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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

Cajun musicians. On 27 April 1928 Joseph Falcon (b nr Robert’s Cove, LA, 28 Sept 1900; d Crowley, LA, 19 Nov 1965; accordionist, vocalist, and songwriter) and his wife Cléoma (b Crowley, LA, 27 May 1906; d Crowley, LA, 9 April 1941; guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter) became the first musicians to record a commercially released Cajun music record. They recorded for Columbia with Cléoma on guitar and Joseph on accordion and vocals. Their first album featured “Lafayette” and “La valse qui ma portin de ma fose” [La valse qui m’a porté dans ma fosse]. They subsequently recorded more songs for Columbia as well as for Decca until Cléoma’s death in 1941. Many of these recordings became part of the core repertoire of Cajun music as it evolved in the 1920s and 30s. Partly due to the impact of their early recordings, and also as a result of their musical talents, Joseph and Cléoma Falcon were among the most popular and influential Cajun musicians of that formative period. They shared vocal duties, with Joseph singing mostly traditional Cajun material, and Cléoma singing both traditional songs and Cajun French translations of American popular tunes, such as “Lulu’s Back in Town.” Cléoma, who was the sister of active Cajun musicians Amédé, Ophy, and Clifford Breaux, was especially renowned for her soaring, soulful vocal style. Joseph, on the other hand, had a keenness for improvising new arrangements for older traditional songs. After Cléoma’s death Joseph continued to perform, eventually with his second wife Thérèse playing drums. He produced one additional recording, a live performance at the Triangle Club in Scott in ...

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

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

Melanie Maldonado

Plena and bomba group. Los Pleneros de la 21 (LP21) have the distinction of being the longest-running group to specialize in performing Puerto Rican Plena and Bomba in the continental United States. Since 1983, this New York City-based, intergenerational group has taken these traditional genres from their local New York community to the international stage. The group has produced five albums that both celebrate traditional AfroPuerto Rican music and fuse it with other genres of their urban soundscape. LP21 was founded in the South Bronx by National Heritage Fellow Juan Gutierrez-Rodriguez and contemporaries who included Edgardo Miranda and Eugenia Ramos. Other luminaries who contributed to the evolution of the Grammy-nominated group include famed plena musician (plenero) Marcial Reyes and the distinctive bomba musician (bombero) Roberto Cepeda, a member of one of Puerto Rico’s premier musical families. The members of LP21 are more than musicians and dancers; they are educators and cultural activists who invest their time into their local community by providing workshops for children and adults in the historic community of El Barrio in Manhattan. Today LP21 boasts a membership and group of alumni that includes some of the most well respected pleneros and bomberos in the United States and Puerto Rico....

Article

David Royko

[David Anthony ]

(b Danville, VA, June 8, 1951). American guitarist and singer. Influential in bluegrass, newgrass, and jazz-inflected new acoustic music, Rice was strongly influenced by Kentucky Colonels/Byrds guitarist Clarence White. Raised in Los Angeles, he moved to Louisville, Kentucky in 1970 and joined Bluegrass Alliance at invitation of mandolinist Sam Bush after meeting in a jam session. In 1971 he joined J.D. Crowe and the New South, appearing on their acclaimed eponymous Rounder LP, often referred to by its catalog number “0044.” In 1975 he returned to California and joined the David Grisman Quintet, an instrumental ensemble; he appeared on their eponymous album (Kaleidoscope, 1977). In 1979 he left Grisman to focus on his solo career, ultimately releasing more than a dozen albums (primarily on Rounder). As leader of the Tony Rice Unit, he emphasized instrumental new acoustic music, dubbed “spacegrass” by Rice, while albums released under his name typically included vocals and relatively straight bluegrass and singer-songwriter material. His exploration of the music of other songwriters, most notably Gordon Lightfoot, established Rice as a major vocalist in bluegrass and acoustic folk music before health problems curtailed his singing. From ...

Article

Paul J. Yoon

(b 1943, Tokyo, Japan). taiko master of Japanese birth. He is widely regarded as the father of North American Taiko. He first traveled to the United States in 1967 and noted the absence of taiko drumming at Japanese American festivals in San Francisco and elsewhere. Determined to change that situation, Tanaka returned to Japan to study with, among others, Daihachi Oguchi, founder of Osuwa Daiko. Tanaka returned to the United States and in 1968 opened the San Francisco Taiko Dojo, the first school of its kind in America. It is Tanaka’s oft-stated goal to make taiko as well known as sushi or karate.

Since his initial training, Tanaka has studied with Susumu Kowase (Sukeroku Taiko), Shosaku Ikeda (Gojinjo Taiko), and Kiyohiko Fukuhara (Yokobue flute) and has also trained in kabuki dance and martial arts. The breadth of this training in drumming, dance, flute, and martial arts has made him a major influence for nearly every North American taiko player. In addition, Tanaka has always been open to teaching anyone, with no restrictions on age or gender, so long as they can withstand the rigorous physical conditioning he demands of his students....

Article

Joti Rockwell

(b Oceanside, CA, Feb 20, 1981). American mandolinist and singer. Learning bluegrass mandolin as a child in Southern California, he began his musical career with a victory at the Walnut Valley Mandolin Championship at age 12, an appearance as part of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Bluegrass Youth All-Stars also in 1993, and his first solo album Leading Off (Sugar Hill) the following year. His band Nickel Creek, which included Sean Watkins (b Vista, CA, 18 Feb 1977) on guitar and Sara Watkins (b Vista, CA, 8 June 1981) on fiddle, performed throughout the 1990s and released their eponymous album on Sugar Hill in 2000. Produced by Alison Krauss, the album established a number of musical hallmarks for the band: polished vocal harmonies, contemporary songwriting, and virtuosic, progressive-bluegrass-oriented instrumental work.

During his tenure with Nickel Creek, Thile pursued a variety of solo projects, including collaborations with Mike Marshall and Béla Fleck. After achieving an unusual degree of commercial success for a bluegrass-related band, Nickel Creek ceased touring and recording in ...

Article

Travis D. Stimeling

(b Fort Worth, TX, March 7, 1944; d Mount Juliet, TN, Jan 1, 1997). American folk singer-songwriter. The descendent of prominent Texans on both sides of the family, he lived in Texas, Montana, and Illinois as a child. From 1960 to 1962 he studied at Shattuck Academy (later called Shattuck School), a military school in Faribault, Minnesota, where he developed a passion for poetry and folk music. During his brief university studies, he played at folk clubs in Boulder and Houston. In 1963 his parents committed him to a psychiatric hospital, where he underwent three months of electric- and insulin-shock therapy to treat manic depression.

Between 1965 and 1968 he played regularly at the Jester Lounge, Sand Mountain Coffeehouse, and the Old Quarter in Houston and the 11th Door in Austin. There, he became a leading exponent of the region’s singer-songwriter community, which included Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark, K.T. Oslin, and Mickey Newbury. During this period Van Zandt wrote many of his best-known songs, including “For the Sake of the Song,” “Waitin’ around to Die,” and “If I Needed You.” In ...

Article

Don Cusic

revised by Travis D. Stimeling

[Crosby, Ronald Clyde ]

(b Oneonta, NY, March 16, 1942). American folk and country singer, guitarist, and songwriter. A high-school dropout, he traveled around the United States playing banjo, guitar, and other instruments and singing a repertory consisting principally of songs by Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and Jimmie Rodgers. By the early 1960s, he was performing at Greenwich Village folk clubs and on college campuses across the country, finding particular success among Texan audiences in Houston, Dallas–Fort Worth, and Austin. In 1966, while in Austin, he met Bob Bruno, with whom he formed the folk-rock band Circus Maximus; it recorded an album for Vanguard in 1967.

Around the same time, Walker also earned success as a songwriter, notably with “Mr. Bojangles” (1968), a hit for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1971. Also in 1971, Walker relocated to Texas, where he became a luminary in Austin’s emerging progressive country music scene. In ...

Article

Bill C. Malone

revised by Joti Rockwell

[Arthel Lane ]

(b Deep Gap, NC, March 3, 1923; d Winston-Salem, NC, May 29, 2012). American country- and folk-music singer, guitarist, banjoist, and harmonica player. Blind likely from birth, he was active as a local musician until his 1960 encounter with folklorist Ralph Rinzler. He gave his first northern concerts as part of a group led by the banjoist Clarence “Tom” Ashley and subsequently pursued an independent career, performing at the Newport Folk Festival and signing with Vanguard Records in 1963. At Rinzler’s suggestion, he emphasized more traditional musical elements, focused his efforts on the acoustic rather than the electric guitar, and gained popularity among folk-revival audiences throughout the 1960s. His son (Eddy) Merle (b Deep Gap, NC, 8 Feb 1949; d nr Lenoir, NC, 23 Oct 1985) began performing with him in 1964 and quickly developed as an acoustic guitarist. In 1972, Watson joined “Mother” Maybelle Carter, Earl Scruggs, and other leading country-music artists on ...

Article

Richard D. Driver

Folk group. The Weavers were formed in 1948 in Greenwich Village, New York, by Ronnie Gilbert (b New York, NY, 7 Sept 1926; vocals), Lee Hays (b Little Rock, AR, 14 March 1914; d Croton-on-Hudson, NY, 26 Aug 1981; guitar, vocals), Fred Hellerman (b Brooklyn, NY, 13 May 1927; guitar, vocals), and Pete(r) R. Seeger (b New York, 3 May 1919; guitar, banjo, vocals). Hays and Seeger previously founded the Almanac Singers in the early 1940s. The Weavers enjoyed commercial success in the early 1950s, and influenced the folk revival of the 1950s and 60s, but the group was blacklisted during the Red Scare for political associations.

In 1950, the Weavers signed to Decca Records and released a cover of Lead Belly’s “Goodnight Irene” backed with the Israeli dance song “Tzena, Tzena, Tzena”; both songs eventually hit number one. In 1950, Seeger came under scrutiny for past Communist associations, and Decca canceled the group’s contract, deleting their material from the label catalog. In ...

Article

Ryan Kirk

The phrase “old weird America” was coined by author Greil Marcus in his book Invisible Republic: Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes (1998) and refers to what he perceived as an eerie strand of country, blues, and American folk music featured on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music. In Marcus’s view the music of Bob Dylan and the members of the Band was a continuation of the sensibility of this eerie brand of Americana. Subsequent editions of Marcus’s book were retitled The Old, Weird America: the World of Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes, placing even more emphasis on the phrase. The label has since been applied retrospectively to the work of many outsider folk artists of the 1950s and 1960s, including guitarists John Fahey and Robbie Basho.

Journalist David Keenan, writing in The Wire, used the phrase “new weird America” to describe the musical aesthetic of a number of younger American artists. The label has since blossomed into a genre proper, characterized by diverse sonic influences ranging from psychedelic rock, electronica, free jazz, American folk music, and ethnic traditions and rooted in a grassroots, indie culture of independent record labels, self-releases, and small, intimate shows that often take place in back-to-the-land style settings. Representative artists include MV & EE, Sunburned Hand of the Man, and the Mountain Goats. Related genres include psychedelic folk and freak folk....