Musical Presidents

presidents-day

 

Presidents’ Day (celebrated on the third Monday in February), was originally established in 1885 in recognition of George Washington. The holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of the 1971 Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers. Presidents’ Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.

Wondering how many U.S. Presidents played musical instruments?

Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826) Third president of the United States, drafted the Declaration of Independence, and played the violin and cello.

John Quincy Adams (1767 – 1848) The sixth president of the United States formulated the Monroe Doctrine, and played the flute.

John Tyler (1790-1862) The tenth president of the United States was the first Vice President to become President by the death of his predecessor.  He played the violin.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) The sixteenth president of the United States issued the Emancipation Proclamation and played the violin.

Ulysses S. Grant (1822- 1884) The eighteenth president of the United States certainly scrapes the bottom of the list. He was tone deaf and famously commented, “I only know two tunes. One of them is Yankee Doodle and the other isn’t.”

Chester Alan Arthur (1829 – 1886) Became the 21st president of the United States following the assassination of President James A. Garfield. He played the banjo.

Franklin Roosevelt (1882-1945) The 32nd President of the United States and the fifth cousin to President Theodore Roosevelt, played the piano and sang soprano in his school choir.

Woodrow Wilson (1856 – 1924) The 28th president of the United States and creator of the League of Nations, played the violin and sang tenor in his college glee club.

Warren Harding (1865-1923) The 29th president of the United States organized the Citizen’s Cornet Band, available for both Republican and Democratic rallies. He once remarked that, “I played every instrument but the slide trombone and the E-flat cornet.”

Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) The 30th president of the United States was determined to preserve old moral and economic precepts amid American prosperity. He played the harmonica.

Harry Truman (1884 – 1972) The 33rd president of the United States who served during the conclusion of World War II, played the piano.

Richard Nixon (1913 – 1994) The 37th president of the United States, who ended American fighting in Vietnam and later resigned from office in the aftermath of the Watergate Scandal, was a classically-trained pianist and also played the accordion. He composed and played this piece, set to concerto form with “15 Democratic violinists.”  Nixon takes a dig at Harry Truman just before playing.:

Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) The 40th president of the United States implemented the Reagan Revolution, which aimed to reinvigorate the American people and reduce their reliance upon Government. He played the harmonica.

Bill Clinton (born 1946) The 42nd president of the United States and the first Democratic president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win a second term, plays the saxophone.

Barack Obama (born 1961) The 44th president of the United States and first African American president has broken into song on several recent occasions. President Obama sang Amazing Grace at the funeral for South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney:

February 6 in Music History

today

. 1497 ~ Johannes Ockeghem, Flemish singer/composer, died at the age of 79

. 1843 ~ The first minstrel show in America, “The Virginia Minstrels”, opened at the Bowery Amphitheatre in New York City.

. 1903 ~ Claudio Arrau, Chilean pianist

. 1917 ~ Arthur Gold, pianist, born in Toronto, Ontario

. 1929 ~ Rudy Vallee and his orchestra recorded Deep Night. It says in the fine print, under the artist’s name, that the tune was written by Vallee, himself.

. 1943 ~ Fabian (Fabian Forte), Singer

. 1943 ~ Frank Sinatra made his debut as vocalist on radio’s “Your Hit Parade” this night. Frankie had left the Tommy Dorsey Band just four months prior to beginning the radio program. He was described as, “…the biggest name in the business.”

. 1945 ~ Bob Marley, Jamaican reggae singer and songwriter

. 1947 ~ Alan Jones, Saxophone with Amen Corner

. 1950 ~ Natalie Cole, Grammy Award-winning singer, Best New Artist in 1975 with This Will Be, I’ve Got Love on My Mind. She is the daughter of Nat ‘King’ Cole

. 1966 ~ Rick Astley, Singer, songwriter

. 1976 ~ Vince Guaraldi, jazz pianist and composer (Peanuts TV specials), died at the age of 43

. 1981 ~ Former Beatle, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison teamed up once again to record a musical tribute to John Lennon. The result of that session became All Those Years Ago. The song went to #2 on the pop music charts for three weeks. It was recorded on Harrison’s own Dark Horse label.

. 2005 ~ Lazar Berman, Soviet Russian classical pianist. He was hailed for a huge, thunderous technique that made him a thrilling interpreter of Liszt and Rachmaninoff and a late representative of the grand school of Russian Romantic pianism.

February 5 in Music History

today

. 1748 ~ Christian Gottlob Neefe, German composer/conductor/tutor of Beethoven

. 1916 ~ Enrico Caruso recorded O Solo Mio for the Victor Talking Machine Company, which eventually became Victor Records, then RCA Victor.

. 1921 ~ Sir John Pritchard, British conductor

. 1928 ~ Singer Jessica Dragonette was seen on one of the first television shows. She was used only to test the new medium. She didn’t even get to sing.

. 1930 ~ Don Goldie, Trumpeter on Basin Street Blues with vocals by Jack Teagarden

. 1931 ~ Eddie Cantor’s long radio career got underway as he appeared on Rudy Vallee’s “The Fleischmann Hour”.

. 1933 ~ Claude King, Singer

. 1940 ~ One of the great classic songs of the Big Band era was recorded. Glenn Miller and his band played Tuxedo Junction at the RCA Victor studios in Manhattan. The flip side of the record (released on the Bluebird label) was Danny Boy.

. 1941 ~ Barrett Strong, Singer, songwriter

. 1942 ~ Cory Wells, Singer with Three Dog Night

. 1943 ~ Charles Winfield, Musician with Blood, Sweat and Tears

. 1958 ~ A year after its founding, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) formed a New York chapter. NARAS is better known as the Grammy Awards organization.

. 1961 ~ The Shirelles were winding up their first week at #1 on the music charts with Will You Love Me Tomorrow. The song was at the top for two weeks. It was the group’s first #1 tune and the first #1 tune from the pen of a New York Brill Building songwriter who worked right down the hall from Neil Sedaka. She became a huge star in her own right with several #1 singles and albums in the 1970s. Her name: Carole King.

. 1969 ~ Bobby Brown, Grammy Award-winning singer, married singer, Whitney Houston

. 2003 ~ Clyde Douglas Dickerson, 80, a saxophone player who played for four decades at Washington area jazz clubs and held down a day job for 20 years as doorman at the Watergate Hotel, died after a stroke. Mr. Dickerson, known as “Watergate Clyde,” appeared at such spots as Blues Alley, Pigfoot and One Step Down and at jazz joints along 14th Street NW. He freelanced for a number of decades as far away as Upstate New York and Ohio. He collaborated with pianist and trumpet player Jimmy Burrell at the old Crow’s Toe at 10th and K streets NW, the Chaconia Lounge on upper Georgia Avenue NW and Today’s in Rockville. Mr. Dickerson also played with performers who included Oran “Hot Lips” Page, the Mangione brothers, ex-Temptation David Ruffin and Rick James. He also appeared in a Lester Young tribute with Shirley Horn and saxmen Byron Morris and Ron Holloway.

His last performance was on Capitol Hill, at Ellington’s at Eighth, shortly before his death. Washington Post staff writer Eve Zibart wrote of Mr. Dickerson that he might once have thought of himself as a musician who worked hotels on the side, but over the years the occupations began to blur. “You take Rostropovich,” Mr. Dickerson said of the National Symphony Orchestra conductor. “Slava gets up there, and whatever composer it is, he can read the score and tell what the composer felt, and he can get that out to the musicians. “It’s the same with being a doorman: If you really know the general manager, you know how he feels about the hotel — it’s like his home, and the people coming in are like his personal guests. I’m the substitute for the general manager . . . playing the overture to the hospitality.” Zibart interviewed him in 1988, his 16th year at the hotel, shortly after the Watergate management threw him a birthday party.

It featured Gerard Schwarz, guest conductor of the Washington Opera and a trumpet virtuoso; pianist Christopher Norton; Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), sponsor of a bill recognizing jazz as a national treasure — and a birthday cake topped by a saxophone. Mr. Dickerson was born in Bristol, Tenn. He attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

February 2 in Music History

 

 

. 1594 ~ Giovanni Perluigi da Palestrina, Italian composer, died at the age of 68

. 1714 ~ Gottfried August Homilius, German composer, cantor and organist

. 1789 ~ Armand-Louis Couperin, French composer, organist, and harpsichordist died at the age of 63

. 1875 ~ Fritz Kreisler, Austrian-born American violinist and virtuoso/composer Some of his best-known works are Caprice Viennois, Tambourin Chinois, Liebesfreud and La Gitana

. 1901 ~ Jascha Heifetz, Russian-born American violinist
Read quotes by and about Heifetz
More information about Heifetz

. 1911 ~ Jussi Björling, Swedish tenor

. 1912 ~ Burton Lane (Levy), Composer of How Are Things in Glocca Morra, That Old Devil Moon, Look to the Rainbow, How About You, I Hear Music, Come Back to Me, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, How Could You Believe Me?; His Broadway musicals were Finian’s Rainbow (collaboration with Yip Harburg), On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (collaboration with Alan Jay Lerner). He contributed songs to over 30 films: Babes on Broadway, Royal Wedding, Ship Ahoy, St. Louis Blues and credited with discovering Judy Garland

. 1927 ~ Stan Getz (Stanley Gayetzby), American jazz tenor saxophonist

. 1937 ~ Tom Smothers, Entertainer, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Smothers Brothers Show, The Steve Allen Show, Dick’s Brother

. 1937 ~ Guy Lombardo and his orchestra recorded one of Guy’s most famous tunes. Boo Hoo was waxed on Victor Records and became one of the group’s all-time great hits.

. 1940 ~ Alan Caddy, Guitarist with The Tornados

. 1941 ~ Serge Alexandrovich Tcherepnin, composer

. 1942 ~ Graham Nash, Singer with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

. 1947 ~ Peter Lucia, Drummer with Tommy James and The Shondells

. 1949 ~ Ross Valory, Bass with Journey

. 1959 ~ The Coasters tune, Charlie Brown, was released. The tune went to #2 and stayed there for three weeks, but didn’t make it to the top spot of the charts. A catchy song (“Fee fee fi fi fo fo fum. I smell smoke in the auditorium…”), it was on the charts for a total of 12 weeks. The song at number one, preventing Charlie Brown from reaching the top, was Venus, by Frankie Avalon.

. 1996 ~ Gene Kelly, American actor and dancer (Singin’ in the Rain), died at the age of 83

. 2001 ~ French pianist Nicole Henriot, who entered the Paris Conservatory at age 7 and went on to perform around the globe with conductor Charles Munch, died at the age of 75. Emerging on the world music scene after World War II, Henriot built her reputation on interpretations of works from Liszt to Prokofiev, and especially French composers such as RavelFauré and Milhaud. She was most famous for her performances with Munch, music director of the Boston Symphony from 1949 to 1962. Munch, who died in 1968, was the uncle of Henriot’s husband. Born in 1925, Henriot won the Paris Conservatory’s first prize at age 13. During the war, Henriot gave aid to her brother, a member of the French Resistance. When Gestapo agents searched her home in 1944, she managed to destroy her brother’s secret documents but was badly beaten. After the war, Henriot became the first French pianist to appear in Britain and began an international tour that took her from Scandinavia to Egypt. She made her American debut in 1948 as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic under Munch’s direction. When Munch formed the Orchestra of Paris in 1967, Henriot was one of the fledgling orchestra’s first soloists. In the 1970s and 1980s, Henriot devoted herself to teaching, and worked at the Conservatory of Liege, Belgium, and at the Walloon Conservatory of Brussels.

. 2001 ~ Victor Norman, who founded the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra and conducted the group for three decades, died at the age of 95. Colleagues said Norman was a visionary who needed to be as skilled in politics as he was in music to keep the symphony together. “He had this idea that a symphony orchestra could be created around here, when really it had been tried several times before, never with any kind of significant success,” said Charles Frink, a New London composer who studied with Norman. Norman founded the New London Civic Orchestra in 1946. It merged with the Willimantic Orchestra in 1952 to become the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra. He stepped down from the podium in 1980. In his retirement, Norman composed music. Two of his orchestral pieces were performed by the New Britain Symphony Orchestra and the Westminster Community Orchestra in Princeton, N.J. His memoirs, “Victor Norman: A Life in Music, a Lifetime of Learning,” were published in 1999.

. 2015 ~ French piano virtuoso Aldo Ciccolini died at age 89. Born on August 15, 1925, into a musical family in Naples, Aldo Ciccolini was a child prodigy, beginning composition classes in the city’s conservatory at age nine.

. 2018 ~ Dennis Edwards, who joined the Temptations in 1968 and sang on a string of the group’s hits including “I Can’t Get Next to You,” “Ball of Confusion” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” in an initial tenure that stretched to 1977, died at the age of 74

January 17 in Music History

today

. 1712 ~ John Stanley, English composer and organist

. 1728 ~ Johann Gottfried Muthel, German composer and noted keyboard virtuoso

. 1734 ~ François-Joseph Gossec, Belgian composer
More information about Gossec

. 1750 ~ Tomaso Albinioni, Italian composer (Adagio in G Minor), died at the age of 78

. 1876 ~ The saxophone was played by Etta Morgan at New York City’s Olympic Theatre. The instrument was little known at the time in the United States.

. 1913 ~ Vido Musso, Reed instruments, played with Benny Goodman, bandleader: Stan Kenton was his pianist

. 1917 ~ Ulysses Simpson Kay, US composer, born in Tucson, Arizona (d. 1995)

. 1920 ~ George Handy (George Joseph Hendleman), Pianist, composer, arranger for the Boyd Raeburn band, Alvino Rey band, Paramount Studios

. 1922 ~ Betty White, Emmy Award-winning actress on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, singer

. 1926 ~ Moira Shearer, Ballerina

. 1927 ~ Eartha Kitt, Singer. Kitt’s birth certificate listing her actual birthdate as 1/17/27 was found in 1997. She has celebrated her birthday as Jan. 26 (1928) all of her life and says, “It’s been the 26th of January since the beginning of time and I’m not going to change it and confuse my fans.”

. 1941 ~ Gene Krupa and his band recorded the standard, Drum Boogie, on Okeh Records. The lady singing with the boys in the band during the song’s chorus was Irene Daye.

. 1944 ~ Chris Montez, Singer

. 1948 ~ Mick Taylor, Singer, rhythm guitar with The Rolling Stones

. 1955 ~ Steve Earle, Songwriter, singer, guitar

. 1956 ~ Paul Young, Singer

. 1959 ~ Susanna Hoffs, Singer, guitar with The Bangles

. 1960 ~ John Crawford, Singer, bass with Berlin

. 1969 ~ Lady Samantha, one of the very first recordings by Reginald Kenneth Dwight (aka Elton John), was released in England on Philips records. The song floundered, then bombed. The rock group, Three Dog Night, however, recorded it for an album.

. 2001 ~ Pianist and singer Emma Kelly, the “Lady of 6,000 Songs” made famous by the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” died from a liver ailment at the age of 82. Kelly’s nightclub act, in which she tapped her vast repertoire of American popular standards five nights a week until she became ill a month ago, was a must-see for Savannah tourists itching to meet a real-life character from author John Berendt’s Southern Gothic best seller. Though the book helped her book performances from New York to Switzerland, Kelly continued to crisscross south Georgia to play church socials and high school graduations, Kiwanis luncheons and wedding receptions. Berendt devoted an entire chapter to Kelly in the 1994 book, describing her as a teetotaling Baptist who would play smoky cocktail lounges Saturday nights and Sunday school classes the next morning. Kelly performed at her own nightclub, Emma’s, in Savannah, for five years in the late 1980s. She then bounced between lounges near the downtown riverfront. She also independently recorded three albums, the last of which were released posthumously, her son said.

. 2001 ~ Jazz musician, composer and conductor Norris Turney, who played alto sax and flute with the Duke Ellington Orchestra and led the Norris Turney Quartet, died of kidney failure at the age of 79. Turney recorded with a number of bands over the years, and toured with Billy Eckstine, Ray Charles and others. He was an original member of the Lincoln target=”_blank”Center Jazz Orchestra directed by Wynton Marsalis. Turney’s lone CD as a band leader, “Big, Sweet ‘N Blue,” was warmly received by jazz critics.

. 2002 ~ Edouard Nies-Berger, the veteran organist and protege of Albert Schweitzer, died at the age of 98. Nies-Berger, who played with the New York Philharmonic, was a native of Strasbourg in Alsace. His father, a church organist, was an associate of Schweitzer. The doctor, philosopher and Nobel laureate was pastor of a nearby church where the teen- age Nies-Berger played occasionally. Nies-Berger moved to New York in 1922 and for the next 15 years played the organ in houses of worship across the country. By the mid-’30s he settled in Los Angeles and performed in the soundtracks of several films, including “The Bride of Frankenstein” and “San Francisco.” He returned to Europe in 1937 to study conducting with Bruno Walter in Salzburg, Austria. After conducting for two years in Latvia and Belgium he returned to the United States. He was named organist of the New York Philharmonic, where he played under the direction of such conductors as Walter, George Szell and Leonard Bernstein. Nies-Berger was reunited with Schweitzer in 1949, when the humanitarian visited the United States. For six years they collaborated on the completion of Schweitzer’s edition of the organ music of Johann Sebastian Bach. After serving at St. Paul’s in Richmond, Nies-Berger returned to Europe for several years to perform as a recitalist and write several books, including a memoir of Schweitzer. In 1991 he was awarded the gold medal of the Art Institute of Alsace, and in 1993 was named a knight of the arts and letters by the French Ministry of Education and Culture.

. 2013 ~ Lizbeth Webb, English soprano, died at the age of 86

November 6 ~ This Day in Music History

today

OCMS 1814 ~ Adolphe Sax, Belgian instrumentalist, inventor of the saxophone and saxotromba
More information about Sax

OCMS 1854 ~ John Phillip Sousa, American bandmaster and composer; “The March King”
Read quotes by and about Sousa
More information about Sousa

OCMS 1860 ~ Ignace Jan Paderewski, Composer, pianist, Polish patriot, First Premier of Poland (1919), brought white Zinfandel wine grapes to U.S. for the first time
More information about Ignace Jan Paderewski

.1916 ~ Ray Conniff, American conductor, arranger and composer of popular music, trombonist

.1932 ~ Stonewall Jackson, Singer

.1936 ~ This was the day that big band icon Woody Herman played in his first recording session. He recorded Wintertime Dreams on Decca disc #1056.

.1937 ~ Eugene Pitt, Singer

.1938 ~ P.J. Proby (James Smith), Singer

.1940 ~ Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians recorded one of their lesser-known songs for Decca. It was The Moon Fell in the River.

.1941 ~ Doug Sahm, Singer, founded Sir Douglas Quintet

.1943 ~ Mike Clifford, Singer

.1947 ~ George Young, Guitarist with The Easybeats

.1948 ~ Glenn Frey, Songwriter, singer with The Eagles

.2001 ~ John Denman, a clarinetist who was most recently artistic adviser to the Tucson Symphony Orchestra’s pops division, died from complications of esophageal cancer. He was 68. Denman, a native of London, was a principal clarinetist for the orchestra for more than 20 years. Denman also played principal clarinet with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He taught music at Trinity College in England before coming to teach at the University of Arizona. He joined the Tucson Symphony Orchestra in the late 1970s. In 1984, Denman left the University of Arizona after failing to receive tenure. For the rest of his life, he focused on his performing career. He also designed a small clarinet, the Kinder-Klari, to make practicing easier for young hands. Denman performed and recorded with jazz icon Buddy DeFranco and was a member of several jazz bands.

.2002 ~ Maria Johansson, an organist who became a local legend for singing religious songs and hymns in one of Stockholm’s main squares every day for nearly three decades, died at the age of 84. The daughter of a preacher, Johansson often served homemade sandwiches to the poor during breaks in her daily performance. At one point, she went to work at a bakery to help pay for the sandwiches, her husband said.

July 31 ~ This Day in Music History

today

• 1828 ~ François Auguste Gevaert, Belgian composer, musicologist, conductor and organist

• 1845 ~ The French Army introduced the saxophone to its military band. The musical instrument was the invention of Adolphe Sax of Belgium.

• 1847 ~ Ignacio Cervantes, Pianist

• 1886 ~ Franz Liszt, Hungarian composer and pianist died. Originator of the symphonic poem, he was a prolific teacher and a huge influence on Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss.
More information about Liszt

• 1911 ~ George Liberace, Violinist, conductor; administrator of Liberace Museum; brother of pianist/entertainer Liberace

• 1918 ~ Jan La Rue, American musicologist

• 1918 ~ Hank Jones, Pianist. He accompanied Billy Eckstine and Ella Fitzgerald. He led the Hank Jones Trio

• 1919 ~ Mornam Del Mar, British conductor

• 1923 ~ Ahmet Ertegun, Recording Executive

• 1939 ~ John West, Musician, guitarist with Gary Lewis and the Playboys

• 1942 ~ Harry James and his band recorded the classic I’ve Heard that Song Before, for Columbia Records. Helen Forrest sang on the million-seller.

• 1943 ~ Lobo, Singer

• 1946 ~ Gary Lewis (Levitch), Singer with Gary Lewis and the Playboys, entertainer Jerry Lewis’ son

• 1946 ~ Bob Welch, Guitarist and singer with Fleetwood Mac

• 1947 ~ Karl Green, Musician, guitar and harmonica with Herman’s Hermits

• 1964 ~ Jim Reeves, popular U.S. country music singer, died in an air crash near Nashville.

• 1985 ~ Prince was big at the box office with the autobiographical story of the Minneapolis rock star, Purple Rain. The flick grossed $7.7 million in its first three days of release on 917 movie screens. The album of the same name was the top LP in the U.S., as well.

• 2016 ~Gloria DeHaven, a singer and actress known for starring in several MGM musicals, died at the age of 91.