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[Abrams, Richard Louis ]

(b Chicago, IL, Sept 19, 1930). American pianist, composer, and administrator. After receiving private piano lessons, he studied at the Chicago Musical College and taught himself the system of composition devised by Joseph Schillinger. He began to work professionally in 1948 and performed regularly at the Cotton Club in Chicago during the 1950s, accompanying visiting musicians such as Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt, and Max Roach. After composing and arranging for the Walter “King” Fleming band in the mid-1950s, Abrams joined the hard bop ensemble MJT+3 and made his recording debut on the group’s album DADDY-O PRESENTS MJT+3 (1957, VJ 1013). Beginning in 1961 Abrams led the Experimental Band, a composer-centered rehearsal ensemble whose members included the double bass player Donald Rafael Garrett, Jack DeJohnette, Roscoe Mitchell, and the reed player Joseph Jarman. He subsequently co-founded the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in 1965...

Article

Horace Clarence Boyer

revised by Tammy L. Kernodle

(b Hamilton, MS, Jan 21, 1916; d Los Angeles, CA, July 8, 1996). American gospel singer, manager, and promoter. He moved to Los Angeles in the early 1940s to become a member of the Southern Gospel Singers, an all-male quartet. In 1946 he joined the Pilgrim Travelers, another male quartet, of which he soon became the guiding force. During its period of greatest popularity in the 1950s and 1960s the group became known for its close and smooth harmonies. Its members have included Kylo Turner and Keith Barber (leads), Jesse Whitaker (baritone), and Raphael Taylor (bass); jazz singer Lou Rawls also sang with the group in the late 1950s. Among their popular recordings were “Mother Bowed” (1950) and “I was there when the spirit came” (1952). The group performed in concert throughout the United States and won acclaim for their appearances at the Apollo Theater in New York. When the Travelers disbanded following a car accident that left Rawls hospitalized, Alexander shifted his focus to production and management. Alexander was instrumental in securing a recording contract for Dorothy Love Coates and the Original Gospel Harmonettes, recommended the singer Jessy Dixon to Brother Joe May and is credited as one of Little Richard’s early mentors and managers. He started working with Sam Cooke, who left gospel music in the late 1950s to pursue a career in pop music, and together they formed SAR records in ...

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

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

(b Anguilla, MS, March 21, 1919; d Hazel Crest, IL, 15 June, 1995). American gospel director, singer, composer, and publisher. Anderson established a career forming and training gospel groups in Chicago. His formative years were spent as one of the original Roberta Martin Singers, one of the premiere gospel groups of the 1930s and 1940s. He left briefly, between 1939 and 1941, to form the first of his many ensembles, the Knowles and Anderson Singers with R.L. Knowles. He rejoined Martin, but ultimately resigned because of the travel demands. In 1947 he formed Robert Anderson and his Gospel Caravan, but after several members left in 1952, he formed a new set of singers that recorded and performed under the name the Robert Anderson Singers through the mid-1950s. Throughout his career, Anderson recorded on a multitude of labels including Miracle and United with Robert Anderson and the Caravans; and later with the Robert Anderson Singers, on Apollo. Anderson wrote, and often sang lead on, many of the songs his groups performed, including “Why Should I Worry” (...

Article

David F. Garcia

[Desiderio Alberto]

(b Santiago de Cuba, March 2, 1917; d San Diego, CA, Dec 2, 1986).American entertainer, bandleader, and television producer of Cuban birth. Arnaz left Santiago for the United States when his father, the mayor, was exiled upon the fall of the Machado government in 1933. Arnaz began his career as a singer in Miami and joined the internationally famous Xavier Cugat orchestra in the late 1930s. He started his own band, which recorded with Columbia in 1941 and Victor from 1946 through 1951. While Arnaz was the leader and featured singer, the band also recorded with prominent American singers, including the Andrews Sisters and Jane Harvey. Arnaz also appeared in the Broadway and film versions of Too Many Girls in 1939 and 1940, respectively. He married the film actress Lucille Ball, and the couple eventually starred in and produced their classic television show, I Love Lucy (featuring Arnaz as a bandleader), from ...

Article

Bill C. Malone

revised by Barry Mazor

[Chester Burton ]

(b nr Luttrell, TN, June 20, 1924, d Nashville, TN, June 30, 2001). American country-music guitarist and recording company executive. Although the first instrument he played professionally was the fiddle, he became internationally famous as a guitarist. Developed while he was in high school, his guitar style was influenced by Merle Travis, Les Paul, Django Reinhardt, and George Barnes and was characterized by the use of the thumb to establish a rhythm on the lower strings and multiple fingers to play melodic or improvisational passages on the higher strings, sometimes with complex voicings. In the early 1940s Atkins toured with Archie Campbell and Bill Carlisle playing both fiddle and guitar, and appeared with them on WNOX radio in Knoxville. He then toured with the second generation Carter Family as a sideman and in 1946 joined Red Foley. After beginning his association with the “Grand Ole Opry” he settled in Nashville in ...

Article

John L., Jr. Clark

[Calhoun, Cora]

(b Chattanooga, TN, Sept 19, 1887; d Chicago, IL, July 10, 1972). American jazz and blues pianist, composer, bandleader, arranger, and music director. After studying at Roger Williams University (Nashville) and Knoxville College, she performed on the TOBA circuit and toured accompanying her second husband Buster Austin. In the early 1920s Austin moved to Chicago, where for almost 20 years she directed shows for touring stage performers as the music director and bandleader at the Monogram and Joyland theaters. From 1923 to 1926 she also led the house band at Paramount Records, accompanying blues singers and making instrumental recordings featuring such jazz musicians as Tommy Ladnier, Al Wynn, Johnny Dodds, and Jimmy O’Bryant. After working in a defense plant during World War II, Austin returned to music, working in dancing schools. Her final recording, in 1961 for Riverside Records, was a reunion with her friend Alberta Hunter and several musicians she had previously worked with in Chicago....

Article

Jonas Westover

[Wright, Erica Abi ]

(b Dallas, TX, Feb 26, 1971). American singer, songwriter, and producer. She was singing for audiences by the age of four and cultivated her skills at the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. She briefly attended Grambling State University, but left to develop her music career and soon landed a contract with Universal Records. She became an immediate sensation; her first recording, Baduizm (Universal, 1997), reached number two on the Billboard charts, while its top single “On and On” received widespread attention and airplay. Her dark, breathy vocal style, reminiscent of jazz and soul singing, earned her two Grammy awards and four nominations. She went on to release a live album, Erykah Badu Live (Universal, 1997), and to work on a number of side projects with other artists, notably providing the hook for the Roots’ song “You got me.” After a brief respite she returned with ...

Article

Jairo Moreno

(b Brooklyn, NY, April 29, 1929; d Hackensack, NJ, Feb 17, 2006). American conga player, bandleader, and producer of Puerto Rican descent. He began playing percussion informally during time in Germany as part of the US occupation army (1946–9). Returning to New York City in 1949, he participated in the lively jam-session scene in Harlem, playing bongos in sessions with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. In 1957, he replaced Mongo Santamaría in Tito Puente’s band. By 1960, he became the house percussionist for various jazz labels (Blue Note, Prestige, Riverside), recording his first album as leader for Riverside in 1961. The Charanga La Moderna was his first full-fledged Latin dance band, beginning in 1962. In 1963, his song El Watusi became the first Latin tune to enter the Billboard Top 20. By 1990, his salsa career stagnant, he formed a small, jazz-influenced sextet, New World Spirit, recording a number of Grammy-nominated albums....