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Article

Alan Lewis

Mixed troupe of popular vocalists and bell ringers. Organized at New York City in 1846 and billed early as the “Alleghanians, or American Singers,” the group, usually a quartet, toured widely from 1847. Members at that time included James M. Boulard (bass), Richard Dunning (tenor), Carrie Hiffert (contralto), and William H. Oakley (alto). From the start, comparisons to the Rainer and Hutchinson family troupes were common. Miriam G. Goodenow, a young soprano, replaced Hiffert, evidently in 1849. This lineup, managed and promoted expansively by Jesse Hutchinson, Jr., toured Gold Rush California in 1852. Frank Stoepel, renowned for dazzling performances on a novel “wood and straw instrument,” is said to have introduced handbell ringing to the company in 1857. This ensemble, renamed the Alleghanians Vocalists and Swiss Bell Ringers, embarked on a world tour in 1858, presenting American popular music to audiences in many lands.

Guided by agent Daniel G. Waldron, the Alleghanians traveled with evident success from San Francisco to Honolulu, through the South Seas, and back via South America. The group, at times, included pioneers of their instruments, such as concertina player Alfred B. Sedgwick in the early 1860s and harmonica soloist L. Percy Williams a decade later. In ...

Article

Charles Garrett

Article

Baker  

Dale Cockrell

Family of singers who between 1844 and the 1880s formed various differently constituted groups under the family name. A vocal quartet named the Baker Family was first formed around 1844 and consisted of by siblings John C. Baker, George E. Baker, Sophia M. Baker, and Henry F. Baker in Salisbury, New Hampshire. They followed the example of the Hutchinson Family in style, repertory, and presentation, and became one of the most popular ensembles of this type. The group, sometimes with the addition of other family members including Jaspar and Emilie, toured widely in the mid- and late 1840s, especially to smaller cities and towns. In 1851 some of the family moved to Waukegan, Illinois, from where the newly named Baker Vocalists made periodic tours to the West until the 1880s. Although the bass George had the most impressive voice, it was John who was the leading member of the group. A Baker Family concert often consisted only of his glees, choruses, and ballads; among his 35 published pieces, “Where can the soul find rest?” (...

Article

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, ...

Article

John L. Clark

(b New Orleans, LA, March 25, 1897; d New Orleans, Jan 28, 1983). American pianist, singer, and bandleader. The daughter of the Civil War veteran and Louisiana state senator W.B. Barrett, she learned piano by ear as a child and was playing professionally by her early teens. She never learned to read music and worked almost exclusively in New Orleans. During the 1920s Barrett played with many of the uptown New Orleans groups, including those led by Papa Celestin, Armand Piron, and John Robichaux. In the following decade she worked most often with Bebe Ridgley, with whom she developed a local following that subsequently brought her success at the Happy Landing from 1949 and the Paddock Lounge during the late 1950s. It was at this time that she became known as Sweet Emma the Bell Gal because of her habit of wearing garters with bells attached that created a tambourine-like effect as she played. In ...

Article

Sandra Jean Graham

[Brower, Francis Marion ]

(b Baltimore, MD, 20/Nov 30, 1820/1823; d Philadelphia, PA, June 4, 1874). American minstrel. His stage debut was in Philadelphia c1837. By spring 1840 he had teamed with dan Emmett , singing and dancing in blackface for the Cincinnati Circus Company. In July 1841 Brower began accompanying Emmett’s banjo songs on bones, pioneering the use of this folk instrument in professional entertainment. After a stint with Raymond and Waring’s Circus around 1841–2, the duo moved to New York. In early 1843 Brower, Emmett, billy Whitlock , and dick Pelham formed the Virginia minstrels , the first blackface minstrel troupe. Brower’s boisterous performances in “Southern Negro character” encompassed playing bones on the right end (which led to the formal role of endman), songs, stump speeches, conundrums (a circus genre), and breakdowns. Patterned on black practice, Brower’s dancing was distinctive for its jumps and leaps. He often danced while playing, his bones and feet creating a dense rhythmic texture, and he typically interrupted his dancing for brief comic dialogue. Brower and Pelham were considered premier dancers and were widely imitated by other minstrels, ...

Article

John Lilly

Country music recording artists, singers, musicians, and songwriters. Its original members were A.P. Carter (Alvin Pleasant Carter; b Maces Spring, VA, Dec 15, 1891; d Maces Spring, VA, Nov 7, 1960), his wife Sara Dougherty Carter [Bays] (née Sara Dougherty; later Sara Bays; b Flat Woods, VA, July 21, 1898; d Lodi, CA, Jan 8, 1979), and his sister-in-law Maybelle Addington Carter (b nr Nickelsville, Scott Co., VA, May 10, 1909; d Madison, TN, Oct 23, 1978). Considered the “first family” of country music, the Carters remain the most recognized family group in the genre, unmatched in terms of longevity, influence and popularity.

Born in southwest Virginia in the aptly named Poor Valley, A.P. Carter worked odd jobs for his first 35 years. Afflicted with a chronic tremor and a restless nature, A.P. was constantly on the move. His travels eventually led him to the home of Sara Dougherty, a talented young woman with a distinctive singing voice. The two wed on ...

Article

Whitney B. Holley

(b New York, NY, Aug 15, 1892; d Los Angeles, CA, Aug 29, 1972). American lyricist, dancer, and comedian. He began his career as a dancer and comedian on the vaudeville circuit and became a Tin Pan Alley lyricist. From Shirley Temple’s innocent banter to Billie Holiday’s sensual musings, Clare had a knack for fitting lyrics perfectly to a performer’s character. “Ma, he’s makin’ eyes at me” (1921, a collaboration with the composer Con Conrad), became a signature tune for the singer Eddie Cantor. Clare’s song “I’d climb the highest mountain (if I knew I’d find you)” (1926, with Lew Brown) was a hit for both Sophie Tucker and Al Jolson. “Please don’t talk about me when I’m gone” (1930, with Sam Stept) was popularized by the singers Bee Palmer and Kate Smith and later used in the Warner Bros. animated short One Froggy Evening...

Article

Phyllis Bruce

revised by Joanna R. Smolko

Male quartet. It was formed in 1853 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, by four singers from Connecticut: William Dwight Franklin, John Wesleyan Smith, William Frisbie, and Charles Huntington. Three of them had met at the Boston Teachers Institute, where they studied with Lowell Mason, George J. Webb, and George F. Root. John A. Sterry began as the group’s conductor and manager, although at some time Franklin became its leader. In September 1853, they toured across the United States. Frisbie’s death in 1855 cut short their second tour; he was replaced by Truman Watson. The group developed an American repertory, much of it patriotic, and many of their songs were written by Franklin, including “The Power of the Mighty Dollar,” “The Old Man’s Soliloquy,” and “The Mountain Bugle’s Echo.” The Continental Vocalists Glee Book (1855) also included works by many other contemporary composers. Their performance of “The Ballad of Johnny Sands” was important in the widespread dissemination and popularity of the song. The group concentrated on excellent singing and exploited their gift for entertaining, avoiding controversial programming. They performed in costumes of the Federal era, displayed flags, and accompanied themselves on flute, violin, cello, and melodeon. They made extensive annual tours from fall to spring during the 1850s and early 1860s, averaging four concerts weekly and playing to packed halls; in the 12 years of their existence they earned more than $70,000. Newspaper reviews were numerous and favorable; an undated review in the Buffalo ...

Article

Dale Cockrell

(b New York, NY, May 14, 1840; d New York, NY, Sept 26, 1927). American lyricist. He studied law, but abandoned his career on account of the Civil War, in which he served briefly. His love of popular music led him to work with stephen c. Foster; the two eventually collaborated on more than 20 songs, mainly of a comic or war-related nature. Cooper came to be one of the composer’s closest friends. The text he wrote for Henry Tucker’s song, “Sweet Genevieve” (1869), has proved his most popular; other well-known songs for which he composed the lyrics are “Mother, kiss me in my dreams,” and “God bless the little church around the corner.” Cooper also worked with Tony Pastor and Lillian Russell. He published more than 200 song texts, and was one of the first Americans to make his living from this occupation alone.

National Cyclopedia of American Biography...

Article

Robert B. Winans

(b Pawtucket, RI, July 27, 1829; d New York, NY, Feb 14, 1908). American minstrel performer. He ran away from home to join a circus in 1845, and first gained prominence with Matt Peel’s Minstrels in the mid-1850s, when he was a great success in the blackface role of “Old Bob Ridley,” performing the song of the same name. He became particularly noted for his impersonations of older black men. He achieved great fame as a minstrel performer in the 1860s and 1870s, sometimes in companies bearing his own name, and worked primarily in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. Toward the end of his career, he played character parts in popular plays, including Faithful Bob (later known as True Devotion), which he produced with his wife and daughter.

“Interview with Ben Cotton,” New York Mirror (3 July 1897) E.L. Rice: Monarchs of Minstrelsy (New York, 1911)...

Article

William Brooks

[Charlotte Mignon ]

(b New York, NY, Nov 7, 1847; d Boston, MA, Sept 25, 1924). American entertainer. She was guided by her mother throughout her career, which began in California, where from 1853 she learned singing and dancing from local entertainers. She toured mining towns in Mart Taylor’s company from 1855, and appeared in variety halls in San Francisco in fall 1856. In 1861 she toured with Jake Wallace and his troupe, from whom she learned minstrelsy and to play the banjo. From 1859 to 1864 she made regular appearances in San Francisco theaters, where she was a great favorite. Her New York debut at Niblo’s Saloon on 1 June 1864 was coolly received, but she gained increasing fame from tours of the Midwest (1864–6). In Chicago in 1867 she played both title roles in John Brougham’s Little Nell and the Marchioness, which was written especially for her; other notable successes included ...

Article

William J. Schafer

(b Leavenworth, KS, April 12, 1878; d Los Angeles, CA, Jan 23, 1943). American songwriter and music publisher. He had popular success early in his career with the two-step “Margery” (1898), the song “You tell me your dream” (1899), and “Hiawatha” (1901, described as an “Indian intermezzo,” although it was an early ragtime song). He also purchased and published Scott Joplin’s first piano rag, Original Rags, in 1898. Daniels began working for Carl Hoffman, a local publisher in Kansas City, then formed his own firm, Daniels, Russel & Boone, which he sold to Whitney-Warner of Detroit in 1902 for a reputed $10,000 based on the rights to the hugely popular “Hiawatha.” In Los Angeles he later established another publishing firm, Villa Moret, which took its name from one of Daniels’ pseudonyms, Neil Moret, and was highly successful in the 1920s. Daniels contributed many enduring standards to the American popular song repertory, including “Moonlight and Roses” (...

Article

Christopher A. Reynolds

[Vonderlieth, Leonore ]

(b Mount Pulaski, IL, Sept 26, 1894; d Buffalo, NY, May 28, 1943). American singer, songwriter, and entertainer. She was one of the first women to broadcast on radio (1920), to appear on television (1939), and to manage a radio station (WDT in New York, 1923). De Leath grew up in California. She attended schools in Pomona and Riverside before enrolling in Mills College where she began to compose.

De Leath is credited with developing the style of singing known as crooning, a style she employed on the radio as an alto, but also recorded as a powerful soprano. She made her first recording in 1920, issuing “I love the land of Old Black Joe” for Edison, the first of 44 recordings with this label. Among her most popular recordings was her rendition of Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” with Paul Whiteman and his orchestra (Col., ...

Article

Gerald Bordman

revised by Jonas Westover

(b New York, NY, Sept 8, 1896; d New York, NY, July 30, 1983). American lyricist and librettist. He studied at Columbia University, where he was a contemporary of Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II, and served in the US Navy before becoming director of publicity and advertising in 1919 for the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation (from 1924 known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer or MGM). He wrote verse in his spare time, and was asked by Jerome Kern to supply the lyrics for Dear Sir (1924). He also worked with Vernon Duke, Jimmy McHugh, and Ralph Rainger. But he is best remembered for the numerous songs he wrote in collaboration with arthur Schwartz , beginning in 1929 with the revue The Little Show (with “I guess I’ll have to change my plan”). Other collaborations with Schwartz include Three’s a Crowd (1930) and The Band Wagon (1931, containing the hit “Dancing in the Dark”). Their professional relationship extended over a period of more than 30 years to the production of the musical ...

Article

Robert B. Winans

revised by Jonas Westover

[Clapp, George Alfred ]

(b Hartford, CT, Aug 7, 1856; d New York, NY, Oct 26, 1924). American minstrel performer and manager. He began his career as an amateur in Hartford in 1873, where he performed as a blackface song and dance man; he appeared with prominent minstrel organizations and with his own troupes. Between 1878 and 1883 he was Charles Dockstader’s partner in a performing duo called the Dockstader Brothers, and in 1886 he formed his own Dockstader’s Minstrels. He later formed a company with George Primrose (1898–1903), which was among the last minstrel troupes to tour major US cities. For the next 11 years he maintained his own company, and his last years were spent in vaudeville. Dockstader was an extremely successful organizer and director of minstrel productions and created many skits and afterpieces. His own talent lay particularly in burlesque and mimicry. Regarding the latter, he was especially famous for his monologues and stump speeches in addition to parodying politicians, actors, and singers. He was one of the few to keep minstrelsy alive as a distinct form well into the 20th century. Dockstader published a few collections, including a minstrel songster in ...

Article

Charles E. Kinzer

[John ]

(b New Orleans, LA, April 12, 1892; d Chicago, IL, Aug 8, 1940). American jazz clarinetist and bandleader, brother of Baby Dodds. He was raised in a mixed neighborhood in uptown New Orleans, where his father played fiddle and his mother played Baptist hymns on a reed organ as the family sang. Following his mother’s death in 1904, the family moved to Waveland, Missouri. Dodds played tin whistle before taking up clarinet in 1908. He returned to New Orleans soon thereafter and absorbed influences from brass band clarinetists, including Alphonse Picou and Lorenzo Tio Jr. His first professional work came in 1912, when he joined Kid Ory’s band at Globe Hall. He remained with Ory until 1919, performing alongside King Oliver and Louis Armstrong. Dodds is said to have taken lessons in the late 1910s, perhaps to improve his reading, and he worked briefly with Oliver’s Magnolia Band and Papa Celestin’s Tuxedo Orchestra during the same period before leaving the city to tour with Mack’s Merrymakers. In ...

Article

Ian Whitcomb

(b Hohensalza [now Inowrocław, Poland], Aug 18, 1879; d Los Angeles, CA, Nov 7, 1945). American singer, songwriter, and impresario. His family immigrated to the United States in the 1880s. By the age of 14 Edwards was working as a singer in Tony Pastor’s Music Hall in New York, and he subsequently appeared as a vaudeville performer with four other boys in an act called the Newsboy Quintet. In 1899 he began to write songs with the lyricist Will D. Cobb, beginning a partnership that lasted for several years. Their first hit was “I can’t tell why I love you, but I do” (1900), and they went on to establish their reputation with such songs as “Goodbye little girl, goodbye” (1904) and “School Days” (1907), a melodious waltz ballad with lyrics yearning for the simple days of small-town rural America. This last-named song was written for a revue in which Edwards appeared with a number of young actors; its success was such that he continued to present his “kiddie discovery shows” with new performers and material for the next 20 years. Among the juvenile actors he promoted were Eddie Cantor, George Jessel, Walter Winchell, and Ray Bolger. Many of Edwards’s best songs, including “Sunbonnet Sue” (...

Article

Robert B. Winans

[Hatfield, Alfred Griffith ]

(b Lessburg, VA, Nov 7, 1848; d Columbus, OH, April 3, 1921). American minstrel performer and manager. He gave his first minstrel performance as a schoolboy in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, and subsequently appeared in minstrel shows, serious theater, and circuses. In the late 1870s and early 1880s he played with major minstrel troupes, and in 1886 he formed Al G. Field’s Minstrels, a large touring company that functioned until 1928. His show grew in size and splendor until it became one of the most elaborate and expensive. It was especially noted for its lavish costuming and sets. Moreover, Field’s company was the first to carry complete scenic sets and to travel in specially built railroad cars. Field wrote and directed all of his own productions and also performed in them as endman, monologist, or companion to the main comedian; he was also one of the few minstrels to become wealthy....

Article

Gillian M. Rodger

(b Corlears Hook, NY, Oct 26, 1844; d New York, NY, June 5, 1911). American performer and playwright. Born in the predominantly Irish community of Corlears Hook on Manhattan’s Lower East Side to a ship-building tradesman father and a minstrel song-singing and dancing mother, he apprenticed as a shipyard caulker after he left school at age 14. He also snuck away to minstrel shows and learned singing and banjo playing from his mother. When his parents divorced in the early 1860s, he signed on as a deckhand on a ship and worked as a sailor until 1867, when he settled in San Francisco and resumed work as a caulker.

Harrigan supplemented his income by performing as an Irish singer and minstrel. He was successful enough that within a year he left his work on the waterfront and moved full-time into theatrical entertainment. After the 1869 theatrical season, he returned to New York before becoming an itinerant variety performer. During a stopover in Chicago he met a young falsetto singer, Anthony Cannon, who performed as “Master Antonio,” and the pair teamed up as Harrigan and Hart. Under this name they performed songs and sketches in Irish character and in blackface....