Florence Ballard

Posted in Detroit Memorial Park East with tags , , , on August 8, 2022 by Cade

June 30, 1943 – February 22, 1976

A powerful voice. Immense ambition. A tragic life. These are often the foundations for the most compelling stories.

Florence Ballard had all three. The happy-go-lucky teenager in Detroit met a kindred during high school in the form of fellow singer, Mary Wilson. The two met at a talent show and would eventually both join the new sister act to the Primes – a local group consisting of future-Temptations Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks. Ballard, Wilson, Betty McGowan and Diana Ross – as the Primettes – enjoyed some local success and turned their eyes on a Motown contract. Berry Gordy liked what he saw but encouraged them to A) finish high school and B) change their name. Florence suggested they call themselves the “Supremes.”

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James Jamerson

Posted in Woodlawn Cemetery (MI) with tags , , , on August 1, 2022 by Cade

January 29, 1936 – August 2, 1983

For a large portion of James Jamerson’s hall of fame career, he was unknown to most of the general public. Despite playing bass on some of the biggest hits of the 1960s, Jamerson – a studio musician at Motown’s Hitsville USA studios – remained officially uncredited until 1971. The in-house studio musicians at Motown referred to themselves simply as “The Funk Brothers” and Jamerson’s jazz stylings were among their most notable qualities.

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Bobby Rogers

Posted in Woodlawn Cemetery (MI) with tags , , , on July 25, 2022 by Cade

February 19, 1940 – March 3, 2013

On February 19, 1940, in a north Detroit hospital, two future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers were born. William “Smokey” Robinson and Robert Rogers not only shared the same start, but several years later, they helped launch one of the biggest movements in popular music history as members of Motown Record’s first hit group: the Miracles.

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Levi Stubbs

Posted in Woodlawn Cemetery (MI) with tags , , , on July 18, 2022 by Cade

June 6, 1936 – October 17, 2008

Levi Stubbs lived most of his life in Detroit. It was a fortunate coincidence that the Motor City became the hotbed of R&B music during the time when Stubbs and friends, Duke Fakir, Obie Benson and Lawrence Payton were performing together as the Four Aims. The group signed with Chess records, changed their name to the Four Tops and went on to become one of the biggest selling acts for Motown Records. Stubbs’s soulful voice was the centerpiece of all of the Four Tops’ biggest hits.

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Paul Williams

Posted in Lincoln Memorial Park with tags , , , on July 11, 2022 by Cade

July 2, 1939 – August 17, 1973

Paul Williams was a founding member of the legendary Motown vocal group, the Temptations. Williams grew up in Alabama and began his singing career with childhood friend, Eddie Kendricks. The two formed a singing group and – though they never recorded – found enough success to get noticed in the booming R&B scene of 1960’s Detroit. After losing their manager and essentially disbanding their group, Williams and Kendricks were approached by rival Detroit singing group, The Elgins, and asked to join. The five members decided to forge ahead as equal partners in the new group and sought out a much-desired contract with Berry Gordy’s Motown Records. Once they settled on the new name, the Temptations, Gordy signed them and they got to work. Continue reading

Ava Gardner

Posted in Sunset Memorial Park with tags , on June 20, 2022 by Cade

December 24, 1922 – January 25, 1990

“She can’t sing, she can’t act, she can’t talk, she’s terrific!”
– Louis B. Mayer

In 1946, movie audiences were properly introduced to Hollywood’s newest femme fatale when Robert Siodmak’s The Killers opened. The film noir classic was the screen debut of Burt Lancaster…and it was the first time audiences really got to see and know Ava Gardner.

Discovered by a peripheral MGM talent scout thanks to her portrait being displayed in a New York City photo studio window, young Ava – who had never even thought about acting – suddenly found herself with a contract in hand in Los Angeles. She learned her trade with bit parts at MGM and worked with acting and dialect coaches to overcome her heavy North Carolina drawl. Five years of toiling in dozens of pictures and improving her talents finally led to a leading role in The Killers and audiences loved her.

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Leon Wilkeson

Posted in Riverside Memorial Park with tags , , on June 13, 2022 by Cade

April 2, 1952 – July 27, 2001

Known by all those who worked with him as the “Mad Hatter,” Leon Wilkeson was the longest-tenured bass player for the band Lynyrd Skynyrd. He was briefly part of an early Skynyrd prototype led by fellow classmate and lead singer, Ronnie Van Zant, but was not part of the actual founding of the group. He officially joined in 1972 after original bassist Larry Junstrom left, but got spooked by the prospect of fame that was dancing on the band’s doorstep. His absence was brief, though, and he rejoined when it was decided that bassist Ed King better served the band as one of the 3 guitarists. Skynyrd had its crazy-hat-wearing bass player back and the fame that Wilkeson wasn’t so sure about…found them.

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Larry Junstrom

Posted in Jacksonville Memory Gardens with tags , , , on June 6, 2022 by Cade

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June 22, 1949 – October 5, 2019

Larry “LJ” Junstrom met Ronnie Van Zant when the two were teenagers in Jacksonville, Florida. When Van Zant (along with Bob Burns, Gary Rossington and Allen Collins) wanted to form a band, Junstrom eagerly joined on bass. The band would become legendary rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd. LJ played with Skynyrd throughout the early years, but left in 1971, just prior to the recording of their first album…and their subsequent stardom. Fortunately for him, another Van Zant would also end up looking for a bass player a few years later.

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Allen Collins

Posted in Riverside Memorial Park with tags , , on May 23, 2022 by Cade

July 19, 1952 – January 23, 1990

There is something to be said about having one of the more tragic tales amongst the members of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, considering the overall story arc of the ill-fated southern rock band. But guitarist Allen Collins – despite surviving the fatal 1977 plane crash – certainly could lay claim to it.

As a youngster in high school, Larkin Allen Collins Jr. was approached by classmates, singer Ronnie Van Zant and drummer Bob Burns, about joining their band, The One Percent. Collins had his own equipment and loved to play, so he joined. The One Percent would soon become Lynyrd Skynyrd and Collins, along with Van Zant, would co-write many of the band’s biggest hits including “Gimme Three Steps” and “Free Bird.”

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Cassie Gaines

Posted in Jacksonville Memory Gardens with tags , , on May 16, 2022 by Cade

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January 9, 1948 – October 20, 1977

Cassie Gaines enjoyed a typical childhood in Miami, Oklahoma. She was a cheerleader in high school and was known for her school spirit and for performing on stage. A love for performing led her to a career as a singer, ultimately landing an invitation to join the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd as one of their three backing singers…collectively known as “The Honkettes.”

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