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Jonas Westover

[Blinky ]

(b Frederiksted, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, Aug 17, 1934). Crucian guitarist, saxophonist, band leader, and singer. He was the son of Ivan McIntosh, a saxophonist active during the early 20th century, and Ethel McIntosh, a singer. He learned music from them as a youth and soon joined a “scratch band,” a local ensemble feature cane flute, gourd rasp, guitar, drum, and bass. By the age of 15, he had joined his father’s group as a guitarist, learning an older repertoire and touring widely throughout the island. During this same period, McIntosh learned traditional songs from his mother, who also encouraged him to study with local storytellers and folk performers. He also joined a carnival-oriented ensemble titled the Wild Indians. By 1955 he created his own “scratch band” called the Pond Bush Hot Shots. In the 1960s he was invited to become the lead alto sax player for the Joe Parris Hot Shots, the country’s leading quadrille group, with whom he recorded into the 1970s. Although he was an active musician during his life, McIntosh labored primarily for the Department of Public Works in St. Croix, as reflected in the name of his next band, Blinky and the Roadmasters (formed in ...

Article

Edgardo Díaz Díaz

[“El Conde” ]

(b Ponce, PR, Jan 31, 1933; d Bronx, NY, Dec 2, 2000). Puerto Rican salsa singer and bandleader. Rodríguez established himself as one of salsa’s prime singers in the most traditional stream of the Cuban son. At the age of ten, he was a bongo player in Ponce with Conjunto El Gondolero, an ensemble founded and directed by his father and teacher, Emiliano Rodríguez. At 13 he moved with his family to New York, where he worked in a printing office and was drafted for the Korean War (1950–53). Upon his return, he resumed playing bongos and became a singer with various Cuban-styled groups. In 1962 Johnny Pacheco hired him as sonero for his charanga orchestra and they produced four albums, beginning with Suavito (Alegre, 1963). With the creation of Fania Records by Pacheco and Jerry Massuci, Rodríguez became the first singer to record on the label with the album ...

Article

Edgardo Díaz Díaz

(b Carolina, PR, Aug 21, 1962). Puerto Rican bandleader and singer. Santa Rosa is considered one of the great soneros of contemporary salsa. At age 12 he formed his first musical group and as a teenager sang backup with the orchestras of Mario Ortiz, Tommy Olivencia, and Willie Rosario. In 1986 he premiered as bandleader and soloist with Good Vibrations (1986), the first of 35 albums to date. His music shows an inclination to conform with values of the pop music industry; his clear-cut styles are typical of the commercial ballad associated with a Latin music offspring known as “romantic salsa.” However, Santa Rosa is equally praised for his ability to navigate between the streams of pop and traditional salsa. Although his recordings seldom feature percussion or instrumental improvisations of any sort, his live presentations entertain audiences and dancegoers with his outstanding improvisatory vocal soneos in the vein of Ismael Rivera and his idol, Andy Montañez. Santa Rosa remains very active today as a performer entertaining fans in concert and dance halls....

Article

Carrie Allen Tipton

(b Henry, TN, Sept 18, 1938). American gospel music television and radio host, singer, choir director, and media executive. He began singing publicly in the Methodist church as a child, although his first exposure to gospel music came in sanctified churches. His involvement with gospel music deepened in Nashville when he served as keyboard player, singer, and director for church and civic choirs while studying at Tennessee State University. In 1978 Jones recorded the first of many albums with his small ensemble, the New Life Singers, whose aesthetic leaned more toward contemporary Christian music than black gospel. Around this time he began hosting children’s and gospel music shows on Nashville television stations. In 1980 Black Entertainment Television began broadcasting one of these programs, Bobby Jones Gospel. The popular program has featured performances by Jones’s ensembles, established gospel stars, and up-and-coming gospel artists. Firmly within the gospel entrepreneurial tradition, Jones’s other enterprises include music festivals, workshops, radio shows, the gospel opera ...

Article

Harry B. Soria

(b Kaumana, HI, Sept 26, 1901; d Honolulu, HI, Feb 1, 1972). American singer, musician, bandleader, composer, and recording artist. Kinney’s career stretched over 57 years, and he achieved the greatest popularity of any Hawaiian singer-musician during his era. Sent to school in Utah, Kinney and his brothers toured as a Hawaiian band. In 1920, his mother died, and he was summoned home to Hawaii, where he continued to hone his musical skills as an accomplished tenor balladeer with exceptional diction and clarity. In 1925, he toured California as a member of Charles E. King’s “Prince of Hawaii” cast. Returning home to Hawaii, he joined the David Burrows Trio and was named the most popular male singer in Hawaii at that time. For the rest of his life, he alternated between touring the continental United States and performing in Hawaii. He was engaged for four years at The Hawaiian Room at Hotel Lexington in New York City. In a ...

Article

Jay W. Junker

(b Honolulu, HI, Aug 13, 1930; d Honolulu, HI, April 14, 2007). Hawaiian pop singer and bandleader. Often portrayed by the mainstream media as the archetypal lounge lizard, Don Ho was the only Hawaiian musician of his era with an international profile. To his detractors his music was effervescent kitsch that made it hard for outsiders to take any Hawaiian culture seriously. To his supporters, he was a canny entertainer who understood his core audience and catered to their needs for more than four decades. During that time he recorded 15 best-selling records, made guest appearances on every major American talk show, and from 1976 to 1977 hosted his own series on the ABC television network. With his aloha shirt, Beatles haircut, and nonchalant style, his act worked just as well in Las Vegas as in Waikiki. In many ways, he was as much a tourist attraction as a musician, especially for military veterans, whom Ho was always careful to honor in between the joking and the music....

Article

Rich Kienzle

[Kuczynski, Julius Frank Anthony ]

(b Milwaukee, WI, Feb 18, 1914; d Louisville, KY, March 7, 2000). American country music accordionist, bandleader, songwriter, and vocalist. His musical career was inspired by his father, John, a Polish American who led a local polka band. At 15, he began learning accordion and, in 1930, met popular bandleader Wayne King who suggested the youth take the surname “King” in the interest of simplicity. His first band, the King’s Jesters, played both country music and polkas. In 1934, the group filled in for Gene Autry’s band when Autry, then a star of WLS’s National Barn Dance, toured Wisconsin. King joined Autry (who dubbed him “Pee Wee”) in Louisville until the singer left to launch his Hollywood film career. He briefly led a Louisville band known as the Log Cabin Boys, then in 1937 organized the Golden West Cowboys, who joined the Grand Ole Opry with a distinctive, progressive repertoire blending country, pop, polkas, waltzes, and western swing. From ...

Article

Dick Spottswood

[Joseph Emmett ]

(b Weaverville, NC, July 20, 1898; d Concord, NC, June 12, 1971). American singer, fiddler, and bandleader. A breakdown fiddler who played in an early country style similar to that of Fiddlin’ John Carson, J.E. and his younger brother Wade formed Mainers’ Mountaineers while both were full-time employees at a cotton mill in Concord, North Carolina. They performed informally until they appeared with the Lay Brothers on WSOC in nearby Gastonia. In 1934 they signed with Crazy Water Crystals, a laxative company that sponsored them on the powerful stations WBT (Charlotte) and WPTF (Raleigh) and provided enough exposure to let them become full-time performers. When Wade left to seek other opportunities in 1937, J.E. promptly formed a new band with Leonard “Handsome” Stokes, George Morris, and DeWitt “Snuffy” Jenkins, who was developing an advanced banjo style that anticipated the three-finger approach that Earl Scruggs perfected in the 1940s. Drinking problems led to J.E.’s band firing him in ...

Article

Dick Spottswood

[Eckhart ]

(b Buncombe County, NC, April 21, 1907; d Flint, MI, Sept 12, 2011). American singer, banjo player, guitarist, and bandleader. Formed Mainers’ Mountaineers with his brother J.E. from 1934–36 and thereafter with his own Sons of the Mountaineers, Mainer furthered the growth and development of mountain string band music in the 1930s. In an era that saw the rising popularity of western swing, honky-tonk, and Hollywood cowboy songs, the Mainers successfully recycled traditional tunes and kept the sound of rural fiddle and banjo prominent on Southeastern radio, in small performance venues, and on more than 150 recordings made for RCA between 1935 and 1941. Mainer versions of “Down in the Willow Garden,” “Wild Bill Jones,” “Riding on That Train 45,” “Maple on the Hill,” and “Old Ruben” became folk and bluegrass classics.

On invitation from Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish, Mainer’s band performed in concert with the Golden Gate Quartet, Josh White, and Burl Ives at the White House in ...

Article

Gregory N. Reish

(James )

(b Sneedville, TN, Aug 10, 1927; d Nashville, TN, May 14, 2005). American bluegrass and country singer, guitarist, and bandleader. Known as the “King of Bluegrass,” Martin began his career as guitarist and lead singer of bill Monroe ’s Blue Grass Boys from late 1949 to 1954, also working occasionally with the Osborne Brothers. Martin contributed to some of the Blue Grass Boys’ most influential and highly regarded recordings for Decca during this period. In 1955, Martin formed his own group, the Sunny Mountain Boys. Based initially in Detroit, the band’s lineup featured the young Kentucky banjoist J.D. Crowe, joined later by mandolinist Paul Williams. In 1956, Martin signed with Decca, producing a string of country hits into the 1960s.

Martin and the Sunny Mountain Boys presented a hard-edged style that appealed to a wide range of country music fans. His own driving rhythm guitar and highly expressive lead vocals, coupled with Williams’s pure high tenor harmony and Crowe’s blues-inflected banjo backup, produced some of the most memorable and commercially successful recordings of the era without the stylistic concessions to folk revivalism that other bluegrass bands were making. Their repertory included secular and often raucous Martin songs such as “You don’t know my mind” (Decca, ...