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Barry Kernfeld

blues and vaudeville songwriter, publisher, and musical director, was born John Henry Perry Bradford in Montgomery, Alabama, the son of Adam Bradford, a bricklayer and tile setter, and Bella (maiden name unknown), a cook. Standard reference books give his year of birth as 1893, but Bradford's autobiography gives 1895. Early in his youth Bradford learned to play piano by ear. In 1901 his family moved to Atlanta, where his mother cooked meals for prisoners in the adjacent Fulton Street jail. There he was exposed to the inmates' blues and folk singing. Bradford attended Molly Pope School through the sixth grade and claimed to have attended Atlanta University for three years, there being no local high school. This is chronologically inconsistent, however, with his claim to have joined Allen's New Orleans Minstrels in the fall of 1907 traveling to New Orleans for Mardi Gras ...

Article

Doris Evans McGinty

singer and educator, was born in Dryridge, Kentucky, the daughter of Alexander Childers and Eliza Butler, former slaves. She studied voice at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and in 1896 was awarded a diploma that was replaced by a bachelor's degree in 1906, when the conservatory began granting degrees. The Oberlin Conservatory chapter of Pi Kappa Lambda, a national honor society, elected her a member in 1927. She studied voice further with Sydney Lloyd Wrightson at the Washington Conservatory of Music in Washington, D.C., with William Shakespeare, and with Oscar Devries at Chicago Musical College.

As a singer Childers enjoyed modest distinction. During her college years and shortly afterward, she performed in the Midwest with the Eckstein-Norton Music Company, a quartet of singers and their accompanist teamed with the concert pianist Harriet A. Gibbs The group contributed their earnings to the development of ...

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Kip Lornell

blues performer, gospel singer, and composer, was born in Villa Rica, Georgia, the son of Thomas Madison Dorsey, a preacher, and Etta Plant Spencer. Dorsey's mother, whose first husband had died, owned approximately fifty acres of farmland. Dorsey lived in somewhat trying circumstances as his parents moved first to Atlanta and Forsyth, Georgia, and then back to Villa Rica during the first four years of his life. In Villa Rica the Dorsey family settled into a rural lifestyle supported by marginal farming that was slightly mitigated by his father's pastoral duties.

Though economically pressed Dorsey s parents found enough money to purchase an organ and it was on this instrument that their young son began to play music at around six years of age Dorsey was exposed not only to the religious music that pervaded his home but also to the secular music especially the ...

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Kevin Byrne

vaudeville entertainer and theatrical entrepreneur, was born in Dallas, Texas. The names of his parents are unknown. Though in later interviews Dudley frequently changed the story of how he broke into show business, his earliest stage work was most likely in Texas and Louisiana as part of a medicine show. This job, in which he played music and told jokes to draw a crowd to the pitchman and his wares, was an appropriate beginning for a man who always sought to be the center of attention. Dudley eventually became an artist and businessman who, as demonstrated by both his actions and writings, was passionately concerned with cultivating the rights and strengthening the dignity of African American performers during an era when what it meant to be a black entertainer was greatly in flux.

Dudley s apprenticeship in the professional theatrical world took place during the last decade of the ...

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Mary Krane Derr

blues bar owner and talent promoter, was born Theresa McLaurin in Meridian, Lauderdale County, Mississippi. She was the only child of Will and Minnie McLaurin, both natives of Mississippi. Needham's birth year is commonly given as 1912, but it was 1911 according to the Social Security Death Index. As a young girl, she was baptized as a Roman Catholic. The 1920 U.S. Census recorded her as living in Meridian with her uncle, aunt, and cousin. The 1930 Census noted her recent marriage to Robert Needham, then a bricklayer. They had a son together, Robert Needham Jr. Theresa Needham's educational history is unclear, but, according to this census report, she reached adulthood knowing how to read and write.

After World War II Needham and her family joined the large number of African Americans who migrated from the Mississippi River Delta to Chicago s South Side in search of ...

Article

Amy L. Lively

musician and entrepreneur, was born Benjamin Franklin Spikes in Dallas, Texas, the youngest child of Madora and Monroe Spikes, the latter a barber. Spikes was nicknamed “Rebel,” later shortened to “Reb,” by his father. The family relocated to Los Angeles in 1897, and when Spikes was in his late teens his older brother, Johnny, bought him a drum set, sparking his interest in music.

In 1907, Spikes moved to San Francisco. Ragtime, a precursor to jazz, was frequently heard in local clubs and saloons and was an important influence on the music that Spikes would write, perform, and produce. As Spikes developed his musical skills, he and Johnny went on the road as performers. In approximately 1910, they formed a traveling vaudeville group called the Spikes Brothers Comedy Stars. A notable member of the troupe was Hattie McDaniel whose portrayal of Mammy in ...

Article

David Michel

gospel singer and group leader, was born Gertrude Willa Azalee Murphy near Anderson, South Carolina, the eleventh of twelve children born to David and Hannah Murphy, both being farmers and Baptists. Gertrude completed eighth grade and, like millions of African Americans, moved north. In 1920 she settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and married George Ward, with whom she had two daughters, Willa(rene) and Clara Mae, born in 1922 and 1924 respectively. In Philadelphia, Gertrude did domestic work while her husband joined an iron company, where he remained for forty-two years. The Ward family soon joined Ebenezer Baptist Church at Tenth Street and Girard Avenue and would remain active there for years. Both Ward and her husband joined the senior choir. In 1931 Ward claimed to hear the voice of God telling her, “Go sing my Gospel.”

Ward aggressively pursued a singing ministry She familiarized herself with gospel ...