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Mark C. Samples


(b Staten Island, NY, Jan 9, 1941). American folk singer, songwriter, and activist. She was born to a Mexican father and Scottish mother. A self-taught singer and guitarist she began performing informally for classmates as a way to make friends. She became enthralled with folk music as a high school student in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her polished soprano voice and deft finger-picking style gained her local attention, and a guest performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1959 was her first major professional success. After a short time attending Boston University Baez left to pursue her music career, which proceeded rapidly. She released six successful albums with Vanguard Records in the first half of the 1960s and toured widely. Her repertoire in these years consisted principally of traditional songs, but subsequently included new folk songs written by such contemporaries as Phil Ochs (“There but for Fortune”) and Bob Dylan (“It ain’t me babe” and “Farewell, Angelina”). Dylan’s songs became a staple for Baez, and the two had a high-profile but short romance. Baez was a bona fide folk star and used her celebrity to advocate for civil rights and protest against the Vietnam War. She was married to the anti-war activist David Harris from ...


Charles E. Kinzer

[William C.]

(b Memphis, TN, July 19, 1902; d New York, NY, April 12, 1967). American jazz clarinetist. As a teenager he played in W.C. Handy’s orchestra, and in 1919 he moved to Chicago, where he studied with Franz Schoepp and performed and recorded with Erskine Tate, Mamie Smith, and King Oliver. In 1924 he moved to New York to join Fletcher Henderson’s group, in which he worked until 1929 and then again in the mid-1930s. Bailey’s technical facility earned him a role as a soloist on several of Henderson’s notable recordings. He also played with Noble Sissle (early 1930s) and the Mills Blue Rhythm Band (1934–5). In 1934 he made the first of many recordings alongside Henry “Red” Allen, in both the Henderson and Mills orchestras. In 1937 Bailey joined a group that soon took shape as John Kirby’s sextet. His classical training served him well in this “chamber jazz” setting, as the group favored intricate arrangements and precise ensemble coordination. He recorded frequently with Kirby and remained with the group until ...


David C. Morton

(b Smith County, TN, Dec 14, 1899; d Nashville, TN, July 2, 1982). American country-blues harmonica player. He was one of the early stars of the radio show “Grand Ole Opry.” He began playing the harmonica at age three when he was bedridden with polio and made his first radio performance on the Nashville radio station WDAD in September 1925. Thanks to Dr. Humphrey Bate, Bailey soon began performing on WSM’s show “Barn Dance.” George D. Hay called him the Harmonica Wizard and credited him with inspiring the naming of the “Grand Ole Opry.” In 1928 Bailey recorded eight tunes for Victor Records in the first recording session in Nashville. Except for a brief time when he lived in Knoxville and played on WNOX radio, he performed on WSM every Saturday night from 1926 until 1941. He was included in many WSM touring groups during the 1930s. Uncle Dave Macon, the Delmore Brothers, Roy Acuff, and Bill Monroe, among others, wanted him on the tour because of his strong draw with the audience of the “Grand Ole Opry.” As an African American performer, Bailey encountered difficulties on the road involving lodging and food, but received an enthusiastic reception from white audiences. He left the Opry in ...


Tina Spencer Dreisbach

(b Tekoa, WA, Feb 27, 1903; d Poughkeepsie, NY, Dec 12, 1951). American jazz singer of Coeur d’Alene heritage. In her youth she was influenced by tribal song, vaudeville, and blues. She sang in West Coast speakeasies until she was introduced to Paul Whiteman by her brother Al Rinker and his friend Bing Crosby. Hired by Whiteman in 1929, Bailey became the first significant female big band vocalist. In the 1930s and 40s she made more than 200 recordings with some of the top jazz musicians of the time. She also toured with her husband, the xylophone player Red Norvo (1936–8). Although they never achieved great commercial success, their subtle swing was widely admired in jazz circles, and his delicate mallet work complemented her clear, sweet tone and refined phrasing, pitch, and diction. They worked closely with the classically trained arranger Eddie Sauter and the composers Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer, Willard Robison, and Alec Wilder. The influence of the Bailey–Norvo partnership resonated widely: in ...


Arnold Shaw


(b Newport News, VA, March 29, 1918; d Philadelphia, PA, Aug 17, 1990). American jazz and popular singer. She sang with Noble Sissle’s band in the mid-1930s and with Cootie Williams and Count Basie in the early 1940s. She made her solo debut in New York at the Village Vanguard in 1941. By the middle of the decade, she was working with Cab Calloway and his band, with whom she developed a comical, offhand style of performance, which included a patter of droll asides. She made her Broadway debut in Harold Arlen’s musical St. Louis Woman (1946), for which she won a Donaldson Award. She later starred in Arlen’s House of Flowers (1954) and in an African American version of Jerry Herman’s Hello, Dolly! (1967), which earned her a Special Tony Award (1968). Among her film roles, Bailey is best remembered for her appearances in ...


Jonas Westover

(b Toledo, OH, Jan 26, 1958). American R&B singer and songwriter. After moving to Detroit and achieving some success with the group Chapter 8, she began her own career with the album The Songstress (1983). Although she only found moderate success at first, her second album, Rapture (1985–86), contained several hits that rocketed her to stardom on both the R&B and pop music charts, especially the song “Sweet Love,” which she co-wrote with Gary Bias and Louis Johnson. Baker remained a fixture on the charts throughout the 1980s and early 90s with such songs as “Giving you the Best that I Got” (from Giving you the Best that I Got, 1988), for which she is best known. By 2010 Baker had won eight Grammy awards and four of her albums had reached platinum status. Using her exceptional range and powerful voice, she has mixed soul, gospel, and R&B in an adult contemporary style, which some critics have called romantic soul. She has toured extensively, especially during the early 1990s and the mid-2000s. In ...


J. Bradford Robinson

[Chesney Henry ]

J. Bradford Robinson

(b Yale, OK, Dec 23, 1929; d Amsterdam, May 13, 1988). American jazz trumpeter and singer. He first encountered jazz while playing in army bands, and by the time of his discharge in 1951 his distinctive, reticent style was fully developed. In 1952 he played briefly with Charlie Parker before beginning an important association with Gerry Mulligan in the latter’s celebrated ‘pianoless’ quartet. His performances with the group, particularly his ballad rendition of My Funny Valentine (1952, Fan.), brought him instant fame; his clear tone and subdued, lyrical manner – he rarely played louder than mezzo-forte and sometimes restricted his melodic span to less than an octave – immediately became hallmarks of West Coast cool jazz, and were widely imitated. After leaving Mulligan in 1953 Baker rejoined Parker briefly and then led his own groups. He continued to dominate domestic and international jazz opinion polls for the next few years. Thereafter, owing largely to the effects of drug addiction, his career became erratic, being interrupted at one point by a prison sentence in Italy for drug-related offences (...


Lars Helgert


(b Caldwell County, NC, March 31, 1913; d Sept 23, 2006, Fairfax, VA). American guitarist and banjoist. She began guitar studies with her father, Boone Reid, at the age of three. Baker, who specialized in the Piedmont blues style, was known only in her home region of North Carolina until she was discovered by the folksinger Paul Clayton, who made a recording of her that appeared as part of the 1956 release Instrumental Music of the Southern Appalachians. Although this recording brought Baker considerable attention, she initially declined to pursue music professionally, opting in favor of family life and her job at a local textile company. Her career as a professional musician began in the 1970s, after her husband Lee Baker had died and her children had grown to adulthood. Baker and several of her family members recorded the album Music From the Hills of Caldwell County, which was released in ...


(b St. Louis, MO, June 3, 1906; d Paris, France, April 12, 1975). American dancer and singer, naturalized French. She started out dancing on the streets of St. Louis with the Jones Family Band, a vaudeville troupe. After touring the South with the Dixie Steppers, she gained attention in the touring company of Shuffle Along (1921), the most important African American show of the decade. A member of the female dancing chorus, Baker stood out by making faces and embellishing dance moves, mixing comedy with the erotic persona of the black chorus girl. After appearing on Broadway in The Chocolate Dandies (1924) as That Comedy Chorus Girl, Baker travelled to Paris with La revue nègre (1925), a nightclub revue that introduced the new black performance styles of Broadway to French audiences. Her pas de deux “Danse Sauvage,” which she performed with her partner Joe Alex, introduced an explicit eroticism and exuberant physicality which marked Baker’s initial renown. Famously appearing at times with little more than a string of bananas around her waist, she made an impact on French popular culture that was immediate and enduring....


Ronnie Pugh

revised by Kevin Kehrberg

[Kenneth Clayton]

(b Burdine, KY, June 26, 1926; d Gallatin, TN, July 8, 2011). American fiddler. His artistry spanned multiple styles, but his extensive career in bluegrass and long association with Bill Monroe led to his reputation as America’s quintessential bluegrass fiddler. Although he came from generations of old-time fiddle players, he played mostly guitar as a youth, accompanying his father’s fiddle playing at local dances. During naval service in World War II he began playing fiddle for troop events and decided to concentrate on the instrument. In addition to country fiddlers, Baker listened to the jazz and swing styles of Stephane Grappelli, Bob Wills, and Marion Sumner.

For years Baker worked in eastern Kentucky’s coalmines with interruptions to play professionally. From 1953 to 1957 he played with Don Gibson. In the late 1950s he started performing periodically as a member of Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys; this collaboration led to a now-historic stint that lasted from ...