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Steven Beasley

[James King Kern ]

(b Rocky Mount, NC, June 18, 1905; d Chapel Hill, NC, July 23, 1985). American Bandleader, actor, humanitarian, and religious leader. Sometimes known as “The Ol’ Professor of Swing,” Kyser climbed to the heights of pop success from 1935 to 1950 with an orchestra that played novelty songs as well as swing and ballads. Though he couldn’t read music or play an instrument, he was a brilliant businessman and front man, chalking up 35 top ten records and 11 number ones.

Kyser attended and graduated from UNC Chapel Hill (business degree, 1928), where he produced plays, organized a band (1926), and began to use “Kay” (derived from his middle initial) as his stage name. They recorded six songs for the Victor label between 1928 and 1929, but didn’t record commercially again until 1935. They broke into the big time in Chicago in 1937 with a quiz and music radio show called ...

Article

Craig Jennex

(b Thunder Bay, ON, Nov 28, 1949). Canadian pianist, composer, musical director, actor, producer, and bandleader. He has been musical director for David Letterman’s late-night shows since 1982. Prior to working with Letterman, Shaffer was a featured performer on “Saturday Night Live.” He has served as musical director and producer for the Blues Brothers and cowrote the 1980s dance hit “It’s raining men.” He has served as musical director for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony since its inception in ...

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Patrick Huber

[James Gideon ]

(b Thomas Bridge, near Monroe, GA, June 6, 1885; d Dacula, GA, May 13, 1960). American fiddler, singer, comedian, and hillbilly string band leader. He was a well-known entertainer in north Georgia during the early 20th century, famous for his outrageous comic antics, old-time fiddling, and trick singing. He competed regularly at Atlanta’s annual Georgia Old-Time Fiddlers’ Association conventions and won the state fiddling championship in 1928. In 1924, Columbia A&R man Frank B. Walker recruited Tanner and his sometime musical partner, the blind Atlanta street singer and guitarist Riley Puckett, to make some of the earliest recordings of what soon came to be called hillbilly music.

In 1926, Walker assembled a studio group around Tanner called the Skillet Lickers, whose other regular members consisted of guitarist and lead singer Puckett, fiddler Clayton McMichen, and banjoist Fate Norris. The band’s first release, “Bully of the Town”/ “Pass around the Bottle and We’ll all Take a Drink,” recorded in ...