My Family

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
Harriette May
Larry Banks
Joan Bates
Milton "Reno" Bennett

Reggie May

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Jun 19, 2021
Addendum - Tony May
by: Reggie May

Hello, again.

To those who weren't aware of Tony May's artist page on the website Discogs (dot com), there's a picture of him there from his BMG days. There's also a Facebook page called History Of Recording Studios, which I'm administrating. Dad's photo there is from his last trip to Saratoga NY, for the music festival.

Sadly, Dad passed away in March 2020, just as COVID-19 started ravaging the NYC area. His health had been in decline for some time, but we will never be sure if his passing was related to the virus outbreak.

It's been a terrible year for me personally, as I also lost my wife of 20 years. I'm just glad I found this website again, to update everyone on one of the unsung heroes of NYC music production. I might have a slight bias... ;) , but listen to the song "Ann, Wonderful One" by Stanley Turrentine, from the album "West Side Highway" on the Fantasy label. Hear that Claus Ogerman string arrangement in all it's glory, and tell me if that isn't one of the most incredible recording jobs you've ever heard.

For my dad, that was just another day at the office.

Oct 12, 2019
by: Israel Esters

This is so marvelous. I was just sitting here in an internet cafe in Dumaguete, Philippines, listening to a JIMMY SMITH record on Youtube (I'll Drink To That (feat. George Benson)) when I saw a comment said; recording engineer, Tony May.
dad :-) So I google to see who this Tony May was and ended up here. What great history had no idea the connections! That internet is amazing!

May 10, 2018
Worked with Tony May in 1974-77 @ Generation Sound
by: Franklin Fletcher

As a student at CCNY, I had the pleasure of working as an Assistant Engineer at Generation Sound 1650 Broadway in NYC with Tony May. My time there led to a career in broadcast engineering, as well as management positions in telecommunications and information technology in the financial, hospitality and local government sectors. As a young African American, Tony was a role model for me, and hired me into my first "professional job". I also obtained a life long love for jazz music fro the many sessions I was involved in.

Franklin Fletcher

Apr 07, 2018
by: Anonymous

Tony was one of the most generous men I've had the pleasure of meeting.

As a wanna-be music producer and engineer, I'd be turned on to Tony's reputation in jazz by his crystal clear ECM recordings and somehow talked my way into his room at Generation Sound on 50th Street. Without hesitation he put up with my insistent questions, where I realized his storied background.

When I booked Tony and Generation to do my own remix of a Cecil Taylor recording ("Spring of 2 Blue-J's"), he patiently sat in the back of the studio and helped me with my first professional mix, pretending that I deserved to be there on an equal footing.

Thank Tony, you made a difference in my life.

Fred Seibert

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