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Article

Michael Ethen

(Guy)

(b Kingston, ON, Nov 5, 1959). Canadian rock singer, songwriter, and guitarist, and photographer. The son of a diplomat, he spent his youth in England, Israel, Portugal, and Austria. After returning with his family to North America, he began performing and recording at the age of 15 with rock bands in British Columbia and Ontario. In 1978 he began what became a long and successful songwriting partnership with Jim Vallance, with whom he created most songs recorded under his name up to 1987, as well as songs recorded by Rod Stewart, Kiss, Bonnie Raitt, Neil Diamond, and the Canadian groups Prism, BTO, and Loverboy.

Adams’ albums characteristically alternate between down-tempo piano ballads and straight-ahead rock numbers. His third solo album, Cuts like a Knife (1983) launched him to the status of an international celebrity; its singles included the ballad “Straight from the Heart” and the anthem “Cuts like a Knife,” which both featured for weeks on magazine charts and music television. The next album, ...

Article

Mark Tucker

[Stephen Valentine Patrick William]

(b New York, NY, Dec 16, 1921; d Encino, CA, Oct 30, 2000). American composer, radio and television personality, pianist, singer, and comedian. The son of Belle Montrose and Billy Allen, both of whom worked in vaudeville, he moved from place to place as a child, attending many schools for short periods of time. He played piano from an early age, although his musical training was mainly informal. He began a professional career in Los Angeles as a disc jockey on radio during the 1940s, then turned to television in the 1950s; he established himself as a comedian, and often played the piano during his shows, improvising jazz and singing his own songs. Among the musicians who appeared with him regularly was the vibraphonist Terry Gibbs. Allen’s most popular television program was “The Tonight Show,” which he began broadcasting locally in New York in 1953, subsequently leading it to nationwide success the following year. Allen performed the title role in the film ...

Article

Horace Clarence Boyer

(b McCormick, SC, Sept 25, 1921; d Philadelphia, PA, July 30, 2008). American gospel singer, pianist, and composer. She moved to Philadelphia at an early age and sang and played at a local Church of God in Christ. In 1942 she joined a female quartet, the Spiritual Echoes, and served as their pianist for two years, leaving the group in 1944 to organize the Angelic Gospel Singers with her sister Josephine McDowell and two friends, Lucille Shird and Ella Mae Norris. Their first recording, “Touch Me, Lord Jesus” (1950), sold 500,000 copies in less than six months. Her most famous composition is “My Sweet Home” (1960). The incidental harmony of their rural singing style and Allison’s sliding technique appealed to a large number of supporters who otherwise found the gospel music of the period controlled and calculated. The group traveled and recorded with the Dixie Hummingbirds during the 1950s. Allison toured, recorded, and performed gospel music for over seven decades....

Article

Patti Jones

(John, Jr. )

(b Tippo, MI, Nov 11, 1927). American jazz and blues pianist, singer and songwriter. His style was influenced by the blues music he heard on the juke box at his father’s general store. Primarily self taught on piano and trumpet, Allison began playing professionally in Delta roadhouses and attended the University of Mississippi, Oxford. However, he left to enlist in the US Army in 1946, and during his service he played trumpet and piano and wrote arrangements for an army band. After completing a degree in English at Louisiana State University, he moved to New York in 1956 and attracted attention nationally playing piano with such leaders as Chet Baker, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Gerry Mulligan, and Stan Getz.

Allison created a hybrid style that integrated country blues with urbane jazz; it can be heard on his first album, Back Country Suite (1959, Prst.), which includes what became his signature tune, “Young Man’s Blues.” In the 1960s Allison’s music influenced British rock musicians, and this tune was covered as a generational anthem by The Who. During the same period Allison recorded for Atlantic and wrote pithy lyrics about public service and social commentary (“Everybody Cryin’ Mercy”) and personal crisis (“Hello There, Universe”), some with a playful sense of humor (“Your Mind’s on Vacation”). Later songs such as “Ever Since the World Ended” and “Certified Senior Citizen” focused on contemporary culture and aging. Allison has also interpreted blues and jazz standards such as Willie Dixon’s “Seventh Son,” Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ Stone,” and Duke Ellington’s “I ain’t got nothin’ but the blues.” His elaborate piano instrumentals and improvisations draw upon the music of Charles Ives and Alexander Scriabin and reflect his experimentation with conventional ideas of time....

Article

Lori Burns and Jada Watson

[Myra Ellen]

(b Newton, NC, Aug 22, 1963). American alternative-rock singer-songwriter, pianist, and record producer. She emerged in the early 1990s amid a resurgence of female singer-songwriters and has been one of the few well known alternative-rock artists to use the piano as her primary instrument. She attended the preparatory division of the prestigious Peabody Conservatory but left the school at the age of 11. She began to play her own music in nightclubs at 14, chaperoned by her father, who was a preacher. After Amos moved to Los Angeles in her late teens to pursue a recording career, her band Y Kant Tori Read released a self-titled album (Atl., 1987). Although this was unsuccessful, Atlantic Records retained her six-album contract.

Amos’s debut solo album, Little Earthquakes (Atl., 1992), earned her critical acclaim for her vocal expressivity, pianistic virtuosity, and fearless exploration of a wide range of personal themes, notably female sexuality, personal relationships, religion, sexual violence, and coming of age. The album ...

Article

Antony  

Shana Goldin-Perschbacher

[Hegarty, Antony]

(b Chichester, England, 1971). American singer-songwriter and pianist. After the Hegarty family moved to San Jose, Ccalifornia, in 1981, Antony studied experimental theater at New York University, formed a performance collective with Johanna Constantine, and collaborated with filmmaker William Basinski (Life on Mars, 1997) and rock icon Lou Reed (The Raven, Sire, 2003; Animal Serenade, RCA, 2004). Antony has become the world’s most famous transgender musician. Male-bodied and feminine-identified, Antony retains his birth name and uses masculine pronouns professionally. His band, Antony and the Johnsons (formed in 1996), is named after the murdered African American transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson.

Antony’s vocal depth, resonance, and melismatic grace evoke African American musical traditions. His tremulous vibrato and seemingly self-imposed limitations (also evident in his amateurish piano playing) express the grave earthly burdens of his lyrics. His eclectic work has been influenced by the AIDS-ravaged New York art scene (Peter Hujar), British synth-pop (Marc Almond), soul (Nina Simone, Boy George), and experimental underground music (Diamanda Galás). His band includes vocals, piano, drums, guitar, bass, cello, violin, and horns, he regularly appears with an orchestra, and he released an album of live symphonic performances with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra featuring arrangements by Nico Muhly, Rob Moose, Maxim Moston, and himself (...

Article

(b Memphis, TN, Feb 3, 1898; d Chicago, IL, Aug 27, 1971). American jazz pianist, singer, bandleader, and composer. She studied keyboard privately from an early age and had hopes of becoming a concert pianist. While she was enrolled at Fisk University, her mother and stepfather moved to Chicago, where in 1917 she took a job as a sheet music demonstrator, which led to her joining the Original Creole Jazz Band as its pianist. It was her first job playing jazz and she decided not to return to Fisk. She subsequently worked with several bands, including King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, with which she performed in San Francisco in 1921 and made her recording debut in 1923. By this time the band included louis Armstrong, whom she married in 1924. Armstrong’s place in jazz history was assured by her participation on Oliver’s Gennett recordings and Louis’ Hot Five sessions for Okeh. She played an important role in Louis’ move into a brighter spotlight before their separation in ...

Article

Gene H. Anderson

[Dippermouth Papa Dip Pops Satchelmouth Satchmo ]

(b New Orleans, LA, Aug 4, 1901; d New York, NY, July 6, 1971). American trumpeter, singer, and entertainer.

Despite his lifelong claim of 4 July 1900 as his birthday, Armstrong was actually born on 4 August 1901 as recorded on a baptismal certificate discovered after his death. Although calling himself “Louis Daniel Armstrong” in his 1954 autobiography, he denied knowledge of his middle name or its origin. Nevertheless, evidence of “Daniel” being a family name is strong: Armstrong’s paternal great-great-grandfather, a third generation slave brought from Tidewater Virginia for sale in New Orleans in 1818, was named Daniel Walker, as was his son, Armstrong’s great-grandfather. The latter’s wife, Catherine Walker, sponsored her great-grandson’s baptism at the family’s home parish, the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church on Canal Street.

Armstrong’s mother, Mary (“Mayann”) Albert (1885–1927), a recent arrival in New Orleans from rural Boutte, Louisiana, was living with relatives “back o’ town” on Jane Alley when she met Catherine and Daniel Walker’s grandson, William Armstrong (...

Article

Paul Oliver

[James; Gitfiddle Jim]

(b Lovejoy, GA, Feb 15, 1901; d Chicago, IL, Nov 8, 1968). American blues singer and guitarist. He grew up on a farm in Georgia, learning to play guitar at the age of ten, and was an accomplished musician by the time he settled in Buffalo at the age of 18. In the 1920s he performed in local clubs and traveled with other singers as far south as Mississippi. Arnold played a steel-bodied guitar laid horizontally across his lap, stroking the strings with a glass flask to produce a wailing sound. Although his natural voice was low, the singing on many of his records is high pitched; he often employed a buzzing tone as a drone to accompany guitar solos. As Gitfiddle Jim he recorded “Paddlin’ Blues” (1930, Vic.), an instrumental tour de force, in Memphis, but despite his dazzling technique, Victor did not record him again. In ...

Article

Jefferey Wanser

[Lucas, Lemuel Eugene]

(b Gainesville, TX, June 24, 1900; d Palm Springs, CA, Jan 24, 1972). American singer, composer, and pianist. He received his stage name from his stepfather. He began his career by joining the circus at the age of 15 and soon thereafter reached New Orleans where he played piano in parlor houses. After military service in World War I, he met Roy Bergere, with whom he subsequently toured in a vaudeville duo. Austin began writing songs and moved on to work for Mills Music in New York as a demo singer. After he made his first recording for Victor Records (1924), his crooning style, influenced by African American work songs and cowboy singers, came to the attention of the producer Nat Shilkret, who teamed him with Aileen Stanley for a duet, “When my Sugar Walks down the Street” (Vic., 1925). Within months Austin became a star in his own right with hit songs such as “Ain’t she Sweet” and “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue,” and continued this streak throughout the 1920s with “My Blue Heaven” and “Girl of My Dreams,” among others. Austin then started his own music company, recorded with Fats Waller, and performed extensively on radio and in concert. In the early 1930s he also appeared in several Hollywood films as a singing cowboy. His singing style soon became outdated, and he began other ventures, including starting nightclubs in New Orleans, Hollywood, and Las Vegas, as well as traveling shows. He revived his singing career in the 1950s, when he appeared on television and in nightclubs. Austin composed or copyrighted 85 songs. His last appearance was at a New Year’s Eve concert in Miami in ...

Article

Elijah Wald

[Ramón Covarrubias]

(b Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, Dec 8, 1945). Mexican accordionist, singer, and bandleader. Born in Monterrey and raised in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Ramón Ayala has been the foremost figure in norteño music along the Gulf Coast and Texas border region since the 1970s. He first became famous in the 1960s as the accordionist and coleader of Los Relámpagos del Norte, with the singer-songwriter Cornelio Reyna; then formed his own band, Los Bravos del Norte, in 1971. In Mexico, Ayala is regarded as part of a great generation of border bandleaders, along with Carlos y José and Los Cadetes de Linares. North of the border, though, he has far outstripped his peers, and only California’s Los Tigres del Norte rival his ongoing popularity. Unlike the Tigres, who have consistently pushed norteño in new directions, Ayala is a traditionalist, and his success is due as much to his image as a hard-working, old-fashioned bearer of the classic tradition as to his intricate accordion passages and his keen eye for good material, from gunfighter corridos to romantically mournful ...

Article

J. Bradford Robinson

[Chesney Henry ]

J. Bradford Robinson

(b Yale, OK, Dec 23, 1929; d Amsterdam, May 13, 1988). American jazz trumpeter and singer. He first encountered jazz while playing in army bands, and by the time of his discharge in 1951 his distinctive, reticent style was fully developed. In 1952 he played briefly with Charlie Parker before beginning an important association with Gerry Mulligan in the latter’s celebrated ‘pianoless’ quartet. His performances with the group, particularly his ballad rendition of My Funny Valentine (1952, Fan.), brought him instant fame; his clear tone and subdued, lyrical manner – he rarely played louder than mezzo-forte and sometimes restricted his melodic span to less than an octave – immediately became hallmarks of West Coast cool jazz, and were widely imitated. After leaving Mulligan in 1953 Baker rejoined Parker briefly and then led his own groups. He continued to dominate domestic and international jazz opinion polls for the next few years. Thereafter, owing largely to the effects of drug addiction, his career became erratic, being interrupted at one point by a prison sentence in Italy for drug-related offences (...

Article

Jonas Westover

(b Orange, TX, March 20, 1949). American blues singer and pianist. Ball began playing piano at age five, one in a long line of female pianists in her family. Her earliest influences were Tin Pan Alley songs, but as a young teenager she became interested in soul and blues music. Inspired by the music of Irma Thomas, Ball continued to play, attended Louisiana State University and performed with the blues/rock band, Gum. She decided to leave the area in 1970, but only made it as far as Austin, TX, where she put together a band named Freda and the Firedogs. Ball began songwriting in earnest around the same time, feeling a kindred spirit in the music of Professor Longhair. She was signed to Capitol Records in 1974, and launched her solo career with the album, Circuit Queen (1978). In the next two decades, she would release six records on Rounder Records while working on her personal sound, which has been described as a mix between “Texas stomp-rock” and “Louisiana swamp blues.” One of her most successful albums was ...

Article

Chadwick Jenkins

(b Lisle, IL, Nov 8, 1955). American singer, pianist, composer, and bandleader. Her father played with the Glenn Miller band and her mother was a professional blues singer. After studying psychology and classical piano at the University of Iowa, Barber returned to Chicago and began playing five nights a week at the Gold Star Sardine Bar, where she attracted varying critical attention for her husky voice and the inclusion of pop songs, including “Black Magic Woman” and “A Taste of Honey,” in her repertoire. She recorded her first album, Split (Floyd), in 1989 and her second album, A Distortion of Love (Antilles) in 1991. She subsequently moved to the independent label Premonition, which was bought by Blue Note in 1998. In 2003 Barber became the first songwriter to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Under its aegis she composed a song cycle based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses. She is the subject of a documentary, ...

Article

Luca Cerchiari

[Daniel Moses]

(b New Orleans, LA, Jan 13, 1909; d New Orleans March 13, 1994). American guitarist, banjoist, singer, composer, and writer, husband of the singer Blue Lu Barker. His great-uncle Louis Arthidore was a clarinet virtuoso who played with the Onward Brass Band and his grandfather Isidore Barbarin played alto horn; on the latter’s advice he studied clarinet (with Barney Bigard) and ukulele, banjo, and guitar (with Bernard Addison). He also learned drums with Louis and Paul Barbarin. Barker performed professionally in the 1920s in Mississippi and Florida, before moving in 1930 to New York, where he played guitar in the groups of James P. Johnson, Albert Nicholas, Sidney Bechet, and Henry “Red” Allen and in the swing orchestras of Lucky Millinder, Benny Carter, and Cab Calloway. In the 1940s he switched to six-string banjo and took part in the dixieland revival. During the same period he worked with West Indian musicians and recorded for Spotlite with Sir Charles Thompson and Charlie Parker. Before returning to New Orleans in ...

Article

John L. Clark

(b New Orleans, LA, March 25, 1897; d New Orleans, Jan 28, 1983). American pianist, singer, and bandleader. The daughter of the Civil War veteran and Louisiana state senator W.B. Barrett, she learned piano by ear as a child and was playing professionally by her early teens. She never learned to read music and worked almost exclusively in New Orleans. During the 1920s Barrett played with many of the uptown New Orleans groups, including those led by Papa Celestin, Armand Piron, and John Robichaux. In the following decade she worked most often with Bebe Ridgley, with whom she developed a local following that subsequently brought her success at the Happy Landing from 1949 and the Paddock Lounge during the late 1950s. It was at this time that she became known as Sweet Emma the Bell Gal because of her habit of wearing garters with bells attached that created a tambourine-like effect as she played. In ...

Article

Randolph Love

(b Edgard, LA, Dec 24, 1920). American Trumpeter, arranger, producer, songwriter, bandleader, and singer. He started his career as a trumpeter playing with established bands led by, among others, Papa Celestin, Joe Robichaux, and Claiborne Williams before joining Fats Pichon’s ensemble, considered one of the top groups in New Orleans, in 1939. During World War II he played in the 196th AGF (Army Ground Forces) Band, where he met Abraham Malone, who taught him how to write and arrange. After the war, he formed his own band in New Orleans, which made its debut at the Dew Drop Inn and later performed at Sam Simoneaux’s club Graystone where many of the city’s top instrumental players, including the drummer Earl Palmer and the saxophonists Lee Allen and Red Tyler, were showcased.

Bartholomew is best known for his talents as an arranger and songwriter. In the 1950s and 60s he worked with many of the biggest stars of the day, including Smiley Lewis, Lloyd Price, Shirley and Lee, and Joe Turner. By the 1970s he had associations with some of rock and roll’s most established talents, including Paul McCartney, Elton John, and the Rolling Stones. His most productive association was with fats Domino, whom he met through Lew Chudd, the owner of Imperial Records, where he worked as a house arranger, an A&R man and an in-house bandleader. From ...

Article

Beck  

Rob Jovanovic

[Campbell, Bek David; Hansen, Beck]

(b Los Angeles, CA, July 8, 1970). American rock singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer. He has recorded and performed songs in a wide range of genres including folk, country, bluegrass, grunge, indie, metal, rock, lounge, Latino, and noise. An obvious contributing factor to his eclectic tastes is his artistic and performer-laden family. His father David Campbell is a string player and arranger who has worked on string parts for some of his son’s more recent albums. His mother Bibbe Hansen worked with Andy Warhol at the artist’s studio the Factory in New York at an early age and was involved in the west coast punk scene during the 1980s. His grandfather Al Hansen was an artist and performer involved in the Fluxus movement. Beck grew up around rockers and in various ethnic neighborhoods which all contributed to his music education. After spending time at the end of the 1980s involved with New York’s anti-folk scene he returned west and began performing as often and wherever he could. These gigs involved him using a leaf-blower on stage, telling stories, setting fire to his acoustic guitar, and rocking out with a boom-box backing tape. His breakthrough came in ...

Article

Lee Jeske

(b Pittsburgh, March 22, 1943). American electric guitarist and singer. He sang in night clubs at the age of eight and formed a rock-and-roll group when he was 17. In the 1960s he attracted attention in jazz circles for his speed and agility on the electric guitar, which he played in an original style based on that of Wes Montgomery and somewhat touched by rock-and-roll. He played soul jazz as a member of Brother Jack McDuff’s quartet (1962–5), then performed and recorded as the leader of groups that included Ronnie Cuber and Jimmy Smith as sidemen. Having established his jazz credentials – he had recorded with Billy Cobham, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter and Lee Morgan – Benson began to make more commercially orientated recordings in the early 1970s, on which he sang as well as played electric guitar. His recordings for Warner Bros., which include the Grammy-winning ...

Article

Tina Spencer Dreisbach

(b Philadelphia, PA, Aug 12, 1907; d Los Angeles, CA, Jan 18, 1960). American blues singer and pianist. Born into poverty, she moved to New York when she was 16 and lived in Harlem during the Jazz Age. She was openly lesbian and began performing at racially mixed rent parties, buffet flats, and other gay venues. She subsequently worked in the well-known clubs of “Jungle Alley” including Harry Hansberry’s Clam House, the Ubangi Club, and the Cotton Club. Bentley performed in tuxedo and top hat, accompanying herself on piano, pounding the floor, and alternating her powerful alto with trumpet-like scat singing. Several Harlem Renaissance novelists including Langston Hughes describe her all-night performances as unforgettable. She recorded for OKeh (eight blues titles), Victor, Excelsior, and Flame. Following the repeal of the prohibition act in 1933, she worked sporadically on the West Coast, notably at Mona’s in San Francisco. She abandoned her drag act in the 1950s and appeared late in life at the Rose Room in Hollywood and twice on the Groucho Marx television show....