MEMPHIS MAFIA mainstay RED WEST (above right, b.1936) acted as Elvis Presley’s confidante, driver and bodyguard for 20 years. He also wrote songs for his employer, Ricky Nelson and Dino, Desi & Billy. After he was fired by Vernon Presley in 1976, he co-wrote the big-selling tell-all book Elvis: What Happened?. Published just weeks before its subject’s death, it spoke of the King’s drug dependency and sex life, among other personal revelations. West also found success as an actor, and died less than two months after his cousin Sonny, also a Memphis Mafia member.
WINDSOR musician MICK BUND (b.c.1966) had worked with his friend and flatmate Sarah Cracknell before playing bass for Birmingham enigmas Felt on the album The Pictorial Jackson Review and the single Space Blues in 1988. He went on to play with David Westlake, Saint Etienne, Bocca Juniors, Airstream, Large Number and Mexico 70, whose Thirty Five Whirlpools Below Sound album came out in 2006. In 2003 he released a solo LP, Astronaut Graffiti. In 2012 he mused, “I really hated that ‘ex-Felt’ thing at first, but now, Christ, it’s magic.” RAPPER FRESH KID ICE (AKA Christopher Wong Won, b.1964) found infamy and sales running into millions with lewd Miami hip-hoppers 2 Live Crew, whose 1989 album As Nasty As They Wanna Be was the subject of a celebrated obscenity trial. A founder member of the group and a US Air Force veteran, after their split in 1991 he went solo for The Chinaman album, formed his own Ice Cold Productions outfit, joined various partial 2 Live Crew reunions and released solo LPs including Still Nasty and Freaky Chinese. He suffered strokes in 2008 and 2010, and published his autobiography My Rise 2 Fame in 2015.
SINGER-songwriter MICHAEL JOHNSON (b.1944) played with John Denver in the short-lived trio Denver, Boise & Johnson before starting his solo career with 1973’s There Is A Breeze. In 1978 he had his first hit with the US Number 12 soft rocker Bluer Than Blue: two more Top 40 entries followed. In the second half of the ’80s he was a US country chart regular, scoring five mellow Top 10 singles, including the Number 1s Give Me Wings and The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder. He continued to record – in ’97 he duetted with Alison Krauss on Whenever I Call You Friend – and recorded his final album, Moonlit Déjà Vu, in 2012.
TUXEDOMOON’s PETER DACHERT (AKA Peter Principle, b.1954) played bass and guitar with the San Francisco new wave avant-gardists from 1978, moving with them to Europe in 1981. Despite several line-up changes, Dachert remained part of the group throughout the ’80s, playing on and writing for albums including Holy Wars, You and Divine, based on Maurice Béjart’s ballet of the same name. Though the group were inactive in the ’90s, he rejoined them in 2004. Dachert also recorded solo albums including Sedimental Journey and Idyllatry, and produced groups including Marine and Minimal Compact. He died in Brussels, where Tuxedomoon had been working on a concert tour and new recordings.
LOUISIANA ambassador D.L. MENARD (b.1932) was dubbed ‘The Cajun Hank Williams’ due to his blending of Arcadian music with country. He began his career in the early ’50s with accordionist Elias ‘Shute’ Badeaux’s Louisiana Aces, and in 1962 – while working at a gas station – he wrote La Porte D’en Arrière (The Back Door), the signature song he would play for the rest of his life. A skilled chair-maker by trade, he toured internationally, was elected to the Louisiana Hall of Fame in 2009 and made his last live appearance on July 2 in his hometown of Erath, celebrating the 50th anniversary of his most famous song. See film of the performance on YouTube.
SOUTH AFRICAN singer, guitarist and producer RAY PHIRI (b.1947) played in soul band The Cannibals in the ’70s, and they later morphed into fusionists Stimela, whose 1986 song Whispers In The Deep was banned by the apartheid regime. Phiri would famously lend his artistry to Paul Simon’s albums Graceland (1985) and Rhythm Of The Saints (1990). He also took part in Graceland’s 25th anniversary tour. On news of his death, South African President Jacob Zuma paid tribute, saying, “He was a musical giant. This is indeed a huge loss for South Africa.”
GUITARIST JIMMY NALLS (b.1951) played with Alex Taylor, Dr. John, Don McLean and Lloyd Price before joining three members of The Allman Brothers Band – keyboardist Chuck Leavell, bassist Lamar Williams and drummer Jai Johanny Johanson – in Southern fusion jam band Sea Level, who recorded five albums in their 1976-1981 lifespan. Afterwards Nalls played with B.J. Thomas, Noel Paul Stookey and T. Graham Brown. From the mid-’90s he had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease; in June he released The Jimmy Nalls Project Album, with contributions from Larry Carlton, Brad Whitford, Leavell, Joe Bonamassa and others.
BOBBY TAYLOR (b.1934), front man of Motown’s The Vancouvers, was arguably best remembered not as lead singer on 1968 Top 30 US hit Does Your Mama Know About Me but as the man who that year first alerted his label to the potential of The Jackson 5, who supported Taylor’s band in Chicago and whose earliest tracks he produced. Born in Washington DC, Taylor’s big vocal range, control and comfort in many styles peaked in The Vancouvers, but later solo work was less successful. He died in Hong Kong on July 22. Clive Prior, Ian Harrison, Geoff Brown
Freaky Chinese: 2 Live Crew’s Fresh Kid Ice.