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Daniele Buccio

(Henry )

(b Canton, OH, Aug 18, 1905; d West Redding, CT, July 31, 1978). American composer, violinist, bandleader, recording engineer, and producer. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University, he performed as a light classical violinist in the United States and Europe. During the 1930s he studied conducting with Maurice Frigara in Paris. After a near-fatal car accident in 1940, he organized his own dance band, the Light Brigade, which recorded for RCA and Columbia. After he disbanded it at the turn of the decade, Light devoted himself to management, working for several record companies before becoming president of Waldorf Music Hall Records in 1954. He founded his own label, Grand Award, in 1956 and had success with Dixieland and honky-tonk piano albums. In 1959, he founded Command Records on which he released Persuasive Percussion, the first in a successful series of high-fidelity albums that used stereo technology to great advantage. Over the next two decades, he continued to produce hit albums drawing on the latest technological savvy and packaged with covers usually designed by Josef Albers. Musicians who appeared on Light’s albums include the Free Design, Doc Severinsen, Dick Hyman, Bobby Byrne, and Bobby Hackett. In ...

Article

Thomas Lewis

(b Uzlian, province of Minsk, Russia, Feb 27, 1891; d New York, NY, Dec 12, 1971). Broadcasting executive of Russian birth. The son of a housepainter and a seamstress, Sarnoff immigrated to the United States with his mother and brothers in 1900. The family joined their father in a tenement on New York City’s Lower East Side. Within days of his arrival Sarnoff worked in communications, selling newspapers, delivering telegraph cables, and then serving as an office boy, telegraph operator, and chief inspector for the American Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company. After World War I, the Marconi Company pooled its radio patents with those from ATT, Westinghouse, General Electric, and others to form the Radio Corporation of America. Sarnoff became commercial manager and eventually president, CEO, and chairman of the board. At RCA Sarnoff made four significant contributions to music production and consumption in the 20th century: a proposal for a “radio music box”; the creation of the National Broadcasting Company; the acquisition of the Victor Talking Machine Company; and the creation of the NBC Symphony Orchestra....

Article

Thomas Willis

(b Salt Lake City, UT, Nov 4, 1927). American artist manager. He attended the University of Utah, then moved to New York in 1949 and in 1953 founded Ronald A. Wilford and Associates. He joined Columbia Artists Management, Inc. (CAMI), in 1958 as general manager of its Broadway Theater division; at the same time he continued to be active as an independent manager and soon acquired a reputation for shrewdness. Among his early clients were Marcel Marceau, Régine Crespin, Nicolai Gedda, Rita Gorr, and Aldo Ciccolini, all of whom made their American debuts under his management. In 1962 he created his own division within CAMI, bringing his private clients under its auspices. After being named president in 1971, Wilford adopted a policy of increased specialization, diversification, and overall expansion; in 2010 the company was managing the careers of more than 1000 conductors, singers, and instrumentalists in the world of classical music. CAMI also has begun to represent a small number of popular musicians. The company has long been involved in the production of special events and television production. Wilford’s own interests as a manager center on conductors and music directors, and among his clients are many leaders of major symphony orchestras in the United States. In his sixth decade of artist management, Wilford serves as chairman and CEO of CAMI....

Article

Terence J. O’Grady

revised by Bryan Proksch

(b Los Angeles, CA, March 31, 1935). American trumpeter, composer, bandleader, and record company executive. He studied trumpet as a child and left college to play in the army for a two-year period. After three years of producing records on his own, he launched A&M Records with Jerry Moss in 1962. A&M’s first issue was also Alpert’s first recording as a trumpeter and bandleader, The Lonely Bull (A&M, 1962). The title track included sounds from the bullring in Tijuana, Mexico, so Alpert dubbed his band the Tijuana Brass. His music exploited a distinctive combination of Mexican mariachi-style brass with jazz rhythms, which was dubbed Ameriachi. A string of hits including “Mexican Shuffle” (A&M, 1964) and “Tijuana Taxi” (A&M, 1965) followed. In 1966 Alpert had five recordings simultaneously listed on the Billboard Top 20. His cover of “This guy’s in love with you” reached no.1 in ...

Article

Jesse Jarnow

(b New Orleans, LA, April 13, 1926). American label owner, producer, and engineer. The owner of Cosimo Recording Studios and Rex Records, he was one of the most important recording producers in the fertile New Orleans scene between 1945 and 1972. Matassa’s family, Sicilian immigrants, owned grocery and appliance stores in New Orleans, the latter of which sold radios as well as jukeboxes. As a teenager, Matassa was a field service representative for the family business, J & M Amusement Services. After Matassa began making money selling used records from the jukeboxes, he purchased a Duo Press disc cutter, installed it in the rear of the family store, hired out the space to outside producers, and began recording exclusive sides for the company to distribute. One such artist was Fats Domino, who cut his first single there in 1949. Relocating to a larger space in the French Quarter in ...

Article

Laurence Libin

[Theodore M. ]

(b Somerset, KY, 1910; d Twin Falls, ID, April 1, 2001). American guitar company executive and pioneer in the development of electric guitars. An engineering graduate of the University of Cincinnati (1933), he worked for the Rudolph Wurlitzer Co., first as an accountant and eventually as director of purchasing for the retail division. During World War II he was an army engineer. He became general manager of the Gibson Guitar Corporation in 1948, vice president in 1949, and was its president from 1950 to 1966. During this period he secured several patents and profitably advanced Gibson’s manufacture of electric guitars, notably in the early 1950s the warm-toned solid-body Les Paul models that later formed the core of Gibson’s reputation. McCarty promoted the design of innovative models (e.g. the three-pickup ES-5, the classic ES-175 ‘jazz box’, and the classic semi-hollow ES-335) and various improvements such as Gibson’s Tune-o-matic bridge system, humbucking pickup (designed by Seth Lover), and the futuristic Explorer, Flying V, Moderne (these three designed by the automobile designer Ray Dietrich), SG, and Firebird lines. During McCarty’s tenure Gibson’s output grew to more than 100,000 instruments annually. He left Gibson to become part-owner and president of the Kalamazoo-based Bigsby Company, specializing in guitar vibrato systems and accessories; he retired in ...

Article

Marisol Negrón

(b Brooklyn, NY, Sept 29, 1941; d Hackensack, NJ, March 10, 2009). American promoter, manager, and record label owner. The premiere promoter of “tropical” Latin music, Mercado was a teenager when he began organizing “waistline parties” that admitted women free of charge while men paid according to the size of their date’s waist. These parties soon led to the 3 & 1 club in Brooklyn, where he featured established and up-and-coming Latin music musicians. Mercado established himself in the Manhattan music scene by promoting live performances, such as the Latin jazz series at the Red Garter; dances at the Cheetah Lounge, including the legendary Fania All-Stars concert in 1971; and, in the early 1980s, the Salsa Meets Jazz series at the Village Gate with promoter Jack Hooke.

Mercado created RMM Management in 1972, eventually signing most of the artists under Fania Records. In 1987 he launched RMM Records, filling the void left by the demise of Fania in the early 1980s. Mercado quickly emerged as a leader in the industry and the shift toward ...

Article

Jonas Westover

(b New York, NY, March 27, 1927). American record executive. Trained as an accountant, he started his career in the record business at Verve Records, where he worked with Ella Fitzgerald and Sammy Davis Jr. He was subsequently hired as the president of Reprise, partially due to the influence of Frank Sinatra. He eventually became head of Reprise’s parent company, Warner Bros., for which he signed and fostered the careers of such notable musicians as the Beach Boys, Frank Zappa, Paul Simon, and Prince. He worked at Warner Bros. from 1963 to 1994, where he was known particularly for his openness towards musical experimentation and the rights of artists. Ostin believed that the financial bottom line was not always the most significant factor in choosing the right music or musicians. In 1996 he and his fellow executive Larry Waronker moved to Dream Works Records, again taking risks with especially creative talent. Ostin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in ...

Article

Alex Harris Stein

(b Pittsburgh, PA, Jan 29, 1915; d Paterson, NJ, March 18, 1995). American writer on jazz, record producer, and folklorist. He coedited one of the first scholarly books on jazz with Charles Edward Smith, Jazzmen: the Story of Hot Jazz Told in the Lives of the Men who Created It (New York, 1939). Supported in part by Guggenheim Fellowships (1953, 1955), Ramsey conducted extensive fieldwork throughout the American South, photographing African American life and recording interviews and music. The results of his travels are detailed in his books Been Here and Gone (New Brunswick, NJ, 1960) and Where the Music Started (New Brunswick, NJ, 1970). Many of his field recordings were released by Folkways Records as Music of the South (1954). He produced a historical anthology of recordings for Folkways titled Jazz (1950–53). Later, grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (...

Article

Miles White

[Antonio ]

(b Cincinnati, OH, June 7, 1956). American songwriter, producer, and recording industry executive. One of the most influential African American music executives of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Reid shared songwriting or production credits on a string of major crossover albums in the 1980s and 1990s, among them Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel (1988), Paula Abdul’s Forever Your Girl (1988), Whitney Houston’s I’m Your Baby Tonight (1990), The Bodyguard soundtrack album (1992), and TLC’s CrazySexyCool (1994). His first professional success came as a drummer for the R&B group the Deele, which featured singer Babyface Edmonds. In 1989 Reid and Edmonds began producing hits together in Los Angeles before starting LaFace Records in Atlanta under a joint partnership with Arista Records. LaFace mentored a new generation of artists including Usher, Outkast, Toni Braxton, and TLC, making Atlanta an important hub in the popular music industry. Reid and Edmonds collaborated on writing or producing 33 number one singles during their partnership, and in ...