(b Anguilla, MS, March 21, 1919; d Hazel Crest, IL, 15 June, 1995). American gospel director, singer, composer, and publisher. Anderson established a career forming and training gospel groups in Chicago. His formative years were spent as one of the original Roberta Martin Singers, one of the premiere gospel groups of the 1930s and 1940s. He left briefly, between 1939 and 1941, to form the first of his many ensembles, the Knowles and Anderson Singers with R.L. Knowles. He rejoined Martin, but ultimately resigned because of the travel demands. In 1947 he formed Robert Anderson and his Gospel Caravan, but after several members left in 1952, he formed a new set of singers that recorded and performed under the name the Robert Anderson Singers through the mid-1950s. Throughout his career, Anderson recorded on a multitude of labels including Miracle and United with Robert Anderson and the Caravans; and later with the Robert Anderson Singers, on Apollo. Anderson wrote, and often sang lead on, many of the songs his groups performed, including “Why Should I Worry” (...
Roxanne R. Reed
[John Henderson ]
(b Whitehaven, TN, April 8, 1931). American singer-songwriter, producer, publisher, and entrepreneur. He began playing bluegrass while in the military and after his discharge in 1952, played at radio stations in Wheeling, West Virginia, and Boston. While enrolled in Memphis State University (from 1954), he worked nights and weekends at the Eagle’s Nest club. After working briefly for Fernwood Records, he was hired by Sun Records, where he recorded Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash, among others. He wrote hits for several of Sun’s artists, including Johnny Cash’s singles “Ballad of a Teenage Queen” and “Guess things happen that way” (both Sun, 1958).
Clement left Sun in 1960 to became a staff producer for RCA in Nashville. In 1963 he moved to Texas, started a publishing company, and produced Dickey Lee’s hit “Patches” (Smash, 1963). After returning to Nashville in 1965, he discovered and produced Charlie Pride and wrote songs for a variety of country artists, including Pride (“Just between you and me,” RCA Victor, ...
[James Rae ]
(b Buffalo Valley, TN, Feb 28, 1911; d Nashville, TN, Aug 27, 1963). American country music agent, publisher, and Grand Ole Opry manager. One of the most influential and powerful figures in the country music business, Jim Denny followed the path of the classic American success story. He left his home in Buffalo Valley, Tennessee, at age 16 with purportedly no more than 40 cents in his pocket. He moved to Nashville and joined the mailroom staff at WSM radio (home of the Grand Ole Opry). He completed his college degree by mail and worked his way up the corporate ladder, becoming the manager of concessions at the Opry during World War II. In 1951 Denny was promoted to manager of the Opry, an appointment that granted him to programming privileges and thus put him in the position to make or break performers’ careers. Additionally, he headed the ...
Darlene Graves and Michael Graves
[William J. ]
(b Alexandria, IN, March 28, 1936). American gospel songwriter, performer, producer, and publisher. He grew up on a small farm in Indiana and graduated from Anderson College with a major in English and a minor in music. He went on to receive a master’s degree in guidance and counseling and met his future wife and song-producing partner, Gloria Sickal, while both were teaching high school. Gaither started singing gospel music as a child and in 1956 formed the Bill Gaither Trio with his brother Danny and his sister Mary Ann. He started his own publishing company in 1959. He continued to perform and compose while a teacher at Alexandria High School and in 1961 formed the Gaither Music Company to publish his works. After their marriage in 1962, Gaither and his wife wrote their first major song, “He touched me,” which was a significant hit by 1963. He re-formed the Bill Gaither Trio with Gloria and Danny, and in ...
(b Bronx, NY, April 17, 1934; d Boca Raton, FL, Jan 17, 2011). American publisher, promoter, and producer. He was known as “The Man with the Golden Ear” for possessing a remarkable ability to identify music that would sell. After attending Upsala College in East Orange, New Jersey, he gravitated immediately to the music industry, finding success at the Brill Building with Aldon Music Publishing. He and his partner, Al Nevins, contracted a wide variety of top-selling songwriters and performers including Neil Sedaka, Carole King, Jack Keller, and Gerry Goffin, among others. A big part of his success involved pairing writers with appropriate singers. Sedaka credited his opportunity to become a performer largely to Kirshner’s promotion; Neil Diamond, Kansas, Connie Francis, and Bobby Darin also profited from his work as a producer. Kirshner branched into recording, becoming involved with three separate labels: Chairman, Calendar, and Kirshner. One of his biggest successes came with the creation of the Monkees; he was responsible for providing the corporate-formed group with songs for their television program and spin-off albums. He also managed the studio musicians who performed on their records. Kirshner returned to this strategy with The Archies, the late 1960s band of bubblegum pop fame. From ...
Travis D. Stimeling
[Charles Stacy ]
(b Knoxville, TN, June 21, 1921; d Nashville, TN, March 7, 2012). American country music journalist, publisher, and promoter. Charlie Lamb reshaped the Nashville music industry’s business practices during the 1950s and 60s and promoted Nashville as an international music center. Lamb began his career in Knoxville, where, among other jobs, he booked artists to perform on radio station WROL and reported for the Knoxville Journal. After moving to Nashville in 1951, he joined Cash Box as a columnist and ad salesman and later formed the Charlie Lamb Agency to promote several top recording artists. Lamb was a founding member of the Country Music Disc Jockey Association and organized an annual DJ convention that brought thousands of disc jockeys to Nashville. In August 1956, Lamb founded Country Music Reporter (renamed Music Reporter in 1957), a trade paper that covered the Nashville music industry and offered expanded chart coverage for country singles and albums. Selling ...
(b New York, NY, Jan 16, 1884; d Palm Springs, CA, April 21, 1985). American Impresario, music publisher, band manager, record producer, songwriter, and singer. He was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants who settled in New York. There, as a teenager, he worked as a song plugger and singer before establishing a music publishing business in 1919 with his brother Jack. With its emphasis on the work of black musicians, Mills Music became an important locus for jazz and dance band music. A shrewd business operator with a sharp eye for talent, Mills extended his business interests in the 1920s. He became manager of the Duke Ellington Orchestra (1926–39) and promoted several other African American bandleaders including Cab Calloway, Benny Carter, Fletcher Henderson, Jimmie Lunceford, and Don Redman. He also organized a series of recording sessions under his own nominal leadership, Irving Mills and His Hotsy Totsy Gang (...
[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, ...