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Timothy D. Miller

[Kenneth] (Donald)

(b Houston, TX, Aug 21, 1938). American country and pop music singer, songwriter, actor, and entrepreneur. After beginning his career with the doo-wop group the Scholars, Rogers recorded as a solo artist and played jazz bass in the Bobby Doyle Trio. In 1966 he joined the New Christy Minstrels, but soon left to form the splinter group, the First Edition. Performing a mix of pop, country, and psychedelic rock, the First Edition had several hit songs, including “Ruby, don’t take your love to town” (Reprise, 1969), before disbanding in 1975. Rogers subsequently partnered with producer Larry Butler to record a string of pop-friendly country hits for United Artists, including “Lucille” (1977) and “Coward of the County” (1979). “The Gambler” (1978) became Rogers’s signature song, topping the charts and inspiring a series of television movies in which he played the lead. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Rogers recorded several duet albums with Dottie West and collaborated with singer-songwriter-producer Lionel Richie. In ...

Article

Craig Jennex

(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 ...

Article

Rob Bowman

(b Cayce, MS, March 27, 1917; d Memphis, TN, Dec 15, 2001). American singer, songwriter, dancer, comedian, and radio announcer. One of Thomas’s earliest gigs was as part of the dance team Rufus and Johnny with the legendary Rabbit Foot Minstrels. He later forged a distinguished career as a comic (in the duo “Rufus and Bones”) and master of ceremonies at all of the important black theaters in Memphis. In the early 1950s Thomas hosted the daily “Sepia Swing Club” and “Hoot ‘n’ Holler” shows on local black appeal radio station WDIA. Beginning in 1949, Thomas recorded for Star Talent, Meteor, Chess, and, most notably, Memphis’ Sun Records before signing with Satellite (soon-to-be Stax) Records in 1960. His most successful recording pre-Stax was an answer song conceived as a response to Big Mama Thornton’s R&B hit “Hound Dog.” Titled “Bear Cat” and released in 1953, the record was Sun’s first bona-fide hit, peaking at number three on ...

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 (...