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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

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

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

Alyssa Woods

Record label. Death Row Records was formed in 1991 by former football star Marion “Suge” Knight and rapper/producer Dre (Andre Romelle Young) in Los Angeles, California. The label’s first release was Dr. Dre’s The Chronic in 1992, a groundbreaking album that paired explicit and often violent lyrics with commercial beats that were based on older soul, funk, and R&B songs. The musical style of The Chronic became known as “G-Funk” (Gangsta-funk), a style that dominated many of Death Row’s early albums as well as most West Coast gangsta rap throughout the 1990s.

Death Row achieved immense success within a few years, partly due to aggressive marketing to mainstream audiences, and partly due to a successful distribution deal with Interscope. Death Row Records became a target of the controversy within the gangsta rap industry due to the constant legal problems of Suge Knight and many of the artists signed to the label (for example Snoop Dogg, and later Tupac Shakur). As a consequence of public debates surrounding gangsta rap’s promotion of violence and drugs, Interscope’s parent company, Time-Warner, eventually dropped Interscope as a distributor in an effort to distance themselves from Death Row....

Article

Joe C. Clark

Record company founded by Houston-based African American entrepreneur Don Robey in 1949. It focused primarily on rhythm-and-blues and gospel music. Robey’s initial label, Peacock Records, was created to record bluesman Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. The label also recorded Big Mama Thornton’s rendition of “Hound Dog,” which was later covered and made famous by Elvis Presley. Gospel artists including the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, the Mighty Clouds of Joy, the Dixie Hummingbirds, and the Bells of Joy joined the label and provided much of its success during the early 1950s.

In 1952 Peacock acquired the Memphis-based rhythm-and-blues label Duke from WDIA DJ David James Mattis. Its roster included Rosco Gordon, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and Johnny Ace. Robey later formed additional subsidiary labels: Sure Shot; Song Bird, which featured gospel music; Back Beat, formed in 1957 to meet the growing teen market; and Peacock’s Progressive Jazz label.

In 1973 Robey retired and sold the Duke/Peacock label, affiliated labels, and publishing companies to ABC-Dunhill Records. Its catalog consisted of nearly 2700 songs and approximately ...

Article

Epic  

Christopher Doll

Record company. It was established by CBS in 1953 as a subsidiary of Columbia Records. Although from the start its issues included jazz and pop, Epic for many years was known primarily for its recordings of George Szell conducting the Cleveland Orchestra (including those made with a young Leon Fleisher as piano soloist). In the latter part of the 1950s, as rock and roll began to overtake the industry, the company struggled to find itself artistically and commercially, accumulating an odd assortment of American, Australian, and European performers representing a wide array of classical, jazz, and popular styles.

The label’s fortunes began to change in 1964 with its participation in the British Invasion. Epic distributed the American releases of the Dave Clark Five and the Yardbirds and later those of the Hollies and Donovan. The true turning point for the company was the signing in 1967 of Sly and the Family Stone, whose critical and financial success helped redefine the label as a youth-oriented powerhouse. The company expanded through the 1970s, achieving unimaginable heights in the 1980s with Michael Jackson’s mature solo work (...

Article

Excello  

Joe C. Clark

Record company. Excello was founded in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1952 by Ernie Young, owner of a chain of jukeboxes and record stores. The label was a subsidiary of Young’s Nashboro Records, established a year earlier, which focused on gospel music. Excello initially featured some R&B and hillbilly music but was primarily a blues label. Notable artists included Arthur Gunter, Ted Garrett, Earl Gaines, Roscoe Shelton, the Crescendos, the Gladiolas, and the Marigolds.

In 1956 Jay Miller of Crowley, Louisiana, began producing a number of important swamp blues releases for Excello, including recordings by Lightnin’ Slim, Lazy Lester, and Slim Harpo. Young founded Nasco Records, another subsidiary that centered on pop music, in 1957. Young sold Excello and Nashboro in 1966 to Crescent Amusement Company; Miller’s association with Excello ended soon thereafter. The label issued releases through the mid-1970s featuring a number of southern soul artists, including Maceo and the King’s Men, Z.Z. Hill, Freddie North, and Kip Anderson. In ...

Article

David Sanjek

[James Staton ]

(b Lundale, WV, July 26, 1922). American record label executive. Over the course of more than 50 years, Jim Foglesong has played an influential role in the administration of country music. He initially aimed to be a vocalist, performing on a local radio station as a teenager and receiving a degree as a vocal major from the Eastman School of Music in 1950. He subsequently moved to New York City, where he was hired by Columbia Records shortly thereafter. He was appointed the head of their Epic subsidiary in 1953 and held that position for the next ten years. He moved to RCA Victor in 1964 as the executive director of their pop acts. In 1970 Fogelsong moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and joined the Dot Record label as head of their Artist and Repertoire Department. In 1973 he became president of Dot Records. In 1979 he became president of MCA Records Nashville and was named the president of Capitol Records Nashville in ...

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

Jonas Westover

(b United States). American new Age pianist and producer. He played jazz trumpet and guitar during the 1960s in New York, and has credited John Coltrane as an early influence. He became interested in sonic healing and Eastern religions, both of which became fundamental to the transformation of his musical style. After undergoing a spiritual awakening in 1969 in the Santa Cruz mountains, Halpern developed what he called “anti-frantic alternative” music, releasing his first album, Spectrum Suite, in 1975. It became one of the foundational, and most influential, albums of New Age music. To create what was labeled music for “meditation and inner peace,” Halpern performed slowly unfolding, almost arrhythmic melodies on keyboards and synthesizers. Often using choral backdrops for his minimalist, meandering, and warm sonic environments, he weaves together spiritual growth and musical freedom with the goal of bringing self-actualization and wellness to the listener. He has released over 70 recordings featuring instrumental music as well as guided meditation. These include recordings targeted for specific purposes, such as ...

Article

Article

Mark Anthony Neal

(b Chicago, IL, Jan 8, 1967). American R&B singer, writer, producer, and arranger. Kelly was born on the South side of Chicago. Raised, with his three siblings, by a single mother, he was encouraged to pursue a musical career by his high school music teacher and mentor, Lena McLin, who was the chair of the music department at the Kenwood Academy and the niece of the legendary gospel music composer Thomas Dorsey. In high school Kelly formed the group MGM (Musically Gifted Men), which won a $100,000 grand prize on the television talent show Big Break, hosted by Natalie Cole. The group eventually signed with Jive Records, though after creative and financial tensions, three of the members were replaced and the group renamed R. Kelly and Public Announcement. After a moderately successful debut that produced the hit singles “She’s Got That Vibe” and “Honey Love,” Kelly left the group in early ...

Article

Brooke Bryant

Record company. Based in Portland, Oregon, and Olympia, Washington, Kill Rock Stars (KRS) was started by Slim Moon in 1991. Moon ran the label until 2006, when his wife, Portia Sabin, took over as president. KRS primarily promotes music by local artists and has remained unaffiliated with a major label. The label describes itself as “queer-positive, feminist and artist friendly.” KRS and many of its artists have been closely associated with Riot grrrl, an underground feminist punk movement.

KRS’s first release was a spoken word split single entitled KRS-101 (1991), featuring Moon and Kathleen Hanna, lead vocalist of the band Bikini Kill. Later that year, KRS released a compilation album featuring Olympia-area bands including Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and The Melvins. Singles, compilations, and LPs by riot grrrl bands such as Bikini Kill, Huggy Bear, and Team Dresch were released by KRS throughout the early 1990s. Subsequent artists of note included Sleater-Kinney and The Gossip. In ...

Article

John Rockwell

revised by Andrea F. Bohlman

(b Brooklyn, NY, May 14, 1947). American rock critic, record producer, and manager. While a history student at Brandeis University (BA 1969) he was the main critic for Crawdaddy! (1966–7) and contributed a regular full-page column to Rolling Stone (1967–9). After graduating, he made his first attempts at record production with the MC5 and Livingston Taylor. In 1970 he returned to criticism, first for the Boston Phoenix (1970–2) and then the Real Paper (1972–5). From 1971 he was recordings editor for Rolling Stone, leaving rock criticism in 1975. In 1972 he had already published a collection of his writings. Landau’s authoritative style is direct in its assessment. His knowledge of rock history and his penchant for technical explanation contributed to his tremendous influence on rock’s development. Landau’s longtime association with Bruce Springsteen began in 1974 when he notably described the artist’s “rock and roll future” in the ...

Article

Ryan R. McNutt

[Gottwald, Lukasz ]

(b Westerly, RI, Sept 26, 1973). American songwriter and record producer. One of the most sought-after collaborators for popular singers in the 2000s, he helped reshape the sound of radio pop for the MP3 age. His hits include Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U been Gone,” Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” and Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok.” As of January 2011, he had collaborated on 21 Top 40 Billboard Hot 100 singles.

Following two years at the Manhattan School of Music, he was hired as the lead guitarist for the Saturday Night Live house band in 1997. While working with the show, he began DJing throughout New York, producing or remixing tracks for artists including Mos Def and Black Star. After he met Swedish producer Max Martin at a house party, the duo collaborated on two songs for American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson’s second album, after which Dr. Luke soon wrote hits for Pink, Avril Lavigne, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, and others. Noted for his loud, polished sound and the adoption of electronic and indie rock tropes in his work, he claimed credits on nine separate top ten singles in ...

Article

Jesse Jarnow

(b New Orleans, LA, April 13, 1926). American label owner, producer, and engineer. The owner of Cosimo Recording Studios and Rex Records, he was one of the most important recording producers in the fertile New Orleans scene between 1945 and 1972. Matassa’s family, Sicilian immigrants, owned grocery and appliance stores in New Orleans, the latter of which sold radios as well as jukeboxes. As a teenager, Matassa was a field service representative for the family business, J & M Amusement Services. After Matassa began making money selling used records from the jukeboxes, he purchased a Duo Press disc cutter, installed it in the rear of the family store, hired out the space to outside producers, and began recording exclusive sides for the company to distribute. One such artist was Fats Domino, who cut his first single there in 1949. Relocating to a larger space in the French Quarter in ...

Article

Marisol Negrón

(b Brooklyn, NY, Sept 29, 1941; d Hackensack, NJ, March 10, 2009). American promoter, manager, and record label owner. The premiere promoter of “tropical” Latin music, Mercado was a teenager when he began organizing “waistline parties” that admitted women free of charge while men paid according to the size of their date’s waist. These parties soon led to the 3 & 1 club in Brooklyn, where he featured established and up-and-coming Latin music musicians. Mercado established himself in the Manhattan music scene by promoting live performances, such as the Latin jazz series at the Red Garter; dances at the Cheetah Lounge, including the legendary Fania All-Stars concert in 1971; and, in the early 1980s, the Salsa Meets Jazz series at the Village Gate with promoter Jack Hooke.

Mercado created RMM Management in 1972, eventually signing most of the artists under Fania Records. In 1987 he launched RMM Records, filling the void left by the demise of Fania in the early 1980s. Mercado quickly emerged as a leader in the industry and the shift toward ...

Article

Roben Jones

[Lincoln Wayne ]

(b LaGrange, GA, June 12, 1936). American guitarist, songwriter, producer, and entrepreneur. At age 14 he arrived in Memphis and soon worked with Johnny and Dorsey Burnette. His song “This Time” became a hit for Troy Shondell (1961, Liberty). He then worked for Stax Records, overseeing their first three hits. Ousted in 1962, he founded American Studios and assembled a house band, the Memphis Boys. With Dan Penn, he wrote “Dark End of The Street” for James Carr (1966, Goldwax) and “Do Right Woman” for Aretha Franklin (1967, Atl.). He produced works by Elvis Presley, the Gentrys, Dionne Warwick, B.J. Thomas, and many others. In 1972 he moved to Atlanta and then Nashville, where he became prominent in the Outlaw movement, producing Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson and cowriting “Lukenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” (1977, RCA) with Bobby Emmons. In 1982...

Article

MTV  

Nick Rubin

[Music Television]

Cable TV channel launched on 1 August 1981 as a joint venture between Warner Bros and American Express. It was originally conceived as a television analog to mainstream rock radio. However, a limited supply of video clips from mainstream rock artists led the channel to include new wave artists, who had been producing videos for urban “rock discos” as well as for British television. Often these bands were particularly telegenic, displaying dramatic fashion sensibilities and sleek, modern instruments like synthesizers and electronic drums. Although mainstream artists still constituted the majority of MTV programming, the channel became strongly identified with this so-called new music, partially because it had hitherto received scant radio airplay in the United States. When such artists as the Human League, Soft Cell, and Duran Duran exploded in popularity after receiving MTV airplay, the channel pushed commercial radio into the same territory, helping to drive a mainstream New British Invasion in the United States from ...

Article

David Sanjek

(b Caledonia, MN, Jan 19, 1911; d Somis, CA, Jan 6, 2008). American country music record producer. One of the most prolific, influential, and successful record producers in the country arena, Ken Nelson was raised in a Chicago orphanage and struck out on his own at the age of 14. He had a brief performing career as a member of the Campus Kids but soon thereafter achieved more success on Chicago radio. His promotion of country music received the attention of Los Angeles-based Capitol Records, which hired him as producer in 1947. Nelson was appointed head of the country division in 1951 and remained in the post until 1971. Over that period he produced thousands of sessions and achieved more than 100 number-one hits. The roster of artists with whom he was associated is astounding: Ferlin Husky, Red Simpson, Faron Young, Jean Shepard, Tommy Collins, Merle Travis, Wynn Stewart, Rose Maddox, the Farmer Boys, Hank Thompson, and Sonny James. Nelson also helped establish the commercial and aesthetic preeminence of the Bakersfield Sound by producing the career-establishing recordings of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. He made his mark in other genres as well by signing humorist Stan Freberg to the label, recording rock and roll pioneers Wanda Jackson and Gene Vincent, promoting session musician Glen Campbell into a pop star, and bringing the Beach Boys to the attention of the company. Nelson retired from Capitol in ...