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Posts Tagged ‘Billie Holiday’

Died On This Date (January 20, 2012) John Levy / Pioneering African-American Manager

Posted by themusicsover on January 20, 2012

John Levy
April 11, 1912 – January 20, 2012

John Levy was a talented bassist who went on to become jazz and pop music’s first African-American artist manager of any significance.   Born in New Orleans, Levy ultimately landed in New York City, where in 1949, he was hired to play in the George Shearing Quartet.  During those early years, Levy also played with Billie Holiday, Ben Webster, and Errol Garner, to name a few.  In 1951, he moved over to artist management – he had already acted as Shearing’s road manager while playing in his band.  His client roster included such jazz luminaries as Cannonball Adderley, Nancy Wilson, Joe Williams, and Ramsey Lewis.  In 2006, Levy was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts.  John Levy was 99 when he passed away in his sleep on January 20, 2012.

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Died On This Date (January 13, 2012) Phil Kraus / World Renonwed Percussionist

Posted by themusicsover on January 13, 2012

Phil Kraus
1918 – January 13, 2012

Living up to his motto, “Have Percussion, Will Travel,” Phil Kraus is one of the most recorded percussionists in history.  Kraus was just 8 years old when he began playing the xylophone, and upon graduation from high school, he was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Julliard School of Music.  After graduating, he was hired by WNEW to play in the studio band.  After serving during WWII, Kraus became one of the industry’s most in-demand session players, and he would continue to be as such through the 1970s.  He also played in the studio band for numerous television programs.  Over the years, he graced recordings by and/or shared the stage with such luminaries as Benny Goodman, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Holly, Quincy Jones, Billie Holiday and Ray Charles.  On May 19, 1962, he was playing in the orchestra at Madison Square Garden when Marilyn Monroe famously sang, “Happy Birthday To You,” to President John F. Kennedy.   In later years, Kraus worked with the Houston Symphony and Houston Pops.  He also taught percussion at Rice University.  Phil Kraus was 93 when he passed away on January 13, 2012.

Thanks to Henk de Bruin for the assist.

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Died On This Date (December 2, 2011) Bill Tapia / 103 Year Old Ukulele Legend

Posted by themusicsover on December 2, 2011

Bill Tapia
January 1, 1908 – December 2, 2011

Bill Tapia was arguably the greatest if not longest working ukulele player the world has ever known.  Born in Honolulu, HI, Tapia was only 10 when he was entertaining American troops who were stationed in Hawaii during WWI.  Before he knew it, Tapia was touring with vaudeville shows and playing on steam ships between Hawaii and the mainland.  When the ukulele became all the rage during the ’40s and ’50s, Tapia was the teacher to the stars, tutoring the likes of Shirley Temple, Clark Gable, and Elvis Presley.   He also played with such music luminaries as Fats Waller, Bing Crosby, and Billie Holiday.  Tapia moved to San Francisco following WWII and was more or less retired – outside of guitar teaching. Then in 2004, he launched his comeback at the age of 96!  He released an album of jazz and Hawaiian tunes later that year.  In 2001, Tapia celebrated his 100th birthday with a jazz concert which was recorded and later released.  He continued to tour until 2010.  Bill Tapia was 103 when he passed away on December 2, 2011.

What You Should Own

Click to find at

Live At the Warner Grand - The 100th Birthday Concert - Bill Tapia

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Died On This Date (September 20, 2011) Frank Driggs / Record Producer & Jazz Historian

Posted by themusicsover on September 20, 2011

Frank Driggs
1930 – September 20, 2011

Frank Driggs was a jazz lover who became one of the genre’s most respected historians and collectors.  Because of his reputation, producer legend, John Hammond hired him during the late ’50s to help him put packages together for Columbia Records.  While at the label, Driggs worked on releases by the likes of Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and the most celebrated, Robert Johnson’s Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings which won Driggs a Grammy in 1991.  He also produced records for Bluebird, Okeh, and MCA, to name a few.  Meanwhile, Driggs was gathering jazz photos, hand bills, ticket stubs and such for his own personal collection which, by the mid 2000s, swelled to over 100,000 images.   After retiring in 1977,  Driggs continued to earn a living by providing photographs for books and documentaries, the highest profile being perhaps Ken Burns’ Jazz series of 2001.  Frank Driggs passed away of natural causes on September 20, 2011.  He was 81.

Thanks to Harold Lepidus for the assist.

Posted in Jazz, Producer | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Died On This Date (August 14, 2011) Herman Leonard / Jazz Photographer

Posted by themusicsover on August 14, 2010

Herman Leonard
1923 – August 14, 2010

Herman Leonard was an American photographer who is revered for the countless iconic photos he took of jazz musicians throughout his career.  After graduating from college, Leonard landed an apprenticeship where he was lucky enough to shoot pictures of Albert Einstein and Harry Truman.  By the early ’50s, he was running his own Greenwich Village studio and freelancing for national magazines.  By then he had turned his focus on the local jazz scene.  His most famous photographs include those of Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and Billie Holiday.  In 2005, Leonard and his family were living in New Orleans when they lost their house, his studio and thousands of prints to Hurricane Katrina.  Fortunately, most of his negatives were being housed elsewhere.  His collection is now part of the Smithsonian Museum.  Herman Leonard was 87 when he passed away on August 14, 2010.

What You Should Own

Click to find at

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