30 Sep 1998
Roy Clark is known for his virtuosity on the guitar, his self-effacing and homespun humor, and his starring years on “Hee Haw.” He was born in Meherrin, Virginia in 1933 and moved to Washington, D.C. when he was a child. He started on the banjo and mandolin and got his first guitar, a Sears Silvertone, for Christmas when he was 14 years old. He began playing bars and nightclubs and dropped out of school when he was 15. After winning a national banjo competition in 1950, he was invited to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. He went on to play with Hank Williams, Grandpa Jones, Red Foley, and Ernest Tubb. In 1954 he joined another DC-area country legend, Jimmy Dean and the Texas Wildcats. But his big break came in 1960 when he opened for Wanda Jackson in Las Vegas. Since then, he has become an international star and household name. He lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and continues to tour with his nine-piece band.
Todd Duncan, known to many as the original Porgy in George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” is inducted into the WAMA Hall of Fame in recognition of his accomplishments as a distinctive operatic voice and a mentor to young singers. Duncan performed as Tonio in Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci” in 1945, the first African American to perform with the New York City Opera. He sang in the original Broadway production of “Porgy and Bess” in 1935, and in revivals in 1937 and 1942. He went on to receive accolades for his leading roles in Vernon Duke’s “Cabin in the Sky” in 1940 and Kurt Veill’s “Lost in the Stars” in 1944. After retiring from opera, Duncan sang more than 2,000 recitals as a concert singer, visiting 56 countries. Born in Danville, Ky., in 1903, Duncan made Washington his home in 1931 when he was appointed professor of voice at Howard University. For nearly 70 years, he lived here and taught hundreds of voice students. Those students are known for having unique, natural voices, and his style of instruction has become known as the Duncan technique. Some of his students have gone on to become noted teachers themselves. “He was a trailblazer and a man of great knowledge,” said soprano Camilla Williams in The Washington Post. “He was also a kind and well-rounded individual. He broke down many barriers and touched many lives.” Todd Duncan died at his Washington home in March this year.
STARLAND VOCAL BAND
Mention of Starland Vocal Band brings quickly to mind the 1976 hit “Afternoon Delight” that earned the band two Grammy Awards for Best Arrangement for Voices and Best New Artist as well as two other Grammy nominations that same year. The history of the group dates back to Bill Danoff and his songwriting. Befriending John Denver in the mid-1960s, Bill collaborated with Denver and Taffy Nivert to create “Take Me Home, Country Road,” which Denver debuted at the Cellar Door in Georgetown. At that time known as Fat City, Bill and Taffy toured across the country with John Denver as his opening act. In 1976, Bill and Taffy joined with Jon Carroll and Margot Chapman to form Starland Vocal Band, their “Afternoon Delight” hitting the charts fast and furious. The band opened for John Denver at several major venues, including Madison Square Garden, bringing great publicity to this instantly successful group. Starland Vocal Band continues to receive notoriety for their success by being spotlighted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, having two Starland Vocal Band compilations released, one from K-Tel and one from Collectables that brings together the group’s first two albums, and being included in two recent movies.
Trouble Funk, the 8-piece band that defined Go-Go back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, is still on top, enjoying and contributing to Go-Go’s current comeback. What sets Trouble Funk apart from their contemporaries has always been simple: their robust funk style, high energy, and enduring live performances. “I remember the first time I heard Trouble Funk. Ian MacKaye and I were driving in his car on Wisconsin Avenue…in 1980. We were going through the channels on the radio when we came across [a station] playing what we found out later was a song called ‘Pump Me Up.’ It was so good that we parked the car and just listened. It was like nothing we had ever heard before. [Trouble Funk’s Live album] was a revelation to hear…We figured this was the band who, along with the Bad Brains, would take over the world. I saw the band play once. They played a non-stop two-hour set. Their energy and musicianship were beyond words. Parts of [Trouble Funk’s songs] were used on the first Beastie Boys album, Trouble samples turn up on rap records all the time. Trouble Funk plays all over the world to this day. Speaking for myself, I have been a fan of [Trouble Funk] for…years. This is essential listening.”
Content courtesy of Washington Area Music Association.