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Douglas B. Green

[Sly, Leonard Franklin; Slye, Len]

(b Cincinnati, OH, Nov 5, 1911; d Apple Valley, CA, July 6, 1998). American singing cowboy, actor, and guitarist. Known as “the King of the Cowboys,” Sly grew up in a series of hardscrabble towns along the Ohio River until his family packed their belongings in an old Dodge sedan and headed for California in mid-1930. There, his strong rhythm guitar work, sweet voice, and outstanding yodeling ability quickly placed him in demand in the southern California music scene. He was the sparkplug in the formation of the Sons of the Pioneers, cajoling Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer to form what quickly became the top western singing group of their day. He also had ambitions beyond the group, auditioning for the spot as Universal’s new singing cowboy. He was passed over in favor of Bob Baker; Baker’s series fizzled, and Len Slye, adding an “e” to his name, was available when Republic needed a new singing cowboy to replace Gene Autry, who had walked out on strike. Len Slye quickly became Roy Rogers and was thrust headlong into a film written for Autry called ...


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 ...


Barbara Chmara-Żackiewicz

(b Pińczów, nr Kielce, May 16, 1771; d Warsaw, Oct 30, 1849). Polish bass, actor and cellist. He studied at W. Sierakowski's school for singers in Kraków, and made his theatre début in the same city in 1787. From 1788 to 1792 he performed on stage with the renowned company of Wojciech Bogusławski in Dubno, Lublin, and again in Kraków. On 14 April 1793 he sang for the first time at the National Theatre in Warsaw, and on 1 March 1794 he sang in the world première of Jan Stefani's Cud mniemany (‘The Supposed Miracle’). He took a permanent position at the National Theatre (later the Teatr Wielki), Warsaw, and sang there (except for a short break during the 1806–7 season) until 1839. With this theatre company he also gave guest performances in other Polish cities, including Kalisz (from 1801), Poznań (from 1808), Białystok (1808...


Patrick Huber

[James Gideon ]

(b Thomas Bridge, near Monroe, GA, June 6, 1885; d Dacula, GA, May 13, 1960). American fiddler, singer, comedian, and hillbilly string band leader. He was a well-known entertainer in north Georgia during the early 20th century, famous for his outrageous comic antics, old-time fiddling, and trick singing. He competed regularly at Atlanta’s annual Georgia Old-Time Fiddlers’ Association conventions and won the state fiddling championship in 1928. In 1924, Columbia A&R man Frank B. Walker recruited Tanner and his sometime musical partner, the blind Atlanta street singer and guitarist Riley Puckett, to make some of the earliest recordings of what soon came to be called hillbilly music.

In 1926, Walker assembled a studio group around Tanner called the Skillet Lickers, whose other regular members consisted of guitarist and lead singer Puckett, fiddler Clayton McMichen, and banjoist Fate Norris. The band’s first release, “Bully of the Town”/ “Pass around the Bottle and We’ll all Take a Drink,” recorded in ...


Roger T. Dean

(b Melbourne, Australia, Oct 12, 1936). Australian double bass player, composer, and performance artist. In his late adolescence and early twenties, when he was devoted to American jazz and its culture, he played with such hard-bop stalwarts as Stewie Speers and with Keith Hounslow. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he pursued parallel careers as an artist (particularly as a sculptor) and a jazz double bass player, working mainly in Melbourne. Having stopped making sculpture in 1969, he was active in the 1970s in free jazz, particularly with Brian Brown, exploring signal processing of the double bass, as well as extended acoustic techniques on the instrument. With his partner, Dur-é Dara, he formed Connections in 1975. Soon afterwards he ceased playing and focused instead on analogue electronics and his “art” ensemble False Start, which merged and saw no division among music, theatre, art, and performance. The ensemble produced a series of “events” until ...


Deane L. Root

[Hubert Prior]

(b Island Pond, VT, July 28, 1901; d North Hollywood, CA, July 3, 1986). American bandleader, singer, saxophonist, actor and publisher. From 1918 he learnt the saxophone and played in a theatre orchestra in Portland, Maine, then attended the University of Maine (1921) and Yale University (to 1927). In 1928 he formed his own band, the Connecticut Yankees; he made his début as a singer in George White’s Scandals (1931), and appeared in Broadway musicals, television and over 20 films, mostly as a musician or comic actor. During the 1930s and 1940s, with his salutation ‘Heigh-ho, everybody!’, he was one of the most successful American bandleaders and singers, among the first crooners to inspire mass hysteria in his audience. With his thin, nasal voice and using a megaphone – later a microphone – he popularized the Maine Stein Song, the Yale Whiffenpoof Song, his own ...


Jonas Westover

[Castelluccio, Francis Stephen ]

(b Newark, NJ, May 3, 1934). American singer, actor, and bass player. He is best known for his distinctive falsetto voice, which he showcased as a solo artist and as the front man for the group Four Seasons, the. Beginning to sing as a young child, Valli began to work with a mentor, Jean Valley, from whom he adopted his stage name. His career began in earnest in 1951, when he became a fourth member of the Variety Trio, playing locally in New Jersey. Valli transitioned from one band to the next until the formation of the Four Lovers, which recorded “You’re the apple of my eye” in 1956. In 1960 the group transformed, with some personnel changes, into the Four Seasons. Valli performed as its lead singer throughout the 1960s. He also recorded as a solo singer, finding success with “The sun ain’t gonna shine (anymore)” (...