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Edward Komara

[Little Miss Sharecropper; Bea Baker]

(b Chicago, IL, Nov 11, 1929; d New York, NY, March 10, 1997). American rhythm and blues singer. Research by Chip Deffaa suggests that references to her birth name as Dolores (or Delores) Williams may be in error. She was a niece of blues singer Merline Johnson and a distant relative of Memphis Minnie. As a teenager she sang in Chicago nightclubs. She performed and recorded for the National label as Little Miss Sharecropper, and as Bea Baker for Okeh. In 1953 she began an 11-year association with Atlantic Records, for which she sang the hit versions of “Tweedle Dee” (1955), “Bop-Ting-A-Ling” (1955), “Still” (1956), “Jim Dandy” (1956), and “I Cried A Tear” (1959). During the same period, rock-and-roll DJ Alan Freed featured her on his touring shows and in his movies.

After a stint with Brunswick Records (...


Dale Cockrell

(b Cleveland, OH, July 21, 1878; d Santa Ana, CA, May 3, 1927). American composer and singer. After studying music at the Cleveland Conservatory he went to New York, where he became a pianist in vaudeville theaters and a founding member of ASCAP. From 1907 to 1927 he was a staff pianist and composer at M. Witmark and Sons. His first success came with the ballad “Will you love me in December as you do in May?,” written in 1905 to lyrics by Jimmy Walker. Many of his most popular songs thereafter were composed for the Irish tenors John McCormack and Chauncey Olcott, with whom he also collaborated. Ball composed some 400 songs, including such standards as “Mother Machree” (1910), “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” (1913), and “A Little Bit of Heaven” (1914). Much of the last decade of his life was spent performing in vaudeville. His film biography, ...


Jonas Westover

(b Orange, TX, March 20, 1949). American blues singer and pianist. Ball began playing piano at age five, one in a long line of female pianists in her family. Her earliest influences were Tin Pan Alley songs, but as a young teenager she became interested in soul and blues music. Inspired by the music of Irma Thomas, Ball continued to play, attended Louisiana State University and performed with the blues/rock band, Gum. She decided to leave the area in 1970, but only made it as far as Austin, TX, where she put together a band named Freda and the Firedogs. Ball began songwriting in earnest around the same time, feeling a kindred spirit in the music of Professor Longhair. She was signed to Capitol Records in 1974, and launched her solo career with the album, Circuit Queen (1978). In the next two decades, she would release six records on Rounder Records while working on her personal sound, which has been described as a mix between “Texas stomp-rock” and “Louisiana swamp blues.” One of her most successful albums was ...


Randolph Love

[Kendricks, John Henry]

(b Detroit, MI, Nov 18, 1927; d Los Angeles, CA, March 2, 2003). American rhythm and blues singer and songwriter. He began his career with the Detroit-based group, the Royals. His first success came with the song “Work with me, Annie” (Federal, 1954), which was a hit on the R&B chart. By 1958 the Royals had changed their name to Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, reflecting the influence and success of Ballard as its lead singer and songwriter. By 1961, when Ballard left the group to perform under his own name, he had 22 singles on the R&B charts with three different labels, Federal, Vee-Jay, and King. Before his retirement in the early 1970s, two more of his songs were listed on the R&B charts.

Undoubtedly his best and most successful song was “The Twist” which he wrote in 1958. Dick Clark, when asked what he considered the most significant song in rock-and-roll history, said, “That’s easy; it was ‘The Twist’,” explaining that the song represented “the first time that parents and their kids could freely admit they liked rock and roll.” Although Ballard claimed that he always believed the song would be a hit—“just for the lyric ‘the twist’,”—it was Chubby Checker’s version that achieved the most success, reaching the top of the charts in ...


Barry Long

[Walker, William Vincent]

(b Mobile, AL, Sept 20, 1947; d Harlem, NY, April 11, 2011). American jazz violinist and composer. He moved with his mother to the Bronx as a young child and attended school in Harlem where he played the conga. Bang took up violin at the age of 12 and played it in his school orchestra. After studying with a scholarship at the Stockbridge School, MA (1961–3), he served a tour of combat duty in the Vietnam War and subsequently joined the anti-war movement. Bang was inspired to take up violin again by the records of Ornette Coleman and Leroy Jenkins. He purchased an instrument at a pawnshop in 1968 and was playing professionally by 1972 after studying with Jenkins and practicing with Eric Dolphy records. He was active in the New York avant-garde loft scene, leading the Survival Ensemble and playing with Sam Rivers and Frank Lowe, and in ...


Charles Fox and Digby Fairweather

(b Welwyn Garden City, April 17, 1930). English jazz trombonist, arranger and bandleader. He studied the trombone and the double bass at the GSM in London, and formed his first traditional jazz band in 1949. In 1953 he helped to organize a band that was led by Ken Colyer, at that time the most ardent British propagandist for traditional New Orleans music. The following year Barber took over the band; Colyer was replaced by Pat Halcox, and the ensemble soon became one of the most popular and technically accomplished groups of its kind. From the mid-1950s Barber helped foster British interest in blues by bringing over such American musicians as Muddy Waters, the harmonica player Sonny Terry and the guitarist and singer Brownie McGhee. He made several tours of the USA beginning in 1959, and also recorded two albums with his American Jazz Band, which included Sidney De Paris, Edmond Hall and Hank Duncan. Barber expanded his interests, recording classic rags (scored for his band) long before the popular rediscovery of Scott Joplin, and working with musicians from other areas of jazz (notably the Jamaican saxophonists Bertie King and Joe Harriott). Renewed interest in traditional jazz in the early 1960s brought wide success to Barber and his group, which included as its singer his wife, Ottilie Patterson. After rhythm-and-blues achieved general popularity in the early 1960s he re-formed his group as Chris Barber’s Jazz and Blues Band, and, while retaining his roots in New Orleans jazz, engaged rock and blues musicians guitarist John Slaughter and the drummer Pete York. During the 1970s the band toured frequently in Europe. In ...


Chadwick Jenkins

(b Lisle, IL, Nov 8, 1955). American singer, pianist, composer, and bandleader. Her father played with the Glenn Miller band and her mother was a professional blues singer. After studying psychology and classical piano at the University of Iowa, Barber returned to Chicago and began playing five nights a week at the Gold Star Sardine Bar, where she attracted varying critical attention for her husky voice and the inclusion of pop songs, including “Black Magic Woman” and “A Taste of Honey,” in her repertoire. She recorded her first album, Split (Floyd), in 1989 and her second album, A Distortion of Love (Antilles) in 1991. She subsequently moved to the independent label Premonition, which was bought by Blue Note in 1998. In 2003 Barber became the first songwriter to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Under its aegis she composed a song cycle based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses. She is the subject of a documentary, ...


John Stanislawski

(Robert Joseph)

(b Ironton, OH, April 7, 1935). American country music singer-songwriter. An eclectic artist known for his wit and storytelling abilities, he has blurred boundaries between country, pop, and folk, earning crossover success in each of these genres. In addition to his distinctive performing style, his associations and collaborations with and promotion of a diverse range of acclaimed songwriters have made him an icon of country music.

Raised on a farm in southern Ohio, Bare was performing with a local band in Springfield by his teenage years. After moving to Los Angeles in 1955, he signed with Capitol Records and later the small label Challenge. His first hit, “All American Boy” (Fraternity, 1958), was recorded under the name Bill Parsons who was credited as both the singer and writer. Although the song reached number two on the pop charts, Bare received neither credit nor royalties because of his previous contractual obligations....


Luca Cerchiari

[Daniel Moses]

(b New Orleans, LA, Jan 13, 1909; d New Orleans March 13, 1994). American guitarist, banjoist, singer, composer, and writer, husband of the singer Blue Lu Barker. His great-uncle Louis Arthidore was a clarinet virtuoso who played with the Onward Brass Band and his grandfather Isidore Barbarin played alto horn; on the latter’s advice he studied clarinet (with Barney Bigard) and ukulele, banjo, and guitar (with Bernard Addison). He also learned drums with Louis and Paul Barbarin. Barker performed professionally in the 1920s in Mississippi and Florida, before moving in 1930 to New York, where he played guitar in the groups of James P. Johnson, Albert Nicholas, Sidney Bechet, and Henry “Red” Allen and in the swing orchestras of Lucky Millinder, Benny Carter, and Cab Calloway. In the 1940s he switched to six-string banjo and took part in the dixieland revival. During the same period he worked with West Indian musicians and recorded for Spotlite with Sir Charles Thompson and Charlie Parker. Before returning to New Orleans in ...


Andrew Berish

[Charles Daly]

(b New York, NY, Oct 26, 1913; d San Diego, CA, Sept 4, 1991). American bandleader and tenor saxophonist. Born to a wealthy New York family, he began studying saxophone and immersing himself in New York’s jazz scene while in his early teens. He achieved commercial success as a bandleader, beginning in 1939 with the release of a hard-swinging version of Ray Noble’s “Cherokee” (1939, Bb). Subsequent recordings, including “Pompton Turnpike” (1940, Bb) and “Skyliner” (1944, Decca), confirmed his position as the leader of one of the era’s hottest swing bands.

At the height of its popularity, the Barnet Orchestra was frequently compared to the Duke Ellington band. Although the influence of Count Basie as well as Ellington is clear, Barnet’s group had a distinctive sound shaped by his easygoing direction, Andy Gibson’s and Billy May’s dynamic charts, and the band’s virtuosic soloists, notably guitarist Bus Etri, pianist Dodo Marmaroso, and trumpeter Peanuts Holland. Along with Benny Goodman, Barnet was an important force for interracial musical collaboration, and he invited such African American musicians as Benny Carter, Andy Gibson, Lena Horne, Holland, and Frankie Newton to play with and write for his band. Like Woody Herman and Stan Kenton, Barnet was open to the sounds of bebop and incorporated some of its musical practises into his orchestra’s performances. With the decline of the dance bands, however, Barnet was forced to disband his group in the late 1940s, although he reunited it several times during the next few decades. As well as tenor saxophone, he also occasionally played the soprano instrument....