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Douglas B. Green

(Elvie )

(b near Willcox, AZ, Dec 31, 1924; d Tucson, AZ, Dec 19, 1999). American singing cowboy, songwriter, actor, and radio and recording artist. Born on a remote ranch, Allen had a powerful voice of tremendous range, was a world-class yodeler, and a prolific songwriter. He had begun a performing career straight out of high school and, after a stint at WTTM in Trenton, NJ, was added to the National Barn Dance cast in 1945. A true westerner and a good horseman, he seemed a natural for the singing cowboy film genre, but it was a genre in decline, and his was the last singing series any studio launched. Allen’s first film for Republic was the fittingly titled Arizona Cowboy (1950), and his last of 19 movies was Phantom Stallion (1954).

Allen then turned to television, starring in Frontier Doctor (1958). He was able to keep up an active recording and touring career, supplemented by Disney Studios’ (and other studios’) frequent use of his avuncular and authoritative speaking voice as a narrator of documentaries, television features, and feature films such as ...

Article

Frances R. Aparicio

[Muñiz, Marco Antonio]

(b New York City, Sept 16, 1968). American singer, songwriter, and actor of Puerto Rican ancestry. Named after the famous Mexican singer Marco Antonio Muñiz (b 1933), Marc Anthony has become one of the most famous and important Latino singer-songwriters in the United States. Because of the excellence of his voice and his commitment to his Latino and Caribbean roots, he has become the biggest selling salsa artist of all time, with over 10 million albums sold worldwide. After singing house and freestyle music in English in his early career, Marc Anthony revitalized salsa music with a series of early 1990s musical hits that paved the way for the 1999 Latin pop explosion. He has successfully crossed linguistic borders, singing both in English and Spanish within the same album and thus contesting the label of “crossover.” His stage performances and the hybrid musical arrangements that have cast traditional Puerto Rican songs like “Preciosa” and “Lamento borincano” as salsa songs embody his Nuyorican identity in the public space, thus exemplifying the transnational nature of salsa music. Some of his best-known songs in English include “I Need to Know” and “You Sang to Me.”...

Article

Holly George-Warren

[Orvon Grover]

(b Tioga, TX, Sept 29, 1907; d Los Angeles, CA, Oct 2, 1998). American country-music and popular singer, songwriter, and actor. He began his career singing on the radio station KVOO in Tulsa, while working as a relief telegraph operator for the Frisco Railroad. In October 1929 he went to New York to make his first recordings, which were much in the style of Jimmie Rodgers, for RCA Victor and several small independent labels; these were released under the name Gene Autry and led to a contract with the American Record Corporation, which was later taken over by the Columbia Broadcasting System; Autry’s recordings would then be issued by the Columbia Recording Co. In 1931 Autry had his first hit with “Silver Haired Daddy of Mine.” He moved to Chicago in 1932 to star on radio station WLS. There his singing-cowboy persona was developed on the National Barn Dance...

Article

Linda J. Daniel

(Wayne)

(b Duncan, OK, March 25, 1938; d nr Victor, MT, Oct 26, 1999). American singer-songwriter and actor. He took lessons in classical piano as a child and began playing guitar in his teens. His mother, Mae Boren Axton, co-wrote “Heartbreak Hotel,” which was a hit for Elvis Presley in 1956. Axton attended Oklahoma State University, where he excelled in football before leaving to serve in the navy. His music career began in the early 1960s, when he began performing as a singer-songwriter in the folk clubs of southern California. “Greenback Dollar,” a song he co-wrote with Ken Ramsey, became a hit for the Kingston Trio. In 1962 Axton signed with Horizon Records, which released his first album The Balladeer (Horizon, 1962), recorded live at the Troubadour in Hollywood, followed by Thunder’n Lightnin’ and Saturday’s Child (both Horizon, 1963). From 1964 to 1971 he was associated with several labels, including Vee-Jay, Surrey, Exodus, Columbia, and Capitol. His albums with A&M—...

Article

Todd Decker

[Kubelsky, Benjamin ]

(b Chicago, IL, Feb 14, 1894; d Beverly Hills, CA, Dec 26, 1974). American Entertainer, actor, and violinist. The son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Lithuania, he began playing violin at age six and was considered a local prodigy. By age 17 he was playing in vaudeville pit orchestras and soon moved onto the stage. Benny paired up with a pianist—initially Cora Salisbury, then Lyman Wood—in his signature musical act of this time, “From Grand Opera to Ragtime.” After brief service in the US Navy during World War I, Benny returned to vaudeville as a single in an act emphasizing comedy over music. He married Mary Livingstone (Sadye Marks) in 1927. She was an integral part of Benny’s act for most of his career. Although a movie contract with MGM in 1929 led nowhere, Benny found his true medium on radio. His first radio appearance came on ...

Article

Craig A. Lockard

(b Vienna, Austria, May 2, 1924). American and Israeli actor and singer. Born into a Jewish family, he spent his youth in Austria. Following the Nazi occupation the Bikel family escaped to Palestine, where he made his stage debut in 1943. Moving to London to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he began his acting career in 1948 in A Streetcar Named Desire. In 1954 he immigrated to the United States and, in 1961, became a naturalized American. He made his concert debut at Carnegie Recital Hall, New York, in 1956 with a program of folk songs. In 1959 he was cast as Georg von Trapp in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music. During his long career Bikel has appeared in numerous films, plays, and musicals, from the lead in Zorba to over 2000 performances as the penniless milkman Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof...

Article

Jonas Westover

[Salvatore Phillip]

(b Detroit, MI, Feb 16, 1935; d South Lake Tahoe, CA, Jan 5, 1998). American singer, composer, producer, actor, and politician. Bono began his career as a composer; one of his first songs, “Things You Do To Me,” was recorded by Sam Cooke in 1957–8. He eventually made contact with Phil Spector, with whom he worked closely for several years. One of his first successes came in 1963, when his song “Needles and Pins” (co-written with Jack Nitzsche) was recorded by Jackie DeShannon and reached number one on the charts in Canada. The height of his musical career came in the 1960s and 1970s as part of the duo Sonny and Cher. He wrote, produced, and performed on many of their hits, including “I Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes On.” Success with Cher, to whom he was married from 1964 to 1975, led to many appearances on television, including ...

Article

Jonas Westover

[Charles Eugene ]

(b June 1, 1934, Jacksonville, FL). American singer, actor, and author. He is best known for his success during the 1950s and 60s, when he delivered old-fashioned sounds with a wholesome image and was seen a safe antidote to the African American artists who were performing R&B and rock ’n’ roll. His success was due in part to his choice to cover many of their songs in his own fashion. These were targeted specifically to middle-class white teenagers and resulted in 38 top 40 hits. Boone began recording in 1954 for Republic Records, where he covered music by Fats Domino, Little Richard, Nat “King” Cole, and the El Dorados. Second only to Elvis Presley in terms of album sales during the 1950s, he branched out as an actor, appearing on television in “Arthur Godfrey and his Friends” and “Ozark Jubilee.” From 1957 he hosted his own program, “The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom,” in which he served as a spokesman for the car company and pitched his music. Among his most popular hits are “Ain’t that a Shame” (...

Article

Sandra Jean Graham

[Brower, Francis Marion ]

(b Baltimore, MD, 20/Nov 30, 1820/1823; d Philadelphia, PA, June 4, 1874). American minstrel. His stage debut was in Philadelphia c1837. By spring 1840 he had teamed with dan Emmett , singing and dancing in blackface for the Cincinnati Circus Company. In July 1841 Brower began accompanying Emmett’s banjo songs on bones, pioneering the use of this folk instrument in professional entertainment. After a stint with Raymond and Waring’s Circus around 1841–2, the duo moved to New York. In early 1843 Brower, Emmett, billy Whitlock , and dick Pelham formed the Virginia minstrels , the first blackface minstrel troupe. Brower’s boisterous performances in “Southern Negro character” encompassed playing bones on the right end (which led to the formal role of endman), songs, stump speeches, conundrums (a circus genre), and breakdowns. Patterned on black practice, Brower’s dancing was distinctive for its jumps and leaps. He often danced while playing, his bones and feet creating a dense rhythmic texture, and he typically interrupted his dancing for brief comic dialogue. Brower and Pelham were considered premier dancers and were widely imitated by other minstrels, ...

Article

Monica F. Ambalal

[Iskowitz, Isidore Israel ]

(b New York, NY, Jan 31, 1892; d Beverly Hills, CA, Oct 10, 1964). American actor, comedian, singer, author, songwriter, and philanthropist. Born to Russian immigrant parents in New York, he apparently was orphaned by the age of two, although some scholars believe that his father deserted him, leaving him to be raised by his maternal grandmother. At the age of 13 he left school, and in 1907 he participated in his first vaudeville show, at the Clinton Music Hall, where he also began appearing in blackface. In 1912 he starred in Gus Edwards’s Kid Kabaret, and from 1917 to 1920 he appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies. Throughout the 1920s, he starred in Broadway revues and film; however, it was his role in the screen musical Whoopee! (1930) that elevated him to celebrity status. Nicknamed “Banjo eyes” for their large size, he possessed a quick wit and an animated stage presence. In the stock market crash of ...