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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

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

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

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 ...

Article

Leah G. Weinberg

(b Exeter, NH, Nov 8, 1961). American Musician, songwriter, record company founder, and author. Zanes was raised near Concord, New Hampshire, and after attending Oberlin College for one year, moved to Boston. There, Zanes, his brother Warren, the bass player Tom Lloyd, and the drummer Steve Morrell formed the Del Fuegos. The roots-rock band produced five albums between 1984 and 1989, with singles “Don’t Run Wild,” “I still want you,” “Name Names,” and “Move with me Sister.” After the Del Fuegos disbanded and Zanes’s solo album Cool Down Time failed to sell, he began to listen to banjo songs, cowboy tunes, and traditional songs that he remembered from childhood. After his daughter Anna was born, Zanes’s dissatisfaction with the American children’s music market led him to form a family-oriented band that merged folk and rock styles and instrumentation. Initially known as the Wonderland String Band, the New York based-group underwent changes in title and personnel, first to the Rocket Ship Revue, and then to Dan Zanes & Friends. The seven-member band has produced nine albums on Zanes’s label, Festival Five Records, which include original songs as well as folk, traditional, and gospel songs from the United States, Jamaica, Africa, and Mexico. ...

Article

Max Paddison

(Vincent)

(b Baltimore, Dec 21, 1940; d Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, Dec 4, 1993). American composer, rock musician and guitarist. His family moved to California in 1950, where Zappa played the drums and guitar in high-school bands with, among others, Don Van Vliet (later to become Captain Beefheart). He studied briefly at Chaffey College, Alta Loma, but left to write music for B-movies. In 1964 he formed his band the Mothers of Invention (originally the Soul Giants); the personnel changed frequently and Zappa disbanded the group in the 1970s to work with musicians selected for particular projects, including Ian Underwood (keyboards, saxophones, brass, guitar etc.), Ruth Underwood (percussion), George Duke (keyboards and trombone), Aynsley Dunbar (drums), Sugar Cane Harris (organ, electric violin and vocals) and Jean-Luc Ponty (violin).

The Mothers of Invention’s first release was Freak Out! (Verve, 1966), which savagely parodied both corporate America and hippy counter-culture in such songs as ‘Hungry Freaks, Daddy’ and ‘Who are the Brain Police?’, culminating in ‘The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet’, an extended improvisation using avant-garde techniques. It was followed by ...