(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 ...
Terence J. O’Grady
revised by Bryan Proksch
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 ...
[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, ...
[James Rae ]
(b Buffalo Valley, TN, Feb 28, 1911; d Nashville, TN, Aug 27, 1963). American country music agent, publisher, and Grand Ole Opry manager. One of the most influential and powerful figures in the country music business, Jim Denny followed the path of the classic American success story. He left his home in Buffalo Valley, Tennessee, at age 16 with purportedly no more than 40 cents in his pocket. He moved to Nashville and joined the mailroom staff at WSM radio (home of the Grand Ole Opry). He completed his college degree by mail and worked his way up the corporate ladder, becoming the manager of concessions at the Opry during World War II. In 1951 Denny was promoted to manager of the Opry, an appointment that granted him to programming privileges and thus put him in the position to make or break performers’ careers. Additionally, he headed the ...
[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 ...
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 ...
Charles K. Wolfe
revised by Diane Pecknold
(b Lizard Lick, nr Knightdale, NC, Aug 22, 1914; d Falls Church, VA, Dec 4, 1989). American country music radio announcer, station owner, television producer, and concert promoter. He studied agriculture at North Carolina State University (BS 1935) and then joined the US Department of Agriculture. From 1935 to 1945 he produced the department’s network radio program, The National Farm and Home Hour. After World War II he launched a number of country music enterprises around Washington, DC, using the moniker Town and Country Time as a unifying brand. His activities included a concert series in Constitution Hall, a morning radio program on WARL (Arlington, VA) called Let’s be gay, and an afternoon program called Town and Country Time, which was later syndicated on radio and television. Gay owned radio stations throughout the upper southeast, and his were among the first to experiment with full-time country music broadcasting. He was also a pioneer in television. In the mid-1950s he produced a three-hour NBC network television show, ...
(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 ...
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 ...
Michael Ann Williams
(b Livingston, KY, July 1, 1894, d Lexington, KY, Nov 12, 1985). American country music entrepreneur. He grew up in Rockcastle County, Kentucky, near the Renfro Creek, which gave its name to the mythical community which Lair would make famous. Lair pursued a career in insurance in Chicago, where he became familiar with radio station WLS and its pioneering National barn dance. By the late 1920s, Lair began seeking out talent for WLS. His first success came with the Cumberland Ridge Runners, a group that eventually included Red Foley, who went on to country music stardom. During his WLS years, Lair also created acts for three of the most popular female country music radio stars of the era: Linda Parker, LuLu Belle, and Lily May Ledford. As music librarian for WLS, Lair was instrumental in helping to promote barn dance entertainment as “folk” rather than “hillbilly” music. An avid collector of music, Lair copyrighted a number of variants of traditional pieces, but also composed original music, including his best known “Take me back to Renfro Valley.”...
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 ...
(b Canton, OH, Aug 18, 1905; d West Redding, CT, July 31, 1978). American composer, violinist, bandleader, recording engineer, and producer. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University, he performed as a light classical violinist in the United States and Europe. During the 1930s he studied conducting with Maurice Frigara in Paris. After a near-fatal car accident in 1940, he organized his own dance band, the Light Brigade, which recorded for RCA and Columbia. After he disbanded it at the turn of the decade, Light devoted himself to management, working for several record companies before becoming president of Waldorf Music Hall Records in 1954. He founded his own label, Grand Award, in 1956 and had success with Dixieland and honky-tonk piano albums. In 1959, he founded Command Records on which he released Persuasive Percussion, the first in a successful series of high-fidelity albums that used stereo technology to great advantage. Over the next two decades, he continued to produce hit albums drawing on the latest technological savvy and packaged with covers usually designed by Josef Albers. Musicians who appeared on Light’s albums include the Free Design, Doc Severinsen, Dick Hyman, Bobby Byrne, and Bobby Hackett. In ...
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 ...
(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 ...
(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 ...
(b LaGrange, GA, June 12, 1936; d LaGrange, June 13, 2016). 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 ...
(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 ...
(b Fort Myers, FL, Oct 16, 1948). American Producer, arranger, and record executive. Norman met Don Henley when both were students at North Texas State University and formed the group Shiloh, which recorded a self-titled album (Amos, 1970), produced by Kenny Rogers, before disbanding in 1971. Norman, a keyboard player, began arranging for Henley’s new group, the Eagles, as well as Linda Ronstadt, Kim Carnes, Bob Seger, and America. Between 1977 and 1983 he achieved great success as a record producer, working with Crystal Gayle, Hank Williams, Jr., Johnny Lee, Mickey Gilley, and Anne Murray, with whom he produced nine albums, received four Grammy Awards, and earned the Country Music Association’s Single and Album of the Year awards for “A Little Good News” (Capitol, 1983).
In 1983 Norman joined Warner/Reprise as Vice-President of Artists & Repertoire, was named as Executive Vice President in 1984, and became President in ...
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 ...