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Horace Clarence Boyer

(b Atlanta, GA, Aug 4, 1886; d Pittsburgh, PA, Dec 16, 1963). American gospel composer and publisher. When he was 13 he settled with his family in Chicago, where he continued to study piano and began to write gospel songs and arrange black spirituals for the Beth Eden and Liberty Baptist churches. In 1925 he formed the Pace Jubilee Singers, an early conservative gospel group which recorded songs by Pace, Tindley, and others for Victor and Brunswick (1926–9). For a short time the group was accompanied by Thomas A. Dorsey, for whom Pace published several songs through his Pace Music House (established in Chicago in 1910). Pace moved to Pittsburgh in 1936 and shortly afterwards organized the Pace Gospel Choral Union, a 25-member ensemble that was enlarged to as many as 300 singers for special celebrations; its repertory consisted of gospel songs and spirituals. Pace also founded two highly successful music publishing houses in Pittsburgh—the Old Ship of Zion Music Company (...

Article

Ronald Riddle

revised by Jonas Westover

(b New York, NY, July 18, 1884; d Encino, CA, April 8, 1955). American Songwriter, publisher, and composer. He initially studied medicine in college but changed fields and became a song plugger. He worked as a pianist in Callahan’s saloon and other nightclubs in the Chinatown district of New York. His first song, “My Mariuccia Take a Steamboat” (1906), became especially popular for its “toot toot” sounds. He published several commercially successful songs before 1920, including the ethnic songs “I’m a Yiddish cowboy” (1908), “I’m awfully glad I’m Irish” (words by E. Leslie, 1910), and “That Italian Rag” (Leslie, 1910), and two sentimental ballads that sold over a million copies each: “That’s how I need you” (J. McCarthy, J. Goodwin, 1912) and “The Curse of an Aching Heart” (H. Fink, 1913). He also wrote “I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier” (A. Bryan, ...

Article

Charles K. Wolfe

(b nr West Monroe, LA, Aug 8, 1921; d Nashville, TN, Feb 24, 1991). American country-music singer, guitarist, songwriter, and publisher. He performed as a guitarist on radio station KMLB (Monroe, LA) before 1950, when he joined the “Louisiana hayride ” on KWKH (Shreveport, LA). Recording contracts with the local Pacemaker label (c1950), Four-Star, and Decca (1951) allowed him to resign his part-time job as a clerk at Sears, Roebuck and concentrate on music. After his initial hit, “Wondering” (1952), he gained national attention with “Back Street Affair” (1952), one of the first country songs to deal forthrightly with adultery. An equally important landmark was “There stands the glass” (1953), a classic drinking song and the first country hit to use the pedal steel guitar, played by Bud Isaacs. It became the favorite backup instrument in country music for the next two decades, and Pierce was the first of many country singers whose slurs, octave jumps, and use of dynamics complemented its sound. During his peak years (...

Article

Thomas Henry Porter

(b Union Furnace, OH, Oct 4, 1880; d Winona Lake, IN, Dec 18, 1955). American evangelistic musician and music publisher. During the first half of the 20th century he greatly influenced the creation and popularization of gospel song both in the USA and elsewhere. He worked for 20 years with the evangelist Billy Sunday. In 1910, with Bentley DeForrest Ackley, he established the Rodeheaver–Ackley publishing house in Chicago, which became the Rodeheaver Co. in 1911. With the purchase of the Hall–Mack Co. of Philadelphia in 1936 Rodeheaver’s company, now the Rodeheaver Hall-Mack Co., became a leader in the field of gospel music. The firm moved to Winona Lake, Indiana, in 1941, and changed its name back to the Rodeheaver Co.; in 1969 it became a division of Word, Inc. During the 1920s Rodeheaver established Rainbow Records, one of the earliest labels devoted solely to gospel song recordings. Although he composed little, Rodeheaver edited or compiled some 80 collections of Gospel songs. (For further information see T.H. Porter: ...

Article

David Sanjek

[Knols, Fred ]

(b Evansville, IL, Aug 24, 1898; d Nashville, TN, Dec 1, 1954). American songwriter and publisher. It is difficult to imagine how Nashville’s country music industry would be structured were it not for the efforts of the songwriter and publisher Fred Rose. His commitment to the city and the genre helped to establish a business model that has continued successfully to the present day. He moved to Chicago in his teens and found a home in vaudeville, eventually achieving initial success as a songwriter for the “Red Hot Mama” Sophie Tucker. Some of his early material was recorded by King Oliver and Paul Whiteman, and Rose also found a role as a performer on local radio. He moved to Nashville in 1933, appeared as a performer on WSM, and became intrigued by the possibilities inherent in the cowboy genre. He migrated to Hollywood, wrote hits for Tex Ritter, the Sons of the Pioneers, and Gene Autry and benefited from the B-movie market for singing cowboys. Rose returned to Nashville in ...

Article

Jonas Westover

(b Boston, MA, May 10, 1937). American music critic, publicist, and editor. Solomon is best known for her contributions to the Village Voice, but has also written for Down Beat, Country Music, Hit Parader, the News World, and Us. She was one of the first women involved in popular music criticism; her work focused on folk music of the 1960s, jazz, blues, rock, and country music. Solomon’s column in the Village Voice was called “Riffs.” She also served as editor for the magazine ABC-TV Hootenanny (1963–4), which highlighted performers on the television show of the same name who were just beginning to rise to fame, including Judy Collins, Earl Scruggs, and Doc Watson. Other writers whose work appeared in the magazine included Theodore Bikel and Jean Shepard. Another of her important editing positions was on the magazine New Musical Express (NME) in the 1970s. Solomon also had a brief tenure as a publicist for Chess Records, where she produced a number of liner notes. Her commentary on such diverse subjects as J.J. Cale and Paul McCartney has given her voice a lasting impression in the music business....

Article

Don Cusic

[Ragsdale, Harold Ray ]

(b Clarkdale, GA, Jan 24, 1939). American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger, music publisher, television star, and entrepreneur. Harold Ragsdale began his musical career with a high school band that played R&B songs by the Coasters, Drifters, and other R&B groups. In 1955 the family moved to Atlanta, where publisher Bill Lowery signed him as a songwriter and secured his first recording contract with Capitol Records; Capitol’s Head of A&R, Ken Nelson changed Ragsdale’s name to Ray Stevens. After attending Georgia State University, where he studied music, Stevens had his first success with his recording of “Jeremiah Peabody’s Poly Unsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green and Purple Pills” (Mercury, 1961). In 1962 he moved to Nashville, supplementing his own recording career with work as a session musician, arranger, and background vocalist. He garnered a number-one pop hit and his first Grammy with his recording of “Everything is beautiful” (Barnaby, ...

Article

Mark Berresford

(Coleman )

(b Brunswick, MO, Feb 7, 1882; d New York, NY, March 9, 1961). American clarinetist, bandleader, composer, and music publisher. His first professional engagement (c1897–8) was with a “pickaninny” band led by Nathaniel Clark Smith. In 1902 he was assistant leader of P.G. Lowery’s band with Forepaugh and Sells Circus and later that year joined Mahara’s Minstrels band under the leadership of W.C. Handy. In 1903 he formed his own band in Minneapolis, where he made the first recordings by an African American band. Sweatman moved to Chicago in 1908, where he led trios at the Grand and Monogram theaters. In 1911 he made his first vaudeville appearance, and in late 1916 made the first records recognizable as jazz performances. In 1918 Sweatman’s band was signed to an exclusive recording contract with Columbia, their records rivalling those by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. He continued to work through the 1920s and early 1930s in vaudeville, and in ...

Article

Jayson Greene

[neth ]

(b New York, NY, Feb 1, 1953). American music critic, film critic, and editor. Ken Tucker is the pop-music critic for the NPR program Fresh Air with Terry Gross, appearing weekly to review new releases. He is also editor-at-large for Entertainment Weekly magazine, where he has worked in various capacities since its founding in 1989. His Entertainment Weekly writing has won two National Magazine Awards, and his music criticism earned him two ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards (2003, 2004). Prior to that, he was the TV critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1984. He also served as film critic for New York Magazine in the years 2004–05. His writing about television, books, and music has appeared in Rolling Stone, SPIN, Esquire, the Village Voice, Vogue, and the New York Times. He has also made numerous television appearances, serving as a cultural observer on programs such as ...

Article

Gilles Potvin

(b Natashquan, Quebec, Oct 27, 1928). Canadian songwriter, singer, poet and publisher . He wrote poems and songs while teaching French and mathematics in Quebec City. He first sang publicly in 1960 and his success led to a first recording in 1962. Two years later, his song Jack Monoloy won second prize at an international competition in Sopot, Poland. His best-known song is Mon pays, also sung at Sopot in 1965. He has toured extensively in Canada and French-speaking countries of Europe. He was awarded a Grand Prix du Disque by the Académie Charles Cros in 1970 and 1984. Vigneault’s songs are about the people of Quebec, specifically those who live on his native north shore of the St Lawrence. Some of his songs contain social protest, some are simple love stories, some are whimsical and humorous.

EMC2 (C. Rioux) M. Gagné: Gilles Vigneault (Quebec City, 1977)...

Article

Jonas Westover

(b Strasburg, ND, March 11, 1903; d Santa Monica, CA, May 17, 1992). American accordionist, band leader, publisher, and television host. Welk is best known for his radio and television programs which ran from 1949 until his retirement in 1982. He grew up on a farm in a German-speaking small town, where he first developed his interest in the accordion. Once he acquired his first instrument, he began to play with swing orchestras throughout the 1920s. Upon leaving the family home in 1924, he pursued his musical endeavors with business acumen, seeking out sponsorships. One of his first groups was the Honolulu Fruit Gum Orchestra, and he would eventually find excellent sponsors in Plymouth and Buick automobiles. Peddling his personal style of light swing, sometimes dubbed “champagne music” by fans and other observers, Welk’s big bands played throughout dance halls and hotels in the Midwest and East Coast during the 1930s before they found a regular radio program in the late 1940s. Eventually settling in Los Angeles, California, the bandleader began filming ...

Article

J.R. Taylor

revised by Mike Hazeldine

(b Plaquemine, LA, Oct 8, 1893; d New York, Nov 6, 1965). American jazz and popular pianist and publisher . He moved to New Orleans in 1906 and travelled with a minstrel show as a singer and dancer in 1911. After returning to New Orleans he began a music publishing venture (c1915) with A.J. Piron. Later in the decade he moved briefly to Chicago and then permanently to New York, where he founded a music publishing firm and several music stores; he also organized many recording sessions, principally for Okeh (1923–30). The most important of Williams’s groups was the Blue Five. Although noted more for its instrumental recordings made under Williams’s name, including Cakewalking Babies from Home with Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet (1925, OK), this group was principally an accompanying band for blues and vaudeville singers. Williams also made nearly 100 recordings with his ‘washboard’ bands....