(b Jewett, TX, Sept 12, 1900; d Richards, TX, April 18, 1954). American blues singer. He spent most of his life in east Texas, where he worked as a farmhand in Leon and Grimes counties and as a storeman in Dallas. There he was heard by the record salesman and blues pianist Sam Price, who arranged his first recording session. Alexander became one of the most popular recording blues singers of the 1920s. He was imprisoned for at least two offenses in the course of his career, and his earliest recordings, including “Levee Camp Moan” (1927, OK), are strongly influenced by work song. Unlike most male folk blues singers, he did not accompany himself; on this and the well-known “West Texas Blues” (1928, OK) among others, he was supported by the guitarist Lonnie Johnson, who was able to complement his irregular timing and verse structure. Alexander had a low, moaning singing style and used hummed choruses to good effect, as on “St. Louis Fair Blues” (...
Horace Clarence Boyer
revised by Tammy L. Kernodle
(b Hamilton, MS, Jan 21, 1916; d Los Angeles, CA, July 8, 1996). American gospel singer, manager, and promoter. He moved to Los Angeles in the early 1940s to become a member of the Southern Gospel Singers, an all-male quartet. In 1946 he joined the Pilgrim Travelers, another male quartet, of which he soon became the guiding force. During its period of greatest popularity in the 1950s and 1960s the group became known for its close and smooth harmonies. Its members have included Kylo Turner and Keith Barber (leads), Jesse Whitaker (baritone), and Raphael Taylor (bass); jazz singer Lou Rawls also sang with the group in the late 1950s. Among their popular recordings were “Mother Bowed” (1950) and “I was there when the spirit came” (1952). The group performed in concert throughout the United States and won acclaim for their appearances at the Apollo Theater in New York. When the Travelers disbanded following a car accident that left Rawls hospitalized, Alexander shifted his focus to production and management. Alexander was instrumental in securing a recording contract for Dorothy Love Coates and the Original Gospel Harmonettes, recommended the singer Jessy Dixon to Brother Joe May and is credited as one of Little Richard’s early mentors and managers. He started working with Sam Cooke, who left gospel music in the late 1950s to pursue a career in pop music, and together they formed SAR records in ...
revised by Claudio Vellutini
(b Meridian, MS, Oct 21, 1923; d Meridian, MS, Dec 8, 1990). American tenor. He trained at the Cincinnati Conservatory and made his debut as Faust with the Cincinnati Opera in 1952. He joined the New York City Opera as Alfredo five years later. In 1961 he made his Metropolitan debut as Ferrando, and performed there regularly until 1987. He also collaborated with other major American opera companies. He was heard at the San Francisco Opera beginning in 1967 (debut as Julien in Gustave Charpentier’s Louise). In May 1973 he sang the title role in the American premiere of the original French version of Don Carlos, staged by the Boston Opera. Two years later he appeared for the first time at the Opera Company of Philadephia as Calaf. Important European engagements included Korngold’s Die tote Stadt at the Vienna Volksoper (1967), La bohème at the Vienna Staatsoper (...
Gareth Dylan Smith
[Patterson, Robert, Jr. ]
(b Philadelphia, PA, July 1, 1935; d New York, NY, Aug 13, 2009). American jazz drummer. He learned congas from the age of nine and studied percussion while in the US Army (1952–5). After attending the Granoff School in Philadelphia, he worked in jazz and rhythm-and-blues bands and in 1963 moved to New York, where he was a key figure in the free-jazz movement, performing with Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, Sun Ra, and Archie Shepp. In addition he collaborated with John Coltrane, including the albums Expression and Interstellar Space (both 1967, Imp.), on which Ali’s performance displays the influence of Sunny Murray and Milford Graves. Ali also learned from Elvin Jones, with whom he competed for the drum chair in Coltrane’s band. In 1967 Ali worked in Europe with Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersed, studied with Philly Joe Jones, and worked at Ronnie Scott’s, London, with Jon Hendricks and Dave Holland. The following year he returned to New York, where he played with Sonny Rollins and Jackie McLean, and for five years from ...
Both an American Detroit-based hard rock band and the adopted name of its singer and main creative force Vincent Damon Furnier (b Detroit, MI, 4 Feb 1946). Cooper was the son of a minister and the nephew of the storyteller Damon Runyon, after whom he was named. He moved to Arizona, where he attended high school and formed the Nazz. This band eventually took the name Alice Cooper and developed an over-the-top, theatrical shock-rock style that influenced a host of other rock performers.
With snide and clever lyrics, Alice Cooper’s style was mainly hard rock, but some tunes were psychedelic and others would be suitable in a Broadway musical. After moving to Michigan, the band scored numerous hits in the early 1970s. Many of the songs were rebellious youth-focused anthems, including “Eighteen” (Warner, 1971) and “School’s Out” (Warner, 1972). Others centered on ghoulish menace or mere gothic gruesomeness like “Dead Babies” (Warner, ...
(b Pontiac, MI, June 12, 1957; d Philadelphia, June 27, 2017). American jazz pianist and composer. She began classical piano study at age seven with Patricia Wilhelm, who also encouraged her interest in jazz. After graduating from Detroit’s Cass Technical High School in 1975 (where trumpeter Marcus Belgrave was one of her teachers), she studied with John Malachi at Howard University (BA 1979, jazz studies) and with Nathan Davis at the University of Pittsburgh (MA 1982, ethnomusicology). She also took private piano lessons with Kenny Barron in 1979. She moved to New York in the early 1980s, where she became a member of the M-BASE collective. Allen recorded her first album as a leader, The Printmakers, in 1984 (Minor Music). After that she performed on more than 100 recordings in a variety of capacities. She worked in trios with Ron Carter and Tony Williams (on albums such as ...
(b Louisville, KY, May 25, 1924). American alto saxophonist and bandleader. He began clarinet lessons when he was ten and later took up alto saxophone. After joining the US Army at 18 years of age, Allen performed in military bands and, while stationed in Paris, formed a trio with Art Simmons and Don Byas. Allen remained in Europe following his discharge, touring with James Moody and studying clarinet at the Paris Conservatory with Ulysse Delécluse. He returned to the United States in 1951 and led dance bands and worked as a composer in Chicago. After hearing a demo recording of Sun Ra’s Arkestra in a record store, Allen sought out the bandleader during a rehearsal and began an apprenticeship. He subsequently rehearsed with the Arkestra for more than a year before joining officially in 1958. His association with the ensemble has lasted more than 50 years.
Allen worked closely with Sun Ra for much of his professional career, composing for the bandleader and performing both in concert and on more than 200 albums; he even shared a house with him. Alongside John Gilmore Allen anchored the reed section, adding flute, clarinet, oboe, and in later years wind synthesizer. He invented the morrow, a woodwind instrument combining a saxophone mouthpiece with an open-holed wooden body, and learned to play and build the kora, a West African multi-string instrument. Allen rarely worked outside the Arkestra, although he made a notable recording with Paul Bley (...
Douglas B. Green
(b near Willcox, AZ, Dec 31, 1924; d Tucson, AZ, Dec 19, 1999). American singing cowboy, songwriter, actor, and radio and recording artist. Born on a remote ranch, Allen had a powerful voice of tremendous range, was a world-class yodeler, and a prolific songwriter. He had begun a performing career straight out of high school and, after a stint at WTTM in Trenton, NJ, was added to the National Barn Dance cast in 1945. A true westerner and a good horseman, he seemed a natural for the singing cowboy film genre, but it was a genre in decline, and his was the last singing series any studio launched. Allen’s first film for Republic was the fittingly titled Arizona Cowboy (1950), and his last of 19 movies was Phantom Stallion (1954).
Allen then turned to television, starring in Frontier Doctor (1958). He was able to keep up an active recording and touring career, supplemented by Disney Studios’ (and other studios’) frequent use of his avuncular and authoritative speaking voice as a narrator of documentaries, television features, and feature films such as ...
[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 ...
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....