songwriter, Actor, Environmentalist, and Humanitarian. One of the most popular acoustic artists of the 1970s, he recorded and released nearly 300 songs, of which 200 of them he composed. His career spanned nearly three decades and his music appeared on a variety of charts, including Country and Western, the Billboard Hot 100, and Adult Contemporary, in all earning him 14 gold and eight platinum albums in the US alone, with his signature songs “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Annie’s Song,” “Rocky Mountain High,” and “Sunshine on My Shoulders.” Born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., his father was a US Air Force officer who set three speed records in the B-58 Hustler bomber aircraft and earned a place in the Air Force Hall of Fame. He received his love and devotion to music from his maternal grandmother, who gave him his first acoustical guitar. His family moved frequently due to his father’s military career and as a introverted child, he never felt that he belonged to any particular place. When he was a teenager, his family moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where he attended and graduated from Arlington Heights High School. He attended Texas Tech University at Lubbock, Texas where he studied architecture. By the time he was in college, he learned to play guitar well enough to perform at local clubs. He adopted the surname “Denver” after the capital of his favorite state, Colorado. He decided to change his name when Randy Sparks, founder of The New Christy Minstrels, suggested that “Deutschendorf” wouldn’t fit comfortably on a marquee. While at Texas Tech, he sang in a folk-music group called “The Alpine Trio.” In 1963 he dropped out of college and moved to Los Angeles, California, where he sang in folk clubs. In 1965 he joined the Chad Mitchell Trio, a folk group that had been renamed The Mitchell Trio prior to Chad Mitchell’s departure and before Denver’s arrival, and then became Denver, Boise, and Johnson (John Denver, David Boise, and Michael Johnson). In 1969 he decided to pursue a solo career and released his first album for RCA Records, “Rhymes & Reasons.” Two years earlier, he had made a self-produced demo recording of some of the songs he played at his concerts, including the song called “Babe I Hate to Go”, later renamed “Leaving on A Jet Plane”. The song came to the attention of Milt Okun, who produced records for the Mitchell Trio and the high-profile folk group Peter, Paul and Mary, and had become Denver’s producer as well. Okun brought the unreleased “Jet Plane” song to Peter, Paul and Mary and their version of the song hit Number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1969. In 1970 he recorded two more albums with RCA, “Take Me to Tomorrow” and “Whose Garden Was This.” His next album, “Poems, Prayers, and Promises” (1971), was a breakthrough for him in the US, thanks in part to the single “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, which went to Number 2 on the Billboard charts despite the first pressings of the track being distorted. Its success was due in part to the efforts of his new manager, future Hollywood producer Jerry Weintraub, who signed him in 1970. Weintraub insisted on a re-issue of the track and began a radio-airplay campaign that started in Denver, Colorado. His career boomed and he had a series of hits over the next four years. In 1972 he scored his first Top Ten album with “Rocky Mountain High,” with its title track reaching the Top Ten in 1973. Between 1973 and 1975, he experienced an impressive chart dominance, with a string of four Number 1 songs (“Sunshine on My Shoulders,” “Annie’s Song,” “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” and “I’m Sorry”) and three Number 1 albums (“John Denver’s Greatest Hits” (1973), “Back Home Again” (1974), and “Windsong” (1975)). After appearing as a guest on many shows, he went on to host his own variety/music specials, including several concerts from Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver, Colorado. His seasonal special, “Rocky Mountain Christmas,” was watched by more than 60 million people and was the highest-rated show for the ABC network at that time. His live concert special, “An Evening with John Denver,” won the 1974-1975 Emmy for Outstanding Special, Comedy-Variety or Music. He also a guest starred on “The Muppet Show,” the beginning of the lifelong friendship between him and Jim Henson that spawned two television specials with The Muppets. In 1974 he received the Academy of Country Music Album of the Year Award for “Back Home Again” and in 1975 he received the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year award and also received its Song of the Year Award for “Back Home Again.” The same year, he received American Music Award’s Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist and the following year he received the American Music Award’s Favorite Country Album for “Back Home Again” and Favorite Country Male Artist. He tried his hand at acting, appearing in the “The Colorado Cattle Caper” episode of the “McCloud” television movie in February 1974, the television special “Foxfire” (1987) with Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn, and starred in the 1977 film “Oh, God!” opposite George Burns. He hosted the Grammy Awards five times in the 1970s and 1980s and guest-hosted “The Tonight Show” on multiple occasions. In the mid-1970s he became outspoken in politics and the environment. He expressed his ecologic interests in the epic 1975 song “Calypso,” which is an ode to the exploration ship and team of environmental activist Jacques Cousteau. In 1976 he campaigned for Jimmy Carter and was a supporter of the Democratic Party and of a number of charitable causes for the environmental movement, the homeless, the poor, the hungry, and the African AIDS crisis. The same year, he founded the charitable Windstar Foundation to promote sustainable living. His dismay at the Russian Chernobyl disaster led to precedent-setting concerts in parts of communist Asia and Europe. In 1977 he was named Poet Laureate of Colorado and also received a People’s Choice Award. He had a few more US Top 30 hits as the 1970s ended, but nothing to match his earlier success. He began to focus more on humanitarian and sustainability causes, focusing extensively on conservation projects. During the 1980s he was critical of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Administration, but he remained active in his campaign against world hunger, for which Reagan awarded him the Presidential World Without Hunger Award in 1985. His criticism of the conservative politics of the 1980s was expressed in his autobiographical folk-rock ballad “Let Us Begin (What Are We Making Weapons For).” He was also critical of the Republican-dominated Congress and American Conservatism of the 1990s. He denounced the National Rifle Association as a corrupt political machine that could buy off politicians, and in an open letter to the media, he wrote that he opposed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He had battled to expand the refuge in the 1980s, and he praised President Bill Clinton for his opposition to the proposed drilling. He had an innate love of flying which was secondary only to his love for music. A pilot with over 2,700 hours of experience, he had pilot license ratings for single-engine land and sea, multi-engine land, glider, and instrument. He collected vintage biplanes, and in 1974, he bought a Learjet, which he used to fly himself to concerts. He also bought a Christen Eagle aerobatic plane, two Cessna 210 and in 1997, an experimental, amateur-built Rutan Long-EZ. He was attracted to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and became dedicated to America’s work in outer space. He conscientiously worked to help bring into being the “Citizens in Space” program. In 1985 he received the NASA Public Service Medal for “helping to increase awareness of space exploration by the peoples of the world,” an award usually restricted to spaceflight engineers and designers. The same year, he passed NASA’s rigorous physical exam and was in line for a space flight, a finalist for the first citizen’s trip on the Space Shuttle in 1986, but was not chosen. After the Challenger disaster with teacher Christa McAuliffe aboard, he dedicated his song “Flying for Me” to all astronauts, and he continued to support NASA. In 1994 he published his autobiography, “Take Me Home,” in which he candidly spoke of his marijuana, LSD, and cocaine use, his marital infidelities, and his history of domestic violence. In 1996, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 1997 he recorded a children’s train album for Sony Wonder, titled “All Aboard!” which consisted of old-fashioned swing, big band, folk, bluegrass, and gospel styles of music woven into a theme of railroad songs. The album won him a posthumous Best Musical Album For Children Grammy Award, which was his only Grammy. He was first married to Annie Martell and following the success of “Rocky Mountain High,” he purchased a residence in Aspen, Colorado and owned one home in Aspen continuously until his death. He and his first wife divorced in 1982 and the ensuing property settlement caused him to become so enraged he nearly choked his ex-wife, then used a chainsaw to cut the marital bed in half. He married actress Cassandra Delaney in 1988 and they separated in 1991, divorcing in 1993. In 1993 he pleaded guilty to a drunken driving charge, and was placed on probation. The following year, while still on probation, he was again charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence after crashing his Porsche into a tree in Aspen. In 1996 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) decided that he could no longer fly a plane due to medical disqualification for failure to abstain from alcohol, a condition that the FAA had imposed in October 1995 after his prior drunk-driving conviction. He died at the age of 53 when his experimental Rutan Long-EZ aircraft crashed into the Pacific Ocean near Pacific Grove, California, while making a series of touch-and-go landings at the nearby Monterey Peninsula Airport. Post-accident investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board showed that the leading cause of the accident was his inability to safely execute a switch of fuel tanks in flight. On March 12, 2007, the Colorado Senate passed a resolution to make his trademark 1972 hit “Rocky Mountain High” one of the state’s two official state songs, sharing duties with its predecessor, “Where the Columbines Grow”. On April 21, 2011, he became the first inductee into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.
Dean Martin. Actor, Singer. Born Dino Paul Crocetti in Stuebenville, Ohio, before achieving stardom, he performed various job duties, some of which were as a steelmill worker, a service station attendant, a gambler, and he also tried to be a professional boxer. As a boxer, he fought under the name of “Kid Crochet.” When asked about his boxing career, he said that he had won “all” but 11 of his 12 bouts. In 1946 his life would change forever when he met a very hard working young up-start named Jerry Lewis. This would mark the beginning of one of Hollywood’s greatest teams. During the next 11 years and 16 films, the team of Martin and Lewis not only brought about super-stardom, but it also brought a lot of personal conflicts. These conflicts not only led to their break-up, but the hurt was felt by the two for a great number of years. After the Martin-Lewis split, 1958-59 brought two films for Dean, “The Young Lions” (1958) and a film entitled “Rio Bravo” (1959). In this film, he was not only starring with another Hollywood icon, John Wayne, but also a very popular teen idol, Ricky Nelson. While sharing songs with Nelson in this film, it became a hit with music fans everywhere. A 1960 film, however, added yet another high point in his career. The mega-hit film “Oceans Eleven” would bring with it the ever famous “rat pack” label, when he was teamed with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford. This proved to be an enduring bond among these greats. Dean’s film career continued until 1965, when he made a daring venture into the television industry with “The Dean Martin Show.” He hosted this show until 1973, and earned a Golden Globe award.
Joseph “Joe” Jackson. Music Figure. He was an American talent manager and patriarch of the Jackson family of entertainers which included the pop stars Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson. He was inducted into Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame as a member of the class of 2014.
Michael Jackson. Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale) Great Mausoleum, Holly Terrace, Sanctuary of Ascension, Distinguished Memorial – Sarcophagus 9, Crypt A. This mausoleum is private and locked to the general public.
Musician, Entertainer. He was called the “King of Pop,” and is best remembered for his revolutionary videos such as “Thriller” (1982), and “Dangerous” (1991), as well as two Guinness World Records: Most successful entertainer of all time (with 13 Grammy Awards, 13 Number One single hits in a solo career, and sales of over 750 million in albums worldwide), and for having the greatest selling album of all time (“Thriller”). He is also remembered for his trademark single sequined white glove, and for The Moonwalk. Born Michael Joseph Jackson in Gary, Indiana, he was the seventh of nine children to Joseph Walter “Joe” Jackson and Katherine Esther Scruse Jackson, a working class family living in an industrial suburb of Chicago. His father was a steel mill employee who also played guitar in a Rhythm and Blues band, the Falcons. Jackson showed his musical abilities early, performing in front of his kindergarten classmates at the age of 5, and later joining his four brothers in a singing group, The Jackson Brothers, which was changed to the Jackson 5 when Michael was eight years old. Michael was soon singing lead to the others playing, and in 1968, the group signed with Motown Records, their initial break into the recording industry. Even then, Michael was recognized as a singing prodigy. Their first four records set a Motown record when all four hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. By the early 1970s, the group was considered one of the most successful pop/soul groups in history. In June 1975, the Jackson 5 signed with CBS Records, and Michael also became the principal songwriter of the group. In 1978, he attempted to break into film, playing the Scarecrow in “The Wiz” but had better luck with his music videos, to which he changed from just a video recording of his singing to a short musical story of intense drama. His revolutionary remake of the video medium would change forever the video industry. In 1979, Michael broke away from his brothers to go solo, since he had become more popular than any of his brothers. During the 1980s, his record sales consistently hit number one in the charts, to be topped by his best selling album of all time, Thriller (1982). During this period, Jackson would claim to be suffering from both lupus and vitiligo. In a 1988 autobiography, “Moon Walk,” Jackson would speak of facing his father’s abuse during his childhood, his many periods of weight loss and weight gain, and the changes to his face (many doctors believe that he has undergone as many as a dozen facial cosmetic surgeries). In 1993, he would state in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that he suffered from vitiligo, a rare disease that depigments the skin, turning it white. In the 1990s, as Jackson’s fame grew, he become more introverted, building his Neverland Ranch retreat as a refuge from his fans and detractors alike. Jackson was accused of child sexual abuse in 1993, but settled out of court, paying his accuser 22 million dollars to end the stress of the pending court trial; this led many to believe he was hiding a tendency toward pedophilia, which lost him many fans. Ever the businessman, even his marriages were crafted to improve his image. He was married twice, first to Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Rock King Elvis Presley, on May 26, 1994, but the marriage ended in divorce in January 1996. He then married Debbie Rowe on November 15, 1996, with whom he had two children, a daughter Paris Michael Katherine, and a son, Michael Jr, nicknamed “Prince.” This marriage also ended in divorce in October 1999. During this period, Jackson became addicted to painkillers, and was able to break the habit with the help of his singer friend, Elton John. In 1997, Jackson would dedicate his album, HIStory, to Elton John; it would sell over 6 million copies worldwide. Jackson would have a third child in 2002, a son, Prince Michael Jackson II, and nicknamed “Blanket.” To date, the name of the mother has not been revealed; she apparently gave up custody of the child to Jackson. In 2003, Jackson was again accused of child molestation, but was found “not guilty” during a media circus trial that ended in June 2005, due to lack of evidence. Many court watchers believe that he was a victim of being a rich celebrity target for blackmailers, hoping to score a quick multi-million dollar settlement from him. During his lifetime, Jackson has been very active in a number of charities, and has donated upwards of $300 million to various charities; he is considered one of the top celebrity donators. For much of his 50 years of life, Jackson, a sensitive man, was subjected to severe stress, beginning with what he considered his father’s mental abuse, his early fame and continuous success in the music world, his loss of several fortunes over the course of his life, followed by the hard work to set up a tour to recoup his losses, his unsuccessful marriages, the continual hounding of the tabloid press, hurtful jokes of late night television hosts, his addiction to pain killers, and rapid weight gain and weight loss; all have taken their toll on his fragile body. About noon on June 25, 2009, Jackson was found unconscious at his home and although EMTs immediately responded, he was pronounced dead at the hospital, believed at the time to be from a fatal heart attack. On July 7, 2009, the Jackson family held a private service for him at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, followed by a memorial service at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Michael Jackson was inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1997 as a member of the Jackson 5, and in 2001, as a solo artist. In 2002, he was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. He has also received numerous awards for his contributions to the world of pop music, and for his numerous best selling albums.
Mildred Jane Hill. Musician. She was a concert pianist, organist, author and teacher most noted as co-writer with her sister Patty Smith Hill of the familiar tune “Happy Birthday to You.” She also was a student of her father, Calvin Cody and Adolp Wedig. Louisville, Kentuky native Mildred Jane Hill along with her sister orginally composed what later became known as “Happy Birthday to You” as a classroom greeting. It was first published in 1893 as “Good Morning to All” with the lyrics later amended in 1924 after Hill’s death to include a stanza begining “Happy Birthday to You.” She died in Chicago, Illinois on June 5, 1916. Mildred Jane Hill and Patty Smith were posthumosly inducted in the The Songwriter’s Hall of Fame on June 12, 1996. In 1988, Birch Tree Group, LTD. sold the rights of Happy Birthday to you along with all its other assets, to Warner Communications for an estimated $25 millon. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, “Happy Birthday to You” and “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” are among the three most popular songs in the English language.
Patty Smith Hill. Kindergarten teacher who co-wrote the “Happy Birthday” song.
Stephen Foster. Composer. Stephen Collins Foster was America’s first great songwriter. Many of his songs are still well-known more than 150 years after their composition. His first hit, “Oh! Susanna” (1846), became the anthem of the California Gold Rush. Foster’s other popular works include “Camptown Races” (1850), “Nelly Bly” (1850), “Old Folks at Home” (also known as “Swanee River,” 1851), “My Old Kentucky Home” (1853), “Old Dog Tray” (1853), “Hard Times Come Again No More” (1854), “Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair” (1854), and “Beautiful Dreamer” (1862). Foster wrote in the minstrel tradition of the time, in which white entertainers would blacken their faces to parody slaves. But he never stooped to racism, and his songs overcame their origins with their sincerity, empathy, and beguiling melodies. He produced over 200 songs, and wrote the lyrics for most of them. Stephen Collins Foster was born in Lawrenceville (now part of Pittsburg), Pennsylvania. A self-taught musician, he learned to play the clarinet by ear and published his first song, “Open Thy Lattice, Love,” when he was 18. In 1846 he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to work as a bookeeper for his brother, and brought out two collections of tunes, “Songs of the Sable Harmonists” (1848) and “Foster’s Ethiopian Melodies” (1849). He returned to Pittsburg in 1850 and signed a long-term contract to write songs for the Christy Minstrels company. Foster was a poor businessman. He sold his songs for little money and saw none of the huge profits sheet music publishers made from his work. In 1860 he went to New York City, where he spent his last years struggling against increasing poverty, illness, and alcoholism. Foster died at 37, of head injuries from an accidental fall in his Bowery hotel room. At the time of his death he possessed exactly 38 cents. Out of respect for the composer, a transport company shipped his body back to Pittsburg for free. Foster’s songs are so deeply rooted in American folk tradition they are often viewed as folk music themselves. When composer Charles Ives, that homespun eccentric nationalist, wanted a real American flavor in his music, he quoted Foster. His art even found its way into 20th Century pop culture. “Camptown Races” is the tune ubiquitously hummed by the rooster Foghorn Leghorn in Warner Bros. cartoons, and was memorably parodied in the comic western “Blazing Saddles” (1974). And the 1960s TV comedy “I Dream of Jeannie” derived its title from a Foster song. For all its quaintness and sentimentality, Foster’s music remains a living part of America’s cultural heritage.
Leon Russell. American Musician, Songwriter and Producer. Born Claude Russell Bridges, he first achieved widespread recognition as a member of Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, then later, through his collaborations with Joe Cocker. He was playing in bars in Tulsa at age 14 and joined a band that included J.J. Cale. In the late-1950s, Russell moved to Los Angeles and became part of a talented pool of studio musicians known informally as the Wrecking Crew who provided back up for pop and rock hits of ’60s, including those by Jan and Dean, the Beach Boys, the Monkees and the Byrds. Russell also was part of producer Phil Spector’s trademark “Wall of Sound” recording team, and also worked as an arranger, musician and songwriter for the popular television dance show “Shindig”. In 1969, Russell and Denny Cordell started Shelter Records, which put out recordings by Russell, Cale, Freddie King, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Phoebe Snow. In 1970, he joined Joe Cocker’s band for the landmark Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, serving as the leader of the 20-piece band on a riotous two-month U.S. tour that spawned a double-disc live album, a documentary film, and inspired him to co-write “Superstar”. His work with Cocker, an appearance in the film about George Harrison’s 1971 “Concert for Bangladesh” and his first solo album, which featured contributions from three Rolling Stones and two Beatles, made Russell a star in his own right. In 1970, his own self-titled solo album was released, containing his signature track, “A Song for You”. In the following years he had his biggest chart successes with 1972’s “Tight Rope” and 1975’s “Lady Blue.” Over a five-decade period, he recorded over 30 albums, worked as a producer, songwriter, studio collaborator and touring partner for artists such as the Rolling Stones, Freddie King and Bob Dylan. Russell, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, suffered a heart attack in July, 2016, but was expected to make a full recovery.
Bebe Barron. Electronic Music Pioneer, Composer. Her husband Louis Barron designed and built the equipment they used to manipulate sound wave frequencies and record them on loop tape reels. She then used those recordings to piece together compositions for the groundbreaking music in the 1956 motion picture Forbidden Planet, as well as other films. The music recording techniques they used in that film, with the eerie and other-worldy sounds they were able to create, set the standard for all science fiction film scores to come.
Jazz Artist Graves
Miles Davis. Jazz Musician. The son of a middle-class dentist from Alton, Illinois, he won a scholarship to Julliard in 1944, but there is no evidence that he ever attended the institution. Rather, upon his arrival in New York, he joined up with the modern jazz leader Charlie Parker, joining his “All-Star” quintet on trumpet. Quickly learning that he would never be able to match Parker’s technical virtuousity, Davis adopted a cooler, more laid back approach to his solos, playing very few notes and concentrating on harmony and tone, often employing a characteristic Harmon mute. He would explore these ideas further in 1949 with a nine-piece band under the direction of Gil Evans. This ensemble echewed the blues-based tonality common to most previous jazz styles, opting instead for a “cooler” timbre which would lend its name to their best-known recording, “Birth of the Cool.” He led more traditional jazz quintets through the 1950s, but would reach an epiphany leading a sextet of renowned musicians in 1958 and 1959. With John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Julian “Cannonball” Adderly on alto sax, Bill Evans on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums, the group explored “modal” pieces, replacing the traditional ideas of chord progression with patterns based on scales. Their 1959 album, “Kind of Blue”, is widely regarded as the greatest jazz album of all time. Miles Davis would lead similar groups through the 1960s, including such luminaries as Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, Chick Corea, Joe Zalwinul, Wayne Shorter, and John McLaughlin. In the late 1960s, his style radically changed, embracing the influences of Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone to create the embryonic style of jazz-rock, also known as fusion, as exemplified on his albums “In a Silent Way” (1969) and “Bitches Brew” (1970). He would continue in this style until a self-imposed retirement in 1976. Miles Davis returned to recording in 1982 with “The Man With the Horn,” this time playing in a more commercial jazz-pop idiom.
Bix Beiderbecke. Jazz Musician. With the bands of Frankie Trumbauer, Jean Goldkette and Paul Whiteman, he created new cornet sounds. He also wrote a few piano pieces. A 1950 film called “Young Man with a Horn” was loosley based on Bix. It starred Kirk Douglas, Lauren Becall, Doris Day and Hoagy Carmichael. The trumpet work was dubbed by Harry James. A memorial stands for him in Le Claire Park in Davenport, Scott County, Iowa.
Sun Ra. Musician. Born Herman Poole Blount in Birmingham, Alabama, he was a prolific jazz piano-synthesizer player, known for his cosmic philosophy musical compositions and performances. From the mid-1950s to his death, he led his group “The Arkestra”, which performed as small as a duet, and all the way up to an orchestra of thirty musicians. His music touched on virtually the entire style history of jazz and he was one of the first musicians to pioneer electronic improvisation. He wrote an enormous number of songs, recorded many albums and his group was the subject of the documentary films “Space in the Place” (1974) and “A Joyful Noise” (1980). He is also a member of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.
Jean-Baptiste Illinois Jacquet. Acclaimed Saxophonist. He played with nearly every jazz and blues luminary of his time and his standout solo on Lionel Hampton’s “Flying Home” became a rhythm and blues standard.
Mel Torme. Jazz Singer, Actor. Nicknamed “The Velvet Fog”, he was one of the most successful jazz singers of the 20th Century. Born Melvin Howard Torma in Chicago, Illinois to a musical family, his father, a Russian immigrant owned a dry goods store. He began singing publicly at the age of four at a restaurant, then make his professional debut with the Coon-Sanders Orchestra. At age nine, he was doing parts for Chicago radio plays “Romance of Helen Trent” and “Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy” while a snare drummer in the Shakespeare Elementary School drum and bugle corps in Chicago. In high school, he formed his own band and sold his first written song, “Lament of Love,” to Harry James who made a recording. In early 1940, he quit high school to become a singer, drummer and arranger with Chico Marx’s band. In 1944, Mel Torme formed his own vocal group, the “Mel-Tones” which produced the hit, “What is This Thing Called Love?” which has become a jazz standard. He was drafted for a time during World War II but was quickly discharged with flat feet. He became a successful solo artist in 1947 and soon had a number one hit in “Careless Love.” He made over fifty albums during his career, with many considering his best work his collaborations with jazz pianist George Shearing on the releases, “An Evening With George Shearing and Mel Torme” and “Top Drawer” which earned him a Granny for Best Male Jazz Vocalist in 1982 and 1983. He also made a career with television guest appearances on programs like “Spike Jones Show”, “The Judy Garland Show”, “The Lucy Show”, “The Tonight Show, Starring Johnny Carson” and the situation comedy “Night Court”, and made one time appearances on programs like “Playhouse 90” (where he was nominated best supporting actor Emmy for his role in “The Comedian”) “The Virginian”, “The Mike Douglas Show”, “The Hollywood Palace”, “The Bold Ones: The Lawyers, Chase” and “Seinfeld”. Torme performed constantly in Las Vegas, Nevada and jazz clubs around the country, and composed over 300 songs.
Lionel Hampton. Jazz Musician. His career as a Jazz musician lasted nearly seven decades beginning in Chicago culminating in international fame. Lionel Hampton lifted the vibes to a place of honor in small-group and big-band jazz. Although born in Kentucky, he considered Birmingham, Alabama his hometown. His father was singer-pianist Charles Hampton who enlisted in the army during World War I, first declared MIA, then dead. The lure of jobs in the industrial North in the postwar induced his mother Gertrude to relocate to Chicago. A brief stay in Kenosha, Wisconsin was his first chance at a formal music lesson when a Dominican nun at Holy Rosary Academy taught him the essentials of playing drums. While attending St. Monica’s Catholic School in Chicago, he began selling papers, a pre-requisite for being in the Chicago Defender’s Newsboys Band. First he helped carry the bass drum and then played the snare drum. His break came in Los Angeles after his wife Gladys encouraged him to buy a vibraphone and learn to play. While performing at the Paradise nightclub, Benny Goodman and his group walked in, stepped onto the stage and began playing with the band. Thus, Lionel joined another black, Teddy Wilson in the Benny Goodman band. Hampton then appeared with the Goodman quartet at the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York – The first time that black and white ever played a major commercial booking – the racial barrier was broken. In 1940, Lionel formed his own big band which almost instantly became a leader in the Jazz field. ‘Sunny Side of the Street, Central Avenue Breakdown, his signature tune, Flying Home, and Hamp’s Boogie-Woogie’ all became top-of-the-chart best-sellers upon release. As a composer and arranger, he wrote more than 200 works including a major symphonic work, ‘King David Suite.’ Asked by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, he served as goodwill ambassador for the United States and his group made many tours to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the far East. With the shadows of old age covering him, he made his last public appearance at the Moscow Jazz Festival. Illness caught up with him. Admitted to Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, he passed away at the age of 94. Lionel was accorded a New Orleans style Jazz funeral in Manhattan. A ‘Jazz Funeral’ procession formed outside Harlem’s historic Cotton Club. A nine-member band, playing Blues and dirges followed behind Hampton’s white wooden hearse as it was drawn by two horses toward Manhattan’s Riverside Church. The service laced with Jazz music was led by Rev. James A. Forbes Jr. Many speakers gave tribute to Lionel Hampton before the 2,000 mourners packed inside the upper Manhattan landmark which overlooks the Hudson River, including former US President George Bush. However, it was the music that dominated the two-hour service – A parade of jazz greats: pianist Hank Jones, saxophone player, Illinois Jacquet, trumpeters Clark Terry, Jon Faddis and Roy Hargrove all former associates. Interment followed beside his wife Gladys who died in 1971. She had served as his personal manager, a brilliant businesswoman who was responsible for raising the money to start the band. Honors and awards: President George Bush appointed him to the Board of the Kennedy Center, Washington D.C. The National Medal of the Arts was presented in 1977 by President Clinton at the White House. A vibraphone he played for 15 years was put into the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. He used his own money to construct an affordable housing unit in Harlem. His greatest legacy: He began working with the University of Idaho in the early 1980s to establish his dream for the future of music education. I
Duke Ellington. Jazz Musician, Composer, Bandleader. One of the most prolific composer of the 20th Century, he wrote thousands of songs and dozens of works in symphonic form, as well as complete scores for ballet, theater and film. Born in Washington, D.C. he was nicknamed “Duke” because of the flashy way he liked to dress. Ellington studied piano as a child but showed no particular ability until he was enrolled into the Armstrong Manual Training School. He learned to read music, worked on his technique, and began playing at clubs and cafes. In 1917, Ellington formed his first group, the “Duke’s Serenaders” and in 1923, they moved to New York City, New York, renamed themselves the “Washingtonians” working off and on four years at the Kentucky Club before moving on to become the house band of Harlem’s renowned Cotton Club from 1927 to 1932. From 1924, when he put his name on the band-“Duke Ellington and his Washingtonians”- produced a great quantity of music for exactly fifty years. Ellington spent much of his professional career traveling with his band from one performance to the next, composing wherever he could as he took his music to audiences across the globe. He composed many works specifically to feature the distinctive sounds of such soloists as clarinetist Barney Bigard, Saxophonists Harry Carney and Johnny Hodges and trumpeter Cottie Williams. Ellington’s popular favorites included “Mood Indigo,” “Solitude,” “Sophisticated Lady,” “In A Sentimental Mood,” “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Satin Doll,” “Black, Brown and Beige,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” and “Come Sunday”. The end of the big-band era in the 1940’s took its toll on the Ellington orchestra, and as worked dried up Ellington was forced to turn to royalties from his popular songs to keep the band afloat, a situation which was later reversed. He also appeared in numerous films and was the first African-American composer to write a film score (for “Anatomy of a Murder”). When he reached his sixties, an age at which many contemplate retirement, Ellington kept up the relentless schedule of composing, performing, recording and traveling he had followed for over thirty years. During this time he received numerous awards, including the presentation of the keys to the city of Los Angeles, California in 1936, the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP in 1959, The President’s Gold Medal by President Lyndon B. Johnson (1966), the Pied Piper Award (1968), the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon (1969), the Legion of Honor by the country of France (the countries highest award), a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (6535 Hollywood Blvd.) and thirteen Grammy Awards. Duke Ellington and his band remained popular until his death in New York City in 1974 at the age of 75. His funeral was held in New York’s Cathedral of St. John Divine and was attended by numerous celebrities and by thousands. Since Ellington’s death the U.S. Postal Service issued a Commemorative Stamp (April 29, 1986), re-named Calvert Street Bridge in Washington, D.C. after him and the renamed Washington, DC’s Western High School to The Duke Ellington School of the Arts.
Blues Artist Graves
Muddy Waters. Blues Musician. Born McKinley Morganfield, Muddy Waters received his more famous sobriquet as a child. His grandmother, who raised Waters following the death of his mother in 1918, called him “Muddy” after his habit of playing in a shallow creek nearby their home. He took up harmonica and guitar in his teens, absorbing the influences of local legends Son House and Robert Johnson. In 1941 and 1942, Waters recorded several acoustic country blues pieces for a team of Library of Congress folksong collectors at Stovall’s Plantation in Clarksdale, Mississippi; these recordings, including an early version of “I Can’t Be Satisfied”, have since come to be regarded as classics. Encouraged by the relative success of these records, Waters emigrated to Chicago in 1943. He was initially unsuccessful, however, and, aside from a few abortive recording sessions with Columbia Records, Waters ended up working as a truck driver. In 1948, Waters made his first recordings with the new Chess/Aristocrat label, predominantly using the electric instruments that would be characteristic of his work. This began a prodigious partnership that would produce perhaps the most widely-recognized body of work in the Chicago Blues genre. Recording with other master musicians like harmonica player Little Walter Jacobs, guitarist/singer Jimmy Reed, pianist Otis Spann, and bassist/songwriter Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters recorded such classics as “I Feel Like Going Home” (1948), “Still a Fool” (1951), “I Just Want To Make Love To You”, “Hoochie Coochie Man”, and “I’m Ready” (all 1954), and “Mannish Boy” (1955). Established as perhaps the preeminent blues icon, Waters would influence a new generation of blues and rock artists in the United States and Britain, including Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter, Michael Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, Buddy Guy, Magic Sam, Otis Rush (all of whom recorded with Waters) and practically every other mainstream blues artist of the last forty years. His later albums include 1968’s eclectic “Electric Mud” and his staggering 1977 comeback “Hard Again.”
John Henry Barbee. Blues Musician. Born William George Tucker in Henning, Tennessee, he was singer guitarist and changed his name to reflect his favorite folk song, “The Ballard of John Henry”. He toured in the 1930s throughout the south playing slide guitar and released his first record “Six Weeks Old Blues” on the Vocalion label in 1938. The record had good success followed by hits to include “God Knows I Can’t Help It”, “Six Weeks Old Blues”, “Against My Will”, “Early In The Morning” and “No Pickin, No Pullin”. Through the 1940s and 1950s, he toured as a regular on the Blues and Folk Festival circuits. In early 1964, after a European tour with Howlin’ Wolf and Lightning Hopkins, he returned to the U.S., purchased an automobile and accidentally ran over and killed a man. He was locked up in a Chicago jail and died of a heart attack ten days before his 59th birthday.
Peter Joe “Doc” Clayton. Musician. Born in Georgia, he was a singer, piano player and a pioneer of the early Chicago Blues era. He recorded for Bluebird records from the 1930s until his death and was a regular in the Chicago scene. Among his songs he wrote and recorded are “Cheating and Lying Blues”, “I Ain’t Gonna Drink No More”, “Pearl Harbor Blues”, “Moonshine Woman Blues”, “Hold That Train, Conductor” and “I Need My Baby” which were both covered by B.B. King. He died of tuberculosis in Chicago, Illinois.