(b Leeds, Nov 11, 1913; d Clacton, May 6, 1993). English dance bandleader, saxophonist, pianist and singer. She was a child prodigy as a pianist, broadcasting on ‘Children’s Hour’ in 1922, and playing frequently in public. She took up the clarinet and saxophone in her teens, and in 1929 joined her first all-female band, led by Edna Croudson. After some years with Croudson, she came to London and in 1937 played in female orchestras directed by Teddy Joyce, becoming leader of his Girl Friends. In 1940, after leading small groups of her own, she formed a nine-piece band for the revue Meet the Girls, which had an entirely female cast. For the rest of her career Benson led an all-female band, variously called her Rhythm Girl Band, her Ladies’ Dance Orchestra and her Showband. She broadcast frequently during World War II and afterwards, and toured internationally for the Entertainments National Servicemen’s Association from the 1940s onwards. In the 1940s she mainly played in a jazz-influenced swing style, but later often added a string section to play dance music in the manner of Victor Sylvester or Mantovani....
(b Copenhagen, Jan 3, 1909; d Greenwich, CT, Dec 23, 2000). American pianist, musical humorist and conductor of Danish birth. After early training with his father, he gave a piano recital at the age of eight in Copenhagen, which won for him a scholarship to the conservatory; he later studied with Frederic Lamond and Egon Petri in Berlin. He performed in amateur musical revues in Copenhagen, but his satires of Hitler placed him in danger and he fled, first to Sweden and then to the USA, where he later became a citizen. In New York in 1940 he began regularly to appear on Bing Crosby’s ‘Kraft Music Hall’ radio series, which led to a radio show of his own. Starting in the autumn of 1953 he gave nearly 850 daily recitals under the title ‘Comedy in Music’ at the Golden Theater on Broadway. He toured in many parts of the world and appeared widely on radio and television and in films. His routines (which were partly improvised) were a mixture of verbal and musical humour, delivered at the piano; though his comic reputation was based on his continually forestalling and interrupting his own playing, he was an accomplished performer, as his elaborate musical jokes (such as the composite piano concerto consisting of well-known passages from the repertory skilfully run together) demonstrated....
[Colón Román jr, William Anthony; ‘El malo’]
(b South Bronx, New York, April 28, 1950). American bandleader, composer, arranger, trombonist, popular singer, producer and actor. Dubbed ‘El malo’ (the ‘bad boy’) of salsa, he began playing the trumpet in 1963 with the teenage band the Dandees. Switching to trombone, he made his professional début at 17 with the album El malo (Fania, 1967). Both as a bandleader and a member of the Fania All-Stars, he quickly moved to the fore of the burgeoning New York salsa scene, cementing the raw, trombone-heavy ‘New York sound’ inspired by earlier artists such as Eddie Palmieri and Mon Rivera. Between 1967 and 1973 he made a series of important recordings with vocalist Hector Lavoe, which included the albums Asalto Navideño I and II (Fania, 1972 and 1973) with cuatro virtuoso Yomo Toro, where traditional Puerto Rican Christmas aguinaldos were fused with salsa. During his second period (...
(b London, March 7, 1908; d Gosport, Aug 3, 1998). English jazz trumpeter, singer and bandleader. He performed and recorded with the dance bands of Billy Cotton (1929–33), Roy Fox (1931–2), Ray Noble (1931, 1933–4) and Lew Stone (1932–5); Georgia on my mind (1932), recorded with Fox, is a good example of his playing and singing and became extremely popular. From 1932 he worked as a leader in a style heavily influenced by that of Louis Armstrong; his band, the Georgians (1934–9), included his brother Bruts Gonella (b 1911), who was also a trumpeter. During a visit to New York in 1939 Gonella recorded with John Kirby and performed at the Hickory House. After returning to London he led the New Georgians from 1940 to 1942, but worked less frequently in the late 1940s and early 50s. In ...
(b Houdain, June 30, 1825; d Paris, Nov 3, 1892). French composer, singer and conductor. On his father's death in 1835, his mother took him to Paris. He found employment at the church of St Roch, where he learnt the rudiments of singing, organ and harmony; he then briefly studied harmony with Elwart at the Conservatoire and later composition with Auber. From 1839 to 1845 he was organist at the Bicêtre asylum and began a music class for the patients, writing songs, choruses and other entertainments for them. For eight years from 1845 he was organist at St Eustache.
For his theatrical career he took the name Hervé, gradually gaining recognition through his Don Quichotte et Sancho Pança (1848) and engagements at the Théâtre de l’Odéon and Théâtre du Palais-Royal, where he appeared as author, composer, conductor, actor, tenor buffo singer and producer, as required. His five-act ...
(b San Juan, Jan 4, 1923; d New York City, Feb 28, 1972). Puerto Rican popular singer, bandleader and composer. Raised in Puerto Rico, he arrived in New York City in 1939, singing in the band of his brother Johnny before moving on to perform in the orchestras of Enric Madriguera, Xavier Cugat and Noro Morales. He recorded the hit song Bim-bam-bum with Cugat in 1942. In 1946 he joined the band of José Curbelo along with another promising young musician, Tito Puente, then left to form a small ensemble of his own in 1947, and by the early 1950s had established one of the leading mambo orchestras in New York. Like fellow ‘Mambo Kings’ Puente and Machito, he performed regularly at the Palladium Ballroom.
One of the most popular vocalists and Latin bandleaders of the 1950s, Rodríguez is best remembered for his romantic songs. His band was notable for its driving rhythm section and tight horns, a perfect complement to his velvety voice and improvisatory skills as a ...
revised by Alyn Shipton
(b London, Jan 12, 1900; d London, Feb 1, 1971). English bandleader, clarinettist, singer and composer. From 1919 he organized dance bands with his brother Syd, including Syd Roy’s Lyricals; they performed in London at Oddenino’s, Rector’s, the Hammersmith Palais and the Café de Paris, and at Rector’s in Paris. In 1928 the brothers toured South Africa and Australia (1929), then returned to England to play in variety theatres before touring Germany. In 1931 Harry formed his own band and, after touring (1933), held residencies at the Café Anglais and the Mayfair Hotel in London. He continued to tour extensively in theatres until 1939 and throughout World War II but after 1945 never regained his former status in London’s clubland. Roy was essentially a show-band leader, an energetic front man, a light, sometimes comic, singer, and a clarinettist in the style of Ted Lewis. Although hardly a jazz musician himself he employed as sidemen a number of players who later became prominent in jazz. His signature tune, ...
(b Grand Roy, July 9, 1935). Trinidadian vocalist, composer and bandleader born in Grenada. His family moved to Trinidad when he was one year old. He sang as a church choirboy, and made his professional début at 19, performing in the annual calypso tent competition held during Carnival under the sobriquet Little Sparrow. In 1956 he changed his name to Mighty Sparrow and won the Calypso Monarch Competition with his road march Jean and Dinah. That same year he initiated the famous ‘calypso wars’ with his friend Lord Melody, performing at the Young Brigade Calypso Tent. The following year, his tune Carnival Boycott was taken up as an anthem to demand better competitive conditions and pay for calypsonians, masqueraders and pan-men, and which led to the founding of the Carnival Development Committee. In subsequent years, his songs Teresa (1958) and The Yankees Back (1960) also became instant hits....
Deane L. Root
(b Island Pond, VT, July 28, 1901; d North Hollywood, CA, July 3, 1986). American bandleader, singer, saxophonist, actor and publisher. From 1918 he learnt the saxophone and played in a theatre orchestra in Portland, Maine, then attended the University of Maine (1921) and Yale University (to 1927). In 1928 he formed his own band, the Connecticut Yankees; he made his début as a singer in George White’s Scandals (1931), and appeared in Broadway musicals, television and over 20 films, mostly as a musician or comic actor. During the 1930s and 1940s, with his salutation ‘Heigh-ho, everybody!’, he was one of the most successful American bandleaders and singers, among the first crooners to inspire mass hysteria in his audience. With his thin, nasal voice and using a megaphone – later a microphone – he popularized the Maine Stein Song, the Yale Whiffenpoof Song, his own ...