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American Composers and Musicians from A to Z: M (Part 2 – McKinnie, Eric “Ricky,” and Montaño, José André)

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Photograph of Ricky McKinnie singing.
Eric “Ricky” McKinnie. Photo taken by Tore Sætre on 6 April 2018 in Oslo. Used with permission.

Eric “Ricky” McKinnie is a gospel singer, drummer and songwriter who has been performing with the award-winning Blind Boys of Alabama. McKinnie was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 12, 1952. Since his early school days McKinnie was a dedicated singer and drummer. He joined Troy Ramey and the Soul Searchers in 1970 and two years later became a member of the Gospel Keynotes, with whom he made a gold record, “Jesus, You Been Good to Me.”

It was in 1975 that McKinnie lost his sight to glaucoma. He continued to sing and play the drums and founded, in 1978, the Ricky McKinnie Singers with his mother and brother. In 1989, Clarence Fountain (d. 2018), who was one of the founding member of the world-famous Blind Boys of Alabama, officially invited McKinnie to join the group. The Blind Boys of Alabama have won Grammy Awards for Best Traditional Gospel Album and the Alabama Governor’s Achievement Award. The group was also inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2000. McKinnie has been performing with them since 1989; he also serves as their tour manager. McKinnie’s favorite quote is: I am not blind, I just can’t see.

Another blind musician and NLS patron, who is shaping the American musical landscape, and who has been playing music since his early childhood is José André Montaño:

José André Montaño playing an open grand piano
José André Montaño. Used with permission.

José André Montaño is a 14-year-old jazz pianist and composer whose music bridges jazz, rock, blues, bossa nova, Latin American, and world music. He has performed at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and the Blues Alley Club in Washington, DC, as well as on stages in Italy, Malaysia, Bolivia, Peru and Finland. On November 7, 2019, The José André Trio will be performing at the Library of Congress Coolidge Auditorium at 8:00 p.m. National and international newspapers have written about this young artist; we will share more about him and this upcoming concert soon. To register for free tickets, click here.


Here’s a selection of materials you can borrow from the NLS Music Section:

Gospel Music

Brown, Bill. Amazing Grace. Bill Brown teaches Amazing Grace by ear for guitar. (DBM02962)

Classic African American Gospel. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2008. (DBM03632)

Jackson, Mahalia. I Sing Because I’m Happy: Interview with Songs. (DBM03638)

Wade in the Water, Vol. 1–African American Spirituals: The Concert Tradition. (DBM03768)

Wade in the Water, Vol. 2–African American Congregational Singing. (DBM03769)

Wade in the Water, Vol. 3–African American Gospel: The Pioneering Composers. (DBM03770)

Wade in the Water, Vol. 4–African American Community Gospel. (DBM03771)

Jazz Music

Almeida, Laurindo. Latin Percussion Instruments and Rhythms for Jazz and Rock. (BRM24558)

Coker, Jerry. Listening to Jazz. (LPM00512)

Mehegan, John. Jazz Improvisation. 1, Tonal and Rhythmic Principles. (BRM19769); Jazz Improvisation. 3, Swing and Early Progressive Piano Styles. (BRM35921)

Nelson, Oliver. Patterns for Improvisation. (BRM35952)

Ricigliano, Daniel A. Popular and Jazz Harmony. (BRM25319)

Sandoval, Arturo. Playing Techniques & Performance Studies for Trumpet. Volume 1, 2, 3. (BRM36376, BRM36393, BRM36394)

For more information about NLS music materials, our services and BARD, you may contact the Music Section by phone at 1-800-424-8567, option 2, or e-mail [email protected]. We are looking forward to hearing from you!

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