Leonard Feather

The acknowledged dean of American jazz critics, Leonard Feather was also a renowned composer and producer, writing perennials including "Evil Gal Blues," "Blowtop Blues," and "How Blue Can You Get?" as well as helming debut sessions by future legends Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan. Born September 13, 1914, in London, as a child Feather studied piano and clarinet, later teaching himself arranging. While expected to enter his father's clothing retail business, he devoted his life to music upon discovering Louis Armstrong's "West End Blues" at a Kensington record shop. Feather launched his writing career with a series of letters to the British music publication Melody Maker, musing on subjects from waltz-time jazz compositions to the absence of female jazz enthusiasts; editor Dan Ingman soon offered him a staff position. When Armstrong made his first appearance at the London Palladium in 1932, Feather was in attendance, subsequently meeting his idol at a nearby pub. By evening's end Armstrong agreed to sit for a Melody Maker interview, and the two men remained lifelong friends.