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And the Beat Goes on: Musicians Dead in September

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Death is inevitable. But at The Spec, we share this sentiment with Neil Strauss: “Everyone loves you when you’re dead.”

Find out more about some of the musicians dead in September…

Frankie Ford, dead at 76

Frankie Ford was born in Louisiana and adopted by Vincent and Anna Guzzo. His parents named him Vincent Francis Guzzo, Jr. and from a young age, music was a large part of his life. Guzzo took on dancing and singing as a child and in high school, he played piano and sang in a group called the Syncopators. He was scouted by Joe Caronna who introduced him to Johnny Vincent at Ace Records. Soon enough he took on the stage name Frankie Ford, releasing his first recordings on the Ace label in 1958. One of the rock ’n’ roll and R&B singer’s most recognizable songs is “Sea Cruise.”

Wilton Felder, dead at 75

Wilton Felder was a Texas-born bass and saxophone artist. He is known as a founding member of The Jazz Crusaders group, which later changed its name to The Crusaders. Felder formed the group during his high school years in Houston along with Joe Sample, Stix Hooper and Wayne Anderson. He performed with the original members for more than three decades and continued to be involved in later versions of the group that included other musicians. Felder was also a studio electric bass player who worked with numerous R&B and soul musicians. He also served as a session bassist at Motown Records when the label started operations in Los Angeles during the 1970s.

Ben Cauley, dead at 67

Ben Cauley played trumpet, sang, wrote music and was a founding member of The Bar-Kays, a Stax recording act. He was the only survivor of the plane crash in 1967 that killed Otis Redding and four members of Bar-Kays. Born in Tennessee in 1947, Cauley learned to play the trumped in school. He was one of the founding members of the Bar-Kays, which was called The Imperials until the 1960s. Following the tragic plane crash, Cauley and James Alexander decided to reform the Bar-Kays and recorded with other Stax artists, such as The Staple Singers, Rufus Thomas and Isaac Hayes.

Martin Kearns, dead at 38

Also known as Kiddle, Martin Kearns was a drummer who performed death metal music with Bolt Thrower since the early 1990s. He started playing with the band at 17 years old, after spending years as a member of various acts based in Coventry. Kearns left the band in 1998, four years after he joined. To the delight of fans, he returned in 2000. Kearns was the longest standing drummer for the metal act and is featured on the albums Honor — Valour — Pride (2001) and Those Once Loyal (2005).

Gary Richrath, dead at 65

Gary Richrath was a songwriter and lead guitarist for REO Speedwagon between 1970 and 1989. He wrote many of the bands popular songs, including 1972’s “Golden Country.” After leaving the band at the end of the 1980s, Richrath released a solo album — Only the Strong Survive debuted in 1992 and was released under Gary’s surname.

Brianna Lea Pruett, dead at 32

Brianna Lea Pruett was an artist through and through. She was a singer-songwriter, guitarist, filmmaker, poet and painter. Born in Sacramento in 1983, Pruett was exposed to the arts early on. Some of her influences included Doc Watson, Roberta Flack and Tom Waits. She started performing at art galleries, street corners, cafes and clubs in Northern California as a teenager. Pruett self-released two LPs — Natural Fact (2003) and Winter Apple (2004) and eventually signed with Canyon Records where she put out her debut, Gypsy Bells, in 2013.

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