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Robert B. Winans

revised by Jonas Westover

(b Holyoke, MA, Jan 17, 1871; d Newfane, VT, Nov 18, 1948). American banjoist and banjo maker. He began his career playing with a medicine show and a Wild West show, then from 1890 to 1915 performed in a vaudeville act with his wife. He studied with ALFRED A. FARLAND in the mid- 1890s and about 1897 organized the Bacon Banjo Quintette. He toured with the Bacon Trio in 1905–6, and made another very successful tour in 1908 with “The Big Three,” consisting of himself, the guitarist William Foden, and the mandolinist Guiseppe Pettine. Bacon continued to play into the 1940s and his few recordings attest to his virtuoso performances; contemporary reviewers praised his tone, his great technique, and the expressiveness of his playing. He taught, published several method books, and wrote many arrangements and compositions for five-string banjo. Bacon also designed banjos, bringing out his first instrument in ...

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 ...

Article

Laurence Libin

(b Jirapa, Ghana, June 22, 1958). Ghanaian xylophone maker, player, and teacher. Born into a family of gyilli makers and players in northwest Ghana, Doozie began playing at six years of age. When he was 12 his father taught him to make his first gyilli and he was a practised maker by age 15. After secondary school Doozie moved to Accra to become a xylophonist with the Ghana Dance Ensemble. He was also an instructor at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana, Legon. Among other appointments, he has performed with the National SO Ghana and has been associated with the Institute of African Studies and the music and performing arts departments of the University of Ghana. In 1990 he established a workshop to produce xylophones; he made the xylophones used in the Broadway production of The Lion King. He has also restored instruments in museum collections. He continues to teach and perform and is managing director of Dagarti Arts and Music in Accra and a member of the Arts Council of Ghana. He is also involved in promoting fair trade practices. Doozie’s xylophone bars—from eight to 18 for each instrument—are made of aged, fire-dried planks of wood from male shea trees. Gourd resonators are affixed under the bars, which are tied to the curved frame. The tips of the wooden beaters are padded with rubber recycled from tyres....

Article

Daniele Buccio

(b Redwood City, CA, April 19, 1954). American composer, guitarist, instrument builder, educational technology specialist, and media designer. He attended classes with Robert Sheff, robert Ashley , and terry Riley at Mills College (1972–3) and studied at Canada College in Redwood City (1973–4), California, Cabrillo College in Aptos, California (1974–5), San Francisco State University (1975–6), and Virginia Commonwealth University (1976–7). In the late 1970s he collaborated with Serge Tcherepnin on the construction of the Modular Music System. In the early 1980s he was appointed technical director at the Mills College Center for Contemporary Music and in 1989 he became a lecturer at California State University in Hayward; then he taught at Diablo Valley College, Expression College for Digital Arts, and San Jose State University. He held composer residencies at Mills College Center for Contemporary Music (1992), Amsterdam’s Steim (...

Article

Thomas Owens

[Thomas Joseph ]

(b Milwaukee, May 20, 1931). American accordionist and musical equipment manufacturer. He began accordion lessons in Milwaukee at the age of 11 and from 1944 to 1949 studied the instrument in Chicago. Harry James heard him in a club in Milwaukee in 1951 and in January 1952 engaged him as a (non-jazz) soloist on his television show in Los Angeles. In 1955 Gumina left James to work independently, first as a soloist and later with his own group. From 1960 to 1965 he led a quartet with Buddy DeFranco which made several recordings; he also recorded with Willie Smith in 1965. During the 1960s he began using an electronically modified instrument capable of producing organ-like effects. He played at Donte’s, North Hollywood, with Art Pepper in 1974, but thereafter performed only intermittently, concentrating instead on running Polytone Musical Instruments (also in North Hollywood), a company he founded in ...

Article

Joe Wilson

(b Watauga Co., NC, Oct 13, 1911). American Banjoist, folksinger, and instrument maker. He was born into a family of Appalachian folk musicians; his father, Roby Monroe Hicks, taught him to make banjos (the first ofwhich he built when he was 15) and Appalachian dulcimers, and from his father and his mother, Buna Presnell Hicks, he learned Anglo-American ballads and instrumental techniques. His grandfather, a storyteller, taught him “Jack tales,” Appalachian stories of German American origin. Hicks also learned to dance in a flat-footed, “jumping jack” style. His instruments, which are notable for their high level of craftsmanship, are made from cherry and walnut wood grown near his farm in Vilas, North Carolina; the heads of his banjos are made of groundhog hides. He also produces a number of folk toys. Hicks has appeared at the North Carolina Folk Festival, the National Folk Festival, and the Smithsonian Institution’s Festival of American Folklife. Hicks received the Brown-Hudson Award from the North Carolina Folk Society in ...

Article

Harry B. Soria

[Apuakehau, Jr., Joseph Kekuku‘upenakana‘iapuniokamehameha ]

(b La‘ie, Oahu, Hawaii, 1874; d Dover, NJ, Jan 016, 1932). American steel guitarist, teacher, and inventor. The Hawaiian steel guitar’s invention is largely credited to Joseph Kekuku. Joseph and his cousin, Samuel Kalanahelu Nainoa (1877–1950) were raised in the rural village of La‘ie, Oahu. By the age of 11, the close companions had become skilled musicians under the tutelage of the elders of La‘ie. Prior to the creation of the Hawaiian steel guitar, Hawaiian musical combos featured primarily violin, flute, “Spanish” guitar, and ‘ukulele performances. Sam played the violin, while Joseph spent much of his time trying to make his guitar sound like Sam’s violin.

Joseph’s first experiments involved running various implements across the strings of a conventional gut-string guitar, including a steel bolt, a penknife, a pocket comb, a dull straight razor blade, and a tumbler, with the guitar laying across his lap. When the cousins enrolled as boarding students at Kamehameha School for Boys in the fall of ...

Article

Paula Conlon

[‘Doc’ Tate ]

(b Fletcher, OK, July 3, 1932; d Lawton, OK, March 5, 1996). Native American (Comanche) maker and player of juniper flutes. He attended the Fort Sill Indian School and Haskell Indian Institute. He learned flute making from the Kiowa maker Belo Cozad (1864–1950) and the Lakota maker Richard Fool Bull (1887–1976). He used the traditional method of splitting the wood, carving the channel, boring the holes, and inserting the plug, then gluing the flute back together with sap, binding it with leather thongs, and attaching the external block. His first album, Indian Flute Songs from Comanche Land (NAM 401C, n.d.), was the first commercial recording consisting entirely of music for solo Indian flute. He introduced new playing techniques, including cross-fingerings to extend the range, and extending the warbling sound on the lowest tone to all the available pitches, thus expanding the flute’s repertoire and contributing to its revival in the latter 20th century. Tate (the English name given to him) was recognized as a National Heritage Fellow in ...

Article

Mark Tucker

[Polfuss, Lester William ]

(b Waukesha, WI, June 9, 1915; d White Plains, NY, Aug 12, 2009). American guitarist and guitar maker. He was largely self-taught on guitar and played with country-music groups before performing on his own radio show in Chicago during the 1930s. A growing interest in jazz led to the formation of the Les Paul Trio with the singer Jimmy Atkins and the bass player Ernie Newton; after moving to New York in the late 1930s, the group appeared with Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians for five years and later performed with Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters. Paul’s childhood fascination with radio technology led to his early adoption of electric amplification and the propensity for technical experimentation throughout his career. He was actively involved in testing and adapting hollow- and solid-body electric guitars with electromagnetic pickups in the 1930s and 40s, sometimes in conjunction with guitar makers. In ...

Article

Mark Tucker

(b Belzoni, MS, March 21, 1930; d Chicago, IL, April 24, 1970). American blues pianist and singer. He received instruction as a boy from such local pianists as Frank Spann (his stepfather), Friday Ford, and Little Brother Montgomery, and played piano in church. He worked with various blues bands, performing in bars and clubs in the area around Jackson, Mississippi, then served in the U.S. Army (1946–51). After settling in Chicago in 1951 he led his own group at the Tick Tock Lounge, then in 1953 began to play with Muddy Waters, remaining a key member of the band until the late 1960s. In later years he began singing more frequently, often leading his own groups or performing as a soloist; he appeared at the Newport and Monterey festivals on several occasions and also toured England and France. Spann’s strengths as a blues-band pianist were his aggressive, hard-driving keyboard style (influenced most strongly by Maceo Merriweather, whom he replaced in Muddy Waters’s band) and his highly refined ensemble skills....