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Abshire, Nathan (27 June 1913–13 May 1981), Cajun musician, was born near Gueydan, Louisiana, the son of Lennis Abshire. His mother’s name is unknown. From a family of accordion players, Abshire made his public dance hall debut on the accordion at the age of eight. Like many other rural French-speaking people of Louisiana during his youth, he had little schooling and never became literate in his preferred French or in English. He married Olia Boudreaux, and he and his wife adopted one son....

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Ace, Johnny (09 June 1929–25 December 1954), musician, songwriter, and rhythm and blues star, was born John Marshall Alexander, Jr., in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of John Marshall Alexander and Leslie Newsome. His father earned his living in Memphis as a packer, but his lifework was as a commuting minister to two rural Baptist churches in East Arkansas. At LaRose Grammar School in south Memphis, John, Jr., as his family called him, displayed both musical and artistic talent. He mastered the piano at home but was allowed to play only religious music there. Along with his mother and siblings, he sang in the choir at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Becoming restless at Booker T. Washington High School, he dropped out in the eleventh grade to join the navy and see the world. His sisters recall military police coming to the house in search of their brother and remember his brief period of enlistment in terms of weeks, ending in an “Undesirable Discharge” in 1947. His mother was furious. “I can’t keep up with you,” she scolded, “and ...

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Acuff, Roy (15 September 1903–23 November 1992), country music singer and composer, was born Roy Claxton Acuff in Maynardsville, Tennessee, just a few miles north of Knoxville in a spur of the Great Smoky Mountains, the son of Neil Acuff, an attorney and pastor, and Ida Florence Carr. The family moved to Fountain City, a suburb of Knoxville, when Acuff was sixteen, and he spent most of his high school years excelling in sports. After graduation he was invited to have a tryout at a major league baseball camp, but a 1929 fishing trip to Florida resulted in a severe sunstroke, and Acuff was bedridden for a number of months. During his convalescence he reawakened an early interest in music and began to hone his abilities on the fiddle. By the time he had recovered, he had given up his dreams of a baseball career and had determined to utilize his newly discovered musical talent....

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Adams, Pepper (08 October 1930–10 September 1986), jazz baritone saxophonist, was born Park Adams III in Highland Park, Michigan, the son of Park Adams, Jr., a manager of a furniture store, and Cleo Coyle. The family had been reasonably well off until the store went bankrupt in the depression, one year after Adams’s birth. Adams grew up in poverty. His parents traveled to live with different relatives before settling with his grandparents in Rochester, New York....

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Adderley, Cannonball (15 September 1928–08 August 1975), 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, 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 band director Leander Kirksey and forming, with Kirksey, a school jazz ensemble. He then worked as band director at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and jobbed with his own jazz group....

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Akeman, Stringbean (17 June 1914–10 November 1973), banjo player and comedian, was born David Akeman in Annville, Kentucky, the son of James Akeman and Alice (maiden name unknown). Situated halfway between Corbin and Richmond, Annville was part of a region that produced several other notable banjoists, such as ...

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Albany, Joe (24 January 1924–12 January 1988), jazz pianist, was born Joseph Albani in Atlantic City, New Jersey. His parents’ names are unknown. His father was a carpenter. Raised in the Los Angeles area, Joe played accordion as a child and took up piano in high school. The family returned to Atlantic City by the summer of 1942, when he first played professionally at the Paddock, a striptease club. Immediately back in Los Angeles, Albany joined scat singer Leo Watson’s group, and he also married, but details of the marriage are unknown....

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Henry Allen © William P. Gottlieb; used by permission. William P. Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress (LC-GLB13-0004 DLC).

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Allen, Henry “Red” (07 January 1908–17 April 1967), trumpeter, was born Henry James Allen, Jr., in Algiers, Louisiana, the son of Henry James Allen, Sr., a trumpeter and leader of a brass band, and Juretta (maiden name unknown). Allen received instruction from his father and his two uncles, who were also trumpeters. Rehearsals were held at home, giving Allen the opportunity to hear New Orleans greats like ...

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Allman, Duane (20 November 1946–29 October 1971), blues-rock musician, was born Howard Duane Allman in Nashville, Tennessee, the son of Willis Turner Allman, a recruiter for the U.S. Army, and Geraldine Alice Robbins, a former secretary. Duane was only three years old when his father, who had moved the family to Norfolk, Virginia, in 1949, was murdered. Geraldine moved with Duane and Duane’s younger brother Gregg Allman, born in 1947, back to the Allman family home in Nashville. Left to themselves much of the time, the boys grew up close to each other....

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Ammons, Albert C. (23 September 1907–02 December 1949), jazz pianist, was born in Chicago. His parents’ names are unknown; both were pianists. Ammons was a teenage friend of Meade Lux Lewis. The two learned to play by following the key action of player pianos and by imitating more experienced musicians, including Hersal Thomas and Jimmy Yancey. Ammons, having access to his parents’ instrument, developed his skills faster than Lewis. Both men were particularly influenced by a tune called “The Fives,” a blues involving strong, repetitive, percussive patterns in the left hand, set against equally strong and percussive but less rigorously repetitive counterrhythmic patterns in the right; this piano blues style came to be known as boogie-woogie....

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Ammons, Gene (14 April 1925–06 August 1974), 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, Ammons studied music at Du Sable High School under Captain Walter Dyett. Initially he idolized ...

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Cat Anderson, c. 1946-1948. © William P. Gottlieb; used by permission. William P. Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress (LC-GLB23-0008 DLC).

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Anderson, Cat (12 September 1916–29 April 1981), 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....

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Anderson, Ivie (10 July 1905–27 or 28 Dec. 1949), 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 St. 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....

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Bruce J. Evensen

Andrews Sisters, singers, were born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the daughters of Peter Andrews, a restaurant owner, and Ollie Sollie. The three sisters were LaVerne (6 July 1915–8 May 1967), Maxene (3 Jan. 1918–21 Oct. 1995), and Patty (Patricia; 16 Feb. 1920–). Word spread in jazz-age Minneapolis that a local sister team might get Americans to forget the Boswells (see ...

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Anglin, Jack (13 May 1916–07 March 1963), country musician, was born in Franklin, Tennessee, the son of John Benjamin Anglin and Lue Tucker, tenant farmers who moved often. Anglin grew up on farms near small towns in the Nashville area, including Shelbyville, Fayetteville, Columbia, and then near Athens, Alabama. He began playing music with two of his brothers, Van Lear (or “Red”) and Jim. Their parents gave them a solid grounding in traditional folk forms, and in 1935 the three brothers moved to Nashville to perform on WSIX radio. They were billed as “The Anglin Brothers—A Vocal and String Trio.” They also worked on other southern stations, including WMC in Memphis, WWL in New Orleans, WAPI in Birmingham, and WSB in Atlanta. On 5 November 1937 the Anglin Brothers made twenty recordings for ...