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SaFiya D. Hoskins

blues musician, was born Luther Allison in Widener, Arkansas, the fourteenth of fifteen children born to his parents (names unknown), who were cotton farmers. He grew up with an interest in music; playing the organ in church, singing gospel, and listening to the Grand Ole Opry from Nashville, Tennessee, over the radio. Allison was exposed early to blues; from the music his father played on the family radio to hearing blues musicians like B.B. King, broadcast from Memphis on WDIA.

By the age of ten, Allison had begun to show interest in the guitar. In 1951 at the age of twelve he moved with his family in search of better opportunities to the Westside of Chicago After high school Allison studied the craft of shoemaking Meanwhile several of his siblings were members of a gospel group and one of his older brothers Ollie had become a popular guitarist ...

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Jason Philip Miller

was born Pinkney Anderson in the small town of Laurens in southwestern South Carolina. Little is known about his early years or upbringing. He apparently learned to play guitar at a very early age and by the time he was ten years old could play the open tuned guitar, common in blues music. He was something of a natural showman, earning small change by dancing for passersby on the streets of Greenville and Spartanburg, to which his family relocated during his childhood. Sometime probably around 1914 or 1915 he fell in with Frank Smiley Kerr his first name is variously recorded though whether this is due to error or because Kerr went by different names is unclear purportedly a doctor whose Indian Remedy Company peddled various potions and nostrums of a more or less fanciful nature As part of the show Anderson played his guitar between pitches Remarkably he ...

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Mark Steven Maulucci

singer and guitarist known as “Kokomo,” was born in Lovejoy Station, Georgia, a small railroad town in Clayton County, approximately twenty‐five miles south of Atlanta. He was raised on a farm and learned some guitar from a relative named John Wigges, who was an accomplished knife‐style guitarist. In 1919 Arnold moved to Buffalo, New York, where he worked in a steel mill. After stops and similar jobs in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Gary, Indiana, Arnold moved to the Mississippi Delta in the late 1920s. He reportedly made a living as a bootlegger and throughout his life regarded his music as a sideline. He lived for a while in Glen Allan, Mississippi, and played with a partner named Willie Morris.

In 1930 Arnold made his recording debut as Gitfiddle Jim in a Memphis recording session for Victor The two songs Rainy Night Blues and Paddlin Madeline Blues displayed the ...

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William E. Lightfoot

Piedmont-style guitarist, was born near Collettsville in the African American community of Franklin, an Appalachian hollow not far from the John's River in upper Caldwell County, North Carolina. Her grandfather Alexander Reid and father Boone Reid, both born in Franklin, played the banjo in the old-time clawhammer manner, with Boone going on to become an accomplished musician who also played fiddle, harmonica, and guitar, on which he used a two-finger-style approach. Boone Reid had absorbed many kinds of music of the mid-to-late nineteenth century, including Anglo-American dance tunes, lyric folksongs, ballads, rags, religious music, and published pieces that had drifted into folk tradition—popular Tin Pan Alley songs old minstrel tunes and Victorian parlor music Boone and his wife Sallie who sang instilled their love of music in their eight children a process that led eventually to the formation of a Reid family string band that played after ...

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Anne K. Driscoll

blues singer and pianist, was born Gladys Alberta Bentley in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the eldest of four children of George L. Bentley and Mary C. Mote, a native of Trinidad. The Bentley family was very poor. Later a lesbian, Bentley acknowledged that even as a child she felt more comfortable in boys' clothing than in girls' clothing; however, it was when Bentley developed a long-term crush on one of her female schoolteachers that her classmates began to ridicule her and her parents began to take Bentley from doctor to doctor in an effort to “fix” her. Finally at age sixteen Bentley left Philadelphia and traveled to Harlem, New York, where she quickly became immersed in the Harlem Renaissance and its “don't ask, don't tell” attitude about sexuality. Bentley became just one of many homosexual or bisexual celebrities, joining the likes of Langston Hughes, Ethel Waters, Bessie Smith ...

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Barbara Bonous-Smit

popular blues guitarist, composer, singer, and recording artist, was born in Jacksonville, Florida.

To date, researchers have not found much biographical information about Blind Blake, including the place and exact date of his birth and death. His birth and death certificates have never been found, and there is nothing available about his family background, including the name of his parents or if there were any siblings. His name is also a mystery. It is not certain if “Blake” was his surname or an epithet. On one of his recordings he does state that his name is Arthur Blake, and this is also the name his contemporaries said he mentioned. Some of his compositions have the imprint of Arthur Phelps, another name attributed to him. Other names he was known by included Billy James, Gorgeous Weed, and George Martin It is ...

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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 ...

Article

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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Joseph McEwen

(b McComb, MS, Dec 30, 1928; d Archer, FL, June 2, 2008). American rock and roll singer. He was taken to Chicago at the age of five, and soon after began violin lessons, which he continued for 12 years. He grew up with black gospel music and the delta blues players of Chicago’s southside, but he was most strongly influenced by Nat ‘King’ Cole, Louis Jordan and John Lee Hooker, whose Boogie Chillen inspired him to play guitar. He formed a street-corner band, which attracted enough attention to be granted an audition with Chess Records in 1954. In early 1955Bo Diddley Checker was released as a single and reached number 2 in the rhythm and blues chart It had bragging nonsense lyrics like many of his later songs but its chief appeal lay in its shimmering rumba rhythm and violent primitive ...

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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 ...

Article

Monica Hairston

blues singer, was born Lucille Anderson in Amory, Mississippi. Although little is known of her early life, she was raised in Birmingham, Alabama, where her family moved early on in search of work in the numerous steel and coal mills. She was married to Nazareth Lee Bogan Sr., a locomotive fireman, in about 1914 and had a son, Nazareth Lee Bogan Jr., in 1916 and a stepdaughter, Ira Betty Bogan, in 1911. In addition, she was the aunt of trumpeter and pianist Thomas “Big Music” Anderson.

Bogan began her recording career in 1923 with a session for Okeh Records in New York City. Pianist Henry Callens accompanied her. The tracks she recorded were more vaudeville oriented than they were blues, and they reflect the major influence of Bessie Smith, Ida Cox and other vaudeville artists Bogan s style is distinct however Like the other ...

Article

Michael J. Budds

singer, drummer, and bandleader, was born Myron Carlton Bradshaw in Youngstown, Ohio. His parents' names are unknown. He played the drums from the age of ten and soon after was performing professionally as a drummer and vocalist. Early in his career he served as the drummer of the Jump Johnson Band in Buffalo, New York. He attended Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio, and majored in psychology. Before forming his own big band in 1934, he sang with Horace Henderson's Collegians, and in New York he either drummed or sang with Marion Hardy's Alabamians, the Savoy Bearcats, Mills Blue Rhythm Band (1932–1933), and Luis Russell (1933–1934).

Bradshaw s own band enjoyed long engagements in the ballrooms and nightclubs of Harlem notably the Savoy and the Apollo Philadelphia and Chicago and toured throughout the United States and Europe making its reputation with powerful blues based jazz His ...

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Jason Philip Miller

musician and blues performer, was born Lee Baker Jr. in tiny Dubuisson, Louisiana, in St. Landry Parish, center of the state's Cajun and Creole culture. He was named for his father, so his mother, whose name is not known, called him “Little Lee,” which eventually mutated into “Lenny” and then, because Brooks could not abide it, into his more familiar stage and recording name. His was a musical upbringing. Brooks learned to pick banjo from his grandfather, though he did not settle on the idea of a career in music making until sometime later. Whether or not he attended local schools—or to what extent—is not known, but he grew up in the country, on a farm, only occasionally making forays into the small city of Opelousas. He later recalled that the first time he heard the music of Lightnin’ Hopkins it was coming from the speakers attached to ...

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Paul Oliver

(b Scott, MS, June 26, 1893; d Chicago, Aug 14, 1958). American blues singer and guitarist. He grew up in Arkansas, where he lived on a farm until he was in his late 20s. After working as a fiddle player in the rural South, he settled in Chicago in 1920. There he learnt to play the guitar, on which he was already an outstanding performer when he began to record ten years later. In the late 1930s and the 1940s he was sympathetically supported by Joshua Altheimer or Black Bob Hudson on the piano in a manner reminiscent of Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell.

One of the most prolifically recorded of black American blues singers Broonzy formed a link between the country and urban blues traditions playing with a light lilting style Some of his recorded blues are poetic statements complemented by moaning ...

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Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

blues singer and guitarist, was born William Lee Conley Broonzy in Scott, Bolivar County, Mississippi, the son of Frank Broonzy and Nettie (or Mittie) Belcher, former slaves who became sharecroppers. One of at least sixteen children, including a twin sister, he lived in Mississippi until age eight, when his family moved to Arkansas, near Pine Bluff, to try sharecropping there. As a youngster he made violins out of cornstalks, learning music from an uncle, Jerry Belcher and a local musician known as See See Rider He and a friend began playing homemade instruments to entertain local children though always out of sight of his parents stern Baptists who frowned on secular music The parental disapproval eased however when he graduated to a real instrument supposedly bought for him by a white patron and began earning money as a musician When he was twelve the family moved to Scotts ...

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William Lee Conley Broonzy was born to sharecropper parents in Scott, Mississippi; during his childhood he moved with his family between Mississippi and Arkansas, farming in both states. Broonzy first played music on homemade fiddles and guitars, and was performing at special occasions by the age of fifteen. Between the ages of fifteen and twenty he developed his dexterous hollering vocal style, as well as his characteristically facile guitar technique. Music, however, remained but an avocation for Broonzy until he resettled in Chicago after serving in the army during World War I.

In the 1920s Broonzy embarked on a struggle to subsist as a professional musician a struggle that continued until the last few years of his life Throughout the decade he made numerous live appearances in Chicago nightclubs yet he failed to garner much interest from record companies In the 1930s however his luck changed with the explosion ...

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Mary Anne Boelcskevy

singer and actor, was born Ada Scott in Kansas City, Kansas, the daughter of H. W. and Anna Morris Scott. (Some scholars list her as being born on 1 May 1889 in Junction City, Kansas.) Nothing is known about her education, except that she began piano lessons at an early age. She also started singing in the local church choir, developing the voice that the historian Bruce Kellner calls “full, rich, and mellow” (Kellner, 55). Indeed, musical ability ran in Brown's family: Her cousin was renowned ragtime pianist and composer James Sylvester Scott.

Brown's professional life began in 1910, when she became a performer at Bob Mott's Pekin Theater in Chicago. Barely out of her teens, Brown also performed in clubs in Paris, France, and Berlin, Germany. In the early 1920s Brown joined Bennie Moten s band which was considered the Midwest s preeminent band During ...

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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 ...

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blues singer, songwriter, guitarist, and fiddle player, was born in Vinton, Louisiana, and moved across the Sabine River with his family to Orange, Texas, when he was a few weeks old. He began playing the fiddle when he was five, learning the instrument from his father, Clarence Brown Sr.—a railroad worker who played and sang everything from traditional French songs to German polkas—and taught himself to play the guitar when he was ten. Brown's mother, Jenny, played the piano.

As a boy Brown would hang outside the local jazz clubs, and once when he was listening to Duke Ellington practice the musician invited him to sit with him on the piano bench Brown claimed he acquired his nickname when a high school teacher said he had a voice like a gate though he long promised to reveal the true account of how he became ...