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Aaliyah (16 Jan. 1979–25 Aug. 2001), singer, actress, and model  

Margena A. Christian

Aaliyah (16 Jan. 1979–25 Aug. 2001), singer, actress, and model, was born Aaliyah Dana Haughton to Michael Haughton, a warehouse worker, and Diane Haughton in Brooklyn, New York. For this second child, the Haughtons chose an Arabic first name that meant “the highest, most exalted one, the best.”...


Abbey, Henry Eugene (1846-1896), theatrical and operatic manager and impresario  

Harvey R. Brenneise

Abbey, Henry Eugene (27 June 1846–17 October 1896), theatrical and operatic manager and impresario, was born in Akron, Ohio, the son of Henry Stephen Abbey, a clockmaker and partner in a jewelry business, and Elizabeth Smith. After graduating with honors from Akron High School, where he showed a keen interest in music, Abbey worked in his father’s jewelry store until he launched his artistic management career in 1869 at the Sumner Opera House in Akron. In 1871 he became manager of the newly opened Akron Academy of Music, where he stayed for one season before moving to work first at John Ellsler’s Euclid Avenue Opera House in Cleveland and then as treasurer of the Ellsler Opera House in Pittsburgh. While still in Akron, Abbey and Ellsler managed the tours of the singing and dancing Worrell Sisters, ...


Abbott, Emma (1850-1891), soprano and opera impresario  

Katherine K. Preston

Abbott, Emma (09 December 1850–05 January 1891), soprano and opera impresario, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Seth Abbott, an itinerant musician and music teacher, and Almira Palmer. Abbott’s father encouraged her and her brother George to develop the musical ability that they demonstrated at an early age. Emma, who sang constantly as a child, chose the guitar as her instrument; her brother studied the violin. In 1854 the family moved from Chicago to Peoria, Illinois, and their fortunes declined. To supplement the family income Seth Abbott and the two musical children began to give concerts in Peoria and elsewhere starting in 1859; according to contemporary biographical lexicographer F. O. Jones, the trio performed hundreds of concerts during this period....


Abshire, Nathan (1913-1981), Cajun musician  

Mark F. DeWitt

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....


Ace, Johnny (1929-1954), musician, songwriter, and rhythm and blues star  

James M. Salem

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 ...


Acuff, Roy (1903-1992), country music singer and composer  

Charles K. Wolfe

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....


Adams, Pepper (1930-1986), jazz baritone saxophonist  

Barry Kernfeld

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....


Adderley, Cannonball (1928-1975), jazz saxophonist  

Frank Tirro

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....


Adorno, Theodor (1903-1969), social and political theorist, aesthetician, and atonalist musical composer  

Alan Sica

Adorno, Theodor (11 September 1903–06 August 1969), social and political theorist, aesthetician, and atonalist musical composer, was born Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund in Frankfurt, Germany, the son of Oskar Wiesengrund, a wealthy wine merchant, and Maria Calvelli-Adorno, a professional singer of Corsican and Genoese origin. He adopted his mother’s maiden name when his scholarly writing began to appear in 1938, perhaps reflecting his close attachment to her rather than to his remote father. His mother had borne her only child at age thirty-seven and lavished attention and resources on him, particularly with regard to “high” culture. His schooling included piano and composition training at a professional level (one teacher was Alban Berg) and philosophy with Edmund Husserl....


Ager, Milton (1893-1979), songwriter  

Shana Alexander

Ager, Milton (06 October 1893–06 May 1979), songwriter, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Simon Ager, a livestock dealer, and Fannie Nathan. The boy was educated first at Hull-House, Jane Addams’s famed Chicago settlement house, and later at McKinley High School. When an older sister bought a second-hand piano for ten cents a week, Ager quickly taught himself to play by ear. In the summer before high school he began to help support his large family by playing piano in amusement parks and movie theaters. By 1910, his junior year, he was determined to become a composer of popular music and copyrighted his first two songs....


Akeman, Stringbean (1914-1973), banjo player and comedian  

Colin Escott

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 ...


Albany, Joe (1924-1988), jazz pianist  

Barry Kernfeld

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....


Aldrich, Richard (1863-1937), music critic  

Victor Fell Yellin

Aldrich, Richard (31 July 1863–02 June 1937), music critic, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Elisha Smith Aldrich, a merchant, and Anna Elizabeth Gladding. His father, who sang in the Arion Choral Society under Jules Jordan, presumably encouraged the young Aldrich to pursue his interest in music. After graduating from public high school in 1881, Aldrich was admitted to Harvard College, where, besides taking regular humanities courses, he studied music with ...


Alexander, Jeff (1910-1989), composer and conductor  

Jill Alexander

Alexander, Jeff (02 July 1910–23 December 1989), composer and conductor, was born Myer Alexander in Seattle, Washington, the son of Max Alexander, Jr., a salesman, and Della Goodhue, a pianist. His musical education was initiated by his mother and continued at Becker Institute of Music in Portland, Oregon, as well as under private tutors Edmund Ross in Los Angeles and ...


Allen, Henry “Red” (1908-1967), trumpeter  

Eddie S. Meadows

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 ...


Cover Allen, Henry “Red” (1908-1967)

Allen, Henry “Red” (1908-1967)  


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


Allen, Steve (1921-2000), comedian, author, songwriter  

Bruce L. Janoff

Allen, Steve (26 December 1921–30 October 2000), comedian, author, songwriter, was born Stephen Valentine Patrick William Allen in New York City, the son of vaudeville comedians Carroll William Allen and Isabelle Donohue, who performed under the stage names Billy Allen and Belle Montrose. Literally born into show business, Allen toured the vaudeville circuit with his parents from infancy until his father died suddenly when Allen was only eighteen months old. Because his mother chose to continue her career, she left her young son in the care of her eccentric family in Chicago. In his first autobiography, ...


Cover Allen, Steve (1921-2000)
Steve Allen Used with the permission of Bill Allen, Meadowlane Enterprises, Inc.


Allen, Walter Carl (1920-1974), jazz scholar  

Barry Kernfeld

Allen, Walter Carl (02 November 1920–23 December 1974), jazz scholar, was born in Flushing, New York. His parents’ names are unknown. After graduating with a degree in geology from Columbia University in 1942, he served as an air corps navigator in Europe. Back from his war service, he married Anna Sowchuk; they had three children. Allen returned to Columbia for a master’s degree in mineralogy. He worked for U.S. Steel in New Jersey until he tired of industrial work and entered Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, as a doctoral student in ceramics engineering. After earning the Ph.D. in 1964, he worked as a professor in that field at Rutgers for the remainder of his life. He died in Point Pleasant, New Jersey....


Allman, Duane (1946-1971), blues-rock musician  

Stefan Dziemianowicz

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....