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Article

Lori Burns and Jada Watson

[Myra Ellen]

(b Newton, NC, Aug 22, 1963). American alternative-rock singer-songwriter, pianist, and record producer. She emerged in the early 1990s amid a resurgence of female singer-songwriters and has been one of the few well known alternative-rock artists to use the piano as her primary instrument. She attended the preparatory division of the prestigious Peabody Conservatory but left the school at the age of 11. She began to play her own music in nightclubs at 14, chaperoned by her father, who was a preacher. After Amos moved to Los Angeles in her late teens to pursue a recording career, her band Y Kant Tori Read released a self-titled album (Atl., 1987). Although this was unsuccessful, Atlantic Records retained her six-album contract.

Amos’s debut solo album, Little Earthquakes (Atl., 1992), earned her critical acclaim for her vocal expressivity, pianistic virtuosity, and fearless exploration of a wide range of personal themes, notably female sexuality, personal relationships, religion, sexual violence, and coming of age. The album ...

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

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

Lori Burns and Jada Watson

[Angela Maria ]

(b Buffalo, NY, Sept 23, 1970). American folk singer-songwriter, guitarist, label owner, and political activist. She began performing music at local bars and busking at age nine. A fiercely independent spirit, she left home at 15 and lived with friends while she wrote and performed her music in the Buffalo area. By 19 she had written more than 100 songs and begun to build a devout grassroots following. In 1989 she founded Righteous Records (renamed Righteous Babe Records in 1994), an independent record label for which she has composed, performed, recorded, and produced all of her material. Since the late 1990s the label has released albums for other non-mainstream artists. DiFranco has also published two volumes of poetry: Self Evident: poesie e disegni (Rome, 2004) and Verses (New York, 2007).

DiFranco is a prolific lyricist whose songs communicate strong messages about gender, identity, social institutions, and politics, and address social issues including racism, homophobia, poverty, war, and reproductive rights. Much of her lyrical material is autobiographical and tackles topics including religion, relationships, motherhood, and sexuality. Her music is classified variously as folk rock, alternative rock, punk folk, and singer-songwriter folk. DiFranco has emerged as an icon of feminism and independent music making, and her career has featured solo albums, many compilations and collaborations, live albums, official bootleg releases, and an unrelenting concert calendar....

Article

David Buckley

revised by Cecilia Sun

(Peter George St John Le Baptiste de la Salle )

(b Woodbridge, UK, May 15, 1948). English composer, singer, keyboard player, sound artist, and producer. He attended art school in Ipswich and Winchester, during which time he was inspired by John Cage’s Silence to develop an interest in experimental music. He later joined the Scratch Orchestra and the Portsmouth Sinfonia. He first worked professionally from 1970 to 1973 with the seminal art-rock band Roxy Music, playing keyboard on their first two albums Roxy Music (Island, 1972) and For your Pleasure (Island, 1973). By treating the group’s live sound electronically with a tape recorder and VC5 3 synthesizer, he defined a role for himself as an “aural collagist.” After leaving Roxy Music, Eno developed this interest in the timbral quality of music further with the albums No Pussy Footing (Island, 1973; with Robert Fripp) and Another Green World (Island, 1975), the latter a brilliant combination of quirky songs and pastoral instrumentals. In ...

Article

Rob Bowman

(b Covington, TN, Aug 20, 1942; d Memphis, Aug 10, 2008). American soul singer, keyboard player, songwriter and producer. He first recorded for the Memphis-based Youngstown label in 1962. In the first half of the 1960s Hayes also wrote songs and played sessions for the Goldwax and Phillips labels in Memphis, backing singers such as Jeb Stuart, Dorothy Williams and Spencer Wiggins. As a member of the saxophonist Floyd Newman's band, he eventually found his way into Stax where he co-wrote one side and played on both sides of Newman's solitary single in 1963. Hayes was then hired for a variety of Stax sessions to replace the keyboard player Booker T. Jones while Jones was at college. Soon thereafter Hayes began helping with arrangements and by 1965 had formed a songwriting partnership with lyricist David Porter. Hayes and Porter became the foremost writing and production team at Stax, creating seminal chart hits for artists such as Sam and Dave, the Charmells, Ruby Johnson, Mable John, Carla Thomas, the Soul Children and the Emotions. Their material leaned heavily on gospel roots, some songs, such as Sam and Dave's ...

Article

Lukas Pearse

[Johnson, James Ambrose ]

(b Buffalo, NY, Feb 1, 1948; d Burbank, CA, Aug 6, 2004). American Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer. After growing up singing on street corners in Buffalo, New York, he fled to Toronto, Canada, to avoid the draft in 1964. Using the pseudonym Big Jimmie, he formed the group the Sailorboys with future members of Steppenwolf. The band changed its name to the Mynah Birds and released “Mynah Bird Hop/Mynah Bird Song” for Columbia Records Canada. After auditioning unsuccessfully in 1966 for Motown Records, the band re-formed, including Neil Young, and recorded an album. However, its release was canceled following disputes with their manager, who reported James absent without leave and he was briefly imprisoned.

James returned to Detroit, where he was hired by Motown Records as a songwriter and producer; he worked with Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Spinners, and Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers, before leaving in ...

Article

Lisa L. Rhodes

(Marie )

(b Wynnewood, PA, Sept 22, 1958). American Rock singer, songwriter, producer, and guitarist. She spent several years in Rockville, Maryland, after which her family relocated to West Covina, California, when she was in her early teens. As an habitué of Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco, she was exposed to glam rock music and musicians, notably Suzi Quatro, an early and profound influence. It was here, in 1975, that she met the producer Kim Fowley, as well as Sandy West and Cherie Currie, both of whom subsequently worked with Jett as members of the all-girl glam rock band Thomas Salway. The band’s other original members were Lita Ford and Jackie Fox. The group was signed to Mercury Records in 1976, and their first album, The Runaways, was released soon thereafter. They released three more albums, including Queens of Noise (1977), on that label. The group severed ties with Fowley in ...

Article

Lil Jon  

Patricia Moss

[Smith, Jonathan Mortimer ]

(b Atlanta, GA, Jan 27, 1971). American rapper, music producer, and DJ. As a prominent figure in popularizing the Atlanta based Dirty South movement, Lil Jon began making a name for himself as a producer with a talent for club remixes in the mid-1990s. In 1997, he formed his own group, Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz, which included fellow rappers Big Sam and Lil Bo. Their first album Get Crunk, Who U Wit: Da Album, released in 1997, featured the sounds of the developing crunk genre, a style of music that originated in the mid- to late-1990s with the Memphis-based group Three 6 Mafia. General characteristics of crunk music include heavy basslines, shouting vocals often utilizing call and response, and drum machine rhythms. Unlike most hip hop, the focal point of crunk is the music and the beat rather than the lyrics. Crunk is more often associated with party music than with personal or socio-political concerns. Though Lil John did not invent crunk, he added much to it, including roaring synthesizer lines. Lil Jon’s ...

Article

Gelsey Bell

[Arthur] (Morgan)

(b Richmond, VA, May 28, 1953). American songwriter, producer, guitarist, and vocalist, primarily active in Brazil and the United States. The son of American missionaries, Lindsay grew up in Brazil from the age of three and moved back to the United States when he was 18. In 1977, he started No Wave band DNA as the guitarist and singer. Included in Brian Eno’s famous 1978 No New York compilation, DNA was active until 1982. Lindsay played guitar with the Lounge Lizards from its beginning in 1979 until 1981. He was subsequently a founding member the Golden Palominos, led by drummer and composer Anton Fier, as a guitarist and singer, but left the group after their debut album in 1983. Known for his unconventional guitar playing, Lindsay is untrained and has developed his own techniques that do not involve chords, often focus on rhythm rather than harmony, utilize unique tunings, and are sometimes described collectively as “skronk.” Lindsay’s early vocal style is characterized by talk-singing, shouting, surreal lyrics, and glossolalia. In ...

Article

Jonas Westover

[Pincus, Barry Alan ]

(b Brooklyn, NY, June 17, 1943). American Singer, composer, pianist, and producer. Manilow’s professional career began while he was a student at the Juilliard School. His first major assignment came in 1964, when he composed the score to a musical adaptation of The Drunkard. He was also a successful composer of advertising jingles, winning two Clio awards in 1976. By the late 1960s Manilow became the music director and conductor for numerous television programs while simultaneously performing a nightclub act in New York. Finding success as a performer and songwriter, he collaborated at this time with Bette Midler and also produced her first two albums. In the early 1970s Manilow started his own record company, Bell Records, which released his first album, Barry Manilow (Bell, 1973). His first successful single, “Mandy,” from Barry Manilow II (Bell, 1974) was followed by “I Write the Songs” (1975...

Article

Rob Bowman

(b Chicago, June 3, 1942; d Roswell, GA, Dec 26, 1999). American soul and funk singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer. During the 1960s and early 70s he created the sound of Chicago soul. He initially came to prominence performing on and writing a number of hits by the Impressions, the between 1958 and 1970. Beginning in 1960 with Jerry Butler's top ten hit He will break your heart, Mayfield also pursued a career writing, producing and playing on records by a number of other successful Chicago artists, including Major Lance, Gene Chandler and Walter Jackson and, in the 1970s, the Staple Singers and the Detroit-based Aretha Franklin. In 1966 Mayfield became an entrepreneur with first the Windy C and then the Mayfield and Curtom labels. Curtom proved to be the most successful of these ventures, releasing hits by the Impressions, the Natural Four, Five Stairsteps, the Staple Singers, Donny Hathaway and June Conquest, Leroy Hutson, Mystique and Linda Clifford....

Article

Eddy Determeyer

[Melvin James ]

(b Battle Creek, MI, Dec 17, 1910; d New York, NY, May 28, 1988). American arranger, composer, producer, bandleader, trumpeter, and singer. Growing up as an African American musician in Zanesville, Ohio, Oliver was self taught as a trumpeter and arranger. After playing in territory bands in and around Zanesville and Columbus, he became a member of Jimmie Lunceford’s orchestra in 1933. His charts for the Lunceford band were distinguished by contrasts, crescendos, and unexpected melodic variations, thereby setting new standards in big band swing and close-harmony singing. His use of two-beat rhythms also set his arrangements apart.

In 1939 Oliver was hired by the trombonist Tommy Dorsey and turned his band into one of the hardest swinging and most sophisticated ensembles of the early 1940s. In 1946 he started his own big band. During the late 1940s and 1950s he mainly did studio work, as a music director for the labels Decca, Bethlehem, and Jubilee. He continued to lead big bands and smaller ensembles, recycling his old Lunceford and Dorsey successes and performing new arrangements. Along with Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson, Oliver must be rated one of the top arrangers of the swing era and infused almost every chart with vigor and surprise....

Article

Olivia Carter Mather

[Alvis Edgar ]

(b Sherman, TX, Aug 12, 1929; d Bakersfield, CA, March 25, 2006). American country musician and businessman. He is widely considered the central figure of the Bakersfield sound, and his dominance of the country charts in the 1960s challenged Nashville’s hegemony and bolstered the West Coast country scene in Bakersfield and Los Angeles. During the 1950s he worked as a guitarist and session player for several Bakersfield artists before signing with Capitol Records in 1957. In 1963 he began a streak of 14 consecutive number-one country hits with “Act Naturally,” which was later covered by the Beatles. Other hits included “Together Again” (1964), “I’ve got a tiger by the tail” (1965), and a cover of “Johnny B. Goode” (1969).

Owens’s songs eschewed themes of hard living and rambling for a portrayal of the male subject as a lonely victim of romance. With his backing band, the Buckaroos, he developed a bright, driving sound which he described as a freight train feel: heavy bass and drums accompanying two Fender Telecaster electric guitars played by Owens and the guitarist Don Rich. The twangy Telecaster sound and high, close harmony of Owens and Rich characterized many of his recordings. The Buckaroos both toured and recorded with Owens, a contrast to country norms. Owens thus established an alternative to the popular “countrypolitan” sound produced in Nashville (he also never joined the “Grand Ole Opry”); in doing so he inspired such country-rock musicians as Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers. He also marketed himself as a hard-country artist free of pop influence; in ...

Article

Prince  

Charlie Furniss

[Nelson, Prince Rogers; The Artist Formerly Known As Prince; TAFKAP]

(b Minneapolis, 7 June 1958; d Chanhassen, MN, 21 April 2016). American rock and pop singer, instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer. As a teenager he began playing the guitar, drums, and piano and formed his first band while still at school. Over the next few years he made a number of recordings and became acquainted with studio production skills. In 1977 he signed a deal with Warner Bros. Records that allowed him complete creative freedom, which at the time was almost unprecedented among black solo artists. His first album For You (1978) failed to enter the charts, but Prince (1979) fared a little better and contained the hit ‘I Wanna be your Lover’. Around this time he formed his first touring band which established his precedent for using black, white, male, and female musicians. His third album Dirty Mind (1980) lost much radio airplay owing to its sexually explicit themes and it was not until ...

Article

Andrew Flory

(Brockman, Jr. )

(b Tuskegee, AL, June 20, 1949). American Rhythm-and-blues and pop singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, and producer. He attended Tuskegee Institute as an economics major, where he helped to form the Commodores, the during the late 1960s. Richie broke from the group in 1981 to start a solo career, remaining with Motown Records until 1992. As a member of the Commodores, Richie played saxophone on upbeat numbers, and often performed as vocalist and pianist on ballads. He became known for composing sentimental ballads that featured emotive vocal performances, such as “Easy” (1977), “Three Times a Lady” (1978), and “Still” (1979). Richie branched out from the Commodores in the early 1980s, working with pop-country singer Kenny Rogers, for whom he wrote and produced the hit “Lady” (1980), and Diana Ross, with whom he performed his song “Endless Love” (1981) as a duet that reached the top of both the pop and black singles charts. He left the Commodores after recording the ...

Article

Jonas Westover

[Bridges, Claude Russell ]

(b Lawton, OK, April 2, 1942). American singer, songwriter, keyboard player, and producer. He is well respected for his solo work—a mix of rock, folk, and country music—but his work as a session musician has also brought significant recognition. He began playing piano at the age of four and was playing in clubs in Tulsa as a high school student. His band, the Starlighters, managed to score a spot as the opening act for Jerry Lee Lewis in 1959. Russell moved to Los Angeles the same year and quickly established himself as a session musician, notably with Wrecking Crew, the, the group of musicians Phil Spector used to accompany his artists. With the Wrecking Crew, he accompanied artists such as the Byrds, Herb Alpert, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys. The keyboard player on hundreds of recordings, he opened his own recording studio in 1967. He has since been active in almost all fields of popular music, from musician to singer to songwriter to label owner (he founded Shelter Records in ...

Article

J. Bryan Burton

(b Cook, MN, 1957). American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer. Secola is a member of the Anishinabe Nation of northern Minnesota and southern Ontario, Canada. Growing up near the Bois Fort Reservation, Secola was actively involved in music, forming groups with other family members, and playing trombone in the local high school marching band before focusing on guitar playing and songwriting. Secola attended Mesabi Community College, the University of Colorado, and the University of Minnesota earning degrees in public service and American Indian Studies. Following graduation from the University of Minnesota, Secola worked at the Indian Education in Tempe, Arizona, from 1984 to 1993. After releasing his debut CD, Circle, in 1992, Secola and The Wild Band of Indians toured Europe and the United States for much of the following decade, earning a large following for his innovative combination of western and Native American genres, a style he labeled “alter-native.” Secola achieved cult status among young Native Americans with his composition “NDN Kars” (...

Article

Don Cusic

[Ragsdale, Harold Ray ]

(b Clarkdale, GA, Jan 24, 1939). American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger, music publisher, television star, and entrepreneur. Harold Ragsdale began his musical career with a high school band that played R&B songs by the Coasters, Drifters, and other R&B groups. In 1955 the family moved to Atlanta, where publisher Bill Lowery signed him as a songwriter and secured his first recording contract with Capitol Records; Capitol’s Head of A&R, Ken Nelson changed Ragsdale’s name to Ray Stevens. After attending Georgia State University, where he studied music, Stevens had his first success with his recording of “Jeremiah Peabody’s Poly Unsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green and Purple Pills” (Mercury, 1961). In 1962 he moved to Nashville, supplementing his own recording career with work as a session musician, arranger, and background vocalist. He garnered a number-one pop hit and his first Grammy with his recording of “Everything is beautiful” (Barnaby, ...