memories of the ’80s – Sheila E.

For this drummer and percussionist, a fortuitous meeting led to touring the world with Prince and the A listers of ’80s music.

Sheila Escovedo known by her stage name Sheila E. made drumming the focus, and her sexy style kept all the eyes on her as she went for centre stage.

Escovedo, whose father was a percussionist and with several family members as musicians, was destined for the stage.

In the late 1970s she was performing with her Dad, as well as had worked with performers such as Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Herbie Hancock and Lionel Ritchie. She also plays guitar and tuba.

It was a meeting in 1978 with Prince which set her on the path to fame. A few years later she was invited to be part of the recordings for Prince’s sixth album, Purple Rain, which was also the soundtrack to the accompanying film. Sheila E. became the opening act for the Purple Rain tour in 1984, and started work on her own solo album.

In mid-1984, Sheila E. released The Glamorous Life, and the self-titled lead single became her first hit single, making number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 and a music video that had heavy airplay on MTV and MuchMusic. She was nominated for an American Music Award and Grammy Award.

The following year she released the album Romance 1600, which produced the popular single A Love Bizarre, which hit number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. She also released the single Holly Rock, both used on the soundtrack of 1985′s Krush Groove, which she also appeared in with Run DMC, LL Cool J and Blair Underwood.

For three consequent Prince albums of the 1980s, Sign O’ the Times, The Black Album and Lovesexy, Sheila E. was the musical director of his backup band, appeared in the concert film of the Sign O’ the Times tour, as well as releasing her third album Sheila E.

I liked Sheila E. – she had style and skill and wasn’t just a pretty girl on stage. Too bad I don’t have any musical skill – I would have loved to have emulated her!

Despite her lack of presence on radio or videos in subsequent decades, Sheila E.’s skill as a percussionist has made her a successful musician to this day, who has consequently worked with Cyndi Lauper, Ringo Starr, Morris Day, Gloria Estefan and still works with Prince.

memories of the ’70s – Nick Gilder

An Englishman that grew up in Vancouver, Nick Gilder brought those Brit roots with the establishment of his first band, Sweeney Todd, a glam rock group which garnered fans and radio airplay with their hit single Roxy Roller in 1976.

The band won the best single at the annual Juno Awards. In 1977, Sweeney Todd was no longer – as Nick Gilder wanted to pursue a solo career. He and his writing partner James McCulloch signed a deal with US label Chrysalis Records, while the band struggled to continue with replacements including a 15 year old Bryan Adams.

The first album by Gilder You Know Who You Are made little impact, but it was the single from the second album City Nights that made the radio stations take notice with Hot Child in the City.

This pop song climbed to number one in the US and Canada and earned Gilder Single of the Year and Most Promising Male Vocalist of the Year from the Junos as well as a People’s Choice Award in the US.

Although Gilder was focused on his own career, his songwriting was being noticed by many other artists and Gilder was commissioned to write songs for Bette Midler, Pat Benatar and Joe Cocker.

Although his career slid out of the spotlight of the pop charts by the end of the decade, Gilder’s influence through the 1980s in songwriting was strong. But it was his early days as a glam rocker in seemingly conservative Vancouver that launched his career into the wild world of pop music.

memories of the ’70s – Barbie Benton

An actor, comedienne and musician, but she’s best known for her body, seen in repeated features in Playboy Magazine: Barbie Benton.

This New Yorker started her career as one of the regulars of late 1960s television series Hee Haw – but it was her pictorials that made her into a household word, with her first appearance in the magazine in March 1970.

She was also the 20 year old girlfriend of magazine founder Hugh Hefner, who at the time was 42.

Benton reappeared in Playboy in 1973 and 1975, and after her relationship ended with Hefner, she focused on her music career, with her self-titled album Barbi Benton and her hit single, Brass Buckles, hitting top five on the Billboard Country charts.

And she’s not just the pretty girl – she sings, composes and plays piano, and made two more albums in the 1970s – Something New and Ain’t that Just the Way and appeared on music series American Bandstand in 1975.

Appearing in guest starring roles on series Marcus Welby MD, The Love BoatMcCloud, Vega$ and Flying High, Benton also starred for two seasons in 1977 ABC television series Sugar Time! as Maxx Douglas, an aspiring rock musician.

But the public loved her looks. With three appearances in Playboy Magazine and numerous posters, Benton was a popular pin-up. As a young girl who was looking for her fave posters, it was hard to avoid the visage of the pretty brunette, who dominated the poster racks for the red-blooded males who wanted a sexy girl on their wall.

memories of the ’70s – Leif Garrett

A poster boy of the ’70s  with his blonde hair and slightly bad boy reputation – was certainly one many remember – Leif Garrett.

Starting his acting career at age five with his sister in the 1960s, Leif Garrett made his Hollywood debut in the 1969 film Walking Tall, and appeared in the consequent sequels to this ’70s action series.

 He also had two reoccuring tv roles – one as the son of Tony Randall’s character Felix Unger in ABC series The Odd Couple and as Zack Russell, the love interest for Kristy McNichol’s character in the series Family.

During 1975, Garrett was one of the stars of CBS series Three for the Road with Alex Rocco and Vincent Van Patten.

He was featured in all the magazines from Tiger Beat to Teen Beat and then expanded his repertoire for his fans with the creation of his first self-titled album in 1976. His cover of the pop classic Runaround Sue reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In 1979, Garrett recorded his second album, Feel the Need, with a hit pop single – I Was Made for Dancin’, which hit top 10 status on record charts in North America and Europe. Although he continued to record, his music was never to hit the success levels in the future again.

Garrett was the hot commodity of the decade, the one that everyone wanted to hang out with, party with and date. British actress Nicolette Sheridan started a relationship with him in 1979  while he was a pop idol, which lasted six years. But as the decade ended, so did his time in the spotlight. His acting and music continued, but the fixation of the entertainment media had moved on.

I remember seeing huge posters of Leif Garrett in the t-shirt shops and record stores - he was everywhere. He was the California blonde hunk of the day, the one that most teen girls happily chose to paper their bedroom walls. The transition from his teen career to an adult career seemed to be one that just didn’t happen easily for him.

In consequent years his battle with addiction and career resurgence thanks to reality tv series has brought his name back in vogue. Although he is no longer the easy-going teen whose mix of good looks and bad boy sensibility was what made the girls swoon in the 1970s, Leif Garrett of the past was a teen phenomenon who made his mark.