Obituaries, Sept. 15, 2022
This week we acknowledge the passing of musicians Elmer Tippe and Ramsey Lewis and rapper PnB Rock.
By Kerry Doole
Elmer Tippe, a noted Canadian country musician, singer/songwriter, recording artist, and a radio DJ, died on Sept. 7, of complications from pneumonia, age 89.
According to the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame, Elmer was born in Saskatchewan in January 1933 and began playing the banjo and fiddle at the age of eight in Alberta, just before moving to BC. At 15 years old, he was entertaining at the professional level with his two older brothers in a band, Ray’s Harmony Five. They played together until 1955 when his brother Clarence was killed by a drunk driver.
In 1957, Tippe formed The Pine Mountain Boys with his brother and started performing with the Royal Canadian tours.
Tippe started his career in broadcasting at CJJC, B.C.’s first full-time country music station in Langley, before moving onto CKWX SuperCountry radio in 1975. It was there that he helped give many young, up-and-coming local musicians their real start in country music, playing their songs on air.
He also recorded several albums and charted three singles during the 1970s. Some of his hits include: Closed For Repairs/Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained; Don’t Ever Turn Around, and Thinkin Back.
His talents propelled him into the B.C. Country Music Hall of Fame. Tippe also became a member of the Western Swing Society Hall of Fame in Sacramento Calif., the Western Swing Society Hall of Fame in Washington State, the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, and the British Columbia Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988.
His son, Rick Tippe, followed in his footsteps, becoming a successful country artist. Maple Ridge country music star Tom McKillip said Elmer Tippe was a legend in the British Columbia country music scene. “When he walked up to a microphone he lit up the room,” said McKillip. “He was one of the trailblazers of B.C. country music.” Sources: Maple Ridge News, Larry Delaney
Ramsey Lewis, the Chicago jazz pianist who had a crossover hit in 1965’s The In Crowd, died on Sept. 12, age 87.
Lewis grew up in Chicago and began taking piano lessons at 4 years old. He was a sworn jazz fan whose first band, the Clefs, began while he was in high school. The three band members who weren’t drafted in the Korean War—Lewis, Eldee Young, and Redd Holt—formed the Ramsey Lewis Trio. They would go on to perform regularly, release their first album on Chess in 1956, and ultimately release their Grammy-winning hit The In Crowd in 1965. Other Top 40 hits included Hang On Sloopy and Wade in the Water.
Young and Holt splintered off to form their own band, Young-Holt Unlimited, while Lewis would go on to work with Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White. His 1974 album Sun Goddess was produced by White and features members of Earth, Wind & Fire. He recorded prolifically throughout the rest of his life. A new Beatles Songbook album is due November 11, and his memoir is due in 2023.
Over his career, Lewis won three Grammys, scored seven gold records and in 2007 was named a National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master, the highest honour bestowed upon jazz musicians in the US.
Pitchfork reports that "Lewis’ widow Jan Lewis said in a statement: “He loved touring and meeting music lovers from so many cultures and walks of life. It was our family’s great pleasure to share Ramsey in this special way with all those who admired his God-given talents. We are forever grateful for your support.” The family has asked for donations to the Jazz Foundation of America. Sources: Pitchfork, CNN, New York Times
PnB Rock (real name Rakim Allen), an American rapper, died on Sept. 12, after being shot in a restaurant in Los Angeles. He was 30.
The BBC reports that "US media has said law enforcement sources confirmed the rapper was the target of the attack," an apparent robbery attempt.
Tributes have since flooded in for PnB Rock. Drake posted a photo of the pair together on his Instagram story, and rapper Offset posted a Twitter tribute urging followers to pray for PnB's two children.
PnB Rock released two albums, Catch These Vibes (US no 17, 2017) and TrapStar Turnt PopStar (no 4, 2019), and had a 2016 hit with Selfish. He was a featured act in the 2019 hit Cross Me, with Ed Sheeran and Chance The Rapper. Source: Noise11, BBC