Showing 221 resultsAuthority record
- Corporate body
- 1920s - 1936
The Boswell Sisters were an American all-female singing group of three sisters: Martha (June 9, 1905 – July 2, 1958), Connee (December 3, 1907 – October 11, 1976), and Helvetia (May 20, 1911 – November 12, 1988). They were noted for their close harmonies and unconventional renditions of popular songs, and are considered some of the first stars of mass entertainment due to their success on the radio. The group was a huge influence on later female singers such as the Andrews Sisters and Ella Fitzgerald.
Raised in New Orleans, the sisters got into ragtime and jazz and were performing regularly in vaudeville shows in their early teens. They signed with Victor Records in 1925 and toured for several years before settling in Los Angeles in 1929 and began appearing in radio programs and recording music for films. They did not attract national attention, however, until they moved to New York in 1930 and started singing in national radio broadcasts. They recorded for Brunswick Records between 1931 and 1935, issuing a series of recordings with the Glenn Miller Orchestra that are now considered milestones of vocal jazz for their experimentation with rhythm, harmony, and tempo. They also performed in several movies and toured Europe twice during the same period. In 1936 the trio signed with Decca, but suddenly broke up soon after. Connee continued a successful solo career with Decca into the 1940s, performing on the radio with Bing Crosby on a number of occasions, as well as singing in several more films.
- Corporate body
- 1935 - 1984
- 1935-09-30 -
- 1909-11-18 - 1976-06-25
Johnny Mercer (John Herndon Mercer) was a native of Savannah, Georgia, who began writing songs at the age of fifteen and eventually became one of the foremost figures of 20th century American popular music. His catalog includes many numbers that have become American classics, and his activities as lyricist, composer, performer and businessman span a period of nearly five decades.
Mercer was born on November 18, 1909 to real estate investor George A. Mercer, Jr. and his wife Lillian. He spent his childhood and youth in Savannah, growing up in a household where music was much in evidence and in a region where the local culture combined the rich literary and language traditions of the South.
He left school in 1927 and worked in his father's business before traveling to New York as an actor where he received favorable notices for his performances. Mercer returned the following year trying to establish himself as an actor. He continued writing songs during this time (he had written his first song at age 15). When told that casting for the Garrick Gaieties of 1930 was complete but that the show still needed songs, he supplied "Out of Breath And Scared To Death of You." The song was included in the show, marking the start of his career as a professional songwriter.
From there Mercer went on to become one of America's major songwriters of the 1930s to the 1960s, despite his lack of formal musical training. He worked primarily in New York through the early 30s, producing the hit "Lazybones" with songwriter Hoagy Carmichael in 1933, and collaborating with various other writers including Harold Arlen and "Yip" Harburg.
Mercer's work in Hollywood resulted in a remarkable record of hit songs. During the decade between 1936 and 1946 his catalog grew to such songs as "Hooray for Hollywood," "Jeepers, Creepers," "Day In-Day Out," "Blues In The Night," "That Old Black Magic," "Tangerine," "Accentuate The Positive," "Dream," "On the Atchison, Topeka And The Santa Fe" (Academy Award winner, 1946), and "Come Rain Or Come Shine." His film scores included Daddy Long Legs (1955), and stage productions included Top Banana (1951) and Li'l Abner (1956). Mercer attained distinction as a songwriter by receiving Oscars for three more of his songs between 1951 and 1962, namely "In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening" (1951), "Moon River" (1961) and "Days of Wine and Roses" (1962). Other songs from the period include "Glow-Worm," "Something's Gotta Give" and "Satin Doll."
In the end his catalog included over 1,400 songs, created over a period of 45 years, written by himself and in partnership with a remarkable number of America's most prominent popular composers. Mercer died from an inoperable brain tumor on June 25, 1976, in Los Angeles, CA.
- 1901-07-28 - 1986-07-04
- 1897-11-23 - 1978-09-24
- 1905-02-15 - 1986-04-23
Harold Arlen was an American composer, arranger, pianist, and vocalist who is considered one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. He wrote over 400 songs but is most famous for composing the songs for the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, particularly “Over the Rainbow,” which was voted the 20th century’s No. 1 song. Arlen wrote some of the greatest hits from the 1930’s and 40’s, such as “Get Happy,” “Stormy Weather,” “It's Only a Paper Moon,” “I've Got the World on a String,” and “Last Night When We Were Young.” He was most prolific from 1929 through the 1950s.
He was born as Hyman Arluck in Buffalo, New York in 1905 to Jewish parents. The son of a Jewish cantor (a trained song-leader for Jewish services) and pianist, Arlen showed exceptional musical talent in childhood. Hyman loved to sing, but was extremely shy. His mother hoped that he would become a music teacher, so she introduced a piano into the Arluck home. Hyman began studying around the age of nine and quickly outgrew the neighborhood piano teacher. He went on to study with the leading local teacher, who was also a conductor, organist and composer. Before long, Hyman left school as a teenager and achieved some local success working as a vocalist and pianist in different bands. He moved to New York City in the 1920s, where he worked as an accompanist in vaudeville and changed his name to Harold Arlen. Arlen composed several songs during that period, but published the first of his many well-known pieces in 1929, "Get Happy", with lyrics by Ted Koehler. "Get Happy” attracted attention to the new songwriting-lyricist duo identifying Arlen and Koehler as hit writers. With “Get Happy” and other rhythmic songs to their credit, the team developed the reputation as writers of "bluesy" rhythm numbers, which were much in demand in the flourishing cabarets. Throughout the early and mid-1930s, Arlen and Koehler produced songs for Harlem’s infamous Cotton Club, which was at the heart of the cabaret scene, as well as for Broadway musicals and Hollywood films, creating familiar pieces such as "Stormy Weather" and "Let's Fall in Love."
In the mid-1930s, Arlen married, and spent increasing time in California, writing for movie musicals. It was at this time that he began working with lyricist E.Y. "Yip" Harburg. In 1938, the team was hired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to compose songs for The Wizard of Oz, the most famous of which is "Over the Rainbow", which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song. They also wrote "Down with Love" (featured in the 1937 Broadway show Hooray for What!), "Lydia the Tattooed Lady", for Groucho Marx in At the Circus (1939), and "Happiness is a Thing Called Joe", for Ethel Waters in Cabin in the Sky (1943). Going into the 1940s, Arlen teamed up with Johnny Mercer to write a string of successful hits: "That Old Black Magic" (1942), "Accentuate the Positive" (1944), and "Come Rain or Come Shine" (1945), among others. From that point on he worked on various Broadway shows but became more reclusive as an illness in 1954 and the deaths of his parents in 1953 (his father) and 1958 (his mother), and later his wife (1970) caused him to lose interest in composing and music in general.
Arlen died of cancer at the age of 81.
- 1917-04-25 - 1996-06-15
American National Biography Online, accessed December 23, 2014, via Oxford African American Studies Center database: |b (Fitzgerald, Ella; jazz singer; Ella Jane Fitzgerald; born 25 April 1917 in Newport News, Virginia, United States; sent to segregated New York State Training School for Girls in Hudson (1934); Chick Webb, was persuaded to give her a try in his band (1935); was among the very first African-American women invited to join American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) (1940); began a long association with Decca Records’ Milt Gabler (1943); joined producer Norman Granz’s newly formed organization Jazz at the Philharmonic (JATP) (1949); her best recordings fall mainly in the decade between 1956 and 1966; produced exceptional live albums such as Ella Fitzgerald at the Opera House (1957) and Ella in Rome (1958); was generous contributor to charities, notably to the organization in Los Angeles named in her honor, the Ella Fitzgerald Child Care Center; died 15 June 1996 in Beverly Hills, California, United States)
- 1902-05-18 - 1984-06-15
Robert Meredith Willson (May 18, 1902 – June 15, 1984) was born in Mason City, Iowa, to John David and Rosalie Reininger Willson. Although Meredith started out playing the piano, his mother saved enough money to order a flute for him. At the age of 17, after high school graduation, he moved to New York to study the flute at what is now the Julliard School of Music. He performed small gigs as a flautist until hired as first flute with the John Philip Sousa Band. He toured with the Sousa Band from 1921 – 1923. He also worked with New York's Rialto theater orchestra, under the leadership of Hugo Riesenfeld. From 1924 to 1929, he played for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the New York Chamber Music Society. Willson joined the Army, serving as a Major in World War II, after which he worked as music director of ABC radio and television networks. He did a radio show called The Maxwell House Show Boat from Hollywood, which was later renamed Good News. He was also involved in the Armed Forces Radio Service for a time.
Willson married three times: first to his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth, whom he married on August 29, 1920 and later divorced; Ralina "Rini" Zarova, whom he married on March 13, 1948 and who died, December 6, 1966; and Rosemary Sullivan, whom he married on February 14, 1968. Meredith Willson died on June 15, 1984, in Santa Monica, California; his wife Rosemary survived him.
In 1924, Meredith Willson published his first piece of music: a composition called “Parade Fantastique.” Willson’s first big musical success was with his smash hit, The Music Man, which premiered December 19, 1957 at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway. It has since had two Broadway revivals, one in 1980 and one in 2000. Willson also contributed scores and librettos to the musicals The Music Man, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, 1491, and Here’s Love. Acting as lyricist and composer for most of his career, Willson wrote memorable standards including “It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas”, “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You”, “You and I”, “Two in Love”, “76 Trombones”, “Goodnight, My Someone”, “Till There Was You”, “Trouble”, “My White Knight”, “Lida Rose”, “I Ain’t Down Yet”, “Belly Up to the Bar, Boys”, “The Big Clown Balloons”, “Pine Cones and Holly Berries”, “My Wish”, “Iowa Fight Song”, “I See the Moon”, “Ask Not” and “Symphonic Variations on an American Theme.” He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1982. In 2020, The Great American Songbook Foundation inducted Willson into the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame.
- 1918-06-08 - 1987-03-21
- 1909-10-13 - 1956-11-05
- 1919-03-17 - 1965-02-15
Nat "King" Cole was an American jazz pianist and singer noted for his small jazz ensembles. Born in Alabama and raised in Chicago, Cole learned to play organ and piano, and after only a few years of formal training, dropped out of school at 15 to be a jazz pianist. He recorded a few singles with his brother, Eddie, and played in a revival of the musical "Shuffle Along". In the late 1930s he played in clubs; upon the request of a club owner, he hired bassist Wesley Prince and guitarist Oscar Moore to form the King Cole Trio. Cole had his first hit performing "Sweet Lorraine" in 1940 for Capitol Records, for whom he would record for almost his entire career.
By the end of World War II, Cole paid for his own 15-minute radio program, the first ever sponsored by a black musician, and continued to record. His popularity kept growing. At the end of 1956, NBC debuted "The Nat King Cole Show," a television variety show. It was the first television program ever hosted by an African American. Despite Cole's immense popularity, the show failed to attract a national sponsor and only lasted a year on air. Despite this, and changing tastes in music going into the 1960s, Cole was still a huge music star and continued recording hits. He was particularly well-known for a series of Spanish-language albums in 1958, '59, and '62 that extended his popularity into Latin American as well as the United States. He also continued to appear onscreen in television shows and short films.
Cole died of lung cancer at the age of 45.
- 1926-08-03 -
Anthony Dominick Benedetto was born in Queens to Italian parents. He grew up poor and began singing for money in restaurants at age 13. He briefly attended New York's School of Industrial Art, learning painting and music, but dropped out at age 16 to work and support his family. Bennett was drafted into the US Army in late 1944 and was part of the military force that pushed the German army out of France and back into their homeland. He remained briefly as part of the occupying force after the end of the war, and was assigned to sing with a special services band entertaining American forces. He returned to the US in 1946 and studied at the American Theatre Wing. It was during this period that he developed the technique of imitating the style and phrasing of other artists that helped him learn to improvise while performing.
In 1949, Bennett was invited by singer Pearl Bailey to open for one of her shows. Bob Hope attended the performance and hired Bennett to perform with him on his tours. Bennett signed with Columbia Records the next year, and recorded his first hit "Because of You" a year after that. For the rest of the 1950s he continued to be a certifiable hit. In August 1956 he hosted a temporary television variety show, "The Tony Bennett Show," in Perry Como's NBC slot as part of a summer show series that also featured Patti Page and Julius La Rosa. Bennett would do so again in 1959.
Despite the arrival of rock'n'roll, Bennett continued to release a steady stream of popular and jazz albums and remained a highly popular nightclub performer. In 1962, he sang as part of the initial broadcast of the "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" and recorded one of his most famous songs, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco". Unfortunately, however, the 1970s were not kind to Bennett. Attempts to get into acting, recording more contemporary songs, and even starting his own record label all failed; by 1979 Bennett was rarely performing outside of Las Vegas clubs, was all but bankrupt, and had developed a drug addiction. He turned to his adult children for help, and his oldest son Danny became his manager.
In the late 1980s and into the '90s, Bennett worked to reintroduce his music to a new generation of listeners back in New York City. He recorded several successful themed albums and even appeared on MTV in 1994. He continued to tour and record well into his 80s.