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Friday, January 17, 2020

Chris Darrow of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Dead

Badlands of Indiana, USA (January 17, 2019) WHR — Chris Darrow, a country-rock pioneer who made his mark over the '60s and '70s, most notably as a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, has died at the age of 75. No cause of death has been released yet.


Darrow was born in South Dakota in 1944, but grew up in the Southern California suburb of Claremont, where he first honed an interest in folk and bluegrass music. He formed the Dry City Scat Band in 1964 while pursuing college and graduate school, and during this time became acquainted with Chris Hillman of classic rock legends the Byrds, who had a profound influence on his transition from bluegrass to rock music.


Darrow went on to form the genre-bending rock band Kaleidoscope, recording several albums before his joining influential country-rockers the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1967. He worked with the band on two albums, and also appeared in the Clint Eastwood musical, Paint Your Wagon.

In1969, he formed the Corvettes, which became the touring band for Linda Ronstadt, who herself was quickly exploding as an influential artist in the country-rock scene.

Darrow also had a prolific solo career, releasing a total of 10 records between 1972 and 2006. He worked with such notable artists as Leonard Cohen and James Taylor, and mentored younger singer-songwriter and fellow Southern Californian Ben Harper.


Information on Darrow's passing and survivors is limited.

SOURCE: Taste of Country

Friday, January 10, 2020

Rush drummer Neil Peart dies at 67

Santa Monica, California, USA (January 10, 2019) WHR — Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist for groundbreaking Canadian prog-rock band Rush, died Tuesday at age 67, according to a statement issued by a family spokesperson.

The statement said Peart died in Santa Monica, Calif., from brain cancer, “from which he suffered” for three and a half years. Born in Hamilton, Peart joined Rush in 1974, after the band’s first album, replacing original drummer John Rutsey.


Over a career that spanned four decades, Rush enjoyed considerable success in both the U.S. and Canada. Several of their albums — “2112,’’ “Moving Pictures,’’ “All the World’s a Stage’’ and “Exit ... Stage Left’’ — have sold more than one million copies each in the U.S. alone.

Peart was known for his proficiency at playing an almost impossibly elaborate drum kit, which in addition to the traditional kick, snare, and tom drums could at any given time also include bells, chimes, symbols, gongs and electronic elements.


“Neil Peart was, in fact, one of the greatest drummers the universe has ever seen. He ranks up there with all the best,” said Alan Cross, a broadcaster and music historian. “We have lost one of the most important musicians this country has ever produced.”

Cross said Peart used his diverse collection of percussion instruments in innovative ways that went far beyond merely keeping the beat.

There could be a “very melodic sense of what he was doing, every bit as much as a guitar player,” Cross said. “Nobody sounded like him.”

Knowing that a local band could make it big on the world stage was a major source of inspiration for musicians in the city, said Dave Bidini, a member of the Toronto band the Rheostatics, who grew up listening to Rush in the 1980s.


Bidini, who wrote the 2016 documentary about Rush called “Time Stands Still,” said a turning point for the band came in 1976, when they played Massey Hall for three straight nights.

“That was a big deal in Toronto musical culture, having a band from Toronto achieve that measure of success. There weren’t a lot really before them,” Bidini said.

Rush’s career was particularly impressive, he said, because it was proof bands could achieve commercial success while pursuing their own musical vision. The band’s songs were idiosyncratic, often containing key changes and running far longer than typical pop tunes made for the radio.

“I don’t know if it was fearlessness or stubbornness or whatever, but they were really good at being themselves,” Bidini said.

Although a member of one of the most famous bands Canada ever produced, Peart famously eschewed the spotlight. He was reluctant to indulge in the typical trappings of rock stardom and often avoided meet-and-greets with fans and interviews with the media.

“Even as a kid, I never wanted to be famous; I wanted to be good,” he told the Star in 2015, a few months before Rush embarked on its 40th-anniversary tour, which would be the band’s last.


An avid motorcyclist, while on the road with Rush, Peart would ride to shows on his motorcycle rather than travel with the rest of the band and its entourage.

His travels fuelled one of his passions outside of music — writing. He wrote seven non-fiction books and co-authored a science-fiction novelization of Rush’s 2012 album “Clockwork Angels.”

In his 2002 book “Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road,” Peart recounted the motorcycle trip he took across North America to cope with the grief of losing both his daughter and wife in the span of 10 months.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Iconic Southern Rock recording studio is revived

Atlanta, Georgia, USA (December 4, 2019) WHR — The Georgia music studio that fused blues, country and other sounds into Southern rock is being reborn. Capricorn Sound Studios in Macon helped propel the Allman Brothers Band and other groups to stardom in the 1970s.

Capricorn’s historic Studio A is reopening this week, after years of work by Mercer University and other supporters to restore and equip it with state-of-the-art technology.

“It’s a place that spawned a decade of remarkable creative activity,” Mercer President William Underwood said in an interview.


It also helped make Macon one of the nation’s music capitals. Underwood hopes the renovated studio will help preserve Macon’s place among cities that forged the music history of the United States — places like Nashville and Memphis in Tennessee, Muscle Shoals in Alabama and Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans.

Macon’s civic leaders view Southern rock through a far different lens these days than in the 1970s.

Southern rockers and Southern Baptists traveled in different orbits back then. The Capricorn music scene — part of the drug-infused counterculture movement of the time — was not always welcome in conservative Middle Georgia.


Now, Capricorn and Southern rock are officially sanctioned by today’s leaders, many of whom were fans in their younger days. Underwood, for instance, grew up listening to Southern rock and considers The Allman Brothers Band “the greatest jam band ever.”

In planning the new music complex, Underwood and others visited music hubs including Nashville, where Elvis Presley and others recorded their hits in RCA’s Studio B.

“There are people all over the world who travel to see these restored studios,” said Larry Brumley, a senior vice president at Mercer.

Macon-area officials hope the restoration — funded with help from two charitable foundations and other private donors — will help spur downtown redevelopment.


The restored Macon studio is part of Mercer Music at Capricorn, a 20,000-square-foot (1,860-square-meter) complex that will include a museum. Among its goals: To train and inspire new musicians. To that end, the Capricorn Music Incubator will provide 12 rehearsal rooms for musicians to hone their craft.

The idea is “to be a place to bring talented, creative people together and have them interact and engage with one another,” Underwood said.

“One day hopefully the next Otis Redding will come out of that incubator,” he said.

Redding’s voice became emblematic of Macon music six decades ago, after Mercer University student Phil Walden discovered his vocal talents while booking local bands for fraternity parties.

In 1969, Capricorn Records was formed by Walden and others, including Frank Fenton and producer Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records.

“My father loved the South, he loved Georgia and he especially loved Macon,” Phil Walden’s daughter, Amantha, said at Tuesday’s dedication ceremony. “He loved Southern music deep inside his soul.”

“My father’s life mission was to show the world what the South was capable of, and today we are here to celebrate a chapter of that mission,” she added.

Walden, his brother Alan Walden and their business partners discovered new artists who went on to create what became Southern rock.

The Charlie Daniels Band, the Marshall Tucker Band, Elvin Bishop, Wet Willie and others recorded songs inside the studio that was built for the Capricorn record label.

The Allman Brothers Band became so popular that they helped a former Georgia governor named Jimmy Carter win the 1976 presidential election by performing at campaign events, Carter has said. Carter told Mercer graduates at their 2016 commencement that he might not have been elected if the band hadn’t “adopted” him.

“Gregg Allman was better known than I was at that time,” Carter said in 2017. “The band got the campaign political attention and raised much needed funds.” When Underwood became Mercer’s president, the vacant offices that once housed Capricorn were a shambles, with one exception.

“The studio itself — that magical place where this great music was made — was still intact,” Underwood recalled. “It was kind of a miracle.”

A second venue, Studio B, will be used for larger-scale recordings and to host concerts and other special events. Film scores could be recorded there, tying into Georgia’s booming movie industry, Underwood said.

The studio will also feature a custom-built, 40-channel analog sound board that was created by the Maryland-based company API, he said.

Wes Griffith, who now manages the newly restored studio, recalls the first time he stepped inside.

“I was in awe, standing there where all these great things happened, all this great music was made,” Griffith said. “It’s just a dream come true for me to be the steward of that place and share that history and start a new beginning.”