The Music and Life of Billy Eckstine
by Cary Ginell
“a superbly written and often touching book.” –ICON magazine
Many jazz musicians are known by one name, no other words necessary for succinct identification—Satchmo, Duke, Dizzy, Miles—but one man was known throughout the music world by a single letter. In that world, “B” (and to many, the more formal “Mr. B”) stood for Billy Eckstine. Eckstine’s singing career spanned seven decades, from the Depression to the 1990s. Many changes occurred in those years, in music as well as in social history. In his quest to become America’s first black romantic singing idol, Eckstine faced hardships in the segregated music world, but by 1950, he was the most popular singer in America.
In Mr. B: The Music and Life of Billy Eckstine (Hal Leonard Books, Sept. 24, $18.99), Cary Ginell traces, for the first time, the life of one of the twentieth century’s most amazing success stories. This biography recounts his rise to success, his roles as an emcee and a bandleader, his two longest-standing marriages brought down by the enticing opportunities that came with being a star, and his support of the civil rights movement. Eckstine sold millions of records, had a passionate fanbase (mostly women) called “Billy Soxers,” and even created his own line of Mr. B shirt collars.
Although he was never able to climb back to the top after rock ’n’ roll and R&B robbed him of his younger audiences, Eckstine continued to sing right up until the year of his death in 1993. Known for his vibrato, Eckstine influenced Arthur Prysock, Johnny Hartman, Johnny Mathis, Kevin Mahogany, Barry White, and Elvis Presley.
With the help of a wealth of evidence in newspapers, trade magazines, record albums, and microfilm, and insights from Eckstine’s children, Mr. B is the first book to open up his world to a new generation of students and performers who want to explore further the life of a man whose prodigious talent and influence could be condensed to a single letter of the alphabet.
Cary Ginell is an award-winning author, annotator, discographer, and music historian whose expertise encompasses a wide variety of musical genres. He has been honored five times by the Association for Recorded Sound Collections, is a recipient of the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award, and was nominated for a Grammy. Mr. B is his seventh book. He lives in Thousand Oaks, CA and is available for interview.
Sept. 24, 2013
6″ x 9″
Two 8-page photo inserts
Hal Leonard Books is an imprint of Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group