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Downey, Morton (14 November 1901–25 October 1985), singer, composer, and businessman, was born in Wallingford, Connecticut, the son of James Andrew Downey, the fire chief of Wallingford and a tavern keeper, and Elizabeth Cox. When Downey was eight, he received $5 for singing at a church social. Engagements at picnics, political rallies, and Elks Club meetings followed. He developed an act with Philip Boudini, both playing accordions. For Downey, the accordion was mostly a prop. By the time he was fourteen people were paying $15 to hear him sing....

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Hill, Joe (07 October 1879–19 November 1915), labor radical and troubadour, was born Joel Hägglund in Gävle, Sweden, the son of Olof Hägglund, a railway conductor, and Margareta Katarina (maiden name unknown). Raised in a devout Lutheran home with many siblings, he enjoyed considerable exposure to music but none to politics or labor affairs. When he was eight his father died as a result of a work accident, and the Hägglund family was left penniless. All the children had to work for wages, and young Joel found employment in a rope factory and later as a stationary fireman. Stricken with skin and joint tuberculosis in his late teens, he traveled alone to Stockholm where he received treatments for the disease, including a series of operations that left him scarred for life. Outside the hospital he worked at odd jobs. His mother died in January 1902, prompting all the surviving children to leave home. In the fall of 1902 he and a brother emigrated from Sweden to the United States....

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Rose, Billy (06 September 1899–10 February 1966), songwriter, show business impresario, and philanthropist, was born on the Lower East Side of New York City, the son of David Rosenberg, a button salesman, and Fannie Wernick. He was born William Samuel Rosenberg, according to most biographical sources, though one source states he adopted that name in school after being born Samuel Wolf Rosenberg. He grew up in the Bronx and attended public schools there, winning junior high school medals for sprinting and English. Medals and honors were important as proofs of stature and worth to Rose, who never grew taller than five feet three inches. In the High School of Commerce, he became an outstanding student of the Gregg system of shorthand, winning first a citywide competition (1917) and then a national competition (1918). In 1918 he left high school shortly before graduation to become head of the stenographic department of the War Industries Board, headed by ...