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Howard Rye

(b New Orleans, July 31, 1949). American singer and dancer. He majored in theater studies at Xavier University and then studied drama in Europe. On his return to New Orleans he founded the New Experience Theatre and became involved in jazz by conceiving the show One Mo’ Time, which sought to re-create an evening at the city’s Lyric Theater in 1927. The show received its première at the Toulouse Theater, where it eventually ran for six and a half years. In 1979 a One Mo’ Time company opened in New York at the Village Gate Downstairs, where the show ran for 1300 performances. A road company was formed in 1980, and troupes later toured to Britain and Australia. Bagneris himself sang and danced with each of these companies at various times. With choreography by Pepsi Bethel and music by Orange Kellin and the pianist Lars Edegran, the show featured the New Orleans Blue Serenaders, which included Walter Payton on tuba, the drummers John Robichaux and Herlin Riley, and a starring trumpeter, a role played at various times by Jabbo Smith, Bill Dillard, and Franc Williams. Among featured singers were Lillian Boutté, Sandra Reaves Phillips, and Sylvia “Kuumba” Williams. The Village Gate cast with Smith and Williams is heard on the original cast album ...

Article

(b St. Louis, MO, June 3, 1906; d Paris, France, April 12, 1975). American dancer and singer, naturalized French. She started out dancing on the streets of St. Louis with the Jones Family Band, a vaudeville troupe. After touring the South with the Dixie Steppers, she gained attention in the touring company of Shuffle Along (1921), the most important African American show of the decade. A member of the female dancing chorus, Baker stood out by making faces and embellishing dance moves, mixing comedy with the erotic persona of the black chorus girl. After appearing on Broadway in The Chocolate Dandies (1924) as That Comedy Chorus Girl, Baker travelled to Paris with La revue nègre (1925), a nightclub revue that introduced the new black performance styles of Broadway to French audiences. Her pas de deux “Danse Sauvage,” which she performed with her partner Joe Alex, introduced an explicit eroticism and exuberant physicality which marked Baker’s initial renown. Famously appearing at times with little more than a string of bananas around her waist, she made an impact on French popular culture that was immediate and enduring....

Article

Mareia Quintero Rivera

(b San Juan, PR, July 10, 1910; d Carolina, PR, July 21, 1996). American Puerto Rican composer, singer, percussionist, dancer, and drum-maker. A master of traditional bomba and plena, he was one the most prominent figures of Afro-Puerto Rican musical folklore in the 20th century. He is also known for his commitment to passing down these traditions to subsequent generations. Together with his wife, Caridad Brenes, a gifted dancer, he raised a family of skilled practitioners and maintained a lifelong practice of teaching in the community of Villa Palmeras, Santurce, the working-class area where they lived.

Cepeda was a key figure in gaining national and international recognition for Afro-Puerto Rican musical genres. In the 1940s he created an ensemble for radio performances, and he later developed a stage version of bomba, which he presented in San Juan’s major hotels. Several of his compositions were popularized by Ismael Rivera and Rafael Cortijo. Cepeda also developed ties with the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, founded in ...

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Jonas Westover

(b Santurce, PR, March 7, 1950). Puerto Rican singer, dancer, and entertainer. As a girl she honed her skills with ballet and jazz dance lessons. As a young adult she attended the Universidad de Puerto Rico and soon afterwards began to perform as a singer and to make inroads as a model and a dancer. She quickly became a major star in the Latin music world with her first album, Tú no eres hombre (1971). Within a year she was hosting her own television program, “El show de Iris Chacón,” which ran from 1972 until the mid-1980s, when she abruptly quit. As a media personality, Chacón has repeatedly found ways to market herself and keep her image and voice in the spotlight. She has appeared on film (mostly musicals), television, stage, and radio. Her radio shows, including “Iris Chacón Live” and “Caramelo y chocolate,” have run both in the United States and Puerto Rico. Her most famous song is “Spanish Rocket Ship” (...

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Barry Kernfeld

(b Smithville, VA, July 18, 1900; d Nov 1967). American clarinetist, singer, and dancer. In his social security application he gave his place of birth as Smithville (not Smithfield, as it has been published elsewhere). At the age of ten he learned clarinet from his father. When his family moved to Philadelphia he formed a band with his brother Jimmy, who played clarinet and saxophone. During the 1920s and 1930s he enjoyed much success with his own variety act; he appeared at the Sunset Café in Chicago and, around 1928, in the show Blackbirds. His best-known recordings are those he made in 1929 and 1930 as the leader of a group which included Jelly Roll Morton. These and his earlier recordings (1927–8), some of which involved Eddie Lang, display a repetitive but striking improvisatory style on clarinet, characterized by conventional blues formulas (sometimes played with a timbre that resembles that of Bubber Miley’s muted trumpet), extended passages of deliberately paced slap-tonguing, and an extraordinary cackling sound. His playing may be heard in all its variety on ...

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John Behling

(b New York, NY, Dec 8, 1925; d Beverly Hills, CA, May 16, 1990). American singer, dancer, and actor. Widely regarded as one of the greatest entertainers of his time, he sang, danced, acted, played several instruments, performed comic impersonations, and excelled at the variety entertainment format popular in American vaudeville, nightclubs, and television. His parents were vaudeville dancers frequently on tour, so Davis spent his earliest years with his grandmother. In 1928 his father took Davis on the road, where he made his debut with Will Mastin’s vaudeville review as Silent Sam, the Dancing Midget. Although he began as a dancer, as his talent and reputation grew he incorporated songs and comic impersonations into his act. His final public performance was in 1989 on a television special, The 60th Anniversary Salute to Sammy Davis, Jr. Throughout his long career Davis performed many styles of music, but he is best known for his jazz-influenced performances of Broadway show tunes. He was a member of the Rat Pack, which included Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and together they set the standard for nightclub-style performance before the dominance of rock and roll....

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Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson

(b Vienna, Jan 17, 1775; d Addleston, Surrey, Sept 3, 1838). English actress, singer, and dancer . Her father, an orchestral flute player, brought his family to London and she danced on stage as a child, gradually taking juvenile acting and singing parts. From 1790 she built up a repertory of roles in musical pieces, an early success being Macheath in a travesty Beggar’s opera. Hard-working, intelligent and lively, she had parts in many operas by Storace and Kelly. C. H. Wilson wrote, ‘she sings so well, acts so well, dances so well, and looks so well, that she is deservedly a great favourite of the town’. After marrying Charles Kemble in 1806 she generally acted with him but made few appearances after 1813.

BDA DNB (J. Knight) LS ‘Miss De Camp’, Thespian Magazine, 3 (1794),79–80 C. H. Wilson: The Myrtle and Vine (London, 1802) R. Fiske...

Article

Sharon O’Connell Campbell

(Lenore )

(b Statesboro, GA, March 18, 1975). American performer. Embodying the “triple-threat” performance model of singer, actor, and dancer, Sutton Foster enjoyed a rapid rise to musical theater stardom. Foster debuted on Broadway in 1993 as a chorus member and understudy for Eponine in Les Misérables (opened 1987), then played Sandy Dumbrowski in Grease (1994). She appeared in Annie (1997) and The Scarlet Pimpernel (1997). Foster created the role of Thoroughly Modern Millie’s Millie Dillmount in California tryouts in 2000. Despite being little-known, she was cast for the show’s Broadway (2002) opening; her performance earned Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Actress in a Musical, and an Astaire Award for Best Female Dancer. Subsequently, Foster created the roles of Jo in Little Women (2005), Janet Van De Graaff in The Drowsy Chaperone (...

Article

Mitsutoshi Inaba

(b Hillsborough, NC, April 4, 1929). American Piedmont blues guitarist, singer, dancer, and storyteller. He grew up on a farm in rural Orange County, North Carolina. When he was 13 or 14 years old, he learned acoustic guitar by watching his uncle and cousin. He drew repertoire from the artists he heard on the radio, such as Blind Boy Fuller, Brownie McGhee, and Lightnin’ Hopkins. He played at social gatherings in the community and added buck- and tap-dancing, which he also learned from his uncle and cousin. In 1954 he moved to Durham where he started to play electric guitar and incorporated more modern blues, including songs by Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed. Teaming up with pianist Quentin “Fris” Holloway (1918–2008), Holeman performed in and around Durham. In 1976 folklorist Glenn Hinson invited Holeman to a local festival that attracted 5000 audience members. Since then he has been playing professionally. During the 1980s, he toured in and outside the United States with Holloway. While his precise finger picking––as heard in “Step It Up and Go” (...

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Barry Kernfeld

[Edgar ]

(b Pittsburgh, Aug 3, 1918; d Detroit, May 9, 1979). American singer, lyricist, and dancer. For many years he worked principally as a tap-dancer while also learning to play tuba, guitar, and drums. In the 1940s, with his dancing partner Irv Taylor, he created what came to be called (misleadingly) jazz vocalese (see Vocalese) by setting lyrics to improvisations on Panassié Stomp and Taxi War Dance by Lester Young with Count Basie’s orchestra and Body and Soul by Coleman Hawkins; a decade later this type of piece became an important element in the success of Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. From 1952, following King Pleasure’s popular recording of Jefferson’s Moody’s Mood for Love (based on a saxophone solo by James Moody), Jefferson was able to record his own gritty-voiced vocalese; among the four titles from his first session were a different Body and Soul (based on an uncelebrated recording of the piece by Moody) and ...

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Howard Rye

(fl Los Angeles, mid-1930s–1954). American drummer, singer, and dancer. He began his musical career in Dallas in the early 1930s in the Sharps and Flats, a band led by his elder brother Bert Johnson, a trombonist. While he was primarily a dancing frontman with this group, he was also featured on tom-toms. Both brothers moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1930s, where Cee Pee joined the band of the alto saxophonist Emerson Scott at the Onyx Club, Hollywood. He took over leadership of the group during a residency at the Paradise Club, and during a succession of engagements at such venues as the Del Mar Club (1940), the Rhumboogie, Sugar Hill (1942), and Billy Berg’s Swing Club he led one of the most prominent West Coast big bands of the era; among his sidemen were Teddy Buckner, Karl George, Buddy Banks (i), Marshal Royal, Jack McVea, Johnny Miller, and Buddy Collette. Alton Redd was the band’s second drummer, filling in when Johnson was featured on tom-toms or engaged in showmanship. The band made many visits to the film studios, some of which probably remain to be identified. Johnson continued to lead bands until at least ...

Article

John Macinnis

[Kaminski, David Daniel ]

(b Brooklyn, NY, Jan 18, 1913; d Los Angeles, CA, March 3, 1987). American Singer, dancer, and actor. Kaminski began his career as an entertainer by traveling widely and working nonmusical day jobs. He was first billed as Danny Kaye in 1933 while working with the dancing act of David Harvey and Kathleen Young. Kaye specialized in singing with non-English accents punctuated with spurts of double-talk, tongue twisters, face contortions, and dancing. He met his wife, pianist and songwriter Sylvia Fine, while working variety shows in New York, and, with her assistance, developed some of his most famous numbers, including “Stanislavsky,” “Anatole of Paris,” and “Melody in Four F.” In 1939 Kaye appeared in Broadway in his Straw Hat Revue and again in 1941 in Cole Porter’s Let’s Face It.

Kaye’s film career began in 1944 with the RKO film Up in Arms. Other musical comedy films in which he starred included ...

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Jonas Westover

[Keith, Mae Eartha ]

(b North, SC, Jan 17, 1927; Weston, CT, Dec 25, 2008). American singer, actress, and dancer. Kitt came from a poor family, but managed to make her way into show business. Her first break came in 1943 when she was hired by the Katherine Dunham Company as a dancer, and she remained with that organization until 1948. Given the opportunity to perform throughout Europe, Kitt learned French and incorporated it into her vocal performances at cabarets. Kitt began to record in the early 1950s, and her distinctive voice—somewhat deep, purposefully raspy, and openly seductive—made her an African American sex symbol. Her early hits include a cover of “Let’s Do It” by Cole Porter, “C’est si bon,” “Love for Sale,” “Je cherche un homme,” and “Mink, Schmink.” Kitt’s breakout Broadway appearance came when she appeared in the revue, New Faces of 1952, singing “Monotonous,” which she revived for a ...

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Rainer E. Lotz

[Jackson, Laurence ]

(b Baltimore, Feb 23, 1921; d May 1974). American singer and tap-dancer. He first sang professionally at the age of 11, touring with Don Redman. During a period at Dickie Wells’s club in New York he learned to tap-dance, and from the mid-1930s he performed with several dance groups. He worked steadily through the 1940s, appearing with the bands of Count Basie, Woody Herman, Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, and others; during a tenure as a tap-dancer at the Spotlite Club, New York, he traded fours with Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Bud Powell (c1947). Laurence emphasized footwork, performing tap-dances almost as if they were drum solos, and he was one of the few jazz dancers who felt comfortable with the rhythms of bop. Illness prevented him from working for many years, but he later recorded as a leader the album Dancemaster (c1958–60, CJ 30), accompanied by such all-star musicians as Paul Quinichette, Bobby Jaspar, and Roland Hanna. He visited London about ...

Article

Deane L. Root

[Klasen, Gertrud Alexandra Dagmar Lawrence ]

(b London, July 4, 1898; d New York, Sept 6, 1952). English actress, singer and dancer. She was a child performer in pantomime and musicals and from 1916 appeared in revue in London. She introduced ‘Parisian Pierrot’ by her lifelong friend Noël Coward in his revue London Calling (1923), and her New York début in the London show André Charlot’s Revue of 1924 (in which she sang ‘Limehouse Blues’) brought her immediately to the attention of leading American songwriters; her first successful song was You were meant for me by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake. George and Ira Gershwin wrote the musicals Oh, Kay! (1926, including ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’) and Treasure Girl (1928) for her. Lawrence also performed spoken drama in both England and the USA, notably Private Lives (1930) with Noël Coward, but in 1933 appeared on Broadway in Porter’s ...

Article

J. Ryan Bodiford

[J.Lo ]

(b Bronx, NY, July 24, 1969). American Puerto Rican actress, singer, dancer, producer, and entrepreneur. She is the highest paid Latina actress to date and has attracted similar commercial appeal as a pop, hip hop, and Latin-influenced recording artist, selling over 55 million albums in the first decade of her musical career.

The daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants, Lopez participated in minor film and theater productions from an early age. Following high school, she attended numerous auditions before landing her first major gig in 1991 as a “fly girl” dancer on the sketch-comedy program In Living Color. In 1997 she gained attention with her Golden Globe-nominated performance in the film Selena. She has since starred in box office hits such as The Wedding Planner (2001), Maid in Manhattan (2002), and Monster in Law (2005).

Already an established actress, Lopez launched her singing career in ...

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Deane L. Root

(Virginia)

(b Weatherford, TX, Dec 1, 1913; d Rancho Mirage, CA, Nov 3, 1990). American actress, singer and dancer. Her mother was a violinist. Martin taught social and stage dance, sang on radio and in films, and achieved fame in 1938 performing ‘My heart belongs to daddy’ in Cole Porter’s Leave it to me, a song with which she remained associated throughout her career. Her first film role was in The Great Victor Herbert (1939) and her later films included Birth of the Blues (1941) and Night and Day (1946). She performed in Broadway musicals, beginning with Weill’s One Touch of Venus (1943, including the song ‘That’s him’). Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote South Pacific (1949) for her and the bass Ezio Pinza; Rodgers recalled (in his autobiography, Musical Stages, 1975) that Martin, concerned about their unequal voices, was promised no duets: moreover, ‘her songs were colloquial, direct, sunny and youthful, whereas his were sophisticated, romantic, even philosophical’ in lyrics and music. It was Martin who suggested adapting the film ...

Article

Howard Rye

[Marion Joseph ]

(b Indianapolis, July 22, 1915). American trumpeter, singer, and dancer. From 1932 he was featured as a singer and dancer in New York shows, notably Blackbirds of 1939. In 1941 he was a master of ceremonies at Kelly’s Stable and took part in jam sessions as a drummer at Monroe’s Uptown House. He recorded as a singer with Count Basie in May 1942, and he may be seen in the soundie A Song and Dance Man (1943). In 1944–5 he toured North Africa and Asia as a member of a USO unit led by Alberta Hunter; this tour included a month’s residency in Casablanca. In the late 1940s and early 1950s Miller worked around New York; he recorded again as a singer with Basie in 1947 and 1949. In 1953, as a member of Mezz Mezzrow’s band, he traveled to France, Switzerland, Italy, Morocco, and Belgium, where he recorded under his own name with a band in which Buck Clayton and Kansas Fields were sidemen; on ...

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William A. Everett and Lee Snook

(May )

(b Los Angeles, Mar 12, 1946). American actress, singer and dancer, the daughter of Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli. She made her film début while still a toddler in the Judy Garland vehicle In the Good Old Summertime (1949). In her late teens she began to establish herself as a singer and dancer in nightclubs and on stage, and her New York début was as Ethel Hofflinger in the off-Broadway Best Foot Forward (1963). She toured as Lili in Carnival! (1964) before playing her Tony-winning title role in Flora, the Red Menace (1965). She also starred in a one-woman show Liza (1974) and substituted for Gwen Verdon in Chicago (1975). With her Academy Award-winning film role as Sally Bowles in Cabaret (1972), she solidified her reputation as an interpreter of the work of Kander and Ebb, whose stage musical ...

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Barry Kernfeld

[Willis ]

(b Chicago, Dec 10, 1913; d New York, Jan 28, 1976). American trumpeter, cornetist, violinist, singer, and dancer. He learned piano from the age of six, initially taking lessons from his mother. Later he took up violin, taught himself trumpet, and marched as a drum master in high school. From 1932 to 1937 he led a sextet in Chicago, then worked, principally as a trumpeter, with Earl Hines (February 1937 – December 1938) and Horace Henderson (January 1939 – March 1940). In 1940, after spending eight months performing as a solo act – singing, dancing, and playing both trumpet and violin – he joined Duke Ellington, with whom he remained until 1963 apart from a few periods, including nine months’ leave in 1944 to lead his own quartet. While with Ellington, Nance continued to make use of all his talents. He often performed as a singer and dancer, and the full and penetrating tone he obtained on violin was the highlight of many of the band’s recordings, including ...