to Continental Lodge #287's Home Page. We Fraternally invite you to
view our Communication and visit us on our regular meeting night. We
meet on the first Wednesday of the month at Grand Lodge, 71 West 23rd
Street in the Renaissance Room on the 6th Floor at 7:30PM. Our
Brothers meet for dinner prior to the meetings. Check the
Communication for location and feel free to join us..... Dutch of
Be Well, God Bless and let our Brotherly Love Spread Around the
If you are not already a member
of our ancient & honorable fraternity, and would like additional
information, please contact this Lodg or any of our fraternity.
Although we cannot directly solicit members, we will be pleased to
respond to your interest by answering your questions and will gladly
provide a petition at your request.
Paul Whiteman's Orchestra was the most popular band of the 1920s. They are also the
most controversial to Jazz
historians because Whiteman billed himself as "The King Of Jazz". His Orchestra
rarely played real Jazz, despite having some of the great White Jazz soloists of the 1920s
in his band. For the most part Whiteman played commercial dance music and semi-classical
works. Jazz critics almost universally dislike his music, but he had his moments. Whiteman
started as classical viola player. He played with the San Francisco Symphony and he lead a
band for the Navy during World War One. After the war He formed the Paul Whiteman
Orchestra at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. He moved to New York in 1920 and made
his first record Whispering / The Japanese Sandman which sold over two million copies and
made Whiteman a star. In 1924 he secured his place in history when he commissioned and
introduced George Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue. The song became the bands signature tune.
Whiteman hired a virtual who's who of White Jazz musicians of the 1920s for his orchestra,
such as Red Nichols, Tommy Dorsey, Frankie Trumbauer, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, and in 1927,
Bix Beiderbecke. Bix left the band in 1929 after having a nervous breakdown. Singer, Bing
Crosby got his start with Whiteman's vocal trio the Rhythm Boys. In 1930 Whiteman starred
in the movie "The King of Jazz". Whiteman paid his musicans the highest salaries
in the business and was generally well liked by them. In the 1930s the orchestra featured
Bunny Berigan, Trumbauer and Jack Teagarden, but as the decade wore on Whiteman's
popularity declined. During the 1940s and 1950s, Whiteman worked as musical director for
the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), but reformed his orchestra from time to time
during those decades. In the early Sixties Whiteman played in Las Vegas before retiring.
music great Mel Tillis started his performing career in the early 1950's with a group
called the Westerners while serving as a baker in the United States Air Force, stationed
in Okinawa, Japan.
In 1956, Webb Pierce's recording of Mel's song "I'm Tired" launched his musical
In 1976, Mel was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters International Hall of Fame, and
that same year was named the Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year.
Mel's songs have been recorded by such artists as Brenda Lee, Charley Pride and Ricky
Skaggs, The Oak Ridge Boys, George Strait, and Kenny Rogers' version of "Ruby, Don't
Take Your Love to Town".
Mel's most recent release is a gospel album entitled "Beyond the Sunset", which
has already brought him an Album of the Year award.
Born in Tampa and raised in Pahokee, Florida, Mel has appeared in more than a dozen
feature films including "Every Which Way but Loose" with Clint Eastwood,
"W.W. & the Dixie Dancekings", "Cannonball Run" I and II, and
"Smokey and the Bandit II" with Burt Reynolds, and the lead with Roy Clark in
"Uphill All the Way".
Most recently Mel filmed "Bandit: Must Be Country" which is the first of four
action comedies inspired by the blockbuster hit film "Smokey and the Bandit". He
has starred in several television movies, among them "Murder in Music City" and
"A Country Christmas Carol".
Mel has also appeared on such television shows as 20/20, The Tonight Show, Music City
Tonight, 60 Minutes, and countless others. Return
to Last Page
Perhaps more than anyone else, John Philip Sousa is responsible for bringing the United
States Marine Band to an unprecedented level of excellence: a standard upheld by every Marine Band
Director since. Sousa grew up with the Marine Band, and his intimate knowledge of the band
coupled with his great ability provided the ideal medium to showcase the marches which
would earn him the title, the "March King."
Sousa was born November 6, 1854, at 636 G Street, SE, Washington, DC, near the Marine
Barracks where his father, Antonio, was a musician in the Marine Band. He received his
grammar school education in Washington and for several of his school years enrolled in a
private conservatory of music operated by John Esputa, Jr. There he studied piano and most
of the orchestral instruments, but his first love was the violin. John Philip Sousa gained
great proficiency on the violin, and at the age of 13 he was almost persuaded to join a
circus band. However, his father intervened and enlisted him as an apprentice musician in
the Marine Band. Except for a period of six months, Sousa remained in the band until he
In addition to his musical training in the Marine Band, he studied music theory and
composition with George Felix Benkert, a noted Washington orchestra leader and teacher.
After his discharge from the Marine Corps, Sousa remained in Washington for a time,
conducting and playing the violin. He toured with several traveling theater orchestras and
moved, in 1876, to Philadelphia. There he worked as a composer, arranger, and proofreader
for publishing houses. Sousa was fascinated by the operetta form and toured with a company
producing the musical Our Flirtation, for which he wrote the incidental music and
the march. While on tour in St. Louis, he received a telegram offering him the leadership
of the Marine Band in Washington. He accepted and reported for duty on October 1, 1880,
becoming the bands 17th Leader.
The Marine Band was Sousas first experience conducting a military band, and he
approached musical matters unlike most of his predecessors. He replaced much of the music
in the library with symphonic transcriptions and changed the instrumentation to meet his
needs. Rehearsals became exceptionally strict, and he shaped his musicians into the
countrys premier military band. Marine Band concerts began to attract discriminating
audiences, and the bands reputation began to spread widely.
Sousa first received acclaim in military band circles with the writing of his march
"The Gladiator" in 1886. From that time on he received ever-increasing attention
and respect as a composer. In 1888, he wrote "Semper Fidelis." Dedicated to
"the officers and men of the Marine Corps," it is traditionally known as the
"official" march of the Marine Corps.
In 1889, Sousa wrote "The Washington Post" march to promote an essay contest
sponsored by the newspaper; the march was soon adapted and identified with the new dance
called the two-step. "The Washington Post" became the most popular tune in
America and Europe, and critical response was overwhelming. A British band journalist
remarked that since Johann Strauss, Jr. was called the "Waltz King" that
American bandmaster Sousa should be called the "March King." With this,
Sousas regal title was coined and has remained ever since.
Under Sousa the Marine Band also made its first recordings. The phonograph was a
relatively new invention, and the Columbia Phonograph Company sought a military band to
record. The Marine Band was chosen, and 60 cylinders were released in the fall of 1890.
Within two years, well over 200 cylinders were released, placing Sousas marches
among the first and most popular pieces ever recorded.
The immense popularity of the Marine Band made Sousa anxious to take his Marine Band on
tour, and in 1891 President Harrison gave official sanction for the first Marine Band
tour, a tradition which has continued annually since that time, except in times of war.
After the second Marine Band tour in 1892, Sousa was approached by his manager, David
Blakely, to organize his own civilian concert band, and on July 30 of that year, John
Philip Sousa retired as Director of the Marine Band. At his farewell concert on the White
House lawn Sousa was presented with a handsome engraved baton by members of the Marine
Band as a token of their respect and esteem. The Sousa baton is now traditionally passed
to the new Director of the Marine Band during change of command ceremonies.
With his own band, Sousas fame and reputation would grow to even greater heights.
In his 12 years as Leader of the Marine Band, he served under five Presidents, and the
experience he gained with the Marine Band would be applied to his civilian band for the
next 39 years.
Sousas last appearance before the Marine Band was on the occasion of the Carabao
Wallow of 1932 in Washington. Sousa, as a distinguished guest, rose from the
speakers table, took the baton from Captain Taylor Branson, the bands
Director, and led the band through the stirring strains of "The Stars and Stripes
John Philip Sousa died on March 6, 1932, at Reading, PA, where he was scheduled to
conduct the Ringgold Band the following day. His body was brought to his native Washington
to lie in state in the Band Hall at Marine Barracks. Four days later, two companies of
Marines and Sailors, the Marine Band, and honorary pall-bearers from the Army, Navy, and
Marine Corps headed the funeral cortege from the Marine Barracks to Congressional
His music was not the only memorial to John Philip Sousa. In his native city on
December 9, 1939, the new Pennsylvania Avenue Bridge across the Anacostia River was
dedicated to the memory of the great American composer and bandmaster. More recently,
Sousa was enshrined in the Hall of Fame for Great Americans in a ceremony at the John F.
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1976.
In a fitting tribute to its 17th Leader, in 1974 the Marine Band rededicated its
historic band hall at Marine Barracks as "John Philip Sousa Band Hall." The bell
from the S.S. John Philip Sousa, a World War II Liberty ship, is there.
Perhaps the most significant tribute to Sousas influence on American culture,
"The Stars and Stripes Forever" was designated as the national march of the
United States on December 10, 1987. A White House memorandum states the march has become
"an integral part of the celebration of American life." Return
to Last Page
John Stafford Smith was born in 1750 and christened in Gloucester Cathedral.After his
education at the Cathedral School he was a choir boy at the Chapel Royal
London. He also studied under Dr. Boyce. He gained a reputation as a fine organist and
composer and gained membership of the select Anachreonic Society. Member have included
J.S.Bach, Henry Purcell and James Boswell.
In 1780 he composed the music to the societies constitutional song. It was entitled
" To Anachreon in Heaven ". It was inspired by a 6th century Greek poet
and was about the pleasures of wine and love.
He played as organist at the Three Choirs Festival in 1790 at Gloucester. In 1836 he
died at the age of 85.
His song became popular in England and America. During the war of 1812, the British
fleet attacked Fort Mchenry which protected Baltimore. Frances Scott Key was aboard a
British war ship trying to get the release of an American prisoner. He was held so that he
could not pass on any warning about the attack.
When the sun rose next morning he notice the Stars and Stripes was still flying. He
then penned the verse to the tune of John Stafford Smith.
This was printed on hand bills the next day and distributed through Baltimore.
Interestingly, although the American navy and army had recognised the Star Spangled Banner
as the National Anthem of the united states for some time, it was not until 1931 that it
was officially recognised by congress.
You will see the stars and stripes flying from Gloucester Cathedral to this day because
of this connection. Return
to Last Page
Our inventor this month is Adolphe Sax, who invented the saxophone around 1840. He may
well have been the first inventor to give his name to a musical instrument.
Born in Belgium
Antoine-Joseph Sax, who took the name Adolphe, was born in Dinant, Belgium. His father,
Charles, made a wide variety of musical instruments for a living - from wind and brass
instruments to pianos and guitars.
Adolphe studied the clarinet and flute at the Brussels Conservatory, and moved to Paris
in 1842. He developed the saxophone from his attempts to redesign and improve the bass
clarinet, and patented the new instrument in 1846.
Brass band man
The saxophone was Sax's most famous invention, but with his father's help he also
developed a series of brass instruments based on the valved bugle called saxhorns, which
still have a place in brass bands in the United States, Great Britain and France.
In 1857 Sax became the first saxophone teacher at the Paris Conservatory. Many of his
instruments were adopted by French army bands. Although Sax had patented his new
instruments, he did not make much money out of them, as he did not set up factories to
produce them. In fact, he spent ten years fighting other instrument makers in court, who
had served lawsuits on him in an attempt to have his patents removed.
In the last years of his life, Sax was living in poverty, and a group of influential
French composers including Camille Saint-Saens (you'll probably know his Carnival of the
Animals suite) petitioned the French Minister of Fine Arts to give him financial support.
All that jazz
Although some famous composers included the saxophone in the orchestration of their
compositions, the appeal of the saxophone in Europe was confined to popular forms of
culture such as marching and dance music. But it was three decades or so after Sax's death
that the saxophone made its most significant cultural contribution, in the new style of
music developed by African-American musicians - jazz. Return
to Last Page
With his grandfatherly image, Burl Ives parlayed his talent as a folksinger into a wide
- ranging career as a radio personality and stage and screen actor. After spending his early 20s
traveling the country as an itinerant singer, Ives moved to New York City in 1937. By the
end of 1938, he had made his Broadway debut, and he also sang folk songs in Greenwich
Village clubs. In 1940, Ives began to appear regularly on radio, including his own show,
The Wayfarin' Stranger, on CBS. Ives made his first records for Stinson, a small folk
label, then was signed to Decca, a major label. He made his movie debut in Smoky in 1946.
In 1948, his first book, Wayfaring Stranger, was published. In 1949, he had his first
chart hit with "Lavender Blue (Dilly Dilly)." The same year, he moved to
Columbia Records. With the advent of the long - playing record, Ives suddenly had a flurry
of LP releases from his three labels: The Wayfaring Stranger on Stinson; three volumes of
Ballads & Folk Songs, Women: Folk Songs About the Fair Sex, Folk Songs Dramatic and
Humorous, and Christmas Day in the Morning on Decca; and Wayfaring Stranger, Return of the
Wayfaring Stranger, More Folk Songs, American Hymns, The Animal Fair and Mother Goose
Songs on Columbia. He also recorded a series of albums for Encyclopedia Brittanica Films
under the overall title Historical America in Song. In 1951, he hit the Top Ten with
"On Top of Old Smoky." In 1952, he returned to Decca. While continuing to
publish books and to act on Broadway and in the movies, Ives made a series of albums that
included Coronation Concert, The Wild Side of Life, Men, Down to the Sea in Ships, In the
Quiet of the Night, Burl Ives Sings for Fun, Songs of Ireland, Old Time Varieties, Captain
Burl Ives' Ark, Australian Folk Songs, and Cheers, all released in the second half of the
1950s. In 1961, Ives oriented himself toward country music, resulting in the hit "A
Little Bitty Tear," which made the Top Ten in both the pop and country charts. The
single was contained on The Versatile Burl Ives. "Funny Way of Laughin'" was
another pop and country Top Ten in 1962; it appeared on It's Just My Funny Way of Laughin'
and won Ives a Grammy Award for Best Country Western Recording. He turned his attention
primarily to movie work from 1963 on, especially with the Walt Disney studio. But he
charted with Pearly Shells in 1964 and made a children's album, Chim Chim Cheree and Other
Children's Choices, for Disney Buena Vista Records. At the end of the '60s, Ives returned
to Columbia Records for The Times They Are A - Changin' and Softly and Tenderly. He gave
up popular recording, but returned in 1973 with the country album Payin' My Dues Again. He
also continued to record children's music and also released several religious albums on
Word Records. Turning 70 in 1979, he became less active and finally retired to Washington
State. In the '90s, Decca and the German Bear Family label reissued many of his
recordings. Return to Last Page
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria on January 26, 1756. Though he
did not begin to walk until
he was three years old, Mozart's talent for music soon became apparent. At the age of
four, he could reproduce on the piano a melody played to him; at five, he could play the
violin with perfect intonation; and at six he composed his first minuet.
As the young Mozart's
reputation grew, his father Leopold realized the financial rewards that could arise from
increased exposure of his son's talents. From that time on, Wolfgang and his sister
Nannerl spent much of their childhood traveling through Europe. The rulers of Europe and
England were astounded by Wolfgang's abilities of composition, improvisations, and sight
reading. While the public admired Wolfgang for his talents, they disapproved quite
heartily of his father, saying extensive voyages and frequent exhibitions were no life for
Mozart become the
concertmaster for the Archbishop of Salzburg in 1771. After spending frustrating and
unproductive years serving the Archbishop, Mozart resigned. He promptly moved to Vienna
where his creative energies flourished. There Mozart met and was influenced by Hayden, who
came to love him like his own son. He told Leopold Mozart, "I consider your son to be
the greatest composer I have ever heard."
In 1782, Mozart married
Constanze Weber, the sister of his long-time love Aloysia. His father disapproved of his
son's choice of bride and lifestyle. The newlyweds lived the carefree gypsy life
constantly moving from house to house, spending money frivolously.
In 1784, Lorenzo Da Ponte
presented Mozart the libretto for The Marriage of Figaro and a long collaboration between
the two began. Figaro premiered in 1786 to an enthusiastic crowd. The two continued their
initial success with another: Don Giovanni, which received its premiere in Prague in 1787.
Later that same year, Wolfgang's father died, leaving the 31-year old alone for the first
The success of a revival of
Figaro in Vienna led to a commission from the Emperor Joseph II for Cosi fan tutte, again
with Da Ponte, the premiere of which was a qualified success. In 1790, with the death of
Joseph II, Mozart found himself out of favor with the new regime and plagued by his
creditors. He was helped by Emanuel Shikander, who commissioned The Magic Flute for his
theater. Another commission came at this time, for La Clemenza Di Tito, but it did not
help his situation, as it received mixed reviews.
Mozart's health waned and it
was during this illness that he received his last commission. A mysterious stranger
requested a requiem mass from the composer. Depressed and delirious, Mozart became
convinced that the Requiem was for his own death. In 1791, Wolfgang's pupil Sussmayer
completed the work, as the composer was too ill. He was given a pauper's funeral and was
buried in an unmarked grave, in silence and unattended. Return
to Last Page
Famous for being the leader of the most popular big band during
the Big Band Era, Glenn Miller is the music symbol of a generation.
Born on March 1, 1904, in Clarinda, Iowa, Miller grew up in a
solid mid-western family. During Miller's early years, his family moved frequently to
places such as North Platte, Nebraska, and Grant City, Missouri. While in Grant City,
Miller milked cows to earn money to buy a trombone. After graduating from high school,
Miller attended classes for two years at the University of Colorado. It was in college,
that his interest in music flourished. He continued to play the trombone and also worked
with Boyd Senter's band in Denver. At that point, Miller's love for music took over. He
left the university and went to the west coast to try his luck as a musician.
Miller played for several small bands until he joined Ben
Pollack's orchestra in 1927. When Pollack's orchestra moved to New York, Miller left the
band to pursue the many opportunities that the city offered including freelancing for
other artists such as Red Nichols, Smith Ballew, and the Dorsey Brothers.
In 1934, Miller helped Ray Noble start an orchestra, which soon
became popular through its radio broadcasts. By 1937, Miller's own popularity among big
band circles enabled him to form an orchestra of his own, which eventually disbanded. In
1938, Miller put together a second band. Although he struggled through the first two
years, Miller's imagination, strong will, and determination kept "The Glenn Miller
Orchestra" and their aspirations alive. In March 1939, the band had its first
important engagement to play at the famous Glen Island Casino in a New York suburb. A
second engagement at Meadowbrook in New Jersey soon followed. By mid-summer, the orchestra
had achieved great popularity and demand through their radio broadcasts from both
engagements. Some of the orchestra's classics include "Chattanooga Choo Choo,"
"String of Pearls," and "Moonlight Serenade." The band was featured in
two films, Sun Valley Serenade (1941) and Orchestra Wives (1942).
In October 1942, Miller disbanded his orchestra and joined the US
Army Air Force with the rank of captain and assembled a quality dance band to perform for
the troops. When the troops moved to England, Miller's band followed. On December 15,
Miller got on a routine flight to Paris for a scheduled appearance for his band in that
city. The plane never arrived. Miller's death was mourned by music lovers all over the
world, and he was heralded as a hero worldwide. The movie The Glenn Miller Story was
filmed in 1953 as a tribute to Miller.
Miller's band was one of the most popular and best-known dance
bands of the "Swing Era." His music, a careful mixture of swing, jazz, and
improvisation, gained the admiration and praise of audiences and critics alike. Glenn
Miller and his orchestra's magnificent music will be always remembered by those who enjoy
the beautiful sounds they produced. Return to Last Page
Francis Scott Key was a respected young lawyer living in Georgetown just west of where
the modern day Key Bridge crosses the Potomac River (the house was torn
down after years of neglect in 1947). He made his home there from 1804 to around 1833 with
his wife Mary and their six sons and five daughters. At the time, Georgetown was a
thriving town of 5,000 people just a few miles from the Capitol, the White House, and the
Federal buildings of Washington.
But, after war broke out in 1812 over Britian's attempts to regulate American shipping
and other activities while Britain was at war with France, all was not tranquil in
Georgetown. The British had entered Chesapeake Bay on August 19th, 1814, and by the
evening of the 24th of August, the British had invaded and captured Washington. They set
fire to the Capitol and the White House, the flames visible 40 miles away in Baltimore.
President James Madison,his wife Dolley, and his Cabinet had already fled to a safer
location. Such was their haste to leave that they had had to rip the Stuart portrait of
George Washington from the walls without its frame!
A thunderstorm at dawn kept the fires from spreading. The next day more buildings were
burned and again a thunderstorm dampened the fires. Having done their work the British
troops returned to their ships in and around the Chesapeake Bay.
In the days following the attack on Washington, the American forces prepared for the
assault on Baltimore (population 40,000) that they knew would come by both land and sea.
Word soon reached Francis Scott Key that the British had carried off an elderly and much
loved town physician of Upper Marlboro, Dr. William Beanes, and was being held on the
British flagship TONNANT. The townsfolk feared that Dr. Beanes would be hanged. They asked
Francis Scott Key for his help, and he agreed, and arranged to have Col. John Skinner, an
American agent for prisoner exchange to accompany him.
On the morning of September 3rd, he and Col. Skinner set sail from Baltimore aboard a
sloop flying a flag of truce approved by President Madison. On the 7th they found and
boarded the TONNANT to confer with Gen. Ross and Adm. Alexander Cochrane. At first they
refused to release Dr. Beanes. But Key and Skinner produced a pouch of letters written by
wounded British prisoners praising the care they were receiving from the Americans, among
them Dr. Beanes. The British officers relented but would not release the three Americans
immediately because they had seen and heard too much of the preparations for the attack on
Baltimore. They were placed under guard, first aboard the H.M.S. Surprise, then onto the
sloop and forced to wait out the battle behind the British fleet.
Now let's go back to the summer of 1813 for a moment. At the
star-shaped Fort McHenry, the commander, Maj. George Armistead, asked for a flag so big
that "the British would have no trouble seeing it from a distance". Two
officers, a Commodore and a General, were sent to the Baltimore home of Mary Young
Pickersgill, a "maker of colours," and commisioned the flag. Mary and her
thirteen year old daughter Caroline, working in an upstairs front bedroom, used 400 yards
of best quality wool bunting. They cut 15 stars that measured two feet from point to
point. Eight red and seven white stripes, each two feet wide, were cut. Laying out the
material on the malthouse floor of Claggett's Brewery, a neighborhood establishment, the
flag was sewn together. By August it was finished. It measured 30 by 42 feet and cost
$405.90. The Baltimore Flag House, a museum, now occupies her premises, which were
restored in 1953.
At 7 a.m. on the morning of September 13, 1814, the British bombardment began, and the
flag was ready to meet the enemy. The bombardment continued for 25 hours,the British
firing 1,500 bombshells that weighed as much as 220 pounds and carried lighted fuses that
would supposedly cause it to explode when it reached its target. But they weren't very
dependable and often blew up in mid air. From special small boats the British fired the
new Congreve rockets that traced wobbly arcs of red flame across the sky. The Americans
had sunk 22 vessels so a close approach by the British was not possible. That evening the
connonading stopped, but at about 1 a.m. on the 14th, the British fleet roared to life,
lighting the rainy night sky with grotesque fireworks.
Key, Col. Skinner, and Dr. Beanes watched the battle with apprehension. They knew that
as long as the shelling continued, Fort McHenry had not surrendered. But, long before
daylight there came a sudden and mysterious silence. What the three Americans did not know
was that the British land assault on Baltimore as well as the naval attack, had been
abandoned. Judging Baltimore as being too costly a prize, the British officers ordered a
Waiting in the predawn darkness, Key waited for the sight that would end his anxiety;
the joyous sight of Gen. Armisteads great flag blowing in the breeze. When at last
daylight came, the flag was still there!
Being an amatuer poet and having been so uniquely inspired, Key began to write on the
back of a letter he had in his pocket. Sailing back to Baltimore he composed more lines
and in his lodgings at the Indian Queen Hotel he finished the poem. Judge J. H. Nicholson,
his brother-in-law, took it to a printer and copies were circulated around Baltimore under
the title "Defence of Fort M'Henry". Two of these copies survive. It was printed
in a newspaper for the first time in the Baltimore Patriot on September 20th,1814, then in
papers as far away as Georgia and New Hampshire. To the verses was added a note
"Tune: Anacreon in Heaven." In October a Baltimore actor sang Key's new song in
a public performance and called it "The Star-Spangled Banner".
Immediately popular, it remained just one of several patriotic airs until it was
finally adopted as our national anthem on March 3, 1931. But the actual words were not
included in the legal documents. Key himself had written several versions with slight
variations so discrepancies in the exact wording still occur.
The flag, our beloved Star-Spangled Banner, went on view ,for the first time after
flying over Fort McHenry, on January 1st,1876 at the Old State House in Philadelphia for
the nations' Centennial celebration. It now resides in the Smithsonian Institution's
Museum of American History. An opaque curtain shields the now fragile flag from light and
dust. The flag is exposed for viewing for a few moments once every hour during museum
Francis Scott Key was a witness to the last enemy fire to fall on Fort McHenry. The
Fort was designed by a Frenchman named Jean Foncin and was named for then Secretary of war
James McHenry. Fort McHenry holds the unique designation of national monument and historic
Since May 30th, 1949 the flag has flown continuously, by a Joint Resolution of
Congress, over the monument marking the site of Francis Scott Key's birthplace, Terra
Rubra Farm, Carroll County, Keymar, Maryland.
The copy that Key wrote in his hotel September 14,1814, remained in the Nicholson
family for 93 years. In 1907 it was sold to Henry Walters of Baltimore. In 1934 it was
bought at auction in New York from the Walters estate by the Walters Art Gallery,
Baltimore for $26,400. The Walters Gallery in 1953 sold the manuscript to the Maryland
Historical Society for the same price. Another copy that Key made is in the Library of
Congress. Return to Last Page
Haydn is undeniably the most neglected of the three great composers of the Classical
period. Although he was one of the most creative and resourceful composers in the history of
music, Haydns achievements have been overshadowed by the colossal figures of Mozart
and Beethoven. But Haydn--who was born more than twenty years before Mozart and almost
forty years before Beethoven--is unquestionably their equal, and his influence was crucial
for both of these younger composers. Haydn almost single-handedly developed the symphony,
the string quartet and the piano sonata into complex and meaningful structures. Many
composers still write music based on the models developed by Haydn more than two hundred
Born to a poor, but musical family, Haydn was sent to Vienna to become a choirboy at Saint
Stephens Cathedral. The Cathedral provided Haydn with musical instruction, and he
learned how to play keyboard instruments (harpsichord, organ, etc.) and violin. Leaving
the choir school and making a living as a musician was difficult and Haydn spent ten long,
difficult years trying to scrape together enough money for food and rent. In 1759, Haydn
got his first job working for Count Morzin, for whom the composer wrote his first
symphony. Less than two years later, Haydn was hired by the Esterhazys, a very wealthy
Although Haydn was clearly a servant of the Esterhazys, the situation was extremely
advantageous for the young composer. Nikolaus Esterhazy was a great music lover, and
retained an ensemble of first-rate musicians. Haydn flourished creatively, writing
symphonies, string quartets, operas and many other works. He was extremely prolific and
appreciated by his employer. Although Haydn spent much of his time at the Esterhazy
estate, some thirty miles away from Vienna, he later claimed that the isolation helped him
to be original.
Haydns reputation and influence spread throughout Europe as his music was published
and widely circulated. So, when Nikolaus Esterhazy died in 1790, Haydn had little trouble
finding work. Haydn was invited to England by the impressario J.P. Salomon. Haydn made two
trips to London and composed some of his finest music for the English audiences, including
his twelve last symphonies. He spent his last years in Vienna, where he composed a set of
magnificent masses and the oratorios, The Creation and The Seasons.
Lionel Hampton was
awarded the National Medal of Arts on January 9th, but he deserved another medal for
perseverance and bravery for having arrived to accept it at all. Barely two days before
the ceremony, a raging five-alarm fire swept through his apartment in a 43-story highrise
near Lincoln Center in New York, destroying all of his possessions. Apparently, the fire
started when a halogen lamp tipped over in Hampton's apartment and ignited a bed.
The 88-year-old Hampton was left shaken, but sound. Gone, however, were the mementos of
his seven-decade career which included signed photographs by a number of Presidents, sheet
music, recordings, instruments, and even the tuxedo he had been planning to wear. When
President Clinton said during the Medals ceremony, "We are glad to see Lionel Hampton
here safe and sound," the more than 500 guests broke into applause.
Even as the fire began to devour his apartment, Hampton, who suffered a stroke in 1993,
did not want to leave. He was brought out in a wheel chair with a robe over his pajamas
and tucked in a blanket. According to a New York Times article, he asked Reuben
Cox, an aide, about a piece of music, "Where is my 'King David's Suite?"
Cox replied, "Mr. Hampton, everything is in your apartment." Another aide,
Caprice Titone, said, "There is nothing left, Lionel."
For the Medal of Arts ceremony, Representative Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) borrowed a dark
gray suite, white shirt and scarlet tie for him. Even the wheelchair was donated. As
Hampton commented to the Washington Post, "Everything was burnt up. Now it's
nailed up." Following the ceremony and presiding over a circle of press, Hampton
appeared pleased, somewhat tired, but overall unfazed by the trauma of the fire and the
excitement of the awards.
With the presentation of the Medal of Arts and the photos of himself with the President
and First Lady, Lionel Hampton can begin his collection anew. He can also add the
President's words of praise from that day. Clinton said, "A legendary bandleader,
singer, and the first musician to make the vibraphone sing and swing, he has been
delighting jazz audiences for over half a century. Anyone who has ever heard his music
knows that he is much more than a performer, he is a pioneer." i
"When Louis Armstrong invited him to play the vibraphones at a recording session in
1930, he realized he had found his calling. He mastered the vibes quickly and performed
the first jazz vibraphone solo ever recorded. In 1936, he joined the Benny Goodman Trio,
but soon formed his own band and over the years has nurtured the talents of many jazz
leaders, including Quincy Jones and Dinah Washington. He is a lion of American music and
he still makes the vibraphone sing."
Lionel Hampton is one of the great jazz musicians and bandleaders of the swing era. A
vibraphone virtuoso, he was born in 1908 in Louisville, Kentucky, and began his early
studies of music in Kenosha, Wisconsin. As a child, he also played bass drum in the band
of the Chicago Defender newspaper. Hampton has broken artistic ground in many
areas. After he moved to California, he was discovered by Benny Goodman in Los Angeles.
Goodman's Trio -- later a Quartet -- was the first racially integrated jazz group in the
nation. In 1940, encouraged by his wife and impresario Joe Glaser, he formed a big band
which quickly gained popularity, producing the hit "Flying Home" in 1942. From
1953 onwards, he made regular appearances in Europe and later in Israel, Australia and
Japan -- gathering fans as he went. As a composer, his work "Midnight Sun"
became a jazz classic and his two major symphonic works, "The King David Suite,"
-- the piece he asked about after the fire -- and "Blues Suite," have been
performed by major orchestras throughout the world.
The 1996 Medal of Arts is far from being Hampton's first honor. During his long career, he
has been a frequent guest and performer at the White House where he has performed for
every president since Harry Truman.
In 1992, Hampton received the Kennedy Center Honors award, and in 1995, was the focus of a
Kennedy Center all-star gala. In 1996, "Flying Home" was entered into the Grammy
Hall of Fame, and the University of Idaho named its music school after him. He holds more
than 15 honorary doctorate degrees.
Overall, Hampton's contributions to the excellence, growth and availability of jazz have
been extraordinary and equalled by few. Undaunted by fire and buoyed by honors and
attention, Lionel Hampton still shines among stars. Never one to rest on his laurels,
Hampton has been signed up to play for the Clinton inaugural parties in Washington, D.C.,
said Representative Rangel. Seizing yet another opportunity, Hampton himself said he is
composing music that he plans to call "Fire in the Sky." Return
to Last Page
William Christopher Handy, the "Father of the Blues," was born November 16,
1873, in a tiny log cabin on the west side of Florence, Alabama.
The future composer of "St. Louis Blues" and "Beale Street Blues"
spent his childhood in the post-slavery South of the late 19th century.
As both the son and grandson of African Methodist Episcopal ministers, Handy's first
exposure to music occurred in his family's church, Greater St. Paul AME. Attending Sunday
services, Handy found himself instantly consumed by the soul-stirring sounds of sacred
hymns and Negro spirituals.
From his earliest days in Florence, the imaginative young Handy would sneak down to the
banks of the Tennessee River, where he'd listen intently for hours while dirt-poor black
laborers sang their songs of toil and triumph.
Music from "the heart of the man farthest down."
"I think America concedes that (true American music) has sprung from the
Negro," Handy once said.
"When we take these things that are our own, and develop them until they are finer
things, that's pure culture. You've got to appreciate the things that come from the art of
the Negro and from the heart of the man farthest down."
Music was irresistibly rooted in Handy's soul. In spite of his father's vehement protests,
Handy saved enough money to buy a cornet and announced he would pursue the life of a
Running away from home at the age of 18, Handy embarked on a musical odyssey that carried
him away from the rural atmosphere of his native Florence and into the harsh urban
surroundings of Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis and New York.
"That's the secret of most of my blues," Handy once said. "They cover
geographical sites, like `Atlanta Blues,' Memphis, St. Louis, Beale Street, other
Over the next few years, Handy helped cultivate a musical sound that proved to be both
mournful and invigorating - a sound the young musician would simply call "the
blues." The composer once described the emotional texture of his music as "the
sound of a sinner on revival day."
"I wrote in Negro dialect," Handy explained, "to preserve something that I
think is at times more beautiful than pure English - the way the Negro used to sing his
In the early years of the 20th century, the aspiring musician arrived in Memphis, where he
was commissioned to pen a political theme song, "Mr. Crump." The composition
would later serve as the prototype for Handy's classic standard, "Memphis Blues"
"There's something about the `Memphis Blues,'" Handy once observed. "It
doesn't make as much money as the `St. Louis Blues.' But when I hear it, when I play it,
smoke gets in my eyes. There's something beautiful about it. There's something deep in
Handy's most famous composition, "St. Louis Blues" (1914), was written after his
band traveled to Chicago for the World's Fair, only to find that the fair had been
"Our quartet sang its way to St. Louis," Handy recalled, "looking for work,
which we couldn't get. And we disbanded. Music did bring me to the gutter. It brought me
to sleep on the levee of the Mississippi River, on the cobblestones, broke and
As night descended over the waterfront, Handy overheard a fellow outcast moan, "I
hate to see that evenin' sun go down."
Those melancholy words of despair haunted Handy's dreams, inspiring him to open his
classic signature tune - "St. Louis Blues" - with that same heartbreaking
"All of this hardship went into one song one night," Handy said, "and if
you've ever slept on cobblestones or had nowhere to sleep, you can understand why I began
this song with, `I hate to see that evenin' sun go down.'"
Handy later created the "Yellow Dog Blues," "Joe Turner Blues" and
"Beale Street Blues." In all, the composer wrote some 40 songs that he
personally classified as "blues."
"The adjective `blue' may be taken literally, as indicating a melancholy state of
mind, and perhaps a majority of the real blues would suggest that atmosphere," Handy
explained in "The Origin of the Blues," an article published in Music Journal.
"They are basically sad songs, complaining about life in general, and probably some
real or fancied wrong in particular. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to say that all
blues are mournful, for one can easily discover quite cheerful and even humorous lyrics in
this general category."
In his later years, even after the gradual, devastating loss of his eyesight, Handy
continued to write, perform and publish influential blues, jazz, ragtime and spiritual
music. He died in New York City on March 28, 1958. Return
to Last Page
LIKE THE Olympic torch carried every year, the legacy of classical music
goes on: from Bach to Haydn to Mozart, and later on to Beethoven and Shubert. The list is
endless, but the golden web of music has paved the way for minds like Bach to elevate art
to the highest degree of intellect.
Moreover, the same year in which Bach was born marked the birth of another composer:
George Fredrick Handel. Born in 1685, Handel became one of the greatest composers of the
late Baroque period.
The young German composer began his first organ lessons when he was just nine years old.
Those lessons were the only formal musical instructions he had ever attended.
The young Handel engrossed himself in music. However, it was only when he was 19 that his
musical talent reached its fruition when he composed his first opera. Almira was performed
in Hamburg which was the center of opera in Germany back then.
But it was to Italy that he travelled to. Rome was regarded as the capital city of opera
in the world. It was there that his operas, oratorios (large dramatic compositions for
instruments and voices), and many small secular cantatas. He ended his Italian sojourn
with the spectacular success of his fifth opera, Agrippina (1709), which he composed in
Another operatic triumph awaited him back in his home country, when he composed Rinaldo.
Some of Handel's greatest concertos-the solo concertos of op. 4 (1736, five for organ and
one for harp) have played a role in revolutionizing the baroque style. Together with Bach,
he was to prove the most innovative.
But throughout his life, Handel avoided Bach's contrapuntal (counterpoint) techniques.
Handel's music was simple, but had creative depth. At the sametime, however, it carried an
almost delicate but mesmerizing sound.
His musical mastermind lies in his dramatic and lyrical use of Baroque musical techniques.
He very much employed these in his operas and oratorios. In this respect, his operas
fluctuated between the rigid use of the conventional style of music and his original tonal
innovations. His ability to invent dramatic scenes around specific characters later had
much influence on composers like Mozart and Rossini.
Furthermore, the oratorios of both the Austrian composer Joseph Haydn and the German Felix
Mendelssohn owe a great deal to Handel who inspired them to divulge into the realm of
great music. His oratorios carried great meaning. His religious inspiration for instance
had great passion-something which penetrated his music during his life.
What is interesting is that Handel was one of the first composers to have a biography
written about him, to have annual celebrations of his birth, and to have a complete
edition of 40 volumes of his music published.
Beethoven later came to cherish this set. Although today-as in the 19th century-Handel is
best known for only a few of his works, such as Water Music and Messiah, more and more
attempts are being made to bring his other compositions, especially his operas, under the
public's eye. Handel's torch will burn forever. Return
to Last Page
Edward Kennedy (Duke) Ellington was born April 29, 1899. His father was James William
Ellington. He had little education, yet he still developed good speech, dress, and
deportment. Times were bad in the south when he was young. Agriculture was depressed and
Jim Crow laws were in effect. This caused many blacks to move north, including James
Duke's mother, Daisy Kennedy Ellington, had never worked full-time. Together with
James, they lived comfortably as middle-class citizens. They weren't wealthy but they
weren't always poor. They married on April 29, 1899 and Daisy gave birth to Edward Kennedy
Ellington. She could have married someone higher up on the social scale but she must have
been attracted by James' wits and manner.
Edward Kennedy Ellington got the name "Duke" from his friends and family. The
name seemed to have fit him well; it fit his personality well and stuck with him all
through high school. Duke Ellington grew up listening to black music, such as ragtime. At
the time, jazz was considered low and vulgar by most respectable and sophisticated people
such as the Ellingtons.
As a boy, Duke liked to draw. He and his family had predicted he would go to college
specializing in art. He wasn't interested in finer things such as refined dancing and the
piano. He was more-so into boyish games like open-lot baseball but his mother still had
him take piano lessons. After about two months of this, his parents decided that it was a
waste of time and money to keep getting him lessons while he wasn't interested in the
Duke Ellington's interest in music came when he was 13 years old. He also
became interested in things like girls and parties. He then realized that anyone who could
play music, especially the piano, was likely to be popular and be invited to parties. He
started taking lessons again.
Things changed once again. Most kids his age who wanted to sharpen their musical skills
would have asked their parents for music lessons, but this was not Duke's way. He was too
proud to put himself under the authority of a teacher. He didn't want anyone telling him
how to go about doing things. So instead of getting a proper music teacher and putting in
many hours practicing scales and finger cycles, he went out looking for shortcuts, and one
place he looked was Frank Holliday's poolroom, which happened to be next door to the
Howard Theater, one of the most famous black theaters in the United States.
Holliday's poolroom attracted all sorts of people who wanted a place to hang out:
lawyers, gamblers, champion pool shooters as well as youngsters like Duke Ellington. And
the entertainers from the Howard Theater found it a convenient place for them to go
between shows. Among these entertainers were a number of very fine pianists who could
sight read anything in a split second, or those who played by ear who nonetheless had
their own tricks and stunts. Oliver "Doc" Perry would occasionally ask Duke to
his house to teach him things about the piano that would help improve his playing and
technique. Another pianist who helped was Henry Grant who taught music at the high school
Ellington's popularity came when he played at a Senior's dance at his high school,
faking as a piano player. He played his first composition, "What You Gonna Do When
the Bed Breaks Down?" When he finished, the crowd was hooting and yelling for more.
He didn't have anything else to play so he switched up the version and style of the same
composition. That night, the song became a hit, which began the popularity and fame of
Once when Duke was on vacation with relatives he was told of a young pianist in
Philadelphia, Harvey Brooks. Harvey was known as a "monster" on the piano and so
Duke was told that one day while he was away, he ought to hear him play. On his way back
to Washington D.C. from New York, he took advantage of the offer. Brook's swing caught
Duke's ear, which he insisted on incorporating into his own work. The experience inspired
him to want to continue to play and be the best.
Duke Ellington's first gig was a sit-in for a pianist at Frank Holliday's poolroom. The
gig was paying one-hundred dollars, Duke was to keep ten and give the pianist the other
ninety. Getting a taste of his first gig, he began looking through the yellow pages. He
noticed one advertising a barn dance. He set up the gig, but was later called and told to
cancel all arrangements. The dance was on the second floor of the barn and there was no
way they could get a piano up there! This wasn't enough to stop the Duke. He arranged it
so that he would pretend to strum a guitar behind the volume of the band. He got away with
Duke Ellington was a human being. And like all human beings, he made mistakes and wrong
choices. There were obstacles he had to overcome. He didn't graduate with his class and so
he couldn't go to the Pratt Art Institute in Brooklyn, New York on the scholarship that
was offered to him. The main reason for this was that he had fell in love with a girl
from his school named Edna Thompson. In 1918, they had a baby, Mercer Ellington.
This forced Duke to have to find a way to make a living for his new family. He had a
member of his group start a sign-painting business.
Duke Ellington died on May 24, 1974. The jazz world suffered a major loss.
His career as a jazz musician brought him fame in not only American culture, but
African American heritage. He has traveled around the globe with his big band and
orchestra. Along the way, he's written over 2,000 songs and compositions, ranging from
jazz to classical music to his famous sacred pieces. Return
to Last Page
Nat King Cole had two overlapping careers. He was one of the
truly great swing pianists, inspired by Earl Hines and a big influence on Oscar Peterson. And he was a superb
pop ballad singer whose great commercial success in that field unfortunately resulted in
him greatly de-emphasizing his piano after 1949. Perhaps if his talents had been divided
between two different people!
Nat Cole grew up in Chicago and by the time he was 12 he was playing organ and singing in
church; his three brothers (Eddie, Fred and Isaac) would become jazz musicians. After
making his recording debut with Eddie Cole's Solid Swingers in 1936, he left Chicago to
lead the band for the revival of the revue Shuffle Along, and settled in Los Angeles when
the show ended. Cole struggled a bit, put together a trio with guitarist Oscar Moore and
bassist Wesley Prince and eventually settled in for a long residency in Hollywood. In the
early days (documented on radio transcriptions), most of the group's repertoire was
comprised of instrumentals although the Trio often sang jivey novelty vocals together.
However by the time the Trio had its first opportunity to record for Decca in December
1940, Nat King Cole had gained more confidence in his own singing. "Sweet
Lorraine" resulted from that session and the Trio soon became quite popular. In
future years Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson and Ahmad Jamal would all form piano/guitar/bass
combos inspired by Cole's group.
Nat Cole recorded a great deal of exciting jazz during the 1940s including dates featuring
Lester Young and Illinois Jacquet, the first Jazz at the Philharmonic concert (1944) and a
countless number of selections for Capitol with his trio; all of the latter are included
on a gigantic Mosaic limited-edition box set. Although his singing began to become quite
popular by the mid-'40s (and particularly after "The Christmas Song" and
"Nature Boy"), Cole mostly performed with his Trio during this era; Johnny
Miller took over on bass and in 1947 Irving Ashby became the guitarist. Nat Cole was open
to the influence of bop and in 1949 started utilizing Jack Costanzo on bongo and conga for
some songs. However his career changed permanently in early 1950 with the recording of
"Mona Lisa" which became a number one hit. Suddenly Nat King Cole became famous
to the nonjazz public as a singer, and many new fans never realized that he also played
piano! During the 1950s and '60s he mostly recorded pop ballads although there were a few
exceptions (including 1956's After Midnight album) and he never lost his ability to play
stimulating jazz. Cole had a regular television show during 1956-57 (some of which has
been released on video) but due to the racism of the period he could never find a sponsor.
However the popularity of his records and public appearances remained at a remarkable
level and the world mourned Nat King Cole's death from lung cancer in early 1965 at age
47. -- Scott Yanow Return
to Last Page
This great American song and dance man spent 56 of his 64 years on
the stage. During his lifetime, he wrote 40 plays,
collaborated with others on another 40 plays, and shared production of still another 150
plays. He made
over a 1000 appearances as an actor. Some of the more than 500
songs that he wrote were major national hits.
His parents were circuit traveling vaudevillians, Jeremiah and
Helen Cohan, who had three children. The first died in infancy, Josephine was the second
child preceding George by just two years. As was the life of vaudevillians in those days,
the family 'lived out of a trunk', traveling from town to town, staying in shabby boarding
houses. Often the children would sleep in the theater dressing room while the parents were
George had only a mild taste of public school education, as well
as just a few lessons on the violin. The theater became his school, - and he was an apt
pupil. He appeared in one of his parent's stage sketches as a 'prop' while still an
infant. When he was nine years old, he became a member of the act, with his sister
Josephine joining him just one year later. Now, the act was officially billed as The Four
Cohans. George would do sentimental recitations; a bootblack specialty, and often perform
a "buck and wing dance." By age 11, he was writing special material, and by age
13 he was writing songs and lyrics for the act.
He was just 16 years old when in 1894, he sold his first song to
Witmark Music Publishing.
'The Four Cohans' were now 'headliners' commanding a $1000.00 per
week. George was writing the songs and the sketches; He became the starring actor. He was
also selling original songs and sketches to other acts. And, he topped this all by
managing the family's business affairs. He was now 20 years of age, and in complete
control of the act. Isidore Witmark, in his autobiography, has pointed out that the young
(and also the mature) George Cohan was an opinionated, brash, cocky youngster with a very
high opinion (justified) of his own gifts.
In 1899, George married his first wife, Ethel Levey, a popular
singing comedienne. She became the 'fifth' Cohan in the act.
Cohan now began to turn his attention to the Broadway Musical
In 1904, George and Sam Harris formed a partnership that was
destined to become one of Broadway's most successful producing firms.
1904, Cohan's 'Little Johnny Jones' opened on Broadway, with Cohan
playing the role of a jockey. It became a huge hit.
In 1917, Cohan composed his greatest hit song. America had just
entered World War 1. Cohan was living in New Rochelle ("Forty-Five Minutes From
Broadway"). On the train down to New York, he thought of a song. Cohan has said
"I read those war headlines, and I got to thinking and humming to myself, and for a
minute, I thought I was going to dance. I was all finished with both the chorus and the
verse by the time I got to town, and I also had a title." The title was "Over
There". Charles King introduced the song in the New Amsterdam Theater in 1917; the
Nora Bayes recording made it a national hit. 25 years later, Congress authorized President
Franklin Delano Roosevelt to present the Congressional Medal of Honor for this war song.
In 1919, Actor's Equity called a strike in an effort to gain
recognition as bargaining agent for it's membership. This strike closed the Broadway
theaters. As a producer, Cohan was affected. He took it badly. Many of the people who
aligned themselves with Equity, were folks whom Cohan had helped with their careers. He
became quite bitter, lost his enthusiasm, even broke up the successful Cohan-Harris
partnership, and retired from show business. He even cancelled his memberships in the
Friar's Club and The Lambs. (Two Broadway organizations.) But show people can no longer
stay away from the stage, than composers can stay away from music. After some rest and
travel, Cohan returned to Broadway.
In was in 1942, while Cohan was recovering from an abdominal
operation, that he paid his last respects to Broadway. He asked his nurse to accompany him
on a taxi ride from Union Square (14th Street) up to Times Square (42nd Street), stopping
briefly at the Hollywood Theater, to watch some scenes from 'Yankee Doodle Dandy'. Cohan
was taking one last look at all the places he had worked and starred. He was never to see
George M. Cohan died on Nov. 5, 1942. President Roosevelt wired
"A beloved figure is lost to our national life." Return
to Last Page
Eubie Blake, ragtime composer and performer, was born on February 7,1883 in Baltimore,
Md. When he was around four or five, Blake began playing his family's pump
organ. Noticing his interest in music, Blake's parents signed him up for piano lessons
with a neighborhood teacher. In 1898, at the age of 15, Blake became interested in
ragtime, to his mother's dismay. Against her wishes and without her knowing, he began his
professional music career by playing ragtime piano in Baltimore brothels, honky tonks and
bars. He later played in clubs and saloons. Blake's work led him to meet the major
musicians of the time. One of whom, Noble Sissle, would later become his partner. The pair
met in 1915. Sissle joined Blake's band as a singer. Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake created
an vaudeville act, the Dixie Duo. They wrote songs and performed. Sophie Tucker sang their
first song, "It's all your fault." The song was an instant hit. Then Blake and
Sissle teamed up with another duo to create Shuffle Along The Broadway all-star
cast included Josephine Baker Florence Mills and Paul Robeson. Many of Blake's most famous
songs come from Shuffle Along including "I'm Just Wild about Harry" and
"Love Will Find a Way". The play was so popular that in 1921 it was being
performed by three different touring companies. After the success of Shuffle Along
, Blake and Sissle collaborated on Elsie and Chocolat Dandies. Blake also
created some shows on his own including Swing It, Blackbirds and Eubie!
Then, as the popularity of ragtime faded, Eubie Blake took a twenty-three year break from
show business. In 1969, at the age of 56 he returned. Blake toured the world playing piano
and giving lectures on ragtime music. He made an album called The Fifty-six Years of
Blake and he formed his own company. Just over one hundred years after his life began,
on February 12, 1983, Eubie Blake died in Brooklyn, New York. Return
to Last Page
With a life that spanned more than 100 years and a catalogue that boasted over 1000
songs, Irving Berlin epitomized Jerome Kern's famous maxim, that "Irving Berlin has no place in American music
- he is American music".
Irving Berlin was born Israel Berlin in May 1888. When his father died, Berlin, just
turned 13, took to the streets in various jobs, working as a buster, singing for pennies,
then as a singer / waiter in a Chinatown café. In 1907 he published his first song, Marie
From Sunny Italy and by 1911 he had his first major international hit, Alexander's Ragtime
Over the next five decades, Irving Berlin produced an outpouring of ballads, dance
numbers, novelty tunes and love songs that defined American popular song for much of the
century. A sampling of just some of the Irving Berlin standards included: How Deep Is the
Ocean?, Blue Skies, White Christmas, Always, Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better, There's
No Business Like Show Business, Cheek To Cheek, Puttin' On The Ritz, A Pretty Girl Is Like
A Melody, Heatwave, Easter Parade, and Lets Face The Music And Dance. In a class by itself
is his beloved paean to his beloved country, God Bless America.
He was equally at home writing for Broadway and Hollywood. He wrote seventeen complete
scores for Broadway musicals and revues, and contributed material to six more. Among the
shows featuring all-Berlin scores were The Cocoanuts, As Thousands Cheer, Louisiana
Purchase, Miss Liberty, Mister President, Call Me Madam and the phenomenally
successful Annie Get Your Gun.
Among the Hollywood movie musical classics with scores by Irving Berlin are Top Hat,
Follow The Fleet, On The Avenue, Alexander's Ragtime Band, Holiday Inn, This Is The Army,
Blue Skies, Easter Parade, White Christmas and There's No Business Like Show Business. His
songs have provided memorable moments in dozens of other films, from The Jazz Singer
to Home Alone. Among his many awards were a special Tony Award (1963) and the
Academy Award for Best Song of the Year (White Christmas) in 1942.
An intuitive business man, Irving Berlin was a co-founder of ASCAP, founder of his own
music publishing company, and, with producer Sam Harris, built his own Broadway Theatre,
the Music Box. An unabashed patriot, his love for, and generosity to, his country is
legendary. Through many of his foundations, including the God Bless America Fund and This
Is The Army Inc. he donated millions of dollars in royalties to Army Emergency Relief, the
Boy and Girl Scouts and other organizations.
Irving Berlin's centennial in 1988 was celebrated world-wide, culminating in an all-star
tribute at Carnegie Hall featuring such varied luminaries of the musical world as Frank
Sinatra, Leonard Bernstein, Isaac Stern, Natalie Cole and Willie Nelson. On September 22nd
1989, at the age of 101, Berlin died in his sleep in New York City. Return
to Last Page
Throughout his career, the name of Count Basie was synonymous with swing. Basie, whose
influence remains huge over a
decade after his death, not only led two of the finest jazz orchestras ever, but he
redefined the role of the piano in the rhythm section. Originally a stride pianist, Basie
had such a strong rhythm section in the mid 1930s that he pared down his style
drastically, eliminating the oom-pah timekeeping function of his left hand.
But Count Basie was really an institution by himself. Born as William Basie in 1904, he
played for silent movies, learned from the great stride pianist of New York and played the
vaudeville circuit. Stranded in Kansas City in 1927, he soon joined Walter Pages
Blue Devils (the best small group in the city) and eventually became the main pianist with
Bennie Motens Kansas City Orchestra. After Motens premature death in 1935,
Basie formed his own group (known originally as The Barons of Rhythm) and was based in
Kansas Citys Reno Club. By 1937, the Count Basie band had caught on. Basies
orchestra could hold its own against any other swing band. Its theme "One
OClock Jump"; soon became widely recorded and "Jumpin at the
Woodside" became a standard.
In the 1940s, the bands arrangements became more formalized. Bad money management
and the change in the publics musical taste led Basie to reluctantly break up his
orchestra at the end of 1949 and use a small group for the next two years. In 1952, during
a period when very few jazz orchestras were being formed, Count Basie put together what
became known as his New Testament band. Against all odds, Basies orchestra caught
on, especially after recording "April in Paris"; in 1954. It was the
arrangements and the sound of the swinging ensembles that were emphasized.
Although there was a lot of turnover in the 1960s, the Basie sound never changed and
the orchestra did not decline nor stop travelling. A series of indifferent commercial
records in the mid-to-late 60s were far inferior to the bands live
performances. But, when Basie renewed ties with producer Norman Grantz in the 1970s and
signed with Pablo Records, his recordings were greatly improved. Count Basies health
gradually failed in the 1980s and his death at the age of 80 was greatly mourned. However,
his orchestra became the only viable ghost band in jazz history. Return
to Last Page
One of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, Louis Armstrong was responsible for
innovations that filtered down through popular music to rock and roll. Armstrong himself put it like this:
"If it hadn't been for jazz, there wouldn't be no rock and roll." If it hadn't
been for Armstrong, popular music of all kinds - from jazz and blues to rock and roll -
would be considerably poorer. As a trumpet player, Armstrong was a pioneering soloist and
one of the first true virtuosos in jazz. As a singer, he was one of the originators of
scat-singing, and his warm, ebullient vocal style had a big impact on the way all pop
music was sung. As an entertainer, his charismatic presence allowed him to break through
race barriers to become one of the first black superstars - a figure who would eventually
become known as America's Jazz Ambassador.
Born in New Orleans on August 4, 1901, Armstrong was sent to a boys home at age 12,
where he learned to play cornet. He apprenticed with his idol, Joe "King"
Oliver, in 1917 and joined Oliver's band in Chicago in 1922. Armstrong also played in Kid
Ory's band, where he replaced Oliver at the latter's suggestion. As a bandleader in his
own right, Armstrong cut some revolutionary jazz recordings with His Hot Five and His Hot
Seven between 1925-27. He continued to sing and play jazz brilliantly into the Fifties and
Sixties, even managing to unseat the Beatles from the top of the charts in 1964 with his
spirited rendition of "Hello, Dolly!" from the Broadway musical of the same
name. This feat made him the oldest musician in Billboard history to have a Number
One song. Armstrong died at age 70 on July 6, 1971. Return
to Last Page
Though revered by a legion of highly
respected guitarists, running the gamut from Paul McCartney to Eric Clapton, Chets
list of accomplishments hardly stops there. After leaving his poverty-stricken home in
eastern Tennessee, Chet landed a series of radio station jobs. At radio station WNOX in
Knoxville, Chet made his first recording backing a group that would later become the Oak
Ridge Boys. By 1946 he made his debut on RCA Records, a relationship that would last over
three decades with Chet recording over 75 albums. Impressed with his eye and ear for raw,
undiscovered talent, Chet was tapped to head RCAs A&R department where he
produced or guided a Whos Who list of legendary greats. Serving as producer for
Elvis Presley early in the singers career, Chet went on to arrange and play on such
acts as the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Perry Como, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson,
Dolly Parton, Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold, Jerry Reed, Charley Pride, Dottie West and Don
Gibson. Long regarded as one of a handful of musical architects for his pivotal role in
creating what became known as the Nashville Sound, he soon was shaping the sound of
rock-n-roll as well as country music.
hroughout the years, Chet has remained one of
the most in-demand session guitarists in Nashville history and has collaborated with such
contemporary artists as Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler on the Grammy
award-winning Neck & Neck album, Paul McCartney (who has credited Chet for being a
major influence on the Beatles), jazz great Earl Klugh, pop star George Benson, country
diva Dolly Parton and red-hot Suzy Bogguss. On the chart-topping Rhythm, Country and Blues
project, Chet is paired with New Orleans great Alan Toussaint for one of the albums
most critically acclaimed tracks.
het moved to Columbia Records in 1982 and began
recording albums with a renewed spirit as evidenced by his groundbreaking Stay Tuned album
featuring such lofty musical counterparts as George Benson, Larry Carlton, Mark Knopfler
and Earl Klugh which was followed by a Cinemax special "A Session With Chet Atkins,
C.G.P." Always a respected musician in any genre of music, Chets influence has
spanned several musical formats.
t was his genre-defying artistry that earned
Chet over 25 major awards including nine Grammy awards and Guitar Player magazines
"Popular Musics Most Influential Stylist" -- and awesome achievement by
new era in the Atkins legacy has emerged with
Chets landmark effort, Read My Licks, a tantalizing taste of his signature
country styling and unequaled shadings of jazz and rock that is sure to further his
standing as a Musicians Musician. Collaborating with a potpourri of gifted and
widely diverse artists ranging from country songstress Suzy Bogguss. (on the lilting
"After Youve Gone"), Chet Atkins protégé and current charttopper Steve
Wariner (the title track), Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler ("Around The
Bend"), rock guitar virtuoso Eric Johnson ("Somebody Love Me Now") and
George Benson (the jazz-infused "Dream"). "Ive never been satisfied
with the way I play and sound so I strive continually to try and get it right," says
Chet with his unfathomable but genuine modesty. "Im glad Im that way.
What excites me about this album is the musicians--they are the very best. I love to play
with people of that caliber."
nd as Chet Atkins reaffirms his indelible
influence on American music with Read My Licks, hes living proof that his
genuine musical genius is without peer and that great music remains forever fashionable. Return
to Last Page