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Mark Clague

musician and songwriter, was born Claude Augustus Benjamin in Christiansted, St. Croix, Virgin Islands (then Danish West Indies), the son of Joseph Benjamin and Euphrasia Seteon (spelled Shöin on his Anglican baptismal certificate). Benjamin's early life was difficult. His father was a fisherman who died when Benjamin was an infant, and changes in the shipping industry, hurricanes, and World War I pushed the economy of the Virgin Islands into decline. After graduating from Virgin Islands High School in 1925, he abandoned his early hopes of becoming a physician for lack of tuition to enter medical school, and worked as a tailor and cabinetmaker instead. In 1927 he moved to New York City in search of better opportunity.

Inspired by a local island musician, Louis Stakemann Benjamin had taught himself ukulele and banjo by ear as a youth Upon arriving in New York he added guitar to his skills ...


Glenn Allen Knoblock

dancer, jazz band leader, and businesswoman, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of Eddie Briscoe, a meatpacker, and Neliska Thomas, a cook and housekeeper born in Mexico. She had two half brothers and a sister who died young. Briscoe's career as an entertainer began early, at about the age of nine, when she performed in a club where her uncle, Escaliere Thomas, was employed part time in the evenings. Soon thereafter Briscoe acquired the nickname “Baby” (sometimes “Babe”), a moniker she retained in her entertainment career even as an adult.

Briscoe performed in New Orleans at the St Bernard Alley Cabaret known for its talented jazz band as an acrobatic dancer in a floor show in which she was the sole child performer accompanied there in the evenings by her mother after work A natural on the stage Briscoe continued to perform as a popular ...


Barry Kernfeld

jazz singer, lyricist, and tap dancer, was born Edgar Jefferson in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Information about his parents is unknown. It is known that he started dancing around age eight. He also played tuba in a school band and taught himself guitar and drums, experience that later gave his singing a firm musical foundation. In Pittsburgh he was accompanied by the pianist Art Blakey, before Blakey took up drums, and he danced and sang with the Zephyrs at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933. In 1937 Jefferson danced in the Knockouts, a trio that included Dave Tate and Irv Taylor (Little Irv), and he worked in a dance team called Billy and Eddie in 1939. Around 1940 he performed with Coleman Hawkins's big band at Dave's in Chicago. While in the army, around 1942 he was in charge of a drum and bugle ...


Bandleader who for a brief period early in the Second World War was one of the best known in Britain and definitely the best‐known black one. Born in Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana), he learnt the violin but his father discouraged his early interest in dancing. He attended the leading secondary school, Queen's College, and was sent to England for further education. Johnson soon abandoned the study of law for a career as a dancer, studying with the American Clarence ‘Buddy’ Bradley, who had a dance school in London. His professional career took off and in 1934–5 he toured the West Indies and the United States. At this stage, still primarily a dancer, he was encouraged by the popularity of jazz bands to form one with Leslie Thompson, a much superior musician from Jamaica. Though popular, the band fell apart in 1937 and Johnson formed his own band ...


Joe Street

songwriter and falsetto and tenor vocalist, was born Edward James Kendrick to Jonny and Lee Bell Kendrick in Union Springs, Alabama. Aged seven, Kendricks moved to Birmingham, and in 1955, with friends and singing partners Paul Williams (baritone) and Kell Osborne, formed a doo-wop group, the Cavaliers. In 1956, the group moved to Cleveland, Ohio. After moving to Detroit and changing their name to the Primes in 1957 or 1958, they lost Osborne but gained Otis Williams (baritone and tenor), Melvin Franklin (bass), and Elbridge Bryant. Through frequent performances at local dances and singing battles, the Primes soon developed a popular following on the Detroit circuit. A 1960 single, “Oh Mother, Oh Mine,” on the Motown affiliate Miracle, sank without a trace. Bryant departed soon after, to be replaced by David Ruffin tenor which also precipitated a name change with the Primes becoming ...


Paul Devlin

jazz singer, lyricist, jazz trumpeter, band director, dancer, and actress, was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Etta Snow, a Howard University–trained musician, and John Snow. Little is known about John Snow, but it is thought that he may have been white. Snow had at least two sisters, named Alvaida and Lavaida; she may have had other siblings as well. Snow began performing early in life but first achieved widespread recognition performing in Barron Wilkins's productions in New York in 1922. By 1924 she had appeared in a number of variety shows and musicals, including Ramblin' Round (1923), Follow Me (1923), and In Bamville (1924), the last by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake. In Bamville was later renamed Chocolate Dandies and featured Josephine Baker. In 1926 she traveled to London ...


American composer, arranger, orchestrator, lyricist, and musical director, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to William Henry Bennett and Selina (Buthanna) Vodery. His father, originally from Baltimore, Maryland, was a minister and a graduate of Lincoln University (1883); he continued graduate studies at the Theological Department of the College and later taught classes there. In September 1884, Vodery's father died unexpectedly; his mother later remarried.

Vodery's mother came from a musical background, and he was exposed to music as a young child. He studied the piano and violin while in the public schools of Philadelphia and graduated in 1902 from Central High School. His music education was supplemented with study of harmony and counterpoint, and private composition lessons at the University of Pennsylvania with Professor Hugh A. Clarke (1839–1928 A notable musical figure composer conductor and writer on harmony and ...