RIP Joe Sample: Houston Music Icon Dies at 75

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Photo by Marco Torres
Joe Sample, the Houston native whose masterful keyboard playing made him a leading figure in the jazz fusion movement of the '60s and '70s and a top session musician in jazz, R&B and pop for several decades, passed away Friday night, according to his Facebook page. His family announced his death with the following message:

[Wife] Yolanda and his son Nicklas would like to thank all of you, his fans and friends, for your prayers and support during this trying time. Please know that Joe was aware and very appreciative of all of your prayers, comments, letters/cards and well wishes.

Sample was a graduate of Wheatley High School, where he and some classmates founded a group they called the Jazz Crusaders in the mid-'50s. They moved to Southern California in the early '60s and became one of the most popular and respected groups in jazz thanks to albums like Freedom Sound and Looking Ahead. In the '70s, as their sound incorporated more and more elements of funk and R&B, the group changed its name to the Crusaders. Sample also took plenty of jobs on the side, appearing on classic pop-rock albums such as Joni Mitchell's Court & Spark, Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On and Canned Heat's Up the Country. It was not easy work, he told the Houston Press in 2013:


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RIP Dick Wagner: Nightmarishly Good Rock Guitarist Was 71

Note: Dick Wagner, a guitarist who played with everyone from Lou Reed to Hall & Oates but most famously with Alice Cooper's '70s band (he co-wrote "Welcome to My Nightmare" with Cooper, among other shock-rock hits), passed away Wednesday morning at age 71, according to ultimateclassicrock.com. As tribute, Rocks Off would like to re-run the interview our Bob Ruggiero did with Wagner shortly after the publication of his 2012 memoir, Not Only Women Bleed: Vignettes From the Heart of a Rock Musician.

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Rocks Off: First I have to ask, how is your health?
Dick Wagner:
Well, it's very good. I made a very strong comeback and am getting ready to tour in the spring and summertime. I barely picked up a guitar for five years. And I'm going to Italy in a few days to produce a band. So I feel good and I'm being active.


You started your career at a time when there really were regional music scenes, and bands -- like the Bossmen and the Frost -- could be hugely successful with hit singles and radio play in one area and then maybe spread. Do you think we miss something by not really having that anymore?
Oh, absolutely. Everyone looks to radio, and to build a local scene, you had to have local radio support and you could gather up a fan base. It was exciting. With the Bossmen, we got so tight with the guys at the radio stations that we'd go in and make up skits right there in the studio with the DJs.

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Billy Gibbons, Others Remember Johnny Winter

Categories: Miles-tones

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Photo courtesy of Cactus Music
Cactus Music GM Quinn Bishop (left) and Johnny Winter
Tributes are pouring in for Texas blues icon Johnny Winter, who passed away overnight Wednesday while on tour in Switzerland. The Beaumont native was found in his hotel room in Zurich, a spokesperson said. He was 70.

The albino Winter, two years older than his rock-star brother Edgar (of "Frankenstein" fame), went from Gulf Coast dives to Woodstock and some of the UK's biggest festivals of the late '60s. With a fiery, fearless technique matched by only Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton among his contemporaries, at one point he reportedly signed the biggest advance in music-business history. But he was a bluesman to the core, eventually helping his idol Muddy Waters get his career on track by producing three albums for the Mississippi legend, Hard Again, I'm Ready and King Bee. In 2011, Winter came in at No. 63 on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list.

One of his biggest fans was ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, who released this tribute to Winter via the band's publicist Thursday morning.


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RIP Johnny Winter: Texas Blues Icon Dies at Age 70

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Michael Weintraub/Sony
The quintessential Texas bluesman: Johnny Winter
Guitarist Johnny Winter, one of the true greats of Texas blues, passed away Wednesday night in Switzerland. His publicist sent the following message at 5 a.m. Thursday, and said a longer official statement would follow "at the appropriate time."

"His wife, family and bandmates are all saddened by the loss of one of the world's finest guitarists," it said.

Winter, a native of Beaumont, was 70 and known for his work with Muddy Waters and albums including Second Winter, Nothin' But the Blues and Serious Business. Following is an interview Rocks Off's Bob Ruggiero did with the legend back in February, when Columbia Records released the multi-disc career retrospective True to the Blues. We will have additional tributes to Winter soon as well.


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UPDATED: Seven Years of Lunaface: The Illest Promoters in Town

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Photos by Marco Torres
Lunaface founder Hector Del Valle
UPDATED (Tuesday, 2 p.m.): An earlier version of this article credited Lunaface for bringing Wu-Tang clan to Numbers in December 2010, which is not the case.

For the better part of the last decade, Lunaface Promotions has provided Houston music fans with top-notch showcases that range from classic hip-hop, rock en EspaƱol, legendary DJs, musica Latina, hardcore rap, local talent, and even jazz.

Founder Hector Del Valle is constantly in search of the next great show, something he learned from his years an an understudy of Jeff Messina and passing out flyers all through his twenties.

Lunaface celebrates its 7-year anniversary tonight with The God MC Rakim at Numbers (300 Westheimer). Here's a look of some of their highlights from the last seven years.


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Cosmic Bug Loaf Bassist Chris Bauman Killed in Accident

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Houston's music scene lost a unique voice over the Independence Day weekend. Chris Bauman, bassist, keyboardist and sound engineer for Cosmic Bug Loaf, was struck by a suspected drunk driver and killed outside of San Marcos. He was 26.

Bauman came to the Houston area from Des Moines, Iowa, living in The Woodlands and graduating from high school in 2006. In 2011, he became the final piece of the puzzle that solidified Cosmic Bug Loaf's lineup, joining founding members John Alton and Chad Liebold to create a truly unique psychedelic sound experience that remained one-of-a-kind throughout the band's career.


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Check Out Our Los Skarnales Family Tree

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Photo by Marco Torres
Jose Rodriguez, one of the original founders of Los Skarnales/Desorden.
"It was all pretty much an experiment" says John Garcia, the third original member of Desorden, the band that later evolved into Los Skarnales. "We had to borrow instruments and learned to play them as we went along. But hey, were really good at making loud noises!"

And so began the desmadre that would become Los Skarnales, with family and friends and friends of friends who just decided to have fun and play some tunes. The band celebrates 20 years tonight at Fitzgerald's, which is where I saw them play back when I was a senior in high school around 1997 and 1998.

You could tell right away that they were something special, something fierce and emotional, fueled by beer and the love for ska and punk music.


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Adios, Casey Kasem: Keep Reaching for the Stars

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"Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars."

It's good advice that was delivered weekly for dozens of years by Casey Kasem. The radio personality, whose American Top 40 countdown was a pop-culture fixture for more than 40 years, passed away on Father's Day at the age of 82.

You may have seen the recent stories about his waning health or the unfortunate infighting occurring within his family. Since this is Rocks Off and not Inside Edition, we'll focus on what made Kasem important to music.


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The 15 Most Messed-Up O.J. Simpson Lyrics

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This week America is celebrating -- although that might not be precise terminology for such a dubious occasion -- the 20th anniversary of the Nicole Brown Simpson murders, in which the ex-wife of NFL Hall of Famer/actor O.J. Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were stabbed to death in the overnight hours of June 13, 1994. A few days later, O.J. opted to flee in a white Ford Bronco driven by his friend Al "A.C." Cowlings rather than surrender to police, touching off a nationally televised low-speed police chase that was eventually seen by an estimated 95 million people in the U.S. (Rockets fans might remember Game 5 of the 1994 NBA Finals versus the Knicks being interrupted by the chase; Houston lost the game but took the next two to win the city's first major-league sports championship since the 1961 Houston Oilers.)

After a couple of hours on the Southern California freeways Simpson returned home (or was escorted by cops), gave himself up and was ultimately acquitted in October 1995 after a trial lasting more than eight months. Today so many people remember their exact whereabouts upon learning the verdict that the event has been likened to the JFK assassination a generation before. Although public opinion about the trial has always been sharply divided (and split uncomfortably along racial lines, then and now), it's difficult to deny that the whole Simpson affair -- from fans holding "Run, O.J., Run" banners on freeway overpasses during the chase to the 24-7 coverage of the trial that set the contentious tone of cable news to this day -- held up a funhouse mirror to American society that showed us more than we really wanted to know.


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R.I.P. H.R. Giger: His 10 Best Album Covers (NSFW)

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The world has lost one of its most original voices. H.R. Giger, the surrealist painter and sculptor who designed some of the silver screen's most disturbing monsters, such as the Xenomorph in Alien, died this week at age 74 from injuries related to a fall. He leaves behind him a powerful legacy of images that fused man, monster and machine into a style of art that has influenced countless others.

He was also responsible for a pretty amazing amount of album cover art over the course of his life. Today we look at the ten best.


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