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Carr, Benjamin (12 September 1768–24 May 1831), composer, organist, and music publisher, was born in Holborn, England, the son of Joseph Carr, the owner of a music store in London, and Mary Jordan. Born into a musical family, Carr studied music with Samuel Arnold, a well-known opera composer, and Charles Wesley, an organist and composer of Methodist hymns. In addition to singing in concerts, Carr was involved with the London musical stage and wrote an opera, ...

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Drake, Pete (08 October 1932–29 July 1988), steel guitarist, music producer, and music publisher, was born Roddis Franklin Drake in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Rev. Johnny Drake, a Pentecostal minister, and Nora Blevins. Beginning his musical pursuits on the acoustic guitar, Drake was inspired at around the age of eighteen by hearing steel guitarist Jerry Byrd playing at the Grand Ole Opry. Drake purchased a lap steel at a local Atlanta pawnshop and began to teach himself to play it. Further inspiration came a few years later from hearing Webb Pierce’s 1953 recording of “Slowly,” on which steel guitarist Bud Isaacs achieved bending-note effects with a pedal-activated, pitch-altering mechanism on his guitar. Fashioning his own pedal guitar, Drake became one of Atlanta’s first pedal steel guitarists. He soon formed his own band, the Sons of the South, which at one time included such notable country music figures as Jerry Reed, Joe South, Doug Kershaw, and ...

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Goldkette, Jean (18 May 1893–24 March 1962), dance bandleader, businessman, and classical pianist, was born in Patras, Greece, the son of Angelina Goldkette, an actress. It is not known who Jean's father was. The Goldkette family was a troupe of entertainers that traveled throughout Europe and the Ottoman Empire. Angelina met and married John Poliakoff, a journalist, in Moscow in 1903. Raised in Greece and Russia, Jean studied classical piano from an early age, and he attended the Moscow Conservatory of Music. He moved to Chicago in 1910, when he was 17, to live with George Goldkette, an uncle. His mother and stepfather moved to the United States in 1919....

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Jean Goldkette. With his orchestra. Courtesy of the Red Hot Jazz Archive.

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Graupner, Gottlieb (06 October 1767–16 April 1836), musician and music publisher, was born Johann Christian Gottlieb Graupner in Verden, Germany, the son of Johann Georg Graupner, an honored Hanover musician, and Anna Maria Agnesa Schoenhagen. He apparently bore no relation to famed composer Christoph Graupner of Darmstadt. At age fifteen Gottlieb followed his father’s profession and joined the nearby Hanover regiment as an oboist. After his father’s death Gottlieb was discharged in 1788 and traveled to London where, in 1791–1792, he performed under Joseph Haydn in the premieres of the first set of his “London” symphonies. Graupner then immigrated to the United States, probably through Prince Edward Island off the coast of Canada. He gained employment as a musician in a traveling Atlantic coast theater company on the West and Rignall circuit. In April 1796 he married Catherine Comerford Hillier, a widow with three children, a professional singer, and a member of the company. The Graupners settled in Boston in the winter of 1796–1797 and worked to improve the musical quality of Boston’s cultural life....

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Herrmann, Eduard Emil (18 December 1850–24 April 1937), violinist, composer, and string quartet director, was born in Oberrotweil, duchy of Baden (now Baden-Württemberg, Germany), the son of Eduard Stephan Herrmann, a schoolteacher, and Amalie Knoebel. At an early age Eduard was trained musically by his father and later was given a stipend by the duke of Baden for his further education. In Freiburg he studied violin, then in 1864 enrolled at the Stuttgart music conservatory, where he was encouraged to continue by Franz Liszt. His quest for advanced musical training and broadened intellectual opportunities brought him in 1868 to the Berlin conservatory (Hochschule für Musik), where he became a protégé of the renowned violinist Joseph Joachim....

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Howe, Mary (04 April 1882–14 September 1964), composer, pianist, and music activist, was born Mary Carlisle in Richmond, Virginia, the daughter of Calderon Carlisle, a lawyer, and Kate Thomas. Howe was educated at home by tutors, including a piano teacher, Herminie Seron, who provided her with a thorough grounding in music theory and piano. Howe traveled abroad frequently with her family. During a visit to Europe in 1904 with her mother, she studied piano for a brief and intense period of time with Richard Burmeister in Dresden, Germany. In 1910 she began studying with Ernest Hutcheson and Harold Randolph at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore and, at Hutcheson’s suggestion, studied composition with Gustav Strube. In 1922 Howe earned a diploma in composition from Peabody, for which she presented a full program of her own works. The concert featured her Sonata for Violin and Piano, several piano solos, choral works, and a group of songs, including “If I Am Slow Forgetting,” “Cossack Cradle Song” (later renamed “Berceuse Cossaque”), “There Has Fallen a Splendid Tear,” and “O Mistress Mine.”...

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Mezz Mezzrow © William P. Gottlieb; used by permission. William P. Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress (LC-GLB23-0615 DLC).

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Mezzrow, Mezz (09 November 1899–05 August 1972), clarinet and sax player and promoter, was born Milton Miserow (or Misirow) in Chicago, the son of middle-class Jewish parents whose names are not available. Although reared in a well-to-do family on the north side of Chicago, Mezzrow says in his autobiography that he first learned to play the saxophone while serving a jail term in 1917. The story may be more colorful than true, yet it is not inconsistent with the authenticated events one finds in the life of this fascinating jazz figure. Whatever may have been the timing and site of his earliest musical studies, he achieved professional notoriety primarily through his organizational energies and from frequent ventilations of an ever-ready opinion. ...

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Petrides, Frédérique (26 September 1903–12 January 1983), conductor, violinist, and writer about women in music, was born Frédérica Jeanne Elisabeth Petronille Mayer in Antwerp, Belgium, the daughter of Joseph Mayer, an aristocratic businessman, and Seraphine Marie Christine Sebrechts, a concert pianist, teacher, composer, and later photographer....

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Rice, Helen (16 October 1901–22 April 1980), violinist and advocate of chamber music, was born in New York City, the daughter of Edwin T. Rice, a lawyer, and Margaret Rood. From an early age, Helen’s musicianship was encouraged by her artistic mother and by her father, an avid amateur cellist. When she was two years old, the family moved to a studio apartment near Central Park; there Helen Rice would spend the rest of her life, leaving it only for the family summer home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, for occasional trips to Europe, and, during four years in the 1930s, to teach music and run a residence hall at Bryn Mawr College....

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Rose, Fred (24 August 1897–01 December 1954), music publisher, songwriter, and pianist, was born Knols Fred Rose in Evansville, Indiana, the son of Andrew Rose and Annie West. Little is known about either parent. His childhood in St. Louis, Missouri, was Dickensian in its poverty and insecurity; when he was as young as seven, he was singing for change in various saloons and being shuttled about to various relatives. It was little wonder that he left St. Louis when he was around fifteen, hopping a freight train to Chicago, where he established a base of operations for the following fifteen years. His first marketable skill was as a pianist, and he joined jazz great ...

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Wiggs, Johnny (25 July 1899–09 October 1977), jazz cornetist, bandleader, and promoter, was born John Wigginton Hyman in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of a Mr. Hyman (given name unknown) and Alice (maiden name unknown). Both of Wiggs’s parents sang, and his mother played piano. He attended LaSalle school. He started to play the mandolin in 1907, studying from an older cousin until he discovered that he could play anything he wanted by ear and quit taking lessons. In 1908 he heard a bottle man who “had a New Year’s Eve noisemaking horn that had a brass reed and a wooden mouthpiece. … That man blew … the dirtiest blues sounds I have ever heard. Those sounds got into my ear and stayed there,” he later told writer George W. Kay. Influenced by this experience, he bought a cornet at age ten....