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Colette Simonot

(McGarrigle )

(b Rhinebeck, NY, July 22, 1973). Canadian American singer-songwriter. The son of folksingers Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III, he spent his childhood in Montreal and attended high school at Millbrook School in New York. As a teenager, he performed with his mother and his aunt, Anna McGarrigle. His early musical influences include opera, Schubert lieder, Edith Piaf, Al Jolson, and Judy Garland. In 1989 he earned a Genie nomination for his song “I’m a-Runnin’,” performed in the film Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveller. Wainwright studied piano briefly at Concordia and McGill universities in Montreal, and during this period wrote primarily for voice and piano. Later compositions are packed with strings, horns, and operatic choruses. While in Montreal, he sang regularly at the Café Sarajevo. After a brief stint in New York, he relocated to Los Angeles, where he recorded his critically acclaimed debut, Rufus Wainwright (...


Don Cusic

revised by Travis D. Stimeling

[Crosby, Ronald Clyde ]

(b Oneonta, NY, March 16, 1942). American folk and country singer, guitarist, and songwriter. A high-school dropout, he traveled around the United States playing banjo, guitar, and other instruments and singing a repertory consisting principally of songs by Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and Jimmie Rodgers. By the early 1960s, he was performing at Greenwich Village folk clubs and on college campuses across the country, finding particular success among Texan audiences in Houston, Dallas–Fort Worth, and Austin. In 1966, while in Austin, he met Bob Bruno, with whom he formed the folk-rock band Circus Maximus; it recorded an album for Vanguard in 1967.

Around the same time, Walker also earned success as a songwriter, notably with “Mr. Bojangles” (1968), a hit for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1971. Also in 1971, Walker relocated to Texas, where he became a luminary in Austin’s emerging progressive country music scene. In ...


Alyn Shipton and Bill Dobbins

[Thomas Wright]

(b New York, May 21, 1904; d Kansas City, MO, Dec 15, 1943). American jazz and popular pianist, organist, singer, bandleader and composer.

Alyn Shipton

His father Edward Waller, a Baptist lay preacher, conducted open air religious services in Harlem, at which as a child Fats Waller played the reed organ. He played the piano at his public school and at the age of 15 became organist at the Lincoln Theatre on 135th Street. His father hoped that Waller would follow a religious calling rather than a career in jazz, but after the death of his mother, Adeline Waller, in 1920 he moved in with the family of the fellow African American pianist Russell Brooks. Through Brooks, Waller met James P. Johnson, under whose tutelage he developed as a pianist, and through whose influence he came to make piano rolls, starting in 1922 with Got to cool my doggies now...


Keith Waters

(Anthony )

(b Dallas, TX, Jan 17, 1934; d Brooklyn, NY, Aug 19, 2013). American jazz pianist and composer. He studied piano with his mother and later studied music at the University of Denver (1951–4). After moving to New York in 1955, he was drafted into the army. While stationed in Germany, he played with Don Ellis and Eddie Harris. From 1961–5, he played and recorded extensively with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, a group that included Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, and Curtis Fuller, providing Walton with a significant formative experience. He later accompanied singer Abbey Lincoln and worked with trumpeter Lee Morgan. As house pianist for Prestige Records (1967–9), Walton recorded albums under his own name as well as with numerous other jazz artists. In the mid-1960s Walton led a hard bop quartet that included bassist Sam Jones, drummer Billy Higgins, and a saxophonist (including Clifford Jordan, George Coleman, or Bob Berg). This quartet recorded under the name Eastern Rebellion beginning in ...


William H. Tallmadge

(b Santa Cruz, CA, Dec 19, 1911; d Santa Rosa, CA, Nov 5, 1989). American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. In 1938 he founded a swing band in Oakland from which, in 1940, he extracted a small unit, the Yerba Buena Jazz Band, to revive the New Orleans small-band style of King Oliver. Although other small dixieland bands existed at this time, notably Muggsy Spanier’s and Bob Crosby’s, the sense of alleged authenticity projected by Watters’s group set it apart and stimulated a large-scale revival of New Orleans and Chicago jazz throughout the world. Of the many revivalist bands formed during this period, two of the most successful were led by former sidemen in Watters’s group, the trumpeter Bob Scobey and the trombonist Turk Murphy. Watters retired from professional music activities in 1957.

M.W. Stearns: The Story of Jazz (New York, 1956, London, 1957, rev. and enlarged 1970/R)...


Bill C. Malone

revised by Stephanie Vander Wel

[Deason, Muriel Ellen ]

(b Nashville, TN, Aug 30, 1919; d Madison, TN, July 16, 2012). American country music singer-songwriter. Deemed the first “Queen of Country Music,” Wells started her radio career on Nashville’s WSIX as a member of the Deason Sisters in 1936 and then with her husband Johnny Wright and sister-in-law in Johnny Wright and the Harmony Girls in 1937. Adopting the stage name Kitty Wells from a well-known song in 1943, she performed at times as a soloist but more often as part of Wright and partner Jack Anglin’s group, Johnny and Jack, on various radio stations, namely Shreveport, Louisiana, station KWKH’s Louisiana Hayride (1948–1952).

Wells’s first recordings were with RCA, but she became the first woman to rise to the top of Billboard’s country charts when, in 1952, she recorded J.D. Miller’s “It wasn’t God who made honky-tonk angels” for Decca. Released as a response to Hank Thompson’s recording of “Wild Side of Life” (Capitol, ...


Charles Fox

revised by Digby Fairweather

[Michael John David ]

(b High Wycombe, March 21, 1936). English jazz composer, pianist and bandleader . After working in an accountant’s office and studying painting he took up music professionally; he was largely self-taught and has an empirical approach to composition. Around 1960 he organized a jazz workshop in Plymouth, where he wrote for a small ensemble that included John Surman, then in 1962 he moved to London. From that time he has written pieces for a number of his own ensembles: the Mike Westbrook Band (1962–72), the Mike Westbrook Concert Band (1967–71), the multi-media group Cosmic Circus (1970–72), the jazz-rock band Solid Gold Cadillac (1971–4), the Mike Westbrook Brass Band (established in 1973 to perform in the theatre and on television), the Mike Westbrook Orchestra (formed in 1974), A Little Westbrook Music (formed in 1982) and the Dance Band (formed in ...


Ryan D.W. Bruce

[Randolph Edward ]

(b Brooklyn, NY, April 6, 1926). American jazz pianist, bandleader, composer, and club owner. Weston did not identify with his classical music lessons as a youth, choosing instead to explore a percussive piano style under the influence of Duke Ellington. Other early influences include Count Basie, Nat “King” Cole, Art Tatum, and Coleman Hawkins. Weston’s playing was transformed after attending a concert by Hawkins and Thelonious Monk in 1945: Monk became Weston’s mentor from 1947–9, and inspired his heavy attack and improvisatory rhythmic displacements. He was hired by Marshall Stearns in 1949 to provide demonstrations of different jazz styles for university lectures given throughout the United States; their work lasted eight summers and fostered Weston’s interest in African music.

Beginning with his debut in 1954, his early recordings acquired critical recognition and included band members such as Art Blakey, Cecil Payne, Ahmed Abdul-Malik, and Coleman Hawkins. Some of his compositions of the time, especially “Little Niles” and “Hi-Fly,” gained popularity and have been recorded by many others. Weston also worked with arranger ...


Olivia Carter Mather

(b Lake Charles, LA, Jan 26, 1953). American singer-songwriter and guitarist. Williams’s Americana style draws upon blues, country, folk, rock, gospel, and Cajun music. Born in Lake Charles, she spent her childhood in southern US college towns and in Latin America, and her lyrics reveal intimate knowledge of Southern small-town life. Other common themes include erotic love, failed romance, and death.

After a short period as a folksinger New York City, Williams moved to Texas and joined the singer/songwriter scenes in Houston and Austin in the early 1970s. Her first album, Ramblin’ (1979), recorded for Smithsonian Folkways, was devoted to blues and country covers accompanied only by acoustic guitars. Williams increasingly adopted a rock and electric blues aesthetic as her career progressed. She began to receive critical attention for her recordings in the 1980s, but her first commercial successes came as a songwriter. “Passionate Kisses” was a top five country hit for Mary Chapin Carpenter; other artists who covered her songs were Patty Loveless, Emmylou Harris, and Tom Petty....


Gillian Turnbull

(b Deadwood, SD, 1947). American singer and songwriter. Born in South Dakota, Williamson was raised in Colorado and Wyoming. At age 16 she released her first album, The Artistry of Cris Williamson, followed closely by A Step at a Time and The World around Cris Williamson; these albums were largely in the vein of her folk revival influences such as Judy Collins. After completing a degree at the University of Denver, Williamson went on to cofound Olivia Records in 1973, a female-run record label dedicated to releasing Women’s music [womyn’s music], a loosely defined genre of music created for and by women. Her album The Changer and the Changed (1975), considered to be the first of the women’s music genre, became one of the highest-selling albums on an independent label. Stylistically, Williamson tends towards acoustic folk and folk-rock, privileging her lyrics and strong vocals. She has experimented with other genres, notably country (on ...