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Jonas Westover

[Westover, Charles Weedon ]

(b Grand Rapids, MI, Dec 30, 1934; d Santa Clarita, CA, Feb 8, 1990). American singer, songwriter, and producer. Growing up, he learned to play ukulele and guitar while immersing himself in country-and-western music. Throughout the second half of the 1950s, he played in a variety of bands while in the military and also in Michigan. He used several different names during his time as a performer, but finally settled on “Del Shannon” in 1960. In the same year Shannon and his fellow musician, Max Crook, were signed to Bigtop Records in New York. The two wrote and recorded the rock and roll hit “Runaway” in 1961, with the single reaching number one on the Billboard chart. In the following two years Shannon wrote and performed several other successful singles, including “So long, baby,” “Hats off to Larry,” and “Little Town Flirt.” His 1963 cover of “From Me to You” was one of the first American covers of a Beatles song. After moving to Amy Records in ...

Article

Stephanie Conn

[Issa ]

(b Toronto, ON, Oct 12, 1955). Canadian singer, songwriter, composer, and producer. Growing up in Toronto, Siberry took piano and French horn lessons, and taught herself guitar. While studying microbiology at the University of Guelph, Ontario (BSc 1980), she began to waitress and perform at local cafes. In 1981, Siberry released her self-titled debut album; this was followed by No Borders Here (1984), distributed in the United States by A&M. Siberry is respected as a gifted singer and songwriter. She has cited Van Morrison and Miles Davis as influences, but also draws on gospel, new-wave, and classical styles. Her third album, The Speckless Sky (1985) reached gold-record status in Canada and confirmed her reputation as a major recording artist. Warner records released her fourth album, The Walking (1987), which earned critical if not popular success with its longer, more complex compositions. Siberry launched her own record label, Sheeba, in ...

Article

Bertil H. van Boer

(b Stockholm, Sept 25, 1752; d Stockholm, Aug 1, 1813). Swedish singer, composer, translator and impresario. The son of the actor and director of the Swedish Comedy, Petter Stenborg, he grew up in the household of Count Adam Horn, who underwrote his education at Uppsala University. At the age of 14 he made his début in the public concerts of Stockholm and thereafter began to study composition with Ferdinand Zellbell (ii). In 1767 he was appointed to a government post, which he held while simultaneously performing with his father’s company. He achieved an instant success as Sweden’s leading tenor in the title role of the first Swedish opera, Uttini’s Thetis och Pelée on 18 January 1773. In 1782 he was appointed court secretary and the following year was elected to the Swedish Royal Academy of Music, where he taught for the next two decades.

In 1780 he took over the leadership of the Swedish Comedy and received permission from Gustavus III to stage comic operas and plays at a new theatre in Eriksberg (and later at the Munkbro Theatre), which competed with the Royal Opera for public support. Here he produced native works, translations of French and German comic operas and parodies by C.I. Hallman, O. Kexél and Carl Envallsson, which were set to music by J.C.F. Haeffner, J.D. Zander, J.F. Grenser and himself. From ...

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

Howard Rye and Alyn Shipton

[Calhoun, Charles E. [Chuck]]

(b Atchison, KS, Nov 16, 1901; d Altamonte Springs, FL, April 1, 1999). American bandleader, singer, pianist, arranger, and record producer. He was brought up in St. Joseph and Kansas City, Missouri, and began his professional career at the age of five as a singer and dancer in a traveling variety act with his parents, who gave him a formal musical education. Having played piano in a trio with the saxophonist Theodore Thyus, he formed his first band, the Blues Serenaders, in 1918, initially a quartet of piano, drums, violin and cello, though it later developed into a larger ensemble with woodwind and brass; Coleman Hawkins played cello and later C-melody saxophone with the band. Stone directed, played piano, and arranged music for the group, which performed a variety act in the St. Joseph area that involved dancing and conjuring tricks; with the help of the agent Frank Rock, he established an early network of venues for touring appearances, and in the early 1920s he pioneered jazz radio broadcasting in St. Joseph. He continued to lead the Blues Serenaders until ...

Article

David Sanjek

(b New Orleans, LA, Jan 14, 1938). American songwriter, producer, arranger, pianist, and singer. It would be difficult to imagine what the repertoire of contemporary New Orleans–based popular music would be, were it not for the prolific pen of songwriter Allen Toussaint. He has been responsible for the writing, and in many cases the production, of any number of the city’s best-known and best-loved songs, including “Mother-in-Law” (Ernie K-Doe), “Fortune Teller” (Bennie Spellman), “Working in the Coalmine” (Lee Dorsey), and “Ruler of my Heart” (Irma Thomas). Born in the Gert Town neighborhood of New Orleans, Toussaint received his initial professional break at the age of 17 when he filled in for Huey “Piano” Smith in a performance by Earl King’s band. He soon thereafter recorded an album of instruments under the pseudonym Al Tousan, which included the popular “Java,” re-recorded by Al Hirt. Initially, Toussaint established a professional relationship with local entrepreneur Joe Banashak and wrote numerous songs for his Minit and Instant labels. After those concerns broke up, he formed a firm variously known as Tou-Sea, Sansu, Deesu, or Sansu along with Marshall Sehorn. They also co-founded the Sea-Saint recording studio in ...

Article

David Johnson

(b Milan, 1749; d Dublin, 1816). Italian singer, composer and impresario. He is said to have obtained a MusD from the University of Milan; he then went to London with his countryman Rontzini in search of work, spent unspecified years there and in Dublin, appeared singing Scottish songs at concerts in Glasgow between 1781 and 1784, and settled in Edinburgh in 1784.

In Edinburgh he sang at the Musical Society concerts in St Cecilia's Hall and published six volumes of Scottish songs, including original songs of his own; he ran a music shop and publishing house with Edward Liston at 10 Princes Street from 1795, wrote a singing instruction manual, and lost a lot of money mounting Handel's oratorios. Around 1808 he returned to Dublin, destitute, and died there in 1816. Two operas by him were performed in Dublin during the 1784–5 season, but many of his compositions seem to be lost....

Article

Andrew Flory

(Ronzoni )

(b New York, NY, April 20, 1951; d Edison, NJ, July 1, 2005). American rhythm-and-blues and pop singer, songwriter, and record producer. He was one of the most instantly recognizable African American male vocalists of the 1980s, often performing in a virtuosic style that was at once melismatic, improvisational, and precise. He began his career as a behind-the-scenes songwriter and vocalist, singing on commercial jingles, writing and collaborating on songs for other recording artists, and performing live and recorded background vocals. As backing vocalist he appeared widely, including on David Bowie’s “Young Americans” (1975), Chic’s C’est Chic (1978), Sister Sledge’s We Are Family (1979), and Roberta Flack’s Roberta Flack Featuring Donny Hathaway (1980). Vandross signed to Atlantic’s Cotillion label in the mid-1970s and released two unsuccessful albums with a self-titled group call Luther. He also worked as a vocalist with the disco-oriented band Change on several singles released during the early 1980s....

Article

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, ...