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Anderson, Ernestine  

Scott Yanow

jazz singer, was born in Houston, Texas, the daughter of Joseph Anderson, a construction worker, and Erma Anderson. She sang as a young child along to her parents’ Bessie Smith and blues records. Her father sang in a gospel quartet in church and Ernestine became active in the church choir, sometimes taking solos. She taught herself to play the piano by ear and loved to listen to the big bands on the radio, and when she heard Sarah Vaughan, she became determined to become a professional singer. She was so enamored of Vaughan's singing that for a short time she sounded just like her, until she realized that the point of it all was for her to carve out her own musical identity, not copy her idol.

Anderson began singing professionally quite early. She was fifteen years old when she performed with the trumpeter Russell Jacquet ...


Anderson, Ivie  

Barry Kernfeld

jazz singer, was born in Gilroy, California, the daughter of Jobe Smith. Her mother's name is unknown. Anderson's given name is sometimes spelled “Ivy.” She studied voice at Saint Mary's Convent from age nine to age thirteen, and she sang in the glee club and choral society at Gilroy grammar and high school. While spending two years at the Nunnie H. Burroughs Institution in Washington, D.C., she studied voice under Sara Ritt.

Anderson performed in Los Angeles, California, around 1921, and in 1922 or 1923 she joined a touring version of the pioneering African American musical revue Shuffle Along, which brought her to New York City. She performed in Cuba in 1924, at the Cotton Club in New York City in 1925, and then in Los Angeles, where she was accompanied by the bands of Paul Howard, Curtis Mosby, and Sonny Clay ...


Andrews, Ernie  

Scott Yanow

jazz singer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Both of his parents and his aunts and uncles sang at church. Ernie had his first vocal training by singing regularly as a child in his mother's choir at the local Baptist church. As a youngster he had opportunities to see such swing bands as those of Jimmie Lunceford, Earl Hines, and Chick Webb (with Ella Fitzgerald) in stage productions and he also saw vaudeville shows. Ernie moved to Jeanerette, Louisiana, when he was thirteen years old, living with his grandmother and mother from 1940 to 1944. The trumpeter Bunk Johnson taught music at his school and encouraged Ernie to play drums. In 1944 he moved with his mother to Los Angeles, attending Jefferson High School where his classmates included such future jazz greats as Dexter Gordon, Teddy Edwards, Eric Dolphy and Art Farmer Ernie soon ...


Armstrong, Lil  

Jack Sohmer

jazz pianist, composer, and singer, was born Lillian Hardin in Memphis, Tennessee, the daughter of Dempsey Hardin, a strict, churchgoing woman who disapproved of blues music. Nothing is known of her father. At age six Lil began playing organ at home, and at eight she started studying piano. In 1914 she enrolled in the music school of Fisk University in Nashville, taking academic courses and studying piano and music theory. After earning her diploma, around 1917 she joined her mother in Chicago, where she found work demonstrating songs in Jones' Music Store. Prompted by her employer, in 1918 Hardin became house pianist for the clarinetist Lawrence Duhé's band at Bill Bottoms's Dreamland Ballroom, where she played with the cornetists “Sugar Johnny” Smith, Freddie Keppard, and King Oliver; the trombonist Roy Palmer; and other New Orleans musicians Because she was still a minor her mother ...


Armstrong, Lil(lian) Hardin  

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Armstrong's career as a Jazz musician began with a job in a music store in Chicago, Illinois. She met Louis Armstrong while they were both with King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band in Chicago. They married in 1924 and divorced in 1938 Armstrong worked with her husband in the ...


Armstrong, Lillian “Lil” Hardin  

Hilary Mac Austin

Lil Hardin Armstrong is one of the great treasures of American jazz. In a day when women in music were the singers, Hardin played the piano, composed, arranged, and managed—both her own career and that of her husband Louis Armstrong. Uncredited for many years, happily she has begun to gain some well-deserved attention.

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Lillian Beatrice Hardin was the daughter of Dempsey Martin and William Hardin Reports differ on whether Hardin s parents divorced or whether her father died when she was young but it is known that Hardin was raised by her mother and her maternal grandmother in a strictly religious household Hardin was attracted to music almost from birth and began playing the organ when she was very young By the time she was six her mother had arranged that she take additional piano lessons from her schoolteacher and by nine she ...


Armstrong, Louis  

Karl Rodabaugh

jazz cornet player, trumpeter, and vocalist. Louis Armstrong's musical style and charismatic personality transformed jazz from a “raucous” and “vulgar” regional form of dance music into an internationally beloved popular art form. Also known as “Satchel-mouth” and “Pops,” Armstrong first gained renown as an innovative cornet player and trumpeter whose creative energy helped bring about the movement of jazz into swing in the 1920s. But he also achieved fame as a vocalist whose distinctive style, including some specific features identified as “Afro-American,” influenced scores of jazz singers and thus played a significant role in shaping popular music of the twentieth century.


Armstrong, Louis  

Frank Tirro

jazz trumpeter and singer, known universally as “Satchmo” and later as “Pops,” was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of William Armstrong, a boiler stoker in a turpentine plant, and Mary Est “Mayann” Albert, a laundress. Abandoned by his father shortly after birth, Armstrong was raised by his paternal grandmother, Josephine, until he was returned to his mother's care at age five. Mother and son moved from Jane Alley, in a violence‐torn slum, to an only slightly better area, Franklyn and Perdido streets, where nearby cheap cabarets gave the boy his first introduction to the new kind of music, jazz, that was developing in New Orleans. Although Armstrong claims to have heard the early jazz cornetist Buddy Bolden when he was about age five, this incident may be apocryphal. As a child, he worked odd jobs, sang in a vocal quartet, and around 1911 bought a ...


Armstrong, Louis (“Satchmo”)  

James Sellman

More than anyone else, Louis Armstrong was responsible for legitimizing and popularizing jazz for a wider public. A much-admired jazz trumpeter and gravel-voiced vocalist, Armstrong was also a consummate entertainer, steadily expanding his career from instrumentalist to popular singer, to film and television personality, and, ultimately, to cultural icon. He acquired many nicknames throughout his life, including Dippermouth, Pops, and Satchelmouth—the latter often contracted to Satchmo. As Satchmo, he was instantly identifiable around the world, decades before PrinceMadonna, or Sting. The international appeal of his music in effect made Armstrong the American goodwill ambassador to the world.


Baby Laurence  

Constance Valis Hill

jazz tap dancer, was born Laurence Donald Jackson in Baltimore, Maryland. His parents' names and occupations are unknown. He was a boy soprano at age twelve, singing with McKinney's Cotton Pickers. When the bandleader Don Redman came to town, he heard Laurence and asked his mother if he could take the boy on the road. She agreed, provided that her son was supplied with a tutor. Touring on the Loew's circuit, Laurence's first time in New York was marked by a visit to the Hoofers Club in Harlem, where he saw the tap dancing of Honi Coles, Raymond Winfield, Roland Holder, and Harold Mablin. Laurence returned home sometime later to a sudden tragedy; both of his parents had died in a fire. “I don't think I ever got used to the idea,” he told Marshall Stearns in Jazz Dance in 1968 They always took such ...


Baker, LaVern  

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 ...


Barker, Danny  

Michael Mizell-Nelson

jazz guitarist and banjoist, vocalist, and author, was born Daniel Moses Barker in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Moses Barker, a drayman, and Rose Barbarin Barker. Barker grew up in New Orleans with a largely absent Baptist father of rural origins and a mother whose familial connections to the Barbarin family, famed in New Orleans music, rooted him in the city's Creole of Color musical community. His childhood experiences immersed him in the cultures of both sides of his family: rural Protestant and urban Roman Catholic.

Barker's uncle, the drummer Paul Barbarin composer of the jazz standard Bourbon Street Parade started Danny on drums after trying the clarinet Danny decided to play multiple string instruments guitar banjo and ukulele A teenaged Barker played in spasm bands children s bands that featured rudimentary instruments often created from discarded objects Playing ukulele Barker led a spasm band named ...


Batiste, Lionel  

Caryn E. Neumann

a bass drummer, vocalist, and leader of the New Orleans-based Treme Brass Band, is perhaps most famous as a New Orleans personality. He grew up as one of sixteen children of a blacksmith. As a child, he worked as a shoeshiner in the French Quarter and often entertained with his tap dancing performances at a whites-only club. He began playing rhythm sticks and bells at the age of eight. He later settled on the snare drum, noting that he wanted to avoid both damaging his lips from playing brass or developing a sore jaw from a reed instrument. Batiste learned his signature slide-and-hop dance from studying drummer Papa Knox. Batiste also played the banjo, piano, violin, washboard, and kazoo.

Throughout his career Batiste performed as a drummer with various bands including the Square Deal Social and Pleasure Club but earned steady income by working as a bricklayer ...


Benson, George  

Jason Philip Miller

jazz guitarist, musician, and singer was born in the Hill District the African American center of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Little information about his early life is available except that Benson enjoyed a musical upbringing and was considered something of a wunderkind Indeed he won his first singing contest at the age of four and before he was ten years old he was performing publicly winning more music contests and appearing on local radio broadcasts His favorite instrument was the guitar he d actually first picked up a ukulele that had been handmade for him by his stepfather but he sang as well and at the age of ten he recorded his first single She Makes Me Mad for an offshoot of the RCA label At first he was interested in rhythm and blues and rock and roll but soon he fell under the influence of the jazz greats ...


Bernhardt, Clyde  

Barry Kernfeld

jazz trombonist and singer, was born Clyde Edric Barnhardt in Gold Hill, North Carolina, the son of Washington Michael Barnhardt, a miner, and Elizabeth Mauney. When Clyde was a child, he added Barron to his name because his grandmother in slavery had been lent to a family named Barron who treated her kindly. He changed the spelling of his surname in 1930 on the advice of a psychic. Thus his full name became Clyde Edric Barron Bernhardt or Clyde E. B. Bernhardt.

In 1912, after his father suffered a heart attack and left mining, Bernhardt helped to peddle goods from a wagon. The family moved to New Hope (later absorbed into Badin), North Carolina, and in 1915 his father died. Bernhardt attended school for three months each year while holding various jobs, including work at Alcoa Aluminum in 1918 The following year his mother ...


Bradshaw, Tiny  

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 ...


Bridgewater, Dee Dee  

Suzanne Cloud

jazz singer, was born Denise Eileen Garrett in Memphis, Tennessee. Her father, Matthew Turner Garrett, was a jazz trumpeter and a teacher at Manassas High School in Memphis. He taught music to Booker Little, Charles Lloyd, and George Coleman, and during summers played with Dinah Washington's band. Her mother, Marion Hale Holiday, born in Flint, Michigan, was one of the first African Americans hired at the Flint unemployment office; she also worked as a legal secretary. When her parents divorced, Bridgewater's mother returned to Flint and raised her along with her sister, Rhonda Garrett Whiters.

During her early years in Flint, Bridgewater went to Southwestern High School, and at sixteen she joined an all-girl trio, modeled after the Marvelettes, called the Iridescents and sang in local clubs in Flint. In 1968 when she was eighteen years old the singer attended Michigan State ...


Brown, Charles  

Mark Steven Maulucci

to Mose Brown and Mattie Simpson. Charles studied classical piano at Galveston High School and played at local beaches and churches in the mid-1930s. He went to Prairie View A & M College, a HBCU in Prairie View, Texas, where he earned a B.S. degree in Chemistry. He worked as a teacher at George Washington Carver High School in Baytown, Texas, around 1942. He worked outside music in Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 1943 and moved to the West Coast soon after. After briefly working in the Bay Area, he settled in Los Angeles. Interestingly, most Mississippi Delta area bluesmen migrated north to Chicago, while most Texas bluesmen moved west to California.

In 1944 Charles won first prize in an amateur talent show at the Lincoln Theater in Los Angeles Guitarist Johnny Moore and bassist Eddie Williams were in attendance and asked Brown to fill out their trio as ...


Brown, Cleo  

Leslie Gourse

jazz pianist and singer, was born in Meridian, Mississippi, the daughter of a Baptist minister. The names of her parents are unknown. Some sources set her birth in 1909, while others suggest that she may have been five or more years older than that; the year 1907 is based on Social Security records, where her name is listed as Cleo Patra Brown. Her surname is sometimes spelled Browne.

Cleo began taking piano lessons as early as age four and she was soon accompanying the choir in her father s church The family moved to Chicago when Brown was ten years old Though her father came to disapprove of his daughter s playing she continued studying piano and when only fourteen years old she found a job with a traveling orchestra and went on the road She worked in South Side Chicago s Three Deuces Club leading her own ...


Brown, Oscar, Jr.  

Eleanor D. Branch

singer, songwriter, actor, activist, playwright, was born Oscar Cicero Brown Jr., the son of Oscar Brown Sr., a lawyer and real estate broker, and Helen Lawrence, a schoolteacher, in Chicago.

Growing up, Brown demonstrated an early attraction to and flair for language. He won elocution contests in school and was drawn to the poetry of Langston Hughes and Countée Cullen as well as to the music of Cole Porter and Oscar Hammerstein. He wrote songs as a teenager and by age fifteen had made his show business debut in the children's radio drama Secret City A year later having skipped two grades he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin only to find that academia was not for him he was drawn to creative writing but fell short in other subjects and as a consequence drifted from school to school never graduating Throughout this period his ...