September 30: John Lombardo of 10,000 Maniacs, John & Mary and the Valkyries is 59-years-old today.

John Lombardo & Mary Ramsey

Lombardo, born in Jamestown, New York, is one of the original guitarists and songwriters for the folk-rock band 10,000 Maniacs and one of the band's most influential members, writing much of its early material.

10,000 M.s after Natalie Merchant left the group
Called by the Buffalo News "a dominant force" in the Maniacs, Lombardo was in the group from its inception in 1981 until he left in 1986 after the release of 10KM's first major-label album, The Wishing Chair. Lombardo cited creative and political differences as his reasons for leaving the band.

After leaving, he formed the folk-rock duo John & Mary with the classically trained Mary Ramsey, who played violin and viola for 10,000 Maniacs and sang backing vocals on the 1993 album MTV Unplugged. The pair made two recordings under the name John & Mary: Victory Gardens in 1991 and 1993's The Weedkiller's Daughter.

He returned in 1994 after Natalie Merchant's departure, with Mary Ramsey joining as the new lead singer. Lombardo picked up right where he left off by writing and shaping the band's music. He left the band again in 2002.

With Ramsey, the group released two albums with the Maniacs, 1997's Love Among the Ruins - which contained a cover of the Brian Ferry song "More Than This" that did well in the U.S. charts. and 1999's The Earth Pressed Flat. In 2002, after leaving the Maniacs following the death of guitarist Rob Buck, John and Mary released The Pinwheel Galaxy. With their current band, the Valkyries, they recently released Peace Bridge.

HIGHLY Recommended:

 Mtv UnpluggedLove Among the Ruins10,000 Maniacs - Time Capsule (1982-1993)


September 30: Marilyn McCoo of the Fifth Dimension is 68-years-old today.

Marilyn McCoo is best known for being the lead female vocalist in the group The 5th Dimension, as well as hosting the 1980s music countdown series Solid Gold. She is the wife of singer Billy Davis, Jr., the founder and co-member of The 5th Dimension, whom she married in 1969.

McCoo was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. both her parents were doctors. When Marilyn was seven, her family moved to Los Angeles, where she took singing, piano and dance lessons. At the age of 15, she joined Art Linkletter's Talent Show and began modelling.

In 1962, McCoo won the Miss Bronze California beauty pageant. At this event, she met Lamonte McLemore, a part-time vocalist and photographer for Jet magazine. Her photos, taken by McLemore, were featured in the magazine's "Jet Beauty of the Week section."

In the early and mid-1960s, McCoo was a member of the Hi-Fi's, who often opened for Ray Charles. She had been invited to join the group by photographer McLemore, who would himself join McCoo in The 5th Dimension. Other Hi-Fi members included Harry Elston and Floyd Butler, who would go on to form The Friends of Distinction.

She met future husband Billy Davis, Jr. in 1966 with The 5th Dimension - then called The Versatiles - which also included Ron Townson and Florence LaRue; who, coincidentally won the Miss Bronze California title one year after Marilyn.

The group's first big hit was with 1967's "Up, Up and Away," written by Jimmy Webb. The song won four 1968 Grammy Awards and was the title track to 5th Dimension's first hit LP. Their follow-up was a cover of Laura Nyro's "Stoned Soul Picnic." "Wedding Bell Blues," featuring McCoo's most prominent vocal of that period, and a medley of "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" (from the musical Hair) both reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1969 with "Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In" winning the Grammy for "Record of the Year."

By the early 1970s, McCoo began to sing lead on the group's remaining chart-topping singles, "One Less Bell to Answer," "(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep At All" and "If I Could Reach You."

In 1975, McCoo and Davis left The 5th Dimension and began performing as a duo, and recorded their 1976 debut album, I Hope We Get to Love in Time. The first single was the title track, which was a mid-chart hit. Their follow up, "You Don't Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)" was an even bigger hit, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1977.

McCoo and Davis were awarded a gold single and a gold album as well as a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. They also hosted their own television program, "The Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr Show," in Summer 1977.

After one more album on ABC in 1978, the pair signed with CBS Records the following year and released their last album as a duo until October 2008 when the pair released The Many Faces of Love, a collection of hit songs from the 1960s and 1970s.

HIGHLY Recommended:
I Hope We Get to Love in TimeTHE 5TH DIMENSION Travelling Sunshine ShowThe Magic Garden


September 30: The Chiffons Sylvia Peterson - "He's So Fine," "Sweet Talkin' Guy" - is 65-years-old today.

The Chiffons was an all girl group from the Bronx, New York. They were one of the top girl groups of the early 1960s. With their trademark tight harmonies, and songs written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King such as “One Fine Day,” the Chiffons made music that helped define the girl group sound of the era.

The group was originally a trio comprising Judy Craig, Patricia Bennett and Barbara Lee. They formed at James Monroe High School in The Bronx in 1960. At the suggestion of songwriter Ronnie Mack, Sylvia Peterson was added to the group in 1962. Peterson had previously sung with Little Jimmy & The Tops in 1959 when she was fourteen years old. This group had a local hit with "Puppy Love."

Sylvia later sang the leads for the Chiffons' "Why Am I So Shy," "Strange, Strange Feeling" "The Real Thing" and other recordings.

The group hit number one in the US with their first single "He's So Fine," written by Ronnie Mack. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

George Harrison's 1970 song "My Sweet Lord" was musically similar, prompting a copyright infringement claim. The Chiffons went on to record "My Sweet Lord" in 1975. A judge later found that Harrison had unintentionally plagiarized the earlier song.

Their first hit was followed by other notable tunes such as Gerry Goffin and Carole King's "One Fine Day," "Sweet Talkin' Guy" and "I Have A Boyfriend."

Craig left the Chiffons in 1970 and they continued as a trio. In 1992, Lee died from a heart attack the day before her 45th birthday, and Craig returned to the group. Sylvia Peterson retired shortly thereafter and was replaced by Connie Harvey.

HIGHLY Recommended:  

 One Fine DayThe Chiffons - Their Very BestThe Rock and Roll Era: The '60s Teen Time Time-Life


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September 29: Mark Farner, lead singer and guitarist for Grand Funk Railroad is 63-years-old today.

Besides playing guitar and singing lead for Grand Funk Railroad,  Mark Fredrick Farner, who was born in Flint, Michigan, was the main songwriter for most of their material. His best known composition is the 1970 epic "I'm Your Captain (Closer to Home)." "We're An American Band" reached #1 on the Hot 100 on Mark's 25th birthday.

During the 1970s, Grand Funk Railroad sold more than 25 million records, toured constantly, packed arenas worldwide, and received four RIAA gold albums during 1970. The band's name is a play on words of the Grand Trunk Railroad, a railroad line that ran through the band's home town of Flint, Michigan.

The current Grand Funk Railroad lineup uses the nickname "The American Band," a reference to its 1973 hit "We're an American Band." This song, written by  Don Brewer, was the band's first #1 single.

After Grand Funk initially disbanded in 1976, Farner released his first self titled solo album in 1977, and his second, No Frills, in 1978 (both Atlantic Records).

In 1981, Farner and Brewer launched a new Grand Funk line-up and recorded two albums, Grand Funk Lives and What's Funk?

Farner went solo again with 1988's Just Another Injustice on Frontline Records. His third Frontline release was 1991's Some Kind of Wonderful, which featured a revamped version of the Grand Funk classic of the same name. Farner enjoyed success with the John Beland composition "Isn't it Amazing," which earned him a Dove Award nomination and reached #2 on the Christian Contemporary charts.


In 1981, Farner and former Grand Funk member, Brewer resurrected Grand Funk for an album that cracked the Billboard albums chart. Two years later, they split again.
In 1996 Brewer, Schacher, and Farner reunited as Grand Funk, and were eventually named one of Pollstar's top-grossing acts of 1998.

Also in the 1990s, Farner formed LismarkLisuk. Soon after, Farner began reissuing his solo albums on his own record label, LisMark Records.

Farner also toured with Ringo Starr's Allstars from 1994 to 1995, which also featured Randy Bachman, John Entwistle, Felix Cavaliere, Billy Preston, and Starr's son, Zak Starkey.

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HIGHLY Recommended (Press album covers for direct links to Amazon):

 Mark FarnerNo FrillsGrand Funk Railroad - Greatest Hits

In the late 1990s, Farner reunited with Grand Funk, but left after three years to resume his solo career. He currently tours with his band, N'rG, which plays a mixture of Grand Funk songs and Farner's solo offerings.

In 2005, Grand Funk Railroad was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame. The band has had three of its recordings voted Legendary Michigan Songs: "We're an American Band" in 2008, and "Closer To Home/I'm Your Captain" and "Some Kind Of Wonderful" in 2009.

On the TV show, The Simpsons, Homer Simpson has said Grand Funk Railroad is his favorite band.

For more about Mark, visit his Website -