(b Leavenworth, KS, 23 July 1906; d Mitchellville, MD, 27 July 1991). American music librarian and musicologist. He was educated at the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester, where he received the BMus in 1927 and the MMus in 1928. He joined the staff of the Library of Congress in 1937 as assistant chief of the music division and from 1972 until his retirement in 1976 served as chief of the division.
Waters wrote numerous articles and reviews on 19th-century Romanticism, especially the music and writings of Liszt. His other interests included American folk music and music history. He wrote on important books and manuscripts in the music division of the Library of Congress and, from 1951, frequently discussed the library's music acquisitions in its Quarterly Journal. From 1934 to 1947 he was compiler of the ‘Quarterly Book-List’ for the Musical Quarterly.
C.J.Bradley: ‘Edward N. Waters: Notes of a Career’, Notes, l (1993–4), 485–501 [incl. complete bibliography and list of writings]
Waters [née Howard], Ethel
(b Chester, PA, 31 Oct 1896; d Chatsworth, CA, 1 Sept 1977). American popular singer and actress. She grew up in the Philadelphia area, coming more strongly under the influence of white vaudeville singers, such as Nora Bayes and Fanny Brice, than did her southern contemporaries. Early in her career she sang ‘coon’ songs, and became an outstanding example of the group of black vaudeville singers who may be distinguished from southern classic blues singers such as Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. Some of her performances from the mid-1920s (she began recording in 1921) used the scat-singing devices subsequently developed by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. In the 1930s, she found the mainstream of popular music, including jazz, congenial, and brought to it a combination of tragedy (in Harold Arlen’s Stormy Weather, 1933) and comedy (in H.I. Marshall’s You can’t stop me from loving you, 1931) which, in its range, was unsurpassed by any other popular singer. From about the same time she began appearing as a stage actress, notably in Mamba’s Daughters (1939, by Dorothy Heyward and Dubose Heyward), The Member of the Wedding (1950, by Carson McCullers), and most notably Vernon Duke’s Cabin in the Sky (1940), a musical which was made into a film in 1943, with additional songs provided for Waters; she was also successful in Irving Berlin’s As Thousands Cheer (1933). Her acting career eventually eclipsed her accomplishments as a singer in the public eye.
Waters was the first black entertainer to move successfully from the vaudeville and nightclub circuits to what blacks called ‘the white time’ (the West Indian Bert Williams had done this earlier in the Ziegfield Follies, but in blackface). Her vocal resources were adequate though unexceptional, but this shortcoming was mitigated by an innate theatrical flair that enabled her to project the character and situation of every song she performed. The early recordings of Mildred Bailey, Lee Wiley and Connee Boswell clearly reflect a debt to Waters, and most popular singers of the time came under her influence to some degree. From 1960 to 1975 Waters toured with the evangelist Billy Graham, singing with less vocal prowess than before but with an undiminished ability to characterize her material.
CBY 1941; SouthernB
E.Waters and C.Samuels: His Eye is on the Sparrow (Garden City, NY, 1951/R1992 with preface by D. Bogle)
E.Waters: To me it’s Wonderful (New York, 1972)
H.Pleasants: The Great American Popular Singers (New York, 1974)