Henry Glover was the first producer/writer in the American music industry, paving the way for a host of illustrious followers such as Phil Spector, Leiber & Stoller and Burt Bacharach. Composer, producer, arranger, publisher, talent scout, vocalist, trumpet player, engineer, A&R executive, and, later, a label owner in his own right, Glover was one of the most talented music industry entrepreneurs of the mid-twentieth century. The fact that he was black and working in an exclusively white executive environment makes his achievements all the more remarkable.
Glover’s career illustrates the evolution of modern popular music from its beginnings in jazz and blues, through its mutation into rhythm and blues, rock’n’roll and pop, culminating in soul and rock music. His first compositions in the forties were for mainstream artists such as Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington in the big band and orchestral mould, but he established himself in the early fifties as a composer of risqué blues such as The Swallows’ It Ain’t The Meat (It’s The Motion), Wynonie Harris’s I Like My Baby’s Pudding and Bull Moose Jackson’s I Want a Bowlegged Woman as well as a host of drinking songs. Glover’s formative years were spent at Cincinnati-based King Records and the majority of hits on that label during its golden era from 1947 to 1958 were Henry Glover productions, most notably Little Willie John’s original 1955 version of Fever.
He was equally at home with white country music and black sacred gospel music. His hillbilly song Blues Stay Away from Me has attained the status of classic in its field with versions by such diverse artists as B.B.King, Merle Haggard, Harry James, K.D.Lang and Tennessee Ernie Ford. His pioneering work with Moon Mullican and Hawkshaw Hawkins combining blues and country predates Elvis Presley’s Sun recordings by several years. His best-known song in the soul genre was Ray Charles’s 1960 number one hit Drown In My Own Tears.
Towards the end of the fifties, Glover tried his hand at doo-wop and rock’n’roll music, but he found his greatest success in the dance craze era of the early 1960s with songs such as Peppermint Twist, Let The Little Girl Dance and California Sun, later covered by The Ramones. In later years, Glover channelled his energies into finding new artists and forming his own record label (he launched the careers of The Hawks, who mutated into The Band, and of the recently departed Nick Ashford). One of his last productions was Muddy Waters’s swansong The Woodstock Album, which won a Grammy in 1975.