LaBudde Special Collections | Dave E. Dexter, Jr. Collection
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The Dave E. Dexter, Jr. Collection consists of a variety of material including correspondence, writings and photographs from the noted music critic, writer, and record producer from Kansas City, Missouri. Dexter’s correspondence with Capitol Record executives and other individuals provide pertinent information concerning the recording industry. His prolific writings are reflected in numerous formats from record liner notes to typed drafts and published works, among them Downbeat and Metronome magazines and three important books on jazz: Jazz Cavalcade, The Jazz Story, and the autobiographical Playback. The collection, which includes over 2000 photographs, is especially valuable for the research of the early history of the record industry during the 1930s and 1940s, as well as the development of jazz and popular music.
Dave E. Dexter, Jr. (1915-1990) was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. After graduating from Thacher Elementary School and Northeast High School in Kansas City, he went to Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri. During his two years there from 1933-1935, he wrote sports news for the Kansas City Star principally so that he could buy phonograph records.
He studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he was president of Sigma Delta Chi and a member of the Delta Upsilon social fraternity. During the summer of 1936, Dexter was hired as a reporter by the Kansas City Journal-Post. In 1938, he joined Downbeat magazine in Chicago and was later transferred to New York. He left Downbeat after four years.
For a short period, Dexter wrote scripts for a weekly network radio program featuring Jimmy Dorsey's Orchestra before moving to Los Angeles, where he joined newly-established Capitol Records in 1943. During his three-decade service to Capitol Records, he was in charge of artists and repertoire, and he was eventually promoted to Executive Producer for Artists and Repertoire in 1967. In 1955, Dexter began traveling around the world assembling over 400 albums of representative national and ethnic music under the title Capitol of the World. He also served as editor to the Capitol News, a monthly magazine of the record company. He left Capitol Records in 1975. In the same year, Dexter became chief copy editor of Billboard while also producing records and liner notes for various independent labels.
Dexter was a well-known music critic and record producer, as well as a prolific writer. He brought such big name artists as Frank Sinatra, Stan Kenton, Peggy Lee and the Beatles to Capitol Records.
He also produced the original recording of Duke Ellington's Satin Doll. After his work with Capitol, Dexter wrote numerous magazine articles as well as record liner notes for various labels. His extensive writing also produced three important books on jazz. In 1975, he became advisor to the Veterans Administration, producing Here's to Veterans, a long-running radio show which aired for many years over 3000 radio stations. In addition to his other activities, Dexter composed several jazz tunes, most of which were released under pseudonyms.
Although Dexter spent most of his life in Hollywood, he never forgot his roots in Kansas City. As a music critic, he wrote several articles on Kansas City jazz that helped to spread the fame of Count Basie, Jay McShann and many others. In 1949 while working at Capitol, he began returning to Kansas City where he produced recordings of Julia Lee. During these visits he usually stayed with his parents who lived on Windsor Avenue. In 1986, Kansas City Mayor Richard Berkley and the Kansas City Jazz Commission honored Dexter with a citation plaque for his contributions to Kansas City jazz.
In additional to music, Dexter was an avid baseball and football fan. He served as a founder, coach and president of the Encino (California) Little League, editor of the UCLA Bruin Bench and president of the Birmingham High School Dads Club Executive Board. Dave Dexter, Jr. died April 19, 1990, in Sherman Oaks, California.
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LaBudde Special Collections | UMKC Miller Nichols Library | 800 E. 51st Street | Kansas City, MO 64110
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Stuart Hinds, Assistant Dean for Special Collections & Archives