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Ronald P. Dufour

pianist and composer, was born in Chicago. He began studying piano at age seventeen and is largely self-taught, though in the late 1940s he studied briefly at Chicago Musical College and at Governors State University in Chicago. Abrams played his first professional gig in 1948, and during the early 1950s he wrote arrangements for the saxophonist King Fleming and other rhythm and blues groups. From 1957 to 1959 he was pianist, composer, and arranger for the hard-bop group MJT+3. Throughout the 1950s he also accompanied visiting soloists like Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Johnny Griffin, Dexter Keith Gordon, and Max Roach.

In the early 1960s Abrams and a group of young Chicagoans that included saxophonist Eddie Harris and bassist Donald Garrett began to make plans for a rehearsal band. This initial attempt failed, but Abrams and Garrett revived the effort in 1961 and ...

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Mark Clague and John H. Zimmerman

flutist, composer, bandmaster, music educator, journalist, and hotelier, was born in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Danish West Indies (later U.S. Virgin Islands) and is remembered as the U.S. Navy's first African American bandmaster. Adams was the son of Jacob Henry Adams, a carpenter, and Petrina Evangeline Dinzey, a tailor; both his parents were members of the black artisan class centered around St. Thomas's port. This culture celebrated music and literature and instilled the young Adams with values of hard work and self-education. Although professional musicians were unknown in the Virgin Islands in his youth, Adams dreamt of a musical career inspired by his deeply held belief that music was not just entertainment, but vital to community health.

Adams attended elementary school and apprenticed as a carpenter and then a shoemaker choosing his trade based on the musical abilities of his master ...

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Joseph S. Mella

painter, graphic artist, printmaker, and publisher, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Ned Adams, an electrician and occasional sign painter, and Laura. Adams first explored art making by mimicking his father, who, according to Adams, enjoyed drawing. After the divorce of his parents around 1944, Adams lived with his aunt and uncle, Claudia and Caleb Spivey. Although he sought to attend a program for gifted children at the Detroit Institute of Arts, his uncle vehemently prohibited it, preferring that Adams spend his free time working jobs such as delivering newspapers. Adams attended Northwestern High School in Detroit while continuing to live with the Spiveys until age fifteen, when he moved to his father's home.

After graduating from high school in 1951 Adams moved to Romeo Michigan a then rural town forty one miles north of Detroit There Adams worked at ...

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Frank Tirro

jazz saxophonist, was born Julian Edwin Adderley in Tampa, Florida, the son of Julian Carlyle Adderley, a high school guidance counselor and jazz cornet player, and Jessie Johnson, an elementary school teacher. The family moved to Tallahassee, Florida, where Adderley attended Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College High School from 1941 until 1944. He earned his bachelor's degree from Florida A&M in 1948, having studied reed and brass instruments with the band director Leander Kirksey and forming, with Kirksey, a school jazz ensemble. Adderley then worked as band director at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and jobbed with his own jazz group.

Adderley served in the army from 1950 until 1953, leading the Thirty-sixth Army Dance Band, to which his younger brother, the cornetist Nathaniel “Nat” Adderley, was also assigned. While stationed in Washington, D.C., in 1952 Adderley continued to play ...

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Donald James

cornetist, trumpeter, bandleader, composer, arranger, and college educator, was born Nathaniel Adderley in Tampa, Florida, the second of two sons of Julian Adderley Sr. and Jessie Adderley. Julian Sr. was an educator who played trumpet and cornet, thus becoming Nat's first music teacher. Jessie was also a teacher. Nat's only sibling, Julian Adderley Jr., nicknamed “Cannonball” because of his rotund build, was three years older than his brother. The Adderleys moved from Tampa to Tallahassee, Florida, when Nat was a toddler so that Julian Sr. and Jessie could take teaching jobs at Florida A&M College (FAMC), a historically black school. The college changed its name to Florida A&M University (FAMU) in 1953.

Cannonball was the first of the two brothers to play trumpet He later became more interested in the alto saxophone leaving his trumpet to sit idle Nat showed no ...

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Philip Herbert

Composer, contralto, successful vocal coach, accompanist, and teacher. She was the youngest daughter of the famous African‐American actor Ira Aldridge, and born in Upper Norwood, London. Early on she was educated at a convent school in Belgium. At the age of 17 she was awarded a scholarship to study singing at the Royal College of Music. Her teachers included Jenny Lind and George Henschel for singing, along with Frederick Bridge and Frances Edward Gladstone for harmony and counterpoint.

Aldridge's career was successful and varied, as a contralto until an attack of laryngitis damaged her voice, an accompanist, vocal coach, and later a composer. She accompanied her brother Ira Frederick Aldridge on musical tours until his death in 1886. She also accompanied her sister Luranah in concerts at many well‐known London venues at the turn of the 20th century.

Aldridge also played a seminal ...

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Jim Miller

jazz drummer, was born Robert Patterson in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Poston Patterson. His talented pianist aunt was asked by the famous bandleader Lionel Leo Hampton to tour with him, but as she was not yet finished with school her grandmother would not allow it. However, Ali liked what he heard emanating from his aunt's living-room rehearsals with a local group, especially the sounds from the drummer. Although he did not graduate, Ali's high school dances provided him the opportunity to hear such luminaries as the saxophonist Charlie Parker and the big bands of Woody Herman and Stan Kenton. The young Rashied listened to the jazz drummers Max Roach and Art Blakey, but his earliest influences were his father's first cousins, the drummers Bernard and Charlie Rice Upon returning to Philadelphia after beginning his drumming career in the U S Army Ali briefly studied ...

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SaFiya D. Hoskins

blues musician, was born Luther Allison in Widener, Arkansas, the fourteenth of fifteen children born to his parents (names unknown), who were cotton farmers. He grew up with an interest in music; playing the organ in church, singing gospel, and listening to the Grand Ole Opry from Nashville, Tennessee, over the radio. Allison was exposed early to blues; from the music his father played on the family radio to hearing blues musicians like B.B. King, broadcast from Memphis on WDIA.

By the age of ten, Allison had begun to show interest in the guitar. In 1951 at the age of twelve he moved with his family in search of better opportunities to the Westside of Chicago After high school Allison studied the craft of shoemaking Meanwhile several of his siblings were members of a gospel group and one of his older brothers Ollie had become a popular guitarist ...

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Barry Kernfeld

jazz tenor saxophonist, was born Eugene Ammons in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Albert Ammons, a boogie-woogie pianist; his mother's name is unknown. Like several other prominent jazzmen, Gene studied music at Du Sable High School under Captain Walter Dyett. Initially he idolized Lester Young's improvising and even imitated Young's manner of playing with head and horn at a grotesquely tilted angle. During his third year in high school Gene began playing locally with the trumpeter King Kolax's band. At the semester's end he embarked on a cross-country tour with Kolax that included performances at the Savoy Ballroom in New York.

In 1944 the singer Billy Eckstine formed a big band that included the tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse and the alto saxophonist Charlie Parker. According to the group's pianist, John Malachi Rouse was so smitten by Parker s playing that he was unable to concentrate ...

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Barry Kernfeld

jazz trumpeter, was born William Alonzo Anderson Jr. in Greenville, South Carolina. Nothing is known of his parents, who died when he was four. Anderson grew up in Jenkins' Orphanage in Charleston, where as a boy he received the nickname “Cat” after scratching and tearing in a fight with a bully. He played in the orphanage's renowned bands, beginning on trombone and playing other brass and percussion instruments before taking up trumpet. From 1929 onward he participated in orphanage band tours, and in Florida in 1933 he formed the cooperative Carolina Cotton Pickers with fellow orphanage musicians. Returning to Charleston in 1934, they continued playing as the Carolina Cotton Pickers and then resumed touring.

Independent of the orphanage, Anderson held his first lasting affiliation with the Sunset Royals (c. 1936–1942). From 1942 to 1944 he worked in the big bands of Lucky Millinder; the trumpeter Erskine ...

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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 ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

Korean and Vietnam War veteran and Medal of Honor winner, was born in Winnboro, South Carolina, the son of Frizell Anderson, a carpenter, and Blanche Rabb Anderson, a homemaker. Webster's parents had seven children, daughters Frances, Alberta, Marjorie, and Marie, and sons Frizell Jr., Webster, Billy, and Larry.

In 1953, Anderson was drafted by the Army to serve in the Korean War. Although racism suffused the armed forces despite President Harry Truman's executive order to integrate the military, Anderson's initial Army experiences were largely positive. He would later tell his son Davis that joining the Army was “a good thing for him.” He believed that his white commanding officers as much as his fellow soldiers “helped pave the way” for his military career (Anderson). Webster enjoyed a happy private life too, marrying Ida Davis in 1959 In their ...

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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 ...

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Wallace McClain Cheatham

opera singer and college professor, was born in New York, the second child of Demetrio Arroyo, a mechanical engineer who moved to the United States from Puerto Rico at eleven years of age, and Lucille Washington Arroyo, a Charleston, South Carolina native. Her father studied engineering at the University of Florida and worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. With the exception of piano lessons from her mother and occasional singing at church, Arroyo received very little musical training during her childhood. Her family, however, ensured that films, concerts, plays, and other performances were a part of her upbringing.

After completing junior high school, Arroyo attended the Hunter College–operated special high school for gifted children. Her interest in opera, which took root during those years, developed from her experience with the Hunter College Opera Workshop. Upon listening to her performance of the “Jewel Song,” a piece from Gounod'sFaust ...

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Barry Kernfeld

jazz guitarist, was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, near Boston, the son of an apartment superintendent. His parents' names are unknown. The family was musical and closely in touch with the world of entertainment: “Fats Waller used to come by the house all the time,” Ashby told the writer James Haskins Ashby taught himself to play guitar At age fifteen he joined a band that played sophisticated arrangements for college dances and deeply embarrassed by his inability to read music he began to learn chordal notation He performed at a nightclub at Revere Beach while attending Roxbury Memorial High School Ashby s abilities as a classical guitarist won him a scholarship at an open audition for the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston but the school had no guitar teacher and thus the award went to the runner up So that s the extent of my conservatory background ...

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Christopher Wells

tap dancer and choreographer, was born Charles Atkinson in Pratt City, Alabama, the son of Sylvan Atkinson, a construction and steel worker, and Christine Woods. At age seven Atkins moved with his mother to Buffalo, New York. Woods, herself an avid social dancer, encouraged her children to dance, and Atkins won his first local contest at age ten doing the Charleston. As a teenager Atkins made his first money as a dancer by busking at rest stops while working as a bus line porter between Buffalo and Albany. His dancing caught the attention of a talent scout for the Alhambra on the Lake, a Lake Erie nightclub, who booked Atkins as a regular act. There he learned to tap from William “Red” Porter, a dancing waiter who became Atkins's first dance partner.

In 1929 Atkins joined a traveling revue produced by Sammy Lewis and toured through ...

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George P. Weick

writer, was born in Greenville, Mississippi, the son of William S. Attaway, a medical doctor, and Florence Parry, a teacher. His family moved to Chicago when Attaway was six years old, following the arc of the Great Migration, that thirty‐year period beginning in the last decade of the nineteenth century during which more than 2 million African Americans left the South for the burgeoning industrial centers of the North. Unlike many of these emigrants, who traded the field for the factory and the sharecropper's shack for the ghetto, the Attaways were professionals at the outset, with high ambitions for themselves and their children in their new homeland.

Attaway attended public schools in Chicago, showing no great interest in his studies until, as a high school student, he encountered the work of Langston Hughes He became from that point on a more serious student and even tried his hand ...

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Antoinette Handy

jazz singer, was born Cora Calhoun in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Nothing is known about her parents. In a 1950 article on Austin in Down Beat, the journalist George Hoefer wrote that “Lovie” was a nickname given to her by her grandmother. Hoefer further claimed that her grandmother “also brought up another little girl a few years younger then Lovie. Her name was Bessie Smith, and the two little playmates were parted before either of them began to get the blues.” Lovie studied music theory and piano at Roger Williams University in Nashville and Knoxville College in Knoxville. Her career was launched in 1912 when she began touring the vaudeville circuit At about this time she married a Detroit movie house operator a union that lasted briefly She then married the vaudeville performer Austin of the team Austin and Delaney Lovie worked the vaudeville circuit as the piano accompanist ...

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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 ...

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Jack Sohmer

jazz clarinetist and saxophonist, was born William C. Bailey in Memphis, Tennessee. Nothing is known of his parents. He attended the Clay Street School in Memphis, where he began studying clarinet at age thirteen. In 1917 he turned professional after joining the touring band of the famed blues composer W. C. Handy, and it was during a trip to New Orleans with Handy that he first heard authentic jazz. In early 1919 he left Handy to move to Chicago, where he studied with Franz Schoepp, first clarinetist with the Chicago Symphony, and worked in Erskine Tate's Vendome Theatre Orchestra and doubled in Freddie Keppards's small jazz band at the Lorraine Gardens. In late 1923 or early 1924 Bailey replaced Johnny Dodds in King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band for an extensive tour that concluded with its return to the Lincoln Gardens in June 1924. In August ...