Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown

Whatever you do, don’t refer to multi-instrumentalist Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown as a bluesman, although his imprimatur on the development of Texas blues is enormous. You’re liable to get him riled. If you must pigeonhole the legend, just call him an eclectic Texas musical master whose interests encompass virtually every roots genre imaginable. Brown learned the value of versatility while growing up in Orange, TX. His dad was a locally popular musician who specialized in country, Cajun, and bluegrass — but not blues. Later, Gate was entranced by the big bands of Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, and Duke Ellington…

Josh Ritter

An American singer/songwriter with a deep, expressive voice, a keen wit, and an evocative way with words, Josh Ritter has built a loyal following as one of the leading lights on the Americana scene with his incisive songwriting. Emerging in 2000 with his eponymous debut album, Ritter hit his stride in 2007 with the release of The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter, which introduced elements of rock, country, and blues into the mix. What followed was a string of acclaimed outings…

The Blow Monkeys

Best known in the U.K. and U.S. for their 1986 Top 20 hit “Digging Your Scene” and for their cover of Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” from the multi-platinum soundtrack for 1987’s Dirty Dancing, British sophisti-pop quartet the Blow Monkeys were formed in 1981 with singer/songwriter/guitarist/keyboardist Dr. Robert (born Bruce Robert Howard), saxophonist Neville Henry, bassist Mick Anker, and drummer Tony Kiley. On the strength of seductive live performances, the band was signed to RCA for its debut, 1984’s Limping for a Generation, which was followed by the EP Forbidden Fruit in 1985.

The Go! Team

The sound whipped up by the Go! Team is an effervescent blend of indie rock guitars, police show themes, hip-hop beats, funky marching bands, and schoolyard chants built on samples and then augmented by live instrumentation. The main architect of the group’s sound is producer and guitarist Ian Parton, who is joined by a rotating cast of singers and musicians, most notably singer/rapper Ninja. The 2004 album Thunder, Lightning, Strike was the band’s grand debut, knocking the blogosphere on its collective ear and setting the group’s template in stone…

Pulp

For the first 12 years of their existence, Pulp languished in near total obscurity, releasing a handful of albums and singles in the ’80s to barely any attention. At the turn of the decade, the group began to gain an audience, sparking a remarkable turn of events that made the band one of the most popular British groups of the ’90s. By the time Pulp became famous, the band had gone through numerous different incarnations and changes in style, covering nearly every indie rock touchstone from post-punk to dance…

Broadcast

Led by James Cargill and Trish Keenan, Broadcast blended early electronic music, psychedelia, and ’60s pop into music that was retro-futuristic, innovative, and often deeply moving. Though their inspirations spanned obscure film soundtracks, science fiction, library music, and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Cargill and Keenan’s artistic vision was unmistakable — as was Keenan’s voice, which flickered between aloof detachment and vulnerability effortlessly. Despite their distinctive approach, Broadcast’s music was always changing…

Level 42

At the beginning of their career, Level 42 was squarely a jazz-funk fusion band, contemporaries of fellow Brit funk groups like Atmosfear, Light of the World, Incognito, and Beggar & Co. By the end of the ’80s, however, the band — whose music was instantly recognizable from Mark King’s thumb-slap bass technique and associate member Wally Badarou’s synthesizer flourishes — had crossed over to the point where they were often classified as sophisti-pop and dance-rock, equally likely to be placed in the context of Sade and the Style Council as was any group that made polished, upbeat, danceable pop/rock…

The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady didn’t sound like any other band who emerged from Brooklyn in the 2000s, or practically anywhere else in the indie rock community for that matter. A band who upheld the values and integrity of indie and punk rock, the Hold Steady were not afraid to also embrace rock classicism, fusing the bar band vigor of the Replacements with the epic scale musical backdrops of Bruce Springsteen while vocalist Craig Finn spilled out stories that were as impassioned as they were unpretentiously literate. Though they never had a massive hit, they maintained a fervently dedicated following…

The Police

Nominally, the Police were punk rock, but that’s only in the loosest sense of the term. The trio’s nervous, reggae-injected pop/rock was punky, but it wasn’t necessarily punk. All three members were considerably more technically proficient than the average punk or new wave band. Andy Summers had a precise guitar attack that created dense, interlocking waves of sounds and effects. Stewart Copeland could play polyrhythms effortlessly. And Sting, with his high, keening voice, was capable of constructing infectiously catchy pop songs. While they weren’t punk, the Police certainly demonstrated that the punk spirit could have a future in pop music…

The Darkness

Overblown with pomp and camp, English rock band the Darkness crashed the mainstream in the early 2000s, resurrecting classic rock & roll bombast and excess with their breakthrough debut, 2003’s Permission to Land. Scoring armfuls of awards and chart records, the outfit imploded just as abruptly as they seemed to arrive, breaking up after lackluster sophomore release One Way Ticket to Hell…And Back. New bands were formed, rehab was completed, and old wounds were healed in the years that followed. The band reunited in 2011…

Green on Red

Always wary of their paisley underground tag, it was only Green on Red’s debut EP that leaned on the psychedelic sounds of the ’60s before they traded it in for a boozy, all-American sound. They have been credited as latter-day forbears to the No Depression sound forged by Wilco and Son Volt. Singer and songwriter Dan Stuart, Chris Cacavas (keyboards), and Jack Waterson (bass) formed their first group in Tucson, AZ, in 1979. After the band relocated to L.A., drummer Alex MacNicol joined up and Green on Red released their debut EP on Steve Wynn’s Down There label in 1982…

The Blue Aeroplanes

The Blue Aeroplanes are an art rock group from Bristol, England, that has drawn comparisons to critically acclaimed rock bands like the Velvet Underground because of their eclectic style and the songwriting sensibility of group leader Gerard Langley. The original core of the band included Langley’s brother John on drums, Nick Jacobs on guitar, and multi-instrumentalist Dave Chapman. However, personnel other than Langley has varied, and (on both records and in performances) they have always been augmented by a large cast of semi-regular sidemen…

Guitar Slim

No 1950s blues guitarist even came close to equaling the flamboyant Guitar Slim in the showmanship department. Armed with an estimated 350 feet of cord between his axe and his amp, Slim would confidently stride on-stage wearing a garishly hued suit of red, blue, or green, usually with his hair dyed to match! It’s rare to find a blues guitarist hailing from Texas or Louisiana who doesn’t cite Slim as one of his principal influences: Buddy Guy, Earl King, Guitar Shorty, Albert Collins, Chick Willis, and plenty more have enthusiastically testified to Slim’s enduring sway…

Emmylou Harris

Blessed with a crystalline voice, a remarkable gift for phrasing, and a restless creative spirit, few artists had as profound an impact on contemporary music as Emmylou Harris. She traveled a singular artistic path, proudly carrying the torch of “cosmic American music” passed down by her mentor, Gram Parsons, which made a profound mark on both country and rock. Beginning as a folk singer in New York City, Harris released her first album in 1970, only to see it disappear with the bankruptcy of her record label. But a year later, she was playing a folk club in Washington D.C. when Chris Hillman saw her perform, and he recommended her to his former bandmate Gram Parsons…

Richard Buckner

This husky-voiced country-folk singer/songwriter is very much in the mold of the Lubbock, Texas, school of mavericks, including Butch Hancock, Terry Allen, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Richard Buckner is actually based in San Francisco, but the Lubbock connection is no accident. His debut album, Bloomed, was recorded in Lubbock, for one thing, with producer Lloyd Maines, who has also worked with Hancock, Allen, Joe Ely, and Uncle Tupelo…

Don and Dewey

Wailing in tandem like twin Little Richards, Don & Dewey cut numerous blistering rockers for Specialty from 1957 to 1959 without registering a single hit, only to see other acts revive their songs to much greater acclaim. Don Harris (b. 1938) and Dewey Terry (b. 1938) were born and raised in Pasadena, CA, joining a group called the Squires and recording for Vita before branching off on their own. Their Specialty output included the savage rockers “Jungle Hop,” “Koko Joe” (written by Sonny Bono), and “Justine,” the latter pair later covered by the Righteous Brothers…

The Brian Jonestown Massacre

The ever-evolving musical vehicle for notorious psych-rock brain trust Anton Newcombe, the Brian Jonestown Massacre has endured numerous phases and iterations since arriving in the mid-’90s, becoming something of an independent institution in the process. Early highlights like 1996’s Their Satanic Majesties’ Second Request showed Newcombe’s propensity for melding late-’60s psychedelia with textured shoegaze, while later standouts like 2015’s imaginary soundtrack Musique de Film Imaginé took a more cerebral and experimental approach. Undoubtedly, their most visible period followed the release of the 2004 documentary film DIG!…

Game Theory

A singularly intelligent and imaginative pop band, Game Theory attracted little more than an enthusiastic cult following during their original lifespan of 1982 to 1990. But the band’s hooky yet unconventional melodies, literate and often witty lyrics, and crafty approach to arrangements and aural montage set them far apart from their peers, and Game Theory proved to be strongly influential long after the group broke up…

The Walker Brothers

They weren’t British, they weren’t brothers, and their real names weren’t Walker, but Californians Scott Engel, John Maus, and Gary Leeds were briefly huge stars in England (and small ones in their native land) at the peak of the British Invasion. Engel and Maus were playing together in Hollywood when drummer Leeds suggested they form a trio and try to make it in England. And they did — with surprising swiftness, they hit the top of the British charts with “Make It Easy on Yourself” in 1965. “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” repeated the feat the following year…

The Turtles

Though many remember only their 1967 hit, “Happy Together,” the Turtles were one of the more enjoyable American pop groups of the ’60s, moving from folk-rock inspired by the Byrds to a sparkling fusion of Zombies-inspired chamber pop and straight-ahead, good-time pop reminiscent of the Lovin’ Spoonful, the whole infused with beautiful vocal harmonies courtesy of dual frontmen Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman…

Shelagh McDonald

As much myth as musician, singer/songwriter Shelagh McDonald seemed poised to emerge as a major voice in British folk music when she abruptly vanished mere months after the release of her breakthrough LP. Born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, McDonald arrived in London sometime in the late ’60s. While performing at the Troubadour, she befriended fellow singer/songwriter Keith Christmas, who would prove instrumental in landing her a record deal with the B&C label…

Archers of Loaf

The Archers of Loaf were darlings of the indie world in the early to mid-’90s, thanks to an off-kilter sound that was edgy and challenging, yet melodically accessible at the same time. Cornerstones of the Chapel Hill, NC, indie scene that also spawned Superchunk and Polvo, the Archers’ chief inspirations were the Replacements and Sonic Youth, but that only began to tell the story. Their music was frequently likened to a more intense, raucous version of Pavement’s postmodern pop, and indeed they shared key elements…

Eddie Bo

A sorely underappreciated veteran of the New Orleans R&B scene, singer/ songwriter/ producer/ pianist Eddie Bo evolved into one of the city’s foremost funk players during the late ’60s and early ’70s, although he never had a national hit commensurate with his musical standing. Born Edwin Joseph Bocage on September 20, 1930, Bo was raised in the Algiers and Ninth Ward sections of New Orleans by a musical family; uncles Peter and Charles and cousin Henry all played in post-WWI jazz orchestras (including A.J. Piron’s), and his mother was a pianist in the Professor Longhair style…

Mary Chapin Carpenter

Mary Chapin Carpenter is a gifted singer and songwriter who began her career as a folk-influenced performer in the Washington, D.C. area, but found favor on country radio in the 1980s and ’90s by taking her emotionally intelligent songs to a mass audience. Beginning with 1987’s Hometown Girl, she wrote and sang in the contemporary singer/songwriter vein, but moved into country-leaning material with 1990’s Shooting Straight in the Dark, which included the hit single “Down at the Twist and Shout.”…

Squeeze

As one of the most traditional pop bands of the new wave, Squeeze provided one of the links between classic British guitar pop and post-punk. Inspired heavily by the Beatles and the Kinks, Squeeze were the vehicle for the songwriting of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, who were hailed as the heirs to Lennon and McCartney’s throne during their heyday in the early ’80s. Unlike Lennon and McCartney, the partnership between Difford and Tilbrook was a genuine collaboration, with the former writing the lyrics and the latter providing the music…

The Reivers

The Reivers began their existence as Zeitgeist, one of many melodic, jangly pop bands to emerge from the fertile Austin, Texas music community during the 1980s. Led by singers/guitarists John Croslin and Kim Longacre, Zeitgeist debuted in 1985 with the album Translate Slowly … Shortly after the record’s release, the group was slapped with a cease-and-desist order by another band called Zeitgeist, a Minneapolis-based percussion ensemble which had held the name longer; in honor of the William Faulkner novel, they became the Reivers…

Protomartyr

Detroit post-punk quartet Protomartyr formed in 2010, slowly bubbling up out of a few bands in a tightly knit music scene. Delivering burly but intelligent music that played heavily on dynamics and physical impact, the group’s wild card was vocalist and lyricist Joe Casey, who spun free-associative semi-beat poetry over the churning report of the musicians. After making an impression on the Michigan music scene with their 2012 debut album, No Passion All Technique, word about Protomartyr spread further when they signed with the Sub Pop-distributed Hardly Art label…

The McKinleys

Sibling girl group duo the McKinleys teamed Edinburgh, Scotland-born sisters Sheila and Jeanette — after performing at Hamburg, Germany’s famed Star Club they settled in London, signing to the Southern Music offshoot Iver Music and teaming with the songwriting and production duo of John Carter and Ken Lewis for their 1964 debut single “Someone Cares for Me,” a note-perfect homage to Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. The follow-up “When He Comes Along” appeared that summer…

Johnny Adams

Renowned around his Crescent City home base as “the Tan Canary” for his extraordinary set of soulfully soaring pipes, veteran R&B vocalist Johnny Adams tackled an exceptionally wide variety of material for Rounder in his later years; elegantly rendered tribute albums to legendary songwriters Doc Pomus and Percy Mayfield preceded forays into mellow, jazzier pastures. But then, Adams was never particularly into the parade-beat grooves that traditionally define the New Orleans R&B sound, preferring to deliver sophisticated soul ballads draped in strings…

Françoise Hardy

Françoise Hardy is a pop and fashion icon celebrated as a French national treasure. With her signature breathy alto, she was one of the earliest and most definitive French participants in the yé-yé movement (a style of pop music that initially emerged from Italy, Switzerland, Spain, and Portugal before spreading to France in the early 1960s). She is one of only a few female vocalists who could or would write and perform her own material. She offered a startling contrast to the boy’s club of French pop in the early ’60s, paving the way for literally thousands of women all over the globe…

The Pogues

By demonstrating that the spirit of punk could live in traditional Irish folk music, the Pogues were one of the most radical bands of the mid-’80s. Led by Shane MacGowan, whose slurred, incomprehensible voice often disguised the sheer poetry of his songs, the Pogues were undeniably political — not only were many of their songs explicitly in favor of working-class liberalism, but the wild, careening sound of their punk-injected folk was implicitly radical…

The Shazam

Led by guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Hans Rotenberry, the Shazam are a contemporary power pop band from Nashville, Tennessee, who’ve earned a loyal following among pop obsessives for their sharp, rollicking, and often witty British-influenced sound. The Shazam were formed in 1997 when Rotenberry teamed up with bassist Mick Wilson and drummer Scott Ballew. The band released its self-titled debut album in 1997…

Del Shannon

One of the best and most original rockers of the early ’60s, Del Shannon was also one of the least typical. Although classified at times as a teen idol, he favored brooding themes of abandonment, loss, and rejection. In some respects he looked forward to the British Invasion with his frequent use of minor chords and his ability to write most of his own material. In fact, Shannon was able to keep going strong for a year or two into the British Invasion, and never stopped trying to play original music, though his commercial prospects pretty much died after the mid-’60s…

LaVern Baker

LaVern Baker was one of the sexiest divas gracing the mid-’50s rock & roll circuit, boasting a brashly seductive vocal delivery tailor-made for belting the catchy novelties “Tweedlee Dee,” “Bop-Ting-a-Ling,” and “Tra La La” for Atlantic Records during rock’s first wave of prominence. Born Delores Williams, she was singing at the Club DeLisa on Chicago’s south side at age 17, decked out in raggedy attire and billed as “Little Miss Sharecropper”…

Ruth Brown

They called Atlantic Records “the house that Ruth built” during the 1950s, and they weren’t referring to the Sultan of Swat. Ruth Brown’s regal hitmaking reign from 1949 to the close of the ’50s helped tremendously to establish the New York label’s predominance in the R&B field. Later, the business all but forgot her — she was forced to toil as domestic help for a time — but she returned to the top, her status as a postwar R&B pioneer (and tireless advocate for the rights and royalties of her peers) recognized worldwide…

Jackie Leven

Jackie Leven was a Scottish singer/songwriter, storyteller, traveler, and raconteur. A formidable fingerstyle guitarist, he was a large man possessed of a mellifluous baritone singing voice that could alternately frighten a crowd, make a grown man weep, and lull an infant. His shows and recordings were peppered with engaging stories from his epic life, the road, miners, shop workers, farmers, history, folklore, lost and displaced people, the shelter and harshness of the natural world, terminal loneliness, and the insights of barroom philosophers…

Mable John

Mable John was the first female artist signed by Berry Gordy Jr. to the Tamla label, which preceded Motown by more than two years, and one of the few artists to record for the top two labels for ’60s soul, Motown and Stax. John’s three single releases were part of an unsuccessful blues fling for the company; besides Mable John, Gordy released blues sides by Sammy Ward, Luther Allison, Amos Milburn, Earl King, Arthur Adams, and many others. The eldest of nine siblings (one of whom was legendary R&B artist Little Willie John, of “Fever” and “Talk to Me” fame), Mable John was born in Bastrop, Louisiana…

Art Brut

Named after French painter Jean Dubuffet’s definition of outsider art — art by prisoners, loners, the mentally ill, and other marginalized people, and made without thought to imitation or presentation — Art Brut make brilliantly simple, cleverly stupid art-punk. Upon their arrival in the early 2000s, Art Brut were tagged by NME as part of the “Art Wave” scene … they stood out from their contemporaries thanks to frontman Eddie Argos’ enthusiastic spoken-sung vocals and witty insights on pop music, pop culture, and relationships…

Guided by Voices

Inspired equally by jangle pop and arty post-punk, Guided by Voices created a series of trebly, hissy indie rock records filled with infectiously brief pop songs that fell somewhere between the British Invasion and prog rock. Led by songwriter and lead singer Robert Pollard, the Dayton, Ohio-based band recorded six self-released albums between 1986 and 1992 that attracted a handful of fans within the American indie rock underground…

William Bell

A principal architect of the Stax/Volt sound, singer/composer William Bell remains best known for his classic “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” one of the quintessential soul records to emerge from the Memphis scene. Born William Yarbrough on July 16, 1939, he cut his teeth backing Rufus Thomas, and in 1957 recorded his first sides as a member of the Del Rios. After joining the Stax staff as a writer, Bell made his solo debut in 1961…

Vern Gosdin

As country music swung back toward traditional styles in the 1980s, an inheritor of the soulful honky tonk style of Lefty Frizzell and Merle Haggard rose to the top of the business and notched hit after barroom hit. Sometimes he was known simply as “the Voice.” Born in Woodland, AL, Vern Gosdin idolized the Louvin Brothers and the Blue Sky Boys as a young man and sang in a gospel quartet called the Gosdin Brothers. When he was in his late teens, his family moved to Birmingham and began hosting The Gosdin Family Gospel Show…

Fountains of Wayne

Although Fountains of Wayne didn’t enjoy mainstream attention until the release of “Stacy’s Mom” in 2003, the band had already established itself as one of America’s strongest power pop acts. Based in New Jersey, the group first appeared in 1996 with a mix of British-influenced pop songs, lo-fi production, and wry lyrics about dead-end jobs and biker boyfriends. Fountains of Wayne expanded their lineup and polished up their sound during the following years, eventually hitting gold with 2003’s Welcome Interstate Managers…

Chuck Jackson

He’s relatively forgotten today, and his brand of uptown soul is dismissed by the relatively vocal clique of critics who prefer their soul deep and down-home. But Chuck Jackson was a regular visitor to the R&B charts (and an occasional one to the pop listings) in the early ’60s with such early pop-soul concoctions as “I Don’t Want to Cry,” “Any Day Now,” and “Tell Him I’m Not Home.” His records were very much of a piece with New York pop/rock-soul production…

The Gun Club

One of the most unusual bands to emerge from the Los Angeles punk rock scene of the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Gun Club took the musical and thematic influences of blues, merged them with the frenetic attack of punk, and conjured a sound that was aggressive, evocative, and emotionally complex without pretension. Led by guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Jeffrey Lee Pierce — the sole constant throughout the band’s history — the Gun Club went through significant stylistic evolutions during their 17-year life span…

The Lotus Eaters

Liverpool, England’s the Lotus Eaters were mistakenly included in the New Romantic movement when they first appeared. However, although Peter Coyle (vocals), Jeremy Kelly (guitar), Mike Dempsey (bass), and Stephen Creese (drums) had the elegant attire and fashionable haircuts of New Romantic bands, their music was more understated and folksy than the synthesized Euro disco of Japan, Visage, and Duran Duran. The Lotus Eaters formed in 1982…

The Connells

Raleigh, North Carolina-based jangle pop outfit the Connells formed in the spring of 1984. Fronted by guitarist Mike Connell and his brother, bassist David, the first incarnation of the group also featured vocalist Doug McMillan and drummer John Schultz, who was soon replaced by former Johnny Quest percussionist Peele Wimberley. In late 1984, the quartet recorded a four-song demo. After one of the tracks, “Darker Days,” was selected to appear on the North Carolina compilation More Mondo, the Connells’ ranks expanded with the addition of singer/guitarist George Huntley, who made his debut on a March 1985 session co-produced by Don Dixon…

Suzi Quatro

Suzi Quatro was hardly the first Tough Girl in rock & roll but she codified a type of rock & roll woman who didn’t exist before she took the stage, one who looked as tough as the guys and wasn’t merely a singer but also an instrumentalist, the leader of the band who made the noise right along with the rest of the group. With her trademark leather jumpsuit and big bass guitar…

The Shirts

This US pop rock act was formed from the ashes of the Lackeys and Schemers, who played several low-key gigs in the early 70s… All members provided songs either on their own or in partnership with other personnel… Other names that were suggested for the assembly included the Pants and the Sleeves. Shirts was the eventual choice, with the proviso that it should be pronounced ‘Shoits’ in a thick New York accent. Unsurprisingly, this tradition lapsed with time…

Soft Cell

Best known for their smash 1981 cover of Gloria Jones’ “Tainted Love,” which turned the pop-soul tune into a haunting electronic torch song, synth pop duo Soft Cell formed in England in the late ’70s. Also remembered as the first project of singer/songwriter Marc Almond, he and producer/multi-instrumentalist Dave Ball released four U.K. Top 20 albums together between 1981 and 1984 before pursuing separate music careers…

Cat Stevens

After making a successful run at the British charts in the late ’60s, Cat Stevens left behind the pop-oriented style of his early days and became one of the most celebrated folk-rock singer/songwriters of the era. It was all thanks to landmark albums like 1970’s Tea for the Tillerman and its 1971 follow-up, Teaser and the Firecat. His earthy voice, introspective lyrics, and themes of spirituality struck a chord with audiences around the world…

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