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Philip Herbert

Composer, contralto, successful vocal coach, accompanist, and teacher. She was the youngest daughter of the famous African‐American actor Ira Aldridge, and born in Upper Norwood, London. Early on she was educated at a convent school in Belgium. At the age of 17 she was awarded a scholarship to study singing at the Royal College of Music. Her teachers included Jenny Lind and George Henschel for singing, along with Frederick Bridge and Frances Edward Gladstone for harmony and counterpoint.

Aldridge's career was successful and varied, as a contralto until an attack of laryngitis damaged her voice, an accompanist, vocal coach, and later a composer. She accompanied her brother Ira Frederick Aldridge on musical tours until his death in 1886. She also accompanied her sister Luranah in concerts at many well‐known London venues at the turn of the 20th century.

Aldridge also played a seminal ...

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Fred Rohner

was born in Callao (Peru), on 8 May 1877, the son of Ignacio Almenerio and Juana Mejia. He moved to Barrios Altos (Lima) in his youth and lived there for the rest of his life. Almenerio was a criollo musician of the early twentieth century and was renowned as a composer and performer of the mandolin and bandurria (a lute-type instrument).

While still a child, he attended a performance of the Spanish Estudiantina Figaro (a string ensemble) at La Linea café; this sparked his passion for stringed instruments. A few years later, he learned to play the bandurria under the guidance of Manuel Boza and later mastered the mandolin and guitar.

His work as a composer includes several well known waltzes Rebeca based on a stanza of a poem by Guillermo Bazo El Huracan Tempestad and La Abeja the musical arrangement of a poem by the Colombian Julio Florez ...

Article

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

Charles Haywood

(b Flushing, NY, Oct 22, 1854; d Philadelphia, May 5, 1911). American minstrel performer and songwriter. He was educated in Washington, DC, where he enrolled in the law department of Howard University and was deeply moved by the spirituals and the rhythm and harmony of the work songs of labourers on the university campus. He learnt to play the banjo, taught himself the rudiments of harmony and began composing songs. He organized musical groups and performed at various social functions, where he soon became known as a versatile entertainer. He found the perfect outlet for his musical and theatrical talents in the minstrel show and joined the Original Black Diamonds of Boston as a leading performer in 1875.

In 1876 Bland joined the Bohee Minstrels then Sprague s Georgia Minstrels who as Haverly s Genuine Colored Minstrels opened at Her Majesty s ...

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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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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

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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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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

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Wendy Pflug

activist and author, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only child of Dorothy Clark, a factory worker, and Dr. Horace Scott, a neurosurgeon who never publicly acknowledged his daughter's existence. As a result Elaine was raised by a single mother.

Elaine Brown grew up in poverty in a row house on York Street in North Philadelphia. Hoping for a better life for her daughter, Dorothy Clark enrolled Elaine in an experimental elementary school Thaddeus Stevens School of Practice There she was exposed to the lives of her often privileged white Jewish classmates and from an early age she learned to assimilate their habits She learned to adopt their speech patterns and cadence of voice using words such as these instead of dese or he ll be going instead of he be goin Thus Brown lived in two worlds in which she was able to act white while ...

Article

Eleanor D. Branch

singer, songwriter, actor, activist, playwright, was born Oscar Cicero Brown Jr., the son of Oscar Brown Sr., a lawyer and real estate broker, and Helen Lawrence, a schoolteacher, in Chicago.

Growing up, Brown demonstrated an early attraction to and flair for language. He won elocution contests in school and was drawn to the poetry of Langston Hughes and Countée Cullen as well as to the music of Cole Porter and Oscar Hammerstein. He wrote songs as a teenager and by age fifteen had made his show business debut in the children's radio drama Secret City A year later having skipped two grades he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin only to find that academia was not for him he was drawn to creative writing but fell short in other subjects and as a consequence drifted from school to school never graduating Throughout this period his ...

Article

Elliott S. Hurwitt

dance-orchestra leader, military bandleader, and songwriter, was born James Timothy Brymn in Kinston, North Carolina, to Peter and Eliza. He attended Shaw University in his home state and continued his education at the National Conservatory of Music in New York, which had once boasted Antonin Dvorák among its teachers and Will Marion Cook among its pupils. In New York, Brymn teamed up with the lyricist Cecil Mack (Richard McPherson), and together they wrote some songs for the publishing firm of Joseph Stern. In 1901 they had their first song hit, “Josephine, My Jo,” which was interpolated into the Williams and Walker show Sons of Ham Brymn and Mack followed up the next year with Please Go Way and Let Me Sleep By this time Brymn was also writing with others besides Mack His My Little Zulu Babe was recorded by Williams and Walker near the end ...

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Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

blues singer, was born Armenter Chatmon in rural Hinds County, Mississippi, about fifteen miles west of Jackson, the son of Henderson Chatmon and Eliza Jackson, both farmers. His father was also a musician whose reputation as a fiddler dated back to country dances in the days of slavery. His mother played guitar. All nine brothers and one sister in the family played various instruments. Armenter Chatmon nicknamed “Bo,” played violin, guitar, bass, banjo, and clarinet, learning mainly from an older brother, Lonnie. Another brother, Sam, whose later recollections constituted the main body of information about the family, said Lonnie was born early in the 1890s and was the first to learn music, so he taught each of the younger siblings.

It was Bo Chatmon who first organized the musical siblings as a business enterprise around 1917 Working in various groupings as they came of age brothers Bo Lonnie ...

Article

David Krasner

actor, director, and composer, was born Robert Allen Cole Jr. in Athens, Georgia, the son of Robert Allen Cole Sr., a successful carpenter and political activist. Nothing is known about Cole's mother. Cole received musical training in Athens and finished elementary school after his family moved to Atlanta. He made his first stage appearance in Chicago, performing in Sam T. Jack's The Creole Show in 1891; later he became the show's stage manager. Around 1893 Cole and his stage partner, Stella Wiley, moved to New York, where they performed in vaudeville. Cole and Wiley may have married, but there is no evidence, and in any event by the end of the 1890s they had parted company. Returning to Jack's Creole Show Cole soon emerged as the headliner developing his popular stage character the tramp Willy Wayside During the mid 1890s he formed the first school ...

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Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

blues singer and songwriter, was born in Forest, Mississippi, between Jackson and Meridian, the son of Minnie Louise Crudup, an unmarried domestic worker. His father was reputed to be a musician, but Crudup recalled seeing him only twice. Raised by his mother in poverty, Crudup began singing both blues and religious music around age ten. In 1916 he and his mother moved to Indianapolis. After she became ill, Crudup dropped out of school and took a job in a foundry at age thirteen.

According to his own account Crudup did not start playing guitar until around 1937, by which time he had returned to the South, married and divorced his first wife, Annie Bell Reed and taken work as a farmhand Supposedly he found a guitar with only two strings and one by one added the other four while picking up rudimentary chords from a local musician ...

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Elliott S. Hurwitt

songwriter and bandleader, was born Ford Thompson Dabney in Washington, D.C., to a musical family. Both his father and an uncle, the renowned Wendell P. Dabney, were professional musicians. Dabney studied first with his father, then with Charles Donch, William Waldecker, and Samuel Fabian. In 1904 he traveled to Haiti where he was retained as court pianist to President Noro Alexis, remaining in that post until 1907. On his return to the United States he resettled in Washington where he became the proprietor of a vaudeville and motion picture theater. He also organized touring companies, including Ford Dabney's Ginger Girls, which toured in African American vaudeville. Two members of this troupe, Lottie Gee and Effie King, became well-known entertainers in their own right.

The precise beginnings of Dabney s work as a composer are difficult to pin down with any precision His ...

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Eileen Southern

(b Dayton, OH, Dec 3, 1863; d New York, Oct 18, 1899). American songwriter. He had little formal training in music but studied privately with teachers at the Nelson Musical College, Cincinnati, where he was employed as a janitor. The moderate success of his first published song, We Sat Beneath the Maple on the Hill (1880), encouraged him to continue writing. Later he became a protégé of the songwriter James E. Stewart, who undoubtedly helped him to gain entry into the music publishing world. In 1890 he moved to New York and within three years had become one of the top songwriters of Tin Pan Alley. More than a million copies of his most popular song, In the Baggage Coach Ahead (1896 were sold Davis was the first black songwriter to win international acclaim for his ballads which combined sweet ...