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Charles K. Wolfe and Travis D. Stimeling

(Wayne )

(b West Plains, MO, Aug 12, 1927; d Nashville, TN, Oct 27, 2007). American country music singer, songwriter, and record producer. As a boy, he learned country songs of the 1920s from his mother and occasionally pretended to host the Grand Ole Opry. A performance on a local radio show in 1950 led to regular appearances on KWTO, a powerful station in nearby Springfield, and this in turn led to a regular job on Red Foley’s national Ozark Jubilee television show. He signed a recording contract with RCA Victor in 1952 and had early success with “Company’s Comin’” and “Satisfied Mind.” Gospel songs such as “What would you do?” became part of his repertory, and their success encouraged his penchant for including recitation in songs. During the 1960s, thirty-one of Wagoner’s recordings reached the charts, and, by the end of the decade, he produced his own television show, ...

Article

Gareth Dylan Smith

(b Kalamazoo, MI, April 23, 1952). American drummer, producer, and composer. The drum major in his high school marching band, he majored in music for three semesters at Western Michigan University, and then joined a soul band from Fresno, California. After witnessing the Mahavishnu Orchestra in concert, he sought to learn from that band’s leader and guitarist, john McLaughlin. At 21 years of age, following lessons from McLaughlin, he played on Apocalypse as a member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, replacing Billy Cobham. Propelled by the advice of his (and McLaughlin’s) guru Sri Chinmoy (who gave him the name “Narada,” meaning “supreme musician”) to “compete with himself,” Walden has maintained a highly successful and versatile career as a drummer and a producer, known equally for his work in each of these roles. He also contributed as a composer, vocalist, and percussionist to the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s 1976 album Inner Worlds...

Article

Lukas Pearse

(Jesse )

(b New York, NY, May 12, 1940; d Los Angeles, CA, Sept 16, 2008). American songwriter and record producer. Born in Harlem, New York, Whitfield relocated to Detroit with his family as a teenager. After briefly writing and producing songs for Detroit’s Thelma Records, he was hired by Motown owner Berry Gordy, Jr., to help with quality control and the selection of releases. He quickly became part of the songwriting and production staff.

He paired with lyricist Barrett Strong, and the two wrote and produced many Motown hits, most notably “I heard it through the grapevine,” which was recorded by many artists including Gladys Knight and the Pips as well as Marvin Gaye. He was instrumental to The Temptations, writing or cowriting hits such as “Papa was a rollin’ stone” and “Ain’t too proud to beg,” and shifting their sound from doo-wop and R&B toward funk and psychedelic soul. Writing longer songs for the group, which featured extended instrumental breaks and the group’s singers sharing lead vocals, earned Whitfield and Strong a number of Grammy Awards....

Article

Ryan R. McNutt

(Douglas )

(b Inglewood, CA, June 20, 1942). American songwriter and producer. As the musical leader of the Beach boys during the 1960s, Wilson penned a series of massively successful hits that expanded the sound palette of radio pop. Though he subsequently struggled with mental illness and drug abuse, a late career revival brought with it recognition as one of the most important popular songwriters of the 20th century.

Wilson and his younger brothers Dennis and Carl grew up in Hawthorne, California. Their father Murray Wilson, occasionally abusive, strongly pushed his sons towards musical endeavors, making particular note of Brian’s talent with harmony and piano. In high school the brothers recruited cousin Mike Love to be part of a singing group; classmate Al Jardine, joined shortly thereafter. Eventually given the name the Beach Boys, the group signed with Capitol Records in 1962.

Over the next two years, the group would release nine albums, all but two of which were produced by Wilson—a rare privilege for a popular recording artist at the time, but granted due to the group’s astoundingly rapid success. His sound, noted for both studio perfectionism and immaculate vocal harmonies, was equally influenced by Phil Spector and Chuck Berry. Wilson wrote or cowrote nearly all of the band’s material, with songs like “Surfin’ USA,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” and “I Get Around” becoming touchstones of American mass culture in the early 1960s. However, the pressure of recording and touring, combined with stage fright, led to a nervous breakdown in ...

Article

Jonas Westover

(b Michigan, 1949). American composer, pianist, producer, and guitarist. He is best known for his evocative and introspective solo piano works. He often draws on nature for his picturesque titles, perhaps responding to his time in the Midwest and areas such as eastern Montana. He did not receive any formal training, but instead learned to play the organ by ear in 1967 by listening to records. In 1971, he turned to the piano, influenced by 1920s jazz and the stride piano style of Thomas “Fats” Waller and Teddy Wilson, among others. He studied music at Stetson University in Deland, Florida. The style he developed has been described by Winston as “rural folk piano,” and he was asked to record by John Fahey for Takoma Records in 1972. His first album, Ballads and Blues, did not receive much popular or critical acclaim, but it brought Winston to the attention of New Age guru William Ackerman in ...