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Zachary J. Lechner

bandleader, songwriter, producer, and arranger, was born Dave Louis Bartholomew in Edgard, Louisiana, to Louis Bartholomew, a musician, and Marie Rousell, a housekeeper. Louis played Dixieland tuba in Kid Harrison's and Willie Humphrey's jazz bands. He moved the family to New Orleans while Dave was in high school. Young Dave became interested in performing music after watching his father play. He first took up the tuba but switched to the trumpet because it would allow him a place in the popular marching bands of New Orleans. As a high school student he enjoyed the tutelage of Peter Davis, Louis Armstrong's teacher. Bartholomew honed his skills on the New Orleans scene in the late 1930s. He moved in and out of various jazz and brass bands in Louisiana, including Marshall Lawrence's Brass Band, Toots Johnson's Band, and Claiborne Williams's Band. The pianist Fats Pinchon ...

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Charles L. Hughes

record executive, producer, and activist, was born Alvertis Isbell in Brinkley, Arkansas, in 1940 or 1941. In 1945 his family moved to Little Rock, where Bell later graduated with a bachelor's degree in Political Science from the city's Philander Smith College, following this with uncompleted ministerial training; he worked as a disc jockey throughout high school and college. In 1959 Bell began working at workshops run by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His SCLC involvement was short-lived, which Bell attributed to a difference in philosophy, explaining that King's strategy of nonviolent confrontation differed from his belief in the power of black capitalist entrepreneurship in effecting social change.

Bell then worked full time at several radio stations first at WLOK in Memphis where his laid back style helped boost ratings and then at WUST in Washington D C where he introduced ...

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Christine Gangelhoff and Cathleen LeGrand

was born Christopher Percy Gordon Blackwell in London, England, on 22 June 1937. His father, Middleton (“Blackie”) Joseph Blackwell, was British. His mother, Blanche Lindo, came from a prominent white Jamaican family and was a glamorous hostess to celebrities such as Errol Flynn, Ian Fleming, and Noel Coward. Although both of his parents were white, Chris Blackwell would play a central role in the global popularization of black Jamaican music in the second half of the twentieth century.

Sickly and asthmatic as a youth, Blackwell spent his childhood in Jamaica, but was sent to study in England at the age of 10, attending the elite Harrow School. He returned to Jamaica in 1955 and worked a variety of jobs such as renting out motor scooters and teaching water skiing Among his earliest accomplishments in music Blackwell brought back albums from New York to Jamaica supplying local sound systems ...

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Charles Rosenberg

the “Jay” in Vee‐Jay records, was born James Conrad Bracken in Guthrie, Oklahoma, the youngest son of Junious and Eva Bracken, born respectively in Tennessee and Florida. His older brothers, Herbert and Earnest, were also born in Oklahoma. Before 1920, the family moved to Kansas City, Kansas, where Junious Bracken worked as a porter and owned the family home.

Little has been documented about Bracken's childhood or early adult years. He may have attended Western University in Quindaro, Kansas. The Detroit Singers recalled that he had once worked as a parking lot attendant at the Harlem Inn in Detroit. For a time he made a living selling pots and pans, and was employed by the U.S. Signal Corporation. In 1948 Bracken entered into a partnership with radio WGRY disc jockey Vivian Carter, opening Vivian's Record Shop at 1640 Broadway, in Gary, Indiana.

In 1953 Bracken and Carter ...

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Linda M. Carter

singer, songwriter, producer, and arranger, was born John William Bristol in Morganton, North Carolina, the son of James and Mary Bristol. While in high school, Bristol was named to the All-State Football Team, and he formed a singing group known as the Jackets. After graduating from high school he enlisted in the United States Air Force and was stationed at Fort Custer, in Battle Creek, Michigan. Bristol and Robert “Jackey” Beavers formed part of the group the High Fives, though soon left to form the duo Johnny and Jackey. In 1959 Gwen Gordy and Billy Davis signed the two young men to their Anna Records label, and Johnny and Jackey recorded two 45s before Gordy and Harvey Fuqua established Tri-Phi Records in 1961 Johnny and Jackey recorded four 45s The duo s songs garnered a modicum of success in the Midwest but failed to ...

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SaFiya D. Hoskins

music pioneer, musician, and singer, was born Charles L. Brown in Charlotte, North Carolina; his parents were migrant farmers about whom little information is available. In 1942Chuck moved with his parents to Fairmont Heights in Prince George's County, Maryland, a small suburban neighborhood just outside of Northeast Washington, D.C. As a boy Chuck worked odd jobs to assist his parents financially. He sold newspapers, cut logs, shined shoes, laid bricks, and could be heard singing “watermelon, watermelon” for the horse-drawn watermelon cart. Chuck's love for music began as a boy in North Carolina, replaying the piano and rhythms he heard in church of the bass drum, cymbals, and the snare over and again in his head. In Fairmont Heights at Mount Zion Holiness Church he played piano while his mother accompanied him on harmonica. Chuck studied piano with Sister Louise Murray who exposed him to ...

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Mary Krane Derr

vocalist, pianist, songwriter, and music producer, was born Robert Howard Byrd in Toccoa, a small town in the Appalachian country of northeastern Georgia. He was raised there by his grandmother and his mother, Zarah Byrd. She took her children, including Bobby, to shape-note singing concerts. Once popular in Appalachia, shape-note, or sacred harp, is a style of musical notation designed to aid congregational singing. Zarah Byrd taught her children how to play the piano and steeped them in the African American gospel singing tradition at Mount Zion Baptist Church in the town's Whitman Avenue. Georgia Mae Williams, the pianist at Mount Zion and Bobby's second piano teacher, was another great contributor to his musical education.

From a young age Bobby Byrd excelled at voice and piano He also did well with sports and was active in school clubs He even became the only young ...

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SaFiya D. Hoskins

singer, songwriter, and producer, was born Eugene Dixon in Chicago, Illinois. His father, Baron Dixon, was born in Arkansas. Dixon attended Englewood High School (later known as Englewood Technical Prep Academy) on Chicago's south side. Early on he was influenced by what he considered the cool and romantic singing style of (James) Pookie Hudson and the Spaniels. Patterning himself after Hudson, Dixon soon joined the ranks of youth performing doo-wop music on sidewalks and corners, forming his own group, the Gaytones. In 1957 Dixon was drafted into the United States Army and performed a tour of duty in Germany. Upon discharge from the military, in 1960, he returned to Chicago and resumed his singing career as a new member of the Dukays, a group that included singer Ben Broyles, Earl Edwards, Shirley Jones, and James Lowe.

Soon thereafter the Dukays were offered a contract to record ...

Article

Rob Bowman

(b Kannapolis, NC, July 22, 1941). American funk singer, songwriter and producer. He was leader of Funkadelic, Parliament and the P-Funk All-Stars. By the age of 11 his family had moved to Newark, New Jersey. When he was 14 he formed a doo wop group which he named the Parliaments after a popular American cigarette brand. The Parliaments recorded singles in the 1950s for the New York-based Hull and Flipp labels. During the 1960s they recorded in the vocal group mode of the Temptations: for Detroit's Golden World and Revilot labels. They had a hit in the summer of 1967, with (I Wanna) Testify (Revilot).

In 1969 Clinton lost the rights to the name ‘The Parliaments’ and consequently signed their backing instrumentalists to Westbound records, as Funkadelic. When he regained the rights in 1971 he signed the vocal group to Invictus records ...

Article

Charles L. Hughes

singer, songwriter, producer, and leader of Parliament-Funkadelic, was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina, the eldest of Julia Keaton's nine children. His father's name is unknown, but Clinton had moved to Plainfield, New Jersey, by the time he was a teenager. While straightening hair at a local barbershop, Clinton began singing doo-wop in the back room with a group called the Parliaments. Formed in 1955, they modeled themselves after the hit makers Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, and they spent the next decade on the competitive R&B circuit. Although they recorded sparingly during this period, the group's repeated trips to Detroit helped Clinton establish himself as a producer and songwriter with the Motown Records subsidiary Jobete. In 1964 the Parliaments themselves signed with Motown, but it was for Revilot Records that the group scored an R&B hit in 1967 with the gospel-drenched “(I Wanna) Testify,” sung by Clinton.In the ...

Article

Matthew J. Smith

was born on 26 January in Kingston, Jamaica. Clement’s father, Benjamin Dodd, was a contractor who worked in the capital city until his death in 1969. Dodd’s deep interest in the music business was encouraged early on by his mother, Doris “Nanny” Anderson (later Doris Darlington). She was born in Buff Bay in eastern Jamaica, came to Kingston in 1921, and worked with her sister in a grocery store. By the time her only child Clement was born, she had already opened her own grocery store and bar, Nanny’s Hot Spot, in central Kingston.

As a youth, Dodd attended All Saints School in Kingston and briefly considered a career in mechanics. In 1953 Dodd joined the stream of Jamaicans who left for work as temporary farm laborers in the United States The experience was transformative for him An avid music fan Dodd began collecting American records and ...

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Steve Feffer

songwriter, music producer and performer, was born in Detroit, Michigan. Information about his parents is largely unknown. As a young child he rehearsed with a local Baptist church's gospel choir and listened to his aunt play classical music on the family piano. His interest in music developed in the late 1940s and early 1950s as he heard popular singers such as Nat “King” Cole, Frank Sinatra, and Tony Bennett through his father's record collection. Later he started his own collection of singles by singers such as Johnny Mathis and vocal and doo-wop groups that included Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers and the Spaniels. Though he was a self-taught musician, he was writing his own lyrics by the age of eleven and music by the age of twelve, and at the age of thirteen he formed the musical group the Romeos.

In 1957 the Romeos released the ...

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Doris Evans McGinty

According to Jerrold Lytton (as reported by H. S. Fortune in the Colored American, June 1900), Theodore Drury was born in Kentucky of a musical family. He was well read and able to speak both French and German. Described in contemporary reports as thoroughly trained, elegant, and highly professional in bearing, he was considered by some as the first black, highly trained male singer.

It was in New York and the New England states that Drury's early performing experience as a tenor took place, often in support of more established singers. Through these appearances, his name became known and in 1889 he organized the Drury Comic Opera Company. Toward the end of that same year, the company was renamed the Theodore Drury Opera Company and gave concerts of operatic selections under the management of G. H. Barrett. An advertisement in 1889 (New York Age October ...

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Jeremy Rich

a musician later known as Dewayon, was born on 26 June 1934 in the town of Bolobo, located on the Congo River in Bandundu Province, roughly halfway between the cities of Kinshasa and Mbandaka in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His home region near Lake Mai Ndombe had suffered greatly under Belgian king Leopold II's Independent State of the Congo in the early twentieth century, but Ebengo took pride in his home region's cultural heritage that had survived this dark period. His musical style was later strongly influenced by ekondo, a rhythm in 6/8 time that Ebengo merged with Latin American rumba in his guitar playing. Ebengo attended five years of primary school in the town of Mushie in Bandundu Province, but decided to move to Kinshasa in 1947 He worked briefly aboard steamers on the Congo River as well as for the Utexléo and Tissaco companies Ebengo ...

Article

Camille A. Collins

bass guitarist and music producer, was born in Greenville, North Carolina, and spent his formative years in Brooklyn, New York.

As an aspiring musician fresh out of high school at the beginning of the 1970s, Edwards's acquaintance with Nile Rodgers, another young New York guitarist, proved invaluable to his developing career. In 1970 the two formed the jazz, rock fusion Big Apple Band (not to be confused with Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band) and later an all black rock band (first dubbed The Boys and later in a 1976 incarnation Allah and the Knife Wielding Punks). Although they were not the first black rockers (Jimi Hendrix, black Irishman Phil Lynott, and the protopunk Detroit band Death preceded them), Edwards and Rodgers faced a persistent bitter reality: as black men their foray into rock was not warmly received by record labels.

As performers in ...

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Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, José “Cheo” Feliciano moved to New York, where he launched his singing career. In the 1950s he sang on occasion with the Tito Rodriguez big band. From 1957 to 1967 he attained considerable success singing with the Joe Cuba Sextet In the ...

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Paul Devlin

jazz trombonist, composer, and rhythm and blues arranger, was born Locksley Wellington Hampton in Jeannette, Pennsylvania, into a musical family. His father Cliff Hampton played saxophone and drums and led a family band that played big band music at political and social functions, and his mother played the piano. Cliff Hampton chose the trombone for his son because that instrument was not yet represented in the family band. Slide Hampton was left handed, a rarity among trombone players. By the late 1940s the Hampton family band had played such illustrious venues as Carnegie Hall where in the 1990s Hampton was a consultant to the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band now known as the Jon Faddis Orchestra of New York the Apollo Theater and the Savoy Ballroom where the band spent two weeks in residence Along with some of his brothers Hampton attended the McArthur Conservatory of Music ...

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Paul Devlin

songwriter, pianist, producer, and record company executive, was born in Camden, New Jersey. His father was a barber and a blues guitarist, and his mother played gospel piano. Along with his songwriting and business partner Kenny Gamble, Huff was largely responsible for creating a popular musical style, known as Philadelphia soul, that was for a time nearly ubiquitous in American popular culture. Although Huff grew up playing drums at Camden High School and regularly made the Camden All-City Orchestra until his graduation in 1960, it was his piano playing that gained him entrance into the music business.

In the early 1960s Huff traveled to New York City and began playing piano on some of the legendary producer Phil Spector's recording sessions including the session for the Ronettes Baby I Love You He had the unique opportunity to observe the development of Spector s ...

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Ulrich Adelt

multi-instrumentalist, producer, and arranger, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Booker T. Jones Sr., a high school teacher, and his wife, a school secretary. His musical talent showed early on: at age five he learned to play ukulele and piano. Five years later his parents bought him a clarinet. He played oboe in his high school band and also mastered flute, saxophone, trombone, and baritone horn. Inspired by Ray Charles, Jones started playing club gigs at age fourteen. Two years later, in 1960, he began work as a session musician for Stax Records in Memphis.

In 1962 Jones formed the instrumental group Booker T. and the MGs with members of the Mar-Keys, the first house band of Stax who had scored a national hit in 1961 with Last Night Depending on the source the band was either named after the British sports car ...

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Lois Bellamy

pianist, impresario, opera director, producer, television host, and educator, was born in Harlem, New York, to Walter Jones, born 1910, and Lucille Fairs, born 1908, a housewife from Wilmington, North Carolina. His father worked at the Capitol Theatre, which premiered the film version of Gone with the Wind.R. Wellington Jones had a sister, Jean Jones, now deceased. His maternal grandmother, Sukie Fairs, was a slave as a child and lived 106 years. His paternal grandfather was killed by the Ku Klux Klan in Scotland Neck, North Carolina, in the early 1920s. His great grandparents were slaves and part of the Cherokee Nation.

Wellington Jones graduated from New York's famed High School of Music and Art in 1958, and earned both his bachelor's degree (1962) and master of arts degree (1964 in Music ...