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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 ...

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Mary Krane Derr

blues bar owner and talent promoter, was born Theresa McLaurin in Meridian, Lauderdale County, Mississippi. She was the only child of Will and Minnie McLaurin, both natives of Mississippi. Needham's birth year is commonly given as 1912, but it was 1911 according to the Social Security Death Index. As a young girl, she was baptized as a Roman Catholic. The 1920 U.S. Census recorded her as living in Meridian with her uncle, aunt, and cousin. The 1930 Census noted her recent marriage to Robert Needham, then a bricklayer. They had a son together, Robert Needham Jr. Theresa Needham's educational history is unclear, but, according to this census report, she reached adulthood knowing how to read and write.

After World War II Needham and her family joined the large number of African Americans who migrated from the Mississippi River Delta to Chicago s South Side in search of ...

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Amy L. Lively

musician and entrepreneur, was born Benjamin Franklin Spikes in Dallas, Texas, the youngest child of Madora and Monroe Spikes, the latter a barber. Spikes was nicknamed “Rebel,” later shortened to “Reb,” by his father. The family relocated to Los Angeles in 1897, and when Spikes was in his late teens his older brother, Johnny, bought him a drum set, sparking his interest in music.

In 1907, Spikes moved to San Francisco. Ragtime, a precursor to jazz, was frequently heard in local clubs and saloons and was an important influence on the music that Spikes would write, perform, and produce. As Spikes developed his musical skills, he and Johnny went on the road as performers. In approximately 1910, they formed a traveling vaudeville group called the Spikes Brothers Comedy Stars. A notable member of the troupe was Hattie McDaniel whose portrayal of Mammy in ...