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The four most recognizable voices in Rock ‘n’ Roll

Hello Mountain Timers, after the great reaction to my last column on the "frontmen" of rock and roll, I started thinking about voices in music, you know the ones that as soon as they come on you know who it is? This is truly the mark of a great singer, that "signature" sound. So let's wind up the old Victrola and review the four most recognizable voices in Rock 'n' Roll. Please note, these are not my favorite singers just ones that stand out as unique. I'll try not to pick the obvious ones, just for fun.

#1. Mickey Thomas.
Mickey started his career singing lead with the Elvin Bishop Group. And it was the 1976 single "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" that jetted Mickey Thomas to the top of the rock singer hierarchy immediately. From the first note of the song to his falsetto peak towards the end of the song, it was a performance to build a career on. Mickey left Bishop's band in 1979 to join the Jefferson Starship after former Jefferson Airplane lead singers Marty Balin and Grace Slick left the band. Grace rejoined the band and had a few duets with Thomas, one of which was silly 80's schmaltz "We Built This City." But Mickeys performance on "Jane" more then made up for it.

#2. Tom Waits.
When it comes to left of center sounding singers, Tom Waits takes the cake. More known as a songwriter then a singer, Tom Waits has a loyal following of fans who prefer his guttural sounding versions of his songs to the usually more well known cover versions of his compositions. A few of these are "Jersey Girl" by Bruce Springsteen, "Ol' 55" by the Eagles, and "Downtown Train" by Rod Stewart. I always thought vocally he was a cross between blues icon Howlin' Wolf and the weirdly genius Captain Beefheart, but he is truly unique and always entertaining.

#3. Stevie Winwood.
The emmensly talented Mr. Winwood is probably the most underrated rock star of the sixties. His premier on vinyl in 1965 was a run away hit with the Spencer Davis Group called "Keep on Running," but it was his smash hit "Gimme Some Lovin" that he co-wrote that had people comparing him to Ray Charles. By the way, Stevie was 16-years-old when he sang and wrote "Gimme Some Lovin."

Stevie left the SDG to form Traffic with Dave Mason, Jim Capaldi, and Chris Wood in 1967, and Stevie's vocals can be heard on the great song "Dear Mr. Fantasy." Stevie left Traffic to form rocks first "Supergroup" with Eric Clapton And Ginger Baker, called Blind Faith. Although they only made one album, its stands up even today as one of the era's most underrated records. His full voice high range vocal is so unique and strong that you rarely find cover bands being able to cover Traffic and Blind Faith tunes. (Present company excepted of course.)

#4. Captain Beefheart.
Born in Glendale, California, Don Van Vliet took up the moniker of Captain Beefheart in 1964 and formed the Magic Band soon thereafter. Beefheart was encouraged by a teenage buddy of his to explore his musical talents which encompassed aside from singing and reciting his own poetry, playing harmonica and several wind instruments. Oh, and for the record this teen-year friend was a quirky aspiring composer named Frank Zappa. For a good taste of Beefhearts genius check out "Trout Mask Replica," "Safe as Milk," and "Ice Cream for Crow."

I warn you these albums are not for the faint of heart, they are avant-garde tour de force recordings that are musically complex, funny, and thought provoking. If you wanna get some Zappa/Beefheart collaboration, check out Frank Zappa's "Bongo Fury" album, it actually might be a great Beefheart starter kit.

Well I could go on here forever, but you know the old show biz adage "always leave them wanting more." Well if you do, join me here for my next column of "Leone's Legends."

Peace, love, and tolerance. Joey