Categotry Archives: Musicians


Ruth Jefford

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Categories: Business, Musicians

Ruth Martin Jefford, Alaska’s first female commercial air taxi pilot, died on Jan. 9. Cause of death was not released. She was 92.
The Iowa native began flying when she was only 17 years old. She made her first solo flight in 1937, then married her flight instructor Jim Hurst. The couple moved to Anchorage, Alaska, in 1941 so Hurst could work for the Civil Aeronautics Authority, the predecessor of the Federal Aviation Administration. During World War II, Jefford volunteered with the Red Cross Motor Corps, helping to cover all the lights in Anchorage to avoid bombing raids by the enemy.
Jefford spent the next 60 years in the air. She was the first woman licensed to teach students at Merrill Field in Anchorage, and the first female commercial air taxi pilot in the state. Jefford was a charter member of the Alaska chapter of the Ninety-Nines (International Organization of Women Pilots), and started the International Air Taxi Service at Anchorage International Airport.
For more than two decades, she delivered mail and supplies each week to the tiny community of Skwentna, Alaska. Jefford made the 140-mile trip in her Cessna 206, and took on charter and personal flights in between each visit. She and Hurst divorced in the early 1960s. Ruth remarried a decade later, this time to Jack Jefford, the chief pilot for the FAA in Alaska. Together they opened Valley Air Transport. Jack died in 1979.
With over 10,000 hours of flying time, Jefford made her last solo flight in 1996. Ten years later, she received the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, an honor created by the FAA to honor pilots who have flown safely for at least 50 years.
Jefford’s other passion was music. A violinist since the age of 9, she attended The Chicago Conservatory of Music and studied with teachers in New York and Paris. She co-founded the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra in 1946, and served as its concertmaster for nearly 30 years. In her spare time, Jefford enjoyed sailing her boat, the Arjay, and riding motorcycles.


Basil Poledouris


Categories: Hollywood, Musicians

bpoledouris.jpgBasil Konstantine Poledouris, an Emmy Award-winning film composer, died on Nov. 8 of cancer. He was 61.
Born in Kansas City, Mo., Poledouris began playing the piano when he was only 7 years old. Since modern music didn’t appeal to him, he fully expected to become a concert pianist after graduating from the University of Southern California. Instead, he studied film and music with famed composer Miklos Rozsa, and found his calling.
After college, Poledouris composed music for more than 100 educational films. But his big break came in 1978 when John Milius, an old USC classmate and surfing buddy, hired him to write the score for the movie “Big Wednesday.” His collaboration with Milius continued through four more feature films.
Over the next two decades, Poledouris composed soundtracks and orchestral scores for more than 80 feature-length movies and TV shows, including action films (“Robocop” 1 and 3, “Starship Troopers”), comedies (“Hot Shots! Part Deux,” “Mickey Blue Eyes”), romances (“The Blue Lagoon,” “For Love of the Game”), thrillers (“The Hunt for Red October,” “Breakdown”) and children’s movies (“White Fang,” “Free Willy” 1 and 2). But it was his sweeping score for the 1982 sword-and-sorcery epic, “Conan The Barbarian,” that made him a legend.
Poledouris preferred to create his scores using a pencil, paper and his battered old Steinway piano. “It’s the only way I feel connected to the music. I have attempted to write on the computer and it’s a complete bust. I keep thinking it would be quicker, easier, more fun, but alas. I need to touch the material I’m working with,” he once said.
Poledouris earned an Emmy Award for creating the score for the 1989 CBS miniseries “Lonesome Dove.” Seven years later, he was commissioned to compose the opening fanfare for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Entitled “The Tradition of the Games,” the 6-minute piece was performed by the Atlanta Symphony and a 300-voice choir.
Poledouris flew to Ubeda, Spain, last July to attend a film music conference. There he was met by hundreds of screaming fans and autograph-seekers. Despite his illness, Poledouris conducted a substantial portion of his “Conan” score, a performance he considered one of his greatest achievements.
Watch a Video Tribute to Basil Poledouris
Basil Poledouris Download Music by Basil Poledouris


Rufus Harley

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Categories: Musicians

rharley.jpgRufus Harley Jr., a musician billed as “the world’s first jazz bagpiper,” died on July 31 from prostate cancer. He was 70.
A North Carolina native of African-American and Cherokee descent, Harley always had a passion for music. He moved to Philadelphia as a young boy and studied the saxophone, oboe, trumpet and flute. To support his family, he dropped out of high school at the age of 16 and earned money working odd jobs and playing in local jazz clubs.
Harley became interested in the bagpipes after seeing the Black Watch Scottish Marching Band perform at President John F. Kennedy’s funeral in 1963. Shortly thereafter, Harley purchased his own set of pipes at a pawnshop for $120 and began taking lessons from Dennis Sandole, a local jazz guitarist/teacher who also mentored Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. Within a year, Harley recorded his debut album and became the first person to introduce bagpipes to mainstream jazz audiences.
In the mid-1960s, Harley signed a contract with Atlantic Records and recorded four albums (“Bagpipe Blues,” “Scotch and Soul,” “A Tribute to Courage” and “King and Queens”). He provided backup instrumentals for Sonny Stitt, Herbie Mann and Sonny Rollins, and played alongside jazz icons like Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie, usually while wearing an African dashiki or a Scottish kilt. As his fame grew, Harley appeared on numerous TV shows, including Johnny Carson


Anthony Burger


Categories: Musicians

aburger.jpgAnthony John Burger, a gospel music pianist whose latest album was nominated for a 2006 Gospel Music Association Award, died during a performance on Feb. 22. He was 44.

When he was 8 months old, Burger fell onto a furnace grate and suffered third degree burns on his hands, legs and face. Doctors predicted he’d never move his hands again, but the musical prodigy proved them wrong. Burger began playing the piano when he was only 3 years old and made his radio debut at the age of 5. He studied classical music at the Cadek Conservatory of Music in Chattanooga, Tenn., but gospel was his true passion.

Burger recorded nearly two dozen albums with the gospel group, The Kingsmen, then produced his first solo release, “Anthony Burger at the Lowry Organ,” in 1975. His music spoke to legions of fans, who voted him Singing News Magazine’s #1 musician for 10 years in a row (1980-1989). The Brentwood, Tenn., resident later joined up with gospel superstar Bill Gaither and the Gaither Homecoming concert tour as a guest pianist. Known for his renditions of “He Touched Me,” “The King Is Coming,” “It Is Finished” and “Because He Lives,” Burger performed to sold out crowds all over the world.

Two Gaither albums and videos featuring Burger are currently in the Top 10 on both music video and contemporary Christian album sales charts. His latest album, “A Tribute to Bill and Gloria Gaither,” was nominated this year for a Gospel Music Association Award in the instrumental album category. His record, “New Born Feeling,” was nominated in the same category in 1997.

“If you look back at the 25 years Anthony Burger devoted to reaching the world through gospel music you will see a discography filled with some of the finest piano artistry the world of gospel music has ever known. You will most likely be impressed by his many accomplishments, too. But what Anthony would want you to remember, first and foremost, is how God used this Tennessee boy — a boy who was once told he would never have full use of his hands — to soothe a hurting world through music,” said Emily Sutherland, director of

Burger was playing “We Shall Behold Him” on a Bill Gaither Homecoming cruise in the Caribbean when he suffered an apparent heart attack, collapsed and died.

Anthony Burger, Ivan Parker & Kirk Talley Download “Glory Road” by Anthony Burger, Ivan Parker and Kirk Talley

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