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Philip Herbert

Famous pianist in the United Kingdom during the 1950s, selling over 20 million records. She was born in Tunapuna, Trinidad, in February 1914. She studied the piano as a child and had a local following. It was hoped that she would eventually work for the family business, after her training in pharmacy.

To gain further musical training, Atwell moved to the United States in 1945, and then came to London in 1946, to the Royal Academy of Music, to become a concert pianist. To sustain her studies, she performed piano rags at hotels, theatres, and clubs in London. By 1950 she had attained national celebrity, and signed to record with Decca. She recorded such hits as Let's Have a Ding‐Dong, Poor People of Paris, Britannia Rag, and many others. The Black and White Rag became the signature tune for the BBC's Pot Black ...


James Clyde Sellman

and a figure in the boisterous nightlife of pre-Revolution Havana. Neris Amelia Martínez Salazar (Bacallao’s name at birth) was born in the tough, crowded Cayo-Hueso section of Havana, on 26 May 1925, according to most sources. She was the only child of poor, working-class parents; her father was a longshoreman. At age 6, she was orphaned and sent to a convent school sponsored by the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first order of nuns founded by and for women of African descent. Young Neris Amelia developed no sense of religious vocation while under the nuns’ tutelage. Rather than turning her toward God, the adversities she faced seemed to redouble her self-reliance. “I grew up alone,” she has said in interviews. “And when you don’t have anyone, you have to be a fighter” (Lagarde, 2002).

By the early 1940s the teenager had left the convent school and found ...


Barry Marshall

singer, was born in Chicago as Delores Williams. Nothing is known about her parents. Raised by her aunt, Merline Baker, also known as the blues singer Memphis Minnie, Baker started singing almost as soon as she could walk, both in her Baptist church and in the street. She grew up in poverty and sang for change on the downtown Chicago streets from the age of three. She started singing professionally as a teenager at the Club Delisa, decked out in down-home clothes and billed as “Little Miss Sharecropper.” The “Sharecropper” sobriquet was a takeoff on the popular blues shouter “Little Miss Cornshucks,” and although it garnered her attention at the time, she was embarrassed by it later in her life. She also appeared at different venues as Bea Baker.

At the age of seventeen, Baker moved to Detroit. By 1947 she was appearing regularly at ...


Linda Dahl

jazz pianist and entertainer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the older of two children (she had a brother, Leone), of Donazell Donegan and Ella Day Donegan. Donegan's father was a cook on the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad, and her mother supplemented the family income by letting out rooms. Dorothy's musical virtuosity revealed itself when she was eight, when she began playing a-neighbor's piano for the first time. Recognizing her-daughter's talent, her mother arranged for piano lessons and soon Donegan was playing at local churches and, by the time she was fourteen, for tips in local South Side spots. She continued formal music studies at DuSable High School with Walter Henri Dyett, who taught other future notables, including the singer Dinah Washington and the saxophonist Johnny Griffin.

In 1939 at age seventeen Donegan was booked to play at Costello s Grill a downtown club hitherto reserved ...


Gayle Murchison

musician, singer, and educator, was born Ravella Eudosia Hughes in Huntington, West Virginia, the daughter of George W. Hughes, a postman, and Annie B. (maiden name unknown), a piano teacher and seamstress. At age five Hughes began studying piano with her mother and, at eight or nine, violin with a musician friend of her father's. She attended Huntington's segregated public schools. Disturbed when she was racially harassed, her parents sent her to Hartshorn Memorial College (later part of Virginia Union University) in Richmond, which she attended from 1909 to 1911, graduating with a degree in music and elementary studies. She attended Oberlin High and Conservatory, graduating in 1915. In 1917 she earned a bachelor of music in Piano from Howard's Conservatory of Music, where she studied piano with LeRoy Tibbs and voice with the conservatory director Lulu Vere Childers Hughes then taught violin ...


John Gilmore

Alias of Aldwyn Roberts (1922–2000), calypsonian born in Arima, Trinidad and Tobago. He was already a successful performer in his native island when, while on a tour of Jamaica, he decided to join his fellow calypsonians Lord Beginner (Egbert Moore, 1904–80) and Harold Phillips (1928–2000) in taking a passage to England on the Empire Windrush.

Kitchener provided two of the most iconic images of post‐war Caribbean migration to Britain. The Pathé newsreel that recorded the arrival of the Windrush in 1948 featured a still youthful Kitchener singing ‘London Is the Place for Me’, which he had written on the ship, and later recorded on disc in 1951. And it was Kitchener who led the invasion of the pitch when the West Indies cricket team won at Lord's in June 1950 though it was Lord Beginner who celebrated those little pals ...


Sharon D. Johnson

singer, nightclub entertainer, and actress, was born Barbara Joan McNair in Chicago, Illinois, and raised from the age of three in Racine, Wisconsin. McNair's father, a foundry worker, and her mother, a housekeeper at an institution for mentally disabled children, recognized her vocal musical gifts early on. After discussions with McNair's teachers, her parents decided that she should receive formal training in music. McNair went on to study at the Racine Conservatory of Music and Chicago's American Conservatory of Music, and later majored in music at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she studied for one year before deciding to move to New York City in the early 1950s.

Once she arrived in New York McNair secured a secretarial job at the National Federation of Settlements to support herself while she went to open auditions at various nightclubs in the city Even after she was hired ...


Barry Kernfeld

blues singer, was born Elizabeth Mary Landreaux Miles in New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of J.-C. Miles, whose occupation is unknown. Her mother was a singer, whose name is unknown (Landreaux, presumably). Lizzie's stepbrothers were the trumpeter Herb Morand, who at some point during the 1920s played in New York in a band accompanying Lizzie, and the drummer Maurice Morand. Lizzie first sang in church at age five. She also sang in school before dropping out to perform at parties and dances. From 1909 to 1911 she sang with the cornetist King Oliver, the trombonist Kid Ory, the trumpeter Bunk Johnson, and the violinist Armand John Piron at numerous venues in New Orleans. Around this time she married; no other details are known. Her second marriage was to August Pajaud; again, details are unknown.

Miles toured southern theaters as a member ...


Barry Kernfeld

bandleader and composer, was born Lucius Venable Millinder in Anniston, Alabama. The identity and circumstances of his parents are unknown. He was raised in Chicago, Illinois, where he attended Wendell Phillips High School.

As Lucius Venable he began to work as a master of ceremonies and danced in nightclubs, including one run by Al Capone's brother Ralph in Cicero, Illinois. He became a bandleader in 1931, touring the RKO theater circuit. Early in 1932 he took over the little-known Doc Crawford band, and later that year he moved to New York.

Millinder appeared in the film short Scandals of 1933. In 1933 the promoter Irving Mills began grooming Millinder to take over the Mills Blue Rhythm Band by making him the frontman for the Congo Knights, a ten-piece band. Millinder and the band members worked locally and then played on the French Riviera from July to October ...


David Borsvold

cabaret singer and pianist, was born Robert Waltrip Short in Danville, Illinois, the ninth of ten children of Rodman Jacob Short, a civil servant, and Myrtle Render. Although he was born into poverty, four-year-old Bobby had a few piano lessons, but he essentially taught himself on the household instrument. Before age ten, Short was playing the piano for money in nearby roadhouses. Soon afterward he began to perform sophisticated ballads at private parties while wearing white tails in the manner of Cab Calloway. During the Depression, Short's father, who had become a coal miner out of necessity, died in an accident. In 1936 eleven year old Bobby was spotted by booking agents who offered him ice cream and candy to go on the road With his mother s blessing he traveled to Chicago Marketed as the Miniature King of Swing he sang and played the ...


Samuel S. Brylawski

(b Danville, IL, Sept 15, 1926; d New York, March 21, 2005). American popular singer and pianist. He taught himself to play piano as a child, and was sometimes referred to as ‘the miniature Fats Waller’. He began recording in 1954 but the turning-point in his career came in 1968 when the recording of a highly successful joint concert with Mabel Mercer in Town Hall New York was well received in the same year he began what was to become a longstanding engagement at the Café Carlyle in New York In the early 1970s he recorded a series of albums each one with music by a different composer most notable was one devoted to songs by Cole Porter which contributed to a resurgence of interest in the composer and did much to broaden Short s following He continued his association with Mercer they ...


Bobby Short became a recognized talent on the New York cabaret scene as early as 1937, the year he was acclaimed in Variety magazine. He toured the United States during the 1940s and 1950s, establishing himself as a premier nightclub act with his elegant stage personality and singing style. Short then settled in New York City, where he played in several Broadway shows and at well-known “café society” nightclubs. Dividing his time between France and the United States, Short performed four months out of the year at Cafe Carlyle in New York City from 1968 until his death from leukemia in 2005. He also continued to record during those years. Short's last albums were How's Your Romance (1999) and Piano (2001).

See also Music, African American.


Charlie T. Tomlinson

ventriloquist, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the only child of Alonzo Williams and Laura Powell, a live-in maid. As a small boy, Williams moved to Dayton, Ohio, with his grandmother, whom he thought of as his mother. Williams's mother eventually joined her family in Dayton.

Williams's mother died when he was eight, and he went to live with his Aunt Ola Mae and his Uncle James Jackson in Dayton. He attended Dunbar High School, where he was a high jumper and ran the half mile as a member of Dunbar's 1948 Ohio state track championship team. After he graduated in 1951 he worked at a local bowling alley, as he had done throughout his high school years. Later he took a job at Chevrolet parking cars. In 1952, at the age of twenty, Williams met Ernestine Hatcher The couple married the same year they had two ...