John Hammond: Mastering the Art of Musical Talent Scouting

John Hammond
John Hammond

Today is the birthday of American music producer and talent scout John Hammond.

Here are a few facts about a man whose career spanned several decades and several genres.

John Hammond was born in New York in 1910, the great-great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt. As a child, Hammond was drawn to music played by his family’s servants, many of whom were black. On a trip to London in 1923 he saw two jazz shows, which changed how he thought of music.

While attending boarding school in Connecticut, Hammond would make weekly trips into New York to visit jazz clubs. After graduating, he attended Yale for two years before a reoccurring case of jaundice forced him to drop out in 1931.

After Yale, Hammond became the U.S. correspondent for the British music newspaper Melody Maker. That same year he funded a recording by pianist Garland Wilson. Later he started a radio show which was uncommon for the time in featuring black and white jazz musicians.

In 1934 he introduced bandleader Benny Goodman to arranger and pianist Fletcher Henderson. He later helped form Goodman’s band, which also featured vibraphonist Lionel Hampton. In 1933, after joining Columbia Records, he arranged for the first recording by Billie Holliday.

After serving in World War II, Hammond returned to Columbia Records and signed folk singer Pete Seeger and the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin. In 1961, he signed Bob Dylan to Columbia and produced several of his early recordings.

In the 1960s and 70s, he signed Bruce Springsteen and Leonard Cohen to Columbia before retiring in 1975. He didn’t stop scouting talent however and helped Columbia sign guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1983.

Hammond was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. He died in 1987 at the age of 76 after a series of strokes.

Our question, what is the name of Bruce Springsteen’s 1973 debut album?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.