We’re proud to announce the launch of new blog series, The James A. Drake Interviews, transcribed from previously unpublished interviews with Ted Lewis, Gus Haenschen (a.k.a. Carl Fenton), Milton Cross, and other prominent figures in the entertainment and recording industries. All offer fascinating glimpses into the subjects’ personal and professional lives. Skillfully conducted, they will make you feel as if you actually know the artists.
The series starts later today, with Part 1 of the Ted Lewis interview. Conducted in 1968, it contains a wealth of information about Lewis’ early days with the Earl Fuller band, his musical influences (including clarinetist Alcide “Yellow” Nunez and African-American trumpeter Cricket Smith, whose barbershop Lewis swept as a boy), the formation of Lewis’ own band, and his recollections of Al Jolson, George M. Cohan, and other stars.
Because the interviews are lengthy, each will be serialized over a span of several days. We’ve added graphics and sound-files to round out the experience. Enjoy!
James A. Drake is the author of seven books and more than fifty articles. Two of his biographies, Ponselle: A Singer’s Life (Doubleday & Company), and Richard Tucker: A Biography (E. P. Dutton Company), with forewords by tenor Luciano Pavarotti, were selected as Books of the Month by the National Book Clubs of America. His other books include Rosa Ponselle: A Centenary Biography; Teaching Critical Thinking; Popular Culture and American Life; and Lily Pons: A Centennial Portrait (with K. B. Ludecke). He was also a contributing author to the 24-volume American National Biography (Oxford University Press, 1999) and The International Dictionary of Opera (St. James Press, 2000) and served on the editorial board of The Opera Quarterly.
His expertise in nineteenth- and twentieth-century operatic performances led to his serving as a co-host of the radio series “Voices That Live,” created by producer-announcer Don Martin (Martin Jager). When the series was revived and syndicated in the late 1980s, Drake and his new co-host, broadcaster Charles Koelsch, received the Certificate in Arts and Culture award from the International Radio Festival Association in New York.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, Drake earned his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University in 1973 and has had a distinguished career in academia that includes having served as administrator at the University of Tampa (1979–1984), Findlay College (1984-87), and Clemson University (as Executive Director of the University Center, Greenville, South Carolina, 1988–1994). During 1987–1988, he served as a full-time research consultant and equity partner with an Ohio-based management consulting firm, co-directing the higher-education division.
After relocating to Florida’s Space Coast in 1994, Drake served on the governing boards of various community agencies and was appointed as a layperson to the 18th Judicial Circuit Nominating Commission and the 18th District Grievance Committee of the Florida Bar Association. In March 2007, he was named President of Brevard Community College, which in July 2008 was featured on CNN and in The New York Times, Time Magazine, and other news sources for its energy-reduction initiatives under his leadership. In December 2008, Drake again received national press coverage after donating approximately $100,000 of his income to create textbook scholarships for students. He currently resides in Florida.