A pioneering behind-the-scenes figure, Henry Glover was one of the first truly successful black executives in the music business, rising to prominence in the late '40s with Syd Nathan's independent (and white-owned) King label. No mere pencil-pusher, Glover was a talented jack of all trades who served at various times as a producer, arranger, songwriter (sometimes under the alias Henry Bernard), engineer, trumpet player, talent scout, A&R rep, studio builder, and — later on — label owner in his own right. Eclectic in his musical tastes as well, Glover worked with country, blues, R&B, pop, rock, and jazz artists over the course of his long career, and played a major role in building King into one of the biggest — and best — independents of its era.
Born May 21, 1921, in Hot Springs, AR, Glover grew up listening to all kinds of music on local radio, and as he got older, he moved freely among the different types of music available on the local club scene. A skilled trumpet player through high school and college, he joined Buddy Johnson's big band in early 1944, and caught on with Lucky Millinder's orchestra as both a musician and arranger in the spring of 1945. It was there that he met King Records founder Syd Nathan, who was impressed enough with Glover's intelligence and knowledge of the music industry to hire him as an A&R man, with an eye toward beefing up King's roster in the area then dubbed "race music."
Glover signed on and quickly proved himself in a variety of areas in addition to A&R, even physically helping to build King's first recording studio. A country fan since his boyhood, he produced sessions for the label's already-established set of country artists, including the Delmore Brothers, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas, Moon Mullican, Grandpa Jones, Wayne Raney, and the York Brothers, among others. The Delmore Brothers gig in particular was groundbreaking: Glover co-wrote the oft-covered classic "Blues Stay Away from Me" with them, rearranging saxman Paul Williams' "The Huckle-Buck" for country audiences; not only was the record a pre-rock & roll fusion of black and white sensibilities, it also made Glover quite probably the first black producer in country music history. His first success with black audiences came with Bull Moose Jackson's 1945 cover of Joe Liggins' "The Honeydripper," and over the next two years Glover helmed a steady stream of releases on King's "race" and gospel subsidiary, Queen.
Nathan encouraged a blurring of racial boundaries in the material his artists recorded; since he usually owned the publishing rights, he could earn far more royalties on a song by having an arranger like Glover, who understood both sides of the coin, rework it for separate recordings aimed at black and white listeners. In 1947, Nathan merged Queen directly into King, signaling a new level of racial integration that extended into his hiring policies, and made Glover a trailblazer, not simply an anomaly. Meanwhile, Glover's success with the jump blues/early R&B market solidified his standing as Nathan's right-hand man. He signed artists like his old employer Millinder and Tiny Bradshaw, and went on to work with proto-rock & rollers like Wynonie Harris and Bill Doggett, among many others. Glover also produced and/or wrote for early R&B stars like Hank Ballard & the Midnighters ("Teardrops on Your Letter"), Little Willie John (convincing him to record the original version of the standard "Fever"), James Brown, and the doo wop group the Swallows; meanwhile, his composition "Drown in My Own Tears," originally recorded by singer Lula Reed and pianist Sonny Thompson, was covered by Ray Charles, and ranked among the singer's early soul classics.
Nathan eventually tapped Glover to head up King's New York office, while Nathan himself remained in the label's home base of Cincinnati. Around 1958, Glover split with King and went to work for Morris Levy's Roulette label, which at the time featured mostly jazz and rock artists but was lacking in the R&B department. Glover worked to correct that imbalance while working with the likes of Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, and Sonny Stitt, among others. He also produced rocker Ronnie Hawkins, befriending his backup band the Hawks and encouraging them in their independent ambitions; he later released one of their early singles as the Canadian Squires, prior to their becoming the Band. Glover hit big in 1962 by co-writing Joey Dee & the Starliters' number one smash "Peppermint Twist," and two years later, the surf/garage group the Rivieras covered Glover's R&B song "California Sun" for a Top Five hit (it was later recorded by the Ramones as well). Glover worked extensively with bluesman Louisiana Red during the early '60s, and also set up his own label for a brief period, recording sides by Larry Dale and Titus Turner.
Glover later wound up returning to King, and after Syd Nathan's death in 1968, he served as the nominal head of the label when it was taken over by Starday. In 1975, Band drummer Levon Helm invited Glover to come to Woodstock, and the two co-founded a label called RCO Productions, which released a couple of Helm's solo projects. Glover also made himself an active presence on the local scene; in 1975, he produced Muddy Waters' Chess swan song The Woodstock Album, which won a Grammy, and the following year he helmed Paul Butterfield's Put It in Your Ear. Glover passed away of a heart attack at age 69 on April 7, 1991. ~ Steve Huey