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James M. Salem

musician, songwriter, and rhythm and blues star, was born John Marshall Alexander Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of John Marshall Alexander and Leslie Newsome. His father earned his living in Memphis as a packer, but his lifework was as a commuting minister to two rural Baptist churches in eastern Arkansas. At LaRose Grammar School in South Memphis, John Jr. as his family called him displayed both musical and artistic talent He mastered the piano at home but was allowed to play only religious music Along with his mother and siblings he sang in the choir at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church Becoming restless at Booker T Washington High School John Jr dropped out in the eleventh grade to join the navy and see the world His sisters recalled military police coming to the house in search of their brother and thought of his brief period ...

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Elio Leturia

was born Susana Esther Baca de la Colina in Lima, Peru, on 24 May 1944. Her parents were Ernesto Baca Ramírez, a driver for the aristocratic Nicolini family, and Carmen Eugenia de la Colina Gonzáles, a cook working in the homes of wealthy families. Her childhood was spent in the coastal district of Chorrillos, south of Lima, along with Raúl Ernesto and Maruja, her older siblings. Music entered her life at an early age, as her father played the guitar and her mother was a gifted dancer. Baca attended the 444 Public School in Chorrillos, and then the Juana Alarco de Dammert Public School. Because of incidents of racial harassment, her mother moved Baca to the Divino Maestro School, where she completed high school. She later attended the National University of Education Enrique Guzmán y Valle in La Cantuta, Lima, graduating as an elementary school teacher in 1968 ...

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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 ...

Article

Gage Averill and Kevin F. Mason

and founding member of the Haitian mizik rasin (roots music) band Boukman Eksperyans, was born on 20 September 1956 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in the neighborhood of Bas-Peu-de-Choses. Lòlò Beaubrun was the son of a popular comedic actor in Haiti, Theodore Beaubrun Sr., and Luce Americe Beaubrun, a folk dancer and actress, formerly with La Troupe Folklorique Nationale d’Haïti. Lòlò acted in the cast of his father’s television program Aventures de Languichatte, in which his father played the madcap character Languichatte Débordus.

Lòlò Beaubrun went to Petit Séminaire Collège Saint Martial for his primary schooling, later attending high school first at the Collège Canado-Haïtien and then at the Union School, an American school in Haiti, graduating in June 1975. In September 1975 he traveled to New York to join his mother, who had relocated to the United States in 1970 In New York City Lòlò took classes in ...

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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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Mario Angel Silva Castro

His lifelong research allowed him to re-create the candombe drum with fusions that included samba, rap, bossa nova, and funk, among other styles.

Jorge Damião Bello Gularte, known as “Jorginho,” was born in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on 16 February 1956. The son of José Bello and “Martha” Gularte, a well-known figure within Afro-Uruguayan culture, he spent his childhood moving between Uruguay and Brazil. When he definitively settled with his mother and sister, Katy, in Montevideo, they found a home on Curuguaty Street in the Barrio Sur, barely a block from the emblematic tenement house “Mediomundo” (a significant space for African candombe). From a young age, he was involved in music, taking piano lessons in Porto Alegre, and by the age of 11 he was already playing the candombe drums and participating in his mother’s groups. He also began to teach himself to play the guitar in 1969 ...

Article

Jessica C. Hajek

was born Frantz Fontaine on 10 November 1945 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to Siméon Benjamin, an artist and leader of the folkloric dance group Troupe Aïda, and Stael Fontaine, known as Yèyelle. Siméon never married Benjamin’s mother, and the boy was coparented by Yèyelle and two of her cousins, Aline Macombe and Aline’s brother, the pastor Anthony D. Macombe, whom Benjamin referred to as “mother” and “father.” While his birth mother worked in the United States to pay for her son’s education, Benjamin remained behind in Port-au-Prince, where he attended the prestigious Saint-Louis de Gonzaque primary school in the downtown area of the capital. Siméon officially recognized Frantz, already 10 years old, as his son, and a name change from Frantz Fontaine to Lionel S. Benjamin soon followed.

As a child Benjamin took an early interest in music and sometimes tapped out drum rhythms on the hood of a 1940s Ford ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Robyn McGee

His father, the late Trevor George Smith, was a businessman and his mother, Geraldine Green, a homemaker. Both were immigrants from Jamaica. Smith has one brother, Paul, and four children.

Around 1989 Smith was given the moniker “Busta Rhymes” by fellow rapper Chuck D of the seminal hip-hop group Public Enemy. The original George “Buster” Rhymes was an NFL running back known for his charismatic, freewheeling style.

Busta Rhymes attended George Westinghouse Career and Technical School in Brooklyn with other iconic rappers, Sean Carter, aka Jay Z; Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls, the Notorious B.I.G; Earl Simmons, aka D.M.X.; and Sean Combs later known as Puff Daddy and P Diddy As teenagers Rhymes and Jay Z famously held a speed rapping battle in the high school cafeteria which was won by Jay Z After living in Liverpool England for a short time Rhymes returned to New York ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Jaime O. Bofill Calero

was born on 27 March 1960, in the coastal town of Loíza, Puerto Rico. Over the course of his professional career, Cepeda has developed innovative musical concepts such as “Afrorican Jazz” and “bomba sinfónica,” which have maintained him at the forefront of both the Latin jazz and classical music scenes in Puerto Rico and abroad. His eclectic style of performance and composition reflects a fusion of the musical realms of jazz, classical, world, and traditional Afro–Puerto Rican music styles, primarily bomba and plena. As a performer he has collaborated and toured with a wide array of artists, among them Lester Bowie, David Murray, Celia Cruz, Batacumbele, Zaperoko, and Tito Puente. William Cepeda has also dedicated himself to the preservation of Puerto Rico’s traditional folk culture through his independent record label, Casabe Records, and various educational projects.

Cepeda grew up in Loíza a town known for its ...

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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 ...

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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

George Clinton was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina. He grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey, where he worked in a barbershop straightening hair and formed a musical group, the Parliaments. After moving to Detroit, Michigan, Clinton and the Parliaments had a minor hit, “(I Just Wanna) Testify,” in 1967.

Following a lawsuit over the band's name, Clinton formed not one but two new groups—the legendary Parliament and Funkadelic (known collectively as P-Funk)—with many overlapping players. Parliament was more commercial; Funkadelic was outlandish, with musicians wearing diapers, Clinton emerging from a coffin, and plenty of references to sex and drugs. The bands merged in the 1970s, and their concerts, featuring spectacles such as giant spaceships landing onstage, became a major attraction.

For all his eccentricity, Clinton was an influential spokesman for African Americans; his song “Chocolate City” (1975 expresses in terms both witty and poignant the ...

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

Charles Rosenberg

who played in the original lineup of the Funk Brothers, often lacking the recognition accorded to star vocalists, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Ollie and Maudie Thomas Cosby. His father, who worked as a porter, was born in Missouri, and his mother, who worked as a maid, in Georgia; they married in Detroit on 20 January 1927 at the ages of twenty-four and eighteen. Cosby may have been the couple’s only child.

Little has been documented about Cosby’s early years, but he graduated from Northern High School in Detroit, where he played in the school band. He also served in the U.S. Army in the early 1950s, during the Korean War, playing in a military band with jazz musician Cannonball Adderly, learning to play the tenor saxophone.

After the war Cosby joined the jazz combo featuring pianist Joe Hunter, alongside James Jamerson on bass Benny ...

Article

Peter Carr Jones

music, fashion, and movie industry entrepreneur. The former co-owner of Roc-A-Fella Records with Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Kareem “Biggs” Burke, Damon Dash cross-promoted several products within a single brand, Roc-A-Fella. He ran the corporate side of Roc-A-Fella, especially the fashion and movie production divisions, until being bought out in 2004.

Dash was born in East Harlem, New York, to a lower-middle class, single-parent family. He earned scholarships to several prestigious private schools, though each expelled him. His mother died when Dash was only fifteen, but he continued his education until the twelfth grade, and got his GED in 1988. After this, he ran a small party promotion company, Dash Entertainment.

In 1994 he met Jay-Z and became his manager. When the established record companies passed on Jay-Z's original album, Reasonable Doubt, Dash, Jay-Z, and silent partner Burke formed Roc-A-Fella in 1996 Def Jam Records ...