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 Goodman, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Charlie Christian, and others. He later played a key role in promoting the work of a variety of blues, folk, and rock performers, including Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen. 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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