Black History Month: Artist Profiles

Tomar YassienWilliams was born on June 14, 1968, in Las Vegas, Nevada and was the fifth child of seven. He grew up singing playing the bass guitar in the family band called 6:AM in a one-car garage in Victoria, Texas. The family band played everything from Michael Jackson to Tony! Toni! Tonè!. They toured on the chitlin circuit and by the time Williams was 16, the band landed a gig at Antone’s opening for local blues legend W.C. Clark.

After 6:AM and blown away by the opportunities for musicians in the Live Music Capital of the World, Tomar played in a few bands including a stint as a keyboardist for Hot Buttered Rhythm. All while his younger brother Salih had started producing hip-hop records for some the greats out of Houston. Tomar joined his brother and they began focusing on creating music of their own. They formed Carnival Beats and produced some of the biggest hip-hop classics that came out of Houston in the 2000s including Big Moe (“Bare Baby” and “Purple Stuff”), Paul Wall (“Sittin’ Sidewayz”) and Mike Jones (“Back Then,” “Still Tippin”). They quickly became an in-demand production group signing with Universal as a production team and working with artists such as Trick Daddy and the Ying Yang Twins.

In 2012, the brothers went back to their soulful roots working with Latasha Lee and the Black Ties where they produced and performed until the band’s separation. Tomar set out on his own path with his wife’s encouragement and shortly after a friend (Nikolas Bouklas) introduced Williams to his band and just after one practice together they decided to form Tomar and the FCs. The band self-recorded and released their first EP, Day by Day in 2015 and the Austin natives released their first full album Heart Attack in 2016 that included the hits “Heart Attack” and “Do you Feel it?.” NPR Music picked Tomar and the FCs to represent Austin for their Tiny Desk Concert Series in 2016 and 2018, they signed with Splice Record and released their anticipated sophomore album in February of 2020 called Rise Above.

In January of 2017, Tomar and the FCs were the KUTX Artist of the Month and they have been voted in the top five of the Austin Chronicle’s Music Poll for best Blues, Funk, and Soul artist in 2017 and 2018. The band has performed at Austin City Limits (ACL), South by Southwest, River Revival and many other festivals. Tomar Williams continues to captivate, serenade and entertain audiences everywhere –with his authenticity, heartfelt lyrics, and soulful vocals.

 


Pamela Hart

Pamela Hart was born and raised in Los Angeles, California in a household filled with jazz music.  With her mother’s encouragement to sing in front of family and friends her interest in music quickly evolved into a life long passion.

After graduating from UCLA with an economics degree in 1982 Pamela moved to Austin.  She began using the Austin Public Library to learn more about jazz legends such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and many others.  In order to perfect and study her craft, Pamela began to make appearances with Boyd Vance and others, but her first regular accompanist was Sandy Allen until his death.   She joined the Black Arts Alliance in 1991 and introduced to them the Black Women in Jazz Project.  In 1993 Pamela and her husband Kevin Hart formed HartBeat Productions and one year later they founded the Women in Jazz Association, Inc. with a mission to keep jazz alive. They went on to produce the semi-annual Women in Jazz Concert Series in 1994 which has been a staple for over 25 years.  The concert series also includes a Vocal Performance Workshop where Pamela and other professional vocalists and musicians share their knowledge and techniques.

Pamela has studied and learned from many along the way but she credits Dr. James Polk as being one of her greatest teachers and has worked with him since 1992. Throughout her career, Polk has provided her with many performance opportunities such as the European jazz festival tours including the Montreux, Vienne, and Juan des Pins Jazz festivals, with the Texas State University Jazz Band he directed. They have also worked together on several occasions including her Women in Jazz concert series and in she even enlisted his help for her first album  May I Come In,  released in 1998  by her own production HartBeat Productions company.

Pamela Hart has received many awards for her involvement in the community and as an accomplished performer including Austin Jazz Players and Critic’s Poll for Best Female Jazz Singer, the Connie Yerwood Conner National Woman of Achievement Award, Texas State University Outstanding Alumni Award and the list goes on. She has been named, “Austin’s First Lady of Jazz,” by the Austin Women’s Magazine and was inducted into the Austin Jazz Society Hall of Fame in 2018. Pamela spends a lot of time teaching and coaching young singers and has provided jazz vocal workshops at the Carver Museum, Children’s Museum, Doss Elementary, Davis Elementary, Sims Elementary, Crockett High School, and in private residences. Hart continues to build her legacy by performing, teaching, mentoring and inspiring and making a difference in the Austin Jazz music scene and in her community.

 

 


Eimaral Sol

Neo-soul singer Eimaral Sol was born and raised in Killeen, Texas.  She began singing at just the age of 9 and continued to sing in the choir throughout her childhood. In 2012, the singer attended Texas Southern University and having limited resources while studying entertainment management she recorded a song called “I’m So High,”  in a closet! Through social media and the help and persistence of her friends the song received the stamp of approval from superstar Erykah Badu.

Eimaral graduated from Texas Southern University in 2015 and began to record cover videos on YouTube which lead to her working with a Texas three-man production crew by the name of Analogue Escape, which included producer Russell Guess. They all worked out of Sugarhill Recording Studios in Houston, Texas which granted Sol the space to develop as an artist.  Russell went on to produce Eimaral’s singles “Gravity,” “Royal,” and “Finds” which all gained traction on major online platforms, including Sway’s Universe in December of 2015.

In 2017, she made the move to Austin and released a single, “OTW” in 2018.  Eimaral released her first album Sol Soliloquies,  in March of 2019, which she wrote with Russell Guess producing the project.  The 26-year-old has performed at SXSW and been featured in Forbes Magazine. In May of 2019, she was the Austin 360 Artist of the Month and she is the KUTX Artist of the Month for February 2020. Eimaral Sol continues to mesmerize, uplift and take audiences on a spiritual journey filled with enlightenment and positivity with each one of her performances.


Tameca Jones

Tameca Jones was born and raised in Austin, Texas. She joined Austin band 8 Million Stories as the group’s lead singer and songwriter. The band played throughout the Capitol City, quickly gained popularity and took a publishing deal with Riptide Publishing. Tameca stayed with the band for two and a half years before going solo. She started playing covers sets at the Continental Club Gallery and gained traction covering artists such as Tina Turner, Amy Winehouse, Nirvana, Elton John and a host of other stars. She continued to prosper in the Austin music scene making a name for herself as the Queen of Austin Soul. Jones caught the attention of Austin native and luminary Gary Clark Jr. who became a big fan of Tameca’s and even featured her vocals on his second studio album, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, for his song called “Wings.”

Jones made her festival debut in 2015 at The Austin City Limits Festival and that same year, she released her first single a Motown inspired track, “Hot and Bothered.” In 2016, she dropped her EP Naked, releasing two more singles after that, “Good Boy” and “Are You Awake.” Tameca has opened for stars such as Gary Clark Jr. and Bob Schneider. She has shared the stage with stars such as Steven Van Zandt, Alejandro Escovedo, and Patty Griffin and more. Jones has been acknowledged for her soulful vocals by major publications such as Billboard magazine, The Austin Chronicle, Esquire Magazine. In 2018, she received the Austin Music Award for Best Female Vocals. Tameca Jones continues to prove that she is the Queen of Austin Soul by captivating audiences with her unforgettable soul-infused vocals.


 

Dr. James Polk

Dr. James Polk was born on Sept. 10, 1940, in the Southeast Texas town of Yoakum, but his family would later settle in Corpus Christi. He was born into a musically inclined household, his mom Mattie graduated with a degree in music from St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, and his father Maryland was a self-taught piano player. At the age of 8, Polk started playing instruments. He began taking formal violin lessons, then changed over to saxophone and once he discovered his middle school band director needed trombone players he switched his attention to mastering the trombone. Once he had his dad’s approval James started playing blues at thirteen with a local band.

In 1958, Polk moved to Austin where he attended the Historically Black College, Huston Tillotson University.  Polk was already a professional musician, by the time he graduated in 1962 with a degree in Music and Education. After graduation, he decided to take up the family tradition and play the piano. At this time, he also took up a career in teaching at all-black Washington High in Elgin, Texas to support his family while pursuing a master’s at Texas A&M University -Kingsville.

Polk continued to perform around East Austin and went on to form James Polk and the Brothers with trombonist Larry Collins. James would transcribe sheet music for his band members WC Clark, Angela Strehli, Martin Banks and Matthew Robinson. They were one of the first integrated bands in Austin and because of this, they were able to perform at venues that would have otherwise been closed to them. The band toured together for over a decade.

In 1978, Ray Charles called James and offered him a job as a piano player in the Ray Charles Orchestra. His role with the orchestra expanded over the next ten years that they worked together. Not only was JP the pianist but he became the orchestras organist, writer, arranger, and composer. He traveled all over the world with Ray and was featured on hits such as  Grammy-nominated “Some Enchanted Evening ” (1979) and “Born to Love Me” (1983).

After his success with Charles, he served as a lecturer of music history and jazz studies at Texas State University from 1990 – 1996. He earned an honorary doctorate from Huston-Tillotson in 1995 and was inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame in 1999. He released two albums When the Evening Comes in 2001 and Go with the Flow in 2007, both were released from his record label Twink Records. After Dr. Polk retired from teaching in 2006 he received his status of Professor Emeritus of Jazz Studies from Texas State. He was inducted into the Austin Jazz Society Hall of fame in 2016.

Dr. James Polk currently leads jazz ensemble, Centerpeace, when he is not playing the organ for the award-winning group, Church on Monday. Polk is still performing throughout the state of Texas and he continues to serve, inspire and mentor in his community through his involvement in the Austin Jazz Workshop and Dr. James Polk Academy of Arts and Technology.


Tee-Double

Rapper, producer and artist advocate, Terrany “Tee-Double” Johnson was born and raised in Austin, Texas. At an early age, he was inspired by Prince and his father’s vast record collection to start creating his own music. He mailed off his first demo to Warner Brothers Records when he was only 9 years old.

In order to record his demos he would take one of his father’s blues cassette tapes, go to the local department store, grab a keyboard and a boom box and record his session over his dad’s tunes. At the age of 14, he joined a program called Tribes that provided young creatives the resources to work on their craft. With the help of the program, Tee-Double was able to start making records professionally. His catalog includes Texas Resident, Black Mics Matter, and Los Scriptures just to name a few.

The MC is not just an artist he is also a successful businessman. He co-founded Kinetic Marketing in 1999, a one-stop promotion vehicle for artists/labels. In 2005, he changed the company name to Kinetic Global and he expanded the brand, creating a multi-media company catering to the global entertainment industry.

In 2009, he won an Austin Music Award for Best in Hip Hop. A year later, the City of Austin proclaimed September 30th, 2010 Tee-Double Day. He was also inducted into the Texas Music Museum and was the first Austin hip-hop artist to be on the Board of Governors for the Texas Chapter of Grammys. The artist advocate went on to create, Urban Artist Alliance, a place for artists to display their music, build a brand that maintains longevity and generates long-term revenue. The Mayor of Austin, Steve Adler appointed Tee-Double to sit on the Equity Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts and Music Committee in August of 2017.

Over the course of his career, Tee-Double has released over thirty albums and he continues to play an integral role in helping shape the Austin hip-hop scene. His undeniable talent and determination to pave the way for upcoming artists all while giving back to his community make Terrany “Tee-Double” Johnson the true definition of a hometown hero.


W. C. Clark

W. C. Clark was born Wesley Curley Clark, was born in Austin, Texas on November 16th, 1939. He grew up singing with his family in the choir at St. Johns College Heights Baptist Church and in the early 1950s, he started playing the guitar. At his first gig at Austin’s historical landmark Victory Grill, he was introduced to T. D. Bell and shortly after he joined Bell’s band, T.D. Bell and the Cadillacs.

In the early 1960s, Clark played with Blues Boy Hubbard and The Jets at a popular Austin nightclub, Charlie’s Playhouse. He met R&B hitmaker Joe Tex at Charlie’s, who later recruited W.C. to fill the vacant guitar slot in his group. While touring the Southern “chitlin’ circuit” with Joe Tex, W.C. learned from legends such as Tyrone Davis and James Brown.

Clark soon formed Southern Feeling with singer Angela Strehli and guitarist/pianist Denny Freeman. Later taking a job as a mechanic when Southern Feeling disbanded. Shortly after, Stevie Ray Vaughn, a friend of Clark’s, recruited him to join his band Triple Threat Revue. Stevie was successful in his pursuit and W. C. eventually left his job to become the bass player in the Triple Threat Revue with Stevie, keyboardist Mike Kindred, drummer Freddie Pharoah, and singer Lou Ann Barton. During his time with Vaughn, W.C. earned his first platinum record for co-writing “Cold Shot,” along with Mike Kindred, which ended up being a big hit for Stevie.

Clark eventually formed his group W.C. Clark Blues Revue in the early 1980s and self-released his first recording, Something for Everybody, in 1986. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, his band played regular gigs at legendary hot-spots such as Antone’s and helped to shape the Austin Music Scene while opening for B.B. King, James Brown, Bobby “Blue” Bland and Albert King. He later signed with Black Top Records and released Heart Of Gold in 1994. Texas Soul followed in 1996, in which Clark won a WC Handy Award for “Soul Blues Album of The Year.”

Throughout his career, he has released 7 albums, with Were You There? being his most recent in 2011. Clark has made over 100 festival appearances in the U.S. and abroad.  Last year Clark celebrated his 80th birthday and he is still inspiring generations to come and making a lasting impression on his fans one show at a time!


Lavelle White

Soul singer and songwriter Lavelle White was born in Amit, Louisiana and started writing poetry and singing in her teenage years. Her big break came in 1958 when White signed her first recording contract with Duke Records and during 1958 – 1964 released several singles, including, “Just Look at You Fool”, “Stop These Teardrops” and “If I Could Be with You.” In the late ’50s, her label-mates included Bobby “Blue” Bland, B.B. King, and Junior Parker. She shared the stage with musicians such as Sam Cooke, Otis Redding,  Aretha Franklin  and many more.  She moved to Chicago in 1978, where she performed in various clubs and worked with Junior Wells, Lonnie Brooks, and Buddy Guy. After her stint in Chicago, she returned to Houston and before relocating and becoming a regular performer in the Austin area, including a residency at Antone’s. Her debut album titled Miss Lavelle was released by Antone’s Record Label in 1994 and was her first recording for almost 30 years. Two years after her first album release, she was inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame in 1996. Lavelle would go on to release two more albums It Haven’t Been Easy in 1997 and Into the Mystic in 2003. Over the course of her career she has entertained audiences all over the United States and throughout Europe and Canada. She has received four W.C. Handy Award nominations and was honored in France with three prestigious honors: The Otis Redding Award from the Academy of Jazz, the Big Bill Broonzy Award, and the Charles Cross Award, presented by the French President. In 2018, she received the Lifetime Achievement from the Austin Blues Society.  Miss Lavelle White still resides in Austin, Texas and is continuing to do what she loves all while keeping her fans inspired and entertained every step of the way.

 

– Miles Bloxson/KUTX Host

Research assistance and archival material provided by Clay Shorkey of The Texas Music Museum

 

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