(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
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 ...
revised by Mickey Valley
Rock-and-roll male vocal duo. The singer, songwriter, and producer Jan Berry (b Los Angeles, CA, 3 April 1941; d Brentwood, CA, 26 March 2004) had his first success with the singer Arnie Ginsberg in the hit song, “Jennie Lee” (1958) which was recorded in Berry’s garage. He then formed a permanent partnership with the singer Dean Torrence (b Los Angeles, CA, 10 March 1941), and until 1966, when Berry was disabled in an automobile accident, Jan and Dean represented rock and roll as mindless fun, following and exploiting every new pop trend; their songs were based on doo-wop harmony and celebrated aspects of southern Californian hedonism such as surfing (“Surf City,” 1963, no.1) and fast cars (“Drag City,” 1963, no.10). Although Berry’s vocal abilities were not up to par and Torrence was little better, each managed to make at least one classic rock recording—Berry on Jan and Dean’s brilliantly orchestrated melodrama “Dead Man’s Curve” (...
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 $100,000 grand prize on the television talent show Big Break, hosted by Natalie Cole. The group eventually signed with Jive Records, though after creative and financial tensions, three of the members were replaced and the group renamed R. Kelly and Public Announcement. After a moderately successful debut that produced the hit singles “She’s Got That Vibe” and “Honey Love,” Kelly left the group in early ...
(b Canton, OH, Aug 18, 1905; d West Redding, CT, July 31, 1978). American composer, violinist, bandleader, recording engineer, and producer. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University, he performed as a light classical violinist in the United States and Europe. During the 1930s he studied conducting with Maurice Frigara in Paris. After a near-fatal car accident in 1940, he organized his own dance band, the Light Brigade, which recorded for RCA and Columbia. After he disbanded it at the turn of the decade, Light devoted himself to management, working for several record companies before becoming president of Waldorf Music Hall Records in 1954. He founded his own label, Grand Award, in 1956 and had success with Dixieland and honky-tonk piano albums. In 1959, he founded Command Records on which he released Persuasive Percussion, the first in a successful series of high-fidelity albums that used stereo technology to great advantage. Over the next two decades, he continued to produce hit albums drawing on the latest technological savvy and packaged with covers usually designed by Josef Albers. Musicians who appeared on Light’s albums include the Free Design, Doc Severinsen, Dick Hyman, Bobby Byrne, and Bobby Hackett. In ...
Ryan R. McNutt
[Gottwald, Lukasz ]
(b Westerly, RI, Sept 26, 1973). American songwriter and record producer. One of the most sought-after collaborators for popular singers in the 2000s, he helped reshape the sound of radio pop for the MP3 age. His hits include Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U been Gone,” Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” and Ke$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 ...
Songwriting team. Songwriter Barry Mann (b Brooklyn, NY, 9 Feb 1939) and lyricist Cynthia Weil (b New York, NY, 18 Oct 1940) became a prominent songwriting duo at Don Kirshner and Al Nevins’s Aldon Records in the 1960s. Mann was hired at Aldon in 1958 and his song “She Say (Oom Dooby Doom)” became a hit for the Diamonds in 1959. Weil was a lyricist for Frank Loesser before moving to Aldon, where she met Mann. In the five years following their marriage in 1961, they wrote over 50 hits, including “Uptown” (1963) for the Crystals and “Blame It on the Bossa Nova” (1963) with Eydie Gormé. Some of their material was controversial, such as the 1965 Animals hit, “We Gotta Get out of This Place,” which became an anthem for Vietnam protesters. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” (1964), written with Phil Spector, was Mann and Weil’s biggest hit....
Stephanie Vander Wel
Songwriters and country music duo. Known as “Mr. and Mrs. Country Music,” Joe [Otis Wilson] Maphis (b Suffolk, VA, 12 May 1921; d Nashville, TN, 27 June 1986) and Rose Lee [Doris née Schetrompf] Maphis (b Baltimore, MD, 29 Dec 1922) were a popular husband-and-wife duo that contributed to the development of honky-tonk music in California during the 1950s. Their respective careers began in barn dance radio in the late 1930s. Billed as “Rose of the Mountains,” Rose performed sentimental songs on local stations in Hagerstown, Maryland, before joining the Saddle Sweethearts, a cowgirl ensemble, on Richmond Virginia’s WVRA Old Dominion Barn Dance in the 1940s. On Cincinnati’s Boone Country Barn Dance and Chicago’s National Barn Dance, Joe developed a distinctive guitar style, finger-picking melodic lines at electrifying fast tempos over chordal accompaniments, and mastered several other string instruments. After serving in World War II, Joe met Rose while performing on WVRA’s ...
(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 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 ...
Charles K. Wolfe
(b nr West Monroe, LA, Aug 8, 1921; d Nashville, TN, Feb 24, 1991). American country-music singer, guitarist, songwriter, and publisher. He performed as a guitarist on radio station KMLB (Monroe, LA) before 1950, when he joined the “Louisiana hayride ” on KWKH (Shreveport, LA). Recording contracts with the local Pacemaker label (c1950), Four-Star, and Decca (1951) allowed him to resign his part-time job as a clerk at Sears, Roebuck and concentrate on music. After his initial hit, “Wondering” (1952), he gained national attention with “Back Street Affair” (1952), one of the first country songs to deal forthrightly with adultery. An equally important landmark was “There stands the glass” (1953), a classic drinking song and the first country hit to use the pedal steel guitar, played by Bud Isaacs. It became the favorite backup instrument in country music for the next two decades, and Pierce was the first of many country singers whose slurs, octave jumps, and use of dynamics complemented its sound. During his peak years (...
(b Cincinnati, OH, June 7, 1956). American songwriter, producer, and recording industry executive. One of the most influential African American music executives of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Reid shared songwriting or production credits on a string of major crossover albums in the 1980s and 1990s, among them Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel (1988), Paula Abdul’s Forever Your Girl (1988), Whitney Houston’s I’m Your Baby Tonight (1990), The Bodyguard soundtrack album (1992), and TLC’s CrazySexyCool (1994). His first professional success came as a drummer for the R&B group the Deele, which featured singer Babyface Edmonds. In 1989 Reid and Edmonds began producing hits together in Los Angeles before starting LaFace Records in Atlanta under a joint partnership with Arista Records. LaFace mentored a new generation of artists including Usher, Outkast, Toni Braxton, and TLC, making Atlanta an important hub in the popular music industry. Reid and Edmonds collaborated on writing or producing 33 number one singles during their partnership, and in ...
(b North Little Rock, AR, Aug 18, 1938). American country music songwriter and producer. One of the most prolific and successful country music songwriters and producers of the last few decades, Reynolds also has played a major role in the careers of a number of artists, most notably Garth Brooks. Reynolds began writing songs while studying for a degree in English at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. One of his classmates was singer-songwriter Dickey Lee, with whom Reynolds became a collaborator when the duo moved to Beaumont, Texas. They cowrote “I saw Linda yesterday,” which was a top-20 hit for Lee in 1963. Reynolds and Lee returned thereafter to Memphis and formed a publishing company, whose writing roster included Bob McDill and Paul Craft. In 1965 the firm achieved a top-five hit with the Vogues’ recording of Reynolds’s “Five O’Clock World.” Reynolds moved to Nashville in 1970 and established a reputation as a premiere producer and songwriter. He has coordinated projects for Kathy Mattea, Hal Ketchum, Don Williams, Crystal Gayle, Emmylou Harris, and the O’Kanes and written several hit songs, including Crystal Gayle’s “Wrong Road Again” and “Somebody loves you,” Waylon Jennings’s “Dreaming My Dreams with You,” and Don Williams’s “We should be together.” His most successful association has been with Garth Brooks, who remains the best-selling artist of the post-Sound Scan era (post-...
(b New York, NY, Sept 19, 1952). American producer, composer, and guitarist. At the helm of the band Chic , Rodgers and his bass-playing production partner Bernard Edwards (1952–96) epitomized the very best of the disco era while transcending the genre with one of popular music’s most dynamic and cohesive rhythm sections. Individually with highly distinctive guitar licks, Rodgers also successfully transitioned into the 1980s, producing platinum pop records for David Bowie, Madonna, Duran Duran, and many other major acts. This effectively made him one of that decade’s most highly regarded and commercially bankable industry figures.
Rodgers and Edwards met in 1970, becoming members of the Big Apple Band that backed R&B vocal group New York City in 1973, and eventually formed Chic in 1977, releasing an eponymous debut album that year on Atlantic Records that included the Top Ten hit and gold record “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah).” The follow-up album ...
[Knols, Fred ]
(b Evansville, IL, Aug 24, 1898; d Nashville, TN, Dec 1, 1954). American songwriter and publisher. It is difficult to imagine how Nashville’s country music industry would be structured were it not for the efforts of the songwriter and publisher Fred Rose. His commitment to the city and the genre helped to establish a business model that has continued successfully to the present day. He moved to Chicago in his teens and found a home in vaudeville, eventually achieving initial success as a songwriter for the “Red Hot Mama” Sophie Tucker. Some of his early material was recorded by King Oliver and Paul Whiteman, and Rose also found a role as a performer on local radio. He moved to Nashville in 1933, appeared as a performer on WSM, and became intrigued by the possibilities inherent in the cowboy genre. He migrated to Hollywood, wrote hits for Tex Ritter, the Sons of the Pioneers, and Gene Autry and benefited from the B-movie market for singing cowboys. Rose returned to Nashville in ...
(b Upper Darby, PA, June 22, 1948). American singer-songwriter, composer, and producer. He began his career as a teenager singing with the bands Woody’s Truck Stop and the more successful rock quartet Nazz. As a member of the latter group, he wrote two of their hit songs, “Hello, it’s me” and “Open your Eyes” (both 1968). After releasing three albums with Nazz, Rundgren left the group and worked as a solo artist, recording most of the vocal and instrumental parts himself. He cited the songwriter Laura Nyro as a significant influence. During the early 1970s Rundgren worked with a trio, Runt, recording two albums, the second entitled Runt: the Ballad of Todd Rundgren (1971), and his own two-record set, Something/Anything? (1972). The latter album brought him unprecedented fame through the singles “I Saw the Light” and a new version of “Hello, it’s me.” The recordings ...
[Bridges, Claude Russell]
(b Lawton, OK, April 2, 1942; d Nashville, Nov 10, 2016). American singer, songwriter, keyboard player, and producer. He is well respected for his solo work—a mix of rock, folk, and country music—but his work as a session musician also brought significant recognition. He began playing piano at the age of four and was playing in clubs in Tulsa as a high school student. His band, the Starlighters, managed to score a spot as the opening act for Jerry Lee Lewis in 1959. Russell moved to Los Angeles the same year and quickly established himself as a session musician, notably with the Wrecking Crew the group of musicians Phil Spector used to accompany his artists. With the Wrecking Crew, the accompanied artists such as the Byrds, Herb Alpert, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys. The keyboard player on hundreds of recordings, he opened his own recording studio in ...
(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 ...