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John Hammond

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Henry, Jr. (1910-1987) Record producer and critic

John Hammond
Image courtesy of Frank Driggs Collection
John Hammond was born into a wealthy family and attended Yale University. As a teenager, he became fascinated by black music and was drawn to the clubs and theaters of Harlem. He produced his first records in the early 1930s, and in 1933 recorded an important series of sessions for English Columbia featuring Fletcher Henderson, Benny Carter, and Benny Goodman, whose orchestra he helped to form in 1934; from 1935 to 1937 he supervised many of Teddy Wilson's sessions for Brunswick with Billie Holiday as soloist. Hammond was also an early advocate of Count Basie, and was influential in bringing his orchestra to national prominence in 1936.

In 1938 and 1939 he organized the two historic Spirituals to Swing concerts in Carnegie Hall. A tireless talent scout and champion of racial equality, he later furthered the careers of artists as varied as Charlie Christian (whom he teamed with Goodman in 1939), George Benson, the soul singer Aretha Franklin, the folk singer Bob Dylan, and the rock singer Bruce Springsteen. Although best known for his association with Columbia (1937, 1939-43,1959-75), Hammond also served in executive positions with Brunswick/Vocalion, Keynote, Majestic, Mercury, and Vanguard. From 1931 he wrote widely on jazz and popular music for music periodicals and the general press; he also published an autobiography, John Hammond on Record (New York, 1977).

The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For personal, non-commercial use only. Copying or other reproduction is prohibited.
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