If Syd Nathan was the business mind behind King Records, then Henry Glover was certainly one of the company’s musical geniuses. Growing up in the 1920s in the resort town of Hot Springs, Arkansas, Glover’s early musical influences included the white country music on the radio and the blues and jazz played by black street singers as well as the formal training he received at Alabama A&M. After college, he toured with Lucky Millinder’s band until Nathan asked Glover to become an Artist & Repertoire man at King.
Glover was one of the first black men in the United States to hold an executive position at a record company. His work at King was part of what made the company’s interplay between black and white music possible. Glover recorded with a huge range of musicians. He wrote black-influenced boogie and blues music with white artists like Moon Mullican and the Delmore Brothers. He produced black R&B singers Bull Moose Jackson and Wynonie Harris singing covers of country songs. This type of crossing over audiences, covering songs, and blending genres was the foundation upon which rock’n’roll was built, and Henry Glover can be considered one of its early architects.
Glover’s musical talent was not the only reason he was so valuable to King Records. Henry’s calm, businesslike demeanor in the studio provided an essential counterpoint to the hot-tempered and hard-headed Syd Nathan. Glover got along well with the musicians, and many considered him a mentor or a friend. Glover and Nathan also had a friendship strong enough to last through the strains of business and racism in midcentury America. Glover was savvy enough to make sure he got his fair share of copyrights and royalties in a cutthroat business. He also knew the South well enough to be cautious when traveling: he sometimes posed as chauffeur to Nathan or other white friends for easier passage. Henry Glover was a man of many hats, brilliant at producing, writing, arranging, and playing music. His various aptitudes helped make King Records the groundbreaking institution that it was.