Billboard Bits: Vandross, Hawley, Big Al Downing & More

News on Luther Vandross, Richard Hawley, Big Al Downing, Mike Peters, Chapman

LutherFuneral services for Luther Vandross will be held Friday (July 8) at New York's Riverside Church (490 Riverside Drive) at noon. The artist died Friday at John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, N.J., two years after suffering a serious stroke. He was 54.

A wake will be held tomorrow (July 6) and Thursday, at Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel (1076 Madison Avenue), with public viewings scheduled 4-9 p.m. each day.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

RichardSinger/songwriter Richard Hawley will release his third solo album, "Coles Corner," Sept. 6 via Mute. The 11-track set will be previewed with a July 19 acoustic show at New York's Joe's Pub, which will find Hawley backed by an additional guitarist. A full-band North American tour is in the works for the fall.

"Coles Corner" is another helping of Hawley's signature, decidedly un-modern crooning, reverb-tinged guitar lines and warm production. Highlights include the orchestrally enhanced title cut, the peppy "Just Like the Night," the Sun Studios ode "Wading Through the Water," the shimmering "Tonight" and the acoustic guitar-led "Born Under a Bad Sign."

A former member of Longpigs and Pulp, Hawley produced two tracks on Nancy Sinatra's recent self-titled album, released last fall by Attack/Sanctuary.

-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

LutherPioneering African-American country artist Big Al Downing died yesterday (July 4) at a hospital near his home in Leicester, Mass. Downing, 65, was felled by complications from leukemia, with which he had been recently diagnosed.

Known for both his singing and piano playing, Downing placed 15 titles on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart between 1978 and 1989, including the top 20 hits "Mr. Jones," "Touch Me (I'll Be Your Fool Once More)" and "Bring It on Home." During his more than four decade-long career, he recorded for the Warner Bros., Team and Vine St. labels, among numerous others.

Downing was a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and was a frequent guest on the Grand Ole Opry. As a songwriter, he had two of his compositions recorded by his idol, Fats Domino: "Mary, Oh Mary" and "Heartbreak Hill."

His last album, "One of a Kind," was released in 2003. Downing had been recording tracks for a new album at the time of his diagnosis and had continued to perform more than 75 dates a year.

-- Phyllis Stark, Nashville

MikeWales-based Alarm frontman Mike Peters has added two dates to his upcoming U.S. itinerary. First up is a Los Angeles version of his solo "Alarmstock" event, scheduled for Aug. 20 in Hollywood's Capitol Studio A. Like London and New York versions, the show will boast four acoustic performances by the singer/songwriter. For this occasion, one of the sets will be based on the Alarm's free 1986 concert at UCLA, which was MTV's first live concert broadcast.

Peters has also planned an Aug. 15 "interactive acoustic" show at New York's Knitting Factory, two days after Alarmstock at Electric Lady Studios. This show will be patterned after similar U.K. shows that featured an all-request format.

Tickets for Alarmstock and full details of Peters' touring plans can be found on the official
Alarm Web site.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

"Restoring Broken Things," the second book by recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman and pastor/author Scotty Smith, will be published in September by Nashville-based Integrity Publishers. Described as "a collection of stories, studies, snapshots, songs and scenes from their lives," the book is the follow-up to the pair's "Speechless," published in 1999 by Zondervan to coincide with Chapman's Sparrow album of the same name.

Chapman's latest release is last year's "All Things New" (Sparrow), which bowed at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Christian Albums chart and No. 22 on The Billboard 200. The set has sold 271,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

The artist is on tour throughout the summer, next playing LifeFest Sunday (July 10) in Oshkosh, Wis.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.


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