Eckstine, Billy [Eckstein, William Clarence; Mr. B]
- Barry Kernfeld
- , revised by Ulrich Adelt
[Eckstein, William Clarence; Mr. B]
(b Pittsburgh, PA, July 8, 1914; d Pittsburgh, March 8, 1993). American Popular singer and jazz bandleader. He began singing at age seven and later worked his way to Chicago, where in 1939 he became the principal vocalist in Earl Hines’s big band. He remained with Hines until 1943, learning to play the trumpet while on the band’s tours. From 1944 to 1947 he led a bop big band, the Billy Eckstine Orchestra. Thereafter he returned to a career as a solo singer. Following the success of “Everything I have is yours” (MGM, 1947), he became the country’s most popular vocalist in the years 1949–50 (celebrated in a photo spread in Life magazine) and gained a lucrative five-year contract with MGM. Although his popularity waned from 1951, he continued to fill major nightclubs in the United States and abroad for several decades.
Eckstine’s achievements were varied: on the one hand he supported young avant-garde jazz musicians, on the other he sang popular ballads. He was instrumental in bringing Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Sarah Vaughan, among others, into Hines’s band, and while with Hines he recorded the hits “Jelly, Jelly” (Bb, ...