(b Thunder Bay, ON, Nov 28, 1949). Canadian pianist, composer, musical director, actor, producer, and bandleader. He has been musical director for David Letterman’s late-night shows since 1982. Prior to working with Letterman, Shaffer was a featured performer on “Saturday Night Live.” He has served as musical director and producer for the Blues Brothers and cowrote the 1980s dance hit “It’s raining men.” He has served as musical director for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony since its inception in ...
[James Gideon ]
(b Thomas Bridge, near Monroe, GA, June 6, 1885; d Dacula, GA, May 13, 1960). American fiddler, singer, comedian, and hillbilly string band leader. He was a well-known entertainer in north Georgia during the early 20th century, famous for his outrageous comic antics, old-time fiddling, and trick singing. He competed regularly at Atlanta’s annual Georgia Old-Time Fiddlers’ Association conventions and won the state fiddling championship in 1928. In 1924, Columbia A&R man Frank B. Walker recruited Tanner and his sometime musical partner, the blind Atlanta street singer and guitarist Riley Puckett, to make some of the earliest recordings of what soon came to be called hillbilly music.
In 1926, Walker assembled a studio group around Tanner called the Skillet Lickers, whose other regular members consisted of guitarist and lead singer Puckett, fiddler Clayton McMichen, and banjoist Fate Norris. The band’s first release, “Bully of the Town”/ “Pass around the Bottle and We’ll all Take a Drink,” recorded in ...
[James King Kern ]
(b Rocky Mount, NC, June 18, 1905; d Chapel Hill, NC, July 23, 1985). American Bandleader, actor, humanitarian, and religious leader. Sometimes known as “The Ol’ Professor of Swing,” Kyser climbed to the heights of pop success from 1935 to 1950 with an orchestra that played novelty songs as well as swing and ballads. Though he couldn’t read music or play an instrument, he was a brilliant businessman and front man, chalking up 35 top ten records and 11 number ones.
Kyser attended and graduated from UNC Chapel Hill (business degree, 1928), where he produced plays, organized a band (1926), and began to use “Kay” (derived from his middle initial) as his stage name. They recorded six songs for the Victor label between 1928 and 1929, but didn’t record commercially again until 1935. They broke into the big time in Chicago in 1937 with a quiz and music radio show called ...
(b Belews Creek, NC, July 9, 1901; d Los Angeles, CA, Jan 18, 2000).
American arranger, choral conductor, and actor. He grew up in Homestead, Pennsylvania, where he sang in school and church choirs. After two years of study at Massachusetts Agricultural College he transferred to Tufts University where he graduated with a music degree in 1929. In search of opportunities to sing professionally, he went to New York where he joined the Hall Johnson Choir in 1931. From that point forward, his career progressed with remarkable consistency in three streams. By the mid-1930s, he had established himself as a skillful arranger and conductor of choral music. In the latter capacity he travelled extensively in the United States and abroad until well into his nineties. His published arrangements are characterized by lively, repetitive, and often syncopated rhythms, fundamental harmonies with well-spaced modulations, and colorful melodies that are always true to their ethnic origins. Among the best known of more than ninety such works are ...
(b New York, Feb 11, 1928). American trombonist, bandleader, and actor. In his early teens, while under contract to 20th-Century Fox, he began playing the trombone after hearing Kid Ory. He started his first band, the Tailgate Jazz Band, in Los Angeles in 1949 and promptly won Record Changer magazine’s International Jazz Band Contest; the first prize was a trip to New York and a recording date for the Record Changer. His initial commercial recordings (Conrad Janis’s Tailgate Jazz Band, 1950, Cir. [USA] 404) appeared a year later on the Circle (i) label, operated by his mother, Harriet Janis, and Rudi Blesh, and are among the early jazz issues on LP. He remained in New York and led bands at Central Plaza, Eddie Condon’s, Jimmy Ryan’s, Nick’s, the Metropole, and other such venues with such notable sidemen as Roy Eldridge, Coleman Hawkins, Wild Bill Davison, James P. Johnson, and Willie “the Lion” Smith. Janis took part in a few further recording sessions in the early 1950s. He has appeared as a musician in more than 30 network television dramas, in eight Carnegie Hall concerts, and in scores of Broadway plays and Hollywood films. His Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band recorded in ...
[Colón Román jr, William Anthony; ‘El malo’]
(b South Bronx, New York, April 28, 1950). American bandleader, composer, arranger, trombonist, popular singer, producer and actor. Dubbed ‘El malo’ (the ‘bad boy’) of salsa, he began playing the trumpet in 1963 with the teenage band the Dandees. Switching to trombone, he made his professional début at 17 with the album El malo (Fania, 1967). Both as a bandleader and a member of the Fania All-Stars, he quickly moved to the fore of the burgeoning New York salsa scene, cementing the raw, trombone-heavy ‘New York sound’ inspired by earlier artists such as Eddie Palmieri and Mon Rivera. Between 1967 and 1973 he made a series of important recordings with vocalist Hector Lavoe, which included the albums Asalto Navideño I and II (Fania, 1972 and 1973) with cuatro virtuoso Yomo Toro, where traditional Puerto Rican Christmas aguinaldos were fused with salsa. During his second period (...
Deane L. Root
(b Island Pond, VT, July 28, 1901; d North Hollywood, CA, July 3, 1986). American bandleader, singer, saxophonist, actor and publisher. From 1918 he learnt the saxophone and played in a theatre orchestra in Portland, Maine, then attended the University of Maine (1921) and Yale University (to 1927). In 1928 he formed his own band, the Connecticut Yankees; he made his début as a singer in George White’s Scandals (1931), and appeared in Broadway musicals, television and over 20 films, mostly as a musician or comic actor. During the 1930s and 1940s, with his salutation ‘Heigh-ho, everybody!’, he was one of the most successful American bandleaders and singers, among the first crooners to inspire mass hysteria in his audience. With his thin, nasal voice and using a megaphone – later a microphone – he popularized the Maine Stein Song, the Yale Whiffenpoof Song, his own ...