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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

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

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 ...