1-20 of 27 results  for:

Clear all

Article

Armstrong, Harry (22 July 1879–28 February 1951), vaudeville performer, pianist, and popular composer, was born Henry Worthington Armstrong in Somerville, Massachusetts, the son of Henry Armstrong, a piano salesman, and Elizabeth Stuart. Armstrong competed as a professional boxer before joining a street corner vocal quartet in Boston in 1896. He moved to New York in 1898 and played piano in a restaurant in Coney Island and later at the Sans Souci Music Hall in Manhattan. He composed and performed his own songs, many of which were published by the firm of M. Witmark, where Armstrong worked as a rehearsal pianist....

Article

Armstrong, Lil (03 February 1898–27 August 1971), jazz pianist, composer, and singer, was born Lillian Hardin in Memphis, Tennessee. Nothing is known of her father, but her mother, Dempsey Hardin, was a strict, churchgoing woman who disapproved of blues music. 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 auditioned for clarinetist Lawrence Duhé’s band at Bill Bottoms’s Dreamland Ballroom, where she played with cornetist “Sugar Johnny” Smith, trombonist Roy Palmer, and other New Orleans musicians. When Smith became too ill to continue working, he was replaced by first ...

Article

Ball, Ernest R. (21 July 1878–03 May 1927), pianist and composer of popular songs, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, into a middle-class family. As a young teenager he was sent by his parents to study at the Cleveland Conservatory of Music. By age thirteen he was offering piano lessons in the neighborhood; by fifteen his first composition, a march for piano solo, was completed. As a young man he moved to New York City and for several years was employed as a pit pianist in various vaudeville productions. In 1903 he secured a position as staff pianist with the famous Witmark publishing house in Tin Pan Alley. His salary, $20 per week, was a respectable wage but far below what he eventually earned as a songwriter. Early in his stay at Witmark he began composing songs....

Article

Bond, Johnny (01 June 1915–12 June 1978), songwriter, musician, and writer, was born Cyrus Whitfield Bond in Enville, Oklahoma, the son of Rufus Thomas Bond, a storekeeper and cotton gin operator, and Anna May Camp. While the family had little money, they did own a Victrola player that Bond found fascinating. Inspired by ...

Article

Braham, David (1838–11 April 1905), composer, conductor, and violinist, was born near London. His father and brother were musicians, as were two of his sons and four of his nephews. In his teens Braham decided to become a professional harpist but, according to one source, gave up the instrument when a British coach driver informed him that he was welcome aboard but his bulky instrument was not. Shortly thereafter he began studying the violin and became an accomplished performer though he never aspired to a career as a concert soloist. As a youth he played violin in various London music halls....

Article

Carlisle, Cliff (06 May 1904–05 April 1983), pioneer country musician and songwriter, was born Clifford Raymond Carlisle in Mt. Eden, Kentucky. Many members of his family were musicians, and his younger brother Bill would later join Cliff in the ranks of early professional musicians. Cliff attended several rural grade schools near Wakefield, Kentucky, eventually transferring to larger schools in Louisville, Kentucky, between 1921 and 1924. Unlike many early musicians, he did not serve an apprenticeship in another field before taking up music; from his earliest days he aspired to be a professional musician, and he emerged as one of the first such professionals in the field of country music....

Article

Carlisle, Una Mae (26 December 1915–07 November 1956), jazz pianist, singer, and composer of popular songs, was born in Zanesville, Ohio, the daughter of Edward E. Carlisle and Mellie (maiden name unknown), a schoolteacher. (The assertion that she was born in Xenia, Ohio, published in many references, does not conform to family records.) With piano training from her mother, she sang and played in public at age three in Chillicothe, Ohio. After participating in musical activities at church and school in Jamestown and Xenia, Ohio, she began performing regularly on radio station WHIO in Dayton while still a youngster. In 1932 she came to the notice of ...

Article

Cobain, Kurt Donald (20 February 1967–05 April 1994), guitarist, singer, and songwriter for the rock band Nirvana, was born in the working-class lumber town of Aberdeen, Washington, the son of Donald Cobain, an auto mechanic, and Wendy Fradenburg Cobain, a waitress. Cobain remembered his early childhood as happy, but his father and mother struggled financially and divorced in 1976, devastating Cobain. By the time he reached high school, Cobain was engaging in petty delinquency and was arrested for vandalism and vagrancy. He began staying with various friends in Aberdeen, including Dale Crover, drummer of “grunge” progenitors the Melvins. He did not finish high school....

Article

Richard Carlin

Delmore Brothers, country singers, guitarists, and songwriters, were born Alton Delmore (25 Dec. 1908–8 June 1964) and Rabon Delmore (3 Dec. 1916–4 Dec. 1952), in Elkmont, Alabama, the sons of Charlie Delmore and Mary (called “Aunt Mollie,” maiden name unknown). The parents were subsistence farmers. The brothers’ uncle W. A. Williams was a prominent gospel singer and songwriter, and the family encouraged the two youngsters from a young age to attend a local singing school. Mollie, who played the fiddle, also taught her sons to play country fiddle tunes, and as early as 1925 she was writing gospel songs with Alton that were published locally. Alton and Rabon were heavily influenced by the bluesy recordings of white country star ...

Article

See Delmore Brothers

Article

See Delmore Brothers

Article

Duke, John Woods (30 July 1899–25 October 1984), composer and pianist, was born in Cumberland, Maryland, the son of Harry K. Duke, a businessman, and Matilda Hoffman, a singer. Duke began formal piano study at eleven and at sixteen won a scholarship to the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. He remained there for three years, studying piano with Harold Randolph and composition with Gustav Strube, both of whom had been trained in the German Romantic tradition. In 1918 Duke volunteered for military service and was stationed at Columbia University with the Students’ Army Training Corps. When World War I ended, he stayed in New York City to study piano with Franklin Cannon, a pupil of Theodor Leschetizky, and composition under Harold Brockway and Bernard Wagenaar. Both of these composers had a strong vocal orientation, which Duke absorbed and developed....

Article

Henderson, Ray (01 December 1896–31 December 1970), composer, author, and pianist, was born Raymond Brost in Buffalo, New York, the son of William Brost and Margaret Baker. His mother was his first piano teacher. He later studied organ, piano, music theory, harmony, and counterpoint with private tutors and sang in the choir at the Episcopal church in Buffalo. From 1911 to 1914 he did advanced study at the Chicago Conservatory of Music. Later he studied composition privately with English composer Benjamin Britten....

Article

Holly, Buddy (07 September 1936–03 February 1959), songwriter, singer, and guitarist, was born Charles Hardin Holley in Lubbock, Texas, the son of Hardin O. Holley, a bricklayer, and Ella Pauline Drake. At age five Holly (who removed the e from his last name in 1956) won a $5 prize at a local talent show singing “Down the River of Memories.” His Protestant parents thought he would become a minister and had no idea his natural aptitude to compose and play music with a fiddle, piano, and guitar would lead to his international recognition as a rock and roll pioneer....

Image

James P. Johnson © William P. Gottlieb; used by permission. William P. Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress (LC-GLB13-0458 DLC).

Article

Johnson, James P. (01 February 1894–17 November 1955), jazz and popular pianist, composer, and songwriter, was born James Price Johnson in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the son of William H. Johnson, a store helper and mechanic, and Josephine Harrison, a maid. Johnson’s mother sang in the Methodist church choir and was a self-taught pianist. He later cited popular songs and African-American ring-shout dances at home and local brass bands in the streets as early influences. When his mother’s piano was sold to help pay for their move to Jersey City in 1902, Johnson turned to singing, dancing, and playing the guitar but played piano whenever possible. In 1908 the family moved to Manhattan, at which point he enrolled at P.S. 69, and in 1911 the family moved uptown....

Article

Johnson, Robert (08 May 1911–16 August 1938), musician, was born Robert Leroy Johnson in Hazelhurst, Mississippi, the son of Noah Johnson and Julia Major Dodds (occupations unknown). His mother was married at the time to another man, Charles Dodds, Jr., who, because of an acquaintance’s personal vendetta against him, had been forced to flee Mississippi for Memphis in 1907, changing his name to Charles Spencer. After his mother eked out a living for two years working in migrant labor camps supporting Robert and his sister Carrie, she and her children joined Spencer, his mistress, and their children in Memphis in 1914. Eventually Julia left her children. Around 1918 Robert, an unruly, strong-willed child, also left Memphis, joining his mother and new stepfather, Willie “Dusty” Willis, in Robinsonville, Mississippi. Although Robert went to the Indian Lake School at Commerce, Mississippi, through the mid-1920s, eyesight problems both plagued him and provided him with an excuse to quit school. Johnson’s favored instruments of his early teen years, Jew’s harp and harmonica, were supplanted around 1929 by an interest in what became his primary instrument, the guitar, though he continued to play harmonica in a neck rack....

Article

Kagen, Sergius (22 August 1908–01 March 1964), pianist, pedagogue, and composer, was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, the son of Isaiah Kagen, a newspaperman, and Vera Lipshitz, a writer and educator. At age nine Sergius was sent to study piano with Glazunov at the Petersburg Conservatory. To escape the famine and destruction that accompanied the Russian Revolution, Kagen’s family fled to Berlin in 1921 in a cattle car, a difficult journey of several months’ duration. There Kagen was enrolled at the Hochschule für Musik and studied piano with Leonid Kreutzer. In 1922 the family began to emigrate to the United States, one member at a time. The fifteen-year-old Kagen, already a veteran of historical and personal turmoil, was the last to follow....

Article

McDowell, Mississippi Fred (12 January 1904–03 July 1972), blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist, was born Fred McDowell in Rossville, Tennessee, the son of Jimmy McDowell and Ida Cureay, farmers. Little is known of his early life, primarily because of his own conflicting accounts. His earliest recollections, aside from those of farm life, focused on weekend parties and the guitar playing of his uncle and main inspiration, Gene Shields, who also may have helped raise young Fred after the death of his father. In a 1969 interview, McDowell recalled: “I was a little-bitty boy. My uncle, he played with a beef bone that come out of a steak. He reamed it out, took a file and smoothed it and wore it on this [little] finger here … I said if I ever get grown I’m gonna learn to play a guitar. Boy it sound so good to me.”...

Article

Ray, Johnnie (10 January 1927–24 February 1990), popular singer, pianist, and composer, was born John Alvin Ray in Dallas, Oregon, the son of Elmer Ray and Hazel (maiden name unknown). At age twelve Ray became deaf in his right ear and subsequently wore a hearing aid. Influenced by gospel and rhythm and blues, Ray was a self-taught pianist and vocalist. He began singing on Portland radio and performing in bars and clubs in Portland and in Hollywood, California, at the age of fifteen, and by the late 1940s he was performing small dates throughout the country. In 1951 he attained valuable exposure at Detroit’s Flame club....