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Theresa Vara-Dannen

entrepreneur, abolitionist, music teacher, and banjoist, was born in Hartford, Connecticut to Hosea Easton, a Boston-born minister in Hartford and Hosea's wife, the former Louisa Matrick. Sampson Easton's lineage is distinguished on both sides of his tri-racial family because his mother was the daughter of Quack Matrick, a Revolutionary War soldier; his paternal grandfather was James Easton of Boston, a well-known contractor and iron-worker artisan, and an activist for the rights of African Americans. Sampson Easton's father, Hosea Easton, wrote A Treatise On the Intellectual Character, and Civil and Political Condition of the Colored People of the U. States; And the Prejudice Exercised Towards Them; With A Sermon on the Duty of the Church To Them (1837), a short book that suggested that black “uplift” could create a more congenial environment for African Americans only with a dramatic reversal of white prejudice.

While ...

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William Thomson

banjo, guitar, and saxophone player, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. His parents' names are unknown and his exact birth date varies depending on the source. In 1915 he began his career in his hometown playing a New Orleans–derived jazz with Eubie Blake and later with the pianist Gertie Wells, to whom he was married for several years during the early 1920s. By 1921 he had moved to nearby Washington, D.C., where he jobbed with Louis Thomas and Claude Hopkins and his own eight-piece group, which played alternately with Duke Ellington's trio. Snowden also appears to have played banjo with Ellington's group earlier, from 1919 to 1920, but this is not reported conclusively. Snowden's Washington band included Sonny Greer on drums, Arthur Whetsol on trumpet, and Otto Hardwick on sax. The three would later be long-term members of the Ellington orchestra.

Bolstered by the ...

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Rainer E. Lotz

musician (mandolin, banjo, guitar), music teacher, composer, and bandleader was born in Vermont, Illinois. His father, an “elocutionist,” recognized his son's musical abilities and encouraged him to commence his musical studies at the age of seven, besides attending school. Seth Weeks started with the violin, but soon abandoned that instrument in favor of the guitar, and eventually the mandolin. After playing and practicing for some fifteen years, he conducted a Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra in Tacoma, Washington and became a music teacher with pupils in Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, and Salt Lake City. From the 1890s most of his compositions were published by Shaeffer and Lyon & Healey (Chicago), a typical example being the “Grand Concert Polka” for Mandolin, Guitar/Piano (Shaeffer, 1900). Besides teaching he made concert tours throughout the United States and Canada.

He was in Boston on the Keith circuit in 1900 when ...