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Powell (Gordon Specs) Photograph Collection
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Gordon Specs Powell was a jazz musician who was hired as the first African American orchestra staff for the CBS network. Powell performed with such jazz luminaries as Billie Holiday, John Kirby, and Red Norvo during the height of the 52nd Street music scene in New York. Later in life, he retired and moved to Southern California, where he continued to pursue his interests in the arts, including photography. This small collection spans the years 1966 to 2001, with most materials created in the 1980s and the 1990s. The majority of the materials are negatives, prints, and contact sheets. Powell's professional portraits, Southern California events and music, and the sculpture of Tina Allen are prominently featured in this collection.
Gordon Specs Powell was born in 1922 in New York, New York. Powell gained fame as a drummer playing multiple jazz clubs in the heyday of New York's 52nd Street. During his music career, he performed as a drummer or percussionist alongside such notable jazz musicians as Billie Holiday, Red Norvo, John Kirby, and Edgar Hayes. In 1943, the CBS network hired Powell as the first African American orchestra member on staff. At the network, he performed first on radio for such shows as The Raymond Scott Show and Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, and then on television for such shows as The Ed Sullivan Show, The Jackie Gleason Show, and Candid Camera for almost 30 years. During World War II and his union's strike at CBS, Powell often appeared with Benny Goodman and other musicians on V Discs (Victory Discs) recordings, which were produced and sent overseas by the United States government to their troops for the purpose of boosting morale. Powell's distinguishable musical traits during his performances were his noisemaker kit, which typically included items such as castanets and clickers, and his bongo bracket, which helped him quickly transition between instruments without changing position.
1.2 linear feet
Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection has been transferred to California State University, Northridge. Copyright status for other materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.
This collection is open for research use.