Hammond, John Henry

Hammond, John Henry,

1910–87, American record producer; blues, jazz, and rock promoter; and music critic, b. New York City. A member of the wealthy Vanderbilt family, he entered the music business in the early 1930s. He wrote insightful critical articles about music for various periodicals, e.g., Downbeat, and subsequently he worked as a recording industry executive for several companies, most notably Columbia. Possessed of a superb ear and a profound dedication to American vernacular music, he helped bring jazz into the musical mainstream and exerted a powerful influence on American popular music for over 50 years. In the 1930s he was instrumental in launching or furthering the careers of Benny GoodmanGoodman, Benny
(Benjamin David Goodman), 1909–86, American clarinetist, composer, and band leader, b. Chicago. Goodman studied clarinet at Hull House. In Chicago he had the opportunity to hear (and eventually to play beside) some of the outstanding jazz musicians of the
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, Billie HolidayHoliday, Billie,
1915–59, American singer, b. Baltimore. Her original name was Eleanora Fagan. She began singing professionally in 1930, and after performing with numerous bands—especially those of Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Count Basie, and Artie Shaw—she
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, Count BasieBasie, Count
(William Basie) , 1904–84, American jazz pianist, bandleader, and composer, b. Red Bank, N.J. After working in dance halls and vaudeville in New York City, Basie moved to Kansas City, a major jazz center.
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, Charlie ChristianChristian, Charlie
(Charles Henry Christian), 1916–42, African-American jazz guitarist, b. Bonham, Tex. The son of a singer-guitarist father and pianist mother, he grew up in Oklahoma City, where he began playing professionally at 15.
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, and others. He later played a key role in promoting the work of a variety of blues, folk, and rock performers, including Aretha FranklinFranklin, Aretha,
1942–2018, American singer and pianist, b. Memphis. The daughter of the well-known minister C. L. Franklin, she began singing in the choir of his Detroit Baptist church, where she soon became a soloist.
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, Bob DylanDylan, Bob
, 1941–, American singer and composer, b. Duluth, Minn., as Robert Zimmerman. Dylan learned guitar at the age of 10 and autoharp and harmonica at 15. After a rebellious youth, he moved to New York City in 1960 and in the early years of the decade began playing
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, and Bruce SpringsteenSpringsteen, Bruce Frederick,
1949–, American singer, guitarist, and songwriter, nicknamed "The Boss," b. Long Branch, N.J. Springsteen established himself as a singer and songwriter, as well as a stage showman, while playing in bands in cities along the shore of the NE
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. Throughout his life, Hammond was also actively involved in the civil-rights movement.


See his autobiography (with I. Townsend, 1977); biography by D. Prial (2006).

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