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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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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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Gayle Murchison

rhythm and blues singer known as “Mr. Blues,” was born in Omaha, Nebraska, to the fifteen-year-old Mallie Hood Anderson. (His birth year is often incorrectly given as 1915.) Harris saw his father, a Native American named Blue Jay, only once in his life. Luther Harris married Mallie and became Wynonie's stepfather. Wynonie Harris attended Omaha public schools, leaving Central High before graduation. By the time Harris was nineteen, he had fathered two children. His first child, a daughter named Mickey, was born to Naomi Henderson on 19 October 1932. His second was a son, Wesley, born to Laura Devereaux on 13 August 1933. Harris's third child was a daughter, Adrianne Patricia (Pattie), born 20 May 1936 to the teenage Olive (“Ollie”) E. Goodlow. The couple married on 11 December 1936; they had no more children.

Harris began his career as a ...

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Gayle Murchison

blues and soul singer, was born near Naples, Texas. He had three brothers and one sister, but nothing is known of his parents. His date of birth is often given as 1940 or 1941, as he sometimes stated those dates in interviews. He adopted “Z. Z.” while performing in the Dallas area because it sounded like the first two initials of B. B. King's name, a bluesman he admired and wanted to emulate early in his career. His repertoire and recordings include soul and R&B, but he was most successful as a blues artist.

Hill first sang publicly in the Gethsemane Baptist Church choir and later joined a gospel quintet called the Spiritual Five, a group that performed at local churches. He graduated from high school in 1953 and subsequently moved to Dallas to live with an uncle Continuing to sing in church Hill began sitting ...

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Barry Kernfeld

jazz, blues, and rhythm and blues singer, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the daughter of John Henry Humes, a railroad worker who became one of the first African American attorneys in Louisville and then worked in real estate, and Emma Johnson, a schoolteacher. “Well, I was born June 23, 1909, but I put it June 23, 1913. And everybody that's been writing books and things, they got 1913,” Humes explained to Helen Oakley Dance (12 May 1981). Her mother sang in a Baptist church choir and played piano at home. Humes sang with her mother and then took piano lessons as well. At Central High School her classmates included the jazz trombonist Dicky Wells, the drummer Bill Beason, and the trumpeter Jonah Jones At age seventeen before finishing her schooling Humes traveled to St Louis ...

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Barry Kernfeld

Humes, Helen (23 June 1909–13 September 1981), jazz, blues, and rhythm-and-blues singer, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the daughter of John Henry Humes, a railroad worker who became one of the first African-American attorneys in Louisville and then worked in real estate, and Emma Johnson, a schoolteacher. “Well, I was born June 23, 1909, but I put it June 23, 1913. And everybody that’s been writing books and things, they got 1913,” Humes explained to Helen Oakley Dance. Her mother sang in a Baptist church choir and played piano at home. Humes sang with her mother and then took piano lessons as well. At Central High School her classmates included jazz trombonist Dicky Wells drummer Bill Beason and trumpeter Jonah Jones At age seventeen before finishing her schooling Humes traveled to St Louis to make her first blues records for the OKeh label pairing Black Cat ...

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Steven C. Tracy

blues singer and instrumentalist, was born Marion Walter Jacobs in Marksville, Louisiana, the son of Adam Jacobs and Beatrice Leviege, sharecroppers. Soon after Walter's birth, the family moved to Alexandria, Louisiana, where he grew up, and at age eight he began playing the harmonica, absorbing the sounds of both the white harmonica player Lonnie Glosson and Cajun music. At age eleven or twelve Walter ran away from home, his destination New Orleans, where he played on the streets and perhaps in some clubs in 1942; he also played at the Liberty Inn Club in Monroe, Louisiana, in 1943. By 1944 he was in Helena, Arkansas, learning a few pointers from Rice Miller (also known as “Sonny Boy”) and appearing on radio on King Biscuit Time and Mother's Best Flour Hour in 1945–1946. Jacobs married Pearl Lee around 1945 they moved to East ...

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Robert A. Pratt

blues, soul, jazz, and R&B singer, often referred to as the “Matriarch of the Blues,” was born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles, California, to Dorothy Hawkins. Her mother, who was unmarried at the time of James's birth, said little about her father's identity, but occasionally dropped hints that he was a famous white man. Although it was never confirmed conclusively, James came to believe that her father was Rudolph Wanderone, better known as Minnesota Fats, the world-famous pool player; the two would not meet until 1987. Because of her mother's inability to care for her, James lived with Lula and Jesse Rogers, the proprietors of the rooming house where her mother was renting a room at the time. The Rogerses had no children of their own, and Lula Rogers raised James as her own daughter.

At the age of five James began ...

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Kate Tuttle

Born and raised in California, Etta James—who was named Jamesetta Hawkins at birth—began her singing career early. At the age of five, she was the star of her church choir; by fourteen, she was singing professionally with a Rhythm-and-Blues (R&B) band. In 1954 James recorded her first song, “Roll with Me Henry”—a joking response to “Work with Me Annie,” a ribald hit by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. “Henry” was itself sexually suggestive enough to be banned by radio disc jockeys.

Throughout the late 1950s James recorded for Modern Records, producing the 1955 hit “Good Rockin' Daddy” and a series of less successful songs. In 1960 she signed with Chess Records where she blossomed into a fully formed talent. Songs like “All I Could Do Was Cry” (1960) showed how James's passionate, powerful voice could caress a ballad. Lighter, more pop-oriented numbers like “Pushover” (1963 ...

Article

Robert W. Stephens

Etta James is one of the most important voices of rhythm and blues music; her life and performances offer insight into unacknowledged traditions and a feminist consciousness among the poor in African American communities long before that political ideology became fashionable.

Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles, California. Her name combined those of her uncle and aunt, James and Cozetta. Her early family life was as rich as it was varied. She herself describes her experience as consisting of “two mothers, two childhoods,” “in two different cities.” Her mother, Dorothy Hawkins, was African American, and the identity of her father is not clear. In her autobiography Rage to Survive James describes the world that led her to become two people First Jamesetta and then Etta Her early life by any estimate was turbulent and troubled There were mysteries and questions surrounding her birth and ...

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Mark Steven Maulucci

blues guitarist and singer, was born Freddy Christian, in Gilmer, Texas, the son of J. T. Christian and his first wife, whose name is unknown. The woman he always considered his mother, Ella Mae King, was really his stepmother, having married J. T. Christian when Freddy was five. At six years of age Freddy was introduced to guitar by his uncle, Leon King, and his mother. Growing up in northeast Texas, Freddy performed in school and church and was influenced by the blues records of Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf.

In 1950 J T Christian moved his family to Chicago Freddy a large youngster was sixteen but looked older He got a job in a steel mill where he worked for seven years Chicago was in the midst of a blues explosion and Freddy frequently went to blues clubs to ...

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Barry Kernfeld

blues singer and pianist, was born in Boonville, Missouri, the daughter of George Lee Sr., a violinist, and Katie Redmond. Most published sources cite Julia's birth date as 31 October, but Sheldon Harris cites 13 October as the date on her death certificate. Julia sang with her father's string trio from age four. Around 1913 her parents acquired a piano, and she began studying it with Scrap Harris and Charles Williams. She performed locally from 1916, notably in a group that included the bassist Walter Page. After graduating from Lincoln High School in 1917, she studied piano at Western University beginning around 1918. From 1920 to 1933 her career paralleled that of her brother George E. Lee in whose bands she played and sang With a group drawn from his orchestra she recorded Won t You Come Over to My ...

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Jason Philip Miller

blues musician and songwriter, was born in Minden, Louisiana, a town not far from Shreveport. His parents' names are unknown, but his mother was reportedly a singer and his father was a dancer. Despite this musical background, Percy's early interest was in poetry, which he wrote in high school and which he then sometimes reworked as songs. A restless young man, Percy hit the rails when he was just fifteen, traveling first to Houston, Texas, where he struggled to find work as a singer, then in 1942 to Los Angeles, California, to live with a sister. Success was not immediate, so the young Mayfield made ends meet by working odd jobs: taxi driver, short-order cook, and laundry presser, among others. Still, Mayfield found work singing with a number of local orchestras, including George Como's, and he continued to write songs.

One of his songs Two Years of Torture ...

Article

Charles L. Hughes

musician and member of the Staple Singers, was born Roebuck Staples in Winona, Mississippi, the seventh child of a plantation family. His parents' names are unknown. Musical from an early age, Staples became a friend and collaborator of blues pioneers like Charley Patton and Robert Johnson, and with these players he developed his signature guitar sound, thick and reverb heavy, that influenced many subsequent guitarists. Despite his blues associations, Staples was increasingly drawn to gospel music.

After moving to Chicago with his wife, Oceola, in 1935, following the Great Migration path with millions of other black Americans, he worked at an Armour meatpacking plant and joined the Trumpet Jubilees, a moderately successful member of Chicago's fertile gospel scene. When his children reached a suitable age Staples created an ensemble with the members of his family. His four children, Cleotha, Pervis, Yvonne and Mavis joined ...

Article

André Barbera

Washington, Dinah (? Aug. 1924–14 December 1963), singer, was born Ruth Lee Jones in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the daughter of Ollie Jones, a gambler, and Alice Williams, a domestic. In 1928 her family moved to Chicago. As a teenager Washington achieved local fame as a gospel pianist and singer at St. Luke’s Baptist Church. At age fifteen she won a talent contest at the Regal Theater and soon after was hired by Sallie Martin to accompany her gospel singers on the piano. At age seventeen Washington married John Young, the first of her eight, more or less legal, husbands. She was the mother of two children, the older fathered by her second husband, George Jenkins (married 1946), and the younger by her third husband, Robert Grayson (married 1947). Her last husband, Dick “Night Train” Lane (married 1963), was a professional football player.

In 1943 Lionel Hampton hired ...

Article

André Barbera

singer, was born Ruth Lee Jones in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the daughter of Ollie Jones, a gambler, and Alice Williams, a domestic. In 1928 her family moved to Chicago. As a teenager Washington achieved local fame as a gospel pianist and singer at St. Luke's Baptist Church. At age fifteen she won a talent contest at the Regal Theater and soon after was hired by Sallie Martin to accompany her gospel singers on the piano. At age seventeen Washington married John Young, the first of her eight, more or less legal, husbands. She was the mother of two children, the older fathered by her second husband, George Jenkins (married in 1946), and the younger by her third husband, Robert Grayson (married in 1947). Her last husband, Dick “Night Train” Lane (married in 1963), was a professional football player.

In 1943Lionel Hampton hired ...

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Robert W. Logan

Dinah Washington was known as the “Queen of the Blues,” but she began in gospel, excelled at jazz, and was one of the most influential pop singers of her time. Her singing was distinguished by her emotional expressiveness, perfect diction, and near-spoken style. Her voice was a beautiful instrument with a distinctive sound that she wielded with a seemingly instinctive sense of the best possible way to position, accentuate, enunciate, and deliver every single phrase. Like her friends Billie Holiday, whom she idolized, and Aretha Franklin, whom she mentored, she had the gift of turning every song she sang into a creation uniquely her own.

Dinah Washington was born Ruth Jones in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Her father was Ollie Jones, a maintenance supervisor, and her mother was Alice (Williams) Jones who worked as a domestic When she was three or four the family moved to the ...

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Aaron Myers

Dinah Washington was born Ruth Lee Jones in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Her parents, Alice Williams and Ollie Jones, moved the family to Chicago, Illinois in 1928, where Ruth and her three siblings attended the city's public schools, including Wendell Phillips High School.

Taught piano by her mother, Ruth sang and played solos at St. Luke's Baptist Church while still in elementary school, and gave gospel recitals with her mother at various black churches. At the age of fifteen, she won an amateur contest at Chicago's Regal Theater with her rendition of “I Can't Face the Music.” She then began to sing without her mother's knowledge at local nightclubs.

In 1940, Washington was discovered by gospel singer Sallie Martin who hired her as an accompanist and singer for The Sallie Martin Colored Ladies Quartet She performed for two years with Martin s ensemble It was with Martin s ...