Hammond, John (Henry, Jr.)(1910–87) music producer; born in New York City. A member of a wealthy and socially prominent family, he attended Hotchkiss and left Yale before graduation in 1931 to pursue a multifaceted career in music. In 1931 he acquired ownership of a theater in New York in which he showcased black jazz and theatrical performers. In 1932 he produced a recording by Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra, and for the rest of the decade he was associated with the British and American operations of Columbia Records. As a talent scout and record producer, he helped launch the careers of Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Teddy Wilson, Count Basie, and Charlie Christian. An ardent civil libertarian, he covered the Scottsboro Boys trials for the New Republic and the Nation in 1933 and 1935, promoted Goodman's trailblazing interracial band in 1935, joined the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1937, and produced the Spirituals to Swing concerts at Carnegie Hall in 1938–39. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, and worked as a producer of classical and jazz recordings for Vanguard and Columbia between 1946–60. In 1962–63 he produced Bob Dylan's first two releases, and for the next 20 years he guided the early careers of a second wave of popular music figures, including Aretha Franklin, George Benson, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. His autobiography, John Hammond on Record, was published in 1977.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.