Eleanora Fagan was born on April 7, 1915 in Philadelphia. As a child, she started going by Billie Holiday, Billie from Billie Dove and Holiday from her dad. She began listening to records by Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith. Her mother Sadie cleaned houses, but could not make a living, so moved to New York City.

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As a teenager, Holiday began singing in nightclubs. She teamed up with saxophonist Kenneth Hollan, performing at numerous clubs in Harlem. In 1932, Holiday replaced Monette Moore at a club where John Hammond, a producer, heard her and signed her to a record. …

Cabell “Cab” Calloway III was born on Christmas Day 1907 in Rochester, living on Sycamore Street. His mother was a teacher and church organist and his father was a lawyer. When Calloway was 11, they moved to Baltimore. After he was caught playing dice on the church steps, his mother sent him to a reform school in Pennsylvania.

When he returned to Baltimore, Calloway began private voice lessons and continued his study of music throughout school. He soon began performing at nightclubs in Baltimore and was mentored by Chick Webb and Johnny Jones.

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In 1927, Calloway joined his older sister, Blanche, in a tour of Plantation Days. She achieved success first, he often credited her as an inspiration to enter show business. His parents wanted him to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a lawyer. Therefore, he enrolled to college in Chicago, but spent his nights at the Dreamland Ballroom, Sunset Cafe, and the Club Berlin. At the Sunset Cafe, he was an understudy for Adelaide Hall. He also met and performed with Louis Armstrong. …

Written by Joseph Dugan, originally published on NYSMusic.com

On May 21, 1904, Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller was born to Adeline Locket Waller, a musician and Rev. Edward Martin Waller, a trucker and pastor in New York City. He began playing piano at the age of six and began playing organ at his father’s church at the age of ten.

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Waller left school at 15 to work as an organist at the Lincoln Theater in Harlem. Within a year, he composed his first rag. He was the top student and friend to pianist James P. Johnson. …

Written by Joseph Dugan, originally published on NYSMusic.com

On April 15, 1894, Bessie Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her parents and brother had died by the time Smith was nine, leaving her sister Viola as the caretaker. Therefore, Smith had a “wretched childhood” and never received an education.

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Early Life

In 1904, her oldest brother left to join a troupe with Moses Stokes. Eight years later, he returned and arranged an audition with the group for Bessie. She was hired as a dancer since Ma Rainey, a popular singer of the time, was already their singer. …

By Joseph Dugan. Originally published on NYSMusic.com

William James “Count” Basie was born in Red Bank, New Jersey in August 1904. Both of his parents played instruments: his dad on mellophone, his mom on piano. He dreamt of traveling, heavily inspired by touring carnivals. However, he spent most of his free time working at the Palace Theater in Red Bank where he eventually received free admission for performances.

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Although he was more proficient on piano, his real love was drums. However, another drummer, Sonny Greer, also grew up at the same time in Red Bank, and Greer eventually became Duke Ellington’s drummer. …

by Joseph Dugan, originally published on NYSMusic.com

On April 29, 1899, Edward Kennedy Ellington was born in Washington D.C.. Both of his parents were musicians, and so Ellington began his piano studies at the age of seven. Due to his easygoing nature, his friends began calling him “Duke.”

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Ellington’s early career was defined by his being a painter. He did this to make money, but also involved his music. After he painted a sign for an event, he would ask if they had music. If not, he would offer his services as a pianist.

In 1917, Ellington formed “The Duke’s Serenaders.” The band consisted of Ellington, Otto Hardwick (bass/sax), Arthur Whetsol (trumpet), Elmer Snowden (banjo), and Sonny Greer (drums). They played gigs around the D.C. area. Eventually, Wilber Sweatman offered Greer a job in New York City and Ellington went with him, eventually settling in Harlem. …

By Joseph Dugan. Originally published on NYSMusic.com

At the start of the twentieth century, many Black Americans, facing racism and discrimination across the country, moved to a neighborhood in Upper Manhattan: Harlem. This neighborhood became a cultural center in the early 1900’s, fully blossoming during the 1920’s and 30’s. This period of time, the Harlem Renaissance, is seen as a watershed for the country, but especially within the arts.

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The Harlem Renaissance established itself as a period of great innovation within jazz. There was a development with the piano making it more accessible for Black musicians. …

Written by Nora Hones for NYSMusic.com

The ‘Harry Chapin: When In Doubt, Do Something’ documentary following the life of the legendary songwriter Harry Chapin has been announced for October 16, 2020. The film will premiere in theaters across the United States as well as on a virtual cinema platform.

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The documentary is a Greenwich Entertainment film and is being directed by Rick Korn. The film was produced by Korn, S.A. Baron, and Chapin’s son, Jason Chapin. It follows the GRAMMY-nominated folk singer starting in his childhood which he spent under the shadow of his father Jim Chapin who was known for his jazz drumming and as an author of books about jazz drumming. …

By Tim O’Shea, originally published on NYSMusic.com

The Grateful Dead‘s 1983 fall tour saw the band playing a slew of shows in the Northeast in October. After two shows at Madison Square Garden the week before, and two more at the Hartford Civic Center, the Dead made their way Upstate and paid a visit to Lake Placid and the Olympic Center.

Only a few years ago, this venue housed one of the greatest upsets in sports history thanks to the “Miracle On Ice” in the 1980 Winter Olympics. Now it was the Dead’s turn to leave their mark on the place. This would be the only show in Lake Placid the band would ever play. Fans dubbed the tour stop as the ‘Special Olympics for Jerry’s Kids at Lake Acid,’ and where the opportunity presented itself, covered up the ‘PL’ in ‘Placid’ at every sign to the journey to the Olympic Town for added effect. …

by Nora Hones, for NYSMusic.com

The ‘Heroes Act’ passes in the House of Representatives on October 1, 2020 including the Save Our Stages revisions which were added on September 28, 2020. The $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus aid package will include $10 Billion set aside for independent music and live-entertainment venues.

The relief bill passed in the largely Democratically — controlled House of Representatives with votes 214 to 207. The votes were split largely along party lines. Unfortunately the bill still needs to be passed in the Senate which is notoriously slow in passing bills and is largely controlled by Republicans.

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The State Theater of Ithaca lit up in red during the “Red Alert” demonstration in support of Save Our Stages. Photo by Casey Martin.

The addition to the ‘Heroes Act‘ including Save Our Stages revisions will make a huge impact on the live entertainment industry that’s suffering horribly due to the coronavirus Pandemic. …

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NYS Music

New York State’s music news source, covering events of all genres from all corners of the Empire State. NYSMusic.com

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