Friday Night with Guitar George: Viola Beach Edition


When I wrote the Mortality Dilemma Edition of FNWGG on January 22, I did so in context of the recent passing of David Bowie at age 74 and Glen Frey at age 67, which called to attention the fact that many rock music pioneers are in their golden years. My point was that we had better prepare ourselves for the inevitable. Sadly, the anticipated rise in deaths by natural causes does not negate the possibility of death under other circumstances.

On Saturday February 13, while traveling in between concerts, all four members of British indie band Viola Beach and their manager perished when their car plunged off a bridge into a frigid canal in Sweden. I was not familiar with them beforehand; nonetheless this horrific news stunned and saddened me profoundly. I immediately began searching the web for videos of Viola Beach and what I discovered is a talented foursome of young men with unassuming demeanor creating music with a refreshingly clean sound. As our regular readers know, Guitar George often recognizes promising young artists who have not yet become household names, so it is quite possible that I would have eventually discovered Viola Beach and featured their talents on FNWGG. They were certainly deserving of such recognition.

Come to find out, Viola Beach formed in Warrington, England, right down the road from the Beatles’ home town of Liverpool. Their first public concert was in The Cavern, where the Beatles spent many a night honing their craft before setting out to change the world. Being from Liverpool and performing in The Cavern does not necessarily transform a band into The Next Beatles, but Viola Beach certainly had some potential.

Also leaving this world last week were:

Denise Matthews, once known as Vanity, part of the female trio Vanity 6 that was produced by Prince, who also composed their one big hit, “Nasty Girl.” After a near-death experience in 1994 resulting from a drug overdose, Matthews got clean and became an evangelist. In spite of giving up drugs, years of prior abuse had taken their toll on Matthews, and she died of renal failure at age 57.

L.C. Ulmer, a talented but lesser known Mississippi bluesman. Ulmer’s vocal phrasing was unorthodox, but his nifty guitar licks were right on time. Check him out in this video performing a song about Pearl Harbor. Ulmer died on Sunday of natural causes at age 87.

Tonight’s featured video is Viola Beach performing “Like a Fool” on the British radio show BBC Introducing.

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