Memory Lane

Saying good-bye in 2018

Time, as usual, marches on.  2018 has slipped away and we start off the New Year with losing one of America’s favorite pop duo members from the mid 70’s.  Good-bye to DARYL DRAGON, the “Captain” in Captain and Tennille.   Their happy, peppy Love Will Keep Us Together (written by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield) flowed through the airwaves with a contagious catchiness. Toni Tennille and the Captain were a married team who later divorced in 2014, but remained friends throughout the years.  Tennille was at his side when cancer took him away at age 76.

In 2018 we lost so many icons, including soul sister, ARETHA FRANKLIN and multi-talented PENNY MARSHALL (aka, Laverne DeFazio).  It was a super sad day for ladies when we lost heartthrob, BURT REYNOLDS. 

There’s no way to list everyone who left us too soon, but here are some passings that were less publicized that you may have missed.

NANCY WILSON:  One of the great award-winning singers who zigzagged through the musical streets of jazz, R&B, gospel, soul and pop.  Nancy Wilson was born in 1937 in Chillicothe, Ohio.  Like so many singers of her generation, Ms. Wilson was trained in church choirs and while still in her teens, polished her musical career by touring in nightclubs.

She won three Grammy Awards, including one for her 1964 Top 20 Billboard hit, (You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am for best R&B recording.  Some of her other hits included:  Guess Who I Saw Today and Face It Girl, It’s Over.  She was also one of the first black spokeswomen to appear in national radio and TV ads and was a strong advocate for causes such as education for low-income black children, AIDS awareness and breast-cancer screenings.

KEN BERRY, 85:  Whether he captured your heart as the bungling Captain Wilton Parmenter in F Troop or as the lovesick, simple locksmith on Mama’s Family, he was sure to entertain us all.  Raised in Moline, Illinois as a teenager, he took up tap dancing and won tap dancing competitions.  He later joined the Army where he served under Sgt. Leonard Nimoy (yeah – Spock!)

Perhaps you caught him in guest appearances on variety shows such as Carol Burnett, Bob Newhart, Ed Sullivan, or The Ann Sothern Show. Or maybe your fond memories of Ken were on Mayberry R.F.D. or in movies such as Herbie Rides Again.

STAN LEE:  The world of superheroes and comics will never be the same without the great Stan Lee.  He co-created Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man with Steve Ditko who passed away in June.  Marvel Comics became his legacy for almost 60 years.  He started out as an office-boy at Timely Comics (eventually became Atlas then Marvel) to break into the industry.  He was born in 1922 and while still a teenager, worked his way up through the comic ranks, progressing from writing comics to becoming a top editor.  When you think of superheroes, it’s hard NOT to think of Stan Lee.  Where would Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, X-Men and the Incredible Hulk be without him?  Thanks Stan, the world needed (and still needs) superheroes!

SISTER ROSETTA THARPE:  Born in 1915 this singer sure knew how to belt out gospel and helped lay the groundwork for rock & roll nearly two decades before Chuck Berry arrived on the scene.  Her flamboyant style along with the newly electrified guitar earned her the title of the Godmother of Rock and Roll.  She was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

JAMES KAREN, 94:  One of those character actors from our era who appeared in thousands of commercials and hundreds of movies and TV shows.  Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, he got his start in the Wilkes-Barre Little Theater.  In the late 1940’s he hit Broadway and early TV shows.  He didn’t get established in Hollywood until he was in his 50’s.  Some of his more well-known appearances were in The China Syndrome, All the President’s Men, Poltergeist, Wall Street and Nixon (’95).  If you’re watching retro-TV re-runs, you’re bound to catch him in episodes of Hawaii Five-O, Magnum PI, Jake and the Fatman plus TV soaps like All My Children and As the World Turned.

SCOTT WILSON:  This actor was known for being a real “bad dude”.  He portrayed crooks, criminals and killers in movies such as In the Heat of the Night and In Cold Blood, but redeemed himself with other roles such as playing a test pilot in The Right Stuff and a prison chaplain in Dead Man Walking.  More recently he played Marg Helgenberger’s casino boss father on TV show CSI and played a veterinarian in the zombie TV hit show, The Walking Dead.  He passed away at 76 with complications of Leukemia.

JOHN WICKS:  Singer and guitar player from the band, The Records.  Originally from England, he wound up living in Northern Virginia.  He felt his band was more appreciated here in the U.S.  The Records big hit that got major airplay on local stations such as WHFS (alternative radio station in Bethesda, MD) was Starry EyesThe Records first LP was Shades in Bed.  The band still recorded into the 2000’s and continued to perform in 2018.  John passed away at 65 of cancer.

BIG JAY MCNEELY, 91:   A tenor saxophonist whose wild and crazy personal style of rhythm and blues along with some stellar theatrics, made him a true showman.  He was an active entertainer into his 10th decade and released the album Blowin’ Down the House – Big Jay’s Latest and Greatest in 2016.  His fans will want surely miss his music and showmanship.

CHARLOTTE RAE, 92:  Who doesn’t remember the sharp tongued, witty housekeeper, Mrs. Garrett on Diff’rent Strokes?  This show spun off her character to another hit TV sitcom, The Facts of Life (NBC). But did you know that Charlotte goes way back to the TV show Car 54 Where Are You?, where she portrayed the wise-cracking wife of police officer Leo Schnauser (Al Lewis)?

MARTY BALIN, 76:  Rock took another hit when it lost the founder and lead singer of Jefferson Airplane.  He was an ex-folk musician who formed the Airplane in 1965.  In the mid-70’s they re-grouped into the Jefferson Starship and he sang lead on many of their hits.  Whether you were looking for Somebody to Love, mellowing out to the 60’s White Rabbit or later feeling more positive with Miracles (which Balin co-wrote) they were songs of our time that we’ll always fondly remember.

BILL DAILY, 91:  If you were a guy in the 1960’s, you were probably wishing that you, too, could find that magic genie in a bottle!   Bill Daily had his own special style of humor in two long running 60’s hit TV shows, I Dream of Jeannie (as Major Roger Healey) and in The Bob Newhart Show (as the quirky neighbor).  Later in the 80’s he appeared on ALF (as a psychiatrist).

LAZY LESTER, 85:  Born in Louisiana, he was a singer and harmonica player known for his swamp blues.  His recordings in the 50’s mixed blues and rock and roll.  Originally, he was famous mainly in the South.  He took a break from music for a while and in 1975, he moved to Michigan where he hooked up with a blues promoter who helped revive his musical career.  He was inducted into the Blues Foundation’s Hall of Fame in 2015 for his album Lazy Lester Rides Again.

OTIS RUSH, 83:  A self-taught, southpaw guitarist and blues singer, he fused rhythm and blues and country blues of the Mississippi Delta.  He was inspired by Muddy Waters and gospel infused artists such as Ray Charles, Little Willie John and B. B. King.  Some of his songs include:  I Can’t Quit You Baby (’56), Keep on Loving Me Baby (’69), Sit Down Baby (’69).  His last studio recording in 1998, Any Place I’m going, won a Grammy for best traditional blues album.

ROBIN LEACH, 76:   There were days when I just couldn’t tear myself away from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.  Robin was a British born veteran gossip writer and they couldn’t have picked a more perfect host for this 1984 over the top show that went behind the scenes of the mega-rich.  Robin and the rich rode high on a luxurious 11-year winning streak!

VIC DAMONE, 89:  Damone found his talent at just 17 years of age on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Show.  Though never achieving super star crooner fame, he still fared well with over 2,000 recordings, selling out live performances and showing up in movies and on TV shows.  If you were a teenage girl in the 50’s, Vic Damone probably had you swooning!

Yes, we will miss them and so many others.  See blog post “More Gone But Not Forgotten” for more farewells in 2018.