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Rudi Blesh. © William P. Gottlieb; used by permission. William P. Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress (LC-GLB13-0992 DLC).

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Blesh, Rudi (21 January 1899–25 August 1985), writer, record producer, and broadcaster, was born Rudolph Pickett Blesh in Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory, the son of Abraham Lincoln Blesh, a doctor, and Theodora Bell Pickett, a piano teacher. In 1910 a family visit to Vienna stimulated Blesh’s interest in the arts, and consequently, he learned to play the piano, the violin, and the cello. Although his musical activities were restricted to the classical repertory at home, Blesh was impressed by the ragtime pianists who performed in Guthrie....

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Goldmark, Peter Carl (02 December 1906–07 December 1977), inventor, was born in Budapest, Hungary, the son of Alexander Goldmark, a hatmaker, and Emmy (maiden name unknown). In 1919 Goldmark’s family fled to Vienna, Austria, to escape the Communist revolution in Hungary. Goldmark studied for a year at the Berlin Technische Hochschule in Charlottenburg, Germany, and then transferred to the Physical Institute of Vienna, where he received his B.Sc. in 1930 and his Ph.D. in physics in 1931....

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Hammond, John Henry, Jr. (15 December 1910–10 July 1987), critic and producer of jazz and popular music, was born in New York City, the son of John Henry Hammond, corporate lawyer, and Emily Vanderbilt Sloane. Born to privilege, Hammond used his wealth and position, along with considerable resourcefulness and conviction, to promote primarily black music through the 1940s in ways that profoundly influenced its development and international acceptance. He later branched out to produce important folk and rock recordings....

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Phillips, Sam (05 January 1923–30 July 2003), record producer and radio entrepreneur, was born Samuel Cornelius Phillips on a two-hundred-acre farm near Florence, Alabama, the last of eight children of Charles Tucker Phillips and Madge Ella Lovelace Phillips, tenant farmers. The Phillips family, like others trying to survive the Great Depression, struggled. While picking cotton alongside impoverished black laborers, the youngest Phillips gained an appreciation for African-American music that would define his life and career....