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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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Nathaniel Friedman

soul and rhythm and blues singer and songwriter, was born Arthur Alexander Jr. in Florence, Alabama, to Arthur Alexander, a laborer and musician, and Fannie Scott Spencer. He was exposed to music at an early age by his mother and older sister, who sang in church, and by his father, who played weekend gigs as a bottleneck blues guitarist. After high school Alexander was working as a bellhop at the Sheffield Hotel when he met Tom Stafford, a white R&B enthusiast who introduced him to what would become the nucleus of the Muscle Shoals–area studio scene: Dan Penn, Rick Hall, Spooner Oldham, and Billy Sherrill. The men, all then working for Rick Hall's Fame Music Stafford, found Alexander's songwriting abilities every bit as intriguing as his singing, and soon made sure that Alexander became part of Fame's writing operation. In 1958Alexander and Henry Lee Bennett coauthored ...

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Jack Sohmer

jazz pianist, composer, and singer, was born Lillian Hardin in Memphis, Tennessee, the daughter of Dempsey Hardin, a strict, churchgoing woman who disapproved of blues music. Nothing is known of her father. At age six Lil began playing organ at home, and at eight she started studying piano. In 1914 she enrolled in the music school of Fisk University in Nashville, taking academic courses and studying piano and music theory. After earning her diploma, around 1917 she joined her mother in Chicago, where she found work demonstrating songs in Jones' Music Store. Prompted by her employer, in 1918 Hardin became house pianist for the clarinetist Lawrence Duhé's band at Bill Bottoms's Dreamland Ballroom, where she played with the cornetists “Sugar Johnny” Smith, Freddie Keppard, and King Oliver; the trombonist Roy Palmer; and other New Orleans musicians Because she was still a minor her mother ...

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Lisa Clayton Robinson

Armstrong's career as a Jazz musician began with a job in a music store in Chicago, Illinois. She met Louis Armstrong while they were both with King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band in Chicago. They married in 1924 and divorced in 1938 Armstrong worked with her husband in the ...

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Lil Hardin Armstrong is one of the great treasures of American jazz. In a day when women in music were the singers, Hardin played the piano, composed, arranged, and managed—both her own career and that of her husband Louis Armstrong. Uncredited for many years, happily she has begun to gain some well-deserved attention.

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Lillian Beatrice Hardin was the daughter of Dempsey Martin and William Hardin Reports differ on whether Hardin s parents divorced or whether her father died when she was young but it is known that Hardin was raised by her mother and her maternal grandmother in a strictly religious household Hardin was attracted to music almost from birth and began playing the organ when she was very young By the time she was six her mother had arranged that she take additional piano lessons from her schoolteacher and by nine she ...

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George P. Weick

writer, was born in Greenville, Mississippi, the son of William S. Attaway, a medical doctor, and Florence Parry, a teacher. His family moved to Chicago when Attaway was six years old, following the arc of the Great Migration, that thirty‐year period beginning in the last decade of the nineteenth century during which more than 2 million African Americans left the South for the burgeoning industrial centers of the North. Unlike many of these emigrants, who traded the field for the factory and the sharecropper's shack for the ghetto, the Attaways were professionals at the outset, with high ambitions for themselves and their children in their new homeland.

Attaway attended public schools in Chicago, showing no great interest in his studies until, as a high school student, he encountered the work of Langston Hughes He became from that point on a more serious student and even tried his hand ...

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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

songwriter and musician, was born in Brooklyn, New York. Information on his family and early life is fragmented at best, but it is known that Blackwell was a musical child and learned to play the piano while he was young.

Upon leaving school at the end of the 1940s, Blackwell held jobs in a New York theater as a floor sweeper and as a laundry clothes presser. In 1952 his musical talents helped him win a talent contest at Harlem's Apollo Theater, arguably the capital of live black entertainment during the era of the chitlin circuit, the circuit of African American performance venues that supplied black performers with their steadiest and most stable source of employment. Blackwell subsequently signed a deal with RCA Victor Records, under the tutelage of the producer Joe Davis Davis left RCA a year later to form Jay Dee Records and Blackwell followed his mentor ...

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SaFiya D. Hoskins

rhythm and blues vocalist, was born Robert Calvin Brooks in Rosemark, Tennessee, son of May Lee and I. J. Brooks. He grew up in the rural town listening to white country singers and gospel music. At age six his mother married Leroy Bridgeworth, also known as Leroy Bland; Bland adopted his stepfather's surname in his teens. At age seventeen, Bland moved with his mother and stepfather to Memphis, Tennessee. He worked in a garage but his love for music continued to flourish. He sang gospel in church and with secular street groups, joining the Miniatures in 1949. By 1950 Bland was working as a chauffeur for blues singer and musician B. B. King and occasional valet to the singer Roscoe Gordon in order to be near blues music It was his affinity for blues that earned him his nickname Bland s persistence paid off ...

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Eric Bennett

Born in rural Rosemark, Tennessee, Bobby “Blue” Bland gravitated to Memphis, Tennessee, as a teen. He arrived there at a time when Rhythm and Blues (R&B) was beginning to gain popularity. Bland sang with the Pilgrim Travelers, a gospel group, before joining the Beale Streeters, a loose ensemble of (R&B) pioneers that included Johnny Ace and B. B. King. In his early recordings on Modern Records, Bland imitated the sounds of King and Nat “King” Cole.

Bland served in the U.S. army from 1952 to 1954, a tour of duty that slowed his career. When he returned to Memphis, he found that his old friends were already prospering as musicians. Slowly he returned to the scene, recording his best work between the mid-1950s and the early 1960s on the Duke Records label. Hits from this period included “Cry Cry Cry” (1960 and Turn ...

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William Lichtenwanger

minstrel performer and composer, was born in Flushing, Long Island, New York, the son of Allen M. Bland, an incipient lawyer, and Lidia Ann Cromwell of Brandywine, Delaware, of an emancipated family. Bland's father, whose family had been free for several generations, attended law school at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and in 1867 became the first black to be appointed an examiner in the U.S. Patent Office.

James Bland entered Howard University as a prelaw student in 1870 at the urging of his father but the subject and the life associated with it did not appeal to him Instead he was attracted to the minstrel show that was approaching its peak during the 1870s He played the guitar danced the steps sang the minstrel songs and most important composed songs for the shows A free black man who attended college for two years Bland had to learn ...

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William Lichtenwanger

James Allen Bland was born in Flushing, Long Island, New York, the son of Allen M. Bland, an incipient lawyer, and Lidia Ann Cromwell of Brandywine, Delaware, of an emancipated family. Bland's father, whose family had been free for several generations, attended law school at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and in 1867 became the first black to be appointed an examiner in the U.S. Patent Office.

James Bland entered Howard University as a prelaw student in 1870 at the urging of his father, but the subject and the life associated with it did not appeal to him. He was attracted instead to the minstrel show that was approaching its peak during the 1870s. He played the guitar, danced the steps, sang the minstrel songs, and, most importantly, composed songs for the shows.

A free black man who attended college for two years Bland did not have ...

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Frank E. Dobson

blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter. The blues performer known as Bo Diddley was born Ellas Otha Bates in McComb, Mississippi, to Eugene Bates, a father whom he never knew, and Ethel Wilson, a teenage mother. He was raised by his mother's first cousin Gussie McDaniel, and when his adoptive father, Robert McDaniel, died in 1934, Gussie moved the family to Chicago.

Diddley first studied music as a child under Professor O. W. Fredrick while attending Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago While attending Foster Vocational High School in Chicago he studied various instruments including the guitar harmonica and trombone His sister bought his first guitar for him when he was twelve During his high school years he also formed a band the Hipsters later called the Langley Avenue Jive Cats In the late 1940s Diddley tried his hand at a number ...

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Lois Bellamy

composer, educator, choral conductor, music professor, singer, and author, was born to Dr. Daniel Webster Boatner, former slave, and Sophie Stuart, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dr. Daniel Webster Boatner was born in South Carolina and was nine years old when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 Edward Boatner s grandmother was a slave who was determined that her son Daniel would receive a good education She worked very hard scrubbing floors washing cooking and nursing children of wealthy whites to send him to school Dr Boatner attended Fisk University in Nashville Tennessee and graduated from New Orleans University where he received his bachelor s and master s degrees After earning his doctorate from Gammon Theological Seminary at Atlanta Georgia he served on the faculty of Philander Smith College a Methodist School in Little Rock Arkansas where he taught Hebrew ...

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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 ...

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Melvin L. Butler

gospel composer and pastor, was born into a family of sharecroppers in Somerville, Tennessee. Although Brewster stemmed from a humble background, he managed to study a wide variety of subjects, including theology, law, and Hebrew. After graduating from Roger Williams College in 1922 he moved to Memphis, Tennessee. By 1930 Brewster had begun a lifelong tenure as pastor of the East Trigg Baptist Church. A major aspect of Brewster's early ministry centered on the founding of theology schools, and these centers of learning helped to establish his voice as one of moral authority and spiritual guidance in religious circles.

By the time Brewster began seriously publishing his songs in the 1940s he had gained over a decade of experience in his pastoral role This experience provided a wellspring of material for songs that often relayed Old Testament stories and were enjoyed by African American congregations across the United States ...

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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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Elliott S. Hurwitt

songwriter, was born Shelton Leroy Brooks in Amesburg, Ontario, near Detroit, to Potter, a Methodist minister, and Laura Brooks. Both of his parents sang and played the organ, and they kept a harmonium (pump organ) in the home. Shelton began experimenting on this while still a small child. Because Shelton was too small to reach the foot pedals, however, an older brother operated them while he played the keyboard. The family moved to the United States while Shelton was a boy, and he began his career in Detroit and Cleveland, honing the performing skills that would later make him a popular entertainer. He migrated to Chicago, the unrivaled hub of African American entertainment in the Midwest, sometime before 1909.

Brooks's first known song, “You Ain't Talking to Me,” was published in 1909 by Will Rossiter of Chicago and Brooks stuck with this firm for most of his publications ...

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Michael Adams

blues songwriter, singer, and pianist, was born in Texas City on the Gulf Coast of Texas. His mother, Mattie, died when he was six months old, and his father, Mose, a cotton picker, ignored the boy. Brown was raised by his maternal grandparents, Swanee and Conquest Simpson. Mose Brown, planning to reclaim his son, was struck and killed by a train in 1928.

Brown's grandmother arranged for him to begin piano lessons when he was six so that he could play for the Barbous Chapel Baptist Church. He began singing in the church choir, and an uncle taught him to play the guitar and sing the blues. Knowing his grandmother would disapprove, he practiced singing and playing the blues when she was out of the house.

When he was around thirteen Brown created the style of blues he called Walkin and Driftin to express the ...

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Charles D. Grear

musician, performer, songwriter, and southern musical legend. Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown—“Gatemouth” because of his deep voice—emerged as a musical legend in the South for more than fifty years. Brown was heavily influenced by the music of Texas and Louisiana, and his range of styles included the blues, rhythm and blues (R&B), country, swing, jazz, and Cajun. A virtuoso on guitar, violin, mandolin, viola, harmonica, and drums, Brown influenced and was influenced by performers as diverse as Albert Collins, Eric Clapton, Frank Zappa, Lonnie Brooks, Guitar Slim, and Joe Louis Walker. Throughout his career he recorded more than thirty albums. Those who have been featured on his albums include Eric Clapton, Ry Cooder, Amos Garrett, Jim Keltner, Maria Muldaur, and Leon Russell.

Born on 18 April 1924 in Vinton Louisiana Brown was raised in Orange Texas ...