Henry Bernard Glover (1921–1991)
A trailblazing African-American record executive and businessman, musician, and songwriter, Henry Glover is best known for his work as a producer and A&R (Artist and Repertoire) man for King Records. Over thirty years, Glover worked with a wide array of artists, African-American and white, across popular genres. Among his most famous songs are “Drown in My Own Tears,” a No. 1 record for Ray Charles, and “Blues Stay Away from Me,” which he co-wrote.
Henry Bernard Glover was born in Hot Springs (Garland County) on May 21, 1921, to John Dixon Glover, who was a bathhouse attendant, and Pearl Ware Glover, a homemaker; he had two siblings, Willie and Nelson. Although his non-musician parents were unenthusiastic about his musical pursuits, Glover spent much of his youth playing the cornet and piano and soaking up gospel music, as well as the country, jazz, and R&B he heard on the radio and on records. After graduating from Langston High School in Hot Springs, he attended Alabama A&M in Huntsville on a music scholarship, earning a BS in 1943. Glover relocated to Detroit, Michigan, and enrolled in Wayne University, but before he completed his master’s degree, he was hired by bandleader Buddy Johnson to play trumpet and arrange for his band.
In 1945, while in Cincinnati, Ohio, with the Lucky Millinder Orchestra, Glover met Syd Nathan of the newly formed King Records. King recorded almost every popular musical genre and flourished by adopting a color-blind approach to its artists, conducting racially mixed recording sessions, as well as encouraging its country singers to record R&B songs and R&B singers to record country ones. In 1947, Nathan hired Glover as A&R director for the short-lived King subsidiary Queen Records, making him the nation’s second Black record executive; the first was Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) native J. Mayo Williams of Decca Records. After Nathan dissolved Queen into King, Glover moved to Cincinnati to hone his skills in recording, producing, and songwriting, overseeing country sessions as well as R&B ones. Relocating to King’s New York office in 1950, he produced and wrote songs with R&B singer and saxophonist Bull Moose Jackson, a practice he repeated often with other artists from the late 1940s to the 1960s. Both Nathan and Glover had an ear for a hit, but whereas Nathan was often abrasive in the studio, Glover was an easy presence.
Glover worked with many country (“hillbilly”) artists beginning in the 1940s, including Moon Mullican, the York Brothers, and Grandpa Jones. Among Glover’s most important contributions to country music is his work in Cincinnati with the Delmore Brothers, who had been stars at the Grand Ole Opry in the 1930s but were floundering in the early 1940s. The duo recorded its most influential work at King, much of it under Glover. He provided the opening riff of “Blues Stay Away from Me,” which has been covered regularly since it appeared in 1949. (Another co-writer of the song was frequent Delmore collaborator and Arkansas native Wayne Raney.) Nathan and Glover directed the Delmores toward boogie–woogie, blues, and R&B and contributed to setting popular music on a path toward rock and roll.
In 1955, Glover signed Arkansas native Little Willie John to a King recording contract. John recorded almost all his studio work with King, often with Glover in charge. Glover produced John’s biggest hit, “Fever,” in 1956. The song topped the Billboard R&B charts and has been covered often, including by Peggy Lee in 1958 and Madonna in 1993.
Glover stayed at King Records until 1959, when Nathan attempted to attach blame to Glover for the Payola scandal (songs being made popular through record companies paying for radio play). He moved for a brief period to Hy Weiss’s Old Town Records and in 1961 became head of A&R for Gee Records, a subsidiary of Morris Levy’s Roulette Records. Levy provided Glover the gateway to establish his own Glover Records, which produced a handful of hits. Glover’s success continued as he wrote and produced songs during the dance craze era in the years preceding the arrival of the Beatles. These songs include “Peppermint Twist,” a hit for Joey Dee; “California Sun,” recorded first by Joe Jones and made a hit by the Rivieras; and “Let the Little Girl Dance,” sung by Billy Bland. Leaving Roulette in 1966, Glover returned to King in the late 1960s (Syd Nathan died in 1968). Financially secure, Glover was less active in the 1970s.
Glover was, in the mid-1960s, the first to record the Hawks, the backing band for yet another Arkansas native, Ronnie Hawkins, a group that would be later known as the Band, Bob Dylan’s future backing band. Glover released two singles by the group, identified on the Ware label as the Canadian Squires. Glover would stay involved with the Band into the 1970s. With the group’s singer-drummer, Levon Helm of Marvell (Phillips County), he produced The Muddy Waters Woodstock Album (1975), which won a Grammy in 1975, and he contributed two songs to Helm’s first solo album, Levon Helm & the RCO All-Stars (1977). He also contributed horn arrangements for the Band’s film The Last Waltz (1978).
Thirty-nine of Glover’s written/produced songs appeared on the Billboard R&B chart. The long list of artists produced by and/or covering songs written by Glover (some under the pseudonym Henry Bernard) is a who’s who of popular American music from the 1940s to the 1970s, including Wynonie Harris, Bill Doggett, James Brown, Sam and Dave, Rosemary Clooney, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, Sonny Stitt, Ella Fitzgerald, Lonnie Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Freddie King, the Merseybeats, the Zombies, Aretha Franklin, Paul Butterfield, and the Ramones.
In 1986, Glover was honored by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which placed him on its Honor Roll of A&R Producers. Glover died on April 7, 1991, in St. Albans, Queens, New York, of a heart attack. He was survived by his wife, Doris, and two children. He was inducted into the Arkansas Walk of Fame in 2021, and a small park in Hot Springs was named in his honor.
For additional information:
Clancy, Sean. “Singing His Praises.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 29, 2021, pp. 1E, 6E. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/apr/29/singing-his-praises/ (accessed May 20, 2021).
Duckett, Nick. Liner Notes. The Henry Glover Story. 2 vols. Rhythm and Blues Records, 2012.
Fox, Jon Hartley. King of the Queen City: The Story of King Records. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009.
Rumble, John W. “Roots of Rock & Roll: Henry Glover at King Records.” Journal of Country Music 14, no. 2 (1992): 30–42.
Bryan L. Moore
Arkansas State University
Last Updated: 05/20/2021