Teddy Wilson

Theodore Shaw “Teddy” Wilson (November 24, 1912 – July 31, 1986) was an American jazz pianist whose sophisticated and elegant style was featured on the records of many of the biggest names in jazz, including Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.


“Where or When”

Wilson was born in Austin, Texas in 1912. He studied piano and violin at Tuskegee Institute. After working in the Lawrence “Speed” Webb band, with Louis Armstrong and also “understudying” Earl Hines in Hines’s Grand Terrace Cafe Orchestra, Wilson joined Benny Carter‘s Chocolate Dandies in 1933. In 1935 he joined the Benny Goodman Trio (which consisted of Goodman, Wilson and drummer Gene Krupa, later expanded to the Benny Goodman Quartet with the addition of Lionel Hampton). The trio performed during the big band’s intermissions. By joining the trio, Wilson became the first black musician to perform in public with a previously all-white jazz group.

Noted jazz producer and writer John Hammond was instrumental in getting Wilson a contract with Brunswick, starting in 1935, to record hot swing arrangements of the popular songs of the day, with the growing jukebox trade in mind. He recorded fifty hit records with various singers such as Lena Horne and Helen Ward, including many of Billie Holiday‘s greatest successes. During these years he also took part in many highly regarded sessions with a wide range of important swing musicians, such as Lester Young, Roy Eldridge, Charlie Shavers, Red Norvo, Buck Clayton and Ben Webster.

“But Not For Me”

Wilson formed his own short-lived big band in 1939, then led a sextet at Café Society from 1940 to 1944. He was dubbed the “Marxist Mozart” by Howard “Stretch” Johnson due to his support for left-wing causes (he performed in benefit concerts for The New Masses journal and for Russian War Relief, and chaired the Artists’ Committee to elect Benjamin J. Davis).[1] In the 1950s he taught at the Juilliard School. Wilson can be seen appearing as himself in the motion picture The Benny Goodman Story (1955).

Wilson lived quietly in suburban Hillsdale, New Jersey in the 1960s and 1970s.[2] He performed as a soloist and with pick-up groups until the final years of his life. Teddy Wilson died on July 31, 1986.

He was interred at Fairview Cemetery in New Britain, CT

“Don’t Be That Way” with Benny Goodman

“Body and Soul”

“What A Little Moonlight Can Do” with Billie Holiday

Sources: wikipedia, youtube. musicsover.com

Alt. Bio

Teddy Wilson
November 24, 1912 – July 31, 1986

Teddy Wilson was a much respected jazz pianist who came from the great music city of Austin, TX.  His smooth-as-silk style could be heard on recordings by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman and Billie Holiday.  One of Wilson’s first professional gigs was playing alongside Bennny Goodman and Gene Krupa in the Benny Goodman Trio, later a quartet with the addition of Lionel Hampton.  When he joined the trio, Wilson became the first known African-American to perform professionally in public with a previously all-white group.  With the help of legendary producer,  John Hammond, Wilson recorded some 50 hit records throughout the late ’30s.  By the ’40s, he was leading his own sextet, and by the ’50s, he was teaching at Julliard.   Wilson spent the last couple of decades of his life quietly enjoying his life close to home until his passing of natural causes on 1986.

Bunny Berigan

Rowland Bernard “Bunny” Berigan (November 2, 1908 – June 2, 1942) was an Americanjazztrumpeter who rose to fame during the swing era, but whose virtuosity and influence were shortened by a losing battle with alcoholism that ended in his early death at age 33. He composed the jazz instrumentals “Chicken and Waffles” and “Blues” in 1935. His 1937 classic jazz recording “I Can’t Get Started” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1975.

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“I Can’t Get Started” Interestingly, this song was written by Vernon Duke and Ira Gershwin, though George was alive and collaborating with Ira on most songs.

Berigan was born in Hilbert, Wisconsin,[1] the son of William Berigan and Mamie Schlitzberg, and raised in Fox Lake, Wisconsin. A musical child prodigy, having learned the violin and trumpet at an early age, Berigan played in local orchestras by his late teens before auditioning for the successful Hal Kemp orchestra in 1928 or 1929.

“Until Today”

Kemp first spurned the young trumpeter, reputedly because Berigan at the time had an uncertain tone, but any deficiencies were apparently resolved a year and a half later: this time, in mid-1930, Kemp hired Berigan. Berigan’s first recorded trumpet solos came with the Kemp orchestra, and he was with the unit when they toured England later in the year.

By the time the Kemp unit returned to the U.S. in 1931, Berigan, like fellow trumpeter Manny Klein, became a sought-after studio musician; Fred Rich, Freddy Martin and Ben Selvin were just some who sought his services for record dates. Berigan recorded his first vocal, “At Your Command”, with Rich that year. From late 1932 through 1933, Berigan was also employed by Paul Whiteman, before playing with Abe Lyman’s band in 1934.

“The Prisoner’s Song”

He continued freelancing in the recording and radio studios, most notably with the Dorsey Brothers and on Glenn Miller’s earliest recording date as a leader in 1935, playing on “Solo Hop”. At the same time, however, Berigan made the association that graduated him to fame in his own right: he joined Benny Goodman’s re-forming band. Legendary jazz talent scout and producer John Hammond, who also became Goodman’s brother-in-law in due course, later wrote that he helped persuade Gene Krupa to re-join Goodman, with whom he’d had an earlier falling-out, by mentioning that Berigan, whom Krupa admired, was already committed to the new ensemble. With Berigan and Krupa both on-board, the Goodman band made the legendary, often disheartening tour that ended with their unexpectedly headline-making stand at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, the stand often credited with the “formal” launch of the swing era. Berigan left Goodman to spend some time with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra; his solo on the Dorsey hit “Marie” became considered one of his signature performances. Then, in 1937, Berigan assembled a band to record under his name, picking the then-little known Ira Gershwin/Vernon Duke composition, “I Can’t Get Started“. Berigan’s crisp trumpet work and passable vocal made the song the biggest hit of his career and his theme for the rest of his life. Berigan modeled his trumpet style in part on Louis Armstrong’s style, and often acknowledged Armstrong as his own idol. Armstrong, for his part, returned the compliment after Berigan’s death, saying the only thing wrong with Berigan was that he died too young.

“A Study In Brown”

Berigan got the itch to lead his own band full-time and did so for about three years. Some of their records were equal in standard to the sides he cut with Goodman and Dorsey, but they weren’t financially successful and Berigan was known to fret over a business sense that wasn’t quite equal to his musical talent. Bunny also began a torrid affair with singer Lee Wiley around this time. Already a heavy drinker, the business stress of bandleading drove Berigan to drink even more heavily. Nevertheless, musicians considered him an excellent bandleader; several notable players came into and out of the Berigan orchestra during its short life: Buddy Rich (a fellow Dorsey alumnus), Gus Bivona, Davie Tough, Danny Richards, Joe Bushkin, Ray Conniff, Ruth Bradley, Hank Wayland, Jack Sperling, Bama Warwick, Helen Ward, Sid Weiss, Morty Stuhlmaker, Hymie Shertzer, Bob Jenney, Al Jennings, Buddy Koss, Steve Lipkins, Kathleen Lane, Joe Dixon, Georgie Auld, Joe Lipman, George Wettling, Clyde Rounds, and Tommy Morgan.

“Small Fry”

Berigan was also a fixture on CBS Radio’s Saturday Night Swing Club broadcasts from 1937 to 1940, a coast-to-coast broadcast that helped further popularize jazz as the swing era climbed to its peak. Berigan’s business troubles drove him to declare bankruptcy in 1940 and re-join Tommy Dorsey for a brief period before leaving to form a new small group to play mostly one-night stands. By this time, however, the touring grind became too much: during one such tour, Berigan was hospitalized with pneumonia in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. But his doctors discovered worse news: Berigan by now was stricken with cirrhosis of the liver. His doctors advised him to stop drinking and to stop playing the trumpet for an undetermined length of time. Berigan couldn’t do either. He returned to New York City and suffered a massive hemorrhage on May 30, 1942. He died two days later in the hospital at age 33. He was survived by his wife, Donna, and his two young daughters, Patricia and Joyce.[2][3] He was buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery south of Fox Lake.[4] His 1937 recording of “I Can’t Get Started” was used in the film Save the Tiger (1973), the Roman Polanski film Chinatown (1974), and a Martin Scorsese short film,The Big Shave (1967). Fox Lake, Wisconsin has kept his memory and influence alive with an annual Bunny Berigan Jazz Jubilee since the early 1970s. At least one of Berigan’s Saturday Night Swing Club dates, a performance from Manhattan Center in New York on 26 September 1939, has survived to circulate among jazz and old-time radio collectors alike.


Sources: wikipedia, youtube,imdb.com

Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith (April 15, 1894 – September 26, 1937) was an American blues singer.

Sometimes referred to as “The Empress of the Blues,” Smith was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s.[1] She is often regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era and, along with Louis Armstrong, a major influence on subsequent jazz vocalists.[2]

The 1900 census indicates that Bessie Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in July 1892. However, the 1910 census recorded her birthday as April 15, 1894, a date that appears on all subsequent documents and was observed by the entire Smith family. Census data also contributes to controversy about the size of her family. The 1870 and 1880 censuses report three older half-siblings, while later interviews with Smith’s family and contemporaries did not include these individuals among her siblings.

Bessie Smith was the daughter of Laura (née Owens) and William Smith. William Smith was a laborer and part-time Baptist preacher (he was listed in the 1870 census as a “minister of the gospel“, in Moulton, Lawrence, Alabama.) He died before his daughter could remember him. By the time she was nine, she had lost her mother as well. Her older sister Viola took charge of caring for her siblings.[3]

1929 “Saint Louis Blues”

To earn money for their impoverished household, Bessie Smith and her brother Andrew began busking on the streets of Chattanooga as a duo: she singing and dancing, he accompanying her on guitar. Their favorite location was in front of the White Elephant Saloon at Thirteenth and Elm streets in the heart of the city’s African-American community.

“Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”

In 1904, her oldest brother, Clarence, covertly left home by joining a small traveling troupe owned by Moses Stokes. “If Bessie had been old enough, she would have gone with him,” said Clarence’s widow, Maud. “That’s why he left without telling her, but Clarence told me she was ready, even then. Of course, she was only a child.”[4]

In 1912, Clarence returned to Chattanooga with the Stokes troupe. He arranged for its managers, Lonnie and Cora Fisher, to give Smith an audition. She was hired as a dancer rather than a singer, because the company also included the notable singer Ma Rainey.

“Gimme A Pigfoot”

By the early 1920s, Smith had starred with Sidney Bechet in How Come?, a musical that made its way to Broadway. She spent several years working out of Atlanta, Georgia‘s 81 Theater, and performing in black theaters along the East Coast. Following a run-in with the producer of How Come?, Smith was replaced by Alberta Hunter and returned to Philadelphia, where she had taken up residence.

There, she met and fell in love with Jack Gee, a security guard whom she married on June 7, 1923, just as her first recordings were being released by Columbia Records. The marriage was a stormy one, with infidelity on both sides. During the marriage, Smith became the biggest headliner on the black Theater Owners Booking Association (T.O.B.A.) circuit. Her show sometimes featured as many as 40 troupers and made her the highest-paid black entertainer of her day. Gee was impressed by the money, but never adjusted to show business life, or to Smith’s bisexuality. In 1929, when Smith learned of Gee’s affair with Gertrude Saunders, another performer, she ended the marriage, though she never sought a divorce.

Smith eventually found a common-law husband in an old friend, Richard Morgan, who was Lionel Hampton‘s uncle and the antithesis of her husband. She stayed with him until her death.[5]

All contemporary accounts indicate that while Rainey did not teach Smith to sing, she probably helped her develop a stage presence.[6] Smith began forming her own act around 1913, at Atlanta’s “81” Theater. By 1920 Smith had established a reputation in the South and along the Eastern Seaboard.

“I’m Wild About That Thing”

In 1920, sales figures for “Crazy Blues,” an Okeh Records recording by singer Mamie Smith (no relation) pointed to a new market. The recording industry had not directed its product to blacks, but the success of the record led to a search for female blues singers. Bessie Smith was signed by Columbia Records in 1923 and her first session for Columbia was February 15, 1923. For most of 1923, her records were issued on Columbia’s regular A- series; when the label decided to establish a “race records” series, Smith’s “Cemetery Blues” (September 26, 1923) was the first issued.

She scored a big hit with her first release, a coupling of “Gulf Coast Blues” and “Downhearted Blues“, which its composer Alberta Hunter had already turned into a hit on the Paramount label. Smith became a headliner on the black T.O.B.A. circuit and rose to become its top attraction in the 1920s.[7] Working a heavy theater schedule during the winter months and doing tent tours the rest of the year (eventually traveling in her own railroad car), Smith became the highest-paid black entertainer of her day.[8] Columbia nicknamed her “Queen of the Blues,” but a PR-minded press soon upgraded her title to “Empress”.

“Do Your Duty”

She made some 160 recordings for Columbia, often accompanied by the finest musicians of the day, most notably Louis Armstrong, James P. Johnson, Joe Smith, Charlie Green and Fletcher Henderson. Smith’s career was cut short by a combination of the Great Depression (which all but put the recording industry out of business) and the advent of “talkies“, which spelled the end for vaudeville. She never stopped performing, however. While the days of elaborate vaudeville shows were over, Smith continued touring and occasionally singing in clubs. In 1929, she appeared in a Broadway flop called Pansy, a musical in which top critics said she was the only asset. In 1929, Smith made her only film appearance, starring in a two-reeler titled St. Louis Blues, based on W. C. Handy‘s song of the same name. In the film, directed by Dudley Murphy and shot in Astoria, she sings the title song accompanied by members of Fletcher Henderson‘s orchestra, the Hall Johnson Choir, pianist James P. Johnson and a string section — a musical environment radically different from any found on her recordings.

1927 “After You’ve Gone”

In 1933, John Hammond, who also mentored Billie Holiday, asked Smith to record four sides for Okeh (which had been acquired by Columbia Records in 1925). He claimed to have found her in semi-obscurity, working as a hostess in a speakeasy on Philadelphia’s Ridge Avenue.[9] Bessie Smith worked at Art’s Cafe on Ridge Avenue, but not as a hostess and not until the summer of 1936. In 1933, when she made the Okeh sides, Bessie was still touring. Hammond was known for his selective memory and gratuitous embellishments.[10]

“Tain’t Nobody’s Business”

Bessie Smith was paid a non-royalty fee of $37.50 for each selection and these Okeh sides, which were her last recordings. Made November 24, 1933, they serve as a hint of the transformation she made in her performances as she shifted her blues artistry into something that fit the “swing era“. The relatively modern accompaniment is notable. The band included such swing era musicians as trombonist Jack Teagarden, trumpeter Frankie Newton, tenor saxophonist Chu Berry, pianist Buck Washington, guitarist Bobby Johnson, and bassist Billy Taylor. Benny Goodman, who happened to be recording with Ethel Waters in the adjoining studio, dropped by and is barely audible on one selection. Hammond was not entirely pleased with the results, preferring to have Smith revisit her old blues groove. Her “Take Me For A Buggy Ride” and “Gimme a Pigfoot” continue to be ranked among her most popular recordings.[11].

On September 26, 1937, Smith was critically injured in a car accident while traveling along U.S. Route 61 between Memphis, Tennessee, and Clarksdale, Mississippi. Her lover, Richard Morgan, was driving and, probably mesmerized by the long stretch of straight road, misjudged the speed of a slow-moving truck ahead of him. Tire marks at the scene suggested that Morgan tried to avoid the truck by driving around its left side, but he hit the rear of the truck side-on at high speed. The tailgate of the truck sheared off the wooden roof of Smith’s old Packard. Smith, who was in the passenger seat, probably with her right arm or elbow out the window, took the full brunt of the impact. Morgan escaped without injuries.

“Sobbin Hearted Blues” 1925 with Louis Armstrong

The first people on the scene were a Memphis surgeon, Dr. Hugh Smith (no relation), and his fishing partner Henry Broughton. In the early 1970s, Dr. Smith gave a detailed account of his experience to Bessie’s biographer Chris Albertson. This is the most reliable eyewitness testimony about the events surrounding Bessie Smith’s death.

After stopping at the accident scene, Dr. Smith examined Bessie Smith, who was lying in the middle of the road with obviously severe injuries. He estimated she had lost about a half-pint of blood, and immediately noted a major traumatic injury to her right arm; it had been almost completely severed at the elbow. But Dr. Smith was emphatic that this arm injury alone did not cause her death. Although the light was poor, he observed only minor head injuries. He attributed her death to extensive and severe crush injuries to the entire right side of her body, consistent with a “sideswipe” collision.[12]

Broughton and Dr. Smith moved the singer to the shoulder of the road. Dr. Smith dressed her arm injury with a clean handkerchief and asked Broughton to go to a house about 500 feet off the road to call an ambulance.

By the time Broughton returned, about 25 minutes had elapsed since the accident and Bessie Smith was in shock. Time passed with no sign of the ambulance, so Dr. Smith suggested that they take her into Clarksdale in his car. He and Broughton had almost finished clearing the back seat when they heard the sound of a car approaching at high speed. Dr. Smith flashed his lights in warning, but the oncoming car failed to stop and plowed into the doctor’s car at full speed. It sent his car careening into Bessie Smith’s overturned Packard, completely wrecking it. The oncoming car ricocheted off Dr. Smith’s car into the ditch on the right, barely missing Broughton and Bessie Smith.[13]

“A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight”

The young couple in the new car did not have life-threatening injuries. Two ambulances arrived on the scene from Clarksdale; one from the black hospital, summoned by Mr. Broughton, the other from the white hospital, acting on a report from the truck driver, who had not seen the accident victims.

Bessie Smith was taken to Clarksdale’s Afro-American Hospital where her right arm was amputated. She died that morning without regaining consciousness. After Smith’s death, an often repeated but now discredited story emerged about the circumstances; namely, that she had died as a result of having been refused admission to a “whites only” hospital in Clarksdale. Jazz writer/producer John Hammond gave this account in an article in the November 1937 issue of Down Beat magazine. The circumstances of Smith’s death and the rumor promoted by Hammond formed the basis for Edward Albee‘s 1959 one-act play The Death of Bessie Smith.

“The Bessie Smith ambulance would not have gone to a white hospital, you can forget that.” Dr. Smith told Albertson. “Down in the Deep South cotton country, no ambulance driver, or white driver, would even have thought of putting a colored person off in a hospital for white folks.”[14]

Smith’s funeral was held in Philadelphia on Monday, October 4, 1937. Her body was originally laid out at Upshur’s funeral home. As word of her death spread through Philadelphia’s black community, the body had to be moved to the O.V. Catto Elks Lodge to accommodate the estimated 10,000 mourners who filed past her coffin on Sunday, October 3.[15] Contemporary newspapers reported that her funeral was attended by about seven thousand people. Far fewer mourners attended the burial at Mount Lawn Cemetery, in nearby Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania. Gee thwarted all efforts to purchase a stone for his estranged wife, once or twice pocketing money raised for that purpose.[16]

The grave remained unmarked until August 7, 1970, when a tombstone—paid for by singer Janis Joplin and Juanita Green, who as a child had done housework for Smith—was erected.[17]

The Afro-American Hospital, now the Riverside Hotel in Clarksdale, was the site of the dedication of the fourth historic marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail.[18]

Lionel Hampton

Lionel Leo Hampton (April 20, 1908 – August 31, 2002) was an American jazz vibraphonist, pianist, percussionist, bandleader and actor. Like Red Norvo, he was one of the first jazz vibraphone players. Hampton ranks among the great names in jazz history, having worked with a who’s who of jazz musicians, from Benny Goodman and Buddy Rich to Charlie Parker and Quincy Jones. In 1992, he was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. Lionel Hampton was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1908, and was raised by his grandmother. Shortly after he was born, he and his mother moved to her hometown Birmingham, Alabama.[1][2][3]. He spent his early childhood in Kenosha, Wisconsin before he and his family moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1916. As a youth, Hampton was a member of the Bud Billiken Club, an alternative to the Boy Scouts of America due to segregation.[4] During the 1920s—while still a teenager—Hampton took xylophone lessons from Jimmy Bertrand and started playing drums.[5] Hampton was raised Roman Catholic, and started out playing fife and drum at the Holy Rosary Academy near Chicago.[6]

“Midnight Sun”

Lionel Hampton began his career playing drums for the Chicago Defender Newsboy’s Band while still a teenager in Chicago, a group that was led by Major N. Clark Smith. He moved to California in 1927 or 1928, playing drums for the Dixieland Blues-Blowers. He made his recording debut with The Quality Serenaders led by Paul Howard, then left for Culver City and drummed for the Les Hite band at Sebastian’s Cotton Club. During this period he began practicing on the vibraphone. In 1930 Louis Armstrong came to California and hired the Les Hite band, asking Hampton if he would play vibes on two songs. So began his career as a vibraphonist, popularizing the use of the instrument ever since.[7]


While working with the Les Hite band, Hampton also occasionally did some performing with Nat Shilkret and his orchestra. During the early 1930s he studied music at the University of Southern California. In 1934 he led his own orchestra, and then appeared in the 1936 Bing Crosby film Pennies From Heaven alongside Louis Armstrong (wearing a mask in a scene while playing drums).[8] Also in November 1936,[10] the Benny Goodman Orchestra came to Los Angeles to play the Palomar Ballroom. John Hammond brought Goodman to see Hampton play. Hampton backed Billie Holiday with the Goodman orchestra, which was discovered by Hammond.[11] and Goodman asked Hampton to join the Benny Goodman Trio, made up of Goodman, Teddy Wilson, and Gene Krupa, expanding it into the Benny Goodman Quartet. The Trio and Quartet were among the first racially integrated jazz groups to record and play before wide audiences,[12][13] and were a leading small-group in an era when jazz was dominated by big bands.

“In The Mood”

While Hampton worked for Goodman in New York, he recorded with several different small groups known as the Lionel Hampton Orchestra as well as assorted small groups within the Goodman band. In 1940 Hampton left the Goodman organization under amicable circumstances to form his own big band.[14]

With Benny Goodman

Hampton’s orchestra became very popular during the 1940s and early 1950s. His third recording with them in 1942 produced a classic version of “Flying Home”, featuring a solo by Illinois Jacquet that paved the way for Rhythm & Blues. The selection became very popular, and so in 1944 Hampton recorded “Flying Home, Number Two” featuring Arnett Cobb. The song went on to become the theme song for all three men. Guitarist Billy Mackel first joined Hampton in 1944, and would perform and record with him almost continuously through the late 1970s.[15] In 1947 he recorded Stardust at a “Just Jazz” concert with Charlie Shavers and Slam Stewart produced by Gene Norman.

“Moonglow” with Benny Goodman

Hampton’s band played in a jazz, merged with rhythm & blues vein from around 1945 to the early 1950s. Represented in recordings on Decca Records, the band included performers that achieved renown in their own right in the 1950s and 1960s, composer and bassist Charles Mingus, saxophonist Johnny Griffin, guitarist Wes Montgomery, vocalist Dinah Washington and keyboardist Milt Buckner. Other noteworthy performers in the orchestra then included trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie, Cat Anderson, Kenny Dorham and Snooky Young, trombonist Jimmy Cleveland and saxophonists Illinois Jacquet and Jerome Richardson.

“How High The Moon” with Art Tatum (my favorite all time pianist!!) and Buddy Rich

In 1953 the orchestra toured Europe with Clifford Brown, Gigi Gryce, George Wallington and Art Farmer in his lineup; Quincy Jones was arranger/trumpeter and Annie Ross sang. Hampton continued to record with small groups and jam sessions during the 1940s and 1950s, with groups including Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum and Buddy DeFranco among others.[16]. In 1955 he was in California working on The Benny Goodman Story he was able to record sessions with Stan Getz and Art Tatum for Norman Granz as well as with his own big band.

Hampton performed with Louis Armstrong and Italian singer Lara Saint Paul at the 1968 Sanremo Music Festival in Italy. The performance created a sensation with Italian audiences, as it broke into a real jazz session.[17] That same year, Hampton received a Papal Medal from Pope Paul VI.

During the 1960s, Hampton’s groups were in decline; he was still performing what had succeeded for him during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. He did not fare much better in the 1970s, though he recorded actively on the Who’s Who Record label.[18]

A scene from “A Star Is Born” =”Stealin Apples”

Beginning in February 1984, Hampton and his band played at the University of Idaho‘s annual jazz festival, which was renamed the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival the following year. In 1987 the UI’s school of music was renamed for Hampton, the first university music school named for a jazz musician.

Hampton remained active until a stroke in Paris in 1991 led to a collapse on stage. That incident, combined with years of chronic arthritis, forced him to cut back drastically on performances. However, he did play at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2001 shortly before his death.[19][20][21]

“Flying Home” 1957

During the 1950s he had a strong interest in Judaism and raised money for Israel. In 1953 he composed a King David suite and performed it in Israel with the Boston Pops Orchestra. Later in life Hampton became a Christian Scientist.[22] Hampton’s wife was his manager throughout much of his career. Many musicians recall that Lionel ran the music and Gladys ran the business. Hampton was a Thirty-three degree Prince Hall freemason in New York, also.[23] In January 1997, his apartment caught fire and destroyed his awards and belongings; Hampton escaped uninjured.[24]

Lionel Hampton died from congestive heart failure on August 31, 2002 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, and is interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York. His funeral was held on September 7, 2002 and featured a performance by Wynton Marsalis and David Ostwald’s Gully Low Jazz Band at Riverside Church in Manhattan; the procession began at The Cotton Club in Harlem.[25][26].

“The History of Jazz

Hampton was deeply involved in the construction of various public housing projects, and founded the Lionel Hampton Development Corporation. Construction began with the Lionel Hampton Houses in Harlem, New York in the 1960s, with the help of then Republican governor Nelson Rockefeller. Hampton’s wife—Gladys Hampton—also was very involved in construction of a housing project in her name—the Gladys Hampton Houses. Gladys died in 1971. In the 1980s, Hampton built another Housing project called Hampton Hills in Newark, New Jersey. Hampton was a staunch Republican and served as a delegate to several Republican National Conventions during his lifetime.[27] He served as Vice-Chairman of the New York Republican County Committee for some years[28] and also was a member of the New York City Human Rights Commission.[29]

“Hey Ba-Ba-Re-Bop” 1945 Hampton wrote this tune

Hampton donated close to $279,000 to Republican campaigns and committees during his lifetime.[30]

Quick Bio Facts

Lionel Hampton

Lionel HamptonBorn: 20-Apr1908
Birthplace: Louisville, KY
Died: 31-Aug2002
Location of death: Manhattan, NY [1]
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, NY

Gender: Male
Religion: Christian Science
Race or Ethnicity: Black
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Jazz Musician

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Jazz vibrophonist and bandleader

Raised Roman Catholic, converted to Christian Science.

[1] Mount Sinai Medical Center, Manhattan, NY.

Father: (declared MIA in WWII)
Wife: Gladys Riddle (m. 1936, d. 1971)

George W. Bush for President
National Republican Senatorial Committee
NEA Jazz Master 1988
Kennedy Center Honor 1992

The Benny Goodman Story (Dec-1955) Himself
A Song is Born (19-Oct-1948) Himself

Sources: Wikipedia, Youtube, nndb.com, imdb.com


Year Album Notes Label
1937–39 Benny Goodman –The Complete RCA Victor Small Group Recordings RCA Records
1937–39 Hot Mallets, Vol. 1 Bluebird Records
1937–39 The Jumpin Five, Vol. 2 Bluebird Records
1938 The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert appearance as sideman for Benny Goodman Columbia Records
1939–40 Tempo and Swing appearances by Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins and Nat “King” Cole Bluebird Records
1944 Star Dust the famous “Just Jazz” jam session Verve Records
1947 with the Just Jazz All Stars Charlie Shavers, Willie Smith, Corky Corcoran, Milt Buckner, Slam Stewart, Jackie Mills, Lee Young GNP Crescendo/Vogue 78s/London Records 1972 transfer
1953–54 The Lionel Hampton Quintet with DeFranco and Peterson. Includes a 17 minute jam on “Flyin Home”. There is also a 5CD box of the complete Verve recordings of the quartets and quintets with Peterson, as well as a number of other compilations and selections. Verve Records
1955 Hamp and Getz Verve Records
1958 The Golden Vibes with a reed quintet Columbia Records
1958 Lionel Audio Fidelity
1960 Silver Vibes with a Trombones And Rhythms (Trombone Quartet) Columbia Records
1963 Benny Goodman Together Again! reunion with Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson & Gene Krupa Columbia Records
1963 You Better Know It!!! with Clark Terry, Ben Webster, Hank Jones, Milt Hinton, Osie Johnson Impulse! Records
1972 Please Sunrise Brunswick Record Corporation
1988 Mostly Blues Jazz Heritage Society
1991 Live at the Blue Note jamming with old friends including trombonist Al Grey Columbia Records
Year Album Notes Label
37–40 Swing Classics – Lionel Hampton and His Jazz Groups Recordings from 1937-1940 Reissued 1961 RCA Victor LPM-2318
39–56 Greatest Hits Selections from above records RCA Victor
42–63 Hamp! GRP/Decca
37–63 The Lionel Hampton Story Selections from all records and eras above Proper


Year Movie Role Director Genre
1933 Girl Without A Room himself Ralph Murphy Comedy
1936 Pennies From Heaven himself Norman Z. McLeod Comedy/Musical
1937 Hollywood Hotel himself Busby Berkeley Musical/Romance
1938 For Auld Lang Syne himself ? Documentary
1948 A Song Is Born himself Howard Hawks Comedy/Musical
1949 Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra himself Will Cowan Music
1955 Musik, Musik and nur Musik himself Ernst Matray Comedy
1955 The Benny Goodman Story himself Valentine Davies Drama
1957 Mister Rock and Roll himself Charles S. Dubin Drama/Musical
1980 But Then She’s Betty Carter himself Michelle Parkerson Documentary

Fletcher Henderson

Fletcher Hamilton Henderson, Jr. (December 18, 1897 – December 28, 1952) was an American pianist, bandleader, arranger and composer, important in the development of big band jazz and swing music. His was one of the most prolific black orchestras and his influence was vast. He was often known as “Smack” Henderson.[1]

Fletcher Henderson was born in Cuthbert, Georgia. He attended Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia and graduated in 1920, where he was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter organization established for African Americans. After graduation, he moved to New York City to attend Columbia University for a master’s degree in chemistry. However, he found his job prospects in chemistry to be very restricted due to his race, and turned to music for a living.

He was recording director for the fledgling Black Swan label from 1921-1923. In 1922 he formed his own band, which was resident first at the Club Alabam then at the Roseland, and quickly became known as the best African-American band in New York. For a time his ideas of arrangement were heavily influenced by those of Paul Whiteman, but when Louis Armstrong joined his orchestra in 1924 Henderson realized there could be a much richer potential for jazz band orchestration. Henderson’s band also boasted the formidable arranging talents of Don Redman (from 1922 to 1927). It’s significant to note during the 1920s and very early 1930s, Henderson actually wrote few, if any, arrangements; most of his recordings were arranged by Don Redman (c. 1923-1927) or Benny Carter (after 1927-c. 1931). As an arranger, Henderson came into his own in the mid-1930s.

“I’ll See You In My Dreams”

His band circa 1925 included Howard Scott, Coleman Hawkins (who started with Henderson in 1923 playing the low tuba parts on bass saxophone and quickly moved to tenor and a leading solo role), Louis Armstrong, Charlie Dixon, Kaiser Marshall, Buster Bailey, Elmer Chambers, Charlie Green, Ralph Escudero and Don Redman.

In 1925, along with fellow composer Henry Troy, he wrote “Gin House Blues“, recorded by Bessie Smith and Nina Simone amongst others. He also wrote the very popular jazz composition “Soft Winds” among others.

1925 “Alabamy Bound”

“Hard Hearted Hannah”

Henderson recorded extensively in the 1920s for numerous labels, including:

“Sleepy Time Gal”

Benny Goodman 1935 -Fletcher Henderson arrangement, “Sometimes I’m Happy”

From 1925-1930, he primarily recorded for Columbia and Brunswick/Vocalion under his own name as well as recording a series of acoustic recordings under the name The Dixie Stompers for Columbia’s Harmony and associated dime store labels (Diva and Velvet Tone). During the 1930s, he recorded for Columbia, Crown (as “Connie’s Inn Orchestra”), ARC (Melotone, Perfect, Oriole, etc.), Victor, Vocalion and Decca.

At one time or another, in addition to Armstrong, lead trumpeters included Henry “Red” Allen, Joe Smith, Rex Stewart, Tommy Ladnier, Doc Cheatham and Roy Eldridge on trumpet. Lead saxophonists included Coleman Hawkins, Buster Bailey, Benny Carter and Chu Berry. Sun Ra also worked as an arranger during the 1940s during Henderson’s engagement at the Club DeLisa in Chicago. Sun Ra himself said that on first hearing Henderson’s orchestra as a teenager he assumed that they must be angels because no human could produce such beautiful music.

Bessie Smith, “Gin House Blues” Fletcher on piano.

Beginning in the early 1930s, Fletcher’s piano-playing younger brother, Horace Henderson contributed to the arrangements of the band. At different times in Horace’s career he was Billie Holiday’s and Lena Horne’s pianist. Later he led a band of his own that also received critical acclaim.

Although Fletcher’s band was very popular, he had little success managing the band. But much of his lack of recognition outside of Harlem had to do more with the times in which he lived. After about 1931, he was well regarded as an arranger – and his arrangements became influential. In addition to his own band he arranged for several other bands, including those of Teddy Hill, Isham Jones, and most famously, Benny Goodman. Henderson’s wife, Leora, said that a major turning point in his life was an auto accident which occurred in 1928. Henderson’s shoulder was injured and he apparently sustained a concussion. Leora claimed that Fletcher was never the same, and that after this point he lost his ambition and became careless. According to Leora, the accident was a major cause of Henderson’s diminishing success. She claims that John Hammond and Benny Goodman arranged to buy Henderson’s arrangements as a way to support Henderson, and points out that Goodman always gave Henderson credit for the arrangements and said that the Henderson band played them better than the Goodman band. In addition, Goodman and Hammond arranged broadcasts and recordings to benefit Henderson when he was ill.[2]

Fletcher’s immortal arrangement of “Sing Sing Sing”

Although Henderson’s music was popular, his band began to fold with the 1929 stock market crash. The loss of financial stability resulted in the selling of many arrangements from his songbooks to the later-to-be-acclaimed “King of Swing” Benny Goodman.

In 1934, Goodman’s Orchestra was selected as a house band for the “Let’s Dance” radio program. Since he needed new charts every week for the show, his friend John Hammond suggested that he purchase some Jazz charts from Henderson. Many of Goodman’s hits from the swing era were played by Henderson and his own band in the late 20s and early 30s. In fact they usually were head arrangements that Fletcher transcribed from his own records and then sold to Goodman.

In 1939 Henderson disbanded his own band and joined Goodman’s, first as both pianist and arranger and then working full-time as the staff arranger. He reformed bands of his own several times in the 1940s, toured with Ethel Waters again in 1948 – 1949. Henderson suffered a stroke in 1950 resulting in partial paralysis that ended his days as a pianist. He died in New York City in 1952.

Benny Goodman in 1985 at the NY Marriott. “Don’t Be That Way” -another one of Fletcher’s unmistakable arrangements.

Henderson, along with Don Redman, established the formula for swing music. The two concocted the recipe every swing band played from (i.e. sections ‘talking’ to one another, ‘hot’ swing). Swing, its popularity spanning over a decade, was the most fashionable form of jazz ever in the U.S.

Henderson was also responsible for bringing Louis Armstrong from Chicago to New York, thus flipping the focal point of jazz in the history of the U.S.

A museum is being established in his memory in Atlanta, Georgia.[3]

Footnote: The success of each of the big bands was largely due to the band’s ability to distinguish itself by coming up with a “sound” of its own. While the band leader, musicians and vocalists were essential components of the band, the arranger, often overlooked, was a key element in establishing a recognizable style and was as important as the band leader’s ability to work with the best song writers in the business. Fletcher Henderson was perhaps the most prolific band arranger from the 1920’s through the 40’s. Benny Goodman once revealed in an interview that without Fletcher’s genius for arranging, things might have turned out completely different. Henderson’s style was so compelling that hints of his arranging can be heard in most of the other prominent arrangers of the time.

Quick Bio Facts:

Fletcher Henderson AKA James Fletcher Henderson

Born: 18-Dec1897
Birthplace: Cuthbert, GA
Died: 29-Dec1952
Location of death: New York City
Cause of death: Stroke
Remains: Buried, Old Cemetery, Cuthbert, GA

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: Black
Occupation: Jazz Musician, Pianist, Conductor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Pioneering swing and jazz bandleader

Father: Fletcher Hamilton Henderson
Mother: Ozie Lena Chapman
Brother: Horace Henderson (musician)

University: BS Chemistry/Mathmatics, Atlanta University (1920)
University: Columbia University

Fletcher Henderson
The Fletcher Henderson Orchestra
The Dixie Stompers Bandleader/Pianist (1925-28)
The Benny Goodman Orchestra (1939 and 1947)

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, nndb.com

Louis Armstrong

Louis Daniel Armstrong[1] (August 4, 1901 – July 6, 1971)[2] nicknamed Satchmo[3] or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana.

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Coming to prominence in the 1920s as an “inventive” cornet and trumpet player, Armstrong was a foundational influence on jazz, shifting the music’s focus from collective improvisation to solo performers. With his distinctive gravelly voice, Armstrong was also an influential singer, demonstrating great dexterity as an improviser, bending the lyrics and melody of a song for expressive purposes. He was also greatly skilled at scat singing, or vocalizing using syllables instead of actual lyrics.

Renowned for his charismatic stage presence and deep, instantly recognizable voice almost as much as for his trumpet-playing, Armstrong’s influence extends well beyond jazz music, and by the end of his career in the 1960s, he was widely regarded as a profound influence on popular music in general.

Armstrong often stated in public interviews that he was born on July 4, 1900,[4] a date that has been noted in many biographies. Although he died in 1971, it was not until the mid-1980s that his true birth date of August 4, 1901 was discovered through the examination of baptismal records.[5]

Dream A Little Dream Of Me”

Armstrong was born into a very poor family in New Orleans, Louisiana, the grandson of slaves. He spent his youth in poverty, in a rough neighborhood of Uptown New Orleans, known as “Back of Town”, as his father, William Armstrong (1881–1922), abandoned the family when Louis was an infant and took up with another woman. His mother, Mary “Mayann” Albert (1886–1942), then left Louis and his younger sister Beatrice Armstrong Collins (1903–1987) in the care of his grandmother, Josephine Armstrong, and at times, his Uncle Isaac. At five, he moved back to live with his mother and her relatives, and saw his father only in parades.

“Mack the knife”- live in 1956

He attended the Fisk School for Boys. It was there that he likely had his first exposure to Creole music. He brought in some money as a paperboy and also by finding discarded food and selling it to restaurants, but it was not enough to keep his mother from prostitution. He hung out in dance halls close to home, where he observed everything from licentious dancing to the quadrille. For extra money he also hauled coal to Storyville, the famed red-light district, and listened to the bands playing in the brothels and dance halls, especially Pete Lala’s where Joe “King” Oliver performed and other famous musicians would drop in to jam.

After dropping out of the Fisk School at age eleven, Armstrong joined a quartet of boys that sang in the streets for money. But he also started to get into trouble. Cornet player Bunk Johnson said he taught Armstrong (then 11) to play by ear at Dago Tony’s Tonk in New Orleans,[6] although in his later years Armstrong gave the credit to Oliver. Armstrong hardly looked back at his youth as the worst of times but instead drew inspiration from it, “Every time I close my eyes blowing that trumpet of mine—I look right in the heart of good old New Orleans…It has given me something to live for.”[7]

Basin Street Blues” 1959 in Stuttgart Germany

Louis Armstrong – trumpet
Trummy Young – trombone
Peanuts Hucko – clarinet
Billy Kyle – piano
Mort Herbert – bass
Danny Barcelona – drums

He also worked for a Lithuanian-Jewish immigrant family, the Karnofskys, who had a junk hauling business and gave him odd jobs. They took him in and treated him as almost a family member, knowing he lived without a father, and would feed and nurture him.[8] He later wrote a memoir of his relationship with the Karnofskys titled, Louis Armstrong + the Jewish Family in New Orleans, La., the Year of 1907. In it he describes his discovery that this family was also subject to discrimination by “other white folks’ nationalities who felt that they were better than the Jewish race. I was only seven years old but I could easily see the ungodly treatment that the White Folks were handing the poor Jewish family whom I worked for.” Armstrong wore a Star of David pendant for the rest of his life and wrote about what he learned from them: “how to live—real life and determination.”[9] The influence of Karnofsky is remembered in New Orleans by the Karnofsky Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to accepting donated musical instruments to “put them into the hands of an eager child who could not otherwise take part in a wonderful learning experience.”[10]

Armstrong developed his cornet playing seriously in the band of the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs, where he had been sent multiple times for general delinquency, most notably for a long term after firing his stepfather’s pistol into the air at a New Year’s Eve celebration, as police records confirm. Professor Peter Davis (who frequently appeared at the Home at the request of its administrator, Captain Joseph Jones)[11] instilled discipline in and provided musical training to the otherwise self-taught Armstrong. Eventually, Davis made Armstrong the band leader. The Home band played around New Orleans and the thirteen year old Louis began to draw attention by his cornet playing, starting him on a musical career.[12] At fourteen he was released from the Home, living again with his father and new stepmother and then back with his mother and also back to the streets and their temptations. Armstrong got his first dance hall job at Henry Ponce’s where Black Benny became his protector and guide. He hauled coal by day and played his cornet at night.

Louis Armstrong with Velma Middleton & His All Stars – “Saint Louis Blues” Album: Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy -Year: 1954

He also played in the city’s frequent brass band parades and listened to older musicians every chance he got, learning from Bunk Johnson, Buddy Petit, Kid Ory, and above all, Joe “King” Oliver, who acted as a mentor and father figure to the young musician. Later, he played in the brass bands and riverboats of New Orleans, and began traveling with the well-regarded band of Fate Marable, which toured on a steamboat up and down the Mississippi River. He described his time with Marable as, “going to the University,” since it gave him a much wider experience working with written arrangements.

In 1919, Joe Oliver decided to go north and he resigned his position in Kid Ory‘s band, then regarded as the best hot jazz group in New Orleans. Armstrong replaced his mentor in Ory’s band. He also became second trumpet for the Tuxedo Brass Band, a society band.[13]

On March 19, 1918, Louis married Daisy Parker from Gretna, Louisiana. They adopted a 3-year-old boy, Clarence Armstrong, whose mother, Louis’s cousin Flora, died soon after giving birth. Clarence Armstrong was mentally disabled (the result of a head injury at an early age) and Louis would spend the rest of his life taking care of him.[14] Louis’s marriage to Parker failed quickly and they separated. She died shortly after the divorce.

“A Song Is Born” (1948). All the greats of Jazz are here:
Lionel Hampton, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman,Golden Gate Quartet, Tommy Dorsey, Mel Powell, Louis Bellson, Charlie Barnett

Through all his riverboat experience Armstrong’s musicianship began to mature and expand. At twenty, he could now read music and he started to be featured in extended trumpet solos, one of the first jazzmen to do this, injecting his own personality and style into his solo turns. He had learned how to create a unique sound and also started using singing and patter in his performances.[15] In 1922, Armstrong joined the exodus to Chicago, where he had been invited by his mentor, Joe “King” Oliver, to join his Creole Jazz Band and where he could make a sufficient income so that he no longer needed to supplement his music with day labor jobs. It was a boom time in Chicago and though race relations were poor, the “Windy City” was teeming with jobs for blacks, who were making good wages in factories and had plenty to spend on entertainment.

“La Vie En Rose”

Oliver’s band was the best and most influential hot jazz band in Chicago in the early 1920s, at a time when Chicago was the center of the jazz universe. Armstrong lived like a king in Chicago, in his own apartment with his own private bath (his first). Excited as he was to be in Chicago, he began his career-long pastime of writing nostalgic letters to friends in New Orleans. As Armstrong’s reputation grew, he was challenged to “cutting contests” by hornmen trying to displace the new phenom, who could blow two hundred high C’s in a row.[16] Armstrong made his first recordings on the Gennett and Okeh labels (jazz records were starting to boom across the country), including taking some solos and breaks, while playing second cornet in Oliver’s band in 1923. At this time, he met Hoagy Carmichael (with whom he would collaborate later) who was introduced by friend Bix Beiderbecke, who now had his own Chicago band.

Armstrong enjoyed working with Oliver, but Louis’s second wife, pianist Lil Hardin Armstrong, urged him to seek more prominent billing and develop his newer style away from the influence of Oliver. Armstrong took the advice of his wife and left Oliver’s band. For a year Armstrong played in Fletcher Henderson‘s band in New York on many recordings. After playing in New York, Armstrong returned to Chicago, playing in large orchestras; there he created his most important early recordings.[17] Lil had her husband play classical music in church concerts to broaden his skill and improve his solo play and she prodded him into wearing more stylish attire to make him look sharp and to better offset his growing girth. Lil’s influence eventually undermined Armstrong’s relationship with his mentor, especially concerning his salary and additional moneys that Oliver held back from Armstrong and other band members. Armstrong and Oliver parted amicably in 1924. Shortly afterward, Armstrong received an invitation to go to New York City to play with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, the top African-American band of the day. Armstrong switched to the trumpet to blend in better with the other musicians in his section. His influence upon Henderson’s tenor sax soloist, Coleman Hawkins, can be judged by listening to the records made by the band during this period.

From Hello Dolly, Louis and Barbra Streisand

Armstrong quickly adapted to the more tightly controlled style of Henderson, playing trumpet and even experimenting with the trombone and the other members quickly took up Armstrong’s emotional, expressive pulse. Soon his act included singing and telling tales of New Orleans characters, especially preachers.[18] The Henderson Orchestra was playing in the best venues for white-only patrons, including the famed Roseland Ballroom, featuring the classy arrangements of Don Redman. Duke Ellington’s orchestra would go to Roseland to catch Armstrong’s performances and young hornmen around town tried in vain to outplay him, splitting their lips in their attempts.

During this time, Armstrong also made many recordings on the side, arranged by an old friend from New Orleans, pianist Clarence Williams; these included small jazz band sides with the Williams Blue Five (some of the best pairing Armstrong with one of Armstrong’s few rivals in fiery technique and ideas, Sidney Bechet) and a series of accompaniments with blues singers, including Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Alberta Hunter.

Armstrong returned to Chicago in 1925 due mostly to the urging of his wife, who wanted to pump up Armstrong’s career and income. He was content in New York but later would concede that she was right and that the Henderson Orchestra was limiting his artistic growth. In publicity, much to his chagrin, she billed him as “the World’s Greatest Trumpet Player”. At first he was actually a member of the Lil Hardin Armstrong Band and working for his wife.[19] He began recording under his own name for Okeh with his famous Hot Five and Hot Seven groups, producing hits such as “Potato Head Blues“, “Muggles“, (a reference to marijuana, for which Armstrong had a lifelong fondness), and “West End Blues“, the music of which set the standard and the agenda for jazz for many years to come.

“Cheek to Cheek” with Ella Fitzgerald. The albums recorded by Ella and Louis are right there are the top of my list of favorites. Recorded in the late 50’s, this was the peak period for both performers.

The group included Kid Ory (trombone), Johnny Dodds (clarinet), Johnny St. Cyr (banjo), wife Lil on piano, and usually no drummer. Armstrong’s bandleading style was easygoing, as St. Cyr noted, “One felt so relaxed working with him and he was very broad-minded … always did his best to feature each individual.”[20] His recordings soon after with pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines (most famously their 1928 Weatherbird duet) and Armstrong’s trumpet introduction to “West End Blues” remain some of the most famous and influential improvisations in jazz history. Armstrong was now free to develop his personal style as he wished, which included a heavy dose of effervescent jive, such as “whip that thing, Miss Lil” and “Mr. Johnny Dodds, Aw, do that clarinet, boy!”[21]

Gershwin’s, “They Can’t Take That Away”

Armstrong also played with Erskine Tate’s Little Symphony, actually a quintet, which played mostly at the Vendome Theatre. They furnished music for silent movies and live shows, including jazz versions of classical music, such as “Madame Butterfly,” which gave Armstrong experience with longer forms of music and with hosting before a large audience. He began to scat sing (improvised vocal jazz using non-sensical words) and was among the first to record it, on “Heebie Jeebies” in 1926. So popular was the recording the group became the most famous jazz band in USA even though they as yet had not performed live to any great degree. Young musicians across the country, black and white, were turned on by Armstrong’s new type of jazz.[22]

After separating from Lil, Armstrong started to play at the Sunset Café for Al Capone’s associate Joe Glaser in the Carroll Dickerson Orchestra, with Earl Hines on piano, which was soon renamed Louis Armstrong and his Stompers, though Hines was the music director and Glaser managed the orchestra. Hines and Armstrong became fast friends as well as successful collaborators.

Armstrong returned to New York, in 1929, where he played in the pit orchestra of the successful musical Hot Chocolate, an all-black revue written by Andy Razaf and pianist/composer Fats Waller. He also made a cameo appearance as a vocalist, regularly stealing the show with his rendition of “Ain’t Misbehavin’“, his version of the song becoming his biggest selling record to date.[23]

Armstrong started to work at Connie’s Inn in Harlem, chief rival to the Cotton Club, a venue for elaborately staged floor shows,[24] and a front for gangster Dutch Schultz. Armstrong also had considerable success with vocal recordings, including versions of famous songs composed by his old friend Hoagy Carmichael. His 1930s recordings took full advantage of the new RCA ribbon microphone, introduced in 1931, which imparted a characteristic warmth to vocals and immediately became an intrinsic part of the ‘crooning‘ sound of artists like Bing Crosby. Armstrong’s famous interpretation of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust” became one of the most successful versions of this song ever recorded, showcasing Armstrong’s unique vocal sound and style and his innovative approach to singing songs that had already become standards.

Armstrong’s radical re-working of Sidney Arodin and Carmichael’s “Lazy River” (recorded in 1931) encapsulated many features of his groundbreaking approach to melody and phrasing. The song begins with a brief trumpet solo, then the main melody is stated by sobbing horns, memorably punctuated by Armstrong’s growling interjections at the end of each bar: “Yeah! …”Uh-huh” …”Sure” … “Way down, way down.” In the first verse, he ignores the notated melody entirely and sings as if playing a trumpet solo, pitching most of the first line on a single note and using strongly syncopated phrasing. In the second stanza he breaks into an almost fully improvised melody, which then evolves into a classic passage of Armstrong “scat singing“.

“I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm”

As with his trumpet playing, Armstrong’s vocal innovations served as a foundation stone for the art of jazz vocal interpretation. The uniquely gritty coloration of his voice became a musical archetype that was much imitated and endlessly impersonated. His scat singing style was enriched by his matchless experience as a trumpet soloist. His resonant, velvety lower-register tone and bubbling cadences on sides such as “Lazy River” exerted a huge influence on younger white singers such as Bing Crosby.

The Depression of the early Thirties was especially hard on the jazz scene. The Cotton Club closed in 1936 after a long downward spiral and many musicians stopped playing altogether as club dates evaporated. Bix Beiderbecke died and Fletcher Henderson’s band broke up. King Oliver made a few records but otherwise struggled. Sidney Bechet became a tailor and Kid Ory returned to New Orleans and raised chickens.[25] Armstrong moved to Los Angeles in 1930 to seek new opportunities. He played at the New Cotton Club in LA with Lionel Hampton on drums. The band drew the Hollywood crowd, which could still afford a lavish night life, while radio broadcasts from the club connected with younger audiences at home. Bing Crosby and many other celebrities were regulars at the club. In 1931, Armstrong appeared in his first movie, Ex-Flame. Armstrong was convicted of marijuana possession but received a suspended sentence. He returned to Chicago in late 1931 and played in bands more in the Guy Lombardo vein and he recorded more standards. When the mob insisted that he get out of town, Armstrong visited New Orleans, got a hero’s welcome and saw old friends. He sponsored a local baseball team known as “Armstrong’s Secret Nine” and got a cigar named after himself.[26] But soon he was on the road again and after a tour across the country shadowed by the mob, Armstrong decided to go to Europe to escape.

Louis with Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee, & Frank Sinatra. Very cool video!!

After returning to the States, he undertook several exhausting tours. His agent Johnny Collins’ erratic behavior and his own spending ways left Armstrong short of cash. Breach of contract violations plagued him. Finally, he hired Joe Glaser as his new manager, a tough mob-connected wheeler-dealer, who began to straighten out his legal mess, his mob troubles, and his debts. Armstrong also began to experience problems with his fingers and lips, which were aggravated by his unorthodox playing style. As a result he branched out, developing his vocal style and making his first theatrical appearances. He appeared in movies again, including Crosby’s 1936 hit Pennies from Heaven. In 1937, Armstrong substituted for Rudy Vallee on the CBS radio network and became the first African American to host a sponsored, national broadcast.[27] He finally divorced Lil in 1938 and married longtime girlfriend Alpha.

After spending many years on the road, Armstrong settled permanently in Queens, New York in 1943 in contentment with his fourth wife, Lucille. Although subject to the vicissitudes of Tin Pan Alley and the gangster-ridden music business, as well as anti-black prejudice, he continued to develop his playing. He recorded Hoagy Carmichael’s Rockin’ Chair for Okeh Records.

During the subsequent thirty years, Armstrong played more than three hundred gigs a year. Bookings for big bands tapered off during the 1940s due to changes in public tastes: ballrooms closed, and there was competition from television and from other types of music becoming more popular than big band music. It became impossible under such circumstances to support and finance a 16-piece touring band.

Following a highly successful small-group jazz concert at New York Town Hall on May 17, 1947, featuring Armstrong with trombonist/singer Jack Teagarden, Armstrong’s manager Joe Glaser dissolved the Armstrong big band on August 13, 1947 and established a six-piece small group featuring Armstrong with (initially) Teagarden, Earl Hines and other top swing and dixieland musicians, most of them ex-big band leaders. The new group was announced at the opening of Billy Berg’s Supper Club.

Some more of the Fantastic Louis Armstrong in High Society Calypso 1954…… [from the movie]

This group was called Louis Armstrong and his All Stars and included at various times Earl “Fatha” Hines, Barney Bigard, Edmond Hall, Jack Teagarden, Trummy Young, Arvell Shaw, Billy Kyle, Marty Napoleon, Big Sid Catlett, Cozy Cole, Tyree Glenn, Barrett Deems and the Filipino-American percussionist, Danny Barcelona. During this period, Armstrong made many recordings and appeared in over thirty films. He was the first jazz musician to appear on the cover of Time Magazine on February 21, 1949.

In 1964, he recorded his biggest-selling record, “Hello, Dolly!“. The song went to #1 on the pop chart, making Armstrong (age 63) the oldest person to ever accomplish that feat. In the process, Armstrong dislodged The Beatles from the #1 position they had occupied for 14 consecutive weeks with three different songs.[28]

Armstrong kept up his busy tour schedule until a few years before his death in 1971. In his later years he would sometimes play some of his numerous gigs by rote, but other times would enliven the most mundane gig with his vigorous playing, often to the astonishment of his band. He also toured Africa, Europe, and Asia under sponsorship of the US State Department with great success, earning the nickname “Ambassador Satch.” While failing health restricted his schedule in his last years, within those limitations he continued playing until the day he died.

Louie sings “A kiss To Build A Dream On” and “Blueberry Hill”

Armstrong died just after a heart attack on July 6, 1971, a month before his 70th birthday,[29] and 11 months after playing a famous show at the Waldorf-Astoria‘s Empire Room.[30] He was residing in Corona, Queens, New York City, at the time of his death.[31] He was interred in Flushing Cemetery, Flushing, in Queens, New York City.

His honorary pallbearers included Governor Rockefeller, Mayor Lindsay, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Guy Lombardo, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Pearl Bailey, Count Basie, Harry James, Frank Sinatra, Ed Sullivan, Earl Wilson, Alan King, Johnny Carson, David Frost, Merv Griffin, Dick Cavett and Bobby Hackett.

Peggy Lee sang The Lord’s Prayer at the services while Al Hibbler sang “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” and Fred Robbins, a long-time friend, gave the eulogy.[32 ]

The nickname Satchmo or Satch is short for Satchelmouth (describing his embouchure). In 1932, then Melody Maker magazine editor Percy Brooks greeted Armstrong in London with, “Hello, Satchmo!” and it stuck. Early on he was also known as Dipper, short for Dippermouth, a reference to the piece Dippermouth Blues.[33]

The damage to his embouchure from his high pressure approach to playing is acutely visible in many pictures of Louis from the mid-twenties. It also led to his emphasizing his singing career because at certain periods he was unable to play. However, after having set his trumpet aside for a while, he amended his playing style and continued his trumpet career. Friends and fellow musicians usually called him Pops, which is also how Armstrong usually addressed his friends and fellow musicians (except for Pops Foster, whom Armstrong always called “George”).

He was also criticized for accepting the title of “King of The Zulus” — in the New Orleans African-American community, an honored role as head of leading black Carnival Krewe, but bewildering or offensive to outsiders with their traditional costume of grass-skirts and blackface makeup satirizing southern white attitudes—for Mardi Gras 1949.

Whatever the case, where some saw a gregarious and outgoing personality, others saw someone trying too hard to appeal to white audiences and essentially becoming a minstrel caricature. Some musicians criticized Armstrong for playing in front of segregated audiences, and for not taking a strong enough stand in the civil rights movement suggesting that he was an Uncle Tom. Billie Holiday countered, however, “Of course Pops toms, but he toms from the heart.”

Armstrong was a major financial supporter of Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists. Armstrong mostly preferred to work quietly behind the scenes, not mixing his politics with his work as an entertainer. The few exceptions made it more effective when he did speak out. Armstrong’s criticism of President Eisenhower, calling him “two-faced” and “gutless” because of his inaction during the conflict over school desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957 made national news. As a protest, Armstrong canceled a planned tour of the Soviet Union on behalf of the State Department saying “The way they’re treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell” and that he could not represent his government abroad when it was in conflict with its own people.[34] The FBI kept a file on Armstrong, for his outspokenness about integration.[35]

When asked about his religion, Armstrong would answer that he was raised a Baptist, always wore a Star of David, and was friends with the Pope.[36] Armstrong wore the Star of David in honor of the Karnofsky family, who took him in as a child and lent him the money to buy his first cornet. Louis Armstrong was, in fact, baptized as a Catholic at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in New Orleans,[36] and he met popes Pius XII and Paul VI, though there is no evidence that he considered himself Catholic. Armstrong seems to have been tolerant towards various religions, but also found humor in them.

He was an extremely generous man, who was said to have given away as much money as he kept for himself. Armstrong was also greatly concerned with his health and bodily functions. He made frequent use of laxatives as a means of controlling his weight, a practice he advocated both to personal acquaintances and in the diet plans he published under the title Lose Weight the Satchmo Way. Armstrong’s laxative of preference in his younger days was Pluto Water, but he then became an enthusiastic convert when he discovered the herbal remedy Swiss Kriss. He would extol its virtues to anyone who would listen and pass out packets to everyone he encountered, including members of the British Royal Family. (Armstrong also appeared in humorous, albeit risqué, cards that he had printed to send out to friends; the cards bore a picture of him sitting on a toilet—as viewed through a keyhole—with the slogan “Satch says, ‘Leave it all behind ya!’“)[37] The cards have sometimes been incorrectly described as ads for Swiss Kriss.[38]

In a live recording of Baby, It’s Cold Outside with Velma Middleton, he changes the lyric from “Put another record on while I pour” to “Take some Swiss Kriss while I pour.” The line, slightly garbled in the live recording, could just as likely be “Take some Swiss Miss while I pour”—Swiss Miss is a hot chocolate mix that would have been fairly new on the market in 1951. (The line comes at 1:04 in the song.)[39]

The concern with his health and weight was balanced by his love of food, reflected in such songs as “Cheesecake,” “Cornet Chop Suey,”[40] though “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue” was written about a fine-looking companion, not about food.[41] He kept a strong connection throughout his life to the cooking of New Orleans, always signing his letters, “Red beans and ricely yours…”[42]

Although Armstrong is not known to have fathered any children, he loved children and would go out of his way to entertain the neighborhood kids in Corona and to encourage young musicians.

Armstrong’s gregariousness extended to writing. On the road, he wrote constantly, sharing favorite themes of his life with correspondents around the world. He avidly typed or wrote on whatever stationery was at hand, recording instant takes on music, sex, food, childhood memories, his heavy “medicinal” marijuana use—and even his bowel movements, which he gleefully described.[43] He had a fondness for lewd jokes and dirty limericks as well.

Armstrong was an avid audiophile. He had a large collection of recordings, including reel-to-reel tapes, which he took on the road with him in a trunk during his later career. He enjoyed listening to his own recordings, and comparing his performances musically. In the den of his home, he had the latest audio equipment and would sometimes rehearse and record along with his older recordings or the radio.[44]

Louis Armstrong was also a Freemason, Montgomery Lodge No. 18 (Prince Hall), New York.[45]

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Quick Bio Facts:

Louis ArmstrongLouis Armstrong AKA Louis Daniel Armstrong

Born: 4-Aug1901
Birthplace: New Orleans, LA
Died: 6-Jul1971
Location of death: New York City
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, Flushing Cemetery, Queens, NY

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: Black
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Jazz Musician

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Jazz trumpeter

Perhaps the most significant influence on the direction and development of jazz, and certainly the leading musician to emerge during its formative years, Louis Armstrong shared a birthplace with that of the genre he helped to create: New Orleans, Louisiana. Born in the city’s dangerous Storyville District, Armstrong spent the earliest years of his life with his grandmother, eventually being delivered back into the care of his mother — a woman whose circumstances of extreme poverty occasionally forced her to resort to prostitution as a means of survival. By the age of seven the young boy was already working to help support his family, singing on street corners as part of a vocal quartet and doing various jobs for a junk wagon owned by the Karnofskys, a family of Russian Jewish immigrants. It was around this time that Armstrong came into possession of his first cornet, purchased with money lent by his employers.

Ironically enough, the first development to aid Armstrong in his escape from poverty was brought about by an arrest at the age of 13. After having been caught firing a pistol in the air during celebrations on New Year’s Eve 1912, he was removed from his family and placed in the custody of the Colored Waif’s Home for Boys; it was here that he received his first musical instruction from the home’s band director, Peter Davis, who, by the end of Armstrong’s year of internment, had promoted the promising young talent to the position of bandleader. Upon his release, Armstrong began supporting himself selling newspapers and doing manual labor, while spending his free time absorbing the sounds of the emerging jazz scene in local nightclubs. Eventually he came under the tutelage of cornetist Joe Oliver, and after Oliver’s move to Chicago in 1918 Armstrong was enlisted as his replacement in The Kid Ory Band, one of the leading jazz groups in New Orleans.

In 1919 Armstrong was offered an opportunity to perform on Mississippi riverboats as part of the The Fate Marable Orchestra, and it was during the next two years working under Marable that the young musician received his most intensive musical training. An invitation to re-join with his old mentor Oliver in Chicago arrived in 1922, bringing about a two-year stint as second cornetist for King Oliver’s Creole Band, as well as his first recording session (as part of the band) in April of 1923; a year playing with Fletcher Henderson’s band in New York followed in 1924, supplemented by several opportunities to record with other jazz and blues acts. Towards the end of 1925, Armstrong decided to return to Chicago and assemble his own band (named Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five), and the first recordings under his own name were subsequently made with this ensemble in November.

Purely a studio-based act, the Hot Five (occasionally expanded to the Hot Seven) produced an impressive catalogue of recordings over the next three years, while Armstrong continued to perform live with artists such as Erskine Tate, Earl Hines and the Carroll Dickerson Orchestra. Two records that had a particularly strong influence on the course of jazz music were created during this period: Heebie Jeebies (1926) (performed with the Hot Five and featuring one of the first recorded examples of scat singing) and West End Blues (1928) (a King Oliver track recorded with the Hot Five and Earl Hines). The short-lived live band Louis Armstrong and His Stompers was assembled in 1928, but by 1929 Armstrong had once again returned to New York, where he spent part of the year touring with the Broadway show Hot Chocolates.

With the arrival of the 1930s, Armstrong found himself positioned as one of the top bandleaders in the jazz field, and numbered amongst the most highly-regarded musicians in the world. By this point in his career his reputation had spread well beyond his homeland, and the decade found him performing to large, enthusiastic audiences all across the States, Great Britain, Europe and Scandinavia. An additional boost to his career was given in 1935, when he started what would turn out to be a life-long business relationship with manager Joe Glaser: with Glaser’s help, he would secure a place on the Decca roster alongside popular acts such as The Mills Brothers and Tommy Dorsey, and steadily break through many of the obstacles faced by black performers due to the severely racist climate still existing in the United States at the time. Numerous film appearances throughout the second half of the 30s — including Pennies from Heaven (1936) (opposite Bing Crosby, an outspoken supporter of Armstrong’s music), Artists and Models (1937), Every Day’s a Holiday (1937) (opposite Mae West), and Going Places — subsequently broadened his popularity beyond jazz circles and into the mainstream.

During the war years, Armstrong continued to develop his various creative avenues, steadily adding to his list of film credits — Cabin in the Sky (1943), Atlantic City (1944, alongside singer Billie Holiday), and Pillow to Post (1945) — and maintaining an extremely active live schedule; a musician’s union strike prompted by the outbreak of the war, however, prevented much recording from being possible until 1946. After a well-received Carnegie Hall appearance with a small jazz ensemble in 1947, the bandleader made a permanent break with the (now somewhat unfashionable) big band format and assembled The All Stars — a compact, seven-piece configuration that he would utilize for the remainder of his career. The demand for his talents remained undiminished in the 1950s, and despite changing popular tastes he repeatedly placed himself high in the charts with singles like (When We Are Dancing) I Get Ideas (1951), its flip-side A Kiss to Build a Dream On, and Mack The Knife (1956), and the albums Satchmo at Symphony Hall (1951), Satch Plays Fats (1955, a collection of Fats Waller interpretations), and Ella and Louis (1956, a collaboration with vocalist Ella Fitzgerald).

Despite health problems (the most significant result of which was a heart attack suffered in 1959), the energetic bandleader kept to his busy performance itinerary throughout the 50s and 60s, extending his range beyond North America and Europe into South America, Africa and the Middle East. Armstrong even managed to earn himself one last US #1 in the midst of Beatlemania, shouldering past the British band’s huge hit Can’t Buy Me Love with his recording of Hello Dolly! (1964). This lively pace would remain almost undiminished until his death in July of 1971, his final performance having taken place at the Empire Room in New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel. Appreciation of his music remained strong in the following decades, however, and the use of his recordings in films soundtracks such as Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) (which placed the 1968 hit What a Wonderful World back in the charts), Driving Miss Daisy (1989), Sleepless in Seattle (1993) and Something’s Gotta Give (2003) maintained his presence in the public consciousness.

Father: William Armstrong (turpentine worker)
Mother: May-Ann
Sister: Beatrice (Mama Lucy)
Wife: Daisy Parker (m. 1918, div.)
Wife: Lil Hardin (musician, m. 1924, div. 1931)
Wife: Alpha Smith (m. 1938, div. )
Wife: Lucille Wilson (m. 12-Oct-1942, d. 1983)

Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five (1925-28)
Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven (1927)
Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra (1928-47)
Louis Armstrong and His All-Stars
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Grammy 1972 (Lifetime Achievement Award)
Drug Possession: Marijuana Los Angeles, CA 1931
Asteroid Namesake 9179 Satchmo
Risk Factors: Marijuana, Obesity

New York: A Documentary Film (14-Nov-1999) Himself
Hello, Dolly! (16-Dec-1969)
A Man Called Adam (3-Aug-1966)
When the Boys Meet the Girls (10-Oct-1965) Himself
Paris Blues (27-Sep-1961)
Jazz on a Summer’s Day (28-Mar-1960) Himself
The Beat Generation (3-Jul-1959) Himself
The Five Pennies (18-Jun-1959) Himself
High Society (17-Jul-1956) Himself
The Glenn Miller Story (10-Dec-1953) Himself
Glory Alley (6-Jun-1952)
The Strip (Aug-1951) Himself
A Song is Born (19-Oct-1948) Himself
New Orleans (18-Apr-1947) Himself
Pillow to Post (17-May-1945) Himself
Atlantic City (29-Jul-1944) Himself
Cabin in the Sky (9-Apr-1943)
Going Places (31-Dec-1938)
Every Day’s a Holiday (18-Dec-1937) Himself
Artists & Models (4-Aug-1937)
Pennies From Heaven (25-Nov-1936)

Official Website:

Sources: Wikipedia, youtube, imdb.com, nndb.com