The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Shelley Fisher

Singer and pianist Shelley Fisher was born on April 6, 1942 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. In 1953, he moved to Chicago and grew up on the city’s West Side. Fisher studied music theory, composition and vocal technique in the Chicago Junior College System, and at Roosevelt University’s Chicago Conservatory of Music. He received his A.A. degree in music education and social science from Crane Junior College in 1963.

Upon graduation, Fisher became the featured vocalist with the Morris Ellis Orchestra in Chicago. In 1966 he had a principal role in Oscar Brown, Jr.'s musical production “Summer in the City.” Fisher went on to open for Stevie Wonder at the original Regal Theater in Chicago. He then moved to Los Angeles in 1970, where he played the piano and sang for the “jet set.” In 1972, Fisher co-starred in the comedy motion picture Calliope. He also played the role of the piano player in The Three Wishes of Billy Grier, starring Ralph Macchio, and in Letter to Three Wives, with Loni Anderson. Fisher wrote and performed the original music for the motion picture Drifting Clouds.

In 1977, Fisher returned to Chicago, where he taught in two Chicago public schools. In 1985, Fisher launched Vantown Productions, Inc., a publishing and production company. He has composed and published many musical titles, including Yesterday’s Dreams (Lou Rawls on Capital Records), Plainsville, USA (Jimmy Randolph on Motown Records), King Size Bed (The Valentine Brothers on Sony Records), and Girl, I Love You, which launched the career of Chicago R&B legend, Garland Green.

From 1978 through 1999, Fisher worked abroad, namely in Osaka, Japan, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and Oslo, Norway. In 1997, he wrote, arranged and produced CELEBRATION, A Tribute to Nat “King” Cole, a Las Vegas style program produced at NRK TV (Norwegian TV). Fisher toured in Europe and broke two attendance records with performances in Den Hague, Holland and at Puntaldia, the jazz music festival on the island of Sardinia, Italy.

In 2000, Fisher moved to Las Vegas, where he performed at New York, New York, the MGM Grand, the Venetian, and the MGM/Mirage hotels. He has shared billing or recorded with other well-known artists like Earth, Wind & Fire, The Dells, Eartha Kitt and B.B. King. Fisher has also recorded two full-length CDs: 2003’s Driving Home, and 2004’s Stories.

Shelley Fisher was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 23, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.317

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/23/2013

Last Name

Fisher

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

Dell

Occupation
Schools

Farragut Career Academy Hs

Theodore Herzl Elementary School

Calvin Coolidge Senior High School

Chicago Conservatory of Music

First Name

Shelley

Birth City, State, Country

Clarksdale

HM ID

FIS05

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Sardinia

Favorite Quote

If You Really Want To See The Daughter, First Look At The Mother.$

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Nevada

Birth Date

4/6/1942

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Las Vegas

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Oatmeal

Short Description

Singer, pianist, and Shelley Fisher (1942 - ) toured nationally and internationally for over thirty years. He also acted in various stage productions and films, and authored a autobiography titled 'A Motherless Child.'

Employment

Turner Manufacturing Company

United States Postal Service

Chicago Daily Defender

Johnson Publishing Company

Delete

Invictus/Hotwax Records (Capitol)

Vantown Productions, Inc.

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:214,6:18312,398:23055,468:23770,480:24095,486:24420,492:33700,589:44160,787:44460,792:51028,869:51712,886:52168,893:52776,901:54354,928:61960,980:62600,990:64520,1041:66680,1083:75126,1203:79728,1292:82302,1344:82770,1353:91706,1489:92098,1494:97586,1586:97978,1591:111480,1808:120800,1962:129143,2102:133266,2111:138562,2226:151676,2470:156776,2665:158306,2695:167046,2807:167342,2813:172522,2961:192260,3109:193378,3131:196216,3177:198710,3233:199312,3242:199914,3251:203652,3283:203868,3288:212570,3458:213395,3480:220558,3572:227290,3674:235038,3775:241746,3931:257970,4154:258626,4163:259774,4181:260922,4197:262234,4238:274182,4425:279817,4526:281521,4560:282660,4569$0,0:216,3:720,12:1008,17:3816,110:4752,121:67567,1055:68314,1065:69061,1079:69476,1085:72713,1130:73045,1135:73377,1140:73875,1148:81992,1209:82838,1221:85094,1251:86410,1292:97959,1431:105190,1503:106604,1533:110139,1582:122020,1723:157265,2162:161062,2191:169933,2364:186174,2519:189625,2545:190150,2557:196160,2603:198932,2634:199427,2640:203090,2696:203585,2703:204080,2709:216455,2880:218717,2908:219761,2924:220370,2932:228617,2987:229262,2993:231066,3017:240960,3149:241810,3161:248690,3241:252110,3288:255544,3323:259680,3489:290770,3820:292330,3856:295970,3931:297340,3939
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Shelley Fisher's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Shelley Fisher lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Shelley Fisher describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Shelley Fisher describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Shelley Fisher talks about his family's affiliation with the Baptist church

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Shelley Fisher talks about his mother's death

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Shelley Fisher describes his early years in Crenshaw, Mississippi, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Shelley Fisher describes his early years in Crenshaw, Mississippi, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Shelley Fisher talks about his early understanding of gender identity

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Shelley Fisher remembers moving to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Shelley Fisher describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Shelley Fisher talks about his difficult upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Shelley Fisher remembers joining his father in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Shelley Fisher talks about his behavior as an adolescent in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Shelley Fisher recalls his involvement in Chicago gangs

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Shelley Fisher talks about early gang activity in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Shelley Fisher recalls the gang violence that he experienced

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Shelley Fisher remembers his involvement in criminal activity as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Shelley Fisher recalls the inspiration behind his enlistment in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Shelley Fisher talks about his honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Shelley Fisher remembers selling magazine subscriptions

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Shelley Fisher recalls taking the civil service exam to become a mail carrier

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Shelley Fisher remembers enrolling at Crane Junior College in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Shelley Fisher talks about his various jobs in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Shelley Fisher remembers acquaintances from his youth in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Shelley Fisher describes the music scene in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Shelley Fisher talks about record companies and radio stations in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Shelley Fisher describes the music scene in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Shelley Fisher remembers the music venues and people in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Shelley Fisher describes Oscar Brown, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Shelley Fisher talks about his role in Oscar Brown, Jr.'s musical production 'Summer in the City'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Shelley Fisher remembers singer Lou Rawls

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Shelley Fisher talks writing the song 'Girl I Love You'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Shelley Fisher recalls founding Aries Records and moving to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Shelley Fisher talks about learning to play piano

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Shelley Fisher remembers singing with the Morris Ellis Orchestra in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Shelley Fisher talks about his early career in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Shelley Fisher recalls working with Motown Records in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Shelley Fisher talks about his struggle with substance abuse

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Shelley Fisher remembers his relationship with Jacqueline Dalya

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Shelley Fisher talks about moving back to Chicago, Illinois in the late 1970s

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Shelley Fisher remembers his job teaching blues music in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Shelley Fisher recalls living in Japan, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Shelley Fisher recalls living in Japan, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Shelley Fisher remembers his experiences in Canada

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Shelley Fisher describes his film and music career in Canada

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Shelley Fisher recalls performing in Europe, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Shelley Fisher recalls performing in Europe, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Shelley Fisher remembers visiting the Auschwitz concentration camps in Oswiecim, Poland

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Shelley Fisher talks about the production of 'Drifting Clouds'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Shelley Fisher describes how he started performing in Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Shelley Fisher talks about the car accident that ended his piano career

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Shelley Fisher reflects upon his accident

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Shelley Fisher talks about how he revived his singing career after his accident

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Shelley Fisher talks about his portrayal of Conrad Murray

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Shelley Fisher describes the musical legacy of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Shelley Fisher reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Shelley Fisher describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Shelley Fisher describes his decision to leave Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Shelley Fisher reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Shelley Fisher narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

7$5

DATitle
Shelley Fisher talks about learning to play piano
Shelley Fisher remembers his job teaching blues music in Chicago, Illinois
Transcript
I got there it was raining. Got--never go to L.A. [Los Angeles, California] hungry in December. It's the rainy season. And I went, I got there, and I figured if you're gonna jump in the water, get in the deep water, 'cause that's where the, you know, don't be--you know. So I checked in at the Continental hotel [Continental Hyatt House; Andaz West Hollywood, Los Angeles, California] there on Sunset [Boulevard]. Now I, remember I got $350 in my pocket. I think that lasted about three days, and I was out on the street. And I had some jewelry that I pawned, and I checked into the YMCA [Young Men's Christian Association]. I went from the five star to the Y (laughter). And I, one day I was so, I didn't even have money to make the phone call to call the agent. I had to walk from Wilcox [Avenue] and Sunset, which is--I don't know if you know L.A.--to 8100 Sunset, which is almost Beverly Hills [California], walked just to see if I, if anybody had a job for me. And about two weeks went by and nobody, they said, "Sorry, we're working on it." And then one day I got a call. I mean I got a yes. And I said, "Well, where, where is it?" 'Cause I'd, I'd, when I went to California, I took music. I'd had charts, all the charts I used in Morris Ellis' band, and you know, I had music up the ying yang, no--I said, "How much music should I take?" He said, "Well, what do you mean?" (Laughter) I said, "Well, how many people in the band?" He said, "Well, you got on the, on your resume that you play piano." I said, "Oh, no problem," (laughter). I knew about ten tunes well enough to be played in public. And I was booked up at San Luis Obispo [California] at this--his brother [Jimmy Ellis] was used to be on 'Laugh-In' ['Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In']. He was--yeah, they was a fantastic restaurant. And so after I would play my ten song repertoire, I would get up and start getting the peop- doing 'Signifying Monkey,' [HistoryMaker] Oscar Brown, Jr.'s (singing), "Said the signifying monkey to the lion one day, there's a great big elephant down the way." And I would go around table to table, and I'd make the people clap. They were my band. They were (laughter)--and in the daytime, I had my music books. I would get down--I was, I would build my repertoire.$$And that's how you learned how to play the piano?$$That's how I learned to earn a living playing the piano.$$Playing the piano (laughter). But when, when had you learned the piano before that, that you've never (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Well, and now we studied in, in, in, in Crane [Crane Junior College; Malcolm X College, Chicago, Illinois] with sort of theory and harmony, theory, harmony, and compositions. I can look at the music and tell you what it sounds like. But elocution on the, on, on the--you know, when you play to be a piano viturso [sic. virtuoso], you got to go through years of da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da. I didn't have the patience for that. So, I learned to play, to, to play the--I could do a solo with my right hand, but I'm playing block chords, as I hear an orchestra playing. That way I had a more full sound, and it wasn't like no one else's, because it's very different. [HistoryMaker] B. B. King does not sing and play at the same time. Did you know that?$$He plays and then he sings.$$Then he sings.$$I think I--'cause, yeah--$$Somebody pull your coat to that? But anyway, singing and--$$No, they didn't put--we worked with them. And I was just thinking, he does play and then he sings.$$He play (makes sounds); then he sings. But playing and hearing all of those notes and executing those notes and singing, not very many people do that well. Nat Cole [Nat King Cole] was the one. Mr. Cole could do it. But so you--and, and in my case, I was, I'm playing, I'm playing the piano. Can't nobody say they can't, can't play piano. They say, "He's not Oscar Peterson." 'Cause I didn't have that ring. But I didn't back down from no gigs. I was good enough to go up and play with Ike [Ike Turner] and Tina Turner. So, to me I, and I still, I still, even though no matter how good you can play, I still allocate learning theory so you can communicate the language. You're, you're dealing with a language. And if you can go to Japan and say I want it in B flat, they can understand you. You go Switzerland: I want it in C sharp played from whatever. They can understand. So, but today's music, but the--all you gotta do is turn your boot up. And you know, nobody understands the language that they supposed to be speaking.$So when you came back to Cabrini-Green [Cabrini-Green Homes, Chicago, Illinois] and you were--how did you get that job?$$With the, with--I had assisted Jimmy [Jimmy Tillman] the year before, in '76 [1976]. And he recommended me to--I forget her name, who was head of--I got a letter. I brought a copy of the letter from that, yeah, from the, from the (unclear). But he recommended me to do the blues program. So we wrote, we wrote the grant, we wrote the--for the Illinois Arts Council [Chicago, Illinois], and they were the liaison to NEA [National Endowment for the Arts]. That was a fan- that was a great experience.$$So talk about that. How long did you do that for?$$It was a three month program. And we used--we had kids from age ten to sixteen, over at the Schiller [Schiller Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois], from the Schiller and the Newberry Schools [Newberry School; Walter L. Newberry Math and Science Academy, Chicago, Illinois] there in Cabrini-Green. And it was diverse racially. And what we did, these kids would--we, we, we projected that we could raise their reading scores and have self-esteem if they were able to communicate their feelings through the blues. So, we taught them how to write their blues with an AAB format. (Singing), "They call it stormy Monday. Tuesday is just as bad. They call it stormy Monday. Tuesday is just as bad. Wednesday is worse. Thursday is--," AAB. And the kids started writing their blues songs. And we found out, Jimmy and I, that the problem with many in education is not the students; it's the teachers half the time. One young lady wrote about her boyfriend--her mother's boyfriend, who was a pimp. He was pimping her mother. And he walked with a limp. And I, I--forgive me for not remembering it 'cause it was such--using those, those rhymes, this girl--I got a picture of her--she wrote, and sang it; she wrote the song, so we would work with the teachers on grading on, on evaluation and so forth. And Will, Willie Dixon, Koko Taylor, some of the other artists would come in and would do performances, so, to inspire the kids. And this one English teacher gave this girl a failing grade. And the girl came, "Mr. Fisher [HistoryMaker Shelley Fisher], Ms. So and So blah, blah, blah," and it was 'cause the women did not, the teacher did not understand limp, knew very little about pimp and the other lyrics that the young lady was using that were rhyming and making sense in, in terms of the jargon of the hood. I had to explain that. Then they began to respect the program a bit. So we taught the kids guitar, because, let's face it, blues, after three chords it starts to become jazz. So they learned three, three chords and played tambourine and harmonica, and they learned to play their blues. And as a result, the finale was the, they wrote their own--I can't say--what's a--not a graduation but their, their ceremony, their success ceremony, and it was wonderful. It was wonderful what those kids did, how they--you know, it's--and we're talking about all kinds of kids, not just, not just black kids. Some of the white kids had better worse--had problems of abuse than, than, than Dora [ph.] did.$$Right.$$So everybody can be helped from music, when we understand it. But in order to understand it you gotta be able to communicate it. And if I'm just feeding you something, I'm not communicating to you. I'm, I'm marketing you. You're part of my demograph. And why nobody'll write something that anybody else can sing, our Mistys ['Misty'], our Stormy Weathers ['Stormy Weather'], our (singing), "Go down Moses," ['Go Down Moses']. Ain't nobody writing nothing that nobody else can sing. Jay-Z, bless his heart, and him and Beyonce [Beyonce Knowles], ain't nobody can sing that stuff but them (laughter).$$Now, that, that's in '77 [1977], right? Seventy se-(simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Seventy-seven [1977], the blues program.

Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr.

Rhythm and Blues Singer Merald “Bubba” Knight, Jr. was born on September 4, 1942, in Atlanta, Georgia. Knight’s mother, Elizabeth Woods-Knight, was a nurse’s aide, and his father, Merald Knight, Sr., was a restaurant supervisor. Knight’s parents were also singers in the Wings Over Jordan gospel choir. In 1952, at the young age of ten, he and his sisters, Gladys and Brenda, and cousins William and Elenor, formed the musical group the Pips. Knight would go on to graduate from Samuel Archer High School in Atlanta in 1960.

Performing as a singer, Knight and the Pips, along with new members Edward Patten and Langston George, began touring with Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke in the late 1950s as an opening act. In 1961, the Pips produced their first R & B Top-20 hit with a version of Johnny Otis’s Every Beat of My Heart. Then, in 1966, the Pips signed to Motown’s subsidiary, Soul records. The group released their major hit single, I Heard It Through the Grapevine in 1967. Hits that followed included 1968’s The Nitty Gritty, 1969’s Friendship Train, 1970’s If I Were Your Woman, 1971’s I Don’t Want To Do Wrong, and the 1973 Grammy Award-winning Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye). In 1973, the Pips left Motown and signed with Buddah records. Their first album with Buddah was Imagination, which would become their best-selling album. Imagination included the 1974 Grammy-winning song Midnight Train to Georgia. Gladys Knight and the Pips continued to produce hits until 1989, when Gladys decided to leave the group.

Knight has received many awards and honors while involved with Gladys Knight and the Pips. The group has been honored with four Grammy Awards and seven American Music Awards. In 1989, the Pips were inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, and in 1996, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Pips received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1998. In 2001, they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and, in 2006, the Pips were inducted into the Apollo Theater's Hall of Fame in New York.

Knight is married to Kathleen C. A. Knight, and they live in Henderson, Nevada.

Bubba Knight was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 28, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.244

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/28/2013 |and| 11/20/2013

Last Name

Knight

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Woodrow

Occupation
Schools

Samuel Archer High School

Las Vegas School of Real Estate

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

English Avenue Elementary School

Henry McNeal Turner High School

First Name

Merald

Birth City, State, Country

Atlanta

HM ID

KNI02

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Las Vegas, Nevada

Favorite Quote

You've Gotta Wanna.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Nevada

Birth Date

9/4/1942

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Las Vegas

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pasta

Short Description

R & B singer Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. (1942 - ) was a performer and founding member of Gladys Knight and the Pips.

Favorite Color

Earth Tones

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr.'s interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. shares his childhood memories of his father

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. recalls his childhood memories of his grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about his mother and her family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about his older sister, Brenda Knight

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about the places he lived during his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about his sister Gladys' performance on Ted Mack's "Original Amateur Hour"

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about his school and the support his sister, Gladys Knight, received from his teacher's sister, Ruth Hall Hodges

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. shares his memories of his family singing

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about listening to his sister's performance on "The Original Amateur Hour" and the formation of "The Pips"

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about forming "The Pips" and the prize his sister, Gladys Knight, received for winning "The Original Amateur Hour"

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about The Pips' first performance and winning a weekend engagement at the Royal Peacock in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. recalls naming the group "The Pips" in honor of his cousin, James "Pip" Woods

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes performing at the Royal Peacock in Atlanta, Georgia when he was around eleven years old

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about his neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. recalls The Pips' first performance and taking lessons from Maurice King in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. recalls working with Maurice King and The Pips' first recording in 1958

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes the changing lineup of The Pips in 1959

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. recalls the solos that each member of The Pips sang in their original lineup

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about some of the songs The Pips performed and the groups that inspired them

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. recalls recording Johnny Otis' "Every Beat of My Heart" in 1961

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes signing with Fury Records and recording a second version of "Every Beat of My Heart"

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. recalls the success of "Every Beat of My Heart" and Glady's Knight's departure from the group

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes performing at the Apollo Theater in New York City, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes the popularity of the Pips after their performance at the Apollo Theater in New York City, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about Gladys Knight's departure from the Pips

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes recording "Darling" after Gladys Knight's departure from the Pips

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about Gladys Knight's solo recording of "Come See About Me"

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes the reunion of Gladys Knight and the Pips and recording "Giving Up"

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes preparing for Gladys Knight and the Pips' second concert at the Apollo Theater in New York City, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about working with Charles "Cholly" Atkins and Charles "Honi" Coles

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes how Gladys Knight and the Pips decided to sign with Motown Records

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. recalls negotiating their contract with Motown Records

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about the environment at Motown Records when they signed

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes his frustrations with Motown Records

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes recording "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and its success

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about their financial situation at Motown Records

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about leaving Motown Records, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about leaving Motown Records, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Second slating of Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr.'s interview

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes performing with Moms Mabley at the Apollo Theater in New York City, New York

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about the Jewel Box Revue and gay performers in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes his experience working with choreographer Charles "Cholly" Atkins

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes the Pips' early manager, Marguerite Mays

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes his experience with Bobby Robinson and Fats Lewis at Fury Records

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about meeting Marshall Sehorn and Bobby Robinson of Fury Records and performing for the first time at the Apollo Theater

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about not getting paid royalties for his early records

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes meeting Floyd Lieberman and Sid Seidenberg while recording with Maxx Records, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes meeting Floyd Lieberman and Sid Seidenberg while recording with Maxx Records, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes leaving Maxx Records to record for Motown Records in 1966

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes how Floyd Lieberman and Sid Seidenberg protected their business interests

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes his experience with Motown Records prior to working with Norman Whitfield

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about their booking agencies and performing at the Copacabana in New York City, New York

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about rehearsing with Charlie "Cholly" Atkins at Motown Records

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes his relationship with Charles "Cholly" Atkins

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about Charles "Cholly" Atkins' experience at Motown Records, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about Charles "Cholly" Atkins' experience at Motown Records, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. recalls when Paul Williams created the "Temptation Walk

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes his business role within Gladys Knight and the Pips

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes leaving Motown Records for Buddah Records in 1973

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about other artists who left Motown Records

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes the group's decision to sign with Buddah Records in 1973

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. recalls Motown Records' move to California in 1972

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. recalls discovering the Jackson Five while performing at the Regal Theater in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes working with Norman Whitfield and the hit songs he recorded at Motown Records

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. recalls recording "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" with Motown Records in 1967

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. recalls receiving constructive criticism from HistoryMakers Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes appearing on the first syndicated episode of Soul Train in 1971

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. recalls the songs that Gladys Knight and the Pips recorded for Motown Records

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes how Motown Records and Fury Records managed songwriting credit and ownership

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes recording "Where Peaceful Waters Flow" for Buddah Records and working with Jim Weatherly

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes recording "Midnight Train to Georgia" in 1973

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. recalls the producers and artists at Buddah Records

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about his experience at Buddah Records

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about his managers and producers at Buddah Records

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes winning two Grammy Awards in 1974

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about the "Gladys Knight and the Pips Show" on NBC

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about Sid Seidenberg and the group's international success after 1974

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about the group's lawyer, Irwin Spiegel Osher

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes the financial conflicts between Gladys Knight and the Pips and their second breakup in 1978

Tape: 10 Story: 9 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes Gladys Knight's solo career and the reunion of Gladys Knight and the Pips at Columbia Records in 1980

Tape: 10 Story: 10 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes his experience recording for Columbia Records

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about working with Sam Dees at Columbia Records

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about recording "Hero", commonly known as "Wind Beneath My Wings", for Columbia Records, pt. 1

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about recording "Hero", commonly known as "Wind Beneath My Wings", for Columbia Records, pt. 2

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes leaving Columbia Records and signing with MCA Records, pt. 1

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes leaving Columbia Records and signing with MCA Records, pt. 2

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes the third time that Gladys Knight and the Pips broke up in 1989

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes his experience ending the group while at a high point in their career

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. reflects on the success of Gladys Knight and the Pips, pt. 1

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. reflects on the success of Gladys Knight and the Pips, pt. 2

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. reflects on his goals after Gladys Knight and the Pips broke up and his marriage to Kathleen Knight

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes how he met his wife, Kathleen Knight

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes his first marriage to Kathleen Knight

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes his divorce from Kathleen Knight, pt. 1

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes moving to Los Angeles and getting his real estate license after divorcing Kathleen Knight

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes reuniting with his ex-wife, Kathleen Knight, after fifteen years

Tape: 12 Story: 8 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes his second marriage proposal and wedding to Kathleen Knight

Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes his parents, pt. 1

Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes his parents, pt. 2

Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes moving his extended family into a compound in Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 13 Story: 4 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about introducing humor into his live performances

Tape: 13 Story: 5 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. recalls performing with his sister, Gladys Knight, at the White House

Tape: 13 Story: 6 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes performing with his sister, Gladys Knight, on her solo tours

Tape: 13 Story: 7 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about the importance of family

Tape: 13 Story: 8 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes the musical directors who worked with him and his sister

Tape: 13 Story: 9 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. shares a story about his fellow Pip, Edward Patten

Tape: 13 Story: 10 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. shares a story about his fellow Pip, William Guest

Tape: 13 Story: 11 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about the loyalty of the Pips and the integrity of the Pips name

Tape: 14 Story: 1 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. recalls being offered a chance for the Pips to sing backup to James Brown

Tape: 14 Story: 2 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about the career of HistoryMaker B.B. King

Tape: 14 Story: 3 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. talks about his favorite venues in Las Vegas, Nevada and performing in "Smokey Joe's Cafe"

Tape: 14 Story: 4 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes his experience performing in "Smokey Joe's Cafe", pt. 1

Tape: 14 Story: 5 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes his experience performing in "Smokey Joe's Cafe", pt. 2

Tape: 14 Story: 6 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. recalls recording "If I Could Bring Back Yesterday"

Tape: 14 Story: 7 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. describes his plans for the future

Tape: 14 Story: 8 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. shares his thoughts on the music industry today

Tape: 14 Story: 9 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. shares his opinion about casual use of the "N" word

Tape: 15 Story: 1 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. reflects on the contributions of African Americans to American music

Tape: 15 Story: 2 - Merald "Bubba" Knight, Jr. reflects upon his legacy

Robert A. Harris

Music professor and conductor Robert A. Harris was born on January 9, 1938 in Detroit, Michigan. His father, Major Harris, was a factory worker; his mother, Rusha Harris, a homemaker. Harris attended Sherrill Elementary and graduated from Charles Chadsey High School in 1956. He studied at Wayne State University where he earned his B.A. degree in music education in 1960 and his M.A. degree in music on 1962. Harris briefly attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York and then received his Ph.D. degree in composition and theory from Michigan State University in 1971. He also completed post-doctoral work at Aspen Music School in 1973 and 1974.

In 1960, Harris was hired as a music teacher in the Detroit Public Schools. He was then appointed as an assistant professor of music at Wayne State University. Harris became Director of Choral Activities at Michigan State University in 1964, and then joined the faculty of Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music as professor of conducting and director of choral organizations in 1977. He has also served as a visiting professor at Wayne State University, the University of Texas, and the University of South Africa in Pretoria. In 2012, Harris retired as professor emeritus at Northwestern University. Harris has appeared as a conductor, choral clinician and adjudicator throughout the United States and in the Republic of China where he served as one of two guest conductors/clinicians for the Taipei Philharmonic Choral and Conducting Workshop. His international performances also include South Korea as the guest conductor for the Inchon City Chorale, and Hong Kong as a guest conductor of a Choral Festival Youth Chorale. As an international music instructor, Harris has presented master classes, workshops, and lectures on conducting in South Africa, as well as presenting lectures and master classes on African American spirituals in Argentina.

Harris served as a member and co-chair of the Choral Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts. Harris is associated with a number of professional and honorary organizations, including the American Choral Directors Association, the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP), Chorus America, Pi Kappa Lambda National Honor Music Society and Phi Mu Alpha Professional Music Fraternity.

Harris has received several awards and honors, including the Wayne State University “Alumni Arts Achievement Award in Music,” the Northwestern University School of Music “Faculty Exemplar Teaching Award,” and the Northwestern University Alumni Association “Excellence in Teaching Award.” As a composer, Harris has been the recipient of over forty commissions from various schools, churches and musical organizations. His compositions, especially those of the choral genre, have been performed throughout the United States, Europe and South Africa. A number of his compositions have been published.

Robert A. Harris was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 25, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.234

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/25/2013

Last Name

Harris

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Allen

Schools

Sherrill Elementary School

Chadsey High School

Wayne State University

Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester

Michigan State University

Aspen Music School

First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

HAR43

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

United Kingdom

Favorite Quote

It's Better to Have It and Not Need It Than to Need It and Not Have It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

1/9/1938

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Evanston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Seafood

Short Description

Conductor and music professor Robert A. Harris (1938 - ) , former Director of Choral Activities at Michigan State University, retired as professor emeritus of the Northwestern University Bienen School of Music in 2012.

Employment

Detroit Public Schools System

Wayne State University

Michigan State University

Northwestern University

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:82,17:3526,99:6642,175:8856,219:9184,224:23307,329:23703,334:28016,349:29456,380:29960,386:30248,395:31040,409:31400,415:32264,429:32552,434:33344,446:35432,481:35792,487:45544,619:53950,678:55306,687:56109,699:56474,705:67877,826:68161,831:71356,906:71924,916:80706,1029:81238,1045:81846,1084:82226,1090:86142,1133:88039,1144:90778,1212:91110,1217:111144,1412:112753,1422:129538,1580:130870,1665:147336,1904:152200,1953:152556,1958:153179,1967:158959,2034:164788,2182:169708,2250:170398,2332:172054,2365:172399,2371:173779,2396:174262,2405:175021,2418:175435,2425:180136,2485:181460,2493:184442,2634:193470,2737:193850,2743:202650,2868:203376,2882:221708,3134:222053,3140:222329,3145:232630,3586:259050,3871:264372,3931:270686,4054:273370,4123:273858,4132:275810,4172:276115,4178:276420,4184:277518,4206:277823,4211:278433,4222:295934,4463:299196,4520:301780,4583:302120,4590:302664,4599:310212,4831:310756,4840:311640,4861:311912,4866:312320,4873:321938,4890:322626,4900:331436,5063:332576,5088:334476,5128:336528,5168:337060,5177:339416,5209:349466,5335:371450,5645$0,0:5425,51:6025,60:13450,227:19900,337:36630,551:37000,557:37296,562:42455,600:44590,614:48830,679:49792,705:64230,909:65594,924:72970,995:81376,1094:81706,1103:82366,1115:85930,1221:91615,1300:109222,1556:109862,1567:110246,1574:121655,1769:122110,1784:123410,1808:129368,1895:131245,1917:131995,1930:132445,1938:132820,1944:133345,1954:133870,2014:137995,2090:140395,2141:141595,2158:141895,2163:146920,2238:147912,2257:148222,2263:150268,2309:150826,2321:152750,2332:156130,2405:159310,2482:161230,2526:164456,2563:171201,2700:172296,2724:176384,2806:176822,2813:177479,2857:188900,2979
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert A. Harris' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert A. Harris lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert A. Harris describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert A. Harris talks about his adoptive father's, Major Lee Harris', first name

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert A. Harris talks about his adoptive parents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert A. Harris talks about his biological father and being adopted by his aunt and uncle

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert A. Harris describes his early exposure to the Baptist and Methodist churches

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert A. Harris lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Robert A. Harris describes his childhood neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Robert A. Harris describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Robert A. Harris describes his exposure to jazz and bebop music as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert A. Harris recalls attending shows at the Paradise Theater and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert A. Harris talks about his music education and instructors at Sherrill Elementary School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert A. Harris talks about his extracurricular activities at Chadsey High School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert A. Harris talks about his maternal uncle

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert A. Harris talks about black history organizations and clubs in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert A. Harris talks about his mentors at Chadsey High School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert A. Harris remembers collecting classical music records and receiving a gift from a choir director as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Robert A. Harris explains the history of African American spirituals

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Robert A. Harris talks about sacred anthems and oratorios

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Robert A. Harris talks about Leonard Bernstein's influence on his classical music interest

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Robert A. Harris recalls listening to jazz pianist, Alice Coltrane

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert A. Harris describes an experience of racial stereotyping by a teacher at Sherrill Elementary School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert A. Harris talks about his college preparatory curriculum at Chadsey High School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert A. Harris talks about his decision to study music in college and his first conducting experience

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert A. Harris talks about his decision to attend Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert A. Harris describes integrating a Detroit, Michigan restaurant and a Washington D.C. hotel pool

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert A. Harris talks about his mentors at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert A. Harris talks about his music education curriculum at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Robert A. Harris talks about teaching in the Detroit Public Schools while studying for his Master's degree at Wayne State University

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Robert A. Harris recalls his decision to join the faculty at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Robert A. Harris talks about his Master's thesis on 1920s African American classically trained musicians and hearing Paul Robeson sing in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert A. Harris talks about teaching at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert A. Harris talks about black music ensembles in Detroit, Michigan and Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert A. Harris recalls his decision to stop his doctorate studies at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert A. Harris talks about earning his Ph.D. and teaching at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert A. Harris talks about composing choral music and meeting Eva Jessye

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robert A. Harris talks about joining the faculty of Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music in 1977

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Robert A. Harris talks about the differences between Michigan State University and Northwestern University

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Robert A. Harris talks about the students at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Robert A. Harris talks about the music faculty at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Robert A. Harris talks about teaching conducting at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Robert A. Harris describes the role of the conductor

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Robert A. Harris describes his conducting philosophy and conducting 'Not In Our Time' by Richard Blackford

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Robert A. Harris talks about preparing for a performance and explains how a musical composition translates into a performance

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Robert A. Harris talks about Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Robert A. Harris talks about black composers and conductors in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Robert A. Harris talks about his own compositions

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Robert A. Harris talks about writing for choral ensembles and solo vocalists

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Robert A. Harris talks about classical church music in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Robert A. Harris talks about former students

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Robert A. Harris talks about conducting internationally and in New York City

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Robert A. Harris talks about musical collaborations

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Robert A. Harris talks about the Winnetka Congregational Church in Winnetka, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Robert A. Harris describes his dream choral ensemble

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Robert A. Harris talks about retirement

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Robert A. Harris reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Robert A. Harris talks about his satisfaction with his life and career

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Robert A. Harris describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Robert A. Harris talks about his family

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Robert A. Harris describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Robert A. Harris narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

10$2

DATitle
Robert A. Harris talks about his Master's thesis on 1920s African American classically trained musicians and hearing Paul Robeson sing in Detroit, Michigan
Robert A. Harris describes his conducting philosophy and conducting 'Not In Our Time' by Richard Blackford
Transcript
Let me go back a little bit and ask you about your thesis, I guess, and--$$Okay.$$So you had to do something.$$I had to do a thesis for my master's degree.$$Right, right. So what, what did you do?$$It was a--it was an oral history, isn't this interesting, called 'Serious Music and the Negro Musician Between 1920 and 1924: An Oral History.' And what I wanted to do was to, to trace what had happened with black musicians who were classically trained rather than in jazz in the early days, and so what I did was with the help of a--of a librarian and a--and a--and a gentleman by the name of Kemper Harrell who also became an, an influence and mentor, was to--he gave me the names of many living black musicians who had, were performing during that time like Roland Hayes, Carl Diton, I mean there was--and so we earmarked five people. And what I did was I went with a tape recorder and I formulated a series of questions that I would ask everybody and then specific questions for that particular individual, and went to New York [City] and Boston [Massachusetts] and interviewed these people on tape, and then transcribed those tapes as a part of my--that was my master's thesis.$$Okay. So interviews with five people? And Roland Hayes was one?$$Roland Hayes was one.$$Okay. Who, who else? Roland Hayes--$$Carl Diton, D-I-T-O-N, who was a composer, Melville Charlton, C-H-A-R-L-T-O-N, who was a concert organist, Charlotte Wallace Murray who was a concert singer--who else was there? There's one more person I'm missing.$$Okay, so that's--$$I interviewed [Francis] Hall Johnson, too, but I couldn't--but he was--he had just had a stroke so I couldn't use that because he could hardly speak, but I did get a chance to meet him. There's somebody whose name--it'll come to me in a minute.$$Okay.$$But--and so what I did was transcribe these into a format with question, answer, question, answer, question, answer, and then at the end, summarize what were the findings of how black musicians--and the reason I--the reason I--I stopped at 1924 because that was the time when Roland Hayes made his Town Hall [Carnegie Hall, New York, New York] debut and he was the first black artist to make--to sing in, in, in Carnegie Hall--Town Hall, in New York [sic, Sissieretta Jones first performed at Carnegie Hall in 1892]. So I was interested in what--and, and the whole thing was, we just found that the churches had always been the, the, the venue where concert artists would, would perform because they were not allowed to perform in concert halls.$$Were the black universities or historically black colleges [HBCUs]--$$That, that would be different--yeah.$$--Producing most of the--$$Yeah, and, and they could perform at--in, in, in black colleges and churches, but not in, in traditional concert halls. And so Roland Hayes made his, his Town Hall debut in 1924, which was the first time that that had happened, and then after that, of course.$$Okay.$$And this predated Marian Anderson and this predated--Paul Robeson was, was, was along at that time, too, but he was a young man at that point, yeah. I didn't get a--he was--he would have been a part of that, that, that age group at that time, but he was not one of the people--persons I had the chance to interview.$$Right, I think he was--$$He was born somewhere around 1890 [sic, 1898], wasn't he? I think somewhere in that--around that time.$$Yeah, he was kind of in--this time was a--or by '62 [1962], he was almost in seclusion or something.$$Well, you know, he had gone through that thing about being a Communist and all that stuff, you know.$$Right, he passed away in '76 [1976] I remember now.$$Yeah, okay.$$But he was--he had been pretty much in seclusion almost for--$$Yeah, by that time--$$--For about ten years.$$--He, he was probably eighties. You know, he couldn't--you know, but he was--he was a force to be reckoned with as a musician, as an actor, as an activist, you know. I remembered in Detroit [Michigan] when I was the music--minister of music at Hartford Avenue Baptist Church [later, Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, Detroit, Michigan], Reverend Charles A. Hill who had been one of the first black people to run for the city council in Detroit used to bring Paul Robeson in to do concerts.$$And so did you see him live at--$$One time--yeah, I did.$$Oh, that's something, yeah. Yeah, one of the great musicians, singers, as well as an activist.$$Yeah.$$Did, did, did he give a message in his--$$I don't--I don't--I don't remember him speaking, I mean, except while he was singing, but, but he was such a powerful presence.$$The songs were like freedom songs--$$Freedom songs, spirituals.$$--They had themes--(simultaneous)--$$And he--but he also did a lot of, of German lieder [songs] and things along that line. He did a lot of stuff from the European tradition. He was a very highly trained singer.$$There's a history of blacks in classical music that goes way, way back and--who was that, Sissieretta Jones--$$Sissieretta Jones.$$--Yeah, and--$$Yeah, she was known as the Black Patti, Sissieretta Jones. And, and her name came up a lot when I was talking--doing my interviews with the people that I--comprised my, my thesis. And--I'm tryin' to think, there's another singer who, who also, in, in addition to Sissieretta Jones whose name kept coming up. I can't remember who it is now.$$Yeah, yeah there's a--there's a book--now was the book--we interviewed--we had a chance to interview him before he passed away, but we interviewed [HM] Raoul Abdul, the author of 'Blacks in Classical Music.'$$Right.$$Was that available when you were--$$Yes, it was.$Do you have like favorite conductors?$$I think for specific pieces, you know. It might be--but I mean I'm not one who has to--has to have [Georg] Solti or has to have [Arturo] Toscanini or something. I just--you know, I--I'm more about the music than I am about who's conducting it.$$Now, what's your own philosophy of conducting?$$My philosophy of conducting is that I must do the very best job I can of making what is on that paper come alive so that the listener will hear it and be pleased by what he or she hears and knowing the fact that it's being done with a--with thought, with integrity, with honesty, which is what I always try to, to get my students to understand, that the compos--that our purpose is to reveal the composer, and if we are going to do his or her music, we must do it to the very best of our ability with all the studying and insight that we can.$$Is there a--is there a certain composer whose work is the most challenging to conduct?$$It's all challenging. But I would think--it--it's, it's challenging in different ways, you know. I'm--I'm a strong--I mean, I think if there's one composer that--if you were to say to me you could--you're going to a desert island, you can only take one piece of music, what would you take? I'd take [Johann Sebastian] Bach, okay. Because I feel it--I--I'm drawn to the intellectuality of that--of his music, of the way he thought, of the--of the--of the way his concepts of structure, his concept of counterpoint. I mean, that's--that's just where my mind goes with that, you know. I often tell people that of all my conducting teachers, Bach was the best one, you know. But, but, but all composers--I mean, there's--all of it has its challenges. I mean, obviously music of, of later composers, which is very, very intricate and very involved may have a different kind of challenge. I mean, I've conducted some very new pieces, which took an awful lot of work to delve into them because you're, you're not only learning the new piece, but you're learning a new style. You're learning a new language of a--of a new composer, you know. A piece I did--we, we did the American premier last year as my swan song at Northwestern [University, Evanston, Illinois] of a British composer's piece called 'Not In Our Time' by Richard Blackford which was a piece that basically commemorated 9/11 [September 11th, 2001] even though it wasn't specific, but it did. And I had to learn--I went over and studied the piece with the composer in order to get--to delve into it. And I was in England when, when it--when it was given its premier performance, and I went to all those performances and rehearsals, trying to see how this piece is working. I had done my homework, but then to, to get a more insight, I spent time in England studying it before doing it here. And then, of course, he was here for the compose--for the performance, and that was even better.$$Was he satisfied with--$$He was very pleased.$$Okay.

Regina Harris Baiocchi

Music composer Regina Harris Baiocchi was born on July 16, 1956 in Chicago, Illinois. Baiocchi received an education as eclectic as her talents. She has studied at DePaul University, Roosevelt University, Illinois Institute of Design and New York University. Baiocchi primarily composes instrumental and vocal music for opera, libretti and concertos. Among her distinctive compositions is "Gbeldahoven: No One's Child", a one-act opera written in 1996 about the careers of Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes during the Harlem Renaissance. In 1997, she produced "Dreamhoppers", another one-act opera that has been performed widely. Both works make use of varied musical traditions in order to express the multicultural nature of music. For Baiocchi, it is through music that the greatest strides in civil rights and cultural tolerance have been and will continue to be made.

Baiocchi’s compositions have been performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, as well as at festivals nationwide. "African Hands", an award-winning percussion concerto, was performed by the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra. Her opera "Good News Falls Gently" was performed in 1995 at the Festival Incontri Musicali in Rome, Italy. In 1998, she served as artistic director of the Roots & Wings concert at Chicago’s prestigious Ravinia Festival.

Baiocchi is also a writer. She has written several articles on several composers and musicologists. In 2004, she self-published a collection of poems entitled "Urban Haiku and Other Collected Poems" Her novel, entitled "Indigo Sound", was self-published in 2003. She created a piece entitled "Against the Odds" that combined her poetry and music into a single work which was performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Regina Harris Baiocchi was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 31, 2000.

Accession Number

A2000.002

Sex

Female

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

5/31/2000

Last Name

Baiocchi

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Harris

Occupation
Schools

Dunbar Vocational Career Academy High School

Roosevelt University

New York University

DePaul University

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Depends on Schedule

First Name

Regina

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

BAI01

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - Negotiable

Favorite Season

Summer

Speaker Bureau Notes

Additional Documentation in Wid-West and West Coast SB, Front Office.

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Baja, Mexico

Favorite Quote

Be the best you can be at what you're doing.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

7/16/1956

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pizza, Popcorn

Short Description

Music composer Regina Harris Baiocchi (1956 - ) has composed music for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. She was most known for compositions of the one-act operas, "Gbeldahoven: No One's Child" and "Dreamhoppers."

Employment

Chicago Public Schools

Telaction Corp.

Catholic Theological Union

Susaami Ensemble

Favorite Color

Black, Indigo

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Regina Baiocchi interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Regina Baiocchi's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Regina Baiocchi describes her family life

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Regina Baiocchi remembers childhood visits in Tennessee

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Nikki Giovanni recalls her first poem and "being lucky" to learn black history in grammar school

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Regina Baiocchi tells of her parents' migration to the North

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Regina Baiocchi recounts her father's interest in the arts

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Regina Baiocchi relates that her grandfather fled after murder accusation, abandoning his family

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Regina Baiocchi passes on her grandmother's stories of compassionless Southern employers

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Regina Baiocchi remembers her maternal grandfather, Walter Belmont, Jr.

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Regina Baiocchi describes her cultural heritage

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Regina Baiocchi describes her cultural and linguistic heritage

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Regina Baiocchi's great-grandmother tells of enduring brutality during slavery

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Regina Baiocchi describes her eldest sister Marilyn Diann and recalls learning that blacks "come in different shades"

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Regina Baiocchi describes her sisters

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Regina Baiocchi describes her three brothers

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Regina Baiocchi describes negative school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Regina Baiocchi describes a miserable time at a convent boarding school

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Regina Baiocchi describes negative experiences at high school in a white Chicago neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Regina Baiocchi finds musical mentors at Dunbar High School, Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Regina Baiocchi makes her musical debut

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Regina Baiocchi reflects on her childhood personality

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Regina Baiocchi considers Grambling State University

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Regina Baiocchi attends Chicago's Roosevelt University

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Regina Baiocchi gets advice from her father

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Regina Baiocchi experiences the working world

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Regina Baiocchi encounters difficulties in her first teaching role

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Regina Baiocchi manages a bilingual classroom

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Regina Baiocchi decides to write an opera

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Regina Baiocchi talks about her favorite authors

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Regina Baiocchi discusses writing and producing an opera

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Regina Baiocchi turns her war poetry into music

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Regina Baiocchi finds success at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Regina Baiocchi talks about her recent career and founding of the arts organization SUSAAMI

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Regina Baiocchi discusses her musical mentors

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Regina Baiocchi faces obstacles in writing her Hurston/Hughes libretto

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Regina Baiocchi considers black predecessors in the music industry

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Regina Baiocchi's thirty year history with her white husband, Greg

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Photo - Regina Baiocchi's great-grandmother, 'Mama' Beulah Howard and great-aunt Annie Howard, Rutherford, Tennessee

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Photo - Regina Baiocchi's great-grandfather, 'Papa' Dan Howard, Rutherford, Tennessee

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Photo - Regina Baiocchi's great-grandmother, 'Mama' Beulah Howard, with an unidentified woman, Rutherford, Tennessee

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Photo - Regina Baiocchi's grammar school photograph from St. Elizabeth School, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1964-1965

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Photo - Regina Baiocchi with her future husband, Greg Baiocchi, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1972-1973

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Photo - Photo portrait of Regina Baiocchi by John Tweedle, 1975

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Photo - Photo portrait of Regina and her husband, Greg Baiocchi by John Tweedle, Chicago, Illinois, 1975

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Photo - Regina Baiocchi relaxes by playing the piano at Sinai Temple in Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1988-1995

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Photo - Regina and her husband, Greg Baiocchi at a cotillion at Chicago Hilton and Towers, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1985

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Photo - Photo portrait of Regina Baiocchi as faculty of St. Thomas the Apostle School, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1982-1986

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Photo - Regina Baiocchi at the piano at Sinai Temple in Hyde Park, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1988-1995

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Photo - Publicity photograph of Regina Baiocchi by Pete Turrin, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1990s

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Photo - Publicity photograph of Regina Baiocchi by Reggie Payton, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1997-1998

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Photo - Publicity photograph of Regina Baiocchi with ethnomusicologist, Craig Williams, by Reggie Payton, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1997-1998

Tape: 5 Story: 15 - Photo - Regina Baiocchi with poet Nikki Giovanni after winning a writing award sponsored by the McDonald's Corporation and 'Essence' magazine, 1984

Tape: 5 Story: 16 - Photo - Self-portrait of Regina Baiocchi, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1988-1995

Tape: 5 Story: 17 - Photo - Regina Baiocchi's family gathers for a photograph after the funeral of husband Greg's uncle

Tape: 5 Story: 18 - Photo - Regina Baiocchi's maternal grandmother, Dannie Howard Belmont, Rutherford, Tennessee