Odie Payne: 8/27/1926
A son of the “Windy City”, this talented Chicago blues drummer developed his skills from an early age and earned himself a spot in the bands of Little Johnny Jones and Tampa Red. He joined the band of Elmore James in 1952. Although he only remained with James’ band for three years, he would record with the guitar master until 1959. After this, he became a highly sought after session musician. Held in the highest regard, this exemplary drummer lent his skills to the recordings of such artists as Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Buddy Guy, and many more.
Dinah Washington: 8/29/1924
Dinah Washington was a singer and pianist who, though primarily a jazz vocalist, also performed the blues, rhythm & blues, and traditional pop music. She gave herself the title “the Queen of the Blues”. Born as Ruth Lee Jones in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, she began performing in Chicago clubs in her teens and was soon singing with jazz great Lionel Hampton’s band. She became one of the nation’s most popular singers between the mid-1940’s and ’50s, with 27 top ten R&B hits. Throughout her career, she also continued to perform with jazz luminaries like Ben Webster and Cannonball Adderley. She was known for her distinctive vocal style, high pitched voice and terrific phrasing. Producer Quincy Jones once said that Washington, “could take the melody in her hand, hold it like an egg, crack it open, fry it, let it sizzle, reconstruct it, put the egg back in the box and back in the refrigerator and you would’ve still understood every single syllable.” Her fans adored her, but some people were critical that in claiming that she had sold out commercially. In 1959, Washington won a Grammy Award in the category of Best Rhythm & Blues Performance for her song “What a Diff’rence a Day Makes”. Unfortunately, Washington passed away at the young age of 39 from an accidental prescription drug overdose. Her musical legacy has remained strong, however, and in, 1993 she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Luther “Snake Boy” Johnson: August 30, 1934
Guitarist, singer, and songwriter from Georgia who was linked to Chicago and electric blues. Luther was born on a farm in Davisboro Georgia where he taught himself how to play guitar and began his appreciation for music. After leaving the army in 1953, he played with a few bands before moving to Chicago. In 1966, he began playing with Muddy Water’s backing band. In the seventies, he moved to Boston where he found success in blues festivals and on college circuits. Sadly, Johnson passed away due to brain cancer in 1976 at the age of 41.
Van Morrison: 8/31/1945
George Ivan Morrison, known primarily as Van Morrison, is an accomplished singer and instrumentalist from Northern Ireland. He began playing professionally in the 50’s as a teenager with various Irish bands. His breakout single that propelled his solo career was the 1967 hit “Brown Eyed Girl.” His music is rooted around RnB and soul music while also keeping his Celtic roots intact. This blend of music is very unique and has helped to set Morrison apart from other musicians. Amazingly, Morrison released his 36th studio album in 2016 at the age of 70 and continues to tour around the world. Also, “in 2016, he was knighted for his musical achievements and his services to tourism and charitable causes in Northern Ireland.” Lately, Morrison has been back at the recording game, releasing an album on December 1, 2017 then releasing his 39th studio album in April 2018. The album is a cool collaboration with jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco featuring a mixture of jazz and blues classics.