National Obituary Review

Dead Person of the Day – May 29 – Doc Watson

No Comments 28 May 2013


We’re getting back to DPDs this week with a piping hot American legend – Doc Watson.

Mr. Watson, who came to national attention during the folk music revival of the early 1960s, injected a note of authenticity into a movement awash sniveling pip squeaks nasally singing protest songs and other whiney bullcrap. In a sweetly resonant, slightly husky baritone, he sang old hymns, ballads and country blues he had learned growing up in the northwestern corner of North Carolina, which has produced fiddlers, banjo pickers, perverts and the finest gumballs for generations.

Let Mr. Watson be an inspiration to us all. You see, when he was still an infant an eye infection left him blind. He labored on with his studies at the Raleigh School for the Blind bu dropped out of  in the seventh grade and began working for his father, who helped him get past his disability. “I would not have been worth the salt that went in my bread if my dad hadn’t put me at the end of a crosscut saw to show me that there was not a reason in the world that I couldn’t pull my own weight and help to do my part in some of the hard work,” he told Frets magazine in 1979.

Just think about the coddling whippersnappers today enjoy. Doc was goddam blind and his father put him on the end of a crosscut saw. If he get hurt he was taught to follow Studs Terkel’s advice and ‘walk it off’. This was back when people wanted to buy American products you see. But I digress….

His mountain music came as a revelation to the folk audience, as did his virtuoso guitar playing. Unlike most country and bluegrass musicians, who thought of the guitar as a secondary instrument for providing rhythmic backup, Mr. Watson executed the kind of flashy, rapid-fire melodies normally played by a fiddle or a banjo. His style influenced a generation of young musicians learning to play the guitar as folk music achieved national popularity.

Here’s to you Doc. Your ‘can-do’ attitude, humility and gusto are sorely missed these days.

Doc Watson, Blind Guitar Wizard Who Influenced Generations, Dies at 89

Published: May 29, 2012

Doc Watson, the guitarist and folk singer whose flat-picking style elevated the acoustic guitar to solo status in bluegrass and country music, and whose interpretations of traditional American music profoundly influenced generations of folk and rock guitarists, died on Tuesday in Winston-Salem, N.C. He was 89.  Continue

National Obituary Review

More from This week’s DPW – Muddy Waters

No Comments 02 May 2013

National Obituary Review

DPW – Muddy Waters

No Comments 01 May 2013


You’re not crazy. We’re rolling out a a slightly new feature this week – DPW (dead person of the week). We figured, some of our DPDs have SO much to offer we really should spend a full week exploring their contribution to humanity. This week’s DPW is a scorching example.

Muddy Waters.

Muddy might just be the single most responsible person for the trajectory of American music in the 20th century. In 1958, he became the first artist to play electric blues in England his visit inspired young musicians like Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones, who later named their band the Rolling Stones after Mr. Waters’s early hit “Rollin’ Stone.” Bob Dylan’s mid-1960’s rock hit “Like a Rolling Stone” and the leading rock newspaper Rolling Stone were also named after Mr. Waters’s original song. It’s rumored that the AMA named the ailment kidney stones after Muddy because both were gritty, rough and could really wear a pair of brown slacks.

Mr. Waters played his blues at Carnegie Hall in 1959, and in 1960 he made a triumphant appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival. His music was cited as a major inspiration for such artists as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Johnny Winter.

In 1941 and 1942, Alan Lomax and John Work recorded Mr. Waters in Mississippi for the Library of Congress.

This week we’ll be exploring some notable examples from Muddy’s catalog. If you’d like to read his obit you can here. Today’s selection comes from the legendary London recording session between Muddy, Eric Claption, Steve Winwood and Mitch Mitchell among others

National Obituary Review

Dead Person of the Day – April 23 – James Critchfield

No Comments 23 April 2013


James Critchfield is an American anomaly. Well decorated from noble service during WWII he was the architect of one of the most bone-headed moves in post war reconstruction as well as ruthlessly exploiting his knowledge of middle eastern energy inside circles for private gain in his later life. Let’s start from the top eh?

Because of his bravery and quick wit he was promoted quickly during WWI and was one of the youngest colonels, leading the 2nd Battalion of 141st Infantry of the 36th Infantry Division. He won the Bronze Star twice, and the Silver Star for gallantry in resisting a German assault on December 12, 1944. Then, things got a little hairy.

In the chaos of post war Germany he was picked by the CIA to collaborate with Hitler’s suddenly unemployed spies in a project to boost America’s espionage against the Soviet bloc. The people Critchfield hired were ex SS or Gestapo lunatics that had been spying on the Soviets for the better part of 2 decades so he figured they’d be a good source of info. So, Critchfield worked out a deal where Washington was funding a rogue organization of Nazis empowering them to continue their spy operation against Russia (virtually unsupervised) after they had been captured. Some would describe that as somewhat of a black-eye on American foreign policy.

What’s worse is his shady dealings with middle eastern energy cliques which he parlayed into a private consultancy after his service for the good ole U.S. of A. But I’ll leave that for the obit to handle.

Pull up your tube socks and grab an obit!

James Critchfield

A CIA agent, he worked with Hitler’s former spies in a disastrous project to undermine the Soviet bloc. Read the obit


National Obituary Review

Dead Person of the Day – April 19 – Scott Crossfield

No Comments 19 April 2013


Today’s DPD – Scott Crossfield – is one hell of an American and someone that really captured the essence of this country at its best. An aeronautical engineer, he’d hurl himself through space faster than the speed of sound, make one heck of a fried egg and think it was all in a days work. Humble as they come, for sure. Do yourself a favor and read this obit and try not to do 10 push-ups when you’re done.

Famed aviator Scott Crossfield dies in plane crash


Published 10:00 pm, Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Scott Crossfield, the University of Washingtongraduate who was the first man to fly at twice the speed of sound, was found dead Thursday in the wreckage of his single-engine plane in Georgia.

Crossfield, 84, dueled with Chuck Yeagera half century ago in piloting rocket-powered aircraft. He helped design and then piloted the X-15 rocket plane. He was a legend to aeronautic students at the UW, but he considered his cutting-edge career an ordinary profession. Continue

National Obituary Review

Dead Person of the Day – April 18 – Edgar Codd

No Comments 18 April 2013


Today’s DPD is a wonderfully brilliant and underrated figure in the history of just about everything over the past 60+ years.

Edgar Codd.

While working at IBM in the 50s and 60s he developed the theory for what is called relational databases. That might not mean very much for the stiffs down the hall at The Shade but relational databases empowers those perverts to search for such things as ‘people with their pants down looking stupid’ and get a spot on hit.

You see prior to Codd’s invention the internet looking like Zoroaster puked data in one big bucket. It was tough to sift through and actually find what you want. Codd enabled databases to cross-reference tables of data, allowing the information to be presented in multiple permutations.

Sadly, at the time IBM was focused on creating different types of databases and cast Codd’s work into the shit bin. It wasn’t until the late 70s until IBM’s new leadership embraced the approach. By that point a Silicon Valley entrepreneur had used used Codd’s academic papers to further develop the theory which eventually served as the basis for the company now known as Oracle.

All this basically means Codd helped us harness the power of the internet and created technology still heavily used today and received diddly squat for it.


Edgar F. Codd, 79, Dies; Key Theorist of Databases


Published: April 23, 2003
Edgar F. Codd, a mathematician and computer scientist who laid the theoretical foundation for relational databases, the standard method by which information is organized in and retrieved from computers, died on Friday at his home in Williams Island, Fla. He was 79. Continue

National Obituary Review

Dead Person of the Day – April 10 – Kevin Hall

No Comments 10 April 2013


Its shocking the subject of today’s DPD isn’t more well known. I have to admit that I didn’t connect the dots before descending into the archives late last night.

Do you realize that the lovable sasquatch character from the Harry and the Hendersons franchise and the Predator (yes THAT Predator) are the same person! Its True!

Kevin Hall – today’s DPD.

Hall was a giant standing well over 7’2″. He went to George Washington University where he played basketball and majored in theater. After graduating he went to Venezuela to pursue a career in the lucrative South American professional basketball scene. Shockingly it didn’t pan out and he returned to L.A. in 1984.

Here’s where the story gets a bit unbelievable. Not only was Hall part of Harry and the Hendersons AND Predator but he also got his start on 227. For those of you out there not familiar with the program….get familiar with it.

We have a new contributor to the DPD effort today with today’s obit coming from Jet Magazine. You can access the obit by clicking here and you might want to spend some time checking out the rest of that issue as well.

National Obituary Review

Dead Person of the Day – April 9 – Richard Condon

No Comments 09 April 2013


Richard Condon started out slinging publicity for Snow White and Dumbo, went on to act as press agent for some of Hollywood’s biggest stars then, at the age of 43, turned himself into a best-selling novelist with The Manchurian Candidate.  He remained a best-seller with over 25 novels to his credit over a career which spanned almost 40 more years.

The Manchurian Candidate was a phenomenal book and a good film. It captured the vibrant balance between paranoia, jingoism and freudian behavioral psychology present during the Cold War. In addition to a tour de force from Frank Sinatra, the film also provided a breakout role for a young, electric Angela Lansbury. Boy, she radiated right off the screen (a luminescence she carried with her throughout her career right up to Murder, She Wrote.

Interestingly enough Sinatra also owned the rights to the film and after President Kennedy was assassinated withdrew it, supposedly for its prescient foretelling of the Kennedy assassination (it was 25 years before it was seen on the cinema screen again).

Condon’s writing often attracted that kind of controversy. The Manchurian Candidate bore no relation to the Kennedy assassination but he later wrote three novels based on that event. The best known, Winter Kills (1974), was in 1979 made into an ingenious film starring Jeff Bridges and directed by John Huston. Although it got rave US reviews it was pulled from cinemas after a couple of weeks and simply disappeared. Condon believed that “Senator Edward Kennedy’s dislike of the film was made known”. Coincidentally or not, the company behind the financing of the film also got $90m of defence contracts each year. Smells like bowl of clam chowder left in a car for a week in July eh?

Richard Condon, Political Novelist, Dies at 81

Published: April 10, 1996
Richard Condon, the fiendishly inventive novelist and political satirist who wrote “The Manchurian Candidate,” “Winter Kills” and “Prizzi’s Honor,” among other books, died yesterday at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. He was 81. Continue


National Obituary Review

Dead Person of the Day – March 28 – Harry Crews

No Comments 28 March 2013


The word “original” only begins to describe Crews, whose 17 novels place him squarely in the Southern gothic tradition. He emerged from a grisly childhood in Georgia with a darkly comic vision that made him literary kin to William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor and Hunter S. Thompson, although, sadly, he never achieved their broad recognition.

He grew up the son of a tenet farmer and, often times, ate clay soil as his only means of sustenance. He finished high school and went into the Marine Corps at the end of the Korean War. After completing his military duty, he used the G.I. Bill to attend the University of Florida, where he, skipped class, did drugs and – eventually – met his wife. They married and divorced twice, along the way producing two sons, one of whom drowned in a neighbor’s pool as a toddler.

His literature was shockingly creative and unapologetically disarming.

  • There was the 600-pound man ensnarled with a sideshow madam (“Naked in Garden Hills,” 1969)
  • Tthe former high school football star whose life comes undone during his backwoods town’s annual rattlesnake hunt (“A Feast of Snakes,” 1976),
  • The boxer reduced to punching himself out (“The Knockout Artist,” 1988)
  • Perhaps the most extreme of Crews’ scenarios unfurled in “Car” (1972), in which the son of a junkyard owner eats an old Ford Maverick chunk by chunk, in the process becoming a spectacle on national television. The New York Times said the novel “may very well be the best metaphor yet made up about America’s passionate love affair with the automobile.”

Take this obit and rub it in some dirt. When you’ve done that put it in the middle of the floor and stare it. Think about some questionable choices you could have made and didn’t – then imagine.

Harry Crews dies at 76; Southern writer with darkly comic vision

April 01, 2012|By Elaine Woo, Los Angeles Times
Harry Crews, a rough-hewn Southerner who drew a keen following with novels that describe a Hieronymus Bosch landscape of grotesques — characters who are tossed into rattlesnake pits, walk on their hands, croon lullabies to a skull and literally eat a car — died Wednesday in Gainesville, Fla. He was 76.


National Obituary Review

Dead Person of the Day – March 21 – Pinetop Perkins

No Comments 21 March 2013


We’ve one of the great Mississippi Delta bluesmen as a subject of today’s DPD – Pinetop Perkins.

It was on the backs of people like Pinetop that American rhythm and blues music was built. He has also been credited with teaching Ike Turner how to play the piano. Elton John, Billy Joel and Gregg Allman have said they were influenced by his exuberant, down-home style of playing. Pinetop even performed at The Band’s 1978 swan song – The Last Waltz.

What’s more, he gives the staff here at the NOR hope for prosperity later on in our career. Sure, when we started out we thought the NOR would be the go to source in obit writing worldwide by now. We’re not there yet but we keep plugging away.

Pinetop’s longevity as a performer was remarkable — all the more so considering his fondness for cigarettes and alcohol; by his own account he began smoking at age 9 and didn’t quit drinking until he was 82. Few people working in any popular art form have been as prolific in the ninth and tenth decades of their lives. At age 97 he became the oldest Grammy Award winner (beating out perennial grouch and cheapskate George “I forgot my wallet” Burns.

A sideman for most of his career, Mr. Perkins did not release an album under his own name until his 75th year. After which he released another dozen albums.

The author Robert Gordon, in his book “Can’t Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters,” wrote that Mr. Perkins “learned to play in the same school as Muddy — a cotton field, where the conjugation was done with a hoe and the school lunch was a fish sandwich and homemade whiskey.”

Originally a guitarist, Mr. Perkins concentrated exclusively on the piano after an incident, in 1943, in which a dancer at a juke joint attacked him with a knife, severing the tendons in his left arm. The injury left him unable to hold a guitar or manage its fretboard (not to mention grabbing cookies from the cookie jar).

Here’s to an American Legend

Wait a few minutes to let it cool, then grab a warm obit!

Pinetop Perkins, Delta Boogie-Woogie Master, Dies at 97


Published: March 21, 2011

Pinetop Perkins, the boogie-woogie piano player who worked in Muddy Waters’s last great band and was among the last surviving members of the first generation of Delta bluesmen, died on Monday at his home in Austin, Tex. He was 97. Continue

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