Tom “T-Bone” Wolk, bass player extraordinaire – and best known for his almost 30 year association with Hall & Oates – unexpectedly passed away this past Saturday at the age of 59, apparently from a heart attack. I had just watched the latest episode of Live from Daryl’s House last week. Daryl, T-Bone and the guys were on the island of Jamaica, jamming with Toots & the Maytalls. There’s a laugh out loud moment when they’re visiting Noel Coward’s estate, and T-Bone sits on an old chair and promptly breaks it.
What occurred to me while watching these episodes of Live from Daryl’s House lately, is that wherever you’d see Daryl Hall throughout his storied career, you didn’t have to look far to see T-Bone right along side him. In a statement earlier today, Daryl likened the loss of T-Bone to “losing my right hand. It’s not if I will go on, but how.” The loss is severe to T-Bone’s family, friends, and many collaborators – but Daryl Hall has truly lost a blood brother. My heart goes out to him.
T-Bone’s list of musical credits is a mile long. You can check out the 3 page list here on AllMusic. The list goes on and on: Carly Simon, Roy Orbison, Elvis Costello, B.B. King, Paul Carrack, and even Kurtis Blow. Did you know T-Bone played bass on Kurtis’ breakout 1980 hit, “The Breaks“?
T-Bone was always a friendly, familiar face to me. Coming of age in the 80’s, I remember him from those classic Hall & Oates videos, and I remember seeing him every Saturday night, playing bass next to guitarist G.E. Smith in the Saturday Night Live band.
I strongly urge you to watch the latest Jamaica episode of Live from Daryl’s House : http://www.livefromdarylshouse.com/index.php?page=ep28. You’ll see a man who lived and breathed music, and you’ll sense his vitality and terrific sense of humor. And you’ll witness the bond between T-Bone and Daryl Hall. A bond that we all took for granted, and will never see the likes of again.
Legendary guitarist, inventor, songwriter and overall pioneer Les Paul has passed away at the age of 94. The debt that popular music itself owes to Les is immeasurable. From his part in the creation of the solid-body electric guitar to the first multi-track recording in history his contributions are endless. As a performer, solo and with his late wife Mary Ford, he had scores of top-ten hits and sold millions of records. This particular recording, from the Chester & Lester recording sessions, has long been a favorite of mine.
My first memory of seeing Michael Jackson was May of 1983. I was 12 years old, and a 7th grader at Jerstad Junior High in Racine, Wisconsin. My drama teacher, Mrs. Mottl, wheeled in a TV and VCR one day, excited to show the class a video of Michael Jackson dancing and singing on the ‘Motown 25’ television special. It had aired just a night or two before (May 16, 1983).
The whole class sat awestruck as we watched Michael kick, dip, glide and stride across the stage – and of course – watching him moonwalk across a stage for the very first time. It was a defining moment in his already storied career, and certainly the same for those watching him. Michael was truly one of a kind, the ultimate performer, and I am very much saddened tonight as I write this.
It’s not that I’ve been a huge fan of Michael Jackson (as a lot of you know, I’ve spent most of my life obsessed with the music of Prince). But I always enjoyed his music, and admired his showmanship, and the undeniable force and presence he was in popular music.
Michael Jackson, to people my age, is our Elvis. He’s our John Lennon. His impact on the world of entertainment and popular culture is certainly on a par with Elvis and John. We grew up with him.
Yes, Michael had his problems. The last 10-15 years of Michael’s life were filled with tragedy, bizarre behavior, and deplorable accusations. But tonight, I think back to Michael Jackson the entertainer – the amazing young talent moonwalking across that Motown 25 stage.
I’m still numb, like a lot of you. It doesn’t seem real, does it? It’s hard to even fathom right now that Michael Jackson is no longer with us in this life.
Truly a dark day. May you rest in peace, Michael.
It’s hours later and I’m still a bit stunned. Rather than write the words that will be written over and over in the coming weeks and months, I will say that the Michael I will choose to remember is the man that brought us all joy through his music, his dance, his passion and his desire to leave the world a little bit better than he came into it. I will celebrate his work and his legacy. Pray for his children and his family as they weather the days ahead. Celebrate his life and legacy… dance and sing, not out of sadness, but in honor of all the good he brought this world.
I’m Gonna Make A Change,
For Once In My Life
It’s Gonna Feel Real Good,
Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right . . .
Snooks was the great assimilator, taking in others’ songs and then spinning them back out in ways that were uniquely his. The musicians he played with were always amazed by his repertoire, which led them to call him “The Human Jukebox.”
Blinded by a disease as an infant, he earned the nickname “Snooks” as a mischievous child who dared to do things like walk along the tops of fences throughout the neighborhood, which even the kids with sight would not do. His father gave him a guitar at age six, and he learned to play by listening to the radio and records.
After playing regularly around town in the 1950’s, and recording several R&B and acoustic albums, Snooks disappeared into relative obscurity until he started playing regularly at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in the 1970’s. His was one of the careers that was revived by putting New Orleans music back on a national and worldwide stage by our Jazz Fest.
I came to know his music in those early Jazz Fest years, and never missed the opportunity to hear him play at Jazz Fest. Although he jealously guarded his private life, living in a fairly distant suburb of New Orleans, he played regularly around town, and had become a staple performer at the now-famous “Rock-N-Bowl” shows at the local bowling alley called Mid-City Lanes.
Anyone who was not familiar with his music and watched Snooks approach the stage didn’t know what they were in for. Seeing an almost stooping old man being led to the stage by someone with eyesight, and find his way into a chair, you might be getting ready to sit down and settle in for the night. And then Snooks would start, and soon no one but Snooks would remain in their seat.
When Snooks played it was like he was the sun in the universe of the room, and everyone else was set into motion by his sound. Snooks, anchored in his chair, would literally cause everyone else in the house to dance and move about him. He would boast that he was about to blow the roof off of the place, with that vocal that was both a yelp and a grunt at the same time, and then he would do just that. He would posture his hand in a weird claw-like position above the strings, and more sound would come out of that guitar than you could believe. How a man who sat so still could set everyone in the room into motion by the sound of his guitar was amazing. It was impossible not to move to his sound.
Dr. John has commented that Snooks could play the horn part, the bass part and the piano part in the same song, all on his guitar. Listen to these songs, and watch him playing on “Red Beans” (with the fantastic Jon Cleary on piano and George Porter on bass), and just try to sit still, I dare you. The speed moving up and down the scales. The rhythms within rhythms. So many sounds happening at once. There was only one Snooks Eaglin.
With a new popularity gained from the Jazz Fest shows, Snooks’ recording career took off with some excellent albums on the Black Top label beginning in 1987. Sadly, most of those albums are now out of print, but I read a report on the web that the Collectors Choice label should have all of them back in print soon.
An entirely different aspect of his music was his acoustic blues. It was never his favorite music, but some of the recordings of the 1950’s tried to wrongly pigeonhole him as an acoustic blues musician. Yet the recordings are terrific. Among my favorite is “I Get the Blues When It Rains,” from a wonderful recording in the early 1970’s with the producer of the Jazz Fest. There is nothing better on a rainy, muggy New Orleans day than to sit back on the porch, open a beer, and listen to this one. Listen to Snooks playing the drum solo on his guitar.
This week the local papers and radio have been filled with stories told by people reminiscing about Snooks. One of the best was a report that after one show in which everyone in the band except Snooks got drunk, Snooks drove them all home, negotiating the winding turns along River Road from memory, and making adjustments to get back on the road after hearing the sounds of the tires hitting the gravel.
My own e-mail has been jammed with notes from friends and family across the country, recounting our memories of great evenings that revolved around dancing to Snooks at the Rock-N-Bowl, at the House of Blues, or Tipitina’s. I recalled the night my cousin held a Mardi Gras party at his warehouse, and hired a funk band because that’s what all the young people wanted to dance to. I convinced him to hire Snooks, at least to open, even though most of that crowd had never heard of him. The place went wild with Snooks; the funk band almost didn’t get to play; and in the morning my cousin called with a hoarse voice to say that he couldn’t remember what happened or how he had lost his checkbook, that the crowd must have had fun because it looked like someone had blown up a trash can in there, and to thank me for recommending Snooks. What a party.
And my brother responded to the story about Snooks driving home one night by saying, “That was nothing; in the old days I drove home blind many a night and made it fine. But no one could play the guitar like Snooks.”
Thanks for letting me send in this post. I could reminisce all day, but this is the weekend before Mardi Gras, and it’s time to take it to the street, and walk the Mardi Gras beat with the sound of Snooks’ guitar ringing in my head.
Watch “Red Beans”:
Hear “I Get the Blues When It Rains” (mp3):
Hear “Lipstick Traces” (mp3):
Buy any of the Black Top albums. They are worth the hunt. The first two albums listed below are my two favorites of the “Black Top” series.
The Crescent City Collection (a “Best Of” the other Black Top albums)
Live in Japan
Sonet Blues Story – acoustic recordings made in 1971, produced by Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis
House Party New Orleans Style, by Professor Longhair
This is one of the great albums by the ‘Fess, because of the interplay between the piano and Snooks’ guitar playing. You don’t have to look at the list of musicians to know that it was Snooks in the studio with the Fess during these incredible sessions.
The Sonet Blues Story – Recorded at Ultrasonic Studios in New Orleans in 1977, a good set of R&B with a band.
I can’t pretend to know a lot about Eartha Kitt other than through her stint as Catwoman and her rendition of “Santa Baby” (eat your heart out, Madonna). It’s simply that this 1957 magazine cover took my breath away. Absolutely stunning.
Danny Federici, Bruce Springsteen’s organ, keys, and accordion player for the last 40 years, passed away Thursday afternoon after a three year battle with melanoma. My prayers and warmest condolences go out to Danny’s Family and the E Street family.
Canadian guitarist Jeff Healey passed away Sunday at the age of 41 after a long battle with a rare form of retinal cancer. Jeff had been blind since infancy due to this cancer.
“Angel Eyes” was one of those songs that hit right in my formative years (1988). I was 18 years old, in love with my high school sweetie, and a song like this came along to sum it all up. Truly a great tune.
While I was never familiar with the Dan Fogelberg catalog, it was his biggest hit, “Same Old Lang Syne”, that always connected with me. Who can resist the storyline? Running into a former lover in a grocery store on Christmas Eve; grabbing a six-pack of beer and sitting in her car, toasting to the good times past, and saying goodbye all over again: “Just for a moment I was back at school / And felt that old familiar pain /And as I turned to make my way back home / The snow turned into rain.” Zowwww. Ouch. The song, and that line in particular, has always tugged at the heartstrings over the years. Michael Brecker’s saxophone finishes the bittersweet song with a warm snippet of “Auld Lang Syne.”
The song was a big hit in the U.S. in early 1981. Fogelberg said it was a true story of a mid-70’s encounter in a Peoria, Illinois grocery store with a high school girlfriend of his. The song apparently wrote itself.
Dan passed away Sunday at the young age of 56 after a battle with prostate cancer. [AP Story on Yahoo News]
My thoughts & prayers to Dan’s family and friends.
I cannot encourage you strongly enough to get a DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) and a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test EVERY YEAR.
The medical community suggests this for men over 50, but men with a family history of prostate cancer should start getting tested at age 40.
The PSA test is a simple blood test…it only takes a minute or two. The DRE, okay, every man squirms at the thought of this exam, but hey, it too takes only a minute or two, and IT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE.
Prostate cancer can be very slow growing or very aggressive, but detected early while it is still confined to the prostate gland, it can usually be treated and cured successfully.
Once it spreads beyond the prostate it is called Advanced Prostate Cancer (PCa). At this point it becomes imminently more life threatening and harder to treat. Do yourself and your loved ones a huge favor and GET CHECKED REGULARLY. I promise you, you DON’T want to go through what I’m going through if you can avoid it.
Education and awareness are key, I urge you to follow the link below to the Prostate Cancer Foundation web site and read up on how best to protect yourself and reduce your likelihood of contracting this terrible disease.
When I was a very young man my uncle gave me a 45 rpm of the song “Leader of the Band”. To this day that song holds a special place in my heart and I have to stop and listen when it comes on.
The leader of the band is tired
And his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument
And his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt
To imitate the man
I’m just a living legacy
To the leader of the band
Dan Fogelberg lost his battle with Cancer this morning at the age of 56. Our condolences go out to the Fogelberg family, friends and fellow fans.
The world loses another great musician. In a senseless & random act of violence, South African reggae star Lucky Dube was shot and killed outside of Johannesburg yesterday in an attempted carjacking – in front of his children, mind you. What a wonderful world we live in…
Lucky isn’t too well known here in the U.S. (at least on the mainstream side of things), but on the other side of the world, the man is HUGE (including Seychelles, where my wife is from).