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Article

Jonas Westover

[Fred Lincoln Wray, Jr. ]

(b Dunn, NC, May 2, 1929; d Copenhagen, Denmark, Nov 5, 2005). American guitarist and songwriter. Part Shawnee Indian, Wray moved frequently throughout the United States, first with his family and then because of his own military service. This mobility exposed him to many different musical styles. After he was honorably discharged from the army during the Korean War, he and several friends (including his brothers Doug and Vernon) formed a band called Lucky Wray and the Palomino Ranch Hands. The group, later called the Wraymen, recorded on Starday Records and became house band for the television show Milt Grant’s House Party, where they played backup for many key musicians of the mid-1950s, including Ricky Nelson and the Diamonds. It was there that Wray came up with the music for his most famous instrumental, “Rumble” (1958), which featured heavy rhythmic pounding and Wray’s aggressive guitar work. Other notable songs included “Rawhide” (...

Article

Christopher Doll

A loosely affiliated group of American session musicians working in the Los Angeles music scene in the 1960s. Drummer hal Blaine is credited with coining the unofficial name, which he claims referred to the youthful, informal dress (t-shirts and jeans) of a few-dozen session musicians who were regularly hired to record for pop and rock’n’roll singles and albums in southern California during that period. The Wrecking Crew personnel were the instrumentalists who built Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” on hits such as the Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel” (1962), the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” (1963), and the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” (1964). They were likewise responsible for the backing tracks to some of the most iconic surf records of the era, including the Beach Boys’ “I Get Around” (1964), “California Girls” (1965), “Good Vibrations” (1966), and the group’s celebrated album ...

Article

Will Fulton

Rap group. It was formed in Staten Island, New York, and included members The Rza [Robert Diggs] (b New York, NY, 1969), The Genius/GZA [Gary Grice] (b New York, NY, 1966), Method Man [Clifford Smith] (b New York, NY, 1971), Ghostface Killah [Dennis Coles] (b 1970), Ol’ Dirty Bastard [Russell Tyrone Jones] (b New York, NY, 1968; d New York, NY, 2004), Inspectah Deck [Jason Hunter] (b 1970), U-God [Lamont Hawkins] (b 1970), and Masta Killa [Elgin Turner] (b 1969).

Wu-Tang Clan was put together by two artists whose musical and business outlooks had been shaped by prior negative experiences with the record industry. The RZA had released a single on Tommy Boy records as Prince Rakeem (“Ooh I Love You Rakeem,” 1991), while the GZA/Genius had released an album on Cold Chillin’ Records (...

Article

Liz Thomson

[Pugh, Virginia Wynette ]

(b Itawamba County, MS, May 5, 1942; d Nashville, TN, April 6, 1998). American country singer and songwriter . She was brought up by her mother and grandparents, worked as a cotton picker from an early age and first married at 17. Captivated by gospel music, she nevertheless trained as a hairdresser, but in the mid-1960s left for Nashville, against her husband’s wishes. She was discovered by producer Billy Sherrill, who signed her to the Epic label, and with whom she enjoyed a series of 15 number one records in the country music charts and co-wrote Stand by your man. Wynette’s performance of this now classic song, with a voice cracking under the weight of emotion, deflected attention from some of its irony, while another heartfelt hit D-I-V-O-R-C-E further reinforced her image as one of life’s victims.

It was with country singer George Jones, her third husband, that Wynette found her greatest success. Together they recorded a series of highly regarded albums that chronicled their varying relationship, including ...

Article

Ed Wynn  

Jonas Westover

[Isaiah Edwin Leopold ]

(b Philadelphia, PA, Nov 9, 1886; d Beverly Hills, CA, June 19, 1966). American actor, comedian, composer, and lyricist. Best known for his character “The Perfect Fool,” Wynn created his stage moniker from his middle name, Edwin. He began his stage career in vaudeville and quickly moved into larger stage productions. Especially important were his starring roles in Florenz Ziegfeld’s Follies of 1914 and 1915 and the Passing Show of 1916. In the 1920s he appeared in revues including Ed Wynn’s Carnival (1920), The Perfect Fool (1921), and The Grab Bag (1924) and introduced spirited songs such as “When I Was Small,” “She loves me, she loves me not,” and “Sing, Sweet Juanita.” Although none of the songs were hits, the revues themselves were successful. Wynn turned to radio in the 1930s, hosting The Fire Chief for most of the decade. He appeared in numerous films during the 1940s and was one of the pioneers of television. Wynn had his own comedy-variety show (...

Article

X  

Lukas Pearse

Punk rock group. It formed in Los Angeles in 1977. Its original members included Exene Cervenka (b Christine Cervenka, Chicago, IL, 1 Feb 1956; vocals), John Doe (b John Nommensen Duchac, Decatur, IL, 25 Feb 1954; vocals, bass), Billy Zoom (b Tyson Kindell, Savanna, IL, 20 Feb 1948; guitar), and D.J. Bonebrake (b Donald J. Bonebrake, North Hollywood, CA, 8 Dec 1955; drums). Guitarist Tony Gilkyson (b Hollywood, CA, 6 Aug 1952) replaced Billy Zoom in 1986, with Zoom returning in the late 1990s for subsequent reunions.

X’s sound is defined by the near-unison singing style of husband and wife John Doe and Exene Cervenka, with lyrical themes involving personal struggle, social commentary, and dysfunctional relationships, often set in an impressionistic, poetic style. Their early style drew on the aggressiveness and desperation of punk as well as more traditional influences, such as rockabilly and the blues, reflecting Zoom’s earlier career as an accomplished side musician in diverse genres. The track “Johny Hit and Run Paulene” combines blistering Chuck Berry–influenced guitar lines and rockabilly-inflected vocal shouts with a morbid tale of sexual violence. They signed with the independent label Slash in ...

Article

J. Bradford Robinson

[James Edwards ]

(b Chicago, Feb 20, 1898; d Chicago, Sept 17, 1951). American blues pianist . From the age of six he toured the USA and Europe as a singer and tap-dancer in vaudeville shows. He gave this up in 1915 to settle in Chicago, where he took up the piano. From around 1919 he performed in public but also played baseball in the professional African-American leagues, and from 1925 until just before his death he was groundskeeper at Comiskey Park for the Chicago White Sox baseball team. He played informally at clubs and rent parties, helping to establish the style known as boogie woogie and influencing Meade ‘Lux’ Lewis and Albert Ammons. He received some attention as a result of Lewis’s recording of Yancey Special in 1936. In 1939–40 Yancey issued a series of his own recordings, including Yancey Stomp (1939, Victor) and other works composed by him years earlier. These highly regarded performances reveal a remarkable balance and expressivity despite Yancey’s unassuming technique and limited harmonic and melodic resources. Unlike other boogie pianists, Yancey frequently altered his bass patterns in response to the right hand, producing shifting polyrhythms and varied bass lines. He suffered a stroke in ...

Article

Richard March

[Frank ]

(b Davis, WV, July 28, 1915; d New Port Richey, FL, Oct 14, 1998). American polka accordionist and bandleader. He is the polka musician who led the most prominent career in American popular music. His style of polka, called Slovenian-style, Cleveland-style, or Yankovic-style, has remained the most frequently played polka idiom. He used lead accordion, a second accordion playing riffs, a tenor banjo striking chords, and a string bass. Later bands included drums. Some Slovenian bands use saxophone, although Yankovic never did.

The son of immigrants from Slovenia, he was raised in the predominantly Slovenian Collingwood neighborhood of Cleveland, where his parents ran a boardinghouse for immigrant workers. He learned to play the button accordion from a boarder named Max Zelodec. In the early 1930s, he switched to the versatile piano accordion.

Yankovic formed a small dance band, and in 1938 and 1939 made self-produced records, which sold briskly. Before shipping out to Europe with the army in ...

Article

Michael Boyd

[Alfred Matthew ]

(b Lynwood, CA, Oct 23, 1959). American Singer, songwriter, parodist, and accordionist. He began playing the accordion in 1966, and his music received its first airplay on the nationally syndicated “Dr. Demento Show” in 1976. “My Bologna,” a parody of the Knack’s “My Sharona,” garnered attention in 1979 and was released that year by Capitol Records. Interest in his music increased the next year with “Another one rides the bus,” a parody of Queen’s “Another one bites the dust.” He soon formed a band, which continues to record and perform with him. Scotti Bros. released Yankovic’s first, self-titled album in 1983. Greater commercial success was achieved with his next release, “Weird Al” Yankovic in 3-D, particularly due to “Eat it,” a parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat it.” He has continued to release albums at regular intervals in the years since and created several popular parodies including “Fat” (Jackson’s “Bad”) and “Smells Like Nirvana” (Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”). As of ...

Article

Susan Fast

English rock band. It was formed in London in 1963 by the art school students Keith Relf (22 Mar 1943–76; vocals and harmonica), Jim McCarty (b 25 July 1943; drums), Paul Samwell-Smith (b 8 May 1943; bass guitar), Chris Dreja (b 11 Nov 1945; rhythm and bass guitars) and Anthony ‘Top’ Topham (lead guitar) who was replaced by Eric Clapton (b 1945). They began playing covers of rhythm and blues standards, and replaced the Rolling Stones as the house band at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, where they made a live recording with Sonny Boy Williamson (i). Their early live performances were distinguished by extreme volume, quick tempos, energy and raw power, which was captured on Five Live Yardbirds, recorded at the Marquee in London (1965). Even in the studio their frenetic style came across, especially in the characteristic climatic point of such songs as ...

Article

Cathy Ragland

(b San Antonio, TX, March 2, 1945). American Accordionist, composer, and songwriter. Eva Ybarra is one of the very few female accordionists active in the male-dominated Texas Mexican conjunto tradition. No doubt she is the only one with over 40 years as a professional musician. She is also accomplished on the bajo sexto, guitarrón, electric bass, and keyboards. Ybarra was given her first accordion at age four, and by the time she was six, she was playing in restaurants, cantinas, and dance halls around San Antonio, Texas. She came from a musical family; her father and brothers played music and her mother was a singer and songwriter. Ybarra gained international notoriety via two recordings of original music for the independent Americana roots music label, Rounder Records: A mi San Antonio and Romance inolvidable. In particular, accordion fans marvel at her instrumental polkas, huapangos, and cumbia norteña, such as “A mi San Antonio,” “El gallito madrugador” (The Early Rising Rooster), “El perico loco” (The Crazy Parrot), and “A bailar con Eva” (Dance with Eva). In these songs, she embellishes even the simplest melody with rapid chromatic runs and subtle shifts in tempo with unlikely chord progressions, all indicative of her highly original approach to the tradition....

Article

John Stanislawski

(Patricia Lynn )

(b Monticello, GA, Sept 19, 1964). American Country music singer. Since her emergence in the early 1990s, Yearwood has become one of the most respected vocalists in country music. In line with many country acts of the last few decades, Yearwood has cultivated a powerful performance and singing style that is as much influenced by country as it is by elements of pop, folk, and rock. Eschewing traditional country mannerisms and self-representation, Yearwood has, throughout her career, fashioned a more sophisticated image and modern sound that has expanded her appeal across genres.

Following graduation from Belmont College in 1987, Yearwood worked in Nashville as a demo singer before being discovered by then-emerging artist Garth Brooks. Through Brooks, Yearwood began a relationship with longtime producer Garth Fundis and MCA Records. Her self-titled 1991 debut album produced the number-one hit “She’s in Love With the Boy” and helped earn her the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Female Vocalist Award. Her follow-up, ...

Article

Jeffrey Holmes

American jazz quartet. Along with rhythm-and-blues textures and, later, straight-ahead acoustic jazz sensibilities, the Yellowjackets have evolved by embracing world beat and fostered distinctive compositional paths. Its original members included the keyboard player Russell Ferrante, the bass player Jimmy Haslip, the drummer Ricky Lawson, and the guitarist Robben Ford, who brought the other three players together in 1977 to work on his own project. Eventually their work made its way to Warner Brothers, and the Yellowjackets recorded their debut album in 1981. A new lineup in 1984 featured the saxophonist Marc Russo as the lead voice in place of Ford. The drummer William Kennedy replaced Lawson in 1987 and performed with the band until late 1999. He returned to the lineup in 2010, joining Ferrante, Haslip, and the big-band leader, composer, and saxophonist Bob Mintzer, who had begun working with the group in 1991. Other drummers have included Peter Erskine, Marcus Baylor, and Terri Lynn Carrington. Haslip’s lyricism on five-string electric bass, Ferrante’s orchestral layerings on keyboard, and Mintzer’s multi-textural command of tenor and bass clarinet complement the wide variety of compositional approaches possessed by band members. By ...

Article

Yes  

John Covach

English rock group. Formed in London by Jon Anderson (b Accrington, 25 Oct 1944; vocals) and Chris Squire (b Wembley, 4 March 1948; bass) in 1968, Yes became one of the most commercially successful of the British progressive rock bands between 1970 and 1977. The group is known for its complicated arrangements, instrumental virtuosity and the ambitious scope of its music. The Yes Album (Atlantic 1971) was its first successful album and saw the addition of Steve Howe (guitar). Keyboard player Rick Wakeman joined the group for Fragile (Atlantic 1971), which featured the U.S. hit single Roundabout. In the years that followed, Yes released an impressive string of studio albums: Close to the Edge (Atl. 1972), Tales from Topographic Oceans (Atl. 1973) and Relayer (Atl. 1974) each contain complex and extended tracks, many lasting up to 20 minutes. Critics often dismissed Yes’ 1970s music as self-indulgent and pretentious, due to the group’s eagerness to adopt classical music styles and practices; but fans, especially in the USA, celebrated these very same tendencies. With the rise of punk and new-wave rock at the end of the 1970s, the group faced waning popularity and disbanded in ...

Article

Lukas Pearse

Alternative rock group. It was formed in 1984 in Hoboken, New Jersey, by guitarist Ira Kaplan and drummer Georgia Hubley; bassist James McNew joined in 1991. Each member of the trio also sings. Other band members with brief tenures have included Dave Schramm, Stephan Wichnewski, Dave Rick, and Mike Lewis. The group’s lineup featuring Kaplan and Hubley, husband and wife since 1987, stabilized after the addition of McNew in 1991. While early releases received critical acclaim, the album Painful (1993) established the band’s signature elements, and its success on college radio stations gained Yo La Tengo a dedicated following. Their music combines the direct simplicity of folk and 1960s pop songwriting with psychedelic and grunge guitar styles, the pulse and drone aspects of electronica, and occasional free-form jazz-rock improvisation, sometimes all in the same song. They have remained prominent in the indie scene, most notably for their distinctive combination of gentle singing with loud, distorted, and feedback-filled accompaniments. Despite limited mainstream success, they have remained prolific and have become recognized as a “critics’ band” with a strong fan base, a moniker due in part to Kaplan’s earlier work as a music journalist for the ...

Article

Travis D. Stimeling

(David )

(b Pikeville, KY, Oct 23, 1956). American Country-music singer-songwriter, screenwriter, and actor. As a young boy Yoakam and his family moved from the eastern Kentucky coalfields to Columbus, Ohio, but his family returned frequently to their ancestral home, allowing Yoakam to absorb Appalachian traditional musics and listen to “The Grand Ole Opry” on their long overnight drives. An avid record collector, Yoakam was drawn to the Bakersfield sound of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard and the Bakersfield-influenced country rock of the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons, and Emmylou Harris.

After briefly studying drama at Ohio State University, Yoakam moved to Nashville in 1976 to pursue a recording career, finding little success. He moved to Los Angeles in 1977 or 1978, where he explored the intersections of punk and country music in the nascent “cowpunk” style. Collaborating with the guitarist and producer Pete Anderson, Yoakam recorded a six-song EP in ...

Article

Yokuts  

Richard Keeling

revised by Kay Edwards

[Yokut; Yokutsan; Tachi; Chukchansi]

Native American group of the San Joaquin Valley and the foothills of the southern Sierra Nevada mountains in central California. Their music and culture had much in common with that of their eastern neighbors, the western Mono and the Tubatalabal.

An important genre of Yokuts song sung by both men and women was connected with a form of gambling known as the Hand Game. Songs were also important in religious ceremonies, the most elaborate of which was a six-day festival honoring tribal members who had died in the past year. In another important ritual, young adults drank crushed datura roots (also known as Jimson weed or toloache) that induced stupor and hallucinations. These visions were believed to guarantee prosperity by helping the initiate to achieve a rapport with a spiritual guardian. Indeed, the quest for a totemic or individual helper seems to have been of central importance to the Yokuts; such titles as Eagle Song, Coyote Song, Owl Song, and Beaver Song are often based on visionary affiliation with a figure from the animal pantheon in Yokuts storytelling....

Article

Lewis Porter

[Pres, Prez]

(b Woodville, MS, Aug 27, 1909; d New York, March 15, 1959). American jazz tenor saxophonist .

Young grew up in the vicinity of New Orleans and later Minneapolis. His father, Willis Handy Young, taught all his children instruments and eventually formed a family band that toured with carnivals and other shows. Young learnt the violin, trumpet and drums, and settled on the alto saxophone by about the age of 13. After one of many disputes with his father, he left the family band at the end of 1927 and spent the following years performing with various groups, including Art Bronson’s Bostonians, with whom he took up the tenor saxophone, and Walter Page’s Blue Devils. Early in 1932 Young joined the Thirteen Original Blue Devils, and while on tour in Oklahoma City met Charlie Christian. He then made Kansas City his base, and played with the Bennie Moten–George E. Lee Band, Clarence Love, King Oliver and, on one night in ...

Article

David Brackett

(b Toronto, Nov 12, 1945). Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist. He emerged in the late 1960s as a member of the critically acclaimed, Los Angeles-based rock band Buffalo Springfield. He subsequently gained mass exposure in the ‘supergroup’ Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. This widespread fame co-existed in the late 1960s and early 70s with his growing reputation as a singer-songwriter and collaborator with bands such as Crazy Horse and the Stray Gators. His early solo work with Crazy Horse – including the albums Everybody knows this is Nowhere (1969) and After the Gold Rush (1970) – has proved particularly enduring. On these albums his fragile, expressive tenor, and jagged, lyrical lead guitar grace an eclectic mixture of styles, including acoustic ballads, driving rock and lighter country-rock. He coupled these gifts with a melodic songwriting style and with pessimistic and occasionally enigmatic lyrics in such early songs as ...

Article

Roger Steffens

[Buchanan, Manley Augustus]

(b Kingston, April 19, 1949). Jamaican DJ and rapper. Born into poverty, his career began in the early 1970s as the resident toaster for the Emperor Lord Tippertone sound system in Kingston. However, it was through his alliance with the producer Keith Hudson that he achieved success. Between 1971 and 1973 in Jamaica he had seven songs in the charts, five of them in the top ten, including his sound-effect driven S.90 Skank, named after a Japanese motorcycle. In 1973 he appeared in New York at one of the first major reggae events in America, performing Every Nigger is a Star, co-written with the American actor Calvin Lockhart and recorded with Bob Marley’s female vocal backing trio, the I Three. In the mid-70s he caused controversy when he attacked Michael Manley’s socialist government in the song Green Killing Bay (1978).

Big Youth became one of the most influential and emulated DJs. His style was often alive with calls to consciousness and rebellion and was simultaneously humorous and intimidating. Over familiar roots rhythms and foreign pop tunes, his vocal style included shrieks, squeals, shouts and growls, as can be heard on the albums ...