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Archive for the ‘Americana’ Category

RIP, Gary Claxton (January 6, 2011) Heybale

Posted by on January 6, 2011

Gary Claxton
DOB Unknown – January 6, 2011

Photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Gary Claxton was a respected Austin, Texas based singer-songwriter and guitarist.  As part of alt-country band, Heybale he was a popular weekly draw at the city’s world famous watering hole, The Continental Club for nearly a decade.  That group also featured the great Redd Volkaert of Merle Haggard fame, and Ernie Poole Ball who played with Johnny Cash.  Claxton was born in Oklahoma and eventually moved to Nashville after winning a songwriting contest.  But he quickly became disillusion by the business that is country music, so he packed up and moved to Austin where his honky-tonk inspired sound fit more easily.  He later met the great Tom Lewis who invited him to join Heybale.   Either as part of Heybale or fronting groups made up of other local friends, he was always a crowd-pleaser thanks to his golden voice and his respect for traditional country music.  Gary Claxton took his own life on January 6, 2011.  He was 50 years old.

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Died On This Date (August 25, 2000) Jack Nitzsche

Posted by on August 25, 2010

Bernard “Jack” Nitzsche
April 22, 1937 – August 25, 2000


Jack Nitzsche was a respected arranger, composer, producer and session musician who was involved in many of the greatest west coast pop recordings of the ’60s and ’70s.  His first significant contribution to pop music came in 1955 when he co-wrote “Needles And Pins” with Sonny Bono.  The song was a hit for Jackie DeShannon and was later recorded by the Searchers, Cher and the Ramones.  By the early ’60s, Nitzsche was working as an arranger for Phil Spector,  orchestrating the celebrated “wall of sound” on hits like Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep Mountain High.”  Nitzsche was also part of the famed Wrecking Crew, a group of studio musicians that included Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, and Hal Blaine.  Much like their Motown counterparts, the Funk Brothers, the Wrecking Crew were the faceless band behind many ’60s pop hits coming out of Los Angeles.  They could be heard on records by the likes of the Monkees and the Beach Boys. Nitzsche also worked on classic recordings by the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Buffalo Springfield, Graham Parker and Willy DeVille to name a few.  During the ’70s, Nitzsche created the music for several motion pictures including One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Starman, 9-1/2 Weeks, and An Officer And A Gentlemen, for which won the best song Oscar for “Up Where We Belong.”  Jack Nitzsche died of cardiac arrest at the age of 63.

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Died On This Date (August 23, 2006) David Schnaufer / Respected Dulcimer Player

Posted by on August 23, 2010

David Schnaufer
DOB Unknown – August 23, 2006

David Schnaufer was a folk musician whose instrument of choice, the dulcimer, can be heard on countless country, Americana and bluegrass recordings.  During the ’80s, he moved from Texas to Nashville where he became one of the most in-demand studio players.  Over the years he’s played on records by the likes of the Judds, Kathy Mattea, Hank Williams Jr., Alison Krauss, and Cyndi Lauper.  He was also a member of alt-country band, the Cactus Brothers which included members of Walk The West.   During the mid ’90s, he became a music professor at Vanderbilt University.  David Schnaufer died of lung cancer on August 23, 2010.


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RIP, Ben Keith (July 26, 2010) Steel Guitar Legend; Played With Neil Young

Posted by on July 26, 2010

Ben Keith (Born Bennett Schaeufle)
March 6, 1937 – July 26, 2010

Ben Keith was a successful Nashville session player, producer, and singer-songwriter who is perhaps best remembered for his many collaborations with Neil Young.  Keith first began making a name for himself in Nashville during the ’50s and ’60s when he played on numerous country and early rock ‘n roll hits.  That list includes his steel guitar on Patsy Cline’s “I Fall To Pieces.”  During the early ’70s, Keith was invited to play on Young Harvest album that went on to become the most successful album of 1971 and spawned such rock staples as “Old Man” and “Heart Of Gold,” both of which featured Keith’s playing.   That was the beginning of a nearly 40-year musical partnership that found Keith playing on over a dozen Young albums and in countless concerts.  Over the course of his career, Keith also collaborated with a group of some of popular music’s most beloved artists.  That list includes Waylon Jennings, Jewel, Warren Zevon, Willie Nelson, the Band, Johnny Cash, and Ringo Starr.  He also released a handful of his albums.  Ben Keith passed away on July 26, 2010 at the age of 73.  Cause of death was not immediately released.

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Died On This Date (May 9, 2009) Stephen Bruton / Austin Music Great

Posted by on May 9, 2010

Stephen Bruton
November 7, 1948 – May 9, 2009

Stephen Bruton was a beloved Texas songwriter, guitarist, and producer.   Born in Fort Worth, Bruton’s first big break came at age 22, when he was asked to play in Kris Kristofferson’s band.   Since then, Bruton has been an entertainment jack of all trade.  After many years as a sideman, Bruton stepped out to the front of the stage and became a headliner himself.  As a respected songwriter, he’s written songs for Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Buffett, Martina McBride and many more.  As a producer, he worked the board for such greats as Joe Ely, Alejandro Escovedo, Hal Ketchum and others.  Bruton also engineered albums by the likes of Ziggy Marley, John Mellencamp and R.E.M. He even had some acting credits, appearing in such films as A Star Is Born, Miss Congeniality, and Heaven’s Gate.  But it was his outstanding guitar work that might end up being his strongest legacy.  Over the years, he’s been heartily invited to play on projects by Elvis Costello, Delbert McClinton, Carly Simon, Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge, and many more.  Bruton was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2007 and succumbed to it in Los Angeles where he was working on the soundtrack to the Jeff Bridges film, Crazy Heart.

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Died On This Date (April 28, 1988) B.W. Stevenson / Had hit With “My Maria”

Posted by on April 28, 2010

B.W. Stevenson (Born Lewis Stevenson)
October 5, 1949 – April 28, 1988

Born in Dallas, Texas, B.W. Stevenson was  singer-songwriter of country pop songs. He had one big hit, 1973’s “My Maria,” which reached #9 on the Billboard pop singles chart.  The song became a #1 country hit for Brook & Dunn in 1996.   Stevenson died while undergoing heart valve surgery on April 28, 1988.  He was 38.

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Died On This Date (April 22, 2008) Bob Childers / Americana singer-songwriter

Posted by on April 22, 2010

Bob Childers
November 20, 1946 – April 22, 2008

Oklahoma singer-songwriter Bob Childers passed away on Tuesday, April 22, 2008 of emphysema and related lung disease. Childers was a the so-called godfather or Red Dirt Music, a hard to define sub-genre of country/Americana that includes elements of country, rock and folk. After touring much of the country’s dive bars and honky tonks through the ’70s, Childers released his debut album at the dawn of the ’80s. Over his career, he wrote over 1500 songs and earned accolades from no less than fellow Oklahoman, Garth Brooks who wrote a song with him. He was even invited to perform at the White House in 1982. 2004 saw the release of Restless Wind – A Tribute To The Songs of Bob Childers, a THREE-CD set that included Jimmy Lafave, Cross Canadian Ragweed and The Red Dirt Rangers.

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Died On This Date (April 1, 2009) Duane Jarvis / Respected L.A. Singer Songwriter

Posted by on April 1, 2010

Duane Jarvis
August 22, 1957 – April 1, 2009

duane-jarvisDuane Jarvis was one of those great talents that should have been more famous than they were.  Although Jarvis was born in Oregon, both Los Angeles and Nashville like to claim him as their own as well.   Much more than a supurb singer and songwriter, Jarvis was also a master of the guitar, mandolin and bass.  Over the years he has worked with the Divinyls, Rosie Flores, Dave Alvin, John Prine, Victoria Williams, Dwight Yoakam, M. Ward, and Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits.  Duane Jarvis died of cancer on April 1, 2009.

Thanks to Craig Rosen at Number1Albums

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Died On This Date (January 1, 1997) Townes Van Zandt

Posted by on January 1, 2010

Townes Van Zandt
March 7, 1944 – January 1, 1997

Although he’s not a household name, Townes Van Zandt has earned a place alongside Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Guy Clark if they ever build a Mount Rushmore of Texas singer-songwriters.  Call it folk; call it country; call it Americana;  call it what you will, but Van Zandt was one of the greatest.  Van Zandt was born into oil money in Fort Worth.  His family helped found Fort Worth and even had a county named after them in 1848.  By the time Van Zandt was in college, he had developed a drinking problem, and after failing to get into the Air Force due to what a doctor diagnosed as acute manic depression, he decided to give up school and concentrate on his song writing.  And thanks to that, we now have “If I Needed You,” “No Place To Fall,” and of course, “Pancho and Lefty,” the number one hit for Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.  Despite all the accolades and money, he continued to live the life of a vagabond, playing dumpy bars and living in cheap motels or on friends’ couches.  He was also notorious for his exsess consumption of drugs and alcohol.  He tried many times to beat it, but failed each time.  Van Zandt’s  final days are too heart wrenching to rehash here.  He ultimately passed away at the age of 52 as a result of what the substance abuse did to his body.

Watch Townes bring a man to tears with a song.

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Died On This Date (December 31, 2000) Eddy Shaver

Posted by on December 31, 2009

John “Eddy” Shaver
June 20, 1962 – December 31, 2000

Eddy Shaver was an electric guitarist, songwriter and son of legendary country-outlaw, Billy Joe Shaver with whom he performed as Shaver.  As a youngster, Shaver was given his first guitar and given lessons by Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers.  After growing into a fiery electric guitarist, Shaver played alongside such greats as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Guy Clark, Kris Kristofferson, and of course, his father.  As a songwriter, Shaver is best known for “Live Forever,” a song co-written with his father that has been recorded by the likes of the Highwaymen and Patty Loveless.  In the mid ’90s, Eddy teamed up with his father, Billie Joe to form the rock-leaning alt-country band, Shaver.  Together they released a handful of critically praised albums, including the excellent Tramp on Your Street.  On December 31, 2000, Eddy Shaver was scheduled to perform a New Years Eve show with his father, but never made it there.  He was dead of a heroin overdose at the age of 38.

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