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E. Ron Horton

(b Brooklyn, NY, June 14, 1959). American electric bass player, clarinetist, bass clarinetist, producer, and composer. He began his music career at the High School of Music and Art, a magnet school in the New York area, where he studied orchestral clarinet as his main instrument. He continued his study of clarinet at Queens College. At the same time he pursued an alternate education performing on electric bass guitar in New York with jazz and popular music ensembles. Miller’s career gained momentum in the late 1970s when he began to record with such artists as Chaka Khan, the Brecker Brothers, David Sanborn, Grover Washington Jr., and Elton John. The turning point in his early career was his work on Miles Davis’s comeback album, Man with a Horn. Miller collaborated extensively with Davis, notably on Davis’ Grammy Award-winning album Tutu, for which he wrote all but two of the songs and served as the producer. Through multi-tracking, he is heard simultaneously on synthesizer, drums, guitar, and soprano saxophone, as well as bass on most of the work. In ...

Article

Albin Zak

(William )

(b Rochester, NY, July 4, 1911; d New York, NY, July 31, 2010). American record producer, conductor, recording artist, and oboist. Miller attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester and played oboe in the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra before moving to New York in the mid-1930s. He was a first-call soloist for such conductors as Fritz Reiner and Leopold Stokowski and a member of the Columbia Symphony Orchestra. As a studio musician he recorded in a variety of idioms, including a featured spot on the Charlie Parker with Strings LP, before moving into the role of pop record producer at Mercury Records.

Miller was a pivotal figure in postwar American pop music. Early in his production career, in 1949, he produced a set of Frankie Laine discs, three of which reached number one on the Billboard charts within six months. Each of the records—“That Lucky Old Sun,” “Mule Train,” and “Cry of the Wild Goose”—was a resourceful studio concoction. Mixing styles without regard for idiomatic conventions, inventing one-off ensembles for the song at hand, and employing sound effects and electronic enhancements such as added reverb, these three recordings epitomize Miller’s novel conception of record making. He developed these ideas and techniques in the course of the 1950s, during which his productions for the likes of Johnnie Ray, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, Guy Mitchell, and Johnny Mathis were perennial public favorites, regularly posting sales in the millions....

Article

Ian Brookes

(b New York, NY, Jan 16, 1884; d Palm Springs, CA, April 21, 1985). American Impresario, music publisher, band manager, record producer, songwriter, and singer. He was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants who settled in New York. There, as a teenager, he worked as a song plugger and singer before establishing a music publishing business in 1919 with his brother Jack. With its emphasis on the work of black musicians, Mills Music became an important locus for jazz and dance band music. A shrewd business operator with a sharp eye for talent, Mills extended his business interests in the 1920s. He became manager of the Duke Ellington Orchestra (1926–39) and promoted several other African American bandleaders including Cab Calloway, Benny Carter, Fletcher Henderson, Jimmie Lunceford, and Don Redman. He also organized a series of recording sessions under his own nominal leadership, Irving Mills and His Hotsy Totsy Gang (...

Article

Roben Jones

[Lincoln Wayne]

(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 ...

Article

Jonas Westover

[Hansjörg ]

(b Urtijëi, Italy, April 26, 1940). Italian producer, singer, and composer. He began his career in Germany in the mid-1960s as a singer. Early in the 1970s he began to experiment with synthesizers and eventually forged a distinctive sound that became a sensation in the next two decades. From the mid-1970s he produced records by the singer donna Summer , notably the notoriously steamy, synth-driven 17-minute “Love to Love You Baby” (1975), which became an international hit and helped to propel the disco craze. The pair subsequently collaborated on Summer’s “I feel love” and “Bad Girls” and later won a Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording. Moroder also became known for scoring films, including Midnight Express (1978) for which he won an Academy Award. His songs for Flashdance (1983) and Top Gun (1986, “Take my Breath Away”) also won Academy Awards, and his work on ...

Article

Eddy Determeyer

[Melvin James ]

(b Battle Creek, MI, Dec 17, 1910; d New York, NY, May 28, 1988). American arranger, composer, producer, bandleader, trumpeter, and singer. Growing up as an African American musician in Zanesville, Ohio, Oliver was self taught as a trumpeter and arranger. After playing in territory bands in and around Zanesville and Columbus, he became a member of Jimmie Lunceford’s orchestra in 1933. His charts for the Lunceford band were distinguished by contrasts, crescendos, and unexpected melodic variations, thereby setting new standards in big band swing and close-harmony singing. His use of two-beat rhythms also set his arrangements apart.

In 1939 Oliver was hired by the trombonist Tommy Dorsey and turned his band into one of the hardest swinging and most sophisticated ensembles of the early 1940s. In 1946 he started his own big band. During the late 1940s and 1950s he mainly did studio work, as a music director for the labels Decca, Bethlehem, and Jubilee. He continued to lead big bands and smaller ensembles, recycling his old Lunceford and Dorsey successes and performing new arrangements. Along with Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson, Oliver must be rated one of the top arrangers of the swing era and infused almost every chart with vigor and surprise....

Article

David F. Garcia

[Perico]

(b Santurce, Puerto Rico, Dec 26, 1949). Puerto Rican trumpet player, arranger, producer, and record company executive. Ortiz began his career as a trumpet player in San Juan playing for dance bands while also arranging for television shows. He moved to New York in 1972, where he was involved with the salsa scene as a producer, arranger, and studio musician. One of Ortiz’s earliest arrangements for Fania Records was the bolero “Sálvame,” recorded in 1973 on the album Así se compone un son by Ismael Miranda. Ortiz arranged for many other Fania artists throughout the 1970s, including Johnny Pacheco, Celia Cruz, and Héctor Lavoe. He was also a member of the Fania All-Stars, participating in the historic Fania All-Stars Live at Yankee Stadium (1973). In 1979 Latin NY magazine recognized Ortiz as the best arranger, best trumpet player, best orchestra leader, and musician of the year. He also arranged and recorded with many Puerto Rican salsa bands, including Tommy Olivencia’s. Ortiz continues to perform, record, arrange, and teach. Most recently, he established his own record company. Besides his virtuosity and much-admired tone on the trumpet, he is hugely respected for his abilities to arrange in a wide variety of styles from traditional Afro-Caribbean to experimental and jazz....

Article

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 ...

Article

David F. Garcia

(b Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, March 25, 1935). American flutist, bandleader, and producer of Dominican origin. Pacheco’s early exposure to Cuban radio fostered a lifelong passion for Cuban dance music. The family moved to New York in 1946, where he began to play Cuban music professionally with Gilberto Valdés’s charanga (dance ensemble). With Valdés’s encouragement, Pacheco learned the traditional five-keyed Cuban wooden flute. In 1959 he joined Charlie Palmieri’s charanga La Orquesta Duboney and then formed his own charanga the following year. Their first LP, Pacheco y su charanga (1960), sold over 100,000 copies, an unprecedented amount for a Latin band. In 1965 he abandoned the charanga format for the trumpet-based conjunto ensemble, reinterpreting the music of La Sonora Matancera, Arsenio Rodríguez, Félix Chappottín, and Cheo Marquetti. That same year he and Italian American lawyer Jerry Masucci started Fania Records, which would become the most successful salsa record company in the 1970s. As Fania’s musical director, Pacheco played a formative role in the international popularization of Willie Colón, Pete “El Conde” Rodríguez, Celia Cruz, and others. In his heyday Pacheco was a charismatic bandleader and musician in tune with the roots of Cuban popular music. But it was his acumen for the commercial music industry that accounts for his importance in the history of Latin popular music....

Article

Jonas Westover

(b Hattiesburg, MS, Jan 3, 1943). American Composer, lyricist, producer, arranger, actor, and singer. He is best known for collaborating with other artists and for writing the lyrics to the Beach Boys’ album Smile with Brian Wilson. Although he began his career as a child actor throughout the 1950s, he turned to music in his teens, learning guitar and performing with his brother, Carson. He landed a record contract in 1964 with MGM, then moved to Warner Bros. two years later, mostly working as an arranger and a session musician. In 1966 he recorded on the Byrds album Fifth Dimension (Columbia) and began his work on Smile. His songs such as “Surf’s Up” and “Wind Chimes” impressed Wilson, who championed Parks’s work. However, due to strife within the band—caused partly by objections to such songs as “Cabinessence”—Smile went unreleased at the time. Parks went on to work on solo projects, and in ...