41 years ago today, the brothers Doobie hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for the first of two times in their career.
“Black Water” might never have made it beyond the riff stage if Patrick Simmons, guitarist for the Doobies, hadn’t been overheard noodling around in the studio with the lick by the band’s producer. “Ted Templeman says, ‘What is that?’” recalled Simmons, in an interview with Guitar Player. “I said, ‘It’s just a little riff that I came up with that I’ve been tweaking with.’ He goes, ‘I love that. You should really write a song using that riff.’”
On this day in 1940, a boy named Philip Chapman Lesh was born in Berkeley, California, so before we do anything else, let’s take a moment to wish this founding member of the Grateful Dead a happy 76th birthday, shall we?
Although Lesh was a stalwart within the Dead from the day they adopted that name (he’d actually been in the band when they were still known as The Warlocks) until the day they called it a day, there were a few occasions here and there when he popped up on other people’s records, and in the early ‘70s, two gentlemen who benefited from his talents were Graham Nash and David Crosby.
Today we celebrate LaVern Baker, who died 19 years ago today. Baker was the talk of the town in the ‘50s and ‘60s, went quiet for most of the ‘70s and ‘80s, but then came roaring back in the late ‘80s and was pretty much on fire ‘til her death in 1997 at the age of 67. Here are a few facts about her life and times that may or may not surprise you but will certainly impress you.
1. Although she was singing in her church choir when she was still a kid, Baker’s first professional gig of note was at Club DeLisa, a Chicago Club where she played a character named Little Miss Sharecropper. Yes, it’s as much of a minstrel-show stereotype as it sounds like, but as Baker told the L.A. Times in 1991, “I was never happy doing it, but to get my foot in the door, I accepted it.”
2. If you’ve ever heard Dexys Midnight Runners’ “Come On Eileen” and wondered who “poor old Johnnie Ray” was, then here’s your answer: he was a white R&B singer who had pipes to die for, but it was Baker – at the behest of her manager, Al Green (but not that Al Green) – who taught him how to belt out the blues.
20 years ago today, Canada’s famed Juno Awards, which represent the Great White North’s music industry’s achievements of the previous year, briefly turned into the Alanis Awards, with Alanis Morissette and her international breakthrough album, Jagged Little Pill, taking home five Junos.