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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

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

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 ...

Article

Susan Fast

(Wister )

(b Clarksdale, MI, Nov 5, 1931; d San Marcos, CA, Dec 12, 2007). American songwriter, guitarist, pianist, bandleader, talent scout, and record producer. He began playing piano as a boy in Clarksdale, forming the Kings of Rhythm while still in school. His musical education consisted of listening to music and playing with blues musicians such as B.B. King. Turner is often credited with writing and recording the first rock and roll record (according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), “Rocket 88,” although the track was released under the name of Jackie Brenston (a member of Turner’s band who sang and played sax on the record). Recorded in 1951 at Sam Phillips’s Sun Studios in Memphis, this uptempo R&B song provided a template for the rock and roll emerging later in the decade. The modified 12-bar blues form, boogie woogie bass line, percussive piano, guitar distortion, and rowdy sax solo became standard features of songs by Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and others....

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

Jonas Westover

[Mattern, David ]

(b Lancaster, PA, Aug 24, 1949). American dj, remixer, and producer. He began his career in music as a producer in the mid-1980s after a period working in the fashion industry. Immersed in the night life in New York, he was fascinated by the work of DJs and decided to try his hand, and he eventually secured a place at Club Bassline. Working alongside Shep Pettibone, he landed numerous high-profile opportunities to remix the music of such pop stars as Madonna and Janet Jackson. Vasquez then co-established his own club, the Sound Factory, which brought him wider exposure and more offers to remix music from major labels. The club closed in 1995, and Vasquez went to other venues, the most notable being the Twilo, where he spun records in a custom-designed booth. Throughout the 1990s he released several albums of remixes, including The Future Sound of New York...

Article

Lukas Pearse

Post-punk, folk-punk band. Formed in 1980 in Milwaukee Wisconsin, the trio featured Gordon Gano (b 1963; guitar, voice), Brian Ritchie (b 1960; bass guitar), and Victor De Lorenzo (b 1954; percussion). Guy Hoffmann replaced De Lorenzo from 1993 to 2002. The group broke up in 2009.

Inspired by punk rock, the Violent Femmes incorporated elements of folk, jazz, bluegrass, country, and rockabilly music into their minimal and frequently acoustic sound. Brian Ritchie often played acoustic bass guitar in a highly aggressive style that borrowed from both rockabilly upright acoustic bass and punk electric guitar, foreshadowing the “unplugged” style that 1990s rock bands would sometimes adopt. Both percussionists usually played only snare drum, tambourine, and crash cymbal. Gano’s songs, delivered with his distinctive nasal vocal delivery, frequently addressed themes of teenage alienation and desperation, marked by sexual frustration, drug use, and implicit violence. They also depicted innocence and naiveté, with later songs becoming increasingly spiritual and nostalgic. In performance, the band often included an ad hoc horn section, the Horns of Dilemma, including saxophonist Steve Mackay of the Stooges and local musical acquaintances or audience members, functioning as an improvised wall-of-sound background rather than as a traditional horn section....

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, ...

Article

Alyssa Woods

(Omari )

(b Atlanta, GA, June 8, 1977). American rapper, singer, and record producer. Kanye West burst onto the rap scene in 2004 with his debut album, The College Dropout, and has established himself as one of the industry’s most prominent artists. Immersed in the Chicago hip-hop scene, he learned to sample and program beats at the age of 15. While studying at Chicago State University, West began selling his beats to prominent rappers and decided to drop out of school to devote more time to his music career. West’s reputation as a producer was solidified by his work on Jay-Z’s album, The Blueprint (2001), where his sped up sample of the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back” on the song “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” helped launch the single to the Billboard Top 10. West adopted the technique of speeding up samples from the Wu Tang Clan’s RZA, making this his signature sound....

Article

Jonas Westover

(b Michigan, 1949). American composer, pianist, producer, and guitarist. He is best known for his evocative and introspective solo piano works. He often draws on nature for his picturesque titles, perhaps responding to his time in the Midwest and areas such as eastern Montana. He did not receive any formal training, but instead learned to play the organ by ear in 1967 by listening to records. In 1971, he turned to the piano, influenced by 1920s jazz and the stride piano style of Thomas “Fats” Waller and Teddy Wilson, among others. He studied music at Stetson University in Deland, Florida. The style he developed has been described by Winston as “rural folk piano,” and he was asked to record by John Fahey for Takoma Records in 1972. His first album, Ballads and Blues, did not receive much popular or critical acclaim, but it brought Winston to the attention of New Age guru William Ackerman in ...