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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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Vonzele David Reed

hip hop producer and businessman, was born Sean John Combs in Harlem in New York City to Melvin and Janice Combs. Combs's childhood years were spent in Harlem, where his father worked for the board of education and as a cab driver. His mother was a model. Eager to provide for his family, Melvin Combs succumbed to the lure of criminal activity, which ultimately led to his murder in 1973. In 1982 Janice moved her family to suburban Mount Vernon, New York, in an effort to escape the growing violence and unemployment in Harlem.

Following her husband s death Janice worked as a teacher s assistant bus driver and night attendant for children with cerebral palsy His mother s determination to provide for her family influenced Combs to work after school beginning at age twelve Too young to formally apply for his own paper route Combs convinced an ...

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Hilary Mac Austin

Suzanne de Passe learned from her mentor, Berry Gordy, that “a business based on principles is more important than a business based on revenue.” She has held true to that motto. Amazingly, in the cutthroat, white-male-dominated world of Hollywood, she has not only survived but succeeded magnificently.

One of the first and still one of the only African American women powerbrokers in the television and film businesses, Suzanne Celeste de Passe grew up middle-class in Harlem. Her parents, both West Indian, were divorced when she was three. Her mother was a schoolteacher and her father worked for Seagrams. He remarried six years after the divorce and is credited with providing de Passe with a strong role model. De Passe attended an elite, integrated private school in Manhattan, the New Lincoln School. While still young, she began modeling clothes designed by DeVera Edwards.

De Passe entered Syracuse University as ...

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Regina N. Barnett

hip-hop pioneer, was born Melvin Glover in New York, New York. Glover gained widespread acclaim as the first self proclaimed emcee, Grandmaster Melle Mel of the hip-hop group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.

Glover's exposure to hip hop came through parties known as “jams” in New York City. He and his older brother, Nathaniel “Nate” Glover, were originally break dancers (Nate would become Kidd Creole of the Furious Five). Citing Coke La Rock and Timmy Tim as his favorite DJs, the Glover brothers began imitating the DJ “shout outs” to the crowd but adding their own verses. Childhood friend Eddie “Scorpio” Morris joined Glover and his brother to start an MC group, the Furious Five, which included childhood friends Guy “Raheim” Williams and Keith “Cowboy” Wiggins. The group evolved with DJ Grandmaster Flash, becoming Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five in 1979 Glover credited the name Furious ...

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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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Regina N. Barnett

hip-hop and DJ pioneer, was born Jason William Mizell, the youngest of Connie and Jessie Mizell's three children. The family lived in Brooklyn, New York, where his mother Connie was a teacher and his father Jessie was a social worker. Moving to the Hollis neighborhood of Queens from Brooklyn in 1975, Mizell quickly became a respected and powerful force in that small neighborhood. While Mizell was a student at Andrew Jackson High School, teachers and students alike would ask him to stop altercations between students because of his dominating presence and amiable nature. Mizell dropped out of high school but eventually obtained his equivalency diploma. Drumming, playing the guitar, and socializing with friends took up most of Mizell's free time. Mizell credited a desire to be “part of the hottest thing” as one of the main reasons for becoming a DJ in an interview with DJ Times ...

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Jay Z  

Hua Hsu

hip-hop artist and record executive, was born Shawn Corey Carter in Brooklyn, New York, the fourth child of Adnes Reeves and Gloria Carter, of whom little is known. Reeves abandoned the family when Shawn was eleven. It has been suggested that Reeves left because of despondency over the fatal stabbing of his younger brother, though Carter himself did not learn this until he and his father reconciled, shortly before Reeves's death in 2003 A single mother Gloria Carter raised Shawn and his siblings in the Marcy Houses housing project in the rough Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn At a young age Carter demonstrated musical talent and became fascinated with hip hop culture He was given the nickname Jazzy which would eventually evolve into his stage name Jay Z The name held two meanings it was an homage to one of his early musical mentors a smalltime rapper ...

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Anthony Brown

(b Chicago, March 14, 1933). American producer, arranger, composer and entertainment entrepreneur. He was raised by his father and stepmother in Seattle from the age of ten, and learned various brass instruments before settling on the trumpet. He performed in dance bands with early musical associates including Charlie Taylor, Bumps Blackwell and Ernestine Anderson, and at 14 met the 16-year-old Ray Charles, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship and from whom he first received instruction in jazz harmony and arranging. While in high school, Jones performed with Billie Holiday and Billy Eckstine, and studied the trumpet with Clark Terry. He studied briefly at Seattle University and at the Berklee School of Music, Boston, but left to tour. He first toured Europe and made his first recordings while with Lionel Hampton, playing a solo on the 1951 recording of his own composition, Kingfish ...

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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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Donald Roe

jazz trumpeter, composer, arranger, music impresario, and music, film, and television producer. Quincy Delight Jones Jr., or Q, as Frank Sinatra dubbed him, is an international icon in the music industry. From producing Leslie Gore's multimillion-selling soft-rock hit single “It's My Party” (1963) and Michael Jackson's all-time best-selling record album Thriller (1982) to working with rappers like Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee, and others, Q has had a pervasive impact on contemporary music. Astoundingly, many African Americans born during the 1970s know little of his prowess as a jazz trumpeter, composer, and arranger or that he jammed with many of the greatest jazz musicians of all time.

Jones was born in 1933 on the South Side of Chicago to Quincy Delight Jones Sr and Sarah Jones Jones spent his early years learning about life on the mean streets of Chicago ...

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James Sellman

Quincy Delight Jones, Jr., has had several careers in popular entertainment, including roles as a big-band musician, composer-arranger, record company executive, producer of films and music videos, magazine publisher, and partner in a television production company. He has emerged as one of the most influential figures in Hollywood. He commenced his music career in Seattle, Washington, where his family moved during the mid-1940s from Chicago, Illinois, where he was born. He sang in a vocal harmony group directed by Joseph Powe, who had once been with Wings over Jordan. After trying various instruments in high school band, Jones settled on the trumpet.

As a teenager, Jones played in local Jazz and Rhythm and Blues groups. He became acquainted with Ray Charles, an early musical influence, who moved to the Seattle area in 1950 Besides leading his own trio Charles wrote and arranged for the five ...

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Joe Street

DJ, producer, and recording and remix artist, was born Frank Warren Knuckles in South Bronx, New York City. Educated at the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan, Knuckles drew tremendous inspiration from the local gay underground music scene. In the early 1970s Knuckles and lifelong friend Larry Levan became regular faces at the Loft, an openly multiracial and bisexual club established by David Mancuso, who played a revelatory mix of soul, rock, African, Latin, and pop music. Mancuso and rival DJ Nicky Siano inspired Knuckles and Levan to start and in 1972 Knuckles took on his first regular gig, at Better Days. Between 1974 and 1976 he played nightly at the Continental Baths, an underground gay club, where he developed his own identity as a DJ, focusing on the slick disco productions of the Philadelphia International label. In March 1977 Knuckles at the opening ...

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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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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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James Sellman

Johnny Pacheco made his mark during the 1960s and 1970s as part of New York City's Latin music scene. Pacheco was born in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic. His father, Rafael Azarías Pacheco, was a prominent clarinetist and conductor of the Orquestra Santa Cecilia, a leading Dominican orchestra. In the late 1940s his family moved to New York City. Johnny Pacheco learned to play saxophone, flute, and percussion in high school. In 1959 Pacheco joined the pianist Charlie Palmieri as the flutist in the newly formed group Charanga Duboney.

Charanga Duboney, featuring a Cuban-style charanga flute-and-violins front line, inspired an early 1960s charanga craze among Latino New Yorkers. In September of 1959 Pacheco left Palmieri to organize his own charanga. With the album Pacheco y su Charanga (1961) he introduced the pachanga an energetic dance style that combined elements of the charanga ...

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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 ...