Friday, December 8, 2017

The Late Great George Young

George Young, a founding member of The Easybeats and Flash and the Pan, died on October 22 2017 at the age of 70.

George Young was born on February 9 1942 in Glasgow, Scotland.  His older brother Alex would also become a rock star as the bassist of Grapefruit, as would his younger brothers Malcolm and Angus as the founders of the legendary band AC/DC. According to Malcolm Young, all of the males in his family played some sort of musical instrument. It was following the particularly severe winter of 1962-1963 (known as "the Big Freeze of 1963") that the Young family immigrated to Australia. 

It was at the Villawood Migrant Hostel in Sydney that George Young met Dutch immigrant Harry Vanda. The two of them formed The Easybeats in 1964 with Dick Diamonde on bass, Gordon "Snowy" Fleet on drums, and Stevie Wright on lead vocals. George Young played rhythm guitar, while Harry Vanda played lead. 

The Easybeats became the resident band for the Beatle Village Club in Syndey, where they were discovered by the music publisher and producer Ted Albert. Mr. Albert signed them to his own Albert Productions and secured a record deal with EMI/Parlophone. The Easybeats had success early, with their first single "She's a Woman" going to no. 33 on the Australian chart in 1965. That same year they would have major hits with "She's So Fine" and "Wedding Ring". Their first album, Easy, released in September 1965, went to no. 4 on the Australian chart.

In 1966 The Easybeats moved to London, where they would see even more success. Their single "Women (Make Me Feel Alright)" went to no. 4 on the Australian chart. Their single "Come and See Her" went to no. 3. They had their first no. 1 with "Sorry". It would be "Friday on My Mind" that would be the biggest success of their career. "Friday on My Mind" not only went to no. 1 on the Australian chart, but proved to be their first international success. It went to no. 6 on the UK singles chart and no. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. Their album It's 2 Easy went to no. 7 on the Australian chart.

The Easybeats would not be able to repeat the success of "Friday on My Mind". Their highest charting single in 1967 was "Heaven and Hell", which went to no. 8 on the Australian chart. By 1968 The Easybeats, which had regularly seen their singles reach the top ten and top twenty of the Australian chart, only landed one single, "Land of Make Believe", in the top twenty. They did have some international success with "Hello, How are You", which went to no. 20 on the UK chart, and  "St. Louis", which peaked at no. 100 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Even though The Easybeats saw fewer hits after 1968, they saw several of their songs covered by other bands. "Bring a Little Lovin'" was covered by Los Bravos and "Come In, You'll Get Pneumonia" was covered by Paul Revere & The Raiders. "Good Times", which saw some airplay in the United States and United Kingdom, would later be covered by Shocking Blue. Nearly all of The Easybeats' songs were co-written by George Young, either with Stevie Wright or Harry Vanda.

By 1968 the band was in decline and its members began to drift apart. One last album, Vigil, was released in May 1968. A final album released under The Easybeats' name, Friends, was actually a compilation of demo tracks for other artists written by Harry Vanda and George Young save for the singles "St. Louis" and "Can't Find Love".  Their single "Peculiar Hole In The Sky" only went to no. 53 on the Australian chart in 1969. Their single "I Love Marie" did even worse, only going to no. 93. The Easybeats then broke up in 1969.

In 1970, following the break-up of The Easybeats, George Young and Harry Vanda formed a songwrting and production partnership, Vanda & Young. They both wrote songs for other artists and performed under various stage names Paintbox, Tramp, Eddie Avana, Moondance, Haffy's Whiskey Sour, and Band of Hope. In 1972 George Young and Harry Vanda formed the Marcus Hook Roll Band, which inlcuded George Young's brothers Malcolm and Angus. Vanda & Young would go onto produce AC/DC's early albums, including T.N.T., High Voltage, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and Powerage. George Young alone would produce AC/DC's 2000 album Stiff Upper Lip.

In 1976 Vanda & Young formed the New Wave band Flash and the Pan. The band's first single, , "Hey, St. Peter", went to no. 5 on the Australian singles chart and reched no. 76 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their second single, "Down Among the Dead Men", went to no. 4 on the Australian singles chart and reached no. 54 on the British singles chart. Their self-titled debut album was released in 1978. It would be followed by five more alubms: Lights in the Night, Headlines, Early Morning Wake Up Call, Nights in France, and Burning Up the Night. Their single "Waiting for a Train" proved to be a hit in the United Kingdom, reaching no. 7 on the British singles chart. 

Vanda & Young would also produce songs for such artists as Steve Wright (the formerlead vocalist of The Easybeats), The Angels, John Paul Young (who was not a relation), and Rose Tattoo. They co-wrote Meatloaf's 1995 song "Runnin' for the Red Light (I Gotta Life)". 

George Young retired in the late Nineties. 

Even if the only things George Young had ever done was to co-write "Friday on My Mind" and "Walking in the Rain", he would be notable. As it is he did much more. He co-wrote almost every single one of The Easybeats' songs, including their biggest hits. He also co-wrote almost every Flash and the Pan song. On top of that, he produced several of AC/DC's albums, including some of their best work. He also produced a good deal of work for other artists. On top of all this he was a talented musician, quite good at playing rhythm guitar, bass, and piano. He might not have been as famous as his younger brothers Malcolm and Angus (at least not in the United States), but there is every reason he should be.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

William Frye R.I.P.

Agent and producer William Frye died on November 3 2017 at the age of 96. Mr. Frye served as a producer on such TV shows as Four Star Playhouse and Thriller, and such movies as The Trouble with Angels (1966) and Airport '77 (1977).

William Frye was born October 5 1921 in Salinas, California. During World War II he served in the Merchant Marine. Mr. Frye was only 27 when he became Cary Grant's agent. He would go onto represent such movie legends as Rosalind Russell, Ronald Colman, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Dick Powell, and Joel McCrea, among many others. Mr. Frye entered television production through Four Star Productions, representing two of the four stars of the company's name (Dick Powell and Joel McCrea). William Frye produced one episode of Four Star Playhouse as well as the entire run of Ronald Colman's short-lived comedy The Hall of  Ivy. In the Fifties he also served as the producer on the shows Johnny Staccato, General Electric Theatre, The Deputy, and the classic horror anthology Thriller. He also produced episodes of the shows Star Stage, Suspicion, Schlitz Playhouse, and Startime, as well as the Phil Silvers TV special The Slowest Gun in the West.

In the Sixties it was William Frye who discovered the book What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? by Henry Farrell and brought it to the attention of Bette Davis. He continued to produce the TV series Thriller in the early part of the decade. He produced the 1963 television documentary A Look at Monaco, which centred on Princess Grace Kelly. He produced the TV movie The Other Man (1970) and an episode of the show The Survivors.  Mr. Frye entered feature film production with 1966's The Trouble with Angels. He also produced its sequel Where Angels Go Trouble Follows! (1968).

In the Seventies William Frye produced the films Airport 1975 (1974), Airport '77 (1977), and Raise the Titanic (1980). He produced several TV movies, including The Screaming Woman (1972), She Cried Murder (1973), The Elevator (1974), and Superdome (1978), among others.

William Frye was one of our last surviving links to the Golden Age of Hollywood. Not only did he know and work with many of the legendary stars of the era, but he was also friends with a good number of them. As a television producer he worked on what may be the greatest horror anthology ever made, Thriller. He also produced many fine television movies. 

Mr. Frye retired in 1990. He often wrote about his Hollywood career in Vanity Fair.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Godspeed Rance Howard

Character actor Rance Howard died on November 25 2017 at the age of 89. In addition to appearing in many films and guest starring on many television shows in his long career, he was also the father of director Ron Howard and the actor Clint Howard, as well as the grandfather of actress and director Bryce Dallas Howard and actress Paige Howard.

Rance Howard was born Harold Rance Beckenholdt in Duncan, Oklahoma on November 17 1928. He became interested in acting when he appeared in a Christmas school play in Shidler, Oklahoma when he was in seventh grade. He toured with a children's theatre. He attended the University of Oklahoma where he majored in drama.

Rance Howard toured with Henry Fonda in Mister Roberts before moving to Baltimore to become resident director of The Hilltop Theatre. Mr. Howard made his film debut in 1956 in Frontier Woman. The film also marked the film debut of his son, Ron, who was only two years old at the time. He made his television debut the same year in a guest appearance on the anthology show Kraft Theatre. In the late Fifties he guest starred on such shows as How to Marry a Millionaire, Bat Masterson, Zane Grey Theatre, and Death Valley Days. He guest starred on the Make Room for Daddy episode "Danny Meets Andy Griffith", the pilot for The Andy Griffith Show that also featured his son Ron.

In the Sixties, Rance Howard appeared in the films The Music Man (1962), The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963), Village of the Giants (1965), The Desert Raven (1965), An Eye for an Eye (1966), Gentle Giant (1967), Old Paint (1969), and Wild Country (1970). He was a regular on the TV show Gentle Ben. He guest starred on such shows as Combat!, The Fugitive, The Andy Griffith Show, The Virginian, The Jean Arthur Show, That Girl, The Monroes, Then Came Bronson, and Dan August.

In the Seventies, Mr. Howard had a recurring role on The Waltons. He guest starred on the shows Night Gallery, Bonanza, Nichols, The F.B.I., Kung Fu, Gunsmoke, The Rookies, Switch, Little House on the Prairie, Battlestar Galactica, Laverne & Shirley, and Happy Days. He appeared in the films Bloody Trail (1972), Chinatown (1974), Eat My Dust (1976), The Legend of Frank Woods (1977), Grand Theft Auto (1977), Un autre homme, une autre chance (1977), and Mr. No Legs (1978).

In the Eighties, Rance Howard appeared in the films Smokey Bites the Dust (1981), Love Letters (1983), Forever and Beyond (1983), The Lonely Guy (1984), Splash (1984), Two Soldiers (1985), Creator (1985), Coccon (1985), Gung Ho (1986), Innerspace (1987), B.O.R.N. (1988), Dark Before Dawn (1988), Trust Me (1989), Listen to Me (1989), Parenthood (1989), and Limit Up (1989). He guest starred on the shows Dynasty; Finder of Lost Loves; Murder, She Wrote; Dallas; Days of Our Lives; Wiseguy; Superboy; B. L. Stryker; and Equal Justice. He appeared in the Andy Griffith Show television reunion movie Return to Mayberry.

In the Nineties, Mr. Howard appeared in such films as 9 1/2 Ninjas! (1991), Don't Buy Kisses Anymore (1992), Far and Away (1992), Universal Soldier (1992), Fearless (1993), The Cowboy Way (1994), Terminal Velocity (1994), Ed Wood (1994), Apollo 13 (1995), Sgt. Bilko (1996), Independence Day (1996), Mars Attacks! (1996), Ghosts of Mississippi (1996), Money Talks (1997), Chairman of the Board (1998), The Night Caller (1998), Happy, Texas (1999), and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000). He guest starred on such shows as Quantum Leap, Baywatch, Coach, Diagnosis Murder, Tales from Crypt, Seinfeld, Melrose Place, Married With Children, Babylon 5, Clueless, and 7th Heaven.

In the Naughts Rance Howard appeared in such films Joe Dirt (2001), Rat Race (2001), A Beautiful Mind (2001), The Missing (2003), The Alamo (2004), Cinderella Man (2005), Aimee Semple McPherson (2006), Georgia Rule (2007), Drillbit Taylor (2008), Frost/Nixon (2008), Angels & Demons (2009), and Jonah Hex (2010).  He guest starred on such shows as Angel, Cold Case, That's So Raven, Ghost Whisperer, CSI: NY, and ER.

In the Teens Mr. Howard appeared in such films as Rosewood Lane (2011), Let Go (2011), Huff (2013), Nebraska (2013), The Lone Ranger (2013), Junction (2015), and Broken Memories (2017). He guest starred on such TV shows as Grey's Anatomy, NCIS: Los Angeles, Bones, and The X-Files.

Rance Howard may be better known as the father of Ron Howard than he is his acting career. In some respects that is sad, as he was quite a remarkable actor. He was one of the many character actors from the Fifties to the Teens upon whom the American television and film industries depended to fill even the smallest roles. In his long career Mr. Howard played everything from priests to farmers to physicians to the Devil himself. And while many times he might only be on screen for a few minutes, he always gave a good performance. If Rance Howard was extremely prolific in his career, it was because he was just so very good at what he did.