Saturday, March 25, 2017

Boston (Tom Scholz and Brad Delp)

Donald Thomas Scholz was born in 1947 in Toledo, Ohio. He studied classical piano as a child and completed his academic studies before he turned his talents to the music industry. He started song writing in 1969 while still a student and joined his first band Freehold, where he met guitarist Barry Goudreau and drummer Jim Masdea, who would later become members of Boston. Vocalist Brad Delp was added to the collective in 1970. One his first compositions was an instrumental titled ‘Foreplay.’

He used the money he made working at for Polaroid, to build a recording studio in his basement. He formed Mother's Milk, a studio band with Delp (vocals), Goudreau (guitar), Masdea (drums), and Scholz on guitar, bass and keyboards and they made several demo recordings which were all rejected. The group disbanded in 1974, but Scholz subsequently worked with Masdea and Delp to produce six new demos between 1974 and 1975. The recordings included "More Than a Feeling", "Peace of Mind", "Rock and Roll Band", "Something About You" (then entitled "Life Isn't Easy"), "Hitch a Ride" (then entitled "San Francisco Day"), and "Don't Be Afraid". Tom played all the instruments on the demos, except for the drums, which were played by Masdea. These demos attracted the interest of Epic Records who signed Scholz and singer Brad Delp to a recording contract but before the deal could be finalized, the band had to do a live audition for the record company executives. The duo recruited Goudreau on guitar, bassist Fran Sheehan and drummer Sib Hashian. The showcase was a success and the group released their debut album in 1976, which contained much of the original home based material. The band were now called Boston. The album sold extremely well, with bith "More Than a Feeling" and "Long Time", becoming AM and FM hits.

After the band completed a short six-week promotional club tour in the Midwest to promoite theor album, they followed this up with a 10 months national tour opening for bigger bands like Black Sabbath and Blue Öyster Cult. By 1977. They were headlining.

The follow up album. Don’t Look Back came two years later (1978). Scholtz was not entirely satisfied with the finished product and although it sold well, it was not as commercially successful as Boston. The single Don’t look back, became a top-5 hit. Additionally, two other singles, "A Man I'll Never Be" and "Feelin' Satisfied", went top 40 and top 50, respectively.

Scholz was determined to complete Boston's third album, at his own pace and up to his demanding standard. CBS filed a $60 million lawsuit against Scholz, alleging breach of contract for failing to deliver a new Boston album on time. The album took another six years to complete. The Third Stage, did not appear until 1986. That album was certified 4x platinum, and "Amanda" reached the top of the singles chart. Both, "We're Ready" and "Can'tcha Say (You believe in me)" were also top 10 and top 30, singles respectively. Scholz and Brad Delp were the only members of the original group to appear on the album. In 1987/88, the band completed a tour to promote Third Stage. Jim Masdea (the original drummer) was brought back to play "Rock and Roll Band"; and Doug Huffman and David Sikes, joined the stage line up and remained with the band until the mid-1990s. During this same period, Scholz founded his high-tech company Scholz Research & Development (SR&D), which made amplifiers and other musical electronic equipment. Its most famous product, the Rockman amplifier, was introduced in 1982.

Meantime Barry Goudreau record a solo album which featured Boston members Delp and Hashian. The album was released in 1980, was titled Barry Goudreau and featured the minor hit single "Dreams". Goudreau left the band in 1981 and formed Orion the Hunter.

The legal wrangles with CBS took another seven years to run its course, but in 1990 Scholz won. He had meantime had moved Boston to MCA Records. Walk On was another labour of love and took eight years to complete. During the making of the album, Brad Delph left the group and was replaced with Fran Cosmo. Walk on was released in 1994 and reached No. 7 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart. "I Need Your Love" scored a singles hit. Delp reunited with Boston at the end of 1994 and Boston completed the "Livin' For You" tour in 1995.

Boston: Greatest Hits. Was relesed in 1997 and included three new recording, two songs and an instrumental. Tom Scholz, the founder, was now the only remaining orignal member of the band.

Boston’s fifth album, was Corporate America whoch was released on 2002 on the independent label Artemis Records. The album featured both Delp and Cosmo on guitar and lead vocals, Scholz on lead guitar and organ, and Gary Pihl on guitar, along with new members Anthony Cosmo on rhythm guitar, Jeff Neal on drums and Kimberley Dahme on bass and vocals. The group embarked on a national tour in support of the album in 2003/2004. Brad Delp's last concert with Boston was performed at Boston Symphony Hall on November 13, 2006, at a concert honoring Doug Flutie. He died in March 2007. Ongoing conflicts among the surviving band members saw a new Boston line up.

Life, Love & Hope (2013), was their sixth album, released on Frontiers Records. Work on the album started in 2002 and featured vocals by Brad Delp. The band continue to tour the world with various line ops.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

James 'Superharp' Cotton (1935 - 2017)

James Henry Cotton was born in Tunica, Mississippi in 1935. He was the youngest of eight and grew up in the cotton fields working beside his mother, Hattie, and father, Mose. He was given his first harp, as a Christmas present and he listened intently to Alec Rice Miller (Sonny Boy Williamson II) on KFFA’s King Biscuit time. Cotton soon could play Sonny Boy’s theme song from the radio show and, quickly mastered his other songs. Cotton entertained his fellow workers in the cotton field with his versions of his favourite harmonica player.

Young Cotton was orphaned aged 9 and his uncle took the boy and they moved to West Helena, Arkansas. finding Williamson there. There he met his hero and impressed the virtuoso, with his harmonica play. The two got on well and Williamson mentored Cotton during his early years. The young lad was too young to play inside the juke joints, but would “open” for Sonny Boy on the steps outside, playing for tips. Eventually Sonny Boy left the South to live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but not before he told Cotton, the band was his. Unfortunately Cotton was too young to hold them together.

As a young teenager with no home, Cotton became a shoe shine boy in Beale Street, and when not shining shoes he entertained by playing blues for tips. Cotton wanted to meet Howlin’ Wolf and went to “The Top Hat” in Black Fish, Arkansas. Still too young to get in he charmed the manager with his harp and after Howlin” heard him they became close buddies. They began to play the many juke joints in Missouri, and Mississippi.

Cotton recorded four songs at Sun Records, under the direction of Sam Phillips. He was then given a 15-minute radio show on KWEM, in West Memphis, Arkansas. This would raise his profile as not everyone went to juke joints. To supplement his income, during the week he drove an ice truck during the week and played in the clubs during the weekend. His reputation preceded him and Muddy Waters asked him to join his band after Junior Walker had left. James Cotton eventually became Waters's bandleader and stayed with the group for the next 12 years.

At first, Chess Records used Little Walter on Muddy Waters recordings, with Cotton playing at the live gigs. Muddy asked James Cotton to play just like Little Walter, but Cotton eventually asked to be able to play in his own style. Cotton developed an arresting stage presence which Muddy recognized. In 1958, when Cotton began recording at Chess Records with Muddy on “Sugar Sweet” and “Close to You.”

Cotton initially formed the Jimmy Cotton Blues Quartet, with Otis Spann (piano) in 1965 to record between gigs. Then, in 1966. he left Muddy Water’s band to pursue a solo career and then toured with Janis Joplin.

The James Cotton Blues Band was formed in 1967. The band toured extensively and performed their own arrangements of popular blues and R&B from the 1950s and 1960s. As the decade progressed James Cotton firmly established himself in the blues-rock genre and gained hmself the title Superharp.

In 1977, Muddy Waters and Brownie McGhee got together and wrote “The Blues Had a Baby and They Called It Rock and Roll” which appeared on the “Hard Again” (Blue Sky label) and featured Muddy on vocals and guitar, Johnny Winter on guitar, and Cotton on harmonica. This version is sang by Howlin’ Wolf.

Cotton carried on performing and recording throughout the 80s and 90s.

In the mid 90s, he was diagnosed with throat cancer, but continued to tour, using singers or his backing band members as vocalists. Cotton's touring band included Tom Holland (guitarist and vocalist), Darrell Nulisch (vocalist), Noel Neal (bass) and drummer Jerry Porter. Giant, was released by Alligator Records in late 2010, and Cotton Mouth Man, came out in 2013.

James Cotton died from pneumonia in 2017 at the age of 81.