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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 (...


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 ...


Paul Corneilson

(b Prenzlau, 1733; d Heidelberg, June 29, 1815). German librettist and publisher. In 1765 Schwan opened a bookshop in Mannheim. His German translations of French comic operas were frequently used for performances by local troupes. Der Kaufmann von Smyrna (1770), a translation of Chamfort’s comedy, was especially popular and was set by G. J. Vogler (1771), C. D. Stegmann (1773), O. F. Holý (1773) and F. Seydelmann (1778). Together with the poet Anton Klein, Schwan helped establish the Deutsche Gesellschaft at Mannheim in 1775. His Rheinische Beiträge zur Gelehrsamkeit, begun in 1777, served as its polemical voice and contributed to the establishment of the Mannheim Nationaltheater. Schwan’s original Singspiel Azakia, intended for C. Cannabich, was set by J. André (1778) and, with minor revisions, by F. Danzi (1780). In 1790 he reissued Der Kaufmann von Smyrna...


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, ...



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 ...


Ferenc Bónis

(b Budapest, July 2, 1880; d New York, Jan 15, 1967). American composer and publisher of Hungarian origin. Until 1906 he studied the piano with Árpád Szendy and composition with Hans Koessler at the Budapest Academy of Music, where he received the Volkmann Prize for composition, and at the same time he read political science at the university. While still a student he was second music critic of the Budapest German newspaper Pester Lloyd, and later he held a similar post on the Hungarian newspaper Polgár. In 1907 he took over the musical direction of the Budapest theatre, Modern Színpad, for which he wrote some 300 songs and the music for 12 one-act plays. After the success of his first operetta, A sárga dominó (1907) he remained faithful to that genre. From 1926 until his death he lived in New York as musical director for Chappell, although several visits to Hungary late in life resulted in the composition of his last two operettas and their subsequent first performances in Budapest....


Deane L. Root

[James; Babcock, Edward Chester]

(b Syracuse, NY, Jan 26, 1913; d Rancho Mirage, CA, Feb 7, 1990). American composer, publisher and pianist. At the age of 16 he became a pianist, singer and announcer for a radio station and adopted his professional name. He then studied singing with Howard Lyman and wrote college shows at Syracuse University. In 1933 he replaced Harold Arlen as composer at the Cotton Club in Harlem, and worked as a pianist and song plugger for Tin Pan Alley publishers, including Remick and Santley Brothers. He had his first songwriting success in 1938 with It’s the dreamer in me (in collaboration with Jimmy Dorsey) and wrote for the bandleader Eddie DeLange before teaming up with the lyricist Johnny Burke in 1939. Together Burke and Van Heusen wrote the songs for 16 of Bing Crosby’s best-known films, including Road to Morocco (1942) and others of the ‘Road to …’ series, and ...


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)...


William Brooks

(b Taunton, MA, March 20, 1829; d Boston, Jan 13, 1892). American composer and publisher. In 1868 he, W. Frank Smith and John F. Perry formed the publishing house of White, Smith & Perry; the next year they began to issue The Folio, an important monthly music periodical. After Perry withdrew in 1872 the firm became White-Smith & Co.; Smith died in 1891 and White became sole owner. White’s son and grandson managed the company until 1942, when its holdings were transferred to Edward H. Morris & Co. (which was absorbed in turn by MPL Communications in 1976).

The firm’s success was largely attributable to White’s over 1000 compositions. His greatest success, Marguerite (1883), sold over one million copies in eight years and was reissued as late as 1945. Though he dabbled in minstrelsy and comedy, White was best in serious genres: simple ‘home songs’ promoting motherhood, temperance, and other virtues (...


Nicholas E. Tawa

(b Philadelphia, May 11, 1827; d Philadelphia, Nov 22, 1902). American composer, teacher and publisher . His parents were Joseph Eastburn Winner, a violin maker, and Mary Ann Winner (née Hawthorne), a relative of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Largely self-educated in music, he played and taught several instruments. Around 1845 Winner became a music publisher and opened a music store with his brother Joseph. He was active in Philadelphia’s music circle and was a member of the Musical Fund Society, in whose orchestra he played for five years, the Cecillian Musical Society, and the Philadelphia Brass Band.

Winner wrote many simple and highly popular pieces, arrangements and instruction methods for different instruments. He is best known for his songs issued under the pseudonym Alice Hawthorne, which spawned the genre known as ‘Hawthorne Ballads’. Other pseudonyms were Percy Guyer, Mark Mason and Paul Stenton. Recognition came with How sweet are the roses...