1897-1962, Bluefield, Mercer County
Maceo Pinkard, the songwriter who made “Sweet Georgia Brown” a popular standard for decades after its completion, was born in Bluefield, WV, in 1897. He graduated from the Bluefield Colored Institute in 1914 and wrote his first major song, “I’m Goin’ Back Home,” one year later. Among Pinkard’s other compositions were “Sugar, That Sugar Baby of Mine” and “Them There Eyes,” which was popularized by Billie Holiday. Maceo Pinkard toured with his own orchestra, wrote the all-black revue, Liza, in 1922, and ran a theatrical agency before moving to New York and becoming the first African-American to own a music publishing business. He was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1984.
His most famous song, “Sweet Georgia Brown” was co-written with bandleader Ben Bernie and Ken Casey and was introduced by Bernie’s orchestra soon after it was composed in 1925. But it became best known as the theme song for the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. “Sweet Georgia Brown” has been recorded by a staggering array of artists including: Jimmy Smith, The Beatles, Nancy Sinatra, Ray Charles, Boots Randolph, Doc Watson, Joe Pass, Sarah Vaughan, Django Reinhardt, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Al Hirt, Chet Atkins, Ethel Waters, Pearl Bailey, Charlie Parker, Glenn Miller, Bob Wills, Mel Torme, Mills Brothers, Joe Venuti, Bucky & John Pizzarelli, Dizzy Gillespie and Harry Connick. “Them There Eyes” has been covered by Diana Ross, Stan Kenton, Louis Prima and Chaka Khan. Maceo Pinkard died in New York City in 1962.