on this day

December 18, 2014 Larry Henley died

He was survived by his daughter Shannon Henley Smith, and son Jason and his partner of 17 years, Laurie Norton.
Best known as a member of The Newbeats and for co-writing (with Jeff Silbar) the 1989 hit record “Wind Beneath My Wings,” Henley was born to Carl Henley and.country singer Helen “Kewpi” Timms, who performed with Cowboy Slim Rhinehart on the widely-heard Mexican-border radio station XERA.
He grew up in Odessa, Texas with three sisters, Barbara Henley, Jeanette Henley Chisholm and Pam Lutrell as well as a younger brother, Reggie Henley. He had originally planned on an acting career before becoming a singer and songwriter. Inspired by his friend and neighbor Roy Orbison. He won a talent contest in San Diego, which got him a job as an opening act for the r&b revue “The Johnny Otis Show.”
He relocated to Louisiana, and one night while working a job in the oil fields near Shreveport, he sat in with a local band, the already successful brothers Marc and Dean Mathis. Henley jumped on stage and sang with their eight-piece band. Impressed, they hired him, and the resulting ensemble toured throughout the South. They were billed as “The Dean & Marc Combo Featuring the Golden Voice of Larry Henley.” The singer next headed to Nashville. He was signed as a solo artist to Hickory Records. The Mathis brothers soon relocated as well. They, too, were signed by Hickory. Neither Henley nor the brothers scored hits until they re-teamed as the vocal trio The Newbeats and were promptly discovered by Mercury Records.
The newly christened act had a smash with its first single, 1964’s million-selling “Bread and Butter.” It introduced Henley’s stylized falsetto singing voice, which was higher than that of Frankie Valli of The Four Seasons. “Bread and Butter” peaked at #2 and went on to become an ad jingle for Sunbeam Bread, Quaker Rice Cakes and Friskies cat food.
The band toured Australia and New Zealand with Roy Orbison, Ray Columbus and the Invaders and the Rolling Stones on the “Big Beat ’65” tour.
The group’s catchy melodies with heavily rhythmic arrangements led to a string of other charting pop singles between 1964 and 1970, including “Break Away” (1965), “The Birds Are for the Bees” (1965), “Shake Hands” (1966) and “Groovin’ (Out on Life)” (1969). Particularly successful were 1964’s “Everything’s Alright” and 1965’s Motown-influenced “Run Baby Run.” The Newbeats appeared on “Shindig,” “American Bandstand,” “Where the Action Is” and the other teen TV shows of the era.
In 1971, “Run Baby Run” was re-released in England and became a top-10 hit there. This led to the group again touring with The Rolling Stones. Following their tenure at Hickory, The Newbeats recorded for the Buddah, Casablanca, Playboy and DJM labels before dissolving in 1974.
Henley’s earliest attempts at songwriting were tunes recorded by The Newbeats and their fellow Nashville pop acts Mark Dinning, Roy Orbison and Bobby Goldsboro. His first charting single as a writer was 1972’s “The World Needs a Melody,” as sung by Johnny Cash & The Carter Family. The song was also recorded by George Jones & Tammy Wynette, Jack Greene & Jeannie Seely, Bill Anderson, The Chuck Wagon Gang and The Kingston Trio, among others.
Henley also co-wrote (with Red Lane) “‘Til I Get It Right” for Tammy Wynette, a 1973 #1 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Singles, later covered by Barbra Streisand, Kenny Rogers, Jean Shepard, Millie Jackson, Englebert Humperdinck, Highway 101, Kirk Whalum, Trisha Yearwood and others.
Other #1 country hits were his songs “Is It Still Over?” (performed by Randy Travis), “Lizzie and the Rainman” (performed by Tanya Tucker), and “He’s a Heartache (Looking for a Place to Happen)” (performed by Janie Fricke). Other songs included “Shotgun rider” for Delbert McClinton; “You’re Welcome to Tonight” by Lynn Anderson and Gary Morris.
Henley continued to record as a solo artist, as well. He had contracts with Atco, Epic, Viking and Capitol and released “Piece a Cake” as a solo album on Capricorn Records in 1975. Henley was a friend of Bobby Goldsboro and it was because of Henley’s urging that Goldsboro sang the song “Honey”.
In the 1980s, Henley’s songs were recorded by Delbert McClinton, Levon Helm and Irma Thomas, as well as such country artists as Eddy Arnold, Joe Sun and Bobby Smith. “Love Is on the Air” written by Henley with Jim Hurt and Johnny Slate, and performed by Lou Rawls was used in the 1981 film “Cannonball Run.” Devo re-recorded “Bread and Butter” in 1982, and during the 1991-92 TV season, it was the theme song of the ABC series “Baby Talk.”
Originally recorded by Roger Whittaker in 1982, Gary Morris scored a major 1983 country hit with Henley’s co-written “The Wind Beneath My Wings.” It was named the CMA and ACM Country Song of the Year in 1984. Lee Greenwood took the song up the British charts, and Gladys Knight and Lou Rawls both scored big r&b hits with it. In 1989, Bette Midler revived “The Wind Beneath My Wings” for the movie Beaches, taking it to #1 on the pop charts and earning it the Grammy Award as Song of the Year. It has since totaled around 6 million radio air plays and was part of the soundtrack for “Beaches” (1988).The song earned Henley and Silbar the Grammy Award for Song of the Year for 1989, and Bette Midler the Record of the Year award. The song has since been covered by numerous artists including Judy Collins, B.J. Thomas, Sheena Easton, Willie Nelson, Patti LaBelle, Perry Como, Jack Jones, Little Milton, Ray Price and Kenny Rogers.
Other big Larry Henley songwriting hits of the 1980s included “You’re Welcome to Tonight” (Lynn Anderson & Gary Morris, 1983), “He’s a Heartache” (Janie Fricke, #1, 1983) and “Is it Still Over” (Randy Travis, #1, 1989). Henley was the NSAI Songwriter of the Year in 1983.
In 1991, Donna Summer had an r&b hit with Henley’s co-written “When Love Cries.” Others who have recorded his works include Regina Belle, Roger Whittaker, Billy Burnette, Lane Brody, The Everly Brothers, Connie Francis, Johnny Rodriguez, Lobo, Ray Stevens, The Lettermen, Roger Miller and Shirley Bassey.
Henley’s final project found him returning to his roots, forming a band with fellow songwriters Bruce Channel and Ricky Ray Rector called Original Copy, but his health appeared fragile when he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012.READ MORE:

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