Biography. Biography. Joe Jordan (1882-1971) was born in Cincinnati, raised in St. Louis, and moved to Chicago in his youth. From 1900-05, Jordan concentrated on writing piano rags, but also contributed a song to Sons of Ham (1900).
Biography. Biography. John Larkins was a minor figure in black music in the early part of the 20th century. He ran "Jolly" John Larkin's Company and employed James Reese Europe as its musical director from 1906-07. In 1910 he produced and starred in A Trip to Africa. His other credits include Royal Sam (1911) and Deep Central (1932).
Biography. Biography. Sidney Perrin was a composer, actor, and producer for a few lesser-known shows both in the first heyday of black musicals (1898-1910) and its revival in the 1920s. He composed most of the music for The Colored Aristocrats (1909), including the songs "Why Moses Never Saw the Promised Land," and "Chocolate Mandy." This show starred the famous team of Flourney E. Miller...
Maceo Pinkard, 1897-1962
Biography. Biography. Composer Maceo Pinkard was born in Bluefield, West Virginia, in 1897. After his "Oh, You Darktown Regimental Band" was published in 1920 by the first black-owned music publishing company, Pace and Handy, Pinkard went on to write music for the shows Bon Bon Buddy, Jr. (1922), Liza (1922), and Broadway Rastus (1925 edition). He also composed several blues songs as well as...
Biography. Biography. Montague Ring was the musical pseudonym of Amanda Christina Elizabeth Aldridge (1866-1956). Her father, the great actor Ira Frederick Aldridge, was known as the "Black Roscius" and was famous for his portrayal of Shakespeare's Othello.
Luckey Roberts, 1887-1968
Biography. Biography. Charles "Luckeyth" Roberts (1893-1968) was an accomplished pianist and composer. Along with James P. Johnson, he is considered one of the founders of the Harlem stride piano "school." Roberts has been called "one of the hardest pounding colored players of any weight." One of his early compositions, "Ripples of the Nile" (1912), was restyled "Moonlight Cocktail" and became the theme of the...
Biography. Biography. A musician who was well-versed in almost all musical idioms except the blues, Benjamin Shook was a bandleader in Detroit from the end of the 19th century into the 1930s. According to Blesh and Janis, authors of They All Played Ragtime, the bands of Theodore Finney, Fred S. Stone, and Benjamin Shook "...monopolized the city's entertainment and social world to the almost...
Noble Sissle, 1889-1975
Biography. Biography. Noble Sissle was born in Indianapolis on July 10, 1889. After attending Butler University, he toured with the Thomas Jubilee Singers and became a protege of James Reese Europe, the great band leader. In 1915 Sissle met James Hubert "Eubie" Blake; they formed a songwriting partnership with Blake focusing on music and Sissle on lyrics. Their first song "It's All Your Fault"...
Chris Smith, 1879-1949
Biography. Biography. Chris Smith "wrote songs that pointed to black folk styles," according to music historian Eileen Southern. One of his biggest hits, "Good Morning, Carrie," was recorded as early as 1901. Both black and white musicals of the first decade of the 20th century used many of his songs as "interpolations,"or extra songs not especially connected to the plot. Some interpolations were "He's...
William H. Tyers, 1876-1924
Biography. Biography. Born in 1876, William H. Tyers was a prominent musician among the new generation of black musicians and performers who burst upon the New York City scene after 1898. He arranged the songs for The Policy Players, Bert Williams and George Walker's second New York City musical.
Biography. Biography. Very little is known of Herman Wade. He may be the same person as Herman Avery Wade (and may also have been known as Edwin E. Wilson) who worked for the Aeolian Corporation from 1904-23 as a piano roll arranger. Songs attributed him include "I Want to be Loved Like a Leading Lady" (1908), "Hindoo Honey" (1907), and "I've Got a Pain...
George Walker, 1873-1911
Biography. Biography. George Walker was born in 1873 in Lawrence, Kansas. His first acting job took him to San Francisco where he met Bert Williams in 1893. As a team, their big break came in 1896 in Victor Herbert's musical Gold Bug. The musical flopped, but the songs performed by Williams and Walker were audience hits. They began playing Koster and Bial's in New...
Clarence Cameron White, 1880-1960
Biography. Biography. Clarence Cameron White was born on August 22, 1880, in Clarksville, Tennessee. He spent his childhood in Oberlin, Ohio; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Washington, D.C. White began studying violin at age eight; within four years he was studying with the accomplished violinist Will Marion Cook. He attended Oberlin Conservatory from 1896-1901 (accounts differ as to whether he graduated or left just before graduation...
Horace Weston, 1825-1890
Biography. Biography. Horace Weston (1825-90), was one of the biggest stars of the minstrel stage during its heyday in the late 19th century, along with James Bland, Billy Kersands, and Sam Lucas. A freeborn black from Connecticut and a virtuoso banjo player, he started with Buckley's Serenaders in 1863, but spent most of his career with the Georgia Minstrels. In 1873 he became the...
Bert Williams, 1874-1922
Biography. Biography. Egbert "Bert" Austin Williams was one of the greatest entertainers in America's history. Born in the Bahamas on November 12, 1874, he came to the United States permanently in 1885.
African-American Band Stocks
Article. Article. There are digitized versions of published music by African-American composers from the opening decades of the 20th century on several Web sites. These compositions are found most often on general Web sites on American music. The American music industry began publishing music by African-American composers immediately following the Civil War. Whether these works are on a general music Web site or on...
Article. Article. The term "stock" or "stock arrangement" may not be well known to the general public. Indeed, the term also may not be familiar to the ordinary performing musician. Stock arrangements generally are published orchestrations for instrumental ensembles--bands or small orchestras--that enable them to perform popular songs or piano works that previously either had been unpublished in any form, or published only as...
The Creation of "Amazing Grace"
Article. Article. Arguably the best-known Christian hymn is "Amazing Grace." Its text, a poem penned in 1772 by John Newton, describes the joy and peace of a soul uplifted from despair to salvation through the gift of grace. Newton's words are also a vivid autobiographical commentary on how he was spared from both physical and spiritual ruin. It relates the happy ending of the...
The Dissemination of "Amazing Grace"
Article. Article. John Newton wrote the words to "Amazing Grace" in 1772. It was not for another 60 years that the text was wed to the tune to which it is sung today.
"Amazing Grace" and Shape-Note Singing
Article. Article. One way that "Amazing Grace" was disseminated in 19th-century America was shape-note hymnals. The principle behind writing music in this unique, non-traditional notation was pedagogical, as was the English fasola technique. Fasola taught students to identify pitches by names: fa-sol-la. Shape notation, however, is different: each pitch, as the name implies, has a specific shape. For instance, fa is triangular, sol is...
Early Sound Recordings of "Amazing Grace" in the LC Collections
Article. Article. Although the birth of sound recording can be dated to 1877 when Thomas Edison made a tinfoil recording of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on his prototype machine, "Amazing Grace" was not recorded until 1922. This fact is hardly surprising given the typical penchant of record companies to record marches, standard popular tunes, classical music, and comedic songs and sketches in the...
The American Art Song: An Introduction
Article. Article. I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear; ...Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs. -- Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855)
George Frederick Root, 1820-1895
Biography. Biography. American composer and music educator George Frederick Root (1820-1895) was born in rural Massachusetts. An accomplished keyboardist, Root began his studies in 1841 with Lowell Mason, the founder of curricular music in American public schools, at Mason's Boston Academy of Music. Root moved to New York in the mid 1840s and introduced Mason's pedagogical methods at several institutions. In 1853, Root and...
Amy Beach (1867-1944)
Biography. Biography. Amy Marcy Cheney was born on September 5, 1867 in Henniker, New Hampshire, to a prominent New England family. Her mother, Clara Imogene (Marcy) Cheney, was a talented amateur singer and pianist. Young Amy was a true prodigy who memorized forty songs at the age of one and taught herself to read at age three. She played four-part hymns and composed simple...