Leroy Cooper played baritone saxophone with the Ray Charles band in the 1950s through the '70s. His tenure with the band included recording sessions that yielded the film theme “In the Heat of the Night” and Charles’ rendition of “America, the Beautiful."
(Charles Wells Photography)

Leroy Cooper

Musician in Charles band

Leroy Cooper, 80, who played baritone saxophone for Ray Charles from the 1950s through the 1970s and at times served as bandleader for the R&B pianist, died of heart failure Jan. 15 at his home in Orlando, Fla., the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Cooper spent two decades with the Charles band, a stretch that began in 1957. His tenure included the recording sessions that yielded the film theme “In the Heat of the Night,” “Crying Time” and Charles’ stirring rendition of “America, the Beautiful.”

Cooper also contributed to a wide array of other recordings, including blues man Lowell Fulson’s classic “Reconsider Baby,” and sessions with Dr. John, Joe Cocker, Kenny Neal and Lightnin’ Hopkins. He also toured with the Righteous Brothers for a time.

After leaving the Charles band in 1977, Cooper moved to Orlando for a job at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. He was a bandleader and performer on Main Street U.S.A. for about 20 years.

The son of a bandleader, Cooper was born in Dallas on Aug. 31, 1928. He learned to play the sax as a child and also became proficient on the clarinet and flute.

Gary Kurfirst

Music manager, record executive

Gary Kurfirst, 61, a pop music manager, promoter and record executive who played a key role in the success of the bands Talking Heads, Blondie and the Ramones, died Jan. 13 while on vacation in the Bahamas, the New York Times reported.

The cause of death has not been determined, the paper said.

A figure in pop music for more than four decades, Kurfirst opened the Village Theater in Manhattan in 1967. The venue later became the Fillmore East. In 1968, he staged the New York Rock Festival in Flushing Meadows Park, which featured Janis Joplin and the Doors.

He later started the management company Overland Productions and its successor, Kurfirst-Blackwell Entertainment. He also founded Radioactive Records and the music publishing companies Loco de Amor and Mucho Loco Music.

Kurfirst began promoting music while a student at Forest Hills High School in Queens, the Times reported.

In the late 1960s, he turned to artist management, handling reggae artists including Peter Tosh and Toots and the Maytals.

Kurfirst turned to film in the 1980s, producing movies including “Stop Making Sense,” the performance film of the Talking Heads that was directed by Jonathan Demme.

Holly Coors

Former wife of brewery magnate

Holly Coors, 88, a conservative political activist and philanthropist and the ex-wife of brewery magnate Joseph Coors, died Sunday at her home in Golden, Colo., after a long illness, family spokeswoman Aimee Valdez said.

Coors served on the board of the Heritage Foundation, which her ex-husband helped create. She was also on the board of the Federalist Society and was founder and president of Women of Our Hemisphere Achieving Together, which helps Central American women.

Coors served as a trustee, director or advisory board member for a dozen other foundations, colleges and institutions.

President Reagan appointed her to the Board of Governors of the Air Force Academy and named her a goodwill ambassador. President George H.W. Bush appointed her to the White House Fellows Commission.

Holland Hanson was born Aug. 25, 1920, in Bangor, Maine. She met Joseph Coors in Nantucket, Mass., and they married in 1941. They divorced in 1988.

Joseph Coors, who died in 2003, was chief operating officer of Golden-based Adolph Coors Co., which his grandfather founded. The company is now part of Molson Coors.

-- times staff and wire reports