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Jeffery Wanser

Close-harmony vocal group active between 1906 and 1928. It was among the most prominent and best-selling close-harmony vocal groups of the acoustic era, recording hundreds of songs for many record labels including Columbia, Victor, and Edison. Formed from members of the Columbia and Invincible quartets, the original group consisted of Frank Stanley (leader), Henry Burr, Albert Campbell, and Steve Porter. The name “Peerless” was adopted so that they could record for other record labels, although they continued to appear as the Columbia Quartet on the Columbia label until 1912. Early hits included “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” and “Let me call you sweetheart.” Sometimes using other names, they also recorded comic sketches and minstrel songs.

In 1910 Stanley died and Burr took over as leader and manager for the remainder of the group’s existence. In the years before and during World War I they recorded “I didn’t raise my son to be a soldier” (...

Article

Jessica L. Brown

(b Springfield, MA, April 15, 1965). American Singer, songwriter, and producer. She was raised in a musical household, which exposed her to a wide variety of music. In 1989, while performing in a variety of small venues in San Francisco’s Bay Area, she was recruited into the band 4 Non Blondes as lead singer. The band released their debut album, Bigger, Better, Faster, More! (Interscope, 1992); it contained the group’s biggest hit, “What’s going on?,” which was written by Perry and brought the band’s pop-rock sound and Perry’s powerful voice to mainstream audiences. Perry has identified herself as a lesbian, and during the Billboard Music Awards in 1994 she attracted attention by performing with the word “dyke” on her guitar. Before 4 Non Blondes could complete a second album, Perry left the band to pursue a solo career. In 1996 she released In Flight to critical praise but poor commercial sales. In ...

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

Rob Jovanovic

America’s most obscure art rock band, probably formed in Louisiana before moving to California. Band members identities have been kept hidden or listed simply as John Crawfish, Paul Crawfish, George Crawfish, and Ringo Starfish. An initial series of home demos were also willfully obscure and secretive so when the band sent the tape to Warner Brothers it was returned to the unspecified owners simply as “the residents.” Taking this moniker as their band’s name, the collective then set up their own Ralph Records label in San Francisco which released the debut album Meet the Residents on 1 April 1974. The cover and title were parodies of the album Meet the Beatles and included 11 original tracks alongside a cover of Lee Hazlewood’s “Boots.” While this avant-garde set was hard to categorize it often drew distant comparisons to the Mothers of Invention. Over the four decades since, the band has issued an album roughly every year, with intriguing titles such as ...

Article

Mike Alleyne

(b New York, NY, Sept 19, 1952). American producer, composer, and guitarist. At the helm of the band Chic , Rodgers and his bass-playing production partner Bernard Edwards (1952–96) epitomized the very best of the disco era while transcending the genre with one of popular music’s most dynamic and cohesive rhythm sections. Individually with highly distinctive guitar licks, Rodgers also successfully transitioned into the 1980s, producing platinum pop records for David Bowie, Madonna, Duran Duran, and many other major acts. This effectively made him one of that decade’s most highly regarded and commercially bankable industry figures.

Rodgers and Edwards met in 1970, becoming members of the Big Apple Band that backed R&B vocal group New York City in 1973, and eventually formed Chic in 1977, releasing an eponymous debut album that year on Atlantic Records that included the Top Ten hit and gold record “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah).” The follow-up album ...

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Rob Bowman

[Diane Ernestine ]

(b Detroit, March 26, 1944). American pop singer . She initially came to fame as the lead singer of the Supremes, who were signed to the Motown record label in 1961. Beginning in 1963 with When the Lovelight Starts Shining, the group had a series of 28 singles in the American pop charts, 12 of which reached the number one position, including Where did our love go?, Baby Love, Stop! In the name of love, You can’t hurry love, You keep me hangin’ on, Love Child and Someday we’ll be together. In 1967 the group’s name was changed to Diana Ross and the Supremes, paving the way for her subsequent solo career, begun in 1970.

She was highly successful as a soloist, and placed 20 singles on the American rhythm and blues and pop music charts. Five of these reached the number one position in the pop charts: Ain’t no mountain high enough...

Article

Jonas Westover

(Harry )

(b Upper Darby, PA, June 22, 1948). American singer-songwriter, composer, and producer. He began his career as a teenager singing with the bands Woody’s Truck Stop and the more successful rock quartet Nazz. As a member of the latter group, he wrote two of their hit songs, “Hello, it’s me” and “Open your Eyes” (both 1968). After releasing three albums with Nazz, Rundgren left the group and worked as a solo artist, recording most of the vocal and instrumental parts himself. He cited the songwriter Laura Nyro as a significant influence. During the early 1970s Rundgren worked with a trio, Runt, recording two albums, the second entitled Runt: the Ballad of Todd Rundgren (1971), and his own two-record set, Something/Anything? (1972). The latter album brought him unprecedented fame through the singles “I Saw the Light” and a new version of “Hello, it’s me.” The recordings ...

Article

Jonas Westover

[Bridges, Claude Russell]

(b Lawton, OK, April 2, 1942; d Nashville, Nov 10, 2016). American singer, songwriter, keyboard player, and producer. He is well respected for his solo work—a mix of rock, folk, and country music—but his work as a session musician also brought significant recognition. He began playing piano at the age of four and was playing in clubs in Tulsa as a high school student. His band, the Starlighters, managed to score a spot as the opening act for Jerry Lee Lewis in 1959. Russell moved to Los Angeles the same year and quickly established himself as a session musician, notably with the Wrecking Crew the group of musicians Phil Spector used to accompany his artists. With the Wrecking Crew, the accompanied artists such as the Byrds, Herb Alpert, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys. The keyboard player on hundreds of recordings, he opened his own recording studio in ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...