Speech Differences And Stutter Series-Disabled Legend Shane Yellowbird

Shane Yellowbird is a Canadian country music singer/songwriter from Hobbema, Alberta. In 2007, Shane Yellowbird was named the Aboriginal Entertainer of the Year at the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards, Chevy Trucks Rising Star of the Year at the Canadian Country Music Awards, and had 1 of the 10 most played country music songs of the year in Canada.

Shane Yellowbird released his debut album, Life Is Calling My Name, in 2006. The album includes the singles “Beautiful Concept,” “They’re All About You,” “Pickup Truck” and “I Remember the Music.” In November of 2006, Yellowbird won 2 awards at the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards ceremony, including Best New Artist, Single of the Year (“Beautiful Concept”) and Best Video (“Beautiful Concept”). Shane Yellowbird opened for Emerson Drive on their cross-Canada tour, and was chosen to represent his native Canada by performing at the 4th Annual Global Artist Party at the CMA Music Festival in June of 2007. Shane Yellowbird was named the Chevy Trucks Rising Star of the Year at the 2007 Canadian Country Music Awards.

“Pickup Truck,” Shane Yellowbird’s 3rd single, also became his 1st Top 5 song on the Canadian Country Singles chart in the summer of 2007. The song also peaked at No. 64 on the all-genre Canadian Hot 100, while the video topped the CMT Chevy Top 20 in July. It was 1 of the 10 most played country music songs of the year in Canada. Shane Yellowbird opened the 2007 Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards, starring with Lorne Cardinal and Gabrielle Miller of Corner Gas. Later that evening, he was named the Aboriginal Entertainer of the Year. Shane Yellowbird also won awards for Best Country CD (Life Is Calling My Name) and Best Music Video (“Pickup Truck”). Shane Yellowbird also won 3 trophies at the 2007 Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, including Best Male Artist, Best Country Album and Best Album of the Year (Life Is Calling My Name). Shane Yellowbird was also nomiated for the 2008 Juno Award for Country Recording of the Year, for Life Is Calling My Name.

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Speech Differences And Stutter Series-Disabled Legend Bill Withers

Bill Withers was born on 4 July, 1938. Bill Withers is an American singer-songwriter who performed and recorded from 1970 until 1985. Some of his best-known songs are “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Use Me,” “Lovely Day,” “Lean on Me”, “Grandma’s Hands”, and “Just the Two of Us”.

Bill Withers was born William Harrison Withers, Jr., Bill Withers is the son of a coal miner who worked for the Slab Fork Coal Company from 1917 to 1951 and a domestic for the William Gaston Caperton family that owned the coal company. Bill Withers was born in a house owned by the company on land leased from Beaver Coal Corporation, predecessor to Beaver Coal Company, Ltd, the youngest of 6 children in the small coal-mining unincorporated community of Slab Fork, West Virginia in Raleigh County. Bill Withers’ father, William Harrison Withers Sr. was a Baptist deacon and the treasurer for the local chapter of the United Mine Workers (UMWA). Bill Withers’ mother, Mattie Rose (née Galloway), was a widow and the mother of 4 children when she married William Harrison Withers, Sr. Withers’ parents separated in October 1941 and officially divorced in May 1942, and Bill Withers grew up both in a company house of the Slab Fork Coal Company in Slab Fork. In October 1941, he moved in with his Aunt Carrella Galloway Briggs’. In August 1944, he finally settled with his mother in Beckley, West Virginia and attended public school at East Park Elementary School and Stratton Junior High School in Beckley, and the coloured schools in Slab Fork.

After his Aunt Carrella died in 1949, Bill Withers formed a special relationship with his maternal grandmother, Lula Carter Galloway who came to live with his family until her death in 1953. Bill Withers then lived with his father in Slab Fork from 1948 to 1951 and attended the local segregated school. Returning to Beckley from Slab Fork after his father became ill, Bill Withers left school in the 7th grade after his father died, and worked several jobs, including a shoe shine boy in Beckley. On 15 July, 1951, William, Sr. died of azotemia and chronic glomerulonephritis when Bill Withers was 13. After his father’s death, Bill Withers lived with the family of the widow of his deceased brother Earl, Elfreida Martin. Bill Withers suffered from chronic stuttering until the age of 28.

In May 1956, at the age of 17, Bill Withers joined the United States Navy and served for 9 years, during which time he became interested in singing and songwriting. Bill Withers began writing songs to fill a need for lyrics that expressed what he felt. Following his discharge from the Navy in July 1965, he worked in the San Jose, California area and then moved to Los Angeles in 1967 to pursue a career in music.

Bill Withers worked as an assembler for several different companies, including Douglas Aircraft Corporation, in the Los Angeles area, while recording demo tapes with his own money that he shopped around and performing with local musicians at the night. Although he kept his job as an assembler after he debuted on the music scene in February 1971 with the single “Ain’t No Sunshine” and the album “Just As I Am,” he was shortly thereafter laid off by Weber Aircraft Corporation.

In early 1970, Bill Withers’ demo tape was received favourably by former music manager and music executive and entrepreneur Clarence Avant of the newly created Sussex Records, Inc., distributed by Buddah Records and Interior Music Corp.. Avant signed Bill Withers to recording and publishing contracts on 8 May, 1970, and Booker T. Jones of Stax Records produced Bill Withers’ debut album. Bill Withers also signed with the business manager representing Avant, Sussex, and Interior, Paul Orland of Orland, Chase, and Mucci and the law firm representing the same, the legendary music lawyers Abraham Somer, David Berman, and Richard Leher of Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp LLP. 4 3-hour studio sessions were planned to record the album, but problems with funding caused the album to be recorded in 3 sessions with a 6-month break between the 2nd and final sessions. Finally finished in January 1971, Just As I Am was released in February 1971 at the same time as the tracks “Harlem” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” were released as singles. The album was a hit, with “Ain’t No Sunshine” making it to number 3 pop and certified gold in the September 1971. Bill Withers made 1st appearance as a singer on 26 June, 1971 in Chicago at the Opera House.

At the 14th annual Grammy Awards on Tuesday, 14 March, 1972, Bill Withers won his 1st Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Song for “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Bill Withers began touring and recording with a band assembled from all Los Angeles-based members of The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band: drummer James Gadson, guitarist Bernoce Blackmon, keyboardist Ray Jackson, and bassist Melvin Dunlap. During a break in touring, Bill Withers wrote the songs for, recorded, and produced an album for the 1st time for his 2nd album, Still Bill Withers and Sussex/Buddah released it in May 1972. The single “Lean on Me” went to number 1 the week of 8 July, 1972. The album certified gold 7 September, 1972 and peaked at number 4 on the pop charts.

A Friday, 6 October, 1972 performance on a rainy night was recorded for the live album Bill Withers, Live at Carnegie Hall released 30 November, 1972. Bill Withers lost his mother, Mattie Withers to heart failure in New York in December 1972. Bill Withers married actress Donna Denise Nicholas on 17 January, 1973 in Van Nuys, CA and they divorced in October 1974 in Los Angeles, CA. This was followed by the 1974 album +’Justments.

After +’Justments, Bill Withers became involved in a legal dispute with the Sussex Records, Inc., Interior Music, and Clarence Avant beginning in January 1975 and ending in June 1975. After the lawsuit settled in June 1975, Bill Withers became free to sign with another label, but started his own independent music publishing companies, Golden Withers Music and Bleunig Music with the help of business manager Edgar Fleisher Gross of International Business Management in Century City and the noted music law firm of Hardee, Barovick, Konecky & Braun of New York and Beverly Hills. Sussex Records, Inc., went out of business, with the Internal Revenue Service auctioning off all the remaining assets in July 1975 because of unpaid federal and state taxes of $62,000. Bill Withers’ new label CBS Records received notice of the auction from Sussex Records, Inc. and Clarence Avant, CBS bought the Sussex masters in July 1975 for $50,500 at the auction. Just before this time, Bill Withers wrote and produced 2 songs on the Gladys Knight & the Pips record I Feel A Song released 1 January, 1974 and performed in concert on 23 September, 1974 at “The Zaire Music Festival” which preceded the historic Ali/Foreman fight in Zaire on 30 October, 1974. Footage of his musical performance appeared in the 1996 documentary film When We Were Kings and the accompanying soundtrack album was released in 1997.

Bill Withers signed with Columbia Records in 1975. Bill Withers’ 1st release with the label was Making Music, Making Friends, which had the single She’s Lonely and was featured in the movie Looking for Mr. Goodbar. The next 3 years saw an album released each year with Naked & Warm (1976), Menagerie (1977, containing the hit “Lovely Day”) and Bout Love (1978).

Due to problems with Columbia, he focused on joint projects for several years, including the Grammy-winning Just the Two of Us, which he performed with jazz saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. released in June 1980 and winning a Grammy Award at the 24th Annual Grammy Awards on 24 February, 1982, Soul Shadows with The Crusaders, and In The Name Of Love with Ralph MacDonald, which was nominated for a vocal performance Grammy.

Bill Withers’ final new release was 1985’s Watching You, Watching Me, which featured the Top 40 R&B single “Oh Yeah”. Bill Withers hired noted music lawyer Bernard Fischbach of Fischbach and Fischbach, and got out of his contract with Columbia and retired from recording, although he continued performing live sporadically, but retired from constant touring in 1989, last performing live for the birthday party of billionaire Tom Gores of Platinum Equity Partners in Santa Monica in 2004. In 1988, a remixed version of “Lovely Day” from the 1977 “Menagerie” Album, titled “Lovely Day (Sunshine Mix)” and remixed by Ben Liebrand, reached the Top 10 in the UK, prompting Bill Withers to perform on the long running Top of the Pops that year. The original release, in 1977, had reached No. 7 in the UK, and the re-release climbed to No. 4.

After retiring, Bill Withers focused on parenting to his 2 children, Todd and Kori Withers, also a singer and songwriter, with his 2nd wife Marcia whom he married 31 December, 1976 in Van Nuys, CA, and who handles the day-to-day running of his Beverly Hills-based publishing companies. In 1987, he received his 9th Grammy nomination and on 2 March, 1988 his 3rd Grammy for Best Rhythm and Blues Song as a songwriter for the re-recording of Lean On Me by Club Nouveau on their debut album Life, Love and Pain released in 1986 on Warner Bros. Records.

Bill Withers contributed 2 songs to Jimmy Buffett’s 13 July, 2004 release “License To Chill.” Following the reissues of Still Bill on 28 January, 2003 and Just As I am on 8 March, 2005, there was speculation of previously unreleased material being issued as a new album. In 2006, Sony gave back to Bill Withers his previously unreleased tapes.

In 2008, a feature documentary is made about Bill Withers, called ‘Still Bill’. It is directed by Damani Baker and Alex Vlack. The movie shows Bill Withers at home jamming with members of his old band, and even brings him back on stage singing ‘Grandma’s Hands’ during a tribute concert organised for the documentary.

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Speech Differences And Stutter Series-Disabled Legend Mel Tillis

Mel Tillis was born Lonnie Melvin Tillis, on 8 August, 1932 in Tampa, Florida. Mel Tillis is an American country music singer. Although he had been recording songs since the late 1950s, his biggest success occurred in the ’70s, with a long list of Top 10 hits.

Mel Tillis’ biggest hits include, “I Ain’t Never”, “Good Woman Blues”, and “Coca-Cola Cowboy”. Mel Tillis also has won the CMA Awards most coveted award, Entertainer of the Year. Mel Tillis’ daughter is country music singer, Pam Tillis. Mel Tillis is also well-known for his speech impediment, which does not affect his singing voice.

Mel Tillis’s stutter developed during his childhood, a result of a bout of malaria. As a child, Mel Tillis learned the drums, as well as guitar. At the age of 16, he won a local talent show, and soon joined the United States Air Force, and worked for the railroad. When young Mel Tillis was stationed in Okinawa, he formed a band called The Westerners, which played at local nightclubs. Mel Tillis attended the University of Florida.

After leaving the military in 1955, Mel Tillis worked a number of odd jobs and moved to Nashville, Tennessee the following year. Mel Tillis wrote “I’m Tired”, a #3 country hit for Webb Pierce in 1957. Other Mel Tillis hits include “Honky Tonk Song” and “Tupelo County Jail”. Ray Price and Brenda Lee also charted hits with Mel Tillis’ material around this time. In the late-50s, after becoming a hit-making songwriter, he signed his own contract with Columbia Records in the late-50s. In 1958, he had his 1st Top 40 hit, “The Violet and a Rose”, followed by the Top 25 hit, “Sawmill”.

Although Mel Tillis charted on his own Billboard’s Hot Country Songs list, he had more success as a songwriter. Mel Tillis continued to be Webb Pierce’s songwriter. Mel Tillis wrote the hits, “I Ain’t Never” (Mel Tillis’ own future hit) and “Crazy, Wild Desire”. Bobby Bare, Wanda Jackson, and Stonewall Jackson also covered his songs. Mel Tillis continued to record on his own. Some well-known songs from his Columbia years include “The Brooklyn Bridge”, “Loco Weed”, and “Walk on, Boy”. However, he didn’t achieve major success on the country charts on his own.

In the mid-60s, Mel Tillis switched over to Kapp Records. In 1965, he had his 1st Top 15 hit with “Wine”. Other hits continued to follow, like “Stateside” and “Life Turned Her That Way” (which was later covered by Ricky Van Shelton in 1988, and went to #1). Mel Tillis wrote for Charley Pride (“The Snakes Crawl At Night”) and wrote a big hit for Kenny Rogers & the 1st Edition called “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”. Mel Tillis also wrote the hit “Mental Revenge” for Outlaw superstar Waylon Jennings (and it has also been covered by the Hacienda Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, Gram Parsons, and Barbara Mandrell). In 1968, Mel Tillis achieved his 1st Top 10 hit with “Who’s Julie”. Mel Tillis also was a regular featured singer on The Porter Wagoner Show. Although success didn’t come quickly or easily as a singer in the ’60s, things would turn around for Mel Tillis a great deal in the ’70s.

Mel Tillis finally achieved the success he always wanted with 2 Top 10 country hits, “These Lonely Hands of Mine” and “She’ll Be Hanging Around Somewhere”. In 1970, he reached the Top 5 with “Heart Over Mind”, which peaked at #3 on the Hot Country Songs list. After this, Mel Tillis’ career as a country singer went into full-swing. Hits soon came quite easily, like “Heaven Everyday” (1970), “Commercial Affection” (1970), “Arms of a Fool” (1970), “Take My Hand” (a duet with Sherry Bryce in 1971), and “Brand New Mister Me” (1971). In 1972, Mel Tillis achieved his 1st chart-topper with his version of his song “I Ain’t Never”. Even though the song was previously recorded and made a hit by Webb Pierce, Mel Tillis’ version is the best-known version out of the 2. Most of these songs that were hits above were recorded under MGM Records, Mel Tillis’ record company in the early part of the decade.

After the success of “I Ain’t Never”, Mel Tillis had another hit, which came close to #1 (reached #3) entitled “Neon Rose”, followed by “Sawmill”, which also came close at #2. “Midnight Me and the Blues” was another near-chart topper in 1974. Other hits Mel Tillis had under MGM include “Stomp Them Grapes” (1974), “Memory Maker” (1974), “Woman in the Back of My Mind” (1975), and his version of “Mental Revenge” (1976). In 1976, Mel Tillis signed on with MCA Records. Mel Tillis achieved his biggest success under MCA Records. It started with a pair of 2 #1 hits in 1976, “Good Woman Blues” and “Heart Healer”. Thanks to this success, Mel Tillis won the CMA Awards’s most coveted award, Entertainer of the Year, and was also inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame that year. Mel Tills achieved another #1 in 1978 with “I Believe In You”, and then again in 1979 with “Coca-Cola Cowboy”, which was put in the Clint Eastwood movie Every Which Way But Loose. Also in 1978, Mel Tillis co-hosted a short-lived variety series on ABC television, Mel and Susan Together with model Susan Anton. Other hits around this time included “Send Me Down to Tucson”, “Ain’t No California”, and “I Got the Hoss”. In mid-1979, Mel Tillis switched over to another record company once again, this time with Elektra Records.

After signing under Elektra in mid-1979, he continued to make hit songs, like “Blind In Love” and “Lying Time Again”, both hits for Mel Tillis in 1979. Up until 1981, Mel Tillis remained on top his game as one of country music’s most successful vocalists of the era. “Your Body Is an Outlaw”, went to #3 in 1980, followed by another Top 10 hit, “Steppin’ Out”. “Southern Rains” was his last No. 1 hit, when it became a hit in 1981. That same year, he dueted with Nancy Sinatra on the Top 30 hit “Texas Cowboy Night”. Mel Tillis remained with Elektra until 1982, before switching back over to MCA for a brief period in 1983. That summer, he scored a Top 10 hit with “In The Middle Of The Night” and had his last Top 10 hit with “New Patches” in 1984. By this time however, Mel Tillis built up a financial empire, thanks to investing in music-publishing companies, like Sawgrass and Cedarwood. Mel Tillis also appeared in movies, like The Villain (1979 film), Love Revival, W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings, The Cannonball Run and Uphill All the Way, a comedy western in which he starred with fellow country singer Roy Clark, among others. In 1979 he acquired radio station KIXZ (AM) in Amarillo, TX from Sammons-Ruff Associates, which converted from Top 40 to country music and became a force in the Panhandle region. A short time later Mel Tillis acquired Rock FM station KYTX, which changed calls to KMML (a play on Mel Tillis’ stutter). Still later he operated WMML in Mobile, Alabama. All stations were sold in the fullness of time for a healthy return. Mel Tillis briefly signed with RCA Records, as well as Mercury Records, and later Curb Records in 1991. By this time, his chart success faded from view.

Since his heyday in the 1970s, Mel Tillis remained a songwriter in the 1980s, writing hits for Ricky Skaggs and Randy Travis respectively. Mel Tillis also wrote his autobiography called Stutterin’ Boy, (the title comes from Mel Tillis’ speech impediment). Mel Tillis appeared as the television commercial spokesman for the fast-food restaurant chain Whataburger during the 1980s. Mel Tillis also built a theater in Branson, Missouri, where he performed on a regular basis until 2002. In 1998, he teamed up with Bobby Bare, Waylon Jennings and Jerry Reed to form The Old Dogs. The group recorded a double album of songs penned entirely by Shel Silverstein. In July, 1998 Old Dogs Volumes 1 and 2 were released on the Atlantic Records label. A companion video, as well as a Greatest Hits album (composed of previously released material by each individual artist), were also available. In the 1990s, Mel Tillis’s daughter, Pam Tillis, became a successful country music singer in her own right, having hits like “Maybe It Was Memphis” and “Shake the Sugar Tree”. In June 1999 ABC news ran a story about Mel Tillis being frustrated by his speech impediment, and stated that he went on to grow in confidence using techniques from stutterfree and, although Mel Tillis has never spoken about this, many did note a small improvement in his problematic articulation about that time. Mel Tillis’s speech problem is not evident in singing, only in talking.

Mel Tillis was inducted into the Opry by his daughter Pam. Along with being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, it was announced on 7 August that year that Mel Tillis along with Ralph Emery and Vince Gill are the newest to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Mel Tillis has 6 children, they are: Mel Tillis Jr. (a songwriter), Pam Tillis, Carrie April Tillis, Connie Tillis, Cindy Tillis, and Hannah Tillis. Mel Tillis has 1brother, Richard, and 2 sisters, Linda and Imogene.

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Speech Differences And Stutter Series-Disabled Legend Robert Merrill

Robert Merrill was born Morris (Moishe) Miller on 4 June, 1917 in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York, USA and died on 23 October, 2004 at home in New Rochelle, NY, while watching Game 1 of the 2004 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals. Robert Merrill is interred at the Sharon Gardens Cemetery in Valhalla, NY, which is a subdivision of the Kensico Cemetery. Robert Merrill’s headstone features an opera curtain that has been drawn open. In keeping with Jewish tradition, small rocks rest on top of the headstone.

Robert Merrill was an American operatic baritone. While there has been dispute of his birth year (some claim he was born in 1919), the social security index, his family, and his gravestone state that he was born in 1917.

Robert Merrill was born to tailor Abraham Miller, originally Milstein, and his wife Lillian, née Balaban, immigrants from Warsaw, Poland. Lillian claimed to have had an operatic and concert career in Poland (a fact denied by her son in his biographies) and encouraged her son to have early voice training: he had a tendency to stutter, which disappeared when singing. Robert Merrill was inspired to pursue professional singing lessons when he saw the baritone Richard Bonelli singing Count Di Luna in a performance of Il Trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera, and paid for them with money earned as a semi-professional pitcher.

In his early radio appearances as a crooner he was sometimes billed as Merrill Miller. While singing at bar mitzvahs and weddings and Borscht Belt resorts, he met an agent, Moe Gale, who found him work at Radio City Music Hall and with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Arturo Toscanini. With Arturo Toscanini conducting, he eventually sang in 2 of the famous maestro’s NBC broadcasts of famous operas, La traviata (with Licia Albanese, in 1946), and Un ballo in maschera (with Herva Nelli, in 1954). Both of those broadcasts were eventually released on both LP and CD.

Robert Merrill’s 1944 operatic debut was in Verdi’s Aida at Newark, New Jersey, with the famous tenor Giovanni Martinelli, then at the end of his long stage career.

Robert Merrill, who had continued his vocal studies under Samuel Margolis made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1945, as Germont in La Traviata. Also in 1945, Robert Merrill recorded a 78rpm record set with Jeanette MacDonald featuring selections from the operetta Up In Central Park; MacDonald and Robert Merrill did 2 duets together on this album. In 1952, his role in the musical comedy film Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick led to conflict with Sir Rudolf Bing and a brief departure from the Met in 1951. Robert Merrill sang many different baritone roles, becoming, after the on-stage death of Leonard Warren in 1960, the Met’s principal baritone. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he appeared under the direction of Alfredo Antonini in performances of arias from the Italian operatic repertoire for the open air Italian Night concert series at Lewisohn Stadium in New York City. Robert Merrill was described by Time as “one of the Met’s best baritones”. The tenor-baritone duet “Au fond du temple saint” from the opera The Pearl Fishers by Georges Bizet, which he recorded with Jussi Bjorling, was always top of listener’s polls for the BBC’s Your Hundred Best Tunes. It was also No 1. in ABC’s “The Classic 100 Opera”, a poll in which Australians voted for the one moment in opera they could not live without. It is regarded as one of the most perfect tenor/baritone performances of all time. Robert Merrill also continued to perform on radio and television, in nightclubs and recitals. Robert Merrill retired from the Met in 1976. For many years, he led services, often in Borscht Belt hotels, on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

In honour of Robert Merrill’s vast influence on American vocal music, on 16 February,1981 he was awarded the prestigious University of Pennsylvania Glee Club Award of Merit. Beginning in 1964, this award “established to bring a declaration of appreciation to an individual each year that has made a significant contribution to the world of music and helped to create a climate in which our talents may find valid expression.”

Relatively late in his singing career, Robert Merrill also became known for singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Yankee Stadium. Robert Merrill 1st sang the national anthem to open the 1969 baseball season, and it became a tradition for the Yankees to bring him back each year on Opening Day and special occasions. Robert Merrill sang at various Old Timer’s Days (wearing his own pinstriped Yankee uniform with the number “1 1/2” on the back) and the emotional pre-game ceremony for Thurman Munson at Yankee Stadium on 3 August, 1979, the day after the catcher’s death in a plane crash. A recorded Robert Merrill version is sometimes used at Yankee Stadium today. Robert Merrill preferred a traditional approach to the song devoid of additional ornamentation, as he explained to Newsday in 2000, “When you sing the anthem, there’s a legitimacy to it. I’m extremely bothered by these different interpretations of it.” Robert Merrill received the National Medal of Arts in 1993.

Robert Merrill married soprano Roberta Peters in 1952. They parted amicably; he had 2children, a son David and a daughter Lizanne, with his second wife, Marion, née Machno, a pianist. Robert Merrill liked to play golf and was a member of the Westchester Country Club in Rye, New York, for many years.

Robert Merrill wrote 2 books of memoirs, Once More from the Beginning (1965) and Between Acts (1976), and he co-authored a novel, The Divas (1978). Robert Merrill toured all over the world with his arranger and conductor, the world famous Angelo DiPippo who wrote most of his act and performed at concert halls throughout the world. Robert Merrill always donated his time on the Cerebral Palsy telethon with Dennis James.

The opera show “La Traviata” inspired Robert to become an opera singer, this meant fighting his stuttering problems. Robert Merrill found that while he was singing his speech disorder would go away.

Robert Merrill’s epitaph states:

Like a bursting celestial star, he showered his family and the world with love, joy, and beauty.

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Speech Differences And Stutter Series-Disabled Legend Bruce Willis

Walter Bruce Willis was born on 19 March, 1955 in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany. Bruce Willis is an American actor and singer-songwriter. Bruce Willis came to fame in the late 1980s and has since retained a career as both a Hollywood leading man and a supporting actor, in particular for his role as John McClane in the Die Hard series. Bruce Willis was married to actress Demi Moore and they had 3 daughters before their divorce in 2000 after 13 years of marriage. Bruce Willis has released several albums and has appeared in several television shows. Bruce Willis has also starred in over 60 films, including Pulp Fiction, Sin City, Die Hard, Unbreakable, Armageddon and The Sixth Sense

Motion pictures featuring Bruce Willis have grossed US$2.55 to US$3.04,000,000,000 at North American box offices, making him the 7th highest-grossing actor in a leading role, and 8th highest including supporting roles. Bruce Willis is a 2-time Emmy Award-winning, Golden Globe Award-winning, and 4-time Saturn Award-nominated actor and has publicly shown his support for the United States armed forces.

Bruce Willis is the son of a Kassel-born German mother, Marlene, who worked in a bank, and David Willis, an American soldier. Bruce Willis was the oldest of 4 children (his siblings are Florence, David, and Robert). After being discharged from the military in 1957, Bruce Willis’ father took his family back to Penns Grove, New Jersey, USA where he worked as a welder and factory worker. Bruce Willis’ parents separated in 1972 while Bruce Willis was in his teens. Bruce Willis was always an outgoing youngster, although he grew up with a stutter. Bruce Willis attended Penns Grove High School in his hometown. Finding it easy to express himself on stage and losing his stutter in the process, Bruce Willis began performing on stage and his high school activities were marked by such things as the drama club and school council president.

After high school, Bruce Willis took a job as a security guard and he also transported work crews at the DuPont Chambers Works factory in Deepwater, New Jersey, USA. Bruce Willis quit after a colleague was killed on the job,and became a regular at several bars. Bruce Willis learned to play the harmonica and joined an R&B band called Loose Goose. After a stint as a private investigator (a role he would play in the television series Moonlighting as well as in the 1991 film, The Last Boy Scout), Bruce Willis returned to acting. Bruce Willis enrolled in the drama programme at Montclair State University, where he was cast in the class production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Bruce Willis left school in his junior year and moved to New York City, USA.

Bruce Willis returned to the bar scene, only this time for a part-time job. After countless auditions, Bruce Willis made his theater debut in the off-Broadway production of Heaven and Earth. Bruce Willis gained more experience and exposure in Fool for Love, an appearance on television’s Miami Vice, and in a Levi’s commercial.

Bruce Willis left New York City and headed to California to audition for several television shows. Bruce Willis auditioned for the TV series Moonlighting (1985–89), while competing against 3,000 other actors for the position and was selected to play David Addison Jr. The starring role helped to establish him as a comedic actor, with the show lasting 5 seasons. During the height of the show’s success, beverage maker Seagram hired Bruce Willis as the pitchman for their Golden Wine Cooler products. The memorable ad campaign paid the rising star between $5 and $7,000,000 over 2 years. In spite of that, Bruce Willis chose not to renew his contract with the company when he decided to stop drinking alcohol in 1988. One of his 1st major film roles was in the 1987 Blake Edwards film Blind Date alongside Kim Basinger and John Laroquette. However, it was his then-unexpected turn in the film Die Hard that catapulted him to fame. Bruce Willis performed most of his own stunts in the film, and the film grossed US$138,708,852 worldwide. Due to its box office success, the film would eventually tender 3 sequels, with the most recent entry, Live Free or Die Hard,released in June 2007. Following his success with Die Hard, he had a supporting role in the drama In Country as Vietnam veteran Emmett Smith, for which he received a Golden Globe Award nomination for “Best Performance by an Actor in Supporting Role in a Motion Picture”. Bruce Willis also provided his voice for a talking baby in Look Who’s Talking and its sequel.

In the late-1980s, Bruce Willis enjoyed moderate success as a recording artist, recording an album of pop-blues entitled The Return of Bruno, which included the hit single “Respect Yourself”, promoted by a Spinal Tap-like rockumentary parody featuring scenes of him performing at famous events including Woodstock. Follow-up recordings were not as successful, though Bruce Willis has returned to the recording studio several times. In the early 1990s, Bruce Willis’ career suffered a moderate slump starring in flops such as The Bonfire of the Vanities, Striking Distance and a film he co-wrote entitled Hudson Hawk, among others. Bruce Willis starred in a leading role in the highly sexualized thriller Colour of Night (1994), which was very poorly received by critics but has become popular on video. However, in 1994 he had a supporting role in Quentin Tarantino’s acclaimed Pulp Fiction, which gave a new boost to his career. In 1996, he was the executive producer of the cartoon Bruno the Kid which featured a CGI representation of himself. Bruce Willis went on to play the lead roles in 12 Monkeys and The 5th Element. However, by the end of the 1990s, his career had fallen into another slump with critically panned films like The Jackal, Mercury Rising, and Breakfast of Champions, saved only by the success of the Michael Bay-directed Armageddon which was the highest grossing film of 1998 worldwide. The same year his voice and likeness were featured in the PlayStation video game Apocalypse.

In 1999, Bruce Willis then went on to the starring role in M. Night Shyamalan’s film, The Sixth Sense. The film was both a commercial and critical success and helped to increase interest in his acting career. Bruce Willis once had to appear in the sitcom Friends without pay, because he lost a bet to Matthew Perry, his co-star in the comedy The Whole 9 Yards and its sequel The Whole 10 Yards. Bruce Willis won a 2000 Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his work on Friends (in which he played the father of Ross Geller’s much-younger girlfriend). Bruce Willis was also nominated for a 2001 American Comedy Award (in the Funniest Male Guest Appearance in a TV Series category) for his work on Friends. Bruce Willis was originally cast as Terry Benedict in Ocean’s Eleven (2001) but dropped out to work on recording an album. In Ocean’s Twelve (2004), he makes a cameo appearance as himself. Bruce Willis recently appeared in the Planet Terror half of the double feature Grindhouse as the villain, a mutant soldier. This marks Bruce Willis’ 2nd collaboration with director Robert Rodriguez, following Sin City.

Bruce Willis has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman several times throughout his career. Bruce Willis filled in for an ill David Letterman on his show 26 February, 2003, when he was supposed to be a guest. Bruce Willis interviewed Dan Rather in what he would later call “the most serious conversation of my entire life”. On many of his appearances on the show, Bruce Willis stages elaborate jokes, such as wearing a day-glo orange suit in honour of the Central Park gates, having one side of his face made up with simulated buckshot wounds after the Harry Whittington shooting, or trying to break a record (parody of David Blaine) of staying underwater for only 20 seconds. On 12 April, 2007, he appeared again, this time wearing a Sanjaya Malakar wig. Bruce Willis’ most recent appearance was on 25 June, 2007 when he appeared wearing a mini-turbine strapped to his head to accompany a joke about his own fictional documentary entitled An Unappealing Hunch (a wordplay of An Inconvenient Truth). Bruce Willis also appeared on Japanese Subaru Legacy television commercials, optimizing the car for sale, with the backing music of Jade from Sweetbox, “Addicted” and “Hate Without Frontiers”. Tying in with this, Subaru did a limited run of Legacys, badged “Subaru Legacy Touring Bruce”, in honour of Bruce Willis. Bruce Willis has appeared in 4 movies with Samuel L. Jackson (National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1, Pulp Fiction, Die Hard with a Vengeance, and Unbreakable) and both actors were slated to work together in Black Water Transit before dropping out. Bruce Willis also worked alongside his eldest daughter, Rumer, in the 2005 film Hostage. In 2007, he appeared in the thriller Perfect Stranger, opposite Halle Berry, the crime/drama film Alpha Dog, opposite Sharon Stone, and marked his return to the role of John McClane in Live Free or Die Hard.

Bruce Willis appeared on the 2008 Blues Traveler album North Hollywood Shootout, giving a spoken word performance over an instrumental blues-rock jam on the track “Free Willis (Ruminations from Behind Uncle Bob’s Machine Shop)”.

Bruce Willis’ future projects include 3 other films that will debut between 2008 and 2009. Bruce Willis will join the Assassination of a High School President, which is a 2008 comedy where he will be a Catholic school principal and his real-life eldest daughter, Rumer, will star as a student investigating missing SAT tests. Bruce Willis’ 2 2009 films will include the drama Morgan’s Summit, where he will depict a late night radio host who promotes kindness, but changes his demeanor after a brutal crime causes him to seek revenge and The Last Full Measure, a drama film based on a true story about a Vietnam War veteran. Bruce Willis has also signed on to play Kane in a film adaptation of the game Kane & Lynch: Dead Men.

Bruce Willis was slated to play U.S. Army general William R. Peers in director Oliver Stone’s Pinkville, a drama about the investigation of the 1968 My Lai massacre. However, due to the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike, the film was cancelled and Bruce Willis instead joined the film, The Surrogates, which is based on the comic books of the same name.

At the premiere for the film Stakeout, Bruce Willis met actress Demi Moore who was dating actor Emilio Estevez at the time. Bruce Willis married Demi Moore on 21 November, 1987 and had 3 daughters (Rumer Glenn Willis (born 1988), Scout LaRue Willis (1991) and Tallulah Belle Willis (1994)) before the couple divorced on 18 October, 2000. The couple gave no public reason for their breakup. Bruce Willis reacting on his divorce stated “I felt I had failed as a father and a husband by not being able to make it work” and credited actor Will Smith for helping him get through the divorce. Bruce Willis and Demi Moore currently share custody of the 3 daughters they had during their 13 year union. Since their breakup, rumors persisted that the couple planned to re-marry, but Demi Moore has since married the younger actor Ashton Kutcher. Bruce Willis has maintained a close relationship with both Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, even attending their wedding. Since his divorce he has dated models Maria Bravo Rosado and Emily Sandberg and also was engaged to Brooke Burns, until they broke up in 2004 after dating for 10 months. In 2007, he was spotted dating Playboy Playmates Tamara Witmer and Karen McDougal on different occasions. Bruce Willis is currently dating girlfriend Emma Heming. Bruce Willis has expressed interest in getting married again and having more children.

Bruce Willis was, at one point, Lutheran (specifically Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod); but no longer practices, based on a statement he made in the July 1998 issue of George magazine:

“Organized religions in general, in my opinion, are dying forms”, he says. “They were all very important when we didn’t know why the sun moved, why weather changed, why hurricanes occurred, or volcanoes happened”, he continues. “Modern religion is the end trail of modern mythology. But there are people who interpret the Bible literally. Literally!” he says incredulously. “I choose not to believe that’s the way. And that’s what makes America cool, you know?”

In early 2006, Bruce Willis, who usually lives in Los Angeles, moved into an apartment located in the Trump Tower in New York City. Bruce Willis also has a home in Malibu, California, a ranch in Montana, a beach home on Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos, and multiple properties in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Bruce Willis owns his own motion picture production company called Cheyenne Enterprises which he started with his business parter Arnold Rifkin in 2000. Bruce Willis also owns several small businesses in Hailey, Idaho including The Mint Bar and The Liberty Theater and is a co-founder of Planet Hollywood along with actors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. Bruce Willis’ dog, a Yorkshire Terrier is named Wolf Fishbein (“Wolfie”) after a character in the Woody Allen movie Deconstructing Harry.

Bruce Willis, an avid New Jersey Nets fan, made controversial comments on 29 April, 2007 during a live broadcast of a Nets home playoff game vs. the Toronto Raptors on TSN by saying a catch phrase from his Die Hard films, “Yipee-ki-yay motherfucker”, at the end of the interview. Reacting to the backlash, he later blamed his actions on jet lag, stating: “Sometimes I overestimate my ability to function under duress with less than enough sleep”.

On 5 May, 2007, someone using the screen name “Walter_B” started posting detailed responses onto Ain’t it Cool News, where people were discussing the fact that Live Free or Die Hard received a PG-13 rating, instead of an R rating like the earlier 3 Die hard films.The responses included detailed information on Live Free or Die Hard, which was yet to be released; the theme of the Die Hard film series, direct criticisms of other movie crews and casts, and many movie trivia answers. “Walter_B” was Bruce Willis himself, directly posting his opinions. Many people were skeptical that “Walter_B” was indeed Bruce Willis, but on 9 May, Bruce Willis revealed his identity on a video chat session.

Bruce Willis is an avid fight fan and often attends boxing matches. Bruce Willis has attended both the Floyd Mayweather, Jr. v Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe v Bernard Hopkins fights, which have come to be known as the ‘British Invasion’ fights, after the popularity of the ‘British Invasion’ bands of the 1960s to the late 1970s in America.

Having begun to suffer from Male Pattern Baldness at a relatively young age (his receding hairline is visibly starting by Die Hard), Bruce Willis chose to shave his head once the loss was too severe to stylistically hide. However, he has worn a hairpiece or a toupee for several of his roles – but only when the character is known to have hair (such as in Sin City). Bruce Willis is one of the very few actors in Hollywood who has not pursued hair replacement in his personal life, and this has endeared him to the millions of men who themselves suffer from hair loss.

Bruce Willis is close friends with Matthew Perry.

In 2007, Bruce Willis stated he was not in favour of war in Iraq, but instead liked, “to support the young men and women who are over there participating in the war.” Bruce Willis has endorsed every Republican presidential candidate except Bob Dole in 1996, because Dole had criticized Demi Moore for her role in the movie Striptease. Bruce Willis was an invited speaker at the 2000 Republican National Convention,and continues to vocally support gun ownership. Bruce Willis has criticized the religious right and its influence on the Republican party. In February 2006, Bruce Willis appeared in Manhattan to talk about 16 Blocks with reporters. One reporter attempted to ask Bruce Willis about his opinion on current events but was interrupted by Bruce Willis in mid-sentence:

“ I’m sick of answering this fucking question. I’m a Republican only as far as I want a smaller government, I want less government intrusion. I want them to stop shitting on my money and your money and tax dollars that we give 50 percent of… every year. I want them to be fiscally responsible and I want these goddamn lobbyists out of Washington. Do that and I’ll say I’m a Republican… I hate the government, OK? I’m apolitical. Write that down. I’m not a Republican.”

In several June 2007 interviews, he declared that he still maintains some Republican ideologies but is currently an independent. In an interview for the June 2007 issue of Vanity Fair, Bruce Willis said he was skeptical that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and suggested that some people involved in the assassination are still in power today.

In 2006, he proposed that the United States should invade Colombia in order to end the drug trafficking. In several interviews with USA Weekend, Bruce Willis has said that he supports large salaries for teachers, and says that he is disappointed in the United States’ foster care and treatment of Native Americans. Bruce Willis also stated that he is a big supporter of gun rights:

“Everyone has a right to bear arms. If you take guns away from legal gun owners, then the only people who have guns are the bad guys.” Even a pacifist, he insists, would get violent if someone were trying to kill him. “You would fight for your life.”

Throughout his film career, Bruce Willis has depicted several military characters in films such as The Siege, Hart’s War, Tears of the Sun, and Grindhouse. Growing up in a military family, Bruce Willis has been publicly supportive of the United States armed forces. In 2002, Bruce Willis’ youngest daughter, Tallulah, suggested that he purchase Girl Scout cookies to send to troops. Bruce Willis purchased 12,000 boxes of cookies, and they were distributed to sailors aboard USS John F. Kennedy and other troops stationed throughout the Middle East at the time. In 2003, Bruce Willis visited Iraq as part of the USO tour, singing to the troops with his band, The Accelerators. Some reports from military officials suggest that Bruce Willis tried to enlist in the military to help fight the 2nd Iraq war, but he was turned away because of his age. It was believed he offered $1,000,000 to any civilian who turns in terrorist leaders Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi; in the June 2007 issue of Vanity Fair, however, he clarified that the statement was made hypothetically and not meant to be taken literally. Bruce Willis has also criticized the media for its coverage of the war, complaining that the press were more likely to focus on the negative aspects of the war:

“I went to Iraq because what I saw when I was over there was soldiers — young kids for the most part — helping people in Iraq; helping getting the power turned back on, helping get hospitals open, helping get the water turned back on and you don’t hear any of that on the news. You hear, ‘X number of people were killed today,’ which I think does a huge disservice. It’s like spitting on these young men and women who are over there fighting to help this country.”

Bruce Willis has said that he wants to “make a pro-war film in which American soldiers will be depicted as brave fighters for freedom and democracy.” The film will follow members of Deuce 4,the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry, who spent considerable time in Mosul and were decorated heavily for it. The film is to be based on the writings of blogger Michael Yon, a former United States Army Special Forces Green Beret who was embedded with Deuce 4 and sent regular dispatches about their activities. Bruce Willis described the plot of the film as “these guys who do what they are asked for very little money to defend and fight for what they consider to be freedom.” Bruce Willis does not appear to have spoken publicly about his plans for this movie since 2005.

Since March 2008,Bruce Willis has been playing the role of the ‘Child Catcher’ in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium.

In 1996, Roger Director, a writer and producer from Moonlighting wrote a roman à clef on Willis titled A Place to Fall. Cybill Shepherd wrote in her 2000 autobiography, Cybill Disobedience, that Bruce Willis was angry at Director, because the character was written as a “neurotic, petulant actor.”

In 1998 Bruce Willis participated in Apocalypse, a Sony Playstation game. The game was originally announced to feature Bruce Willis but was soon discovered he appeared as a sidekick, not as the main character. The company reworked the game using Bruce Willis’ likeness and voice and changed the game to use him as the main character.

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Schizophrenia Series-Disabled Legend Roger Kynard

Roky Erickson was born Roger Kynard Erickson on 15 July, 1947. Roky Erickson is an American singer, songwriter, harmonica player and guitarist from Texas. Roky Erickson was a founding member of the 13th Floor Elevators and pioneer of the psychedelic rock genre.

Roky Erickson was interested in music from his youth: he played piano from the age of 5 and took up guitar at the age of 12. Roky Erickson attended school in Austin and dropped out of Travis High School in 1965, 1 month before graduating, rather than cut his hair to conform to the school dress code. Roky Erickson’s 1st notable group was The Spades, who scored a regional hit with Roky Erickson’s song “We Sell Soul”; this song is included on the compilation album Highs in the Mid 60s, Volume 17(although the songwriter is identified as Emil Schwartze on the track listing on this album).

Roky Erickson co-founded the 13th Floor Elevators in late 1965. Roky Erickson and bandmate Tommy Hall were the main songwriters. Early in her career, singer Janis Joplin considered joining the Elevators, but Family Dog’s Chet Helms persuaded her to go to San Francisco, California, USA instead, where she found major fame.

In 1966 (Roky Erickson was 19 years old) the band released their debut album The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators. Psychedelic Sounds had the band’s only charting single, Roky Erickson’s “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” A stinging post-romantic breakup song, the single remains probably Roky Erickson’s best-known work: it was a major hit on local charts in the U.S. southwest, and appeared at lower position on national singles charts as well. Critic Mark Deming writes that “If Roky Erickson had vanished from the face of the earth after The 13th Floor Elevators released their epochal debut single, ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me,’ in early 1966, in all likelihood he’d still be regarded as a legend among garage rock fanatics for his primal vocal wailing and feral harmonica work.”

In 1967, the band followed up with Easter Everywhere, perhaps the band’s most focused effort, featuring the epic track “Slip Inside This House”, and a noted cover of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.”

After the band’s 3rd album, Live, which featured audience applause dubbed over studio recordings of cover versions and older material, The 13th Floor Elevators released their 4th and final album Bull of the Woods in 1968. Due to Roky Erickson’s health and legal problems, his contribution to the album is limited, with guitarist Stacy Sutherland taking more of a leading role.

In 1968, while doing a stint at Hemisfair, Roky Erickson started speaking nonsense. Roky Erickson was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and sent to a Houston psychiatric hospital, where he involuntarily received electroconvulsive therapy.

The Elevators were vocal proponents of mescaline (peyote), LSD, and marijuana use, and were subject to extra attention from police. In 1969, Roky Erickson was arrested for possession of 1 marijuana joint in Austin. Facing a 10 year prison term, Roky Erickson pled not guilty by reason of insanity. Roky Erickson was 1st sent to the Austin State Hospital. After several escapes, he was sent to the Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where he was subjected to more electroconvulsive therapy and Thorazine treatments, ultimately remaining in custody until 1972.

When released from the state hospital, Roky Erickson’s mental outlook had changed. In 1974, he formed a new band which he called Bleib Alien, Bleib being an anagram of Bible and/or German for Stay, and “Alien” being a pun on the German word “Allein” (“alone”) – the phrase in German therefore being “Remain alone”. Roky Erickson’s new band exchanged the psychedelic sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators for a more heavy metal sound that featured lyrics on old horror film and science fiction themes. “2Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer)” (produced by The Sir Douglas Quintet’s Doug Sahm) was released as a single.

The new band renamed itself Roky Erickson and the Aliens. In 1979, Roky Erickson recorded 15 new songs with producer Stu Cook, former bass player of Creedence Clearwater Revival. These efforts were released in 2 “overlapping” LPs – TEO/CBS UK, and The Evil 1/415 records. Stu Cook also played bass on 2 tracks, “Sputnik” and “Bloody Hammer.” Roky Erickson also performed with The Nervebreakers as his backup band at The Palladium in Dallas in 1979. A recording was issued on the French label New Rose and was recently re-issued elsewhere. In 1982, Roky Erickson asserted that a Martian had inhabited his body. Roky Erickson later reported to friends that aliens were coming to Earth to harm him, and asked a Notary Public to witness an official declaration that he was himself an alien, hoping that this would convince the aliens to leave him alone.

In an unmedicated state, Roky Erickson began a years-long obsession with the mail, often spending hours poring over random junk mail, writing to solicitors and celebrities (dead or living). Roky Erickson was arrested in 1989 on charges of mail theft. Roky Erickson picked up mail from neighbours who had moved and taped it to the walls of his room. Roky Erickson insisted that he never opened any of the mail, and the charges were ultimately dropped.

Several live albums of his older material have been released since then, and in 1990 Sire Records/Warner Bros. Records released a tribute album, Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye produced by WB executive Bill Bentley. It featured versions of Roky Erickson’s songs performed by The Jesus and Mary Chain, R.E.M., ZZ Top, Julian Cope, Bongwater, John Wesley Harding, Doug Sahm and Primal Scream. According to the liner notes, the title of the album came from a remark Roky Erickson made to a friend who asked him to define psychedelic music, to which Roky Erickson reportedly replied “It’s where the pyramid meets the eye, man!” (the quote is also a reference to the Eye of Providence).

In 1995, Roky Erickson released All That May Do My Rhyme on Butthole Surfers drummer King Coffey’s label Trance Syndicate Records. Produced by Texas Tornado bassist Speedy Sparks, Austin recording legend Stuart Sullivan and Texas Music Office director Casey Monahan, the release coincided with the publication of Openers II, a complete collection of Roky Erickson’s lyrics. Published by Henry Rollins’s 2.13.61 Publications, it was compiled and edited by Casey Monahan with assistance from Henry Rollins and Roky Erickson’s youngest brother Sumner Erickson, a classical tuba player.

Sumner Erickson was granted legal custody of Roky in 2001, and established a legal trust to aid his brother. As a result, Roky Erickson received some of the most effective medical and legal aid of his life, the latter useful in helping sort out the complicated tangle of contracts, which had reduced royalty payments to all but nothing for his recorded works. Roky Erickson also started taking medication to control his schizophrenia.

A documentary film on the life of Roky Erickson titled You’re Gonna Miss Me was made by director Keven McAlester and screened at the 2005 SXSW film festival. In September of the same year, Roky Erickson performed his 1st full-length concert in 20years at the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival with The Explosives.

In the 30 December, 2005 issue of the Austin Chronicle, an alternative weekly newspaper in Austin, Texas, Margaret Moser brings up to date the story of Roky Erickson’s recovery with the aid of his brother Sumner. According to the article, Roky Erickson weaned himself off his medication, played at 11 gigs in Austin that year, obtained a driver’s license, owns a car (a Volvo), voted the previous year, and planned to do more concerts with The Explosives in 2006.

In 2007, Roky Erickson played his 1st ever gig in New York City, as well as California’s Coachella Festival and made a stunning debut performance in England to a capacity audience at the Royal Festival Hall, London. Roky Erickson continued to play in Europe, performing for the 1st time in Finland at Ruisrock festival. According to the article in Helsingin Sanomat 8 June 2007, the performance was widely considered the highlight of the festival day.

According to an interview on Sound Opinions on Chicago Public Radio with You’re Gonna Miss Me director Kevin McAlester (7/24/07), Roky Erickson is currently working on a new album with Billy Gibbons, singer and guitarist of ZZ Top, and a longtime admirer of Roky Erickson; Billy Gibbons’ earlier band The Moving Sidewalks had a hit with “99th floor”, which was a tribute of sorts to the Elevators.

On 8th September 2008, Scottish post-rock band Mogwai released the ‘The Batcat EP’. Roky Erickson is featured on 1 of the tracks, ‘Devil Rides’.

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Schizophrenia Series-Disabled Legend Alexander “Skip” Spence

Alexander Lee “Skip” Spence was born on 18 April, 1946 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada and died on 16 April, 1999 from lung cancer. Alexander “Skip” Spence was 52, just 2days shy of his 53rd birthday.

Alexander “Skip” Spence was a musician and singer-songwriter best known for his work with Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape and as a solo artist. Alexander “Skip” Spence and his family relocated to San Jose, California in the late 1950s. Alexander “Skip” Spence’s career was plauged by drug addictions coupled with mental health problems, and is described by a biographer as man who “neither died young nor had a chance to find his way out. Unlike the advice in the Neil Young song, he both burned out and faded away;” yet during his tenure in the public eye, he had a profound impact on the outsider music and psych-folk genres.

Alexander “Skip” Spence was a guitarist in an early line-up of Quicksilver Messenger Service before Marty Balin recruited him to be the drummer for Jefferson Airplane. After 1 album with Jefferson Airplane, their debut Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, he left to co-found Moby Grape, once again as a guitarist. It was with Moby Grape that Alexander “Skip” Spence found his greatest musical fame, writing among other songs, “Omaha”, from Moby Grape’s 1st album (1967) a song identified in 2008 by Rolling Stone Magazine as 1 of the 100 greatest guitar songs of all time.

Alexander “Skip” Spence is acknowledged as having been instrumental in the formation of the Doobie Brothers, by way of introducing John Hartman to Tom Johnston, and encouraging their musical development.

During the recording session of Moby Grape’s 2nd album, Wow, in 1968, Alexander “Skip” Spence attempted to break down a bandmate’s hotel room door with a fire axe, while under the influence of LSD. Alexander “Skip” Spence’s deterioration in New York and the “fire axe incident” are described by bandmate Jerry Miller as follows: “Skippy changed radically when we were in New York. There were some people there that were into harder drugs and a harder lifestyle, and some very weird shit. And so he kind of flew off with those people. Skippy kind of disappeared for a little while. Next time we saw him, he had cut off his beard, and was wearing a black leather jacket, with his chest hanging out, with some chains and just sweating like a son of a gun. I don’t know what the hell he got a hold of, man, but it just whacked him. And the next thing I know, he axed my door down in the Albert Hotel. They said at the reception area that this crazy guy had held an ax to the doorman’s head.”

As described by bandmate Peter Lewis, it appears that both Jerry Miller and bandmade Don Stevenson were targets of Alexander “Skip” Spence: “We had to do (the album) in New York because the producer (David Rubinson) wanted to be with his family. So we had to leave our families and spend months at a time in hotel rooms in New York City. Finally I just quit and went back to California. I got a phone call after a couple of days. They’d played a Fillmore East gig without me, and Skippy took off with some black witch afterward who fed him full of acid. It was like that scene in The Doors movie. He thought he was the anti-Christ. He tried to chop down the hotel room door with a fire axe to kill Don (Stevenson) to save him from himself. He went up to the 52nd floor of the CBS building where they had to wrestle him to the ground. And Rubinson pressed charges against him. They took him to the The Tombs (and then to Bellevue) and that’s where he wrote Oar. When he got out of there, he cut that album in Nashville. And that was the end of his career. They shot him full of Thorazine for 6 months. They just take you out of the game.”

During his 6 months in Bellevue, Alexander “Skip” Spence was diagnosed with schizophrenia. On the day of his release, he drove a motorcycle, dressed in only his pajamas, directly to Nashville to record his only solo album, with no other musicians appearing on it, the now-classic psychedelic/folk album Oar (1969, Columbia Records).

Alexander “Skip” Spence continued to have minor involvement in later Moby Grape projects and reunions. Alexander “Skip” Spence contributed to 20 Granite Creek(1971) and Live Grape(1978), though his bandmates always included at least 1 of his songs on group recordings, irrespective of whether he was capable of performing with the group at the time. Alexander “Skip” Spence had been similarly remembered by Jefferson Airplane, whereby his song, “My Best Friend” was included on the group’s definitive Surrealistic Pillow album (1967), despite his departure from the group.

Due to his deteriorating state and notwithstanding that he was no longer functioning in the band, Alexander “Skip” Spence was supported by Moby Grape band members for extended periods. Voluminous consumption of heroin and cocaine resulted in a further involuntary committal for Alexander “Skip” Spence, based on “Aqualung”-like behaviours. As described by Peter Lewis, “Skippy was just hanging around. He hadn’t been all there for years, because he’d been into heroin all that time. In fact he actually ODed once and they had him in the morgue in San Jose with a tag on his toe. All of a sudden he got up and asked for a glass of water. Now he was snortin’ big clumps of coke, and nothing would happen to him. We couldn’t have him around because he’d be pacing the room, describing axe murders. So we got him a little place of his own. He had a little white rat named Oswald that would snort coke too. He’d never washed his dishes, and he’d try to get these little grammar school girls to go into the house with him. He was real bad. One of the parents finally called the cops, and they took him to the County Mental Health Hospital in Santa Cruz. Where they immediately lost him, and he turned up days later in the women’s ward.”

Mental illness, drug addiction and alcoholism thus prevented Alexander “Skip” Spence from sustaining a career in the music industry. Much of his life was spent in third party care, as a ward of the State of California, and either homeless or in transient accommodations in his later years. Alexander “Skip” Spence remained in and around San Jose and Santa Cruz, California. Peter Lewis regularly visited Alexander “Skip” Spence during the latter years of his life: “The last 5 years I’d go up‚ he lived in a trailer up there‚ Capitola. I used to hang around with him; we’d spend the weekends together. But he just basically kind of hit the…he was helpless in a way in terms of being able to define anything or control his feelings.”

As 1 of his 4 children, son Omar Spence, recalls, “When I saw my dad, it broke my heart. …There were moments of clarity when he was genius smart, and then he’d wander off having a conversation with himself. Here’s a homeless guy that most people would walk past and pity, and he’d say, ‘I’ve been working on a song’, and he’d scratch out some bar chords and musical notes on a napkin.”

Spence died More Oar: A Tribute to Alexander “Skip” Spence, an album featuring contributions from Robert Plant, Tom Waits, Beck, among others, was released a few weeks after his death. Prior to its release, the CD was played for Alexander “Skip” Spence at the hospital, in his final stages before death. As Peter Lewis recalls, “He was in a coma‚ and the last thing to go is your hearing. And they had More Oar in there and were playing it for him as they pulled the plug and we were holding his hands. I mean‚ it was like this death of Van Gogh or something. That’s the drama of it. You know…it was just so intense.”

Alexander “Skip” Spence’s “Land of the Sun”, one of the only post-Grape recordings he ever completed, was nearly placed on the X-Files soundtrack, Songs In The Key of X. Alexander “Skip” Spence had been commissioned to write the song.

In June, 2008, an Alexander “Skip” Spence Tribute Concert was held in Santa Cruz. The concert featured Alexander “Skip” Spence’s son, Omar Spence, who has sung with various configurations of Moby Grape in recent years. Omar Spence, singing his father’s songs, was backed by the Santa Cruz White Album Ensemble, with Dale Ockerman and Tiran Porter, both formerly of the Doobie Brothers, and both of whom have played with various members of Moby Grape in several bands over the past 3 decades. Keith Graves of Quicksilver Messenger Service played drums. Peter Lewis joined the group onstage for the finale. An additional Alexander “Skip” Spence tribute concert is planned for October, 2008.

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