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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

Maristella Feustle

(b Pekin, Tazewell County, IL, ?March 9, 1870; d Washington, DC, March 7, 1949). American publisher, real estate developer, and politician. Born into poverty, he began working as a child in a San Francisco vacuum cleaner brush factory, and soon began picking up odd jobs at local theaters. By 15, he was assistant treasurer at the Alcazar Theater, and he had become wealthy by 18. After traveling abroad, he settled in Chicago, and was in charge of the Midway Plaisance during the 1893 World’s Fair. He claimed to have composed the well-known “snake charmer’s” tune, or “Hoochie Coochie Dance” while there. Following the Fair, Bloom’s past connections in San Francisco brought him into association with the Witmark family and his first experience in music publishing. By 1895, Rothschild’s department store turned their sheet music department over to him. The next year he started his own company, publishing the hit “The Heroes Who Sank with the Maine” (...

Article

John Edward Hasse

(b Chicago, March 23, 1881; d Los Angeles, Aug 17, 1955). American popular pianist, teacher and editor. He studied the piano as a youth and in 1903 opened a teaching studio in Chicago with the advertisement ‘Ragtime Taught in Ten Lessons’. He simplified African-American ragtime piano playing to three essential melodic-rhythmic patterns or ‘movements’, and these became the basis for his teaching method and for a series of instruction books he brought out from 1904. Christensen’s Rag-time Instruction Book for Piano went through numerous revisions and title changes to incorporate early jazz and, eventually, swing styles; one method book remained in print until at least 1955.

Early in his career Christensen began establishing branch schools to teach ragtime piano. By 1914 he had founded 50 branches, and by 1918 he had schools in most major cities in the USA and also some abroad. By 1935 these schools had taught ragtime, popular piano and jazz piano to approximately 500,000 (mostly white) pupils....

Article

Roben Jones

[John Henderson ]

(b Whitehaven, TN, April 8, 1931). American singer-songwriter, producer, publisher, and entrepreneur. He began playing bluegrass while in the military and after his discharge in 1952, played at radio stations in Wheeling, West Virginia, and Boston. While enrolled in Memphis State University (from 1954), he worked nights and weekends at the Eagle’s Nest club. After working briefly for Fernwood Records, he was hired by Sun Records, where he recorded Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash, among others. He wrote hits for several of Sun’s artists, including Johnny Cash’s singles “Ballad of a Teenage Queen” and “Guess things happen that way” (both Sun, 1958).

Clement left Sun in 1960 to became a staff producer for RCA in Nashville. In 1963 he moved to Texas, started a publishing company, and produced Dickey Lee’s hit “Patches” (Smash, 1963). After returning to Nashville in 1965, he discovered and produced Charlie Pride and wrote songs for a variety of country artists, including Pride (“Just between you and me,” RCA Victor, ...

Article

Harry B. Soria Jr.

[Albert R. ]

(b Honolulu, HI, Oct 1, 1879; d Honolulu, HI, Jan 23, 1933). Composer, arranger, publisher, pianist, and bandleader, active in Hawaii. Cunha’s compositions early in the 20th century spearheaded the development of the hapa haole song, featuring predominantly English lyrics with some references to Hawaii and the Hawaiian language, earning him the title of “Father of Hapa Haole Songs.” His innovation is credited with making Hawaii’s music accessible to a much wider audience, which rapidly grew to global proportions over the next few decades.

Cunha left Hawaii to attend Yale University, where he excelled in sports, the Yale Glee Club, and composed Yale’s “Boola, Boola.” Rather than practice law after graduation, he toured the mainland United States performing a new kind of Hawaiian song, combining the popular ragtime rhythm of American music with Hawaiian songs. Cunha returned to Hawaii and composed his first hapa haole song, “Waikiki Mermaid,” in ...

Article

David Sanjek

[James Rae ]

(b Buffalo Valley, TN, Feb 28, 1911; d Nashville, TN, Aug 27, 1963). American country music agent, publisher, and Grand Ole Opry manager. One of the most influential and powerful figures in the country music business, Jim Denny followed the path of the classic American success story. He left his home in Buffalo Valley, Tennessee, at age 16 with purportedly no more than 40 cents in his pocket. He moved to Nashville and joined the mailroom staff at WSM radio (home of the Grand Ole Opry). He completed his college degree by mail and worked his way up the corporate ladder, becoming the manager of concessions at the Opry during World War II. In 1951 Denny was promoted to manager of the Opry, an appointment that granted him to programming privileges and thus put him in the position to make or break performers’ careers. Additionally, he headed the ...

Article

Horace Clarence Boyer

(b Fayette, MS, Sept 10, 1899; d Chicago, IL, Aug 26, 1963). American gospel pianist, composer, and publisher. He sang in local choirs before settling in Chicago in 1927. There he joined the Ebenezer Baptist Church and became co-director of its junior choir with Thomas A. Dorsey. With Dorsey he organized in 1931 the first known black gospel chorus. In 1932, with Dorsey, Sallie Martin, and Magnolia Lewis Butts, he formed the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses, and the same year he and Roberta Martin, pianist for his junior choir, founded the Martin–Frye Quartet (renamed the Roberta Martin Singers in 1935). In the late 1940s Frye began an association with Mahalia Jackson, and it was for her that he surreptitiously secured the song “Move on up a little higher”; her recording in 1947 was a great success, selling over a million copies. Frye later published this composition as his own (he opened a publishing house in the early 1950s), without crediting its rightful composer, William Herbert Brewster. He did, however, compose several well-known gospel songs, including “I am sending my timber up to heaven” (...

Article

Darlene Graves and Michael Graves

[William J. ]

(b Alexandria, IN, March 28, 1936). American gospel songwriter, performer, producer, and publisher. He grew up on a small farm in Indiana and graduated from Anderson College with a major in English and a minor in music. He went on to receive a master’s degree in guidance and counseling and met his future wife and song-producing partner, Gloria Sickal, while both were teaching high school. Gaither started singing gospel music as a child and in 1956 formed the Bill Gaither Trio with his brother Danny and his sister Mary Ann. He started his own publishing company in 1959. He continued to perform and compose while a teacher at Alexandria High School and in 1961 formed the Gaither Music Company to publish his works. After their marriage in 1962, Gaither and his wife wrote their first major song, “He touched me,” which was a significant hit by 1963. He re-formed the Bill Gaither Trio with Gloria and Danny, and in ...

Article

Maristella Feustle

(b Odessa, Ukraine, Aug 31, 1886; d Beverly Hills, CA, July 12, 1970). American Lyricist and publisher of Ukrainian birth. He arrived in the United States with his family in 1887 and was raised in Philadelphia. At the age of 14 he moved to New York, where he appeared in nightclubs, vaudeville, and burlesque acts; he also toured with the boxer John L. Sullivan. Lauded by peers as the “Dean of Tin Pan Alley,” Gilbert wrote more than 250 songs, including the theme for the movie Ramona (1928) and such standards as “Waitin’ for the Robert E. Lee” (1912), “Lucky Lindy” (1927), “Green Eyes” (1931), “The Peanut Vendor” (1931), and George Jessel’s theme song, “My Mother’s Eyes” (1929). He collaborated with many artists including Al Jolson, Lewis F. Muir, Paul Whiteman, Abel Baer, George M. Cohan, Jay Gorney, Nacio Herb Brown, Irving Berlin, and Frank Sinatra....

Article

Noal Cohen

[Grice, George General; Qusim, Basheer]

(b Pensacola, FL, Nov 28, 1925; d Pensacola, FL, March 14, 1983). American jazz saxophonist, flutist, composer, arranger, music publisher, and teacher. Known more as a composer and arranger than as an instrumentalist, he was nonetheless an alto saxophonist out of the Charlie Parker tradition with a lyrical bent and a recognizable style and sound. He studied clarinet initially and after serving in the US Navy (1944–6) attended the Boston Conservatory (to 1952). His first exposure came through an encounter with the saxophonist Stan Getz in Boston who recorded several of Gryce’s compositions. After moving to New York in 1953, Gryce was soon a part of the city’s vibrant milieu, recording with the drummer Max Roach and the pianist Tadd Dameron. Throughout his career, Gryce collaborated with a number of noted trumpet players including Clifford Brown, Art Farmer, Donald Byrd, and Richard Williams. With Byrd, he co-led the Jazz Lab, which made a number of highly regarded recordings in ...

Article

Edward A. Berlin

[William]

(b Jacksonville, FL, June 17, 1871; d Wiscasset, ME, June 26, 1938). American lyricist, poet, novelist, anthologist, civil rights leader, and international diplomat. He began his professional life as an educator and lawyer in Florida (one of the early African Americans admitted to the Florida Bar), but in the summer of 1899 he and his brother, composer J(ohn) Rosamond Johnson, went to New York with hopes of finding a producer for their operetta. Although they were unsuccessful in this endeavor, they gained entrance to the musical-theater circles of New York; they formed a collaborative relationship with Bob Cole and became one of the outstanding songwriting teams of the early 1900s. Many of their approximately 200 songs were interpolated in musical comedies; among the most successful were “Nobody’s lookin’ but de owl and de moon” (The Sleeping Beauty and the Beast, 1901), “Under the Bamboo Tree” (...

Article

Jonas Westover

(b Bronx, NY, April 17, 1934; d Boca Raton, FL, Jan 17, 2011). American publisher, promoter, and producer. He was known as “The Man with the Golden Ear” for possessing a remarkable ability to identify music that would sell. After attending Upsala College in East Orange, New Jersey, he gravitated immediately to the music industry, finding success at the Brill Building with Aldon Music Publishing. He and his partner, Al Nevins, contracted a wide variety of top-selling songwriters and performers including Neil Sedaka, Carole King, Jack Keller, and Gerry Goffin, among others. A big part of his success involved pairing writers with appropriate singers. Sedaka credited his opportunity to become a performer largely to Kirshner’s promotion; Neil Diamond, Kansas, Connie Francis, and Bobby Darin also profited from his work as a producer. Kirshner branched into recording, becoming involved with three separate labels: Chairman, Calendar, and Kirshner. One of his biggest successes came with the creation of the Monkees; he was responsible for providing the corporate-formed group with songs for their television program and spin-off albums. He also managed the studio musicians who performed on their records. Kirshner returned to this strategy with The Archies, the late 1960s band of bubblegum pop fame. From ...

Article

Travis D. Stimeling

[Charles Stacy ]

(b Knoxville, TN, June 21, 1921; d Nashville, TN, March 7, 2012). American country music journalist, publisher, and promoter. Charlie Lamb reshaped the Nashville music industry’s business practices during the 1950s and 60s and promoted Nashville as an international music center. Lamb began his career in Knoxville, where, among other jobs, he booked artists to perform on radio station WROL and reported for the Knoxville Journal. After moving to Nashville in 1951, he joined Cash Box as a columnist and ad salesman and later formed the Charlie Lamb Agency to promote several top recording artists. Lamb was a founding member of the Country Music Disc Jockey Association and organized an annual DJ convention that brought thousands of disc jockeys to Nashville. In August 1956, Lamb founded Country Music Reporter (renamed Music Reporter in 1957), a trade paper that covered the Nashville music industry and offered expanded chart coverage for country singles and albums. Selling ...

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Jonas Westover

(b Stamford, CT, Dec 31, 1885; d New York, NY, Jan 22, 1976). American lyricist, publisher, and songwriter. He began his career in vaudeville, tailoring songs to individual singers, and working with a variety of composers. Leslie began to publish songs in 1909, when his lyrics and Irving Berlin’s music combined for “Sadie Salome.” That same year saw an early hit, “Lonesome.” Several of his songs were used on Broadway and vaudeville alike, including the huge hit “For Me and My Gal” (1917), which he co-wrote with George W. Meyer and E. Ray Goetz. His songs were recorded by a slew of popular stars, such as Guy Lombardo, Bing Crosby, and Connie Francis. In 1914, he became one of the founding members of ASCAP, later serving as president from 1931 to 1941. Leslie also created his own publishing company, where he worked primarily with Horatio Nicholls. Collaborations with Harry Warren (“Rose of the Rio Grande,” ...

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Caroline Polk O’Meara

(bc1966). American music critic and editor. He graduated from Yale University in 1988. He began writing at the Rolling Stone in the late 1980s, where he often covered hip-hop, country, and rock music. In the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Light advised readers to pay closer attention to rap, pointing out that many artists had been critiquing urban violence well before the Rodney King beating. In 1993, Light left Rolling Stone to help launch the hip-hop magazine Vibe, where he was first the music editor before being promoted to editor-in-chief at the age of 26. During his six years at Vibe, Light helped the magazine demonstrate the appeal, profitability, and significance of hip-hop culture to both readers and advertisers. He left Vibe for Spin, staying there for three years as editor-in-chief. While Light was at Spin, the magazine, known for its coverage of alternative music, expanded its coverage of mainstream artists, reaching out to a broader audience. Since leaving ...

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Ian Brookes

[McPherson, Richard Cecil ]

(b Norfolk, VA, Nov 6, 1883; d New York, NY, Aug 1, 1944). American Lyricist, composer, and music publisher. Mack, also known as R.C. McPherson, wrote the lyrics for many popular songs during the first quarter of the 20th century. He had his first hit in 1904, “Teasing,” cowritten with Harry Von Tilzer. Mack cofounded the Gotham-Attucks Music Company following a merger between two smaller firms in 1905. Gotham-Attucks was one of the earliest African American music publishers and several eminent black composers such as Will Marion Cook and James Reese Europe were associated with the company. In 1910, Gotham-Attucks published what would become one of Mack’s best-known songs “Shine” (originally, “That’s Why They Call Me Shine”). The song was written with co-lyricist Lew Brown with music by Ford Dabney for the musical show His Honor: The Barber (1911). In 1923 Mack wrote the lyrics to “The Charleston” for the show ...

Article

Horace Clarence Boyer

revised by Roxanne R. Reed

(b Pittfield, GA, Nov 20, 1896; d Chicago, IL, June 18, 1988). American gospel singer and music publisher. Martin joined the Fire Baptized Holiness Church (Pentecostal) while living in Atlanta, an affiliation that defined her earliest gospel influences. Martin, her husband, and their son moved to Chicago in the 1920s. She met thomas a. Dorsey in 1929 and began a decade-long collaboration and partnership. Vocally, Martin lacked polish and had a rough, dark quality to her voice that, nonetheless, held appeal. Her tendency to speak versus actually sing matched Dorsey’s intent for a preacher-like quality in his development of solo gospel music. Martin joined Dorsey’s University Radio Singers, and later his chorus at Pilgrim Baptist Church. She made her debut in 1932, although not primarily as a soloist. Her association with Dorsey broadened into a business partnership. She began handling the publication and sale of his music, resulting in widespread popularity for both of them. Expanding their renown even further, Martin joined Dorsey in organizing the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses, through which they traveled and performed. Martin remained associated with Dorsey and the Convention until ...

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Ian Brookes

(b New York, NY, Jan 16, 1884; d Palm Springs, CA, April 21, 1985). American Impresario, music publisher, band manager, record producer, songwriter, and singer. He was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants who settled in New York. There, as a teenager, he worked as a song plugger and singer before establishing a music publishing business in 1919 with his brother Jack. With its emphasis on the work of black musicians, Mills Music became an important locus for jazz and dance band music. A shrewd business operator with a sharp eye for talent, Mills extended his business interests in the 1920s. He became manager of the Duke Ellington Orchestra (1926–39) and promoted several other African American bandleaders including Cab Calloway, Benny Carter, Fletcher Henderson, Jimmie Lunceford, and Don Redman. He also organized a series of recording sessions under his own nominal leadership, Irving Mills and His Hotsy Totsy Gang (...

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Christopher A. Reynolds

(b Brazil, IN, Nov 1874; d New Haven, CT, Oct 25, 1932). American songwriter and publisher. She was among the most successful female songwriters of her generation. The daughter of John Dale Owen, a composer born in Wales, she was raised in Indiana and went to school near Terre Haute at St. Mary’s in the Woods. While there she sold her first song, evidently a setting of “Ave Maria.” Her obituary in the New York Times describes Owen as the composer of 200 works, yet it is unlikely that more than about half of those were ever published. In 1894 she composed and published her first and most enduring hit, the sentimental waltz song “Sweet Bunch of Daisies,” which sold a million copies. This song, the first of several about daisies, became a standard with country string bands and Appalachian fiddlers, and was also recorded by the blues harmonica player El Watson in ...

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Horace Clarence Boyer

(b Atlanta, GA, Aug 4, 1886; d Pittsburgh, PA, Dec 16, 1963). American gospel composer and publisher. When he was 13 he settled with his family in Chicago, where he continued to study piano and began to write gospel songs and arrange black spirituals for the Beth Eden and Liberty Baptist churches. In 1925 he formed the Pace Jubilee Singers, an early conservative gospel group which recorded songs by Pace, Tindley, and others for Victor and Brunswick (1926–9). For a short time the group was accompanied by Thomas A. Dorsey, for whom Pace published several songs through his Pace Music House (established in Chicago in 1910). Pace moved to Pittsburgh in 1936 and shortly afterwards organized the Pace Gospel Choral Union, a 25-member ensemble that was enlarged to as many as 300 singers for special celebrations; its repertory consisted of gospel songs and spirituals. Pace also founded two highly successful music publishing houses in Pittsburgh—the Old Ship of Zion Music Company (...