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Lori Burns and Jada Watson

[Myra Ellen]

(b Newton, NC, Aug 22, 1963). American alternative-rock singer-songwriter, pianist, and record producer. She emerged in the early 1990s amid a resurgence of female singer-songwriters and has been one of the few well known alternative-rock artists to use the piano as her primary instrument. She attended the preparatory division of the prestigious Peabody Conservatory but left the school at the age of 11. She began to play her own music in nightclubs at 14, chaperoned by her father, who was a preacher. After Amos moved to Los Angeles in her late teens to pursue a recording career, her band Y Kant Tori Read released a self-titled album (Atl., 1987). Although this was unsuccessful, Atlantic Records retained her six-album contract.

Amos’s debut solo album, Little Earthquakes (Atl., 1992), earned her critical acclaim for her vocal expressivity, pianistic virtuosity, and fearless exploration of a wide range of personal themes, notably female sexuality, personal relationships, religion, sexual violence, and coming of age. The album ...

Article

Roxanne R. Reed

[Delois Barrett and the Barrett Sisters]

Gospel trio. Its members were Delores [Delois] (soprano), Billie (alto), and Rhodessa (high soprano) Barrett. Hailing from the Southside of Chicago, they grew up with seven other siblings and were members of the Morning Star Baptist Church where they sang in a choir directed by their aunt. As the Barrett–Hudson Singers, Delores and Billie had performed in a group with a cousin, whom Rhodessa later replaced to form the Barrett Sisters. Delores, the eldest and the group’s leader, started singing at the age of six. Her professional career began in earnest after graduating from Englewood High School, when she became the first female to join the Roberta Martin Singers (1944; see martin, Roberta ). Billie and Rhodessa received some formal training, but it was through the Roberta Martin Singers that Delores learned technique and honed her individual style, along with the unique ensemble quality known as the Roberta Martin sound. Delores continued to sing with Martin from time to time, even as the Barrett Sisters took shape. Getting their start as an African American gospel trio, the Barrett Sisters first recorded with the label Savoy (...

Article

Paul R. Laird

(Dawn)

(b Broken Arrow, OK, July 24, 1968). American singer and actress. Chenoweth began her stage career singing for church functions before earning a BFA in musical theater and a master’s degree in opera performance from Oklahoma City University. Summer stock, beauty pageants, and off-Broadway roles preceded her Broadway debut in Kander and Ebb’s Steel Pier (1997). She portrayed Sally, a role envisioned for her, in the 1999 revival of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown (winning a Tony Award) and starred in the play Epic Proportions the same year. Chenoweth has enjoyed a simultaneous television career, appearing in small-screen adaptations of Annie (1999) and The Music Man (2003) and working on series such as the eponymous Kristin, The West Wing, Pushing Daisies, Glee, and Good Christian Belles. Her most memorable role on Broadway was Glinda in Stephen Schwartz’s Wicked (2003), a part that she played for two years in workshops before the premiere and which was tailored to her unique talents. Later credits include Cunegonde in a semi-staged version of ...

Article

Horace Clarence Boyer

(b Columbia, SC, 1918; d Philadelphia, PA, Sept 4, 1967). American gospel singer. She studied music at Temple University and subsequently became a school teacher. In 1938 she heard Willie Mae Ford Smith sing gospel music in Washington, DC, and decided to adopt the style. She began singing in towns in the Washington area, where she soon became known as the “Sweetheart of the Potomac,” a title that remained with her throughout her career. She began recording in the early 1950s and by 1953 was one of the major gospel stars, specializing in the “song and sermonette” (where the first half of the song is delivered as a sermon and the second half is sung). Her most popular recordings, all made during the 1950s, include “Amen,” “Evening Sun,” and “Stop Gambler.” She performed most often with the support of a male quartet, beginning a song softly and subtly, then building in volume and drama as the song progressed....

Article

David Sanjek

Vocal group. One of the most influential black vocal harmony groups, the Ink Spots recorded over 70 hit recordings over a career that lasted, through various permutations of personnel, for seven decades. The Ink Spots first assembled in 1932 in Indianapolis, Indiana, and initially performed under the names the Four Riff Brothers, the Percolating Puppies, and King, Jack, and Jester. They appeared at New York’s celebrated Apollo Theatre in 1934 and were reputedly influenced by Paul Whiteman to change their name so as not to collide with that of his vocal ensemble, the King’s Jesters. The group signed with RCA Victor in 1935, but did not achieve commercial success, and switched to Decca the following year. The inimitable Ink Spots sound used a format whereby a track opened with a guitar riff, followed by the tenor lead singer’s rendition of the song’s lyric, after which the bass would pronounce that same material in the form of an oral recitation and then conclude with a repetition of the lead vocalist’s performance. That format first took hold of the public consciousness in ...

Article

Randolph Love

Gospel vocal quartet. It was formed by the brothers Bill (tenor; 1948–51) and Monty (baritone; 1948–52) Matthews as the Melodizing Matthews in 1948 in Springfield, Missouri, but the group has subsequently seen a number of personnel changes. Longtime members include Gordon Stoker (first tenor, manager, from 1950), Hoyt Hawkins (second tenor, baritone, 1952–82), Neal Matthews Jr. (second tenor, 1953–2000), Ray Walker (bass, from 1958), and Duane West (baritone, 1982–99). The white gospel group’s recording career began in the early 1950s with Decca covering black gospel songs and spirituals; they later worked for RCA Victor and Capitol. Their reputation grew when they began to back such country singers as Red Foley (“Just a Closer Walk with Thee”) and made television appearances on The Eddy Arnold Show and NBC’s The Grand Ole Opry. The group reportedly met Elvis Presley in Memphis while touring with Eddy Arnold in ...

Article

Horace J. Maxile

Gospel vocal duo. The group members are Erica Atkins-Campbell (b Inglewood, CA, 29 April 1972) and her sister Tina Atkins-Campbell (b Inglewood, CA, 1 May 1974). Taking their professional name from biblical subjects—Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene—the duo stands among the more innovative voices in urban contemporary gospel. These sisters were nurtured by parents and siblings who were all gospel singers. Aspirations to become professional singers led to jobs as backup singers for notable R&B performers, but discomfort with some secular themes prompted their turn from that style and toward an edgy sacred sound. Mary Mary’s first two albums, Thankful (2000) and Incredible (2002), produced singles with major crossover appeal and introduced audiences to their decidedly contemporary stylishness. This style is noted in their flashy dress and modern hairstyles as well as in their tightly produced grooves that receive airplay in both gospel and R&B radio markets. Elements of their highly modern, and sometimes controversial, approach include influences of house music, hip hop, jazz, and R&B. While songs like “Shackles,” “Heaven,” and “In the Morning” represent the more successful contemporary songs that appeal to younger generations, the duo has roots firmly planted in the traditional sounds of gospel music as represented in “Can’t Give Up Now” and “Yesterday.” In complement to their accomplishments as singers are their credits as songwriters and producers; they wrote one of the charting singles on Yolanda Adams’ ...

Article

Jacqueline Avila

(María Mendoza and Juanita Mendoza)

American Tejano singers and sisters of the popular singer Lydia Mendoza. María Mendoza (b Monterrey, Mexico, 1922; d San Antonio, TX, 1990) and Juanita Mendoza (b Monterrey, Mexico, 1927) began their professional careers touring with the Mendoza family, led by their mother, Leonora, and featuring their sister, Lydia. María and Juanita formed the first female dueto in Texas after Lydia went into temporary retirement to look after her new family upon the outbreak of World War II. They were incredibly popular in the southwest where they toured and performed at various theaters and nightclubs, accompanied by their own guitars or sometimes a piano. Following in the popular repertoire performed by the Mendoza family, they sang many genres including canción rancheras and corridos. The dueto toured with the rest of the family as part of the larger variety act in theaters and carpas (tent shows). They recorded extensively for Discos Azteca in Los Angeles; Discos Ideal in Alice, TX; Columbia; and Falcon, and often recorded with accordion ...

Article

John A. Emerson

revised by Christopher E. Mehrens

[Pasmore, Harriet Horn ]

(b San Francisco, CA, May 12, 1892; d Sonoma, CA, Jan 25, 1986). American Contralto, teacher, and music therapist. After attending the University of California, Berkeley (BA, French, 1914), she taught piano and then voice at Pomona College in Claremont, California (1914–20). After study and concert performances in Europe (1920–25) she returned to the United States and performed and taught privately in New York (1925–35) and Hollywood, California (1936–40). During the 1930s Pazmor was noted for her performances of contemporary American art songs. Her programs regularly included works by Charles Ives, Henry Cowell, Carl Ruggles, John Cage, Ernst Bacon, Ruth Crawford, Roger Sessions, Lou Harrison, Aaron Copland, and William Grant Still. She gave recitals for organizations such as the League of Composers and the Pan American Association of Composers, and at academic institutions including the New School for Social Research, Columbia University, Princeton University, and Harvard University. She studied music therapy at Boston University (MM ...

Article

Jeffery Wanser

Close-harmony vocal group active between 1906 and 1928. It was among the most prominent and best-selling close-harmony vocal groups of the acoustic era, recording hundreds of songs for many record labels including Columbia, Victor, and Edison. Formed from members of the Columbia and Invincible quartets, the original group consisted of Frank Stanley (leader), Henry Burr, Albert Campbell, and Steve Porter. The name “Peerless” was adopted so that they could record for other record labels, although they continued to appear as the Columbia Quartet on the Columbia label until 1912. Early hits included “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” and “Let me call you sweetheart.” Sometimes using other names, they also recorded comic sketches and minstrel songs.

In 1910 Stanley died and Burr took over as leader and manager for the remainder of the group’s existence. In the years before and during World War I they recorded “I didn’t raise my son to be a soldier” (...