Andy Fraser: 7/3/1952
Bass players in general are criminally underrated. Their roles in the band and their contributions to music in general are not appreciated enough across the musical spectrum. Andy Fraser was born in London where he began playing piano at the age of five and was trained classically on piano and guitar. While at school, although for a brief time, Fraser was introduced to the “father of British Blues” Alexis Korner who was a major British radio broadcaster and helped shaped blues music in England.
Korner was a major influence in Fraser’s music career, beginning with a short stint in John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. Shortly after, at the age of 15, Fraser joined the great blues rock band Free as their bassist. After the band broke up, Fraser lent his bass playing and songwriting skills to other groups, but nothing really came from them quite like Free.
Andy Fraser passed away in March of 2015 at the age of 62.
Bill Withers: 7/4/1938
Bill Withers is the definition of soul. He is a R&B, blues, soul, and funk musician/songwriter. After 9 years in the Navy, he decided to head to LA to begin his music career. He recorded demos with his hard-earned money and handed them out to clubs and producers, while refusing “to resign from his job because of his belief that the music business was a fickle industry.” He went on to release eight studio albums and two of the most popular and critically acclaimed soul tunes of all time: “Lean On Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
Overton Amos Lemons AKA Smiley Lewis: 7/5/1913
Blues and R&B guitarist and vocalist from New Orleans. He played music in clubs located in the French Quarter of Louisiana. He seemed to find a “hit formula for slow-rocking” songs, as he had a few hits in the 50’s. However, according to a journalist, Lewis was “the unluckiest man in New Orleans.” This was because he was playing music the same time as Fats Domino, who “came up behind Lewis with similar music, and he was practically drowned in Domino’s backwash.”
Joseph Perkins AKA Pinetop Perkins: 7/7/1913
A blues pianist with a long and highly successful career. He was born in a small town in Mississippi and began his musical journey by playing guitar. However, after damaging tendons in his arm, he was unable to play guitar and had to switch to the piano. He began touring with Earl Hooker in the 50’s and recorded multiple tunes with the band. Then he had a ten-year spot in Muddy Water’s group. After this, he created the Legendary Blues Band, “recording from the late 70’s to early 90’s!
Photo ByScott Robert Ritchie
Richard “Ringo Starr” Starkey: 7/7/1940
Interestingly, Ringo Starr was not the original drummer of the Beatles. He joined the band in 1962 but was featured on their debut 1963 album Please Please Me. Despite severe illnesses as a child, Starr was able to persevere and found a long-lasting career behind the drum set.
He first became interested in becoming a musician when he heard the popular English genre of skiffle which is a blend of folk, jazz, and blues. After short stints in a few bands, Starr found success in a rock and skiffle band called Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. The band became well-known and even beat out the original lineup of the Beatles in 1960 as the headliners at a gig in Germany. In fact, he first played with Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison and recorded a tune with them.
After quitting the Hurricanes, Starr was briefly in a band with Tony Sheridan before being asked by Lennon to join the Beatles. Since the Beatles broke up, Starr has been regarded as one of the most pivotal rock drummers of all time and has released 18 studio albums under his own name.
John Johanson AKA Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson: 7/8/1944
Southern and blues rock drummer and percussionist best known for his work with the Allman Brothers Band. In fact, he was one of the original founding members of the band which usually hosted two drummers/percussionists. Johanson was with the band until it disbanded in 2014 except for a period of time (1980-2000) when he was recovering from a hurt back and could not tour. In 2017, Jaimoe received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the state of Mississippi. Now, Jaimoe and guitarist Dickey Betts are the only two surviving original members of the band.