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Todd Decker

(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 ...

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Lauren Joiner

(b Harlem, New York; April 8, 1964).

American rapper, beatboxer, MC, DJ, and actor. He began his career in 1985 as a beatboxer for Roxanne Shanté of the Juice Crew. In 1988, he signed with Cold Chillin’ Records and released his first solo album, ...

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Gary W. Kennedy and Philip Gentry

(b New Orleans, LA, Sept 11, 1967). American pianist, singer, leader, and actor. He began playing piano at the age of three, was sitting in at local jazz clubs when he was six, and made his first recordings three years later; he had piano lessons with James Booker until ...

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Mos Def  

Jared Pauley

(b Brooklyn, NY, Dec 11, 1973). American rapper and actor. He is known for his wide-ranging abilities as a lyricist and is also a competent multi-instrumentalist. He first came to prominence during the late 1990s as a member of Black Star, a duo with the rapper Talib Kweli. Many of his lyrics focus on political and socioeconomic subjects....

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Jonathan Greenberg

(b Hannibal, MO, June 14, 1895; d Los Angeles, CA, July 21, 1971). American singer, actor, and ukulele player. He started performing in St. Louis movie houses and saloons as a teenager. He learned to play the ukulele as an easy way to accompany himself, taking advantage of the popularity of that instrument following the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in ...

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Clay Motley

(b Desoto, MO, May 12, 1901; d Brentwood, TN, June 20, 1986). American comedian and banjo player. Ford was one of the earliest country comedians to use the emerging medium of radio. Possessing a third-grade education, he joined Otto Gray’s Oklahoma Cowboys after his ...

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Jeannie Gayle Pool

(b Sioux City, IA, Jan 17, 1905; d Los Angeles, CA, Feb 12, 2007). American tenor saxophonist, clarinetist, vibraphonist, singer, music contractor, and advocate for women instrumentalists. She studied music with her father (violinist) and mother (singer) and began a lifetime of touring, first with a Highland dance troupe, at age seven. She took up the saxophone in high school and started her first all-girl band, the Melody Girls, in Sioux City....

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Lisa MacKinney

(b Rochester, NY, June 2, 1959). American singer, songwriter, guitarist, composer, poet, and performance artist. Lydia Lunch arrived in New York City as a teenage runaway in 1976, after a childhood of chaos, abuse, and extreme neglect. Motivated by the Velvet Underground, the New York Dolls, Patti Smith, and the incendiary writing of Lester Bangs in ...

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David Brackett

( b East Tupelo, MS, Jan 8, 1935; d Memphis, Aug 16, 1977). American rock and roll singer, guitarist and actor . As the most successful artist of the mid-1950s rock and roll explosion, Presley had a profound impact on popular music. His sense of style, musical and personal, was both the focal point of the media reaction to early rock and roll and the inspiration for many of the most important rock musicians to follow. The narrative of his meteoric rise and subsequent decline amidst mysterious and tawdry circumstances fuelled many myths both during his life and after his death at 42....

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Rich Kienzle

(b Atlanta, GA, March 20, 1937; d Nashville, TN, Sept 1, 2008). American guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, and actor. He grew up in a family split by divorce and poverty. At age seven he gravitated to guitar and became enamored of the fingerstyle playing of Merle Travis and Chet Atkins. As a teenager, he played country music in the Atlanta area and took the professional name Jerry Reed after signing with Capitol Records in ...

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Douglas B. Green

(b Cincinnati, OH, Nov 5, 1911; d Apple Valley, CA, July 6, 1998). American singing cowboy, actor, and guitarist. Known as “the King of the Cowboys,” Sly grew up in a series of hardscrabble towns along the Ohio River until his family packed their belongings in an old Dodge sedan and headed for California in mid-...

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Craig Jennex

(b Thunder Bay, ON, Nov 28, 1949). Canadian pianist, composer, musical director, actor, producer, and bandleader. He has been musical director for David Letterman’s late-night shows since 1982. Prior to working with Letterman, Shaffer was a featured performer on “Saturday Night Live.” He has served as musical director and producer for the Blues Brothers and cowrote the 1980s dance hit “It’s raining men.” He has served as musical director for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony since its inception in ...

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Patrick Huber

(b Thomas Bridge, near Monroe, GA, June 6, 1885; d Dacula, GA, May 13, 1960). American fiddler, singer, comedian, and hillbilly string band leader. He was a well-known entertainer in north Georgia during the early 20th century, famous for his outrageous comic antics, old-time fiddling, and trick singing. He competed regularly at Atlanta’s annual Georgia Old-Time Fiddlers’ Association conventions and won the state fiddling championship in ...

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Jonas Westover

(b Newark, NJ, May 3, 1934). American singer, actor, and bass player. He is best known for his distinctive falsetto voice, which he showcased as a solo artist and as the front man for the group Four Seasons, the. Beginning to sing as a young child, Valli began to work with a mentor, Jean Valley, from whom he adopted his stage name. His career began in earnest in ...