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Article

Timothy D. Taylor

[Charles Edward Anderson]

(b St Louis, 18 Oct 1926; d Wentzville, MO, 18 March 2017). American rock and roll singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Born into a solid working-class black family, he worked at a variety of jobs before pursuing a career in music. He achieved success rather late; his first number one hit, Maybellene, was recorded in 1955 when he was 29. During the 1950s and 60s he wrote a number of hit songs which have become rock and roll standards, including Roll over Beethoven, Too Much Monkey Business, Brown-Eyed Handsome Man, School Days, Back in the USA, Little Queenie, Memphis, Tennessee, and Johnny B. Goode. Berry’s songs were based on 12-bar blues progressions, with variations ranging from 8 to 24 bars, played at fast tempos with an emphasis on the backbeat. He had a high clear baritone and extremely clean diction and wrote literate, witty lyrics, many of them the best in early rock and roll. He was a consummate guitarist and his style has been as influential as his songwriting. He employed blues and rhythm and blues licks with bluegrass inflections, and adapted them to a pop-song format. Many of these were probably learned from his pianist and collaborator, Johnnie Johnson....

Article

Jason Mellard

[Jamieson ]

(b Cottonwood, AZ, June 12, 1952). American country guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Junior Brown is simultaneously one of country music’s most innovative instrumentalists and devoted traditionalists. Born in Arizona and raised in Indiana, Brown counts Ernest Tubb’s television show as his earliest influence, and his musical style reflects that debt. He began performing in roadhouse bands in New Mexico, California, and Texas during the 1960s and 70s before settling for a period at the Hank Thompson School of Country Music in Claremore, Oklahoma. There, Brown not only worked with steel guitarist Leon McAuliffe, but also instructed his longest musical collaborator, future wife Tanya Rae. In the 1980s, Brown moved to Austin, Texas, becoming involved in the scene with which he is most closely associated and playing in the bands Rank and File, Asleep at the Wheel, and Alvin Crow’s Pleasant Valley Boys. In 1985, Brown invented his signature instrument, the “guit-steel,” a double-necked guitar that combines the traditional six-string guitar with an eight-string lap-steel. Brown moves between the two in performance and recordings, in the process creating a balance between classic honky-tonk and rock stylistics perhaps best demonstrated in the Jimi-Hendrix-style phrases with which Brown concludes his version of Hank Garland’s “Sugarfoot Rag.” Brown’s first two records, ...

Article

Ronnie Pugh

revised by Jason Mellard

[Theron Eugene ]

(b Beauregard Parish, LA, Sept 21, 1912; d Houston, TX, Oct 6, 1996). American country-music guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Raised in Houston and encouraged to pursue a musical career by the western swing pioneer Milton Brown, he played steel guitar with Leon Selph’s Blue Ridge Playboys (1934–5), a group that also included Floyd Tillman and Moon Mullican, and the Bar X Cowboys (1936–40). His song “Truck Driver’s Blues” (Decca, 1939), reputedly the first trucking song in country music, became a hit for Cliff Bruner’s Texas Wanderers. In 1940 Daffan formed his own band, the Texans, with whom he recorded several popular songs, including the classic “Born to Lose” (OK, 1943), and published several compositions under the pseudonym Frankie Brown. Amid changes in his band’s lineup, Daffan followed the western swing migration to California in the 1940s before returning to Texas after World War II. In this period Daffan worked with former bandmates Bruner, Mullican, and Tillman to create the style which became known as ...

Article

Barry Jean Ancelet

(b Lafayette, LA, Feb 14, 1951). American fiddler, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter. Doucet has become arguably the most widely recognized Cajun musician ever. His formative influences within Cajun and Creole music include acknowledged masters such as Dewey Balfa, Canray Fontenot, and especially Dennis McGee, as well as lesser-known but no less important masters such as Varise Conner, Lionel Leleux, and Hector Duhon. Other influences include the folk rock, country, and swamp pop influences of his youth. Doucet first approached Cajun music in the 1970s in a group called Bayou des Mystères. He then founded a rock-country-Cajun fusion band called Coteau, the first such band to attract the attention of the younger university crowds. After Coteau dissolved, Doucet turned to his long-running band Beausoleil, which was informed by an eclectic collection of influences that reflect the complex history of Cajun music, including traditional, classical, rock, and jazz elements. Beausoleil has played all over the world and recorded more than 30 albums for many labels, including Swallow, Arhoolie, Rounder, Rhino, and Alligator. These albums have garnered 11 Grammy nominations and two wins. Doucet has also recorded albums with other musicians, including Marc and Ann Savoy, Ed Poullard, and his brother David Doucet. He has performed with symphony orchestras and with the Fiddlers Four. Along the way, he has made ingenious use of old material, for example, turning unaccompanied ballads that John and Alan Lomax collected in Louisiana in ...

Article

Barry Jean Ancelet

(b Anse des Rougeau, near Basile, LA, Oct 16, 1918; d near Welsh, LA, July 29, 1995). American fiddler, vocalist, and songwriter. The son of renowned but unrecorded Creole accordionist Adam Fontenot, he picked up the fiddle to play with his father and his cousin Amédé Ardoin, another Creole accordionist. His Creole style influenced just about all contemporary Creole fiddlers, such as Ed Poulard and Cedric Watson, as well as many Cajun fiddlers, including Dewey Balfa and Michael Doucet. He eventually joined Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin as the core of first the Duralde Ramblers and later the Ardoin Family Band. In 1964, they were recorded by Ralph Rinzler, who was doing fieldwork for the Newport Folk Festival. They performed at Newport in 1966 and recorded their first album, Les blues du bayou, on the way home. With the Ardoin Family Band, Fontenot took his pre-zydeco Creole music to many parts of the country, becoming a fixture on the folk festival circuit. Fontenot was a virtuoso musician and a gifted composer, with influences ranging from early Creole styles to jazz, swing, country, and blues. He and Ardoin were awarded National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowships in ...

Article

John-Carlos Perea

[Thomas Edison ]

(b Gum Springs, Oklahoma Territory, Jan 9, 1904; d Aug 27, 1996). Native American (Comanche) and European American singer, guitarist. Early experiences with music came while participating in cattle drives led by his uncle and later through performances at house parties and other public venues. Over the course of his life Ford worked in a diverse number of trades in addition to music, including cowboy, rodeo rider, Wild West and medicine show performer, and artisan. As a musician he went on to perform throughout the southeastern United States in venues ranging from clubs and rodeos to, later in life, the Louisiana Arts and Folk Festival in 1980, the Library of Congress’ “The American Cowboy” exhibit in 1983, and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 1985 and 1986. In recognition of his “extensive repertoire of cowboy songs, frontier ballads, sentimental parlor ditties … and early country and western tunes,” Ford received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in ...

Article

Anthony S. Lis

[William] (Orville)

(b Corsicana, TX, March 31, 1928; d Nashville, TN, July 19, 1975). American country music singer, songwriter, and guitarist. A fan of Jimmie Rodgers from childhood, he played honky tonks in Waco and Dallas by age 16. In 1945, Frizzell married; while serving a jail-sentence in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947, he wrote a number of songs dedicated to his wife, including “I love you a thousand ways.” In April 1950 Frizzell recorded a demo of his song “If you’ve got the money I’ve got the time” at the studio of Dallas promoter Jim Beck; his voice caught the attention of producer Don Law, who signed him to Columbia. In fall 1950 Columbia released “If you’ve got the money I’ve got the time” backed with “I love you a thousand ways;” both sides reached number one on Billboard’s country singles charts. At one point in the early 1950s, Frizzell placed four songs in the top ten of ...

Article

Paul Oliver

[Allen, Fulton ]

(b Wadesboro, NC, July 10, 1907; d Durham, NC, Feb 13, 1941). American blues singer and guitarist. He began to lose his sight as a teenager and was completely blind by 1928. He was the outstanding exponent, though not an innovator, of the eastern or Piedmont style of blues. Influenced by Blind Blake, Blind Gary Davis, and Buddy Moss, he formulated an eclectic style, playing fast runs and swinging rag rhythms on guitar (often against cross-rhythms on a washboard) to accompany his gritty singing. Davis played for him on the traditional “Rag Mama Rag” (1935, Voc.), one of his earliest successes. Fuller adapted old songs such as the British ballad “Our Goodman,” which became “Cat Man Blues” (1936, Voc.). Although he was probably at his best with fast ragtime themes like “Step it up and go” (1940, Voc.), he was also a master of slow blues such as “Weeping Willow” (...

Article

Jada Watson

(b Seguin, TX, July 6, 1953). American country/folksinger-songwriter. She grew up in a musical home, began playing guitar at a young age, and started writing songs at the age of six. When she was 14 she began performing in honky-tonks. After college Griffith taught kindergarten by day and performed in honky-tonks at night. It was not until 1977 that she decided to pursue a career in music. She self-promoted her first two albums at folk festivals and formed her own backing band, the Blue Moon Orchestra. In 1987 she landed a recording contract with MCA Nashville and made her major-label debut with the critically acclaimed album Lone Star State of Mind, charting a single with the title track. The album also featured Julie Gold’s song “From a Distance,” which has become Griffith’s signature tune. After several unsuccessful albums Griffith transferred to MCA’s pop division in 1989 and recorded her first pop-oriented album, ...

Article

Ajay Kalra

(b Los Angeles, CA, Dec 4, 1944). American country-rock singer, songwriter, bassist, mandolinist, and guitarist. He was a mainstay of Los Angeles–area folk-rock and country-rock music of the 1960s and 1970s and a successful commercial country music artist in the 1980s. Since the early 1980s he has been a purveyor of a seamless hybrid of bluegrass, country duo harmony, Bakersfield honky tonk, and West Coast country rock.

Hillman took up the guitar and the mandolin during the urban folk revival. Focusing on the latter, he played traditional bluegrass with the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers (1962–3) and the Golden State Boys, which became The Hillmen (1963–4). In 1964 he joined the Byrds. At first the group’s reticent bassist, he increasingly contributed as songwriter and vocalist to albums starting with the group’s fourth, Younger Than Yesterday (Columbia, 1967). Recruiting local bluegrass and country players, especially guitarist Clarence White, Hillman helped lay the foundations of country rock. With later Byrds recruit Gram Parsons, he firmly established that genre with the Byrds’ ...

Article

Alessandro Bratus

(Zebedee )

(b ?Clarksdale, MS, c15 Jan 1929–30; d Chicago, IL, April 21, 1970). American blues singer and guitarist. He was raised in Chicago after his family settled there in 1930, and from the late 1940s he stood out as one of the city’s most innovative musicians for his virtuoso slide guitar playing and for his mastery of the wah wah pedal. A second cousin of John Lee Hooker, he was influenced by a wide range of musical styles, including the work of country guitarists Merle Travis, Les Paul, and Joe Maphis, as well as jazz and popular music. Although he was one of the most revered Chicago blues musicians on a local scale, he never acquired the stardom of Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf, because of his weak vocal abilities and his health problems due to the tuberculosis that affected him from his teens. His public recognition began in the late sixties when he released a few LPs and toured in Europe with his own group, shortly before his death in ...

Article

Wendy F. Hsu

(b Taipei, Taiwan, Dec 15, 1973). Rock musician and songwriter of Taiwanese birth. Hsu moved to Houston, Texas, with his family in 1989. His brother, Kevin Hsu, was a pop star in Taiwan who signed to Golden Point/BMG. Self-taught in guitar, keyboards, voice, and drums, Hsu formed in 2001 the alternative rock band Johnny Hi-Fi, which has toured extensively in the United States and Asia. As a songwriter Hsu writes songs in both English and Mandarin Chinese. He has collaborated with Taiwanese recording artists and producers and has had success overseas. His song titled “Don’t Go,” performed by Richie Ren, reached the top 10 pop music chart in Taiwan. Hsu also has toured with Taiwanese rock musician Chang Chen-Yue on his US tour in 2004.

In 2004 Hsu began organizing the Asian Rock Fest in recognition of Asian American Heritage Month in May. An annual festival series, Asian Rock Fest has brought together Asian American artists and showcased rock music talent including Eyes Like Knives, Kite Operations, Carol Bui, Burning Tree Project, Festizio, Vudoo Soul, Jack Tung, and Johnny Hi-Fi. The first Asian Rock Fest took place at The Pianos in New York. The festival continued to feature Asian American musicians after Hsu’s relocation to the west coast in ...

Article

Catherine Wojtanowski

(b Sarajevo, Yugoslavia [now Bosnia and Herzegovina], 1925). American singer and guitarist. Growing up in a Sephardic Jewish community, she learned Balkan folklore as well as traditional songs in the Ladino language with guidance from her grandmother. In 1946 she married a serviceman and immigrated to the United States, where she has become known as the Flame of Sephardic Music because of the strength of her commitment to this unique musical heritage. In addition to transcribing, performing, and teaching traditional Ladino material, Jagoda has composed and arranged new Sephardic songs. She also has performed material drawn from biblical verses, poems, and prayers. She has recorded several albums, which often recall her early experiences, including Memories of Sarajevo (1996) and Kantikas di mi Nona (Songs of my Grandmother) (1996). She also published The Flory Jagoda Songbook: Memories of Sarajevo (1996), which includes songs and stories about her family history. She is featured in the documentary ...

Article

Dean Alger

[Alonzo ]

(b New Orleans, LA, Feb 8, 1894; d Toronto, ON, June 16, 1970). American blues and jazz guitarist and singer. Research indicates that Johnson was born in 1894 (Alger). He was influenced by the musical activities of his family and the rich musical environment in New Orleans of the early 1900s, including the early blues, jazz, and the lyrically expressive French and Spanish music traditions. He began playing violin, developed excellent guitar skill, and by the 1920s was also recording on piano, banjo, mandolin, and harmonium.

Johnson performed on violin with Charlie Creath’s band on the Mississippi riverboat St. Paul, and after winning a blues singing contest in St. Louis, he began his recording career with OKeh Records. His first recording featured “Mr. Johnson’s Blues” and “Falling Rain Blues” (OK, 1925) and was a two-sided hit. From 1925 through 1932 he made more recordings than any other bluesman. In late ...

Article

J.W. Junker

(David Kahekilimamaoikalanikeha )

(b Honolulu, Hawaii, March 31, 1953). Hawaiian singer, songwriter, and slack key guitarist. One of Hawaii’s most prolific songwriters, Reverend Dennis Kamakahi is responsible for Hawaiian-language standards such as “Koke‘e” and “Wahine Ilikea” and English songs like “Golden Stallion” and “Maui Mountain Morning.” He composes in a poetic style inspired by earlier masters of the Hawaiian form such as Queen Lili‘uokalani and Sam Li‘a Kalainaina. Traces of country and folk can be heard in the melodies. He is also a warm, evocative singer and a ki ho‘alu (slack key guitar) master.

Kamakahi was raised in Honolulu, though his family has close ties to the island of Moloka‘i. He first learned slack key from his grandfather at age ten but cites popular artists such as Gabby Pahinui and others as main influences. During high school at Kamehameha Schools, Kamakahi formed a trio with Aaron Mahi and Kalena Silva. They received valuable mentoring from older artists such as Kahauanu Lake and The Sons of Hawaii. In ...

Article

J.W. Junker

(Kaleoalohapoina‘oleohelemanu )

(b Koloa, Kauai, HI, Oct 2, 1925; d Honolulu, HI, Feb 27, 2008). Hawaiian slack key guitarist and singer. Kane was one of the first masters of Hawaiian slack key guitar to give solo concerts, tour extensively, and teach students from around the world. He was an effective ambassador for the style, with simple but deeply emotive material and an extroverted personality.

He was born into a large musical family though his mother and adoptive father did not perform. In 1934 Albert Kawelo taught him the rudiments of slack key in exchange for fish. Kane was never a virtuoso in the same sense as Gabby Pahinui and others. He tuned to his voice and did not improvise except within strict parameters. His repertoire consisted of original compositions and arrangements. He normally picked with only thumb and index finger, but his sound was rich, flowing, and smooth as on his signature tune “Punahele.” He sang with a distinctive low-pitched growl....

Article

Charles K. Wolfe

revised by Michael Ann Williams

(b Point Leavell, KY, July 13, 1895; d Springfield, OH, Sept 23, 1989). American country and folk music performer. Raised in Garrard County, Kentucky, Kincaid absorbed the religious music and ballad traditions of his family. He learned to play on a guitar his father reputedly acquired from trading a dog, and his “hound dawg” guitar became his trademark throughout his career. Kincaid dropped out of school after fifth grade and later resumed his education at Berea College Academy, completing high school at age 26. At Berea, Kincaid began to systematically collect ballads and other forms of traditional music. After graduation, he married his music teacher, a graduate of Oberlin Conservatory. Kincaid relocated to Chicago to attend the YMCA College and there auditioned with a college quartet at WLS, a local radio station. Kincaid, “the Kentucky Mountain Boy,” soon became a hit with his clear tenor and his rendition of traditional ballads such as “Barbara Allen.” By the early 1930s, Kincaid was one of the most popular radio performers nationally, and he augmented his radio salary with songbook sales and live performances. He also he recorded prolifically for Gennett, Brunswick, ARC, Decca, RCA, and others. He worked at radio stations in Pittsburgh, New York, Boston, Cincinnati, and Wheeling with his partner ...

Article

Wendy F. Hsu

(Taro Ono )

(b New York, NY, Oct 9, 1975). American rock songwriter, singer, guitarist, and musician; son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Sean Lennon was born in New York City on his father’s 35th birthday. He attended a boarding school in Switzerland and, briefly, Columbia University. His earliest musical endeavors were associated with his mother Yoko Ono. On Season of Glass, he recited a story that his father used to tell him. He also collaborated with his mother on the albums It’s Alright (I See Rainbows) and Starpeace. In 1995, with Sam Koppelman and Timo Ellis, Sean Lennon formed his own band called IMA (Japanese for “now”). Fusing influences from contemporary indie rock music and New York City’s downtown experimental music scene, IMA performed with Yoko Ono and recorded for her 1995 album Rising. In 1996, Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori of the New York-based electro hip-hop group Cibo Matto invited Lennon to play bass with the group on a tour. Subsequently Lennon recorded for Cibo Matto’s second album ...

Article

Lisa MacKinney

[Koch, Lydia Anne ]

(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 Creem magazine, Lunch formed Teenage Jesus and the Jerks in 1977. The group (which briefly included James Chance) released only a handful of singles and EPs before breaking up in 1979, but Lunch had established herself as an uncompromising purveyor of a brutal, confronting, violently sexual, and bleak artistic vision. She is considered to be a founder of No Wave, an abrasive, untutored form of noise-based punk music that was often politically charged and musically experimental. No wave often involved conventional instruments (guitar, bass, electronic keyboards) used as extreme noise-making devices to create discomforting, visceral sounds—Lunch regularly used electric guitar with a slide in this manner to piercing, abrasive effect. Lunch released her first solo album, ...

Article

Kate Dunlay

(Dwayne )

(b Antigonish, NS, Feb 24, 1975). Canadian fiddler, pianist, composer, and singer. During his early years, he was immersed in the Scottish-derived traditional music of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. He took up the fiddle (which he plays left-handed) at age eight. MacIsaac studied under Stan Chapman along with sister Lisa, cousin Wendy MacIsaac, and neighbor Natalie MacMaster, all of whom are now well-known fiddlers.

In 1992 the teenaged MacIsaac released his first album, Close to the Floor. That same year he was invited to New York by theater director JoAnne Akalaitis to play in one of her husband Philip Glass’ works. Through this connection, MacIsaac eventually met and worked with Paul Simon and his wife Edie Brickell, as well as David Byrne. Over the years Glass has involved MacIsaac in other projects, such as Orion (recorded 2005).

The release of the innovative album HiHow Are You Today...