AZ connection: The legendary jazz player was born on an Army Base in Nogales, Arizona in 1922. He died of Lou Gehrig’s disease in Mexico in 1979.
Though Charles Mingus spent most of his life in L.A. and New York City, a more influential jazz musician has yet to be born on Arizona soil. A double-bass player, composer and bandleader, Mingus was a forerunner of free jazz and a pioneer of fusion jazz, combining the fiery vibes of hard bop with dashes of black gospel and classical music, sometimes in explosive collective jams so cohesive they were more like alchemy than improvisation. Mingus was inspired by Duke Ellington, with whom he later played, and Dizzy Gillespie once said Mingus reminded him “of a young Duke” because of their shared “organizational genius.” One of Mingus’ earliest gigs was touring with Louis Armstrong in 1943, and throughout the ’50s, he played with Ellington, Gillespie, and Charlie Parker. But it was Mingus’ own complex compositions and strengths as a bandleader that made him a legend. He made 30 records in the 1960s alone, and rock and pop artists from Elvis Costello to Joni Mitchell have written lyrics for his works. In 1993, the Library of Congress acquired Mingus’ papers (including scores and recordings) in what they called “the most important acquisition of a manuscript collection relating to jazz in the Library’s history.”
AZ connection: Owens’ family moved to Mesa in 1937 via Sherman, Texas. He moved to Bakersfield, California in 1951, where he died of an apparent heart attack in 2006.
No matter what a country star tries to do today, Buck Owens did it first. Hit records? Beginning in 1965, he racked up 21 No. 1 hits on the Billboard country music charts with his band, The Buckaroos, which pioneered the backbeat-driven “Bakersfield sound.” Be a rebel? His music bucked the early 1960s pop-influenced “countrypolitan” trend for a more barn-burnin’ vibe. Be a regular on a TV show? From 1969-1986, he co-hosted Hee Haw with Roy Clark. Have The Beatles cover your songs? They tackled Owens’ “Act Naturally” on Help! Own a radio station? Owens had several, including local country hot dial KNIX-FM, which he sold in 1999. Have a tabloid-torrid dating life? OK, we’ve gotta give that to Taylor Swift, but she’s not in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Owens was inducted in 1996.
The Meat Puppets’ Curt Kirkwood on Buck Owens: “KNIX was his station and was listened to a lot around the house, in the truck driving around, and ‘Buckaroo’ was a big song for me... We still cover ‘Buckaroo.’”
AZ connection: Moved to Phoenix from Detroit as a teenager in the 1960s. Graduated from Cortez High School, class of ’66. Currently lives in Paradise Valley.
It sounds like the beginning of a joke but ends with a choke hold: Alice Cooper, Liza Minnelli, and porn actress Linda Lovelace walk into Elvis Presley’s penthouse... and Cooper briefly contemplates shooting Elvis with the King’s revolver until Presley kicks it out of his hand and pins him in a self-defense lesson. It’s just one of the many bizarre chapters in Cooper’s rangy rock ‘n’ roll reality: pose naked with snake, tear wings off a live chicken, sell more than 50 million records. Along the way, he pioneered a hard rock, creepy-cabaret stage show to spawn the likes of Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie; was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2011); opened a Downtown Phoenix restaurant (Alice Cooper’stown); founded a charity (the Solid Rock Foundation); and, of course, played a lot of golf. Because beneath all the smoke and fake-blood-streaked mirrors, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” is totally copacetic.
Judas Priest singer Rob Halford on Alice Cooper: “When Alice came onto the rock and roll scene, he was literally a game-changer. When he started to do all of those crazy things on stage, he got instant focus, not only in America, but worldwide, and he still maintains that ability.”
AZ connection: Born in Tucson to a prominent Arizona ranching family that includes the former Tucson Chief of Police (her brother, Peter) and the namesake of the city’s central transit terminal (her grandfather, Federico). Currently lives in San Francisco but maintains a home in Tucson.
Linda Ronstadt ruled the 1970s. Though she got plenty of attention for dating then-and-now California governor Jerry Brown, the visceral-voiced songstress earned her press the honest way. On the strength of hits like “You’re No Good” and a cover of the Everly Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved,” she racked up four consecutive platinum albums, packed arenas across the country, and sold more than 100 million
records worldwide. She’s also won 12 Grammy Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2010) and an Emmy Award. Her Chicano rock influences, emotive interpretive singing, and wide repertoire (she’s done everything but hip-hop) helped change the vocal fabric of rock, making it thicker and richer, yet more revealing.
AZ connection: The England-born singer of heavy metal band Judas Priest moved to Phoenix in the early 1980s. He has homes in several cities but maintains his primary residence here.
You know the image of the heavy metal singer who walks out, raises a fist, and hits a note so high it shatters glass? Rob Halford is that guy. Except he usually rides his motorcycle onstage instead of walking. With a stunning vocal range of nearly four octaves, Halford set the bar for metal singers everywhere. Judas Priest has sold more than 45 million albums worldwide, their best-known release being the 1980 album British Steel, featuring the heavy-radio-rotation songs “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight.” Partly because they’ve influenced every metal band from Metallica to Iron Maiden, VH1 named Judas Priest the second greatest metal band ever, behind Black Sabbath.
AZ connection: Born in Corning, New York, Eddy moved to Tucson with his family in 1951 before relocating to Coolidge. He currently lives in Nashville.
Lucky for us, Duane Eddy chose guitar-picking over cotton-picking as a youngster in Coolidge. His subterranean twang and springy reverb (imagine hearing the low notes of a guitar under water) were the chords that fathered rockabilly. Eddy’s 1958 song “Rebel Rouser” cemented his signature sound, created by playing lead parts on his guitar’s bass strings. He’d sold 12 million records by 1963, quite a feat in rock ‘n’ roll’s adolescent years, and became a regular act on The Dick Clark Show before producing albums for Phil Everly and Waylon Jennings. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, and in 2004, he became the second recipient of Guitar Player magazine’s “Legend Award” (after Les Paul).
Bluesman Hans Olson on Duane Eddy: “Every guitar player of my generation owes a big debt to his sound. The first time I heard his guitar, I knew I had to keep playing and get that sound. It was mostly just his reverb sound that lit a fire under all the guitar players of the day.”
AZ connection: In the early 1980s, the Arkansas-born “Rhinestone Cowboy” moved to Phoenix, where he still maintains a home.
“It is a startling but true scientific fact that the only man-made things that can be seen from outer space are the Great Wall of China and Glen Campbell’s resume,” singer Chris Isaak wrote on grammy.com. It’s true Campbell’s rich country drawl, poured over layers of pristine country popped up by the occasional symphonic strings progression, is as recognizable to country music fans as Mickey Mouse ears are to tourist families. Campbell retired in 2012, after announcing he has Alzheimer’s, but he leaves an influential and
impressive legacy behind, flush with musical progenies like Alabama and George Strait, and hit singles like “Gentle on My Mind” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.”
AZ connection: Born in Phoenix, Nicks maintained a full-time residence in Paradise Valley until moving to California in 2007. Her late father, Jess Nicks, owned bygone Chandler concert venue
Compton Terrace and was chairman of the Arizona Heart Institute for three decades.
With her layers of glittery lace and chiffon and her echoing tenor from outer space, nobody had seen anything like Stevie Nicks when she seemingly escaped from Fairyland and landed in Fleetwood Mac in 1974. Her solo career’s been no less striking or daring: She wore high-heeled stiletto boots while walking on a treadmill with an industrial fan blowing in her face for her “Stand Back” video in 1983, providing a visual metaphor for her uncanny ability to stand her ground (and stand out) in the face of anything, inspiring artists from the Dixie Chicks to Sheryl Crow. As a solo artist and a member of Fleetwood Mac, Nicks has racked up 13 Grammy Award nominations, more than 140 million in album sales, and more than 40 top 50 hits, including Fleetwood Mac’s only No. 1 song, “Dreams.” She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 (as a member of Fleetwood Mac).
AZ connection: Pennsylvania-born
Michaels moved to Scottsdale in 2004.
Michaels came to fame as the singer of ’80s hair metal band Poison, which achieved a No. 1 hit in 1988 with “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” But most people know Michaels chiefly from his appearances on reality shows like VH1’s Rock of Love, NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice 3, and All-Star Celebrity Apprentice. In other words, he’s one of those celebs that’s famous for being famous, but Michaels does way more to earn his stripes than, say, Paris Hilton. He runs three businesses – Michaels Entertainment Group Inc., Last Child Productions, and Poor Boy Records – along with his charity, Bret Michaels Life Rocks Foundation. He’s donated to local organizations including Barrow Neurological Institute, where he was treated for a brain hemorrhage in 2010, and has a line of pet clothing called Pets Rock at PetSmart.
AZ connection: Texan Jennings moved to Coolidge, Arizona (then to Phoenix) in 1961. He died from diabetic complications at his home in Chandler in 2002.
Though he found fame as one of the stalwarts of “outlaw country,” Jennings could have died in 1959, in the same plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and “Big Bopper” J.P. Richardson. Jennings was Holly’s bass player, and the night of the crash, he’d given his seat to Richardson and taken the bus instead. After Holly’s death, Jennings abandoned upbeat rock for harrowing honky-tonk and the Outlaw movement of the 1970s, propagated by fellow artists like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Merle Haggard. Between 1966 and 1995, Jennings had 54 charting albums (including 11 No. 1 albums), one of which was the 1976 record Wanted! The Outlaws, the first platinum-selling country record. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001, and his spirit’s still heard in the songs of his son, Shooter Jennings, and artists like Steve Earle and Travis Tritt.
The Meat Puppets
AZ connection: Formed in Phoenix in 1980 by brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood, who attended Brophy College Preparatory high school. Currently based in Austin, Texas.
138 days before he committed suicide, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain sat onstage in New York City for the taping of MTV Unplugged and single-handedly re-launched the career of two Valley bros. “These are the brothers Meat Puppets,” he announced, as Curt and Cris Kirkwood sat behind him. “We’re big fans of theirs.” The Kirkwood brothers played three of their songs with Nirvana that night – “Oh Me,” “Plateau,” and “Lake of Fire.” Their next album, 1994’s Too High to Die, was their ninth record, and the first to go gold. Though not a big-selling act, their reach has become iconic. The band’s blend of country, punk, and psychedelic rock helped establish the “cowpunk” genre, and the substance abuse-driven tribulations of Cris Kirkwood (Google “Cris Kirkwood shot at Phoenix post office”) endure as some of the most dismal drug tales in Arizona rock lore. Thankfully, the Meat Puppets carry on as a clean machine these days. Their latest album, Rat Farm, was released in April.
AZ connection: Born in Willcox in 1920. Died of a heart attack at his Tucson home in 1999.
“The Arizona Cowboy” was a star of screen and studio, parlaying his deep, velvety country croon into multiple hit records and movie roles. Allen started making records in 1948 and netted some hit singles, most notably “Crying in the Chapel” (1953) and the dark, dramatic folklore-filled “Don’t Go Near the Indians” (1962). Beginning in 1950, he starred in 19 Western movies and is said to have starred in the last singing cowboy Western (Phantom Stallion, 1954). Allen narrated numerous TV shows and Disney movies, as well as Hanna-Barbera’s 1973 animated film, Charlotte’s Web. He was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1975. The Rex Allen Museum in Willcox, opened in 1989, continues to honor this “last of the great singing cowboys,” as does his son, Rex Allen Jr., also a celebrated country singer and voice actor.
AZ connection: Originally from San Bernardino, California,
Olson has lived in Scottsdale since the early 1970s.
Olson is a quintessential “musician’s musician.” A guitar-strapped bluesman with a harp-in-a-rack, he’s the kind of crisp-pickin’, foot-stompin’ one-man-boogie-show that draws fans like late Scottsdale resident Tom Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival), who recorded Olson’s “Deal It Out” in 1982, and Steve Martin, who had Olson play harmonica on his Grammy-winning bluegrass album, The Crow. And he was the soundtrack for Burt Reynolds’ mustache in the opening/closing credits of the first season of
Evening Shade. In addition to his 13 solo albums since 1973 (all released on independent record labels), Olson helped establish local music community cores like the Phoenix Blues Society, the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame, the Arizona Music Heritage Foundation, and the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame.
AZ connection: Born in Lufkin, Texas, Jones moved to south Phoenix in 1989, a few years after graduating high school.
There are a few things about Carvin Jones that might make people think of a bluesier, less psychedelic Jimi Hendrix: his concho-banded hats, his rock-out flash and swagger (he’s a get-on-the-bar sort of player), and most of all, his deft hands dancing across some screaming hot strings. Not long after he started playing clubs in 1991, Jones got props from blues legends Albert Collins (“one of the brightest young stars on the blues scene today”), Eric Clapton (“the next up-and-coming blues player”), and Buddy Miles (“the New King of Strings”). Over the years, he’s opened for such acts as B.B. King and Santana, ultimately accruing more than 6,000 performances. He still plays at bars and clubs around the Valley almost nightly, and Carvin Jones on the bar over your beer beats any other guitar player from a nosebleed seat.
AZ connection: Raised on a farm in Kansas, Ellis moved to Phoenix in 1959.
Arizona’s first – and so far only – official state balladeer, Ellis was given the title by then-governor Sam Goddard in 1966 and has been re-appointed by all successive governors. Before that, he was an original member of the New Christy Minstrels, an incredibly influential folk music group that helped launch the career of Kenny Rogers, who joined the group in ’66. Ellis was with the NCM for their first five albums, several gold records, and a 1963 Grammy for Best Group. Dolan’s vast body of work (he’s written more than 300 songs) embodies the dusty-cowboy feel and everyman folklore of the Southwest through simple strumming and straightforward storytelling. He’s passionate about preserving our desert music legacy, too; in 1996, he founded the Arizona Folklore Preserve in Ramsey Canyon, operated by the University of Arizona.
Arizona State Historian Marshall Trimble on Dolan Ellis: “Dolan is a true music lover. When he hears a beautiful woman singing in the shower, he puts his ear to the keyhole... He’s certainly the greatest showman I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. He loves the entertainment business, is absolutely ageless and will never retire.”
R. Carlos Nakai
AZ connection: Born in Flagstaff; currently lives in Tucson.
Thanks to the inventive crossover style of R. Carlos Nakai, Native American flute music doesn’t have to equate to an auditory sedative. While the Navajo/Ute artist honors the mellow, meditative, airy sounds of tradition on his albums, he’s not afraid to branch out into other genres and collaborate with artists like composer Philip Glass, Hawaiian slack key guitar master Keola Beamer, and Academy Award-nominated film director Terrence Malick (Nakai recorded music for Malick’s 2005 film, The New World). Over the course of his 30-year career, Nakai’s been nominated for four Grammy Awards and earned two gold records (two of the first Native American flute albums to go gold). He was inducted into the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2005.
AZ connection: Formed in Tempe in 1987. Most members now live in different cities. Frontman Robin Wilson divides his time between Tempe and New York.
Of the handful of Tempe bands credited with creating the “Mill Avenue Sound” in the early ’90s (including Dead Hot Workshop and The Refreshments), none had more bittersweet commercial success than the Gin Blossoms. The band’s warm, radio-friendly adult Top 40 sound was embraced by listeners, with their first two major label records going platinum on the strength of top 10 singles like “Hey Jealousy” and “Found Out About You” (both from 1992’s New Miserable Experience). The band’s success was perplexing for guitarist Doug Hopkins, who’d written both songs and was fired from the band (to be replaced by Scott Johnson, later of Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers) prior to the album’s release because of struggles with alcohol. Hopkins committed suicide in 1993; the title of the Blossoms’ next album, Congratulations I’m Sorry (1996), alludes to Hopkins. The album produced the band’s last top 10 hit, “Follow You Down,” and the band broke up in 1997. They reunited in 2002 and released their fifth studio album, No Chocolate Cake, in 2010.
AZ connection: Tucson-born Clyne grew up splitting his time between Southern Arizona and Tempe, where he still resides.
How many multi-instrumentalists can boast they totally rock a kazoo? Roger Clyne can, along with some bigger boasts: frontman for The Refreshments (which had a hit with “Banditos” in 1996 and did the theme song for TV show King of the Hill), ringleader of his Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers’ annual Circus Mexicus festival (and other regular gigs) in Rocky Point, maker of his own brand of tequila (Mexican Moonshine), and perhaps most importantly, adherent of a distinct “Southwestern sound” (thick acoustic guitars, winsome harmonica, and lyrics revolving around ranch life in Southern Arizona). Clyne’s continued to entrench himself in Arizona culture since forming the Peacemakers in 1998, writing and recording the theme song of the Arizona Diamondbacks, “The D’Backs’ Swing,” and playing countless fundraisers for local charities like the Yavapai County Food Bank, Ear Candy, and Valley of the Sun United Way. Not bad for a guy who once lived in a Tucson homestead house with no electricity.
AZ connection: Born Zach Sciacca in Phoenix; currently resides in Los Angeles.
While the term “DJ” is synonymous for some with a person who simply plays other peoples’ songs from their iTunes playlists, Z-Trip has always treated his turntables, samples and loops as instruments, weaving old songs into lush new soundscapes of sonic odds and ends. He’s a pioneer of the mashup movement, which blends parts of prerecorded songs into new compositions. In 2009, he was the recipient of the America’s Best DJ Award from the DJ Times, which helped bring him to the attention of many of his vaunted collaborators, who include LL Cool J, Chuck D of Public Enemy, and Linkin Park. He’s performed at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, opened for the Rolling Stones, and to date, is the only DJ to have a Nirvana song remix (“Lounge Act,” for the EA Games release Skate) approved by Nirvana and Kurt Cobain’s estate. He was headlining resident DJ at Rain Nightclub at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas until 2010, when he went on hiatus to begin recording the followup to his 2005 major label debut, the album Shifting Gears (Hollywood Records), which Rolling Stone gave four stars.
AZ connection: Born in Phoenix; currently resides in Nashville.
Dierks Bentley is the country music equivalent of a mix tape: He can fill his repertoire with something for everyone, so whether he’s playing an alternative fest like Lollapalooza, an eclectic shindig like the Bonnaroo festival, or the countrified Telluride Bluegrass Festival, he can customize his set to be a crowd-pleaser. He’s penned plenty of people’s “favorite songs” since signing to Capitol Records in 2003, including 10 No. 1 country singles. He’s been nominated for 10 Grammys, has a pair of platinum albums, and has toured with a who’s-who of country, including Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban. Bentley was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2005.
Duane Eddy on Dierks Bentley: “He did a duet with George Jones. You don’t get any more country than that... He sounds like he’s right from the cotton fields outside Coolidge, but he ain’t. He’s very authentic. It’s in your heart and mind, and that’s what comes out. It doesn’t matter where you’re from.”
AZ connection: The Chicago-born bluesman relocated to Phoenix in 1981.
Hell hath no fury like Bob Corritore’s harmonica. A typical harmonica can easily express 20 notes; in the hands of Corritore, it’s a limitless symphony of blowing reeds. There’s no droning, Dylan-esque style here: The powerful, high-toned effect of Corritore’s instrumental dexterity is more akin to having one’s head stuck in a storm drain during a monsoon. His harp skills have found their way onto numerous blues records, including Pinetop Perkins’ 2008 Grammy-nominated album, On the 88s. For more than 30 years, Corritore has also brought the best of old school blues to Phoenix as the owner of the Rhythm Room, the city’s premiere blues venue. He’s put some of the genre’s greatest on his stage, from national acts like R.L. Burnside and Jimmy Vaughan to local legends Big Pete Pearson and Chico Chism. Corritore joins artists onstage and makes records with them, too, as The Rhythm Room All-Stars. Names like Bo Diddley, Louisiana Red and Nappy Brown have all put their trust in Corritore as a producer – and rightly so; he did production work on Kim Wilson’s (The Fabulous Thunderbirds) Grammy-nominated album Smokin’ Joint (2002). Since 1984, he’s hosted the weekly Sunday night show “Those Lowdown Blues” on local station KJZZ.
AZ connection: Peniston’s family moved from Dayton, Ohio to Phoenix in 1979. She currently resides in Glendale.
Phoenix has never been known as a hotbed of hugely successful dance club artists, but in the early ’90s, CeCe Peniston was sweeping the charts, landing five No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 Dance/Club Play charts in three years, including the soulful, piano-infused “Finally.” The song, recorded at legendary Chaton Studios in Phoenix (where artists including DMX and Lyle Lovett also recorded hits) sold 3 million copies. Her spirited voice was always backed by synthesizers and catchy percussion with extra drum tracks. At her peak, the former Miss Black Arizona 1989 became a sort of dance track ambassador, performing for everybody from Pope John Paul II (with gospel group Sisters of Glory) to both of President Bill Clinton’s inauguration ceremonies. Though she bounced around record labels for much of the latter ’90s and early ’00s while trying out genres including R&B and hip-hop, her dance tracks continue to be remixed by well-known DJs, including Dmitri KO and Paul Oakenfold.
AZ connection: Formed in 1969 when two Phoenix bands moved to San Francisco together and then merged.
In 1975, smack in the middle of the auto-tune and guitar-driven FM radio rock era, The Tubes released a proto-punk anthem called “White Punks on Dope,” a piece of absurdist art rock poking fun at the excesses of their rich teenage fan base in the Bay Area (Mötley Crüe later covered the song). It was a fitting intro to a quirky band that was always the square peg standing out in a round hole; subsequent releases encompassed everything from a pop-rock concept album about a TV-addicted idiot savant (Remote Control, 1979, produced by Todd Rundgren) to their 1983 top 10 hit “She’s a Beauty” and its provocative, MTV-darling music video starring a young Robert Arquette (now Alexis Arquette) as a kid in a carnival full of cavewomen and mermaids. Their stage shows often satirized social issues and incorporated acrobats, B-movie footage, and tap dancers. After several lineup changes and challenges, The Tubes’ latest recording output has been limited to previously unreleased material, but they continue to play live shows around the U.S. – minus much of the sideshow.
Maynard James Keenan
AZ connection: The Ravenna, Ohio native moved to Jerome in 1995, after living in L.A. for several years.
Keenan’s a reclusive Renaissance man, the kind of anti-rock star who sings in the smoke and shadows and tends toward terse interviews and fan encounters. He’s sold more than 20 million albums between his three music projects – progressive metal band Tool, alternative rock group A Perfect Circle, and experimental act Puscifer – but he’d probably rather talk about wine. That’s what he’s been doing lately: growing grapes and making award-winning vino at his own Merkin Vineyards and Caduceus Cellars and with Eric Glomski at Arizona Stronghold. He’s also appeared in several films, including the locally made Queens of Country. In recent years, he’s focused more on wine making than music, rarely touring but continuing to record, and continuing in turn to introduce his vast, fervid music audience to the wonderful world of Arizona wine.
Jimmy Eat World
AZ connection: Formed in Mesa in 1993.
Originally a punk rock band, Jimmy Eat World had tightened into a melodic, alternative rock tour de force by the time their breakthrough fourth album, Bleed American, came out on David Geffen’s DreamWorks label in 2001. Though the catchy quartet had their first buzz-worthy single (“Rockstar”) in 1996, a slew of nationally-played singles from Bleed American introduced them to the masses: “A Praise Chorus,” “Sweetness,” and “The Middle” (their biggest single, which peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts). The band hasn’t topped the success of that album yet, but they’ve continued to work with big-name engineers (Foo Fighters producer Gil Norton, Nirvana producer Butch Vig) on subsequent major label releases; their last was Invented on Interscope Records (2010). The band’s currently shopping their completed eighth studio album to record labels and anticipates a 2013 release.
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