Obituaries, Nov. 30, 2023: Roy MacCaull, Jean Knight & More
This week we acknowledge the passing of a Canadian country singer/songwriter, a US record label head, a New Orleans soul singer and an English post-punk guitarist.
Roy (Chesley) MacCaull, a hit-making Canadian country music singer/songwriter, died on Nov. 23, at age 86.
Larry Delaney of Cancountry informs that "MacCaull relocated to Toronto from PEI during the 1960s where he was a member of the famed country group The Blue Diamonds (with Al Hooper, Doug Watters and Eddie Poirier). There he launched his career as a solo recording artist in addition to his recordings with The Blue Diamonds.
"MacCaull placed eight singles on the RPM Charts in the early 1970's, scoring a Top 10 hit with his song 'Ballad Of The Hotel Waitress.' He recorded for the Paragon, Marathon and Condor record labels. His songs were recorded by artists including Julie Lynn, The Newman Sisters, Doug Watters, George Bennett, and Nashville legend George Hamilton IV, who covered his composition 'Shores Of P.E.I.'" MacCaull's original version of that tune was recorded at Eastern Sound in Toronto in 1973, and featured guitar great Red Shea.
A skilled mandolinist, MacCaull released the album Mandolin Country Style in 1968.
An official obituary posted by Ferguson Funeral Home noted that "Roy was known by many through his ten years on Community Showcase and many years of performing at local venues. Since moving back to PEI from Toronto in 1996, he spent much of his time writing, recording and performing his songs and encouraging other musicians to fulfill their own musical pursuits. Many of Roy's compositions germinated from conversations he had with his many friends at local coffee shops." In memory of Roy, memorials can be sent directly to O'Leary Community Health Foundation-Palliative Care - email@example.com."
Jean Knight (born Jean Caliste), a US soul singer best known for the hit "Mr. Big Stuff," died on Nov. 22, at age 80.
A New Orleans native, Knight had limited success locally with singles in the '60s, before breaking big in 1971 with "Mr. Big Stuff," a No. 2 U.S. hit that sold over one million copies. It received a 1972 Grammy nomination in 1972 for best female R&B vocal performance alongside Diana Ross, Janis Joplin, Freda Payne and the category winner Aretha Franklin.
The success of that song earned Knight a short-lived deal with Stax Records, and she scored a minor hit in 1985 with "My Toot Toot" (No. 50 in the U.S.). She kept recording until 1999.
Phil Quartararo, a U.S. record label executive known for boosting the careers of the Spice Girls, Paula Abdul, Faith Hill, Madonna, Linkin Park, and many more, died on Nov. 22, at age 67, of cancer.
His career included roles as Senior VP of Promotion at Island Records and CEO/President of Virgin Records America. In 1997, according to The New York Times, Quartararo helped “turn Virgin into EMI’s crown jewel,” generating most of the parent label’s $5.9 billion in yearly sales. He left Virgin the same year for a post as president of Warner Bros. Records, then in 2005, he returned to EMI, Virgin’s owner, as an executive, for a short stay.
He later became an entrepreneur and consultant, working with music-distribution startups. He also ran Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation Records from 2016-2019, and as president and chairman of multimedia company The Hello Group.
Billboard quotes Quartararo as stating"I loved helping an artist's dream come true," and in 2013 he told Billboard that he didn’t miss major labels, "but I miss dealing with the artists. I miss sharing with young people, teaching them the music business. That’s the part I loved the most."
Kevin “Geordie” Walker, guitarist with industrial band Killing Joke whose ringing, richly textured tone influenced generations of musicians, has died on Nov. 26, at age 64. He suffered a stroke two days earlier.
The Guardian wrote that "Walker's ringing, richly textured tone influenced generations of musicians... With a beautifully multi-layered guitar sound that pointed the way to the shoegaze scene, and which also took in the spiky urgency of punk, the acute melody of pop and the crushing weight of heavy metal, Walker was – alongside frontman Jaz Coleman – the only consistent member of Killing Joke since the band’s formation in 1978."
Billboardnoted that "Walker’s playing was key to the post-punk group’s success, which folded grinding industrial sounds, dub reggae, new wave melodies and a goth sensibility into a roiling mix."
Beginning with a self-titled debut album in 1980, Killing Joke released 10 albums in the '80s and '90s. After a couple of splits, The band reunited again in 2002, continuing to record and perform.
Alongside working in Killing Joke, Walker also played in industrial bands Murder, Inc. and The Damage Manual.
Veteran Toronto concert promoter Garry Topp worked with Killing Joke, and he tells Billboard Canada FYI that "I loved his huge presence on stage, his hair and guitar sound."