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Article

Michael Ethen

(Guy)

(b Kingston, ON, Nov 5, 1959). Canadian rock singer, songwriter, and guitarist, and photographer. The son of a diplomat, he spent his youth in England, Israel, Portugal, and Austria. After returning with his family to North America, he began performing and recording at the age of 15 with rock bands in British Columbia and Ontario. In 1978 he began what became a long and successful songwriting partnership with Jim Vallance, with whom he created most songs recorded under his name up to 1987, as well as songs recorded by Rod Stewart, Kiss, Bonnie Raitt, Neil Diamond, and the Canadian groups Prism, BTO, and Loverboy.

Adams’ albums characteristically alternate between down-tempo piano ballads and straight-ahead rock numbers. His third solo album, Cuts like a Knife (1983) launched him to the status of an international celebrity; its singles included the ballad “Straight from the Heart” and the anthem “Cuts like a Knife,” which both featured for weeks on magazine charts and music television. The next album, ...

Article

Mark Tucker

[Stephen Valentine Patrick William]

(b New York, NY, Dec 16, 1921; d Encino, CA, Oct 30, 2000). American composer, radio and television personality, pianist, singer, and comedian. The son of Belle Montrose and Billy Allen, both of whom worked in vaudeville, he moved from place to place as a child, attending many schools for short periods of time. He played piano from an early age, although his musical training was mainly informal. He began a professional career in Los Angeles as a disc jockey on radio during the 1940s, then turned to television in the 1950s; he established himself as a comedian, and often played the piano during his shows, improvising jazz and singing his own songs. Among the musicians who appeared with him regularly was the vibraphonist Terry Gibbs. Allen’s most popular television program was “The Tonight Show,” which he began broadcasting locally in New York in 1953, subsequently leading it to nationwide success the following year. Allen performed the title role in the film ...

Article

Antony  

Shana Goldin-Perschbacher

[Hegarty, Antony]

(b Chichester, England, 1971). American singer-songwriter and pianist. After the Hegarty family moved to San Jose, Ccalifornia, in 1981, Antony studied experimental theater at New York University, formed a performance collective with Johanna Constantine, and collaborated with filmmaker William Basinski (Life on Mars, 1997) and rock icon Lou Reed (The Raven, Sire, 2003; Animal Serenade, RCA, 2004). Antony has become the world’s most famous transgender musician. Male-bodied and feminine-identified, Antony retains his birth name and uses masculine pronouns professionally. His band, Antony and the Johnsons (formed in 1996), is named after the murdered African American transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson.

Antony’s vocal depth, resonance, and melismatic grace evoke African American musical traditions. His tremulous vibrato and seemingly self-imposed limitations (also evident in his amateurish piano playing) express the grave earthly burdens of his lyrics. His eclectic work has been influenced by the AIDS-ravaged New York art scene (Peter Hujar), British synth-pop (Marc Almond), soul (Nina Simone, Boy George), and experimental underground music (Diamanda Galás). His band includes vocals, piano, drums, guitar, bass, cello, violin, and horns, he regularly appears with an orchestra, and he released an album of live symphonic performances with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra featuring arrangements by Nico Muhly, Rob Moose, Maxim Moston, and himself (...

Article

Elijah Wald

[Ramón Covarrubias]

(b Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, Dec 8, 1945). Mexican accordionist, singer, and bandleader. Born in Monterrey and raised in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Ramón Ayala has been the foremost figure in norteño music along the Gulf Coast and Texas border region since the 1970s. He first became famous in the 1960s as the accordionist and coleader of Los Relámpagos del Norte, with the singer-songwriter Cornelio Reyna; then formed his own band, Los Bravos del Norte, in 1971. In Mexico, Ayala is regarded as part of a great generation of border bandleaders, along with Carlos y José and Los Cadetes de Linares. North of the border, though, he has far outstripped his peers, and only California’s Los Tigres del Norte rival his ongoing popularity. Unlike the Tigres, who have consistently pushed norteño in new directions, Ayala is a traditionalist, and his success is due as much to his image as a hard-working, old-fashioned bearer of the classic tradition as to his intricate accordion passages and his keen eye for good material, from gunfighter corridos to romantically mournful ...

Article

Jonas Westover

(b Orange, TX, March 20, 1949). American blues singer and pianist. Ball began playing piano at age five, one in a long line of female pianists in her family. Her earliest influences were Tin Pan Alley songs, but as a young teenager she became interested in soul and blues music. Inspired by the music of Irma Thomas, Ball continued to play, attended Louisiana State University and performed with the blues/rock band, Gum. She decided to leave the area in 1970, but only made it as far as Austin, TX, where she put together a band named Freda and the Firedogs. Ball began songwriting in earnest around the same time, feeling a kindred spirit in the music of Professor Longhair. She was signed to Capitol Records in 1974, and launched her solo career with the album, Circuit Queen (1978). In the next two decades, she would release six records on Rounder Records while working on her personal sound, which has been described as a mix between “Texas stomp-rock” and “Louisiana swamp blues.” One of her most successful albums was ...

Article

Chadwick Jenkins

(b Lisle, IL, Nov 8, 1955). American singer, pianist, composer, and bandleader. Her father played with the Glenn Miller band and her mother was a professional blues singer. After studying psychology and classical piano at the University of Iowa, Barber returned to Chicago and began playing five nights a week at the Gold Star Sardine Bar, where she attracted varying critical attention for her husky voice and the inclusion of pop songs, including “Black Magic Woman” and “A Taste of Honey,” in her repertoire. She recorded her first album, Split (Floyd), in 1989 and her second album, A Distortion of Love (Antilles) in 1991. She subsequently moved to the independent label Premonition, which was bought by Blue Note in 1998. In 2003 Barber became the first songwriter to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Under its aegis she composed a song cycle based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses. She is the subject of a documentary, ...

Article

Randolph Love

(b Edgard, LA, Dec 24, 1920). American Trumpeter, arranger, producer, songwriter, bandleader, and singer. He started his career as a trumpeter playing with established bands led by, among others, Papa Celestin, Joe Robichaux, and Claiborne Williams before joining Fats Pichon’s ensemble, considered one of the top groups in New Orleans, in 1939. During World War II he played in the 196th AGF (Army Ground Forces) Band, where he met Abraham Malone, who taught him how to write and arrange. After the war, he formed his own band in New Orleans, which made its debut at the Dew Drop Inn and later performed at Sam Simoneaux’s club Graystone where many of the city’s top instrumental players, including the drummer Earl Palmer and the saxophonists Lee Allen and Red Tyler, were showcased.

Bartholomew is best known for his talents as an arranger and songwriter. In the 1950s and 60s he worked with many of the biggest stars of the day, including Smiley Lewis, Lloyd Price, Shirley and Lee, and Joe Turner. By the 1970s he had associations with some of rock and roll’s most established talents, including Paul McCartney, Elton John, and the Rolling Stones. His most productive association was with fats Domino, whom he met through Lew Chudd, the owner of Imperial Records, where he worked as a house arranger, an A&R man and an in-house bandleader. From ...

Article

Beck  

Rob Jovanovic

[Campbell, Bek David; Hansen, Beck]

(b Los Angeles, CA, July 8, 1970). American rock singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer. He has recorded and performed songs in a wide range of genres including folk, country, bluegrass, grunge, indie, metal, rock, lounge, Latino, and noise. An obvious contributing factor to his eclectic tastes is his artistic and performer-laden family. His father David Campbell is a string player and arranger who has worked on string parts for some of his son’s more recent albums. His mother Bibbe Hansen worked with Andy Warhol at the artist’s studio the Factory in New York at an early age and was involved in the west coast punk scene during the 1980s. His grandfather Al Hansen was an artist and performer involved in the Fluxus movement. Beck grew up around rockers and in various ethnic neighborhoods which all contributed to his music education. After spending time at the end of the 1980s involved with New York’s anti-folk scene he returned west and began performing as often and wherever he could. These gigs involved him using a leaf-blower on stage, telling stories, setting fire to his acoustic guitar, and rocking out with a boom-box backing tape. His breakthrough came in ...

Article

Lee Jeske

(b Pittsburgh, March 22, 1943). American electric guitarist and singer. He sang in night clubs at the age of eight and formed a rock-and-roll group when he was 17. In the 1960s he attracted attention in jazz circles for his speed and agility on the electric guitar, which he played in an original style based on that of Wes Montgomery and somewhat touched by rock-and-roll. He played soul jazz as a member of Brother Jack McDuff’s quartet (1962–5), then performed and recorded as the leader of groups that included Ronnie Cuber and Jimmy Smith as sidemen. Having established his jazz credentials – he had recorded with Billy Cobham, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter and Lee Morgan – Benson began to make more commercially orientated recordings in the early 1970s, on which he sang as well as played electric guitar. His recordings for Warner Bros., which include the Grammy-winning ...

Article

Lara Pellegrinelli

[Andrew W.]

(b Newark, NJ, Oct 28, 1939). American jazz singer and pianist. He played boogie-woogie from the age of three and launched his professional career with his siblings Salome and Geraldine. Their vocal trio, Andy and the Bey Sisters, was active from 1956 to 1967 and worked across Europe. Footage from their performance at a Parisian salon was included in the Chet Baker documentary Let’s Get Lost (1989). After the group disbanded Bey worked with Max Roach, Horace Silver, and Stanley Clarke, as well as in big bands led by Howard McGhee and Thad Jones and Mel Lewis. Following a long period of the public eye, he worked again from the late 1980s, performing and recording alongside such musicians as Silver, McCoy Tyner, Lonnie Liston Smith, Eddie Harris, and Gary Bartz. In the 1990s he taught at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Graz, Austria. During this period he also made public his ongoing battle with HIV/AIDS. Two solo albums, ...

Article

Matthew A. Donahue

(Wegman)

(b Lake Bluff, IL, July 11, 1973). American singer, songwriter, and violinist. He is known for his eclectic sound recordings and dynamic live performances that draw on jazz, blues, folk, and art rock. He learned the violin from the age of four by the Suzuki method and attended Northwestern University, where he received a degree in violin performance (BM 1996). After releasing an album under his own name, Music of Hair, (Grimsey Records, 1996) he recorded and performed with the swing band Squirrel Nut Zippers (1996–8). He subsequently formed his own group, Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire, with which he released three albums, Thrills (Rykodisc, 1998), Oh! The Grandeur (Rykodisc, 1999), and The Swimming Hour (Rykodisc, 2001). Bird was also a member of Kevin O’Donnell’s group Quality Six, in which he was the singer and violinist and contributed to songwriting on two albums released on Delmark Records....

Article

Jonas Westover

[Eddy]

(b Chicago, IL, 1941; d Palos Heights, IL, May 21, 2012). American polka bandleader, singer, and bass player. He was best known as the leader of his band, the Versatones. The son of two Polish immigrant musicians, he grew up in northern Wisconsin and formed a rock and roll band, which played backup for such stars as Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent. Under the name of Eddie (or Eddy) Bell, he recorded “Hi-Yo Silver” and other songs on the Mercury label. The Lucky Four label released his well-liked novelty song, “The Great Great Pumpkin.” At the insistence of his good friend and fellow musician Chet Kowalkowski, he moved back to Chicago and joined Versatones in 1963, a six-piece polka band that played both traditional and modernized repertoire. The result ended up changing the polka world, and they were quickly invited to record. Their first disc was Polka Parade (...

Article

David Font-Navarrete

(b Gaston, NC, Aug 28, 1936; d Baltimore, May 16, 2012). American bandleader, singer, guitarist, and composer. He was a musical icon of the Washington, DC metropolitan area. He was widely known as “The Godfather of Go-go” and renowned for his live performances, which emphasized continuous, percussion-driven grooves and audience participation, all staples of the Go-go genre he developed in the 1970s. Brown’s early years were marked by poverty and crime, and he first developed his guitar playing while incarcerated at the Lorton Penitentiary. With his band the Soul Searchers, Brown developed a distinctive sound that is grounded in funk and soul, but also heavily influenced by jazz and Latin genres. His hit songs include “Bustin’ Loose,” “We Need Some Money,” and “Go-Go Swing.” In 1992, Brown recorded The Other Side with vocalist Eva Cassidy, a critically-acclaimed album of jazz and blues material. He received a NARAS Governors Award and an NEA Lifetime Heritage Fellowship Award, and continued to record and perform regularly until his death in ...

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

Stephen Holden

revised by Olivia Carter Mather

(b Heidelberg, Germany, Oct 9, 1949). American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and pianist. He was a key figure in the emergence of singer-songwriters and the confessional, laid-back sound of California soft rock in the 1970s. Born to American parents stationed in Germany, he grew up in Orange County, California, but began his career in New York in the late 1960s. After returning to the West Coast in the early 1970s he quickly became known as a songwriter. In 1972 he signed with David Geffen’s label Asylum Records and released his critically acclaimed self-titled album and his first hit, “Doctor my Eyes” (Asylum, 1972). That year he also co-wrote the Eagles’ first hit “Take it Easy” (Asylum, 1972) with Glenn Frey. His early music was characterized by a long-lined ballad style that featured acoustic guitar and piano. While the main preoccupation of the Los Angeles songwriting scene was the social ethos of Los Angeles itself, Browne’s early songs were more personal and romantic, concerned with the psychological nuances of erotic relationships and the search for transcendent love in the face of loneliness, self-protection, and disguise; their frequent hymn-like cadences give many of them a devotional flavor. Other themes include that of an earthly paradise imperiled by pollution and corruption, apocalyptic imagery, and death, especially in such albums as ...

Article

Ursel Schlicht

(b Denison, TX, May 30, 1927). American jazz trumpeter, vocalist, and educator. She took up trumpet at the age of 15 and quickly became so advanced that she won scholarships to Oberlin College and Bennett College, an all-black women’s college in North Carolina. She chose Prairie View College and toured with the Prairie View Co-Eds as a featured soloist (1944). Following her family’s move to California in 1945, Bryant studied at UCLA, but dropped out to tour briefly with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm. During the 1940s she played on Central Avenue in Los Angeles, jamming and performing alongside esteemed figures such as Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray, Frank Morgan, and Art Farmer. During Central Avenue’s peak years she backed Billie Holiday and Josephine Baker at the Club Alabam. She toured with the Queens of Swing as a drummer (1948–51). In 1949 Bryant married the bass player Joe Stone, with whom she had two sons. During the early 1950s she lived and worked in New York and Canada, sometimes performing a solo stage act in which she sang and played trumpet. After returning to Los Angeles in ...

Article

Olivia Carter Mather

[Joseph Henry]

(b St. Louis, MO, Jan 14, 1948). American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer. Best known for his work as a record producer in the 1990s and 2000s, he began his career as a rock musician, hired by Bob Dylan in 1975 for his Rolling Thunder Revue tour. In the late 1970s Burnett formed the Alpha Band and recorded three albums before launching his solo career. Burnett’s solo material was critically acclaimed—he was named Songwriter of the Year by Rolling Stone in 1983—but commercially unsuccessful. He has continued to record solo albums intermittently into the 2000s, but his main work since the mid-1980s has been production.

Burnett’s credits span a wide range of genres with an emphasis on singer-songwriters and Americana; he has recorded Elvis Costello, John Mellencamp, Gillian Welch, B.B. King, the Counting Crows, Los Lobos, Roy Orbison, Bruce Cockburn, Willie Nelson, Robert Randolph, and Sam(uel Cornelius) Phillips...

Article

Michael J. Budds

(Travis )

(b Billstown, AR, April 22, 1936). American country-pop singer and guitarist. As a member of a large musical family he absorbed the music of rural Arkansas during his childhood and spent his early career performing with western bands in Albuquerque (1955–60). In Los Angeles from 1960 to 1967 he was a successful studio musician and sideman, and a member of the Wrecking Crew, the, in which capacity he was respected for his versatility on guitar, banjo, mandolin, and fiddle. He also worked in clubs, made several recordings, appeared on television in “Shindig” (1964–5), and performed with the Beach Boys (1965). By 1967 he had become a major artist in his own right; his singles “Gentle on my Mind” (Capitol, 1967) and “By the time I get to Phoenix” (Capitol, 1968) both won gold records and collectively garnered four Grammy Awards. His subsequent recordings “Wichita Lineman” (Capitol, ...

Article

Robin Denselow

(Amy Forbes)

(b Scarborough, Aug 23, 1975). English folk fiddler and singer, daughter of Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy. She grew up in Robin Hood’s Bay, Yorkshire, listening to her parents singing traditional and folk music. At 17 she turned professional, working as a soloist with fellow fiddler Nancy Kerr, with the Kings of Calicutt, with her parents as a member of Waterson:Carthy and, perhaps most importantly, with her own Eliza Carthy Band. Her own treatment of traditional music is as unconventional as her image, mixing straightforward unaccompanied vocal and fiddle work with far more experimental styles still based around traditional melodies. Her first albums were recorded with Nancy Kerr and as a member of Waterson:Carthy, and her first solo album was Heat, Light and Sound (1996). It was followed by Eliza Carthy and the Kings of Calicutt, which included echoes of calypso and jazz. Her most experimental recordings came with the award-winning double album ...

Article

Robin Denselow

(Dominic Forbes)

(b Hatfield, May 21, 1941). English folk guitarist and folksinger. Initially an actor, he joined the Thameside Four (an electric folk band with whom he played blues material) before becoming a resident performer at the Troubadour, London's leading folk club of the early 1960s. His first recording, as part of the compilation Hootenany in London (1963), was followed by a recording with the Three City Four, which included the political singer Leon Rosselson. Carthy's first solo album (1965) showed a distinctive style, matching often delicate and elaborate acoustic guitar arrangements to traditional songs. He worked with the fiddler Dave Swarbrick (1966–9) then joined the folk-rock band Steeleye Span until 1973. For the next two decades he played and recorded both solo and with various bands and musicians, including the Albion Band, the Watersons (with his wife Norma Waterson) and Brass Monkey. During the 1990s he toured and recorded with Waterson: Carthy, which included his wife and their daughter Eliza Carthy. In ...