Saturday

BITS AND PIECES - NEWS ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE ARTISTS By Michael McDowell



WAVES: Beloved composer, vocalist and Vallejo, California native Norma Tanega (whose 1966 Walking My Cat Named Dog single for New Voice was a staple of Herman's Hermits live set that year) passed away suddenly on 29 December at age 80. Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell remembers her remarkable career below. (Click on above image to enlarge).


WAVES:
REMEMBERING BELOVED
VOCALIST AND COMPOSER
NORMA TANEGA

Things were beginning to get a bit more interesting in 1966 in terms of song titles.

To wit, the year drew to a close with the resounding success of the jug band / folk hybrid, The Eggplant That Ate Chicago by Doctor West's Medicine Show And Junk Band (with lead vocals by Norman Greenbaum). Likewise that summer, the legendary Driving Stupid forever ensured their status in the upper echelons of first generation garage rock with their self-penned monster classic on the KR label, Horror Asparagus Stories.

But among the first on the scene to set the precedent in the early weeks of the year was the composer, vocalist and Vallejo, California native, Norma Cecilia Tanega. Blessed with a father who was a U.S. Navy bandleader, Tanega's family relocated to Long Beach when she was two years old. By the age of nine, she was studying classical piano and composition. Her concurrent interest in art while a student at Long Beach Polytechnic High School earned her a scholarship at Scripps College. She eventually graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree from Claremont in 1962.

Drawn equally to music and art, Tanega concurrently served as a camp counselor. As the result of a chance meeting at a Catskill Mountains camp with renowned arranger / producer Herb Bernstein, Tanega was introduced to producer, composer and arranger Bob Crewe. Bernstein and Crewe signed Tanega to Crewe's New Voice label (an affiliate of Larry Uttal's Bell Records), producing most of the tracks that comprised her debut album, Walking My Cat Named Dog.

The title track from that engaging album became an instant success in the early weeks of 1966. The single duly impressed Herman's Hermits, who made Walking My Cat Named Dog a staple of their live set at the time.

But that marvelous single was far from being Tanega's only effort of note. Among the other highlights of that album were the follow up single, A Street That Rhymes At Six A.M., as well as the memorable What Are We Craving?, I'm The Sky, I'm Dreamin' A Dream and the now sadly ironic You're Dead.

Tanega persevered with New Voice into 1967, releasing for them the promising Run, On The Run. However, she began to direct her attention more towards her considerable acumen as a composer. That same year, Dusty Springfield covered Tanega's No Stranger Am I, as well as The Colour Of Your Eyes, Earthbound Gypsy and Midnight Sounds

By 1970, Tanega's work had caught the attention of jazz vocal great Blossom Dearie, who recorded a Tanega composition on her That's Just The Way I Want To Be album. Tanega returned to the studio in 1971 to record her long awaited second album, I Don't Think It Will Hurt If You Smile for RCA Victor, after which she took a sabbatical from music to pursue a career as a teacher in Claremont, California.

Inspired by a brief affiliation during the 1980s with Brian Ransom's Ceramic Ensemble, Tanega finally returned to music in 1996 with Mike Henderson as Hybrid Vigor, who recorded an album for TH Music. By 1998, she founded the duo Latin Lizards with Robert Grajeda, releasing the Dangerous album in 2003.

Various other musical projects vied for Tanega's talents well into the twenty-first century, including several albums as a member of the trio Baboonz, as well as a brief reunion of Brian Ransom's Ceramic Ensemble. Tanega's final studio release came in 2012 via her Twin Journeys project with Steve Rushingwind Ruiz. 

Long admired and respected among her peers for her uncompromising and unique vision, Tanega passed away on 29 December 2019 after a battle against cancer. She was 80.

STEADY KIND:
REMEMBERING BELOVED
VOCALIST, COMPOSER AND ACTOR
KENNY LYNCH

I'm gonna stand on my own two feet. 

With that proclamation, beloved vocal pioneer and Stepney, East London native Kenny Lynch created one of the most inspiring and enduring anthems in all of music. Released as a single on HMV in 1964, My Own Two Feet sublimely synthesized Lynch's mastery of both lyrical double entendre and the mid-tempo subtle yet commanding Northern Soul delivery that graced like minded outings by such greats as Dobie Gray and J.J. Barnes. 

By the time of its release, Lynch had pretty much established himself in a variety of disciplines. Having made his recording debut in 1958 with his inspired interpretation of Bobby Darin's Splish Splash on the Waldorf label, Lynch went on to make his mark decisively in the ensuing years with Steady Kind, It Would Take A Miracle, a unique cover of the Beatles' Misery and other singles for HMV. 

Within short order, Lynch had branched out into other disciplines. As My Own Two Feet was making its decisive imprint, Lynch briefly tried his hand a record store owner. 

Also a prolific composer, he worked extensively with Herman's Hermits on their landmark 1966 Both Sides Of Herman's Hermits LP for MGM, contributing the original compositions Oh Mister Porter and My Old Dutch to the proceedings. The Small Faces and Cilla Black were among the many others who also covered his material.

An OBE since 1971, Lynch was in turn a prolific presence on both television and in the recording studio for most of the remainder of the twentieth century. A gifted actor, he also appeared in a number of motion pictures, including Just For Fun (1963) and Carry On Loving (1970). He concurrently pursued side interests in sports, with an emphasis on football and track.

Lynch continued to record and perform well into the twenty-first century, including a notable stint as part of a Rat Pack tribute in 2015. In 2018, he embarked upon his final musical tour with colleagues Jimmy Tarbuck and Cliff Adams Singers alumnus Anita Harris. 

Sadly, Lynch passed away suddenly on 18 December. He is survived by daughters Bobby and Amy. Lynch was 81.

FRENCH CAROUSEL:
DEBBIE GIBSON
PREMIERS EXTRAORDINARY
NEW INSTRUMENTAL ORIGINAL



Sometimes genius is borne as much of inspiration as it is perspiration.




Fresh off of five months' worth of nonstop activity that included the acclaimed multi-artist Mixtape Tour and a role as judge in Season One of the forthcoming Nickelodeon series, America's Most Musical Family, beloved vocalist, composer, arranger, producer and multi-instrumentalist Deborah Ann "Debbie" Gibson has been enjoying a well deserved break.

But as any creative visionary is fully aware, inspiration knows no such boundaries.

To that effect, on the morning of 16 September, Gibson entered her home studio, sat at her piano (which was once owned by the late bandleader, composer and keyboard virtuoso, Wladziu "Lee" Liberace) and pretty much on the spot created an original instrumental masterwork.

"This piece came to me in the moment", said Gibson, who has titled her latest composition French Carousel.

Rendered in a lilting 6/8, with a slight crescendo at the seventeenth measure that brings to the fertile imagination a most subtle undercurrent of strings, French Carousel then divests itself of any such potential distractions and crescendos in moderate to high drama manner; leveling off not at fever pitch, but in an otherworldly, dreamscape fashion that lends itself to multiple (and invariably euphoric) interpretations.

"My dream would be to hear it in a music box or carousel someday", said Gibson, thereby bringing to mind Frank Mills' duly inspired 1979 Polydor label single, Music Box Dancer.

Irrespective of what direction it may take, French Carousel in and of itself stands as an extraordinary testimony to the creative capabilities of a supremely gifted musical visionary who consistently thinks outside of any such box.

And here is that remarkable moment of inspiration. Recorded in her home studio on the 15th of September, the keyboard and compositional genius of Debbie Gibson with French Carousel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaS3tEyvzRA



COMEDY PIONEER RUSTY WARREN
RECOVERING AFTER MAJOR SURGIERIES



Prayers are in progress for comedy pioneer Rusty Warren, who is recovering in intensive care in an Arizona hospital following two major surgeries on the eighth of August.





The eighty-nine year old Warren was a key component of the vaunted Jubilee label roster for more than a decade. While Jubilee's initial successes came via such groundbreaking vocal group artists as the Five Sharps, the Orioles and the Dreamers, as well as such top drawer solo artists as Harry Belafonte, Jimmy Boyd, Edna McGriff, Don Rondo and Della Reese, Warren's candid approach to comedy made her an immediate front runner in the genre and a top draw for the label. She continued to record for Jubilee well into the 1970s. 

"(Warren is) expected to fully recover", said a family spokesperson in a statement.

"Her finances are being depleted by legal and medical costs. Any amount (donated) to help Rusty will go towards her care and recovery".

To that effect, Warren's family has established a Go Fund Me page on her behalf, accessible via social media. Warren has also expressed gratitude for prayers and words of encouragement. The latter can be sent to her attention at 10497 East Superstition Range Road, Gold Canyon, Arizona 85118.