Famed '70s guitarist Ronnie Montrose, who co-founded the Northern California hard rock band Montrose with Sammy Hagar, died on March 3rd at age 64, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Montrose had been undergoing a battle with prostate cancer. Montrose, who was born in Colorado, but ran away to San Francisco when he was 16, first made his mark on the rock world with his contributions to Van Morrison's 1971 collection Tupelo Honey, before a brief stint with Boz Scaggs, which led to his joining the Edgar Winter Group, and performing on their two biggest hits, 1973's "Frankenstein" and "Free Ride."
That same year he formed Montrose featuring Sammy Hagar on lead vocals, with the Montrose/Hagar lineup lasting two albums -- 1973's Montrose and 1974's Paper Money. Montrose went on to release three more albums, with Ronnie releasing nine solo sets, along with four with the band Gamma.
THE BAND'S LEVON HELM
The Band's legendary lead vocalist and drummer, Levon Helm, died on April 19th at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, at age 71 following a long battle with throat cancer. In addition to his recent open "Midnight Rambles" at his Woodstock studio, Helm is best known for his vocals on such Band classics as "The Weight," "Up On Cripple Creek," "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," "Ophelia," and many more. In the 1980's Helm tried his hand in acting appearing to good reviews in The Coal Miner's Daughter and The Right Stuff.
DEEP PURPLE CO-FOUNDER JON LORD
Deep Purple co-founder Jon Lord died on July 16th at age 71 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Lord, who was known for his keyboard virtuosity and his reinvention of the Hammond B-3 organ sound, co-wrote such Purple classics as "Smoke On The Water" and "Child In Time," among others. Lord and drummer Ian Paice were the only original members to last through the band's initial run from 1968 to 1976. He was on board for their 1984 reunion and stayed on through to his 2002 retirement from the band, after which he's worked primarily in the classical field. Over the course of his career, Lord also worked with the Artwoods, Flower Pot Men, Paice, Ashton And Lord, Whitesnake and good friend and neighbor, George Harrison.
FORMER WHO MANAGER CHRIS STAMP
Chris Stamp, the former co-manager of the Who, died of cancer on Saturday, November 24th in New York City at age 70. Stamp, who was the younger brother of actor Terrence Stamp, played a pivotal role in the band's early career, helping dictate their style and encourage their bombastic stage performance. Whereas his partner, the late Kit Lambert, focused more on the musical and theatrical angles of the band, Stamp's forte was the business side of the things, the art of the deal -- along with having a taste for fashion. He and Lambert launched their own Track Records in 1966, which included the Who, Jimi Hendrix, the Wild World Of Arthur Brown, and others. Stamp served as an executive producer of the Who's 1975 film version of Tommy.
Lambert and Stamp were officially ousted in 1975 and replaced by their assistant Bill Curbishley, who still manages the group. Stamp remained close to the band and participated in a number of Who projects and documentaries over the years. Stamp also sat on the board of the John Entwistle Foundation started in memory of the Who's late bassist.
THE DOOBIE BROTHERS' MICHAEL HOSSACK
Doobie Brothers drummer Michael Hossack died on March 12th at his home in Dubois, Wyoming at age 65 following a battle with cancer. Back in January, the band had issued a statement saying that Hossack was "improving slowly." Hossack, who enjoyed two stints with the band -- originally from 1971 to 1973, and again from their 1987 through 2010, when first took leave due to his cancer battle. In 2001, Hossack was also forced to take a break following a motorcycle accident. He is survived by his son and daughter. Hossack's drum and percussion work was featured on such Doobies classics as "Jesus Is Just Alright," "Listen To The Music," "Rockin' Down The Highway," "Long Train Runnin'" and "China Grove."
FORMER FLEETWOOD MAC GUITARIST BOB WESTON
Bob Weston, one-time lead guitarist for Fleetwood Mac, was found dead at his London home on January 3rd at age 64. Weston's autopsy showed "a gastric intestinal hemorrhage, cirrhosis of the liver and throat problems." Weston replaced guitarist Danny Kirwan in 1972, and was featured on the band's two 1973 albums, Penguin and Mystery To Me. Weston was fired from the band in late 1973 after having an affair with drummer Mick Fleetwood's then wife, Jenny Boyd. Weston went on to record with Fleetwood Mac bandmate Bob Welch, Alexis Korner, Sandy Denny, and Murry Head among others. Weston was due to record with former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor later this year.
EX-FLEETWOOD MAC GUITARIST BOB WELCH
Former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Bob Welch committed suicide on June 7th at age 66 by shooting himself in the chest at his Antioch, Tennessee home. Welch, who was best known for his 1977 solo album, French Kiss and it's two hits, "Sentimental Lady" and "Ebony Eyes," was found by his wife, Wendy, shortly after 12 Noon, local time and had left behind a suicide note. Welch had recently been suffering from several undisclosed health issues. Mick Fleetwood, who had stayed close with Welch over the years, told Reuters, that his suicide was "incredibly out of character," adding, "He was a very, very profoundly intelligent human being and always in good humor, which is why this is so unbelievably shocking. He was a huge part of our history which sometimes gets forgotten. . . mostly his legacy would be his songwriting abilities that he brought to Fleetwood Mac, which will survive all of us. If you look into our musical history, you'll see a huge period that was completely ensconced in Bob's work."
Stevie Nicks told The Associated Press: "The death of Bob Welch is devastating. I had many great times with him after Lindsey (Buckingham) and I joined Fleetwood Mac. He was an amazing guitar player -- he was funny, sweet -- and he was smart. I am so very sorry for his family and for the family of Fleetwood Mac -- so, so sad."
Welsh was born into a Hollywood family, with his father a successful film producer in the 1940's and '50s. He briefly attended college at Georgetown University before studying in Paris, France, and eventually enrolling at UCLA. Welch played a pivotal role in breaking Fleetwood Mac in America, acting as the bridge between their blues-heavy earlier incarnation with co-founders Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer and their blockbuster success led by his replacements Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.
During his stint in Fleetwood Mac -- which included future stars Christine McVie, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood, among others -- Welch served as the driving force of the band's middle period, from 1971 to 1974, contributing key tracks to 1971's Future Games, 1972's Bare Trees -- which included the original version of "Sentimental Lady" -- their two 1973 releases Penguin and Mystery To Me, and 1974's Heroes Are Hard To Find. Welch's split with the band amicable and he continued to sit in with Fleetwood Mac during jam sessions and opened for them on the road. He went on to form the short-lived rock trio, Paris, upon quitting Fleetwood Mac, but dissolved the band after two albums.
An all but forgotten footnote to the early Buckingham/Nicks lineup was that in addition to two early Fleetwood Mac cuts -- "Oh Well" and "Station Man" -- Welch's staple track and radio hit for the band -- "Hypnotized" -- stayed in the band's setlist for a good year after his departure.
Both his former bandmates Christine McVie and Mick Fleetwood along with his replacement, Lindsey Buckingham, appeared on his 1977 remake of the band's "Sentimental Lady" which peaked at Number Eight. The French Kiss album spurred another Top 20 hit, "Ebony Eyes," which Stevie Nicks often performed with Welch in concert. Welch slowly faded from the music scene, becoming unrecognizable to his former '70s self, wearing a wig to hide his always-thinning hair. He battled heroin briefly in the early-'80s and quietly continued to record and perform while based out of the Nashville area.
ELTON JOHN BASSIST BOB BIRCH
Elton John's longtime bassist Robert Wayne Birch was found dead on August 15th near his home in Los Angeles of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Birch, who was 56, grew up in the Detroit area, moved to L.A. in 1981 and soon was touring with guitar virtuoso Jose Felciano. Following that, he, Elton's keyboardist Guy Babylon and the founding members of Elton's band -- guitarist Davey Johnstone and drummer Nigel Olsson -- performed together as the Warpipes. In 1992, following the death of Elton John's original bassist Dee Murray, birch became Elton's full-time bassist. Over the years Bob Birch played bass on Elton John's albums Made In England, The Big Picture, Elton John: One Night Only - The Greatest Hits, Peachtree Road, and The Captain & The Kid.
BEATLES ACTOR VICTOR SPINETTI
Legendary British character actor Victor Spinetti, best known to Americans for his roles in the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night, Help!, and Magical Mystery Tour, died on June 18th of prostate cancer at age 82. In addition to his film work with the Beatles, Spinetti worked closely with John Lennon for the 1968 adaption of his first book, In His Own Write, which Spinetti directed for London's National Theater. In 1978 he co-starred in Wings' video for "London Town." McCartney, who had once described Spinetti as being, "the man who makes clouds disappear," said in a statement: "Victor was a fine man, a great pal and a fantastic actor and someone I am proud to have known for many years. His irreverent wit and exuberant personality will remain in my memory forever. I will miss his loyal friendship as will all the others who were lucky enough to know and love the wonderful Mr. Spinetti."
Ringo Starr said in his own statement: "It was a pleasure the time we worked with Victor. He was a good man and I send my condolences to his family. Peace and love, Ringo."
Spinetti, who acted in London's West End as well as with the Royal Shakespeare Company, was a fixture in British TV and film, most notably 1972's film version of Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and Peter O'Toole.
Rock n' roll icon and TV and radio pioneer Dick Clark died on April 18th of a heart attack in Santa Monica, California at age 82. Clark's death came a day after being admitted for an outpatient procedure. Clark, affectionately known as "America's Oldest Teenager," is survived by his wife Kari, and his three children Richard Augustus II, Duane, and Cindy. Memorial plans have yet to be announced.
In 2005, Clark returned to his Dick Clark's New Year's Rocking' Eve special after missing the 2004 broadcast, due to a stroke, which forced him to skip his first broadcast in 32 years. Clark was once again back in Times Square this year, along with co-host Ryan Seacrest, to ring in 2012.
Dick Clark was born Richard Wagstaff Clark on November 30th, 1929 in Mount Vernon, New York and started his career at age 16 working in the mail room of a radio station in Utica, New York. He received his bachelor's degree at nearby Syracuse, New York. By 1952, he was on the air, hosting the Caravan Of Music, a local radio show in Philadelphia. At the time, the station's television affiliate had a teenage dance show called Bandstand, and in 1956, at the age of 26, Dick Clark took over as permanent host of the show.
With Clark's magnetic personality and love of music, the show became the highest rated program in its time slot in the Philadelphia area. These ratings led to the show being picked up by the ABC television network, which distributed it nationally in August 1957 as American Bandstand. The show became wildly popular with teenagers, who finally had an outlet to dance to the newest music and see some of the biggest acts perform live on the show. It was one of ABC's longest running daytime programs, with it's original run ending in 1987, before a brief shot in syndication and then the USA Network.
Over the course of the show's 30 years, artists who performed on American Bandstand included Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, the Beach Boys, Chubby Checker, Dion & the Belmonts, Buddy Holly, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, the Monkees, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson Five, the Doors, Donna Summer, Hall & Oates, John Cougar Mellencamp, Madonna, and literally hundreds of others.
In 1964, American Bandstand moved to Los Angeles, where it would remain until 1989 when the show was canceled. It was in Los Angeles that Clark established Dick Clark Productions, which over the years has produced everything from music shows, including the American Music Awards, to sitcoms, syndicated game shows like the $10,000 Pyramid, and the '80s NBC hit, TV's Bloopers And Practical Jokes. In 1974, after ABC lost the broadcast rights to the Grammy Awards, Clark created the American Music Awards specifically for the network. Dick Clark Productions also produced such perennials as the Academy of Country Music and Golden Globe awards.
Billboard reported that the Museum of Broadcast Communications calculated that Dick Clark Productions produced over 7,500 hours of TV programming, "including more than 30 series and 250 specials, as well as more than 20 movies for theatre and TV."
E Street Band guitarist Steve Van Zandt told us that Dick Clark was in person just as kind as he was influential: "He was just that kind of guy. He was just one of those guys that really was as he seemed on TV, y'know, he was just that -- very nice, y'know, he was just very nice. And really felt strongly about what he did. Y'know, he was a very, very important part of rock n' roll. He picked up the ball when Alan Freed got crucified unfairly. For whatever reason Dick Clark survived that moment and picked up the flag that Alan Freed had raised -- and that included the TV show."
Some time ago we talked to Dick Clark about whether or not there would ever be a day when he could see him retiring -- or at the very least -- starting to take it easy: "My idea of stopping -- I don't like to think about it -- would be to drop dead workin.' Doing what I like. I mean, that's a great way to go. I mean, because my way of life is activity. I enjoy activity. Without activity I go bananas, I don't know what to do. I think retirement is the saddest thing in the world. I mean, I see it every day of my life. I see active people say, 'Well, Martha, we're going to retire!' Then they sit and they go nuts! Some people don't, some people thrive on that. It's (a) 'too each his own' philosophy. For me, retirement will be as much activity as I can stand when I'm as old as I can take it."