Thursday

WELCOME TO BLITZ MAGAZINE'S WEB SITE!


THE GOOD TIMES: In tandem with his one hundredth birthday celebration, Capitol Records has released two new CD anthologies commemorating two distinctive phases of the enormous recorded repertoire of beloved vocalist, composer, multi-instrumentalist, actor and King Cole Trio co-founder, Nat King Cole. Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell takes an in depth look at these two essential collections and some of the highlights of Cole's career in the Reissues/Anthologies section of The Shape Of Things To Come column. (Click on the Reissues / Anthologies link under the Previous Posts heading at right for the full story). (Click on the above image to enlarge).

WELCOME TO THE INTERET HOME
FOR BLITZ MAGAZINE
SINCE 1975 -
THE ROCK AND ROLL MAGAZINE
FOR THINKING PEOPLE

Welcome to the official web site for Blitz, The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People. Since 1975, Blitz has been the leading voice for the discerning music enthusiast. Blitz Magazine was also one of the first magazines of its kind to embrace the internet, having also been online since January 1996.

Here you will find news and updates about all of the key artists essential to the growth and development of rock and roll music and related genres, including rhythm and blues, country and western, jazz and easy listening. For highlights from recent past editions of the Bits And Pieces and Shape Of Things To Come columns, click on the archival postings on the right hand side of this page. Be sure and check back frequently for regular updates.

If you have any questions, please e-mail us at BlitzMcD@aol.com.


Michael McDowell
Editor/Publisher
Blitz Magazine
Since 1975 - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People

E-Mail us at BlitzMcD@aol.com for a list of available back issues.


Be sure to follow Blitz on Twitter:
@BlitzMagazine
and
on Facebook at:
Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People

AUDREY'S MUSICAL JOURNEY:

Follow the fascinating and unfolding tale (through her favorite music) of the life and times of Blitz Magazine's late and beloved Photo Editor, Audrey McDowell, as told by her husband, Blitz Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell. A Facebook exclusive! "Like" us on Facebook at Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People, and watch for further installments.

IN THE BITS AND PIECES COLUMN:

Prayers in progress for comedy pioneer and long time Jubilee Records recording artist RUSTY WARREN, who is recovering from two major surgeries on 08 August. 

Beloved veteran vocalist and composer Evie Sands has returned to the studio to begin work on an all new album, her first since Shine For Me in 2017.

In a free standing interview (accessible under the Previous Posts column at right), veteran composer and vocalist Tiffany discusses with Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell the highlights of the just completed Mixtape Tour, as well as her recently released album, Pieces Of Me.

In a free standing article, the annual CKLW Big 8 Reunion on 13 July once again brought together veterans of the Windsor, Ontario AM radio powerhouse, and set the stage for a similar event in neighboring Novi that will celebrate the careers of pioneers and visionaries from not only CKLW, but WXYZ and the legendary WKNR Keener 13 (click on CKLW Radio Reunion under the Previous Posts heading at right for the full story).

The long and mercurial career of Bay Area band Quicksilver Messenger Service may well have hit an impasse with the 29 June death of band co-founder Gary Duncan.

Long time Belmonts front man Dan Elliott lost his protracted battle against pancreatic cancer on the 23rd of June. Blitz Magazine salutes his extraordinary career, as well as that of his beloved Belmonts colleagues.

Blitz Magazine was tapped to assist with technical support, as big8radio.com expanded its massive six thousand record playlist with the addition of more than two dozen first generation garage rock rarities by the Unrelated Segments, Torquays, Four Of Us, Lykes Of Us, etc. into its regular rotation. Comments from station CEO Charlie O'Brien.

No sooner did the beloved vocal supergorup DANNY AND THE JUNIORS bounce back from the tragic passing of group co-founder David White in March, when on the 15th of April the group suffered the sudden and immeasruale loss of front man Joe Terranova. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell takes a look at the veteran Philadelphia trio's unprecedented 62 year legacy.

Legendary vocal virtuoso Mel Carter has taken a giant leap forward by weighing in on the topic of gun violence in his most recent single, Raise The World - Sing Louder Than The Gun. Exclusive commentary by Carter himself here. 

IN THE REISSUES / ANTHOLOGIES SECTION OF
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME COLUMN:

The Portage, Michigan-based JAM Records has reissued the classic 1978 Emerald Vision album, one of the early excursions into the Gospel / psych hybrid that has since become the ad hoc trademark of the recorded legacy of the prolific and inspirational Jeremy Morris.

Ash Wells' Rare Rockin' Records and Teensville family of labels decisively maintains its front runner status with the release of The Night Has A Thousand Soundalikes, a thirty-five track salute to rock and roll pioneer Bobby Vee, featuring duly inspired originals by Jimmy Clanton, Kenny Karen, Tobin Matthews, the Crickets, Cliff Richard, Michael Landon, Brian Hyland, Kenny Lynch, Jimmy Griffin, Jerry Naylor and others.

The classic London and Decca label 45s by veteran vocalist and composer Marianne Faithfull are celebrated in the comprehensive new ABKCO collection, Come And Stay With Me.

The notion that more than an album's worth of previously unreleased material from a top of the line artist who has been gone for more than a half century has at last been made available is nothing short of miraculous. But that is exactly the case with Both Directions At Once, the heretofore unissued March 1963 Impulse Records sessions by the legendary John Coltrane Quartet

Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell takes an in depth look at the eight volume WJBK Hits Various Artists anthology series, which chronicles a wealth of essential and obscure singles from the weekly charts published by that legendary Detroit radio station from 1956 to 1964. 

IN THE NEW RELEASES SECTION OF
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME COLUMN:

Stung by the charges of pedestrianism often leveled at the genre overall, harmonica whiz and keeper of the blues flame Bob Corritore enlisted the services of a number of like minded colleagues to set the record straight with their latest Vizztone release, Do The Hip-Shake Baby!

Beloved folk music pioneers The Brothers Four are commemorating their phenomenal 60+ year run with the release of their all new Renewal album for the Seattle Works label.

New York-based composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Luca Scoppetta-Stern is all over the musical map with his self-produced new release, Lions.

The multi-faceted Doughboys lead guitarist Gar Francis once again showcases his harder-edged leanings in French Kisses, the all new Bongo Boy Records release by the New Bardots.

The Victoria-based first generation garage rock greats the Tol-Puddle Martyrs return with Another Earth, their latest for the Secret Deals label.

Colin Linden and Luther Dickinson join forces for Amour, a fresh take on romance (Stony Plain Records) via their unique interpretations of monster classics by Clyde McPhatter, Leadbelly, Ray Price, Charlie Feathers, Chuck Willis and others.

The prolific veteran composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Dana Countryman asserts his consistently evolving musical mission statement with wry understatement in Cabaret Of Love, his latest release for Sterling Swan Records.


Tuesday

ANNUAL CKLW REUNION


A DRAKE SHAKEUP: The annual CKLW reunion once again brought together veterans of the legendary Windsor, Ontario AM radio powerhouse in Saint Clair Shores, Michigan on Saturday 13 July 2019. This year's gala is also setting the stage for an event in neighboring Novi on 14 September, which will feature such area broadcast giants as WXYZ's Lee Alan and Joey Reynolds, CKLW's O'Brien, Shutty-MacGregor and (Buena Vista and Rockin' Rebels producer) Tom Shannon, Swingin' Time host and author Robin Seymour and WKNR Keener 13 greats Bob Green and Jerry Goodwin.  Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell has the story below. Pictured above, left to right: CKLW's Len Robinson, Jojo Shutty-MacGregor, Ric Allen, Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell and CKLW's Charlie O'Brien (Click on above image to enlarge).


ON THE FLIP SIDE:
CKLW ANNUAL RADIO
REUNION SETS THE PRECEDENT
FOR SEPTEMBER GALA
By Michael McDowell

If at first you do succeed, do it again.

For the past several years, veterans of Windsor, Ontario's 50,000 watt AM powerhouse CKLW have participated in annual reunions in southeastern Michigan. Hosted in the Detroit suburb of Saint Clair Shores, the event has served in part as a fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House charities. 

This year's gathering was held on Saturday the 13th of July, with CKLW alumni Charlie O'Brien, Ric Allen, Len Robinson and Jojo Shutty-MacGregor on hand. All remain active in radio or related media in various capacities. They were joined by such industry vets as Michigan Music History CEO Mike Jackson, Motor City Radio Flashback's Jim Feliciano and renowned radio archivist Art Vuolo. 

"The level of talent in the industry in this area is as good as it gets" said Feliciano.

While the annual CKLW celebrations have indeed provided some memorable moments over the past several years, in 2019, that gathering is setting the stage for another event which is being termed, "the last Detroit radio reunion".

In 2018, former WXYZ-AM air personality Lee Alan endeavored to host a gathering of radio greats from a number of different stations at a venue in neighboring Royal Oak. Sadly, the proverbial "circumstances beyond control" short circuited Alan's plans for the time being.

However, Alan has pulled out all of the stops in his ongoing efforts to make that dream a reality. And on Saturday the 14th of September, the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi is scheduled to host The Last Detroit Radio Reunion. 

To be certain, the level of talent slated to appear there represents the absolute cream of the crop within the industry. In addition to Alan and his one time WXYZ colleague Joey Reynolds, the Novi gala will also feature CKLW's O'Brien and Shutty-MacGregor, as well as CKLW legend (and Rockin' Rebels and Buena Vistas producer) Tom Shannon, plus beloved Swingin' Time host Robin Seymour (author of an acclaimed new book about the enormously influential television series) and WKNR Keener 13 visionaries Bob Green (architect of the station's groundbreaking "intelligent flexibility" mission statement) and Jerry Goodwin (who is presently enjoying a successful career in film). 

Sadly, a number of enormously influential area industry giants are no longer with us, including such renowned figures as Mickey Shorr, Toby David, WKNR's Jim Jeffries, Ted Clark and Frank "Swingin' " Sweeney, as well as WJBK pioneers Clark Reid, Bob Edgington, Casey Kasem and Terry "Jack The Bellboy" Knight. But their presence will very much be felt at this landmark gathering which, despite Alan's proclamations of finality, would nonetheless do well to join the CKLW festivities in becoming a recurring event.



EDITORIAL: MICHAEL HOLLIDAY AND GARY STEWART'S TRAGIC LEGACIES


NOBODY HEARS IF I LAUGH OR I CRY: The world of music was devastated by the April 2019 suicide of beloved former Rhino Records Senior Vice-President Gary Stewart (pictured above in the music library of his Santa Monica, California home several years ago). The concurrent release by he UK-based Jasmine label of an anthology CD of the works of the pioneering visionary composer and vocalist Michael Holliday (who also died by his own hand in October 1963) served to highlight the growing concerns in that respect in the rock and roll community. Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher takes an in depth look at this alarming trend, with extraordinary insights by Veterans Affairs activist and Vietnam veteran Dennis Russell, as well as former Cockeyed Ghost lead vocalst and host of the acclaimed video blog, Adam Walks Around, Adam Marsland. (Click on the above image to enlarge).

KEEP YOUR HEART:
THE AFTERMATH OF
THE TRAGIC FINALES
OF MICHAEL HOLLIDAY
AND GARY STEWART
By Michael McDowell

Sometimes even the most well-intended advice turns out to be only marginally beneficial counsel in the long run.

In the late 1970s, Blitz Magazine (which was still in its infancy at that point) received an invitation from the Spike Drivers' late co-founder and front man Ted Lucas to visit the site of his proposed recording studio near downtown Detroit, Michigan. After a brief tour of the property, Lucas suddenly turned the conversation towards a seemingly more altruistic perspective. 

"I like what you're doing with the publication, and I think it's got a lot of potential", he said.

"I would love to see you succeed. So let me give you some advice".

Lucas' counsel became a cornerstone of Blitz Magazine's mission statement for years to come.

"We just came out of an era where the rock critic was seen as a rock star", he continued.

"That needs to change. If you want to create interest, then you have to generate an aura of mystery. Keep your audience guessing. That will only make them want more".

Upon early reflection, it stood to reason that journalistic protocol called for writing in the third person, anyway. And since the primary focal point of Blitz Magazine's coverage was and is the artists and their music, Lucas' observations made perfectly good sense at the time.

But then along came that fateful day in October 2014, which pretty much threw such conventional wisdom out of the window for good.

It was on the twenty-third of that month that my beloved wife of nineteen years, Audrey suddenly suffered a major stroke and brain hemorrhage that claimed her life seven days later. And try as I may have tried, there was no way to hide the ramifications of such a nightmare under the mere premise of a "The Show Must Go On" perspective. Or under an "aura of mystery", for that matter.

Nonetheless, the show has indeed continued for the past four and a half years since that tragedy occurred. But it would not have been possible without the grace of God, as well as the ongoing support and encouragement of countless friends and colleagues. 

Furthermore, writing has proven to be therapeutic. Audrey's life story, Audrey's Musical Journey is about halfway completed at this point, and subsequent installments are imminent. As such, things are progressing about as well as can be expected under the circumstances. As always, pressing ahead towards the goal outlined by the Lord remains the priority. 

Sadly, there have been others in the world of music whose own challenging circumstances did not fare as well. One of the earliest examples was Paulsboro, New Jersey vocalist Joan Weber, whose unnervingly candid Columbia label Let Me Go, Lover single (which ironically was originally titled Let Me Go, Devil) was one of the most acclaimed releases of 1955. Despite several worthwhile follow up releases, the pressures of balancing the priorities of career and family ultimately proved to be too much in her case. Weber passed away in a mental health facility in May 1981. 

Around that same time, there was another example that sadly hit a bit too close to home. Rock and roll legend Charles Weedon "Del Shannon" Westover was the subject of a lengthy two-part interview in Blitz Magazine in the early 1980s, in tandem with the release of his acclaimed Drop Down And Get Me album.

Blitz Magazine at the time was based in the southern part of Los Angeles County, in the Belmont Shore community of Long Beach. Conversely, Shannon's home was in Canyon Country, on the northern end of the county. 

For the convenience of all concerned, we had arranged to meet with Shannon at the Hollywood, California home of Rev. Gary Tibbs. A long time friend and colleague, Tibbs had compiled an extensive study on the veteran band, the Fortunes for Blitz Magazine months earlier. He also officiated at my wedding to Audrey in 1995. His home provided an ideal midpoint meeting place between Belmont Shore and Canyon Country. 

Shannon was in a most upbeat frame of mind upon his arrival in Hollywood that afternoon. Advance pressings of Drop Down And Get Me had just become available. To commemorate the occasion, he had taken delivery earlier that day on a brand new maroon Cadillac convertible.

"Before we get started, what do you say we take a little drive?", Shannon asked us upon his arrival.

Minutes later, Gary Tibbs and I found ourselves cruising down Hollywood Boulevard with Del Shannon in his brand new Cadillac; top down, with Drop Down And Get Me in the car's cassette deck at commanding but not overbearing volume. That adventure remains one of the highlights of the entire Blitz Magazine experience.

When we returned, Shannon sat down and gave what was arguably the greatest interview of his life. He covered the entire spectrum of his career to date, from the many highlights, to the point of self-searching that led him to his unwavering faith in the Lord.

But Shannon's story was not without its low points. A recurring battle with depression found him sitting on his boat in the lake near his home in 1965, tossing copies of his recent Amy label single, Move It On Over into the water after the long highly acclaimed disc's initial failure to impact his audience to the degree that he had anticipated. 

That afternoon, Shannon also recalled the long conversations he had with colleague and fellow rock and roll legend, Brian Hyland. Shannon had produced some sides for Hyland during the latter's affiliation with Uni Records. Hyland returned the favor by providing Shannon with some much needed counsel and encouragement. 

Yet such low points were by far the exception during that afternoon. When Shannon bid Blitz Magazine goodbye several hours later, it seemed obvious that he was a man who remained on top of his art and who was looking forward to continued success on all fronts.

However, several years later, in a follow up Blitz Magazine interview with correspondent Beverly Paterson, there was a renewed undercurrent of anxiety and uncertainty in Shannon's comments, despite his unwavering success in the interim. Still, that was not enough at that point to raise concerns to an urgent level. As such, the news of Shannon's passing from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his Santa Clarita, California home on 08 February 1990 was a devastating blow to even those in his inner circle, many of whom were aware that he was still undergoing treatment for depression.

And while Michael Nesmith's like minded and often invoked "You can't see the forest for the trees" maxim is indeed borne of wisdom, it is nonetheless within reason to assert that maintaining an upbeat outlook is likewise a prescient perspective. In turn, for the believers among us, the Lord's observation, "My grace is sufficient for you" (II Corinthians 12:9) remains as a timeless and poignant of a reminder as can be found anywhere. 

Put another way, maintaining a positive perspective in the face of adversity can produce both short and long term benefits. The short term includes (among other things) a reduction in stress levels, which can reap healthy dividends in the long run. 

As such, when a particular individual has faced such adversity head on and emerged triumphant, it is incumbent upon us to rejoice with them in their victory. Such were the circumstances facing the beloved veteran vocalist Marianne Faithfull more than a half century ago.

Recently, the ABKCO label released a CD anthology which features all of the singles recorded by Faithfull during her affiliation with London Records in the United States and with Decca in the UK. Blitz Magazine celebrated that release accordingly, rejoicing with Faithfull in this latest addition to her long list of triumphs. It was our position when that article was published that the artist was commemorating a victorious moment in her career, and that to revisit long resolved trials of many decades past at this juncture would have been counter productive. That position remains unchanged.

Even so, there was a small but impassioned contingent within our audience which took umbrage with that perspective. Their reasoning was that since those issues were (in their estimation) such a significant component of Faithfull's overall legacy, it would be doing any potentially like minded individuals a great disservice to not address them.

Our response was two-fold: 1). Blitz Magazine is a magazine that celebrates music and the artists that create it, not matters of a socio-political nature. 2). Even if that were not the case, there are others who are far more qualified to weigh in on such matters. It was to them that we deferred accordingly.

Nonetheless, just a few weeks later, protocol once again went out of the window.

It was on the morning of Friday the twelfth of April that long time friend, brother and colleague Willie Aron phoned to say that our long time mutual brother in musical arms and one time Rhino Records Senior Vice-President Gary Stewart had fallen to his death from a Santa Monica, California parking structure the previous day. Santa Monica police subsequently ruled Stewart's passing a suicide. 

And that is where Faithfull's story differs dramatically. Whereas in any such matters it would of course be highly remiss to completely throw caution to the wind, the fact that her path has largely been a positive one for decades is ultimately reason to rejoice. 

Conversely, Stewart's passing came as a tremendous shock to even his closest confidantes, and of course eliminated any possibility of a more positive outcome. As chronicled in Blitz Magazine's remembrance that evening, Stewart was the host of an annual Christmas party at his Santa Monica home, which was regularly attended by several hundred long time friends and colleagues. The latter represented a healthy portion of the cream of the crop of Southern California's music industry, which belied Stewart's early tongue in cheek reference to those annual gatherings as the "Loser Christmas Party". 

On the surface, Stewart was one of the most respected behind the scenes figures in the record industry. Altruistic and selfless almost to a fault, he was loved by one and all who knew him. And while, according to his closest confidantes, there were signs of concern in his final weeks, virtually none who have commented to date even considered the eventual tragic outcome to be within the realm of possibility. 

All of which made a concurrent development within the music industry all the more ironic.

Just days prior to Stewart's tragic passing, the prolific, UK-based Jasmine label released a compilation CD, Starry Eyed. This most welcome thirty-one track anthology chronicles the highlights of the prolific and vaunted recorded legacy of the late and beloved vocalist, composer, multi-instrumentalist, actor, television host, technical pioneer and Liverpool, Merseyside native, Norman Alexander "Michael Holliday" Milne.

In general, the parallels between Holliday's and Stewart's circumstances are most unnerving. Both had determined at an early age to follow a musical path. In Holliday's case, his initial exposure to the work of vocalist, composer and actor Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby in the late 1930s planted the seeds of inspiration to pursue a career in music.

Although he saw active military duty during World War II and later served for a season as a merchant seaman, that initial calling never waned. While a merchant seaman, Holliday won a talent contest at Radio City Music Hall during a stop in New York City. By the early 1950s, he was working as both a vocalist and guitarist for Dick Denny's and Eric Winstone's bands. A late 1954 audition for the BBC was successful, and led to his being discovered by legendary producer Norman William "Norrie" Paramor. 

By mid-1955, Holliday was signed to Columbia as a solo artist. Many of his recordings throughout the remainder of the decade were solid interpretations of material previously recorded by American artists, Among them were Mitch Miller's The Yellow Rose Of Texas, Perry Como's Hot Diggity and Mi Casa Su Casa, Marty Robbins' The Story Of My Life and She Was Only Seventeen, Morton Downey's I'll Always Be In Love With You, Carl Dobkins Junior's My Heart Is An Open Book and Jim Reeves' Four Walls, all of which are represented in the Jasmine collection.

Acclaim came almost instantly at that point for the highly charismatic baritone. While he continued to profess Bing Crosby (who eventually became a close friend) as his primary inspiration, there is much in his genial vocal delivery that in turn made an obvious impact on such like minded greats as Matt Monro and the aforementioned Perry Como, who, like Holliday, was supremely adept at vocal gymnastics. 

Before decade's end, Holliday also starred in his own television program. With a set designed to resemble a state of the art living room in order to underscore his seemingly relaxed and genial on stage demeanor, Holliday frequently confounded expectations by not only delivering commanding interpretations of technically challenging material, but by also using the forum to showcase his visionary approach to the recording process.

The concept of sound on sound was in its infancy at that stage, most notably utilized previously by Les Paul and Patti Page in their own recordings (for Capitol and Mercury, respectively). But during his television program, Holliday would bring along his reel to reel tape recorder, on which a tape sat poised which contained a previously recorded studio track. He would then sing along with his own earlier recording, often tackling commanding material masterfully. To that effect, witness his live performance of Dinah (readily available on social media, although not included in the Jasmine collection), in which he takes on the intricate vocal interplay evidenced in the earlier rendition by the Mills Brothers and Bing Crosby and very much holds his own.

Interestingly enough, while only a small percentage of Holliday's records were issued in the United States, the few that did manage an American release somehow found their way into the collective consciousness of the musical connoisseurs in short order. To wit, his Runaway Train (not included in the Jasmine anthology) was picked up by Capitol Records in January 1957. The song's folkie/adventure theme resonated with a diverse demographic, and was actually showcased a few times on various children's television programs. Capitol also released Holliday's theme song for the motion picture Rooney in 1958. In terms of American releases, he eventually caught the attention of the Ohio-based King and Bethlehem family of labels, which released a pair of singles by him in 1961-1962.

But it is with the material that is unique to him (some of which he composed) that was not only most reflective of his mission statement as an artist, but ultimately was telling in a variety of ways. Among them is a monster classic so worthy of the lofty distinction of absolute, utter perfection that its relative lack of attention in the United States continues to stagger the imagination. 

Released in late 1959, Holliday's sublime, larger than life, prototypically dreamscape Starry Eyed single for Columbia became the first number one record of the 1960s in the UK, and ultimately defined his recorded legacy. Arguably one of the most impeccably articulated statements on the often recorded subjects of love and idyllic romance, under Holliday's supremely capable stewardship, Starry Eyed most definitely ranks highly among the greatest records ever made in any genre. Gary Stites cut a commendable version of it for Carlton in late 1959. But suffice to say that Holliday absolutely owns the track. 

With that success came continued television appearances, including a most memorable one on Saturday Spectacular. Therein, Holliday reprised Starry Eyed impeccably, and also delivered a stunning take on Harry James' Skylark. Appearances with such like minded greats as the Barry Sisters and Vera Lynn followed suit, An ad hoc duet with Rita Loza on Let's Do It rounds out the Jasmine collection.

By virtually all accounts, Michael Holliday was living the dream. His marriage to his professed soulmate Margaret in the 1940s seemed to be a storybook one. In his self-penned rocker, Love You Darlin', Holliday even alluded to his circumstances, saying, "The simple life is the life for me", with "The wide open skies I can sing to, and a girl that I can cling to", concluding that "My happiness is always guaranteed". 

Indeed, it was often suggested that artists such as Rick Nelson, Elvis Presley and Herb Alpert had it all, and that many within their legions of followers aspired to emulate them. To be certain, Michael Holliday was most assuredly among such elite company in that respect. 

However, his reality was a much different matter.

For all of his seeming self-assurance on stage, Holliday throughout his career battled an ultimately not so well hidden trio of formidable challenges that were exacerbated with the passage of time. They included a paralyzing stage fright, insecurity about his own undeniably world class talents and a self-loathing borne of a presumption that his physical appearance was below the acceptable standard of one in such a position of influence.

Interestingly enough, those concerns manifested themselves as early as March 1956 with his Columbia label Nothin' To Do single. Although not one of his own compositions, Nothin' To Do nonetheless articulated his plight in a most forthright manner: "Won't someone listen to my tale of woe? I've got Nothin' To Do and nowhere to go. Nobody loves me, I'm feelin' so low. Nobody cares if I live or die. Nobody hears if I laugh or I cry. Sometimes I feel like my heart will just break. I'm only human. How much can I take?"

A cry for help if there ever was one (and one that in retrospect was echoed in his aforementioned cover of the Jim Reeves classic). However, since by that time Holliday had already cemented his reputation as a genial and charismatic artist who had it all, his recording was perceived as little more than a well rendered (albeit detached) performance by a competent vocalist. The fact that he added show stopping vocal gymnastics at the onset of the final verse regrettably did not help his cause in that respect.

And therein lay a key part of the problem. As the 1960s progressed, Holliday remained absolutely at the top of his art in the studio with a series of acclaimed recordings that perpetuated the relentless optimism of his public persona. Among them was his utterly stupendous 1961 rendition of the Stuart Hamblen-penned Remember Me. In 1965, no less a like minded absolute master than Dean Martin was moved to record a note for note tribute cover of Remember Me for Reprise, ultimately creating one of his own signature singles in the process. Holliday's November 1960 Catch Me A Kiss also served to sustain his momentum, with its wonderfully screwy "coo coo ri coo" embellishments from the backing vocalists reassuring his legion of followers that all was still apparently well.

But in reality, things were getting progressively worse for Holliday. Although he amassed a most respectable income for his considerable efforts as an artist, he nonetheless ran afoul of tax authorities at home. In turn, his self-depreciating perspective led him to seek reassurance through a series of extra-marital relationships. And while he maintained the ongoing support and encouragement from his long time friend Bing Crosby, his behind the scenes circumstances continued their downward spiral.

Through it all, Holliday continued to largely keep those concerns out of the public eye. A number of acquaintances have commented about spending time with him in various settings throughout much of 1963, and that those informal encounters suggested that for the most part, all was well (despite a recent remembrance by one acquaintance that Holliday at the time seemed "down in the dumps").

But then came the fateful night of 28 October 1963. Weary of his extracurricular dalliances, his beloved wife Margaret (aka Margie) had left him weeks earlier. Late that evening, Holliday and a date paid a visit to a nightclub owned by a long time friend, Freddie Mills. Upon entering the club, Mills playfully commented to Holliday that the evening's entertainment had concluded, and that he should come back the following evening. Holliday's response shook his friend to the core.

"There won't be a tomorrow night", he said.

True to his word, Holliday at some point in the early hours of 29 October ingested an overdose of prescription medication. He died that morning in the emergency wing of Croydon General Hospital.

Most tragically, Holliday had revealed his intentions in a letter to his estranged wife Margie, which reached her after the fact. It read as follows:

"By the time that you receive this, I trust that I shall be at the Land of Nod. I thought it would be better if you found out this way, as I am sure that it will get in the papers one way or another.

"I am sorry I had to do this, but I am afraid I am so confused. If you could have spoken to me about it, it might have helped a little.

"Even my accountants have grown tired of me and deserted me. The income tax want their money by Wednesday, or else. I guess I ain't man enough to tackle it alone.

"If I can get word to you about the other world - if there is one - you know me. I will find some way of letting you know. I will let you know because a lot of people are curious about going beyond".

To be certain, Holliday's references to the "other world" and his seeming lack of understanding about it is most disheartening to the believers among us. Had Holliday reached out at the time instead of endeavoring to "tackle it alone", the outcome may well have been a different one, as he himself suggested.

Yet as Holliday predicted, the news did indeed "get in the papers". Several thousand mourners attended his memorial service. Tributes poured in from such colleagues as Cliff Richard, the Beatles and Shirley Bassey. Long time friend and mentor Bing Crosby even composed a eulogy, which ultimately was excerpted months later on the back cover of a tribute album. And as a fitting testimony to his enduring charisma and appeal, Holliday was the subject of a detailed biography in 2004 by author Ken Crossland.

"An old, sad story", said Dennis Russell, a Vietnam veteran who is active in Veterans Affairs in Southern California's Orange County and who frequently works with victims of such related issues as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Tragically, the circumstances of that "old, sad story" repeated themselves with Gary Stewart's untimely passing. And while the outpouring of grief from his legion of friends and colleagues was equally substantial in numbers, some of the comments expressed by his closest confidantes suggest that the problem is more widespread than had been previously realized.

"Mental illness is one of those things that is so complicated", said Russell.

"We're just starting to figure out how to deal with it. You cannot pigeonhole it into a generic, one size fits all. Every situation is different".

A tour of active duty during the Vietnam War made it apparent to Russell that the issue was a crucial one amongst his military colleagues.

"PTSD is very different from Bipolar Disorder, or even that caused by traumatic brain injury", he said.

"Plus throw in the stigma that people out on it, and now you have a real mess".

To underscore the point, Russell referred to a photograph taken during combat of an explosion.

"Gary may have been Bipolar, which means he was born with it", he said.

"Each person has their own circumstances. Vets deal with wartime trauma. All one can do for somebody is provide support and listen to them. With vets, it's better for other vets to do it, because they understand what happened".

Conversely, there thankfully are those within the musical community who saw trouble coming down the road, and had the foresight to be able to not only avert a crisis, but to turn it around for a positive outcome.

Long a highly respected figure within the Southern California musical community, Adam Marsland is perhaps best known as the founder and leader of the band Cockeyed Ghost and president of the Karma Frog label. Karma Frog is the recording home of such acclaimed artists as Pacific Soul Ltd., composer and vocalist Rob Martinez and the ambitious supergroup, Mod Hippie. An accomplished session musician, Marsland has also worked with such pioneering greats as the Standells and Evie Sands. Like many, Marsland also counted Gary Stewart among his dear friends.

Over the past couple of years, Marsland has spent the majority of his time in Asia, primarily in Bali and the Philippines. He has recently started an online travelogue, Adam Walks Around, which chronicles his ongoing adventures there.

However, Marsland's decision to embark upon such a life changing adventure was the result of much soul searching, after finding himself at a crossroads.

"I just hit a wall in my mid-40s", said Marsland.

"I had a chronic, undiagnosed illness. My music, which used to keep me socially connected, now had me in my room, editing sound files for days on end".

It was at that point that, like many, Marsland came to the realization that the creative process can be as daunting as it is exhilarating.

"I felt really isolated and depressed", he said.

"It was worse, because my life used to be this amazing adventure. I knew what could be, and what wasn't.

"I was also starting to get a really bad attitude about things. It was beginning to drive people away. I had real grievances to obsess over".

While not quite at the level of the so-called Road To Damascus moment experienced by the Apostle Paul in the Book of Acts, Marsland nonetheless came to the realization that a change was in order.

"I had an epiphany in the Fall of 2012", he said.

"I had been asking myself the question, 'Am I just too old to still do the things in my life I haven't done yet?' I found an answer, which was, 'You're not too old to do them. But you are too old to wait. Either get busy working toward those things, or admit that you're never going to do them.' "

Thankfully, after carefully assessing his options, Marsland took those decisive steps.

"Since I had stopped being very interested in my life anyway, what was there to lose?", he reasoned. 

But that conclusion did not come without internal conflict, with respect to thinking outside of the box.

"It was hard to get my mind to accept risk again", said Marsland.

"To let go of the few things that I'd been holding onto to give my life stability. But once I started running towards the things that scared me and embracing them, my whole world opened up again".

And for Marsland, one of those key things was a foundational one that few of his colleagues would be either willing or able to set aside: music.

"I started getting into yoga", he said.

"I went back on the road with a new album. When I realized that I hadn't wanted to do that anymore, I mostly retired from music with no regrets. 

"I traveled abroad for the first time. I found I loved it so much that over a period of years, I transferred my life to Southeast Asia, where I wasn't limited by my own cultural expectations to have a certain kind of life as a middle aged man".

Indeed, expectations come much easier when baggage that was once presumed to be indispensable is set aside.

"The hardest thing in the world when you're in that frame of mind is to let go of what you're clinging to", said Marsland.

"The things you have worked for all of your life, and just step out and do something new. But once you do, the world just opens up. 

"I was able to find and conquer mental blocks that had held me down all of my life. That first step, letting go of your grievances and the things you thought were important to strike out for something different, is the hardest thing in the world. But man, does it get easier and better after that!"

Could such a perspective have benefitted someone such as Gary Stewart? That is of course mere speculation at this point. But Marsland does have some thoughts on the subject.

"For example, could Gary have walked away from music?", Marsland asked.

"That probably would have been too far of a bridge for him. But for so many of us who grew up with rock and roll as a kind of religion, it doesn't seem to end as well as you get older".

Despite its numerous attributes, even music at its best cannot provide the perfect peace that can only be brought about by a right relationship with the Lord. And while that in and of itself remains the ideal goal for one and all, there are, as Marsland notes, behavioral changes that can at least provide short term gratification and turn the individual away from potentially dangerous undertakings.

"I think it's tough", said Marsland.

"In our cultural rush to 'not blame the victim' and treat depression as an illness - both of which are valid up to a point - we send the message that it's something that basically happens to us and we are powerless over it. 

"That hasn't been my experience. Less entitled cultures don't have the luxury of thinking like that. There is some value in just getting busy with something. It doesn't mean that it's easy, of course. Or that it's not impossible for some people. But it is possible for some".

It is at that point that the ongoing debate about the role of social media enters into the picture. There are those who contend that a consistent online presence is anathema to the blessings of real social interaction with others.

"Unfortunately, American culture breeds isolation, particularly as you get older", said Marsland.

"I would not have done nearly as well if I hadn't left. There were very specific things that I needed here, which I could not find there".

Ironically, some of Gary Stewart's closest friends have pointed out that he provided that very crucial personal interaction with his annual Christmas gatherings. At the most recent one in 2018, a veteran keyboard player commented to him at evening's end, "I really appreciate your doing this. This is the closest thing I have to a family gathering".

Marsland concurred, to a degree.

"It was the only place where my roommate and I ever socialized outside of the house", he said.

"My roommate had no connection to music whatsoever. That's how big Gary's reach was".

Encouragingly, others within the industry have also taken decisive steps to counter the problem. Most notably, the Chicago, Illinois-based band, Disturbed has just released a video entitled A Reason To Fight, which chronicles the band's own observations and findings regarding such issues, as well as offering constructive steps to reach out to those who may find themselves in such circumstances.

"Maybe I should have stressed this", said Marsland.

"But just turning the boat around and making moves in another direction is in and of itself sufficient. Having that kind of goal was a blast. It made my life interesting where it previously had not been. 

"I don't think Gary would have been ready to hear, 'Dump your record collection and come live on a tropical island'. But who is to say that it wouldn't have been a great move? Maybe yes, maybe no. Life pushes us in interesting directions. Appreciate the good things about it and surf through the bad as best as we can".

And while any sort of counter measures may be too late for Michael Holliday and Gary Stewart, it is at least encouraging to see that the countless accomplishments of their respective legacies continue to inspire. And if indeed there is a to be a positive outcome borne of their tragic finales, it will be in the victory commensurate with the efforts of those close to them to guide others to a better path. It is a path rife with prayer and manifested in letting one's God-given abilities in turn provide hope and inspiration to others.

Finally, by no means should this account be regarded as either authoritative or comprehensive. Those who find themselves impacted by these concerns in any capacity (or know of someone who is) should seek advice and/or counsel from a professional at once.

"That's why I say when I deal with my own PTSD or with others like me, the approach is different from Bipolar", said Russell.

"You're dealing with a medical condition versus a circumstance. That's why I say where you can make a difference is to encourage people to seek help.

"We are not experts. I do this to help people, and I fly by the seat of my pants. I get them to talk, and then get them to the pros".

Indeed, it these findings prompt a change in direction and purpose for the better in even one individual, then this rare deviation from journalistic protocol will have been worth it.