Obituaries, Aug. 25, 2022

This week we acknowledge the passing of musicians Peter Shea and Jerry Allison, songwriter Tom Springfield, singer Margaret Urlich, and promoter Ben Ferrell.


Obituaries, Aug. 25, 2022

By Kerry Doole

Peter Shea, a Canadian pianist, drummer and vocalist who was also the co-founder of the TD Niagara Jazz Festival, died on Aug. 21, age 50, of pancreatic cancer.

Shea co-founded the TD Niagara Jazz Festival along with his wife and musical partner Juliet Dunn.

JazzFM reports that "Growing up in a family of musicians and music lovers, Shea graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in jazz performance and composition in 1995. Throughout his career, he performed with many talented Canadian jazz musicians including Phil Dwyer, Pat LaBarbera, Graham Lear, Heather Bambrick, Kevin Turcotte, June Garber and Duncan Hopkins, earning esteem as one of the Niagara region’s eminent jazz musicians."


Shea and Dunn met in Niagara in 2006 and had been making music together ever since. After a few years, they also began hosting jazz concert series in the region. Those eventually became the TD Niagara Jazz Festival, which has taken place annually since 2014 (Dunn was also a host on JAZZ.FM91 between 2011 and 2014).

Shea’s longtime friend Maria Mavridis is running a GoFundMe campaign (here) to raise money to hold a celebration of life on Sept. 12 at White Oaks Resort and to help pay bills.


Jerry Ivan Allison, an architect of rock drumming who played and co-wrote songs with childhood friend Buddy Holly and whose future wife inspired the classic tune Peggy Sue, has died. He was 82.

His death was confirmed on Aug. 24 by a spokesperson for Gold Mountain Entertainment, which manages Holly’s one-time backing band The Crickets, of which Allison was the last surviving original member. 

The official Buddy Holly Facebook page posted this: "Our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Jerry Allison, drummer in The Crickets, one of Buddy's very closest friends, and the inspiration to drummers for decades since, who passed away today at the age of 82." 


Born in Hillsboro, Texas, Allison met Holly in junior high, and they started playing together in roller rinks and The Cotton Club in Lubbock in the early 1950s, predating the rise of rock music. The two wrote numerous hits together as teenagers, including That’ll Be the Day, inspired by a line from John Wayne in the classic Western The Searchers.

The Crickets, who also included Joe B. Mauldin and Niki Sullivan, broke through in 1957 with That’ll Be the Day, followed by Oh, Boy!, Maybe Baby, and other singles. Allison’s teenage girlfriend (Peggy Sue Gerron, whom he later married) was the namesake for Peggy Sue. That song was covered by numerous artists, including John Lennon and the Beach Boys. Holly followed with Peggy Sue Got Married.

AP notes that "Allison’s innovative work is also apparent on Everyday, where he ditches the drums and keeps time in the song by slapping his knees. On Well … All Right, Allison is drumming just on the cymbals."

As its fame grew, the band stayed behind in Texas, while Holly moved to New York in 1958. In Feb. 1959, Holly was killed at the age of 22 in a plane accident along with fellow musicians Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, also known at the Big Bopper. The tragedy inspired Don McLean’s 1972 hit American Pie.


After Holly’s death, The Crickets continued as a band to tour and record together for decades, including recording the first version of I Fought The Law, a Sonny Curtis tune that was a hit later for The Bobby Fuller Four. They backed the Everly Brothers and toured with Waylon Jennings, and they became well-respected session players who worked with Bobby Vee, Eddie Cochran and Johnny Burnette.


The Crickets were voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, while Holly was inducted in 1986 in the first class of inductees.

In a Facebook tribute, top Austin-based drummer Lisa Pankratz (Dave Alvin, John Doe, Whitney Rose) posted that "I aspire always to be both tough and musical behind the kit, as he was. If he had only played with Buddy Holly that would have been enough but he had a long full career after that, too. Thanks for the music and inspiration, Jerry “J I “ Allison, Rest In Peace." Sources:  AP, The Guardian

Ben Ferrell, the Nashville-based concert promoter who played a key role in the early career of Garth Brooks and other artists, died on August 10. He was 76.

A cause of death was not provided, but Nashville Tennessean reported that he died surrounded by his family.

With a career that spanned more than five decades, Ferrell got his start in the industry at Varnell Industries, assisting founder Lon Varnell with everything from promotion and marketing to onsite management. He remained with the Varnell Enterprises throughout his career, eventually rising to the role of president of the concert company.

During his tenure at Varnell, Ferrell worked with a who’s who of top-name artists, including Merle Haggard, George Strait, Neil Diamond, Charley Pride, Ronnie Milsap, Barbara Mandrell, Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, and Chris Young, among others.

He also began working with country legend Garth Brooks and remained his promoter for more than 30 years.

A native of Jacksonville, Ferrell graduated from Lipscomb University and was recruited by the Philadelphia Phillies after graduation, and went on to play with several minor league teams, including the Phillies, the Chicago White Sox and the Houston Astros. In 1968, he was drafted and did a two-year stint in the U.S. Army before joining the concert industry in 1970.


A respected promoter, Ferrell was a regular on many “Promoter of the Year” lists throughout his career. Source: Celebrity Access 

Tom Springfield (born Dionysuis ‘Dion’ O’Brien), the brother of Dusty Springfield and writer of many of The Seekers' hits, died on July 27, at age 88. 

The official Facebook page for the late Dusty Springfield, has announced: "Being a very private person, the news [of his passing] somehow went under the radar and has only now come to light."

He formed the band The Springfields with his sister Mary. She became Dusty Springfield, he became Tom. The Springfields had UK hits with Breakaway and Bambino’ in 1961, Island of Dreams in 1962 and Say I Won’t Be There in 1963. In Australia, The Springfields also had a number two hit with Silver Threads and Golden Needles. 

The Springfields broke up in 1963 when Dusty left to start a solo career. Tom continued to write and became the principal songwriter for Australia’s The Seekers. He wrote The Seekers' biggest hits Georgy Girl, The Carnival Is Over, I’ll Never Find Another You and A World of Our Own.

The Seekers’ singer Judith Durham died on August 5, 2022, a week after Springfield, but his passing was not known at the time of Durham's passing.


Tom’s songs also were sung by Frank Ifield, Anita Harris, Jose Feliciano, and more. In 1970 he also recorded the duet Morning Please Don’t Come with his sister Dusty.

Dusty Springfield passed away in 1999. 

Margaret Urlich, an Aria award-winning singer and one of New Zealand’s most successful musicians, died on Aug. 22, aged 57, from cancer

The Auckland-born singer was the first female solo artist to top New Zealand charts and provided backing vocals for Daryl Braithwaite's hit The Horses

A statement from Urlich’s family stated “Margaret is a much-loved multi-award-winning member of the Australian and New Zealand music industry who captured hearts around the world as a gifted singer/songwriter with a unique voice and sense of style.”

The singer began her career in 1985, fronting the new wave outfit Peking Man, before joining the all-female pop group When The Cat’s Away. Their single Melting Pot became a hit, going to No 1 on the New Zealand charts.

“Margaret was a true and rare talent,” bandmate Dianne Swann from When The Cat’s Away told New Zealand publication Stuff. “She lit up any room, and if you were on stage with her you had to lift your game. She was a uniquely gifted person, and I will always miss her.” The band was inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame in Dec. 2021.

Urlich moved to Australia in 1988, where she pursued a successful solo career. Her debut solo single, Escaping, made her the first female solo artist to top the New Zealand charts, and her first record, Safety in Numbers, netted her an Aria award in 1991 for best breakthrough artist. That same year, her vocals were featured on Daryl Braithwaite’s megahit The Horses, which spent 12 weeks in the Australian top 10. 

She later retreated from the limelight, choosing to work as a school music teacher in rural NSW. Sources: The Guardian, Noise11, NZ Herald

Vanessa Heins


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