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Charles L. Hughes

record executive, producer, and activist, was born Alvertis Isbell in Brinkley, Arkansas, in 1940 or 1941. In 1945 his family moved to Little Rock, where Bell later graduated with a bachelor's degree in Political Science from the city's Philander Smith College, following this with uncompleted ministerial training; he worked as a disc jockey throughout high school and college. In 1959 Bell began working at workshops run by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His SCLC involvement was short-lived, which Bell attributed to a difference in philosophy, explaining that King's strategy of nonviolent confrontation differed from his belief in the power of black capitalist entrepreneurship in effecting social change.

Bell then worked full time at several radio stations first at WLOK in Memphis where his laid back style helped boost ratings and then at WUST in Washington D C where he introduced ...

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Paul Devlin

songwriter, pianist, producer, and record company executive, was born in Camden, New Jersey. His father was a barber and a blues guitarist, and his mother played gospel piano. Along with his songwriting and business partner Kenny Gamble, Huff was largely responsible for creating a popular musical style, known as Philadelphia soul, that was for a time nearly ubiquitous in American popular culture. Although Huff grew up playing drums at Camden High School and regularly made the Camden All-City Orchestra until his graduation in 1960, it was his piano playing that gained him entrance into the music business.

In the early 1960s Huff traveled to New York City and began playing piano on some of the legendary producer Phil Spector's recording sessions including the session for the Ronettes Baby I Love You He had the unique opportunity to observe the development of Spector s ...

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James Gavin

jazz musician, composer, and record, television, and film producer, was born Quincy Delight Jones Jr. on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, the son of Sarah (maiden name unknown) and Quincy Jones Sr., a carpenter who worked for a black gangster ring that ran the Chicago ghetto. When Quincy Sr.'s mentally ill wife was institutionalized, he sent their sons, Quincy Jr. and Lloyd, to live in the South with their grandmother. In his autobiography Jones writes of growing up so poor that his grandmother served them fried rats to eat. By the age of ten he was living with Lloyd and their father in Seattle, Washington. “My stepbrother, my brother, and myself, and my cousin … we burned down stores, we stole, whatever you had to do,” Jones said (CNN Online, “Q and A: A Talk with Quincy Jones,” 11 Dec ...

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Sam Burckhardt

musician, singer, pianist, songwriter, and recording label owner, was born Albert Welton Luandrew in Vance, Mississippi, the son of Thomas Welton Luandrew, a preacher, and Martha Lewis. Best known as Sunnyland Slim, he became one of the creators of and a driving force in post-war Chicago Blues, and towards the end of his life its elder statesman. Albert Luandrew was born into a family of farmers and preachers in the Mississippi Delta. His great-grandfather, a white slave owner, whom Sunnyland would call, “the ol' monster,” had a son, Albert Luandrew, with a slave woman in the years before the Civil War. The elder Albert Luandrew was able to purchase land near Vance, Mississippi, from which he cleared the timber and made crossties he then sold to the up and coming railroads. His father was born in 1887 for his mother precise ...

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John N. Ingham

entrepreneur, was born in Covington, Georgia, the son of Charles Pace, a blacksmith, and Nancy Francis. Pace's father died when he was an infant, but Pace was nonetheless able to secure a good education. He finished elementary school in Covington by the time he was twelve, and seven years later he graduated as valedictorian of his class at Atlanta University.

Pace learned the trade of printer's devil as a youth and worked in the Atlanta University printing office. After graduation he took a job in a new firm established by a group of prominent blacks in Atlanta. Pace served as foreman and shop manager, but the venture was unsuccessful and soon closed. In 1904 Pace became an instructor at the Haines Institute in Augusta, Georgia, where he remained for only a year before W. E. B. Du Bois who had been one of his teachers at ...

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Marian Aguiar

Harry Hubert Pace began his printing and business career in 1903, opening a company in Memphis with his former teacher W. E. B. Du Bois. Together, they produced Moon Illustrated Weekly (1905), the first illustrated African American journal. Pace met composer W. C. Handy in 1908, and they formed one of the most enduring African American music companies, Pace and Handy Music Company (1909). Pace went on to establish Pace Phonograph Company, issuing records by such artists as Alberta Hunter and Ethel Waters under the label of Black Swan. With the bankruptcy of the company in 1923, Pace returned to insurance work, expanding Chicago's Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Co. into the largest black-owned business in the North.

See also Magazines, Newspapers, and Journals; Music, African American.

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Charles L. Hughes

songwriter, singer, producer, and record executive, was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Details on Porter's early life are not available, but it is known that his father died when he was two years old, and that he and his family lived in Memphis all of his life. Porter attended the all-black Booker T. Washington High School, an institution perhaps most famous for one of its history teachers, Nat D. Williams an enterprising visionary who helped transform Memphis radio station WDIA into the nation s first black owned and operated radio outlet During the late 1950s and early 1960s a group of Washington High students helped provide the foundation for a fledgling record label called Satellite later Stax Records Beginning as a record shop on McLemore Avenue across the street from the grocery store where Porter worked for several years the company soon became thanks to the ...

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James M. Salem

entrepreneur and record label owner, was born Don Deadric Robey in Houston, Texas, the son of Zeb Robey and Gertrude (maiden name unknown). Little is known of his childhood. Don dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade, reportedly to become a professional gambler in Houston nightspots frequented by African Americans; later he was suspected of being involved in the city's numbers operation. He also entered the taxi business prior to World War II and established a business in entertainment promotion, bringing name bands and celebrity attractions into segregated sections of the Houston area.

Though Robey opened his first nightclub in 1937, it was the postwar Bronze Peacock Dinner Club, opened in 1946, that he parlayed into an interconnected set of entertainment and music businesses that made him, according to the Houston Informer one of the city s foremost black business wizards Robey s skill ...

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Ayesha Kanji

entrepreneur, music executive, and promoter, was born in Queens, New York, to Daniel and Evelyn Simmons, both graduates of Howard University in Washington, D.C. Simmons's father was a politically active schoolteacher who worked for the New York Board of Education; his mother was an artist and recreation director for the New York City Department of Parks. Simmons had two brothers; his older brother, Danny, became an artist, while his younger brother, Joey, became the rap artist popularly known as “Run” (Reverend Run) of the music group Run-D.M.C. Simmons and his brothers grew up in the middle-class Queens neighborhood of Hollis attending integrated schools in the politically charged 1960s and were influenced by their father s social activism protesting racial discrimination and promoting black empowerment Simmons s mother encouraged him to embrace both the arts and entrepreneurship but despite his sound upbringing and his ...

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Paul Oliver

(bHouston, Oct 15, 1906; dNew York, Oct 3, 1976). American blues singer and pianist. The daughter of the leader of a string band, she learnt the piano as a child and by the age of 12 was performing at the Lincoln Theatre in Dallas. After working with local artists, including Blind Lemon Jefferson, she commenced her recording career in St Louis. Black Snake Blues (1926, OK), to her own piano accompaniment, was an instant success. Her voice was lean and nasal and she made much use of moaned syllables. A partnership with Lonnie Johnson produced many notable titles, including T.B. Blues and Murder in the First Degree (both 1927, OK). In 1929 Spivey appeared in Hallelujah!, an all-black film directed by King Vidor, and also recorded several titles with Henry ‘Red’ Allen’s New York Orchestra, notably the double ...

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Antoinette Handy

blues singer, songwriter, and record label founder, was born Victoria Regina Spivey in Houston, Texas, the daughter of Grant Spivey, a straw boss on Texas wharfs and a string player, and Addie Smith, a nurse. She was one of eight children in a musical family. Her father and brothers were members of a local string band, and her three sisters, Addie “Sweet Peas,” Elton “Za Zu,” and Leona, also were singers. Spivey began playing piano at an early age and soon was performing with various local groups, including Henry “Lazy Daddy” Filmore's Blues-Jazz Band and L. C. Tolen's Band and Revue. There followed appearances in vaudeville houses and theaters throughout Texas, Missouri, and Michigan. As a teenager she played piano for silent movies at the Lincoln Theater in Houston.

In 1926 Spivey went to St. Louis with the goal of meeting Jesse ...

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Known to many as “Queen Victoria,” Victoria Regina Spivey was born in Houston, Texas. She learned the piano while singing with her father's band in Dallas. After her father died she performed wherever she could find work. In 1926 Spivey moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where she wrote and recorded songs, including her best-known “T.B. Blues”, for the St. Louis Music Company and for Okeh Records. Leaving Okeh but continuing to record between 1929 and 1952, she also appeared in several stage shows including Hellzapoppin' and in an all-black movie, Hallelujah. Her signature vocal sound was a nasal type of evocative moan, which she termed her “tiger squall.”

After a brief retirement Spivey returned to music with the revival of the Blues in the 1960s. In 1961 she formed Queen Vee Records changing the name to Spivey Records the following year She died ...

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Harvey Cohen

blues and jazz musician, publisher, and music producer, was born in Plaquemine, Louisiana. The names and occupations of his parents are unknown. In 1906 his family moved to New Orleans. Williams's first instrument was the guitar, which he abandoned before he reached his teens to concentrate on the piano. Most of his learning was done by ear or by watching others, although he did receive eight lessons in the early 1910s, at the end of which he believed he knew all he needed to know about piano playing. At the age of twelve he left home to join Billy Kersands's traveling minstrel show as a pianist, master of ceremonies, dancer, and comedian. Williams spent most of his teenage years in the clubs of New Orleans's legendary Storyville district as a pianist and songwriter. During this time he met the pianist and composer Jelly Roll Morton ...

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Harvey Cohen

Williams, Clarence (8 Oct. 1898 or 1893–06 November 1965), blues and jazz musician, publisher, and music producer was born in Plaquemine Louisiana information on his parentage is unavailable In 1906 his family moved to New Orleans Williams s first instrument was the guitar which he abandoned before he reached his teens to concentrate on the piano Most of his learning was done by ear or by watching others although he did receive eight lessons in the early 1910s at the end of which he believed he knew all he needed to know about piano playing At the age of twelve he left home to join Billy Kersand s traveling minstrel show as a pianist master of ceremonies dancer and comedian Williams spent most of his teenage years in the clubs of New Orleans legendary Storyville district as a pianist and songwriter During this time he met pianist ...