by Reggie May
(Paducah, Kentucky, USA)
I'm proud of my music industry connections, since I was born into them.
My grandmother, Ernestine Atwell May
, was a jazz pianist and songwriter; among her most well-known compositions was a song recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, "I Had To Live And Learn". (This song is mis-attributed to Billy May sometimes, since a run of the Decca labels substituted the "E" of her first name with the letter "B".)
Her son, Tony May
, was a communications specialist in the Air Force; he became a songwriter, producer and an engineer. His production credits read like a who's who of the NYC music scene, in many different genres. He worked in major studios like Mira Sound, A&R, Allegro/Generation and RCA.
He married my mom, Harriette Banks
, in 1959. She was a member of the vocal group the Companions, who recorded for Brooks Records. She dropped out of the business to raise me and my two brothers, but her brother, Larry Banks
, continued as a member of the Four Fellows. Larry later became a recording artist, songwriter, producer, and talent scout for RCA, Kapp, and Spring.
Larry was married to my aunt Bessie Banks
, for whom he co-wrote the song "Go Now" with his Four Fellows friend Milton Bennett; she recorded this song with Leiber & Stoller's Tiger label. Dad wrote the flip side, "Sounds Like My Baby", and also produced songs for Bessie on the Verve label. Bessie was signed with Scepter/Spokane, Private Stock and Stax/Volt.
After Larry's marriage to Bessie faltered, he married Joan Bates
, who was a vocalist performing under the name "Jaibi"
(jay-bee). They did a single together for RCA, and also recorded as solo artists. My aunt Joan left music behind to care for her family.
As for me and my generation, I've been a musician and songwriter since my teenage years. My brothers have had success as concert festival producers, DJs, music producers, songwriters, and engineers. My cousins are keeping the flame alive as well. Larry's sons are deep in the rap, R&B and neo-soul world as independent artists -- one of them, Kevin Banks
, even took his dad's place as vocalist in an Ink Spots tribute group!
Aunt Bessie retired from secular music, and devotes her time to serving the Lord. Dad never "retired" as such; almost every room he ever worked in closed down underneath him, including the last, RCA/BMG 6th Ave. He's still renovating the house he bought for the family in 1971.
This is lovingly dedicated to those who "got a better gig":
Ernestine Atwell May
Milton "Reno" Bennett