Articles – In Memoriam

Here are a series of selected obituaries, dedications and biographies in lasting memory of early R&B artists and those involved in the early R&B scene.

Many of the obituaries are by Keith Woods, originator of the UK based ‘Tales From The Woods’ roots music magazine and networking group, all reproduced here with permission.


Willie Winfield (The Harptones)

– by Kirk Lang

Extract:    …  Of all the New York-based practitioners of early R&B/doo wop in the 1950s, the group that is often considered the finest of them all was The Harptones, even if major success eluded the young men. The 1950s is long past but whenever smooth-voiced Harptones lead singer Willie Winfield treated fans at oldies shows to “A Sunday Kind of Love,” “Life Is But A Dream” and other gems from his repertoire, it was like senior citizens were put in a time machine, if but for a few minutes.Winfield was a link to many fans’ youth, a strong connection to their great memories. However, on July 27, 2021 the voice fell silent. Winfield died as a result of cardiac arrest at a Brooklyn hospital. He was 91.

Boyd Bennett / Boyd Bennett and his Rockets

– by Keith Woods, from ‘Tales From The Woods’

Extract:    … Boyd assembled a band with a bunch of top league musicians that started out as the Southlanders but were quickly renamed to the Rockets, which included the near legendary Boots Randolph on saxophone along with Jim Muzey on trumpet, M D Allan on guitar, Kenny Cobb on bass and Jimmy McDaniels on piano.

Judy Clay

– by Keith Woods, from ‘Tales From The Woods’

Extract:   A chance meeting with William Bell after Judy had finished a recording session results in her biggest chart success, 17 R&B, 75 US Pop, 8 UK Pop in late 1968 ,a duet with William Bell – ‘Private Number’ which was originally written with Otis Redding and Carla Thomas in mind.

Tyrone Davis – The Wonder Boy

– by Keith Woods, from ‘Tales From The Woods’

Extract:   Having sold millions of records over the last few decades, Davis had to rank as one of the all-time greats of soul, his track record equalled by few in the business.


Willie Egan

– by Keith Woods, from ‘Tales From The Woods’

Extract:   Willie Egan’s “Wow Wow”, “Wear Your Black Dress” and “Rock’n’Roll Fever” are without question classic 1950s rhythm’n’blues singles.

Erma Franklin

– by Keith Woods, from ‘Tales From The Woods’

Extract:    Erma will always be remembered for her massive hit ‘Piece Of My Heart’ first in 1967 then on re-release in 1992, with the help of a Levi jean commercial.

Billy Guy (The Coasters)

– by Keith Woods, from ‘Tales From The Woods’

Extract:   For a number of years they simply could not put a foot wrong, setting the scene for the soundtrack of the 1950s American vocal group; Rock’n’Roll doo-wop classics ‘Young Blood’, ‘Searchin’, ‘Charlie Brown’, ‘Yakety Yak’, ‘Shopping For Clothes’. ‘I’m A Hog For You Baby’ and my own personal favourite, ‘That Is Rock’n’Roll’. So the list goes on. Billy’s sense of timing was indeed never bettered than on ‘Shopping For Clothes’ …


Etta James

– by Keith Woods, from ‘Tales From The Woods’

Extract:    Jamesetta Hawkins was born on 25th January 1938 to a 14 year old mother Dorothy and an unknown white father, although in articles and interviews she always maintained it was the pool shark Minnesota Fats Wanderone. Raised in Los Angeles by adoptive parents, from the age of five singing gospel in a local church, in later years she would very much acknowledge the influence of choir-master James Earl Hines.

Anna King

– by Keith Woods, from ‘Tales From The Woods’

Extract:    …. Her next two singles were recorded at Bell Studios New York in January 1964. ‘Baby Baby Baby’, a duet with Bobby Byrd, which became an R&B smash, and the soul classic, ‘Make Up Your Mind’, b/w ‘If You Don’t Think’, was to be her last chart appearance.

Bobby Moore / Bobby Moore and The Rhythm Aces

– by Keith Woods, from ‘Tales From The Woods’

Extract:   …. Bobby Moore and the Rhythm Aces were the first Chess act to take this route. It proved to be a winning formula for Bobby. His self penned composition, ‘Searching For My Love’ was an instant cross over smash hit, reaching twenty seven on the pop charts and climbing to seven in the R&B charts.

Wilson Pickett

– by Keith Woods, from ‘Tales From The Woods’

Extract:   There are soul legends and then there was the Wicked Pickett, a major giant of soul music. His career spanned four decades, and was considered to be the equal of such great soul men as Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and Bobby Womack. He was defined by his raspy voice and passionate delivery, which introduced the aggressive dominant rhythmic style to soul music.

June Pointer (The Pointer Sisters)

– by Keith Woods, from ‘Tales From The Woods’

Extract:   ….. In 1969 Anita joined June and Bonnie to form The Pointer Sisters, initially involved as studio backing singers for the likes of Tower Of Power, Taj Mahal, and Boz Scaggs.

Billy Preston

– by Keith Woods, from ‘Tales From The Woods’

Extract:  Billy Preston from his roots as a key session musician, developed into one of pop and soul music’s most successful vocalists and instrumentalists, with a career that spanned five decades. His legacy was huge, as was his playing; like a man possessed he would prowl the keyboards.