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Hank Medress, whose vocals with the doo wop group the Tokens helped propel their single “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” to the top of the charts in the 1960s and who produced hits with other groups, died June 18 of lung cancer at his home in Manhattan. He was 68.
He launched his vocal quartet in 1955 with Neil Sedaka, performing as the Linc-Tones. It wasn’t until 1961 that the group scored its singular smash, its hypnotic “Wimoweh” derived from a traditional Zulu melody. The Weavers had made the song a folk staple in the ’50s.
In 1969, Medress and a partner approached former teen idol singer Tony Orlando, who had become a publisher, with a song titled “Candida,” which Orlando reluctantly recorded as an “after-working-hours demo.” When it was released, the artist was listed under the pseudonym Dawn.
The follow-up, “Knock Three Times,” was a bigger smash, and Orlando decided it was time to relaunch his career as Tony Orlando and Dawn.
Medress’ producing career was remarkable in the breadth and scope of artists he worked with, including Melissa Manchester, Richard Simmons, Jon Pousette-Dart, Rick Springfield, Frankie Valli, the Chiffons and many others. Medress accumulated 30 top 40 hits in his career, according to the All Music Guide.
In the ’80s, Medress helped former New York Dolls lead singer David Johansen reinvent himself as lounge lizard hipster Buster Poindexter, producing his debut album and the single “Hot, Hot, Hot.”
Antonio Aguilar, a popular Mexican mariachi singer who recorded more than 150 albums and began his acting career during Mexico’s “Golden Era” of cinema, died June 19 of pneumonia in Mexico City. He was 88.
Aguilar, also known as “El Charro de Mexico,” was the most veteran icon of mariachi music and known as much for his powerful voice as his flair for performance. He popularized charreria, a spectacle that mixes music with horseback showmanship.
Aguilar’s concert-rodeo shows featured his actress-singer wife, Flor Silvestre; his two children, Pepe and Antonio Jr.; and dancing horses.
Aguilar launched his career in 1950 and sold more than 25 million albums. He also appeared in more than 160 movies; he co-starred with John Wayne in “The Undefeated” in 1969.
Donna King Conkling, one of the singing King Sisters who gained fame in the 1930s and ’40s in bands led by Artie Shaw, Horace Heidt and Alvino Rey, died June 20 in Plano, Texas. She was 88.
Three of her sisters — Maxine, Luise and Alyce — formed a vocal group and began performing while in junior high school. According to the King Sisters’ Web site, the girls made their radio debut on Oakland station KLX in 1931.
After Donna joined the group, the sisters landed with Heidt, Rey and Shaw, scoring several moderate hits, including a vocal version of the Glenn Miller favorite “In the Mood.”
Through the ’40s, the sisters also found work in films, including “Sing Your Worries Away,” starring Buddy Ebsen; “Meet the People,” starring Lucille Ball and Dick Powell; and “Cuban Pete,” starring Desi Arnaz.
Max Reynolds, who specialized in the installation of projection equipment in homes and theaters, died June 16 in Oceanside, Calif., after a five-year struggle with cancer. He was 66.
His family will present a celebration of his life at noon Saturday at the Four Seasons Resort in Carlsbad, Calif.
Among Reynolds’ clients at Max Reynolds and Associates were the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the DGA, Bruce Willis and Peter Guber.
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