Penn Library

Marian Anderson: A Life in Song

Billy King, Accompanist

"Billy King's name on a program carried weight," Marian Anderson once wrote, and it was with King that Ms. Anderson's recital engagements increased and she began to tour regularly. King served not only as Ms. Anderson's accompanist, but as promoter, advisor, and for several years, manager. He was instrumental in the development of her early career and was, in fact, the one who first brought her to the attention of Sol Hurok.

The above letter testifies to King's devotion to Ms. Anderson. Writing from Paris in August 1922, while preparing to go on tour with Roland Hayes, King offers advice on matters of vocal technique ("Develop a fine mezzo voice and above all don't lose your beautiful low notes"); the preparation necessary for success with European audiences ("You must study as hard and as much as you can. When you do come here you must be well equiped"); and concert fees ("Never go to a large city for less than $100. Get $150 whenever you can").

Billy King shared a number of milestones with Marian Anderson, including her 1924 Town Hall recital. She had sung in New York before--in churches and at several locations in Harlem--but this concert marked her first appearance in a New York concert hall. Unfortunately ticket sales were slim and, in the eyes of the young performer, the venture was less than a success. Ms. Anderson wrote of her defeat in detail in her autobiography and went so far as to say that after that experience she "did not want to make a career" of music any longer. It was not until eleven years later, with her 1935 recital, that she finally did find success at Town Hall.

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Last update: Tuesday, 28-Nov-2017 11:31:48 EST
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